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The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias



The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias PDF

Author: Gabino Iglesias

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Genres:

Publish Date: August 2, 2022

ISBN-10: 0316426911

Pages: 320

File Type: Epub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Leukemia. That’s what the doctor said. She was young, white, and pretty. Her brown hair hung like a curtain over her left eye. She talked to us softly, using the tone most people use to explain things to a child, especially when they think the kid is an idiot. Her mouth opened just enough to let the words flow out. She said our four-year-old daughter had cancer in her blood cells. Our Anita, who waited in the other room, playing with Legos and still wrapped in innocence. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Those strange words were said in a voice that was both impossibly sharp and velvety. Her soft delivery didn’t help. You can wrap a shotgun in flowers, but that doesn’t make the blast less lethal.

The young, white, pretty doctor told us it was too early to tell for sure, but there was a good chance that Anita was going to be okay. Okay, that’s the word she used. Sometimes four letters mean the world. She immediately added that she couldn’t make any promises. People fear being someone else’s hope. I understood her, but I wanted her to be our hope.

The doctor gave us a moment to process what she’d said. Silence is never as cold and sterile as it is in hospitals. My wife, Melisa, and I breathed in that silence and waited. We didn’t look at each other, but I could feel the panic setting in, circulating through my wife like she was radioactive. I wanted to hold Melisa, to comfort her and say it’d be okay, but I was scared of making any sudden movement. I gently cupped my hand over hers, but she pulled away, quick and violent like an invisible shanking, so instead I stared at the doctor’s white coat. Embroidered in blue right above the pocket, it read: Dr. Flynn.

The doctor inhaled. From the other room, the sound of Anita giggling reached our ears. It felt like God had punched me in the heart, and Melisa choked back something. A sad woman is a blade hanging over the world, threatening to fall at any moment.

Dr. Flynn inhaled again and then explained to us that acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer that affects bone marrow and white blood cells. It’s a relatively unexceptional error in the body, the most common childhood cancer. A glitch in the bone marrow, she said. Then she looked at us and said bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside our bones where blood cells are made. You know, because she probably thought we were stupid. When you have an accent, people often think you possess the intellect of a fence post.

Dr. Flynn wanted us to know many children make relatively quick recoveries from leukemia if they are diagnosed early and start treatment immediately. But she reiterated that they couldn’t make any promises because cancer is always a tricky thing, “a slippery opponent,” she said in an attempt at levity that must have gotten a strained smile from some bewildered parent once upon a time and the good doctor had kept it in her repertoire ever since.

When your child is healthy, you think of sick children and feel like crying, like helping. When your child is sick, you don’t give a shit about other children.

Dr. Flynn tilted her head, shifted the curtain over her eye an inch to the side with her fingers, and placed a manicured hand on Melisa’s shaking shoulder. Dr. Flynn’s rehearsed sympathy looked as legitimate as her perfect nails. I knew we were just another case on her stack and she was throwing us a sliver of hope so we could hold on to it, hold on to anything at all. Still, we believed her. We needed to believe her. I looked at her snowy coat and thought about an angel. She would deliver us a miracle. There was no other option. Not believing her meant something so horrible my brain refused to acknowledge it.

When the doctor walked away, my wife started saying “Mi hija.” My daughter. She sat down. She cried. She repeated “Mi hija” again and again. She said it until it became the heartbeat of our nightmare.

Mi hija. Mi hija.

I said nothing, fear something I couldn’t or wouldn’t speak to. All I could think of was getting into the other room and scooping Anita up into my arms and holding her there forever. Melisa’s big brown eyes were wild. She gulped air and looked around, surely trying to calm down so we could go see our daughter without alarming her. Funny how parents can take a bullet and smile if they think it’ll keep their kids from worrying or crying.

Anita was only four years old and had always been healthy up to that point. She’d never had anything worse than a cold, a few ear infections, and the random teething fever or stomach bug. Chemotherapy would work wonders on her. It had to. Medical research had made tremendous advances in the field. We lived in the future. It would all be okay. All we had to do was stay strong. Our little angel would go into remission in no time. God was good. He wouldn’t let a baby suffer. No one deserves miracles more than unlucky angels. It would all be fine. God and chemotherapy, a winning duo, right? We convinced ourselves of this. Our baby was too full of life, too strong-willed, to lose that battle. Our baby was too loved to die.

Finally, Melisa let out a shuddering breath and looked at me. Something cold had crept into her eyes. She twisted her mouth into something akin to a smile as her eyebrows fought to bring her whole face down.

“Let’s go get our baby,” she said.

Melisa walked into the room and scooped our daughter up. She buried her head in her neck and tickled her with kisses to hide her red eyes and nose. I hugged them both and felt fear stab my heart.

I couldn’t breathe right for two days. I felt like an alpinist who runs out of bottled oxygen near the summit of Everest. But then I saw Anita’s smile, and hope blossomed in my chest. It was a warm, comforting feeling that allowed me to start breathing normally again.

Then came the nasty surprises.


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