“Just two more years.”
“Fine, but it’ll cost you.”
“Cost me what?” I ask, dubious.
“Only your left wrist. And you might never play the violin again. That’s my final offer. Is it worth the risk?”
I look into his steely eyes. He’s far less sinister than I expected, but regardless, I never want to see him again.
“Fine!” I tell Death, and I hold out my hand so we can shake on it.
Doctors remove the melanoma from my wrist, even a little of the bone too. But despite Death’s warning, I learn to rotate my wrist a little differently, and I begin to fiddle again.
Two years pass before Death meets me again. He’s always standing by a boat, always wearing a cloak that sways in a wind that I can’t feel.
“Two more years,” I say.
“It’ll cost you.”
“Good Lord! What do you want this time?”
“Just part of your spine. You’ll never walk the same again. People will pity you—think you’re a cripple.”
“Pity?” I don’t want to see people’s pity. BUT what I want to see...is my children grow up. “Will it hurt much?”
“Course it’ll hurt!”
“Fine.” We shake hands.
I undergo a surgery to have an entire vertebra removed.
And every several years the meetings continue until I’m a shade of myself, and I’ve lost everything except a desire to die.
I wake up then, sweating, feeling like someone stands beside my bed. Then I rub my eyes and realize it was just the dream again—the one where I bargain with Death. And I wonder what prices we’re all truly willing to pay to keep on living.... At the cancer hospital I see clearly what prices people have paid—and they see my price too.