Toss by Giles Montgomery

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“Fifty-fifty,” says the oncologist after some consideration.

“Bloody hell,” says Doug, even though he’d asked. Of course he’d asked. Doug the gambler, the chancer, the fly-by-nighter. This time, more than any other, he had to know the odds. Because this time, they were his. He was the fighter in the ring facing a stone-cold ruthless champion. In the red corner (of my lower intestine), weighing in at several ounces but growing bigger by the minute… it’s the Mighty Malignant Mass!

But still… fifty-fifty? The room is small, hot and airless. Very NHS. Outside, the waiting area is filled with people of all ages but skewing more towards the old. That’s the way it goes, right? The longer you’re in the game, the more chance you’ll lose. Age-wise, however, Doug is in the median of that crowd. Unluckier than the old ones, luckier than the kids. Oh God, the kids. Facing this, before they’ve even really lived? At least he has that. Plenty of experiences in the bag, more memories than he can hold onto. Good times, good friends, some decent enemies, too. Love? He’s had some respectable wins, but never hit the jackpot.

And now I never will…

He shakes his head.

Snap out of it, you muppet.

“Are you okay?” asks the specialist. Doug looks at him. Manicured hands clasped lightly on the desk. So sincere, so concerned, like it’s his life hanging in the balance.

“Fifty-fifty, yeah?” says Doug.

The other man opens his hands and says, “Well, of course that’s merely educated speculation, but having treated many hundreds of similar cases over the years, I-”

Doug silences him by holding up a shiny pound coin. He turns it this way and that, as if to show there’s no trickery. Then, with a deft flick he sends the coin spinning straight up. It catches the harsh glare of the fluorescent light for a moment before falling back down along the same trajectory. Doug traps it on the back of his other hand and, with a challenging jut of his chin, calls it:

“Heads I live.”

And despite his years of professional restraint, the oncologist can’t help himself, can’t resist Doug’s all-in confidence.

He leans forward to look.


Giles Montgomery

Giles Montgomery writes adverts for a living and fiction for joy. He has only recently discovered flash fiction, but is embracing it wholeheartedly. And yes, he was once given a fifty-fifty chance of surviving cancer.

Previous Work

Paragraph Planet, 23/11/19

Photo by ThorstenF

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