She thought to tear it away quickly, like her daddy would have yanked a bandage from her skinned knee. Cruel, but short-lived and in that, the mercy. Instead she pulled slowly. The sting was bright and she could taste it. Coppery, like pennies.
Danae was twelve when her daddy taught her to shoot. He built a range behind the barn and he instructed her on sight picture and trigger control. He also trained Danae how to pack a wound and treat for shock. “This ain’t no game, little honey,” he said. “You carry the power to take a life, you best know how to save one.”
He’d driven her to the hospital in his pickup, the smell of hay and saddle leather a comfort to her. He was with her when the doctor told her what the lump was made of. Later, he put on coffee and sat with her at his kitchen table. With a breeze coming off the corn fields, he listened to what she needed to say.
Danae carried a Kimber Raptor because the zebrawood grips felt good in her hand. She carried in .45 because that’s what Daddy carried. The nurse asked, “Miss Crandall, do you prefer we take the bone marrow from your left or your right hip?”
“You best take from my left,” Danae said. “My holster rides on my right.”
Her daddy sat with her as she waited for her first treatment. Danae leaned into him and said, “I don’t know if I can, Daddy.” He patted her knee. “Don’t you fear none. Long as you’re breathing, there’s living to do.”
She was a week from her last treatment when her daddy passed. He was six foot two and a hard man. He was stronger than his heart, which had run its course. After supper on a Tuesday, he sat in his big chair to watch his hunting shows and that’s where Danae found him.
At his wake, she put a card by the guest book. It read, “I don’t need your addresses. I know where you all live. Just write me something you know about my daddy.” After the last visitor left, Danae slipped the guest book into her shoulder bag.
She finished her treatments alone. A PET scan would light up what the radiation hadn't killed. Danae had told her daddy, “I hope it looks like those nighttime satellite pictures of North Korea. You know the ones I’m talking 'bout? The south is glowing and electric, but the north is dark and quiet. I hope it looks like North Korea.”
Danae’s scans came back. They were bright, like Seoul.
“Active treatment is not an option,” the doctor said. “The approach now is what we call ‘watchful waiting.’” The doctor glanced at his phone as he stood. “Take your time,” he said. “We’ll see you in a month.”
The doctor pulled the door shut behind him and Danae sat alone and tried to hear her daddy’s voice. She took the guest book from her bag and she opened to what Uncle Garrett had written.
“They gave your daddy a Silver Star for what he did. He saved the lives of four men, but he had to take the lives of 12 others. This pained him. I think that’s why he took on the farm from our own daddy. He wanted to make things grow.”
Danae closed the guest book, peeled away the last of the radiation markers, put on her jeans, and walked out. She climbed into her daddy’s pickup and drove toward the farm. It was late afternoon and her daddy’s horses needed fed.