The Tumor Collector by Janette Schafer

Everyone in Richmond, Virginia has some terrible disease.

The client says, I hope you don’t get cancer.

(That makes two of us.)

A summer of working collections for cable TV

has made my ears blistered and calloused.


She chokes on my request

as I clear my throat with a swig of coffee

and adjust my headphones.

I tell her where to fax her doctor’s note

as she catches her breath.


There are people who lie about tumors

to keep their basic cable—

the words flick off my tongue

like ninja stars because I sit next to

a fax machine that never prints

except for today, except for this one time,


and though hundreds of miles of freeway

separate us, I see the blood spatter here in Pittsburgh.

If she wasn’t sick before I called her,

she was surely sick now

as I collect on that which is past due

in the Northern Neck of Virginia.




Janette Schafer is a poet, nature photographer, part-time rock singer and full-time banker living in Pittsburgh, PA.  She is pursuing her Masters in Creative Writing from Chatham University.  Her play Mad Virginia won the 2018 Pittsburgh Original Short Play Series.  Her work has been published in numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers.  She is chief editor of "The Dreamer's Anthology" which was released by Beautiful Cadaver Project Pittsburgh in April 2019.