Updated: Jul 3, 2022
Fiction today. I’ve been toying around with idea for a long time and figured I would go for it. Out of the blue, too, as I’ve been working on two other stories a lot, but today, this one had to come out. It is not based on anything happening (that I know of), so don’t read too much into it. I feel great.
Dan Lewis was not having the best day of his life. He sat there, his right knee bouncing in what he called his “knock around” khakis. The day had started casually, as any day off from work might, and he threw on some comfortable pants and a slightly faded polo shirt he’d had for years. The knee was bouncing, though, in the familiar way it did when he was either excited or uncomfortable, but today was not really a day for either of those feelings. Today was different and it was worse.
He listened intently to Doctor Rasmussen (Leo to his friends and even a few patients who knew him outside of the office) as he described what the next 6-12 months of Dan’s life was most likely going to be like. He was missing every other word or so because of the shock. No one is ever ready to be told they are dying, but for Dan, it was the timing of the conversation that made it harder to bear.
As if anyone is ever truly ready for this kind of news, he and his fourteen-year-old daughter, Annie, had spent the morning talking about college and marriage and all the things that he wanted so desperately to be there for as she became an adult. Every other word Dr. Rasmussen said was intertwining with the words of Annie in his head. It was almost like they were fighting to see which ones would be heard.
Cancer was not on the agenda even though he had known it was a possibility since he started dropping weight a few months back for no apparent reason. When the lower back pain got to the point where Dan knew it was worth talking to his GP, it was probably already too late. Grandpa Ron had died of pancreatic cancer when Dan was just a boy and, Dan thought, it was just his turn to perpetuate the cycle.
He had asked Dr. Rasmussen about this possibility during his first visit. You know the one, right, where the doctor assures you they just want to rule out the worst? Well, so much for assurances, Dan thought. So much for plans and so much for the future. Dan realized, at that moment, that what he had to go on was right now.
“Do it now,” he said aloud.
Dr. Rasmussen stopped talking and looked at Dan with a mix of compassion, understanding, and a sort of steely professionalism. Dan found it comforting in that moment as he repeated himself.
“Do it now. I’ve got to do it all right now,” he said before trailing off when he heard his own voice rattling around in his head.
Dan and the doctor talked a while longer but there was not much else to say. Dan apologized for not catching everything Dr. Rasmussen had told him and the only slightly older gentlemen walked him through next steps. There would be more tests (Dan nodded, looking down) and there were new protocols available all the time.
“You’ve been coming to me for a long time, and I know you’re a fighter, Dan. That’s not just some doctor bullshit, either, but you’re going to have to want to fight. This is not the time to do anything halfway. Do it now, like you said.”
The men stood up. Rasmussen was a few inches taller than Dan on a good day, but the lower back pain Dan had been experiencing made it hard for him to reach his full 5’11”. For the first time, Dan noticed the Doc had a few inches on him. He always told people, when he was younger that he was six feet tall, but for a second, Dan felt really, really small.
Dan banished that thought from his mind, though, and shook Dr. Rasmussen’s hand slowly, making sure to make eye contact like his father had taught him. Then he turned and walked out of the office.
On the walk to his dark gray Yukon XL parked in the lot, the one with the failing transmission, and more miles than you could walk in twenty lifetimes, Dan remembered an old episode of Seinfeld where the gang is all trying to meet up to see a film called, “Prognosis Negative” and he laughed aloud. It might have been the last time he laughed that day.
What would he tell his family? They would all be home when he got there with the kids home from school this week for spring break and his wife, Jan, who worked from home finishing up her day just before he would arrive. She had been so positive that morning, chiding him about wasting a day off over nothing.
“It’s probably just the mattress,” She said.
She’d been pushing for a new mattress for months and neither of them had been sleeping well. Dan now wished it were that easy. Would a new mattress from one of those ads he heard all the time cure cancer, too? Would it buy him an extra 100 days if he tried it out?
His thoughts drifted back to his family. How would he look at them? As much as he didn’t know what to say, the need to see them was stronger than he could have imagined. He wanted to see them all so badly at that moment.
Ever the planner, he knew Jan would dive right in and start figuring out what they would do. That was her thing. Planning. Figuring things out. She would clamp down her feelings, take charge, and throw herself into working this out.
He was the one who saw how these things would work out. Without thinking about the streetlights, or anything, for that matter, that he was passing in the Yukon, he saw what would come over the next few weeks and months. Eventually his cancer, no, the reality of his death, would consume her completely and she would break down in his arms and this would be wasted time that he couldn’t spare.
The kids were another thing. How could he tell them? How would he share all the things he wanted to share with them?
See you tomorrow.
Dan drove something like this. I sure do miss this vehicle.