Thought some of you might find this deleted scene from the extras for Endless Vacation, a prologue that ended up on the cutting room floor.
When the doctor stopped talking, Rex thought, “This is not the Middle Ages. People don’t die at sixty-four anymore.”
But clearly some did and he was one of them.
He didn’t meet the man’s eyes. Instead, he looked at the doctor’s leather valise leaning against the desk, at the corner where it was worn through to the fabric underneath.
His heart raced as adrenaline coursed through his system, blood pounding in his ears. It was the panic moment, that point at which you know you’ve done something horribly wrong and nauseatingly irreversible. The split-second in the middle of the intersection when you realize you missed the light and the truck bearing down on you can’t stop.
Here he was, frozen in the second before impact, face to face with the inevitable. According to the doctor, he had months, not seconds, to stare at the semi filling his vision. Was that a second chance or a living hell?
His second thought was a prolonged “No” echoing in his skull. He stared at the frayed leather as if he could zoom in to see the fibers and then the molecules and then the atoms and the electrons and neutrons and further in until a single atom was the universe, or the universe was a single atom. Or perhaps they were the same thing. Or maybe they were nothing at all.
His third thought was, “I can fix this. It will be okay.” That didn’t last long. He couldn’t and it wouldn’t.
He pulled his gaze from the valise to the doctor. The man had done this before, probably dozens of times, but he looked like it was his first time. Let him. It was Rex’s first time, too.
He had heard that four people die every second. Somewhere, right now, in four places on the globe, four people were staring down four semis. He wondered how many times a second a person was told he would die. Fewer than four, certainly.
Maybe he was the only one for this second. He wanted to believe that it made him unique, but the truth was he was just one more snowflake on a glacier. And what did a single snowflake matter in the scheme of things, in this universe inside an atom?
He thought of Bridget and the ghost of a smile haunted his face. She had been more than a snowflake. She had made a difference of some kind, however small, however fleeting. And what more could one ask of a life?
Rex held the doctor’s gaze and said, “Thank you.” He ignored the muted confusion on the man’s face.
It was a second chance and he would make the most of it.
Which way do you think the novel should have started. Like it does now with Dave in his office or like this with Rex getting the news? You can leave your thoughts in the comments.