by James A. Heaton
Adam sat in his apartment looking out the window. The city looked so small and manageable from this height. He was trying to decide about calling his wife, Amy to tell her the recent news. She had been at a business meeting for the last two weeks in of all places, Miami. Adam had planned on tagging along but the head aches kept him from making the commitment.
In the two weeks since Amy had taken the flight to Miami for her business conference Adam had seen a doctor, to be precise three doctors about the head aches that seemed to cripple him into bed rest almost weekly. Those three doctors all concluded that he had an inoperable brain tumor that was strategically placed around the brain stem, and surgery was not going to be able to help, at least not until radiation could shrink the massive tumor and then maybe surgery could remove what was left. But the problem was, Adam had been having these head aches for a year, and during that time the tumor had gone from bad to worse to now where it was inevitably going to take his life.
Surprisingly Adam was okay with this, in short he had accepted it. If you had asked him three or four years ago if he would be this calm the answer would be a resounding, hell no! But maybe it was the tumor affecting his thinking or maybe he simply accepted that as the doctors said, he had a year left without treatment. But they also said he could have maybe two years with treatment. So his choice was a year of painful treatments to gain a year of life or to simply accept his fate and enjoy the last year of his life.
When he left the hospital the first thing he wanted to do was to call Amy and tell her the news. But that seemed so crass and heartless, to simply say, “hey by the way I’m dying, and I have a year left, wanna go on a trip?” and that wasn’t the way he wanted to do things. Instead he held onto the news and reserved it for when he could tell her face to face.
The drive home from the hospital had been a blur, except for when he stopped at his favorite quick stop to get gas and an energy drink, hell for all he knew they had caused the damn cancer. But it was too late to care or change his routine. Fuck it all was the mood of the day and he simply wanted to taste the energy drink and feel the rush of the caffeine. It had become one of the daily routines he enjoyed. While he was at the quick stop he made small talk with the clerk. He often wondered if he was Indian or Pakistani, but he would never have asked under normal circumstances but today all bets were off. “Hell, your on your way to an early grave, do whatever you want, say whatever you feel.” He thought.
“Hey man, I’ve been in here a thousand times, and I don’t even know your name. Or even where you’re from. Do you mind me asking?” Adam said with a sense of bravery.
“Rudra, I’m from Delhi in India. I’ve been here ten years and its very nice of you to ask. What is your name?” The tall Indian said from behind the counter.
“Its Adam, I’ve been coming in here for so long and I hate that I didn’t know your name. Its important to know peoples names, right?”
“Of course, and Mr. Adam, do you feel lucky today? The lottery is up to $350,000,000 and today is the last day to buy a ticket.” Rudra said with his beautiful accent.
“You know what give me five tickets, I’ll play all the lucky numbers I know and if I win I’ll spend the rest of my life chasing summer with my wife. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Adam said as he took five tickets and filled them in and paid for his energy drink and lottery tickets.
As he left the store all he could do was think of how wonderful it would be to leave Amy millions of dollars after he passed. That way he could go out with the feeling that she would never suffer. The more he thought about it, the more he wanted to leave her happy. He couldn’t stand the thought of her locking herself in the bedroom and crying for days. But that would mean he would have to tell her and then at some point he would have to die. And that brought on a world of thoughts.
Death was an absolute and Adam had long since left any religious affiliations in the dark where they belonged. In his mind he could see himself laying on a bed, surrounded by the people he loved and as he closed his eyes he would say something so profound and meaningful that it would bring joy to all those at his side. He no longer believed in angels, if he had one she didn’t give a fuck about him. She probably washed her hands of him long ago. No, death was the absence of life and when it came time for him to close his eyes he wanted to hold onto Amy’s face for as long as his mind would allow.
That night he curled up on his couch and ate a few plates of sushi and enjoyed a mojito and watched a documentary on aliens, all the things he loved, all the simple things. Around 8pm Amy texted him and asked how his doctors appointment went. He just stared at his phone and thought of the perfect answer.
“Doctors appointment was fine; they found the cause of my headaches. Starting treatments soon, no worries, miss you.” He texted back and let her have her time for dinner.
Later that night he tuned into the local news where they were going to read off the winning lottery numbers. Playfully he made plans for the winnings in his head. First off he wanted to take care of his parents, they deserved a nice life for their senior years. Then he would pay off his house and car and travel the world with Amy until the money ran out.
At the end of the news the lottery numbers filled the scream, he pulled out his five tickets and went through each one.
First one, nothing.
Second one, nothing, not even close.
Third one, zip, nothing.
Fourth one, so far from the numbers it was funny.
Fifth ticket, ….
He held the fifth ticket tightly. He suddenly felt like a giant wind would rush through the house and sweep the ticket from his hand. He held it with both hands. It was the winning ticket. He was beyond happy and freaking out at the same time. Had he seriously just one three hundred and fifty million dollars? He flipped the ticket over, and it said that if you had the winning ticket bring it to the lottery office which was located downtown, and its doors open at 9am.
He thought of the safest place in the house, it was the wall clock safe. That was where he would put it. “Oh my god I won!” he thought to himself over and over as he quickly locked the ticket in the safe.
He began to pace, back and forth. What sort of sick humor was this? Diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and winning the lottery in the same day! “Fuck those doctors, they gave me the worst news of my life and I trumped that with winning the lottery. Yeah, I might be dead in a year but what a year its going to be!” His mind was churning and then the headache set in. He rushed over and took two of the painkillers and laid in bed with the television on his favorite cartoon series. He would listen to that all night as he stared at the ceiling thinking about what he was going to do first.
Two hours passed and he was drilling a hole in the ceiling with his eyes and then finally the pills kicked in and he was out.
He dreamed of Amy, and she was walking on the beach in Miami. She was standing in the soft sand and the water was pink and purple. She reached down and drew a circle in the sand and then a giant heart around the circle. Inside the circle she wrote the words, Adam, and Amy. But then there was a dog barking, it grew louder and then he awoke.
It was just the neighbor’s dog, he looked at his watch, it was 7:30 am. He jumped up and put on his clothes. He grabbed an energy drink out of the fridge and slipped on his shoes. He looked around in his office and found a metal money box, the kind you have at a yard sale, and you kept all the money safe and sound. He grabbed the box and went to the wall safe. He opened it on the first try and put the lottery ticket in the metal box.
He grabbed his keys and drove to the lottery office. It was 8:25 and they opened at 9am. He sat in his car thinking of the exact order he wanted to spend the money. He knew he wanted to pay off everything first, no debt. And then he could fly down to Miami and pick up Amy. How surprised would she be to see him there with millions of dollars in his checking account? They wouldn’t even have to come home; they could just buy clothes along the way as they chased summer around the globe for a solid year before returning home. He pulled up his phone and searched, “chasing Summer” and the results came up. There was the movie, Endless Summer, about a group of surfers who chased summer for an entire year. He scrolled and found a bucket list that showed the exact dates and route needed to chase summer for an entire year. He would start in Miami, and he would spend his last year with Amy.
He thought about how she would take the news, maybe the idea of being rich could pull her from the depression of his diagnosis, it had worked for him surely it would work for her.
He watched as the employees started coming in and looked at his watch, it was 8:57am. He got out of his car with the box, held so tightly that a hurricane couldn’t rip it from his hand. He walked in the door and expected a banner and confetti, but it was just a large red-haired woman sitting behind a desk that lazily said, “How can I help you?”. He would excuse her lack of excitement as he placed the box on the counter and opened it. He pulled out the winning ticket and quietly said, “I won.”
The lady became excited and yelled out, “We have the winner!” and then the other employees headed up to the front. They put the ticket in the little machine and with a computer voice it simply said, “winner.”
The next hour was a blur of forms and pictures. He answered all the questions even with the massive headache that was dragging him down. He tried so hard to be excited, but it was difficult with the pressure in his head. But today was the one day when he could truly be excited for life. The lady at the back office sat down at her computer and typed in so much information and then she asked for his account number and routing number for the money to be transferred. She told him that the government would take the taxes out first and the rest would be deposited in 48 hours. That was a long time, “I want my money now!” he thought, but he understood and didn’t make a fuss. Honestly, it was all a blur and the one thing he truly focused on was giving the lady his bank info correctly.
The next day was hell. He checked his bank account every thirty minutes until he realized that it was idiotic behavior and then he put his phone down. He went through his mortgage information and the car loan information, then he called his parents and asked them for their mortgage company and the account number.
“Why do you need the account number?” His mother asked.
“Look mom, I want to do one wonderful thing for you. Allow me to do it without a million questions.”
“Okay, but it’s weird. Did you hear a local man won the lottery. Oh wait, that was you. You won the lottery! Oh my god, just wait for me to tell your dad!” His mother said into the phone.
“Mom, mom, just let it be a surprise, please. Look I’ve got some sad news and I’m going to be leaving for a year and then when I get home, we can spend some time together.” He spoke.
But that wasn’t enough information for his mother, she wanted every detail, and he of course told her. She was heartbroken and cried. But he told her of his plan, and she told him that she would miss him, but she understood. And she was happy that he could have the opportunity to share his final year with the woman he loved doing something so amazing as chasing summer around the world. She told him that even though he didn’t believe it, he had an angel on his side.
He laughed and said, “my angel thinks I’m too dumb to fuck, too dumb to fight, she doesn’t believe in me, but I believe in me and that is all that matters. I love you mom.” And with that he checked his bank account once more.
There it sat $250 million dollars in his checking account. He just sat looking at it over and over. It was the second most beautiful thing he had ever seen, the first being his wife, Amy. But this came close, it came really close.
Over the next 48 hours he had paid his mortgage, his car, all his credit cards and his parents’ mortgage. He had gone shopping and bought a grand set of luggage and all new clothes, summer clothes. From a nice linen suit to ten pairs of shorts and a new pair of swim trunks and sandals. He packed his bags and looked online for the next flight to Miami.
With his new luggage, the new luggage for Amy and all his new clothes, both passports and a laptop, he boarded the plane headed for Miami.
The flight down was one of the most agonizing moments as he rehearsed what he was going to say to Amy over and over in his head and as the plane landed, he had finally come up with the perfect presentation to tell her everything.
He was able to fit all the luggage in the minivan taxi that he hailed. The driver simply said, “that’s a lot of luggage, and most of it was empty.” Adam laughed. He owed no explanation; he was rich and could do strange things if he wanted. After all it was only money and he had plenty. But he thought, I need to put back at least $20 million for Amy after I’m gone. And on the way to her hotel, he opened his banking account and put a considerable sum in a savings account and added Amy’s name to it. It was amazing what you could do on your phone in ten minutes. His heart was pounding as he pulled up to the hotel and walked up to the desk, the man greeted him with a smile, and he asked for his wife’s room. The man checked his id and then gave him a key. He loaded all his luggage on the cart and wheeled it to the room.
When he got to the room, he looked at the itinerary and found the seminar his wife would be attending. It was ending in ten minutes, enough time for him to run down and wait for his wife outside of the room.
The hallway was full of people in suits attending pharmaceutical conferences wandering the halls waiting for the next meeting to start. The doors to the conference hall opened and the people began pouring out, he waited like a kid looking for his mother in a shopping mall. Then he saw her, her beautiful black hair hanging down past her breast and that tight fitting white suit, she was breathtaking. She almost walked past him but then turned and simply said, “Adam?”
The two went back to the room and Adam told her about the diagnosis and of course she cried, but then he helped her to calm down as he led into the next part. He pulled out his phone and opened the banking app and showed her the balance. She didn’t believe it at first but then she looked at the giant pile of luggage that was sitting in the room and she looked back at Adam.
“You’re absolutely serious. I was gone for a few days and now you’re… dying. and you have millions? I don’t know how to process this. And you want to chase summer for a year? Around the world! I don’t even know what to say, I want to say yes but what do I do about my job?” She spoke.
“Your boss is here, right?” Adam asked.
“He’s two doors down on the right. Why?” Amy asked.
“Hold on.” Adam stood up and walked out of the room to the door down the hall and knocked.
A tall blond-haired man came to the door, he was maybe fifteen years older than Adam and had the strangest look on his face.
“Can I help you?” The man said.
“Yeah look, here’s the deal. I’m Amy’s husband Adam and she quits. No more work, no more late nights, no more weekends, fuck it dude! She is right down the hall, and we are about to travel the world and she will never think about this fucking job ever again. I have more money than you do, and we are going to enjoy what little bit of life I have. So have a wonderful day and thanks for everything. Just send her that last check to our address.” Adam said quickly as he headed back down the hall. Amy stuck her head out of the door and met eyes with her boss, she simply smiled and waved.
It was the end of September when Adam picked Amy up at the hotel and they began their trek across the world, his first stop was New Orleans, where he planned a weekend on Bourbon Street and their farewell to America for the next year. He had made the schedule out years ago in hopes that he would one day be rich enough to chase summer across the globe. After saying goodbye to all things American in New Orleans they took to the skies.
September meant Tahiti where they stayed for a month just lying in the crystal-clear blue water and drinking tropical drinks. Adam had the days when his head would not relent but he pushed through those times, because if there were ever a time to just fight the pain it was now.
October took them to Cape Town, South Africa where they lounged on chaise lounge chairs and kept look out for lions that enjoyed the beach as much as the tourist. They watched the surfers take on the mighty waves as they tried the local delicacies from their secluded beach.
November took them to Morocco where Adam had the chance to wear his linen suit and take Amy to the most expensive restaurant in the city. He didn’t care about the food but seeing the light in her eyes as he was able to give her what he always felt she deserved, it meant so much to him. That crazy list he had made years ago, planning a year of summers, it was tiny in comparison to the love he had at this very moment looking at her.
December took them to Sydney, Australia where they snorkeled the reefs and saw colors that they didn’t know existed in the fish that surrounded the beautiful reef. For an entire month Amy had existed in nothing but bathing suits and she had never been more tan or more beautiful. Seeing her live life without worrying about her job or money was almost as good as the sex they had almost nightly. Adam picked up a refill on his pain pills and doubled the doses in order to see every single minute through his eyes as the pain became unbearable at times.
January found the couple in the Maldives, a place that neither could find on a map but found it to be their favorite place so far. They had existed almost solely on fish and vegetables for the last five months and their bodies enjoyed the break from fast American food, almost thanking them for the pleasant meals. Strangely Adam was almost pain free, but he did have strange hallucinations at times.
February took them to Thailand, and they explored the orient. They saw things they had only seen on television in their world, and they loved every minute, Amy said she missed the Maldives and that one day she wanted to return. Adam thought about telling her of the money he stashed away for her but wanted to keep that a secret. He wanted it to be his final surprise for her, in fact everything was about her. He understood that when she was genuinely happy, he was at his finest. It wasn’t the exotic places, it was her, he wanted to spend an endless summer with her. In the summer she glowed and every year she was say, summers gone and so are we as the cooler months of fall came. He knew now that chasing summer was never his idea, it was simply hers, although she never had to say a word about it.
March led the couple to Barbados where they spent every day with a pitcher of drinks and ten toes in the sand. One day in the middle of the month Adam had enough strength to go snorkeling with Amy and that was when she touched a shark. She was both terrified and elated to finally mark that off her list of things to do. Adam was feeling as sexual as he had previously but one night under the moon on the deck of their little hut they made love with the blue light of the moon being their only clothes. Amy said it felt different, it felt somehow special. Little did she know.
April found them in Dubai at a luxury hotel where they spent almost every day by the pool. Adam had two books he had always wanted to read, and Amy told him that she would love it if he would read them both before they went home. Amy looked almost more vibrant during April, as if she had a shine about her. Adam ventured to the gift shop in the hotel and bought a two-toned Rolex with a brilliant blue face for Amy and at their dinner he gave it to her. She laughed and told him that he didn’t need to buy her anything.
“It’s not for now, but one day you’ll look at it and think of the time we had together.” He said as he smiled lovingly at her face.
May found them in a quaint village in Greece where they could spend all day on the beach, reading and relaxing and at night walk around the beautiful town and see the lights and enjoy the food. They both agreed that Greece had the best food so far in the trip. But the mornings were getting tough for Amy, she had been sick each morning only to get better before it was time to head to the beach. Adam wondered if he was pushing her too hard.
June found them in Paris at a doctor’s office, not for Adam but for Amy. It appeared that she had become pregnant. Adam had thought that since he was sick with cancer that somehow, he couldn’t get her pregnant and they had avoided any birth control. They debated about returning home but decided to stay. Adam hid his pain and never spoke of the voices or the hallucinations that seemed to happen every day.
July and August were spent in the islands of Hawaii. They tried every restaurant on the islands and spent their last few days curled up together on the beach. Amy had started to show, and Adam had a new outlook on life, the baby made him feel sad that he would never see it grow up but at the same time he was giving a gift to his wife that would mean she would never truly be away from him. When the last day of their vacation came it was bittersweet and they said goodbye to the summer once more. “Summers gone and so are we”, Amy said as she waved goodbye to the tropical paradise.
When the couple returned home, they were met with a surprise party, Amy had arranged for Adams parents and friends to join them for a barbecue and a chance to recall all the stories from their trips. Everyone was surprised to see that Amy was with child, but it was a pleasant surprise that Adams mother couldn’t stop fawning over.
September came and Adam was still alive, something that was both surprising and pleasant, so he scheduled a visit with his doctors. Tests were run, scans taken and as Adam sat waiting with Amy by his side, he imagined the doctor coming into the room and proclaiming that the tumor had magically disappeared, somehow the trips around the world had cured him. But that wasn’t the case. The doctors gave him a month, Amy pleaded for some medical treatment, but it was too late for that. But Adam knew that, and he explained to her that he had a choice to make, and he made the one choice that could bring happiness in a time of sorrow. Inside she was mad, but she understood, and somehow, he had miraculously won the lottery on the same day as he was diagnosed, if he hadn’t had won the lottery, they would have probably done the treatments but at least this way he could leave this earth with the memories of his endless summer.
December came and Amy welcomed Adam Jr. into the world. His father had passed in his sleep the first weekend of October and his last words were that previous night as he said to Amy, as she sat beside him, and he gently touched her stomach and gazed hopelessly into her eyes.
“When I’m gone light a candle when you miss me. If you’re lucky I might come and blow it out.”
And the beautiful spring that came after that tragic winter, made Amy feel the presence of her husband. She could hear him say, “Summers almost here, why don’t we head down to the beach.”