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How fucking sad was that?

TYLER STOOD AT the top of the scenic overlook on Highway 50 several days later, looking out over the view. The blue of Lake Tahoe was almost crystalline in the early morning sunlight, the rays twinkling off the surface from a distance.

Tyler held the urn that held Henry Coleson’s ashes and a bottle of whiskey in the other. Henry’s letter was stuffed into his back pocket, but the instructions were burned into Tyler’s brain.

No one was traveling this early on a Friday, so Tyler dumped the container of ashes over the side of the mountain, watching them float down like a gray cloud into the fog below. Setting the container by his feet, he opened up the bottle of Jack Daniel’s and held the bottle up.

“Henry, if you’re looking down right now, I want you to know that I could get arrested for this.”

He could practically hear the wheezy chuckle on the wind. Just shut the fuck up and get it done, you pussy.

Tyler took a swig, letting the liquor light a fire down his throat and blamed it for the tears in his eyes. After pouring some over the side after the ashes, Tyler replaced the lid and went back to his car, shivering against the cold.

On his passenger seat sat a box of Henry’s things, and the rest Tyler had put in his place while he figured out what to do with them. It had been a little funny that Henry’s small, one-bedroom apartment had been better furnished than Tyler’s big house, but it was going through Henry’s personal items that had really gotten to him.

Tyler pulled the letter out of his pocket and sat there on the shoulder for a moment. Henry had left him all his worldly possessions and the money left in his savings and checking accounts, which hadn’t been a ton but was still enough to pay for Henry’s cremation with some left over.

He didn’t care about the money, though. He unfolded the letter, reading Henry’s words again with a sad smile.


We both knew this was coming, and I wanted to be prepared before I got called home. I know it’s weird putting the responsibility of my aftercare on your shoulders, but like I said, I was only ever good at two things, and keeping friends wasn’t one of them. I lost them to war or suicide or because I slept with their wives. I was a pretty shitty guy, and I have a feeling I’m not meeting Saint Peter at the pearly gates.

From the minute I bumped into you on the way to radiology, I’ve looked at you like the son I could have had, if I’d ever pulled my head out of my ass and settled down. And I see the path you’re headed for. You’re a good man. Hell, you’d have to be to visit this old asshole in and out of the hospital for six months.

But you gotta have more to your life to make it meaningful. Meet a nice girl, and get married. Pop a couple of kids out, and be good to them. That way, when it’s your time to say good-bye, someone really cares.

When I was pushing forty, I met this beautiful girl named Vicky. I was stationed in San Diego, and she was working as a waitress at this restaurant my friends and I used to haunt. She was going to college part-time for her degree. She wanted to be a teacher, have a bunch of kids, and I loved her, at least, as much as I could have. But I started to doubt myself, especially watching how many of my friends sank into a shit hole of drugs and drink. When the chance came for me to serve in the Gulf War, I took it and told her I was leaving. When she asked what it meant for us, I told her not to wait. And she listened to me. I tried to track her down when I got back, but I had missed my chance. She married and had the kids she wanted, and she’s still alive, living in Arizona.

The point of the story is, don’t miss yours. Watch for every sign the universe throws your way. I know I sound like a fucking sentimental idiot, but you can learn from me. Don’t spend your life looking for the next thing that’s going to make you feel good for a few minutes; look for something that is going to make you happy for decades.

That’s it. That’s all I can leave you with, besides all the shit I collected over my life. Throw it away or pack it up to show your kids someday that you knew this guy once who did a few things.

Take Care,

Henry Coleson

Tyler put the letter in the box and started his car up, then headed down the grade toward Lake Tahoe, thinking about the letter. Just because he liked his life the way it was didn’t mean he was going to end up alone. He had plenty of time to settle down. Besides, he didn’t screw his friends over.

And how many women have you screwed and never called again? Doesn’t exactly make you a good guy.

Tyler ignored the voice and kept driving toward salvation. He’d booked a room for two nights in Tahoe, and Blake was going to meet him later. Gambling, drinking, and dancing were exactly what he needed.

But as the hotels of the strip came into view, Henry’s words played through his head.

You gotta have more to your life to make it meaningful . . . Don’t ignore the signs.

DANI WAS IN the kitchen making breakfast for Noah when her best friend, Lana Davison, called. Lana and she didn’t talk very often, maybe once every couple of weeks, but they were still close. Things had changed when Dani had become a mom. Lana would call up and ask her to go dancing or to lunch, but Dani either couldn’t because of Noah or needed to bring him along. After a while, the invitations had become less frequent, and when Lana had celebrated her twenty-fourth birthday with a trip up to Tahoe, Dani had tried not to be hurt that she wasn’t even invited.

They’d finally talked about what was going on and were in a good place again, but Dani couldn’t deny that their friendship was forever changed.

“Hey, Lan, how are you?”

“I’m engaged!” Lana screamed.

Dani spilled the milk she’d been pouring on the counter with a cry. “Oh my God, congratulations! Nick proposed? When?”

“Last night. He took me out to dinner and tied the ring to a glass of champagne.”