Many fans of The Methuselah Project have wanted to know more about Roger Greene and Katherine. What happens to them next? While my sequel is under construction, allow me to offer a deleted scene as a Christmas gift to you. The original manuscript closed with an epilogue that skipped ahead a few weeks to show an incident involving Roger after the close of the main story. If you haven’t yet read The Methuselah Project, please don’t look the following, as it will be a spoiler for you. (And if you’d like to order the book, simply click on the Bookstore tab above. It will take you to a site where you can order from online vendors.)
Forest Park Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri
Sitting in the passenger seat of his son’s Dodge Grand Caravan, Frederick Mitchell, Sr., sighed, and not for the first time that afternoon.
Behind the steering wheel, his son, Fred, Jr., said, “I heard that, Dad. Judging by all the sighs you’ve been making, a person would think I’m driving you to your execution, not to an assisted-living center.”
Instead of looking at his son, he focused on the congested St. Louis traffic ahead of them. “Executioner… assisted living… it’s the same thing, isn’t it? It’s still the end of the line.”
“Aw, Dad. Goldie’s Golden Age Retirement Center is a nice place. They’ve got game areas, a botanical garden, private rooms, plus classes on everything from playing the harmonica to photography. Besides, we’ve talked this over. Helen and I just can’t provide the kind of care you need.”
“I’m not griping. I’m just reflecting on life. You’re born. You grow into a little kid, and you’ve got all the time in the world. When you’re small, it takes forever for Christmas to arrive, and then another forever for the next one to roll around. Later, life speeds up, but it still feels like you’ve got plenty of time to live your dreams, to conquer the world. Suddenly, poof! You wake up and realize you’re worthless—an old fogey, ready for somebody to stick you in a pine box.”
“You’re being melodramatic. Nobody thinks you’re worthless, and no one is measuring you for a coffin. Don’t you be in any hurry to check out of life. In case you’ve forgotten, your first great-granddaughter was born last week. Anita deserves as much chance to get bounced on your knee as the grandkids did.”
“My memory is just fine.” To prove his point, he recited, “Anita Marie Mitchell. Eighteen and a half inches long. Seven pounds, eight ounces.”
“Right. Nothing wrong with your memory.” Fred, Jr., glanced in his side mirror and maneuvered into the left-turn lane. “It’s those falling-down episodes that have Helen and me worried. We need someone there to help if it happens again.”
Sheesh. I got a Purple Heart in Korea, and they’re worried I might trip over the vacuum?
The traffic light turned red, and Fred, Jr., braked to a stop. “I hate this intersection. The light stays red forever.”
Ignoring the comment, the elder Mitchell gazed out his window at the vehicle pulling up beside him. It was a sparkling silver Mustang convertible. The car’s top was down, and the young man at the wheel sported green-tinted aviator sunglasses. Oblivious to the senior citizen observing him, the driver of the Mustang tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and bobbed his head to some song.
The figure in the convertible practically radiated fulfillment and a zest for life. Mitchell was slightly surprised to see the young man’s mouth moving. He was actually singing aloud—in public. Look at him. Sitting there in plain sight of everybody and singing along with whatever music he’s listening to. Not a care in the world.
Jealousy ballooned in Mitchell’s thoughts. Not only had he never bought the sports car he’d often dreamed of, but he never would’ve had the guts to sit in public and sing. In a way, the young fellow beside him illustrated the perfect picture of what he wished he could have been.
What’s that young buck listening to? Probably some of the new-fangled hip-hop, hog slop that passes for music nowadays. Partly out of curiosity, and partly out of the desire to remain in control of something, Frederick Mitchell, Sr., fumbled for the window button, then pressed it. As the glass slid downward, he craned an ear to catch the melody flowing from the Mustang. What he heard caught the senior citizen off guard. Instead of the modern music he found irritating, his hearing aid caught something familiar. Something old. In fact, practically ancient. His memory couldn’t quite place the tune.
On impulse, the elder Mitchell called to the man in the convertible. “Hey, you!”
The figure in the Mustang continued singing and nodding his head to the music.
“Hey, you. Young buck!”
The driver of the Mustang turned and looked. With a deft motion, his right hand turned down the volume.
“What’s that song you’re listening to? I’ve heard it somewhere before.”
The Mustang driver flashed a generous grin. “That’s an oldie that was popular in 1943. It’s called ‘The Hut-Sut Song,’ by Freddy Martin….”
“…and his orchestra! Ha! I knew I’d heard that before. My dad used to play that record when I was a little squirt. Haven’t heard it since my brother broke it.”
Now Mitchell regarded the driver of the convertible with more interest. Something about the young man struck him as curiously likable.
“Ain’t you kinda young to be listening to such old-fashioned songs?”
Once again, the driver sporting the aviators parted his lips in a grin. He shook his head. “Not at all, sir. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it has no value. Good music never dies. It’s always there for people who appreciate it.”
The light above the intersection turned green, and the cars ahead began inching forward.
The Mustang’s driver shared a final smile and then, unexpectedly, popped him a formal salute. “Take care, sir!”
Hurrying to respond, Mitchell saluted back, a motion he hadn’t executed since his Korea days. The simple gesture from the stranger warmed him. Made him feel respected. In his mind he heard the phrase again: Just because something is old doesn’t mean it has no value.
As the Mustang pulled forward, Mitchell spotted a sticker on its rear bumper. It said, “I’d rather be flying.”
Feeling more light-hearted than he had in many a day, Mitchell let his face break into a smile as he powered the window back up. Somehow, the brief exchange had made a difference. “I’d rather be flying, too. Have a good time, young buck. Life is short. Enjoy it while you can!”