So, when I wrote The River Leith, it originally had an epilogue after the last vlog post, but my editor said, “Nope. Nope, nope, nope. It ends nicely with the vlog. No need to clutter the book up with what amounts to two endings!” So, with a heavy heart, I deleted the scene.
But! That gives me an opportunity to share it with you now! Let me say in advance IT HAS MASSIVE, MASSIVE, MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE BOOK!!!! If you have not read the book, then you may want to take a pass on reading beyond the cut.
If you have read the book, then you know what happens, so let’s just cut to the chase! Click on through to see the deleted epilogue to The River Leith. There’s more texting, more Thakur, more Zach, and more Leith! *twirls and throws confetti*
Zach’s birthday was in three days, and Leith was ready. Almost.
He’d dodged him earlier in the day and managed to make it to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket to get the last thing he needed to complete Zach’s gift. He approached Daggi with a swagger and smile, and waited for her to notice him.
Zach always teased him for flirting with old ladies, but he had a certain fondness for them, and especially for Daggi, who reminded him of his mother’s mother. It was something about her smile and the way she pinched his cheeks if she managed to catch him bent over low enough for her to reach them.
The last time she’d managed to grab his face, Zach had whispered, “At least she’s not going after the cheeks she can reach. If she did I might have to defend your honor, and I’d hate to hit a sweet little old lady.”
“I bet she could take you. She’s a tough old bird.”
Daggi took several dollars from the man she was helping and turned to Leith. “Ah, darling boy, you look charming today in that blue shirt. Brings out your eyes, schätzchen.”
“Uh, thank you.” His attention was focused on Daggi’s other customer. “Dr. Thakur?”
“Leith?” Dr. Thakur smiled. “It’s been a while. How are you?”
Leith rocked on his heels and stuck his hands deep in his pockets, smiling broadly. “Things are great. Is this your wife?”
Dr. Thakur nodded, turning to the plump and pretty woman beside him. “Darling, this is Leith Wenz. Leith this is my wife, Bhavanha.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Thakur. I’m a former patient of your husband’s.” Leith tapped his forehead. “Amnesiac,” he said, proudly. He’d come to enjoy the reaction it got from most people. It was like a party trick no one else could top.
She shook Leith’s hand. “A delight to meet you!”
“Thank you. Mrs. Thakur, I’ve heard so much about you. I’m glad to have a face to go with the stories.”
Mrs. Thakur shot her husband a knowing glance and chuckled. “Has he been feeding you baloney about my wise Indian grandmother?”
Leith lifted his brows. “Yes?”
Dr. Thakur rolled his eyes. “Now, now, Bhavanha, don’t disabuse my former patient of the romantic notions I’ve instilled in him about your grandmother. He has a fragile mind.” Dr. Thakur winked at Leith, and then smiled at Daggi, who looked on with interest.
“Oh please,” Mrs. Thakur said, laughing. “It’s easy to see this boy is right as rain. He can handle it.”
“And if he can’t?” Dr. Thakur asked.
Mrs. Thakur scoffed. She took Leith’s arm and stage whispered, “I’ll have you know, Mr. Wenz, my grandmother lived her entire life in England and never set foot in India.”
“But…her funeral with the monsoon flooded river?” Leith asked.
“I may have read about something like it in a book,” Dr. Thakur said, scratching at his face.
“And Krishna?” Leith asked. “A thousand suns? The taste of pure water? The divinity of human courage? Your grandmother never said any of that?”
Mrs. Thakur laughed, patting his arm. “Oh no. She was a Christian. I, however, have been learning about Hinduism, and I’ve been sharing my insights with my husband. I don’t know why he likes to embellish the stories but he clearly does.”
“And my wife clearly likes to undermine my authority with my patients.”
“Former patients,” Mrs. Thakur corrected.
Leith was flabbergasted. “You made it all up? Why would you do that?”
“Of course I didn’t make it up, Leith. Well, perhaps a little. But everything I told you had some important truth in it, and you were able to choose for yourself which ones spoke to you and which ones didn’t. The most important lessons in life can be discovered in fictions…especially if one regards them as though they are true.”
Leith blinked. “I…don’t know what to say.”
“Say that you’re doing well.”
“I am. Very well. I’m happy.”
“Good. That’s what I like to hear from my amnesiacs.” Dr. Thakur put out his hand and Leith shook it. “Keep exploring the universe, Leith.”
Leith stood next to Daggi and watched them amble away, Mrs. Thakur laughing at something Dr. Thakur was saying and shaking her head in indulgent amusement.
“Did you hear all of that?” Leith asked.
“Yes,” Daggi said. “He’s a strange one.”
“I’m not sure that’s ethical,” Leith muttered.
“But he helped you?”
Leith considered it. “I don’t know. Maybe? Well, yes.”
“Okay then, take your cheese and the treat I set aside for Zach, just as you asked, and give old Daggi a kiss for the holidays.”
Leith smiled, kissed her tissue-paper cheek, and paid her. He pulled out his cell phone as he walked toward home.
I just ran into Dr. Thakur. Turns out everything he told me was a lie!
In that case, when will you be getting your memories back?
Ha ha! Very funny! I meant everything else he told me, jerk.
And this surprises you, Leith?
No. Yes. Maybe. No. Yes!!!!
When you’ve made up your mind let me know.
Leith put his phone into his pocket. He stopped at a bench and sat down, enjoying the cold air and the morning sun on his face. Unwrapping the cheese, he pulled off a hunk and gnawed on it. He turned the last few months over in his mind, thinking about memory and the nature of it. A smile broke over his face as a truth born of Dr. Thakur’s fictions came to mind.
Leith pulled out his cell phone and texted Zach again.
I’ve made up my mind. I’m not surprised. Also, I think that memory is like Krishna: the everything and the nothing.
Hit me with more of this cheesy poetry, babe. Tell me about Christmas lights shining through time and space, or the truth of stars behind dark cloud, or sumpin’ like that.
Memory and no-memory is the River of Life and the River Lethe. All and nothing.
He took another bit of cheese as he waited for a reply, watching the clot of holiday shoppers pass by. He hummed a song under his breath, and waved at a little girl on her bike.
His phone pinged.
Well, then, my River Leith, when will you be home?
Leith grinned and chewed the last of his hunk of cheese, wrapping the rest to share with Zach later. Watching a man and a woman walk past on their way toward the entrance to Prospect Park, he closed his eyes and wondered what he’d done last year for Zach’s birthday. Unbidden, several lines from an old John Wayne western surfaced in his mind.
Can you swim, boy? Best swimmer in the world, sir. Swam the whole English Channel with an anvil on my chest.
Yes, an old western. Was it called She Wore A Yellow Ribbon? Yes. He was sure it was. And he’d watched it with Zach. There’d been a dozen red roses on the table in the room of a hotel? Was it the Casablanca Hotel? Was it for their anniversary? His mind chased after the images. Was that last year? Last year?
He paused, astonished, and found that there was nothing more. Just the roses and the hotel room, and the vague knowledge that Zach had been there too. He stood up, juggling his purchases, and texted as he hurried toward Blue Flight.
I’m flowing your way now. And guess what? No anvil on my chest. Not anymore.
Okay? Good? I’m glad? Your brain damage makes you weird, by the way. Also, an entire hockey team just walked into the bar.
What’s the punch line?
Okay, but Zach, I think you should know something first…
I’m slammed. Can’t text.
With every molecule in the whole river of me, I love you.
Dear poetic, romantic, adorable amnesiac of my heart, I love you too. Now get your ass to this bar and HELP ME, dammit.
So bossy! Be there in five.