Joe Moretti never wavered from the steely, intense expression on his
face, not even after he heard the word Cancer. It was a word that left
most people feeling as though they had been kicked in the guts by a
steel-toed boot, and one that was powerful enough to reduce even the
strongest of people to puddles of tears. But Joe wasn’t wired that
way. In the ten seconds since he had been informed of the diagnosis, he
had already moved past the fear and anger and was already calculating
survival percentages and wondering if, in poker terms, he was already
pot committed enough in life to continue to fight for his survival.
“What are my chances?” Joe asked.
“Not good,” the doctor answered. “I’m really sorry.”
“Not good as in the chances of me being the starting point guard for
the Knicks at age 44? Or not good as in my chances of winning Powerball
“Not good as in the chances of you surviving jumping out of an
airplane at 30,000 feet without a parachute.”
“Jesus. Don’t sugar coat it, Doc. Give it to me straight.”
The normally dry doctor chuckled at Joe’s glib response. “I wish I
had better news.” At a time when many doctors had seen enough sickness
and death to become immune to it, he actually seemed sincere.
“How long do I have?”
“With treatment? Maybe a couple of years.”
“You’d be lucky to see ten months.”
“Why wouldn’t you have treatment?!!” his exasperated wife
interjected. Leeanne was beautiful in a wholesome, girl next door sort
of way, with a personality that lit up any room she entered which
elevated her on the sexiness scale to off the chart sexy.
Joe carried forward as if she hadn’t spoken, but it was clear he had
heard her. He just preferred to have the doctor answer her question for
him. “And how will I feel if I get treatment?”
“You’ll be weak most days. Feel terribly some. Every now and then
you’ll have a good week.”
“And if I don’t get treatment?”
“You’ll probably feel much as you do now, maybe even a little better
if we give you some medicine to mask any pain. Until it turns…”
“And when do you think that would be?”
“There’s no way of knowing. Could be a few months. Could be longer.
But when it turns, it will be quick. We’re talking weeks or less.”
Joe nodded his head as if he had already made up his mind.
“You don’t have to decide this minute,” the doctor said, “Take a
few days to think it over and discuss it with each other. If you have
any questions, here’s my cell number. Don’t hesitate to use it.”
A doctor’s cell number was more coveted by people than a Maserati
Granturismo. Too bad one had to be dying to get it.
“Don’t you want to have as many days with me as possible?” Leeanne
wailed once they had exited through the sliding doors of the hospital.
“Of course I do, but even more than that, I don’t want to be a
burden to you,” he answered.
“You would never be a burden.”
“You say that now, but I remember what it was like for my mother
towards the end of my father’s life. And I want to be remembered as
the smart, funny, life of the party guy. Not as some broken-down, angry,
bitter dying man.”
“You’ll be remembered as the life of the party guy, trust me.”
“I’m not so sure. When I think back to my dad, I have to really
strain to remember what he was like when he was younger and full of
“But you remember it.”
“And everyone will remember you the way you want them to. But can we
not talk about this as if it’s over? You could fight this and you
could beat it.”
“You heard the doctor, Lee. All that’s left to do, is figure out how
I want to go out. I really wish Phil Halmer was around. He would know
what to do.”
“Who’s Phil Halmer? And why would he know?”
“He was my best friend in high school.
Everyone loved him.”
“I’m sure they loved you too.”
“I’m serious. If you asked ten people about me, five might like me,
three would hate me, and two would be indifferent.”
“But you still haven’t explained why he would know what to do?”
“Because Phil had failing kidneys and wasn’t eligible for a
transplant because of other health issues, so he went on dialysis.”
“And what happened to him?”
“We lost touch over the years, but last I eard, he had decided to take
himself off of dialysis, because his quality of life had deteriorated so
much and because he was tired of being a burden on other people.”
“So what happened to him?” Leeanne pressed.
“Truthfully, I don’t know. He changed his number and disappeared. I
don’t think he wanted his friends to see him like that. And I think he
knew I would have tried to talk him out of it.”
“Did he die?”
“I always assumed so, but I couldn’t reach any of his family and I
never saw an obituary.”
“Well, if he would try to talk you out of fighting this, then I’m
glad he’s not here,”
Leeanne said steadfastly.
Joe was correct. If you spoke to 1,000 people that knew Phillip Halmer,
you wouldn’t be able to find one person that would say a bad word
about him. He had blonde hair that was perhaps a bit longer than it
needed to be, but it suited his carefree personality. With an infectious
grin that ran from ear to ear, he was the guy other guys highfived every
time they saw him and the guy girls just had to hug. “Philly Bear”
had that rare ability to make every person he came in contact with feel
as though they were smart and funny—even if they weren’t. People
simply loved being around him.
And yet there was something that most people missed because he kept it
so well hidden. He was a good student, but not a great one. He was a
good athlete, but not a star. He was handsome, but not the guy every
woman decided they needed to be with the moment he walked into a room.
In fact, he was good at most things—just not the best at any of
them—and that led to an inherent sadness within that only his closest
Phil gently waxed a ski in the back of his otherwise empty shop with as
much care as a newly minted mother might stroke her newborn.
He was wearing Helly Hansen gear, the sign of a very good skier, not to
be confused with someone who wanted to look like a very good skier by
wearing a $3500 Kjus jacket. After college, he had moved out to Vail,
where he became a ski instructor for the stars. Some of them wanted to
learn how to ski black diamonds, others just wanted to have Phil ski up
to them by the lodge as if they had just skied a black diamond.
A man entered the store. Older and distinguished. More professor than
“You know a guy named, Joe Moretti?” he asked.
Phil looked up from what he was doing, surprised to hear the name from
his past. “Sure. He and I went to high school together. Why?”
“He was talking about you.”
“And you know this how?”
“It’s my job to know.”
“It’s your job to be a nosey bastard?”
“That is exactly my job,” the man answered with a smile.
“Does it pay well?”
“It pays in ways more valuable than monetary rewards.”
“So why was Joe talking about me?” Phil asked.
“He’s been having some serious health issues.”
“Not cancer,” Phil asked.
The man nodded slowly.
“That sucks. He was a good guy.”
“Still is a good guy. He was talking about how you had a similar
decision to make when you decided to take yourself off dialysis.”
“Yeah,” Phil said quietly.
“Maybe you should go talk to him?”
“I’m not sure he would want to hear from me.”
“I kind of cut him and all my friends off when I got sick. I didn’t
want to be judged.”
“People have an amazing capacity to forgive where their friends are
“It’s up to you,” the man said. “I just thought you’d want to
Excerpted from "Destinare" by Matt Micros. Copyright © 2016 by Matt Micros. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.