Solomon loved to think about time. Time was his business, but it was also a hobby for him, since he really had no others. He had concluded that time was a force that differed from other physical metrics. Mass, energy, and distance exist in three dimensional space. But underlying all of this is a fourth dimension: time. It seemed self-defining, and enormously fascinating. The problem was that all definitions of time were circular: referred back to themselves. What is a minute?: 60 seconds. What is a second? One sixtieth of a minute; etc. He even dreamed about time. So it wasn’t a surprise in 2004 when he had a dream he will never forget. In the dream, his only brother, Tom, five years his junior, and a Psychiatrist in Los Angeles, had told him the exact day he was going to die: August 23th, 2009. No other details, just the date. It was quite bizarre, because immediately after Tom named the date, he turned into a miniature globe which progressively diminished in size until all was black. Solomon woke up, drenched in sweat, turned on the light, and grabbed the spiral notebook on his bedside table in which he kept all of his lists and journal entries, along with the number 2 lead pencil which he always kept sharpened along side, and wrote down the date of his death from the dream: August 23, 2009. That would be just one day after his seventieth birthday. But he immediately dismissed the information as not reliable, part of a strange dream, and forgot about it.The problem is that the exact same date came up again two years later. Solomon lived in an apartment complex on the outskirts of Bloomfield Hills. A lifelong bachelor with no children or immediate family, he had lots of time to kill when he wasn’t at the shop. He worried about how much time he spent on the internet, to the point he had a stop watch by the computer, and set it for 2 hours when he sat down each night. A ten minute and a five minute warning programmed in the timer gave him time to log off and shut down, beginning his pre-bedtime check list, including his night time toiletry routine, a double check of the lock and the dead bolt on his apartment door, and setting the coffee to brew at 6:30AM the next day.So the day his acquaintance, Barney Mansfield, who owned the art gallery complex two stores down from him told him about this particular web site, he had to break his regular internet routine. Solomon and Barney were chatting one evening in the walkway behind the stores. Barney said that a number of the co-op artists at his gallery, as well as one of the customers, had been talking about this website called “Deathday.com”. You enter information about yourself: birth date, information about parents, how old they were when they died, what they died of, smoking history, and other health information. The website then tells you the exact date you will die. Of course there are lots of disclaimers about being only for entertainment. But on several occasions recently, reportedly, people had actually died on the date the website predicted.That evening, after he closed the store, he went home and set his internet timer. But before he started, he poured an extra shot of Jack Daniels into his normal nightcap, and logged onto www.deathday.com. It took him a full 30 minutes to put in all the information. For normal people it wouldn’t take that much time, but Solomon had to put in everything exactly correctly, full dates of parental deaths, exact dosages of all medications he took including his over-the-counter vitamins, and so forth. He hesitated for a moment, poured himself an unprecedented refill on his Jack Daniels, and then pushed “enter”. Up it came on the screen, in black letters, filling up the box: August 23, 2009. Solomon immediately went to the top right shelf over his desk where he keeps his old spiral notebooks, and went to the one from two years prior. He paged back through to the time he remembered that dream, and there it was. The same date! Although he had dismissed the date the first time, it seemed too weird for the exact same date to come up twice- two years apart, from two different sources. So slowly over the next two weeks, it gained the status of a fact in his mind.The first visible evidence of this acceptance was his journal, into which he put an entry every day, whether or not he had something to say. For over a decade he had started each day’s entry with not only the date, but the day of his life, “DOL”: how many days he had been alive.“June 22, 2006---DOL 24,381. Strange thing happened today. I looked up on the Internet the day I am going to die, and it came up with the same date I wrote down after my dream two years ago. . . the exact same date! What are the odds?” One week later, his degree of acceptance of the information as fact (even though he told himself it was “entertainment value only”) was evident in the new format for his journal entry.“June 29, 2006---DOL 24,388/25,568. Knowing the denominator sure changes things around. At first I thought it would be upsetting, but now that I know my deathday, it’s kind of liberating. I know I’m not going to die today, so I can take some chances. I’ll have to think of what stuff I could do, knowing that I don’t have to worry.”He approached the information about his deathday the way he approached everything else in his life: deliberately, methodically, and unemotionally. As he entered his last year, not much changed. His afternoon nip of Jack Daniels in his back office during the afternoon slump doubled to two shots, but otherwise the routine remained the same. His finances had already been in order, so there was nothing to clean up. His checkbook had always been balanced to the penny each week. He had no one relying on him in any way, so there was nobody who had to be prepared for his departure. He had decided to tell no one at all, and was prepared just to let whatever was going to happen, happen. As he moved into his final sixty days, he had concluded that at least it was not going to be a long lingering chronic painful illness that would take him, because he would have known that by now. That was a relief. The only unresolved and increasingly troubling issue in his mind was what to do about the business. Every day he would look up at the portrait of his father over the desk and think about all the decades that had gone into making the business what it is now. Some days he thought it would just let it go. A once honorable trade had degenerated into simply swapping out batteries. No big deal. Let the probate court decide. But other days he would realize how much of his self image was tied up in this shop, and how it was a good, steady living at this time when unemployment in Michigan had gone up to 11%. He should will it to someone. But to whom? His younger brother, Tom, lived in California, and was busy with his psychiatric practice, a young wife, and two young kids. He would have no interest. Solomon had no close friends in town. He had never fallen in love with anyone; certainly not with any woman. A couple of brief relationships with men in his 20s and 30s had left him confused and isolated. He had never come to grips with any of that. The more he thought about who should get the business, the more he realized how lonely and unattached he was. “July 9, 2009---DOL 25,524/25,568 44 days left and I can’t figure out what to do with the business. Today I tried to make a list of friends or family that might like to take it over. I came up with no one. For over an hour I stared at the number 1. Nothing. This sucks.” “Hi Ben.” Solomon said as the door opened to produce the first customer of the day. Ben had arrived with a little sack of three wrist watches.“Hi Sol. What’s up?”“Not much. Same ol’ same ol’”“Three this time. Don’t know why I keep all these watches going. No need to keep track of time anymore.”“Maybe I should teach you this trade. You could help out here in the shop for fun.”“I’ll have to think about that.”“July 5, 2009---DOL 24,394/25/568. I could will the business to Ben Grossman. He is retired from the banking business, and he loves watches. If he inherited the shop, he could either learn how to do the trade, or hire someone to do it. I’ll change my will tomorrow. No need for him to know anything about it.The phone rang. “Hello?”“Hi Sol. Tom here”“Tom! How the hell are you? It been a long time.” In fact, they hadn’t seen each other since their mother’s funeral six years ago. When she died, they were the only two left of the family.“It has been a while. I’m good. How about you?”“Same ol’, same ol’. Business is holding up in spite of the recession. Actually up a bit. People are holding on to their old watches more. Buying fewer new ones. How’s Monica and the kids?”“Fine. She’s full time stay-at-home. The twins are being two year olds. I forgot how much energy they have. It’s a lot for a 65 year old to keep up with.”“Yeah, but you’re up to it.”“Sol, the reason I called is that our Society meets in Detroit this year toward the end of August. I’m giving a paper at the meetings, so I need to come. It’s around your 70th birthday, so I thought I could take you out to dinner to celebrate on the 22nd.”“Psychiatrists meeting in Detroit? Couldn’t you find a more . . . exotic city?”“With all the University travel restrictions, Detroit made sense. You on?”“Sounds great. I’ll free up the evening.” Solomon said, knowing he had nothing else on his docket.“Great. See you then.”Love to Monica and the kids”“Backatcha” Tom barked into the phone as he hung up.“August 1, 2009 - - - DOL 25,546/25,568. Tom called today. He’s coming out to talk at a meeting of the national Psychiatric Society, and asked me out to dinner for my birthday. That’ll be nice, but a little strange. What will we talk about? We’ve never been close. My fault? I can’t tell him what I know. He’d slap some psychiatric diagnosis on me- commit me to a place where they would keep me on a suicide watch”They met at the Tribute Restaurant in Farmingdale on Friday night, August 22, 2009, Solomon’s 70th birthday, and the day before his Deathday. The concierge at Tom’s hotel had recommended it as the best in the Detroit area. Hot and steamy weather had settled into the Midwest. A line of severe thunderstorms had moved in around 4PM and the tornado watch accompanying them had just expired. Solomon had dressed up for the occasion with a blue blazer, tan slacks, a blue business shirt, and his dark blue tie covered with dozens of different kinds of watches that Ben Grossman had given him for his birthday two years earlier.He recognized Tom immediately, who had apparently come directly from the meetings, wearing his charcoal grey, pin striped suit, white shirt and red tie. He had neglected to take off his lanyard name tag draped around his neck.“You must be Tom Cohen.” Sol joked as he pointed to the name tag. Tom, embarrassed, immediately took it off and put it in his jacket pocket.“I’ll have a Beefeaters Martini. Straight up. With a twist.” Ben announced to the server.Encouraged by that, Solomon said “Jack Daniels on the rocks. Water on the side.”The conversation started out easily enough. It took roughly twenty minutes and most of the first drink for Tom to fill Sol in on Monica’s loving to be a mom, and the twins, and their milestones, and how different they are, and being a new dad as an older man.“So what’s up with you, old man? Imagine: 70 years old.”“Not much. Same ol’ same ol’” he said with full assurance that tomorrow was his deathday. “Just workin’ Dad’s shop- trying to figure out who I can hand it off to.”“Hand it off? You’re still young. Got lots of time.”As he started into his second drink, Solomon recognized he was sitting across the table from his only living relative. All these years, neither of them had really made any effort to get to know one another. Most of Solomon’s life had been dull and predictable. Actually even knowing his deathday seemed a fitting end to a perfectly predictable life. Yet it also seemed rather remarkable. He came with inches of telling his story to Tom, but never could cross the line.“So tell me about the paper you presented today.” Thus the conversation shifted away from Solomon and never returned for the rest of the evening. Dinner ended with an empty hug including mutual loud claps on the back and an agreement not to let so much time go by before they get back together again. For a brief moment Solomon thought he had one last chance to say something, but didn’t.“August 22, 2009 ---DOL 25,567/25,568. Tom and I had dinner tonight for my birthday. It was nice. I thought about telling him about what I know, but didn’t. He’s pretty much wrapped up in his own life right now. It would be nice to have somebody to talk to. I am going to double up on the sleeping pills tonight so at least I can get some sleep. I don’t know why I care, but I don’t want to sit up all night thinking about it. Two weeks ago when I got the pills from Dr. Nease after telling him I was having trouble sleeping, I thought about just taking the whole bottle, and not having to go through whatever is coming tomorrow. But then I figured it wouldn’t work, because it wasn’t my deathday yet. I would just end up embarrassed in some hospital. And even if it did work, I have always thought people who commit suicide are kind of cowards, and I wouldn’t want my life to end that way.”The alarm went off as usual at 6:30AM. The higher dose of sleeping pills had worked so the alarm jolted him awake. As he moved into consciousness he immediately noticed an unfamiliar sensation: anxiety. In his obsessive compulsive way, to this point he had been able to successfully compartmentalize his feelings about today, so that he really never thought about it, only the preparations for it. Now here it was: his deathday. What was going to happen? How would it feel? Would there be pain? Or would it just be . . . lights out? What’s next? He couldn’t put those questions off anymore, and the more he thought about them, the more scared he became. So he planned to just dive into his routine. By 8:00AM he arrived at his store after a very meager breakfast- he wasn’t hungry. As he got out of his car at the strip mall, the intensely muggy air made him decide to lower the thermostat in the shop despite the extra cost that would tack onto the electric bill. “What the hell. What do I care?” He opened the front door and turned the sign around so that it read “Open-Come In” from the street instead of “Sorry, We’re Closed”. He went to the back office and looked at the picture of his father, wondering what his dad would do in this situation. He turned the morning news on the TV in the back office. One idea he had was that he might die in a major terrorist attack. Detroit could be a target, but Bloomfield Hills is far enough from Detroit that it would have to be a major nuclear bomb. Such an attack would likely be timed for maximum effect around rush hour, so as 9:00AM moved on to 10:00AM that possibility seemed to go away. Actually, Solomon had figured out that being vaporized by a nuke would be a “lights out” scenario, which he had begun to hope for.The door bells jingled. It was Ben Grossman.“Hi Ben.”“Hi Sol. What’s up?”“Same ol’ same ol’. You?”As Ben put his watch onto the counter, Solomon motioned for Ben to come around to the table where he does his work. “OK. It’s time. Let me show you how it’s done.” He put on his magnifying glasses and with one swift twist of a miniature screw driver, he had the back off and was looking down at a tiny circular battery with a “+” on its back. He took it out and looked at the front. “It’s a 3414” he said as he tossed the old battery into a fish bowl containing many hundred spent batteries of all different sizes. The jar must have weighed ten or fifteen pounds. Once every couple of years, Solomon had emptied it and sent the batteries off to a recycler. He pulled out one of the dozens of little drawers on the edge of the table- the one labeled “3414”, un-wrapped a fresh battery, and put it in. Then he placed the watch face down on the press, positioned the back squarely in place, and squeezed the lever which popped the back in.“There you go” Solomon said as he set the watch to the proper time. “Now you know how to do it. Next time, you can try.”“I’ll do that. It’ll be fun.” Fortunately it was busy for a Saturday, but Solomon got more and more jumpy as the day went on. Several commercial airliners on their approach to Detroit International seemed somewhat low and he thought they may be landing short right in his store, but none did.Late in the afternoon he watched the Weather Channel on his TV in the back office, and they were warning about yet another line of severe thunderstorms that was approaching Bloomfield Hills. They were issuing a tornado watch. As it got darker outside the store, he went outside to see the sky. Stepping out from his air conditioned store to the sidewalk felt like walking into a steam bath. The skies were dark and foreboding. He felt his heart pounding even before the tornado siren started wailing. “No sense seeking shelter” he thought to himself as the street lights went on in response to the darkness. Then he heard the sound he had always heard described: like a freight train, coming ever closer. Incredibly loud noise came as ear popping pressure changes and a huge rush of wind forced Solomon back inside his store. “This is it” he thought, as he closed his eyes and waited for “it” to happen. His heart was pounding. He just wanted it to be over. But as quickly as it started, it was over. He was still alive. The sky brightened, and the sun came out. Then the sirens began from the police, ambulances, and fire trucks. The tornado had touched down only a block away, and had cut a swath of destruction ¼ mile wide and two miles long, just barely missing Solomon’s store. Soon the thump-thump-thump of the news helicopters dominated the soundscape as they converged on the scene to cover the story. Several people had been killed, rescue operations were proceeding. He watched it numbly on the news as he closed up the store, and took one last look at his father over the desk. He turned the sign from “Open- Come In” to “Sorry- We’re Closed” and locked the door.He got into his car to drive home, and his hands were shaking as he put the key in the ignition. His normal route home was blocked by tornado damage and rescue operations, so he drove an alternate route. It seemed as if every approaching truck was about to go left of center and drive head on into him. Two different times he actually swerved over to the right, almost running other cars off the road.When he arrived at his apartment, astounded that he had made it, he wasn’t really hungry for dinner. This was Saturday and that was usually the Lean Cuisine Beef Stroganoff. But he had a couple of Jack Daniels and some cheese and crackers instead. What the hell.After the National News, “Jeopardy” was preempted by local coverage of the tornado touchdown and the ongoing search for additional survivors with the death toll now up to 5. By the third Jack Daniels, Solomon was wondering if some glitch in the GPS of the tornado had caused it to miss its intended victim by a single block. How sad that innocent people got caught up in this whole mess.It was 8:00PM- 5:00 in Los Angeles, Solomon thought. By now, Tom would be finished his office hours. Solomon had been thinking about this all day, if he made it this far. Tom had given Solomon his cell phone number. Solomon picked up the phone, stared for a moment at the key board, and then slowly punched in Tom’s number. Three rings, and then a click. “Hi. You’ve reached Dr. Tom Cohen. I’m not available to take your call right now, but leave me a message, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” Then the beep. Solomon took a long breath as he gently pressed the “disconnect” button and put the phone down.He had so rarely cried that the sensation of welling sadness, the lump in his throat, and the uncontrollable quivering of his lips were strangers to him. Actual tears fell on his spiral notebook as he poured another Jack Daniels and entered his final note.“August 23, 2009- - -DOL 27,568/27,568. I just tried to call Tom. Just wanted to talk to him one more time- not even sure what I wanted to say. But I got his answering machine. I couldn’t leave a message because I was beginning to cry and I didn’t want him to remember me that way. So much we could have talked about. If only I had started earlier.I haven’t died yet. So many times it could have happened today, but it hasn’t yet. The tornado that was sent to get me missed by a single block. Poor bastards got caught in the cross fire. It wasn’t their fault.There are only 3 hours left so it looks like its going to happen in my sleep. I’ll take enough pills to make sure it doesn’t wake me up. Good night.”At 6:30AM the next morning the alarm went off as usual.