The 20 Year-Old Sunrise | Excerpt from Broken Slate


A revived scene from life and earlier work

From a Dead Sleep may have been my first published book, but it wasn’t my first attempt at writing a novel.

On one of my old computers is an unfinished manuscript for ‘Distant Mileage,’ a story loosely inspired by a college road trip I took during spring break of 1995. The destination was San Jose, California. I was traveling from Colorado with my roommate and a van-load of his music-major friends (half of whom I hadn’t previously met).

Lots of things went wrong along the way. With shot steering and brakes, the beaten-down van was nearly undriveable. And that was before we popped a tire and ran out of gas. Still, the epic trip had no shortage of fond memories.

One of them was a beautiful sunrise that played out behind us (through the van’s rear window) after a long night of travel. Only three of us were awake at that time to enjoy the sight, which was warmly greeted with some impromptu narration by the driver’s girlfriend. I remember the sun lighting up her face as she spoke the playful words that I relayed in the scene below.

This excerpt was originally written for Distant Mileage (using different characters and a bit different setting), so I was pleased to be able to find a place for it in Broken Slate. I think it works well with this Sean Coleman flashback:

As Sean knelt, waiting for them to pass, he witnessed a pinprick of unfiltered sunlight pop up from the ocean horizon.

“Come on,” Sean whispered, repeating the words he recalled an old girlfriend saying on a road trip to Nevada about a year ago. With her delicate hand caressing his shoulder, she’d been gazing out the rear windshield at the birth of a new day in the Utah desert. “Come on.”

When a wider ray spread out along the water, Sean let a corner of his mouth curl. “There you are,” he said in conjunction with the memory. He remembered the way she’d looked at him after she’d said those words. Her eyes were aflame with the same kind of beauty and promise he now beheld. It wasn’t until that moment that he realized just how much he missed her.

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