Who knew, back then, that someday you could
Imagine being eight years old, in
Grandma’s backyard. The safest place in the world. On the swing, waiting for
the Good Humor truck. Chocolate éclair, strawberry shortcake. Eat both without
stressing about calories.
Or going back to teendom. Relive
your prom . . . if you were lucky enough
Not you. In high school you were
a loser. Fat, pimpled, with your big nose
in a book. Then one cool kid slammed that book shut. . . .
“You have two choices,” the android time-travel
agent said. Her turquoise nails matched her eyes, and hair. “The super-ultra
package for five thousand euros, or the supreme-ultra package for ten thousand.”
Broke as you were, you took the
cheaper one. This was your Christmas present to yourself.
Her synthetic eyebrow went up. “Are
Behind her was one of those singing
Christmas trees. A real spangly, fake-looking one, also turquoise. “Santa,
Baby,” it sang, in a smug, girly-girl voice.
“What’s the difference?” you demanded.
“With the supreme-ultra, you relive
the day with no memories of the future.” Her eyes sparkled. “But with the other
. . .” Her eyes went dead.
“I’ve only got five thousand.”
She sighed. “Okay, then.”
Big deal, you thought. So, you
knew what was coming.
“But, no matter what you
know,” she said, smirking. “You can’t change the
Androids, you thought, all fucking
“Fine,” you said.
And gave her all the money you
Outside Donny’s Den, the
sun nearly blinds you, this time of day.
You’ve got no shades. Scudder’s, you
had, till you flung them in the bay, in a drunken rage.
You’re younger, thinner.
These jeans were your favorites: ripped, patched
in the thighs. And this cut-off denim top. One married guy left his shirt
behind, and you cut it to suit you. You can’t even recall his name.
But Scudder, you never forgot.
Donny’s is mobbed. “Beth!”
Phil the bartender beams, when you walk in.
“Guess who was just here?”
Your heart sinks. “Scudder?”
Shit, you think. Five thousand
euros, and I missed him?
“But he’s coming back!”
Still grinning, Phil sets down your draft beer and
shot of Jack. “I told him you’d be here.”
“Yeah? How’d you know
that?” The cold beer tastes so good. And Jack warms
you, all over.
As Phil shrugs, you realize that
in two months, a fight will break out at
closing. Phil will get stabbed through the heart, trying to break it up.
Can’t change the past, you
“Phil!” you scream,
anyway, but suddenly the jukebox is so loud, he can’t
hear you: “I Would Do Anything for Love.” Meat Loaf.
Phil turns to another regular,
whose “Yo, Phil!” was shrill as a chainsaw.
Shannon. Worst of the afternoon
drunks. Wearing that same flower-print top as every time you saw her.
She’s pregnant, you realize.
But doesn’t know it.
Her poor baby . . .
you can’t even hear yourself.
Can’t change . . .
When the door opens, light blazes.
Through the glare, you see Scudder’s panther-like
Same old Scudder: black leather
vest, scary tatts. Black hair that looks
best right before it’s cut. ‘Stache crooked from that knife-scar. Piercing,
As they meet yours, your insides
feel like soup. He smiles that half-smile
you longed for. “Bethy,” he says in that gravelly voice. Like it really was almost
forty years since he saw you.
I love you, you think. Leave your
wife. And five kids. Pul-leasse?
You jump into his arms. Suck face,
There’s nothing like his
kiss. Not before, not since. You suck on his lips
and tongue, taste blackberry brandy. Feel how hard his cock is, against you.
Around you, the regulars hoot
and cheer. “Get a room!” Phil yells,
“I missed you,” you
He chuckles. “Just saw you
“Feels longer.” You
just can’t let him go. He can hardly breathe, you’re
holding him so tight.
“The bitch was pissed.”
He reaches around for his shot of blackberry.
“Thought I was with Sorehead.”
Sorehead. Who has AIDS, but no
one knows, yet.
“He’s bad news,”
Scudder says. “Can’t stay off the shit.”
“If you only knew,”
One day Sorehead will hang himself
in his garage.
Shannon says. “Buy me
Her baby . . .
Scudder frowns. “I don’t
know . . .”
Even he knows she’s had
enough. She’s holding her beer sideways. Some of
it spills onto her pants.
The shot he does buy her, she
downs, like a guy. Wipes her mouth on her
arm, grins at them. Back then she was only missing one tooth.
The bar phone rings. Phil runs
Your heart sinks before he even
This was years before iPhone 40.
The cord doesn’t reach, so Scudder hops
up onto the bar to take his call.
It’s her. You remember.
Their youngest kid has a fever, or some shit. Or
maybe the bitch made it up. But when Scudder leaves Donny’s, you never see him
“I gotta run,” he
“No!” you scream,
but nobody hears you. You can hardly hear yourself, as something
is happening. Your vision blurs. Your whole body—your soul—is shimmering, changing.
In this dream-state, more blasts
from the past torture you: drunken
flings, countless dead-end jobs. A bout of cancer that weakens you, leaves you
sterile, nearly hopeless.
Fresh as ever is one memory: Scudder’s
leather-vested back as he rushed
out of Donny’s, home to his wife and kids. . .
But your freshest memory is the
time-travel agent’s office. That turquoise
stare that all androids have. Her pushy attitude. And that obnoxious Christmas
tree, singing “Jingle Bell Rock” now.
In the waiting room, there was
one guy ahead of you. You didn’t notice
him, before, but you remember him, now: a chunky, balding guy, smelling of
at his iPhone 40.
Time Share originally appeared in Black Petals Issue #56,
Summer of 2011.