Time Is My Time
The cable TV
installer had stood Carla up for the second day. She was near tears with the
irritation that seethed and couldn’t be controlled by taking deep breaths or
doing distracting chores. The
frustration was worse than waiting for a patient who never arrived. At least
the patient would probably say,
“Oops, I forgot the date.”
She worked to bolster her
self-confidence as she stared from the telephone to the dark plasma screen
television. Carla knew she was still
attractive at 36, she dressed well, and her RN degree was respected among the workers
in the Santa Clara County hospital. If
only she wasn’t hobbling around on crutches, having fallen from helping a
patient who had collapsed.
So where was the cable man? This was just
a business appointment without
emotional attachment. Not a date. Was
this such a hard thing to schedule?
She had taken to
referring to the installer as the damncableman, running the words
together the way the Germans used polysyllables to define emotions too complex
to be put into short nouns.
He had failed to
show on Monday during the 9-to-5 window they scheduled. She had called the company’s
800 number. The customer service clerk had said there had
been a problem; would she be home tomorrow?
Of course she’d be home tomorrow. She
was on work-related disability! On top of that, she was still haunted by the
passing of her husband, Dr. David Marshall Sullivan, who’d contracted the virus
at the hospital.
She waited until noon on Tuesday before calling
the 800 number and demanding to know where the repairman was.
“May I confirm your address?” the clerk
asked. This woman asked for her phone
number again. And for the confirmation
number they had given her earlier. The
clerk spoke with an Indian accent, and Carla realized her voice was being
shunted halfway around the world, to some place like Madras or Mumbai.
that repair,” Carla said through clenched teeth. “I’m communicating
with medical patients. I’m a hospital nurse and we may be talking
life and death.” This was a lie.
She wanted to see Oprah during the morning
and a lineup of reality shows at night.
These were the shows that deadened the pain of remembering the man who
had been husband, lover, friend and bon vivante. David’s hand would have
guided them into a
fulfilling life together.
“He should be on the way,” the lady from
India assured her.
“What is the problem?” Carla asked.
“Um, the log shows he couldn’t find your
“Does he have a cell phone? Can’t
he call me when he’s in the
“I will make a note,” she said. “I
will try to page him to call you. And, please be patient,” the clerk
pleaded. “This call is monitored for
The rest of the day was quiet. Every small
sound was magnified by the
absence of a phone call. It was almost
as if there had been a power failure.
Well, even her co-workers probably had TVs and husbands, which is more
than Carla had.
She was so depressed that she microwaved
a plate of frozen appetizers for dinner and opened a bottle of wine from
David’s self-consciously small collection.
Wednesday morning dawned as blissfully
cloudless as every other California morning.
This alone unsettled her, thinking the apocalypse would be waiting for
just such a day to kick Californians in the ass with tsunamis, forest fires,
pestilent Med flies or some other annihilation.
The telephone rang as she was updating messages
and looking for friends she could network with.
It shocked her into almost dropping the phone.
“Miss Sullivan, this is the cable technician.”
“It’s Mrs., and I thought I was
imagining your call. Where are you?”
“I’m on Osborne Street at the corner of
Arroyo Seco. Where are you?”
“Where I’ve been for three ... days.”
She almost laced her retort with an angry
adjective. “For three days. I’m
at 108 Osborne.”
“There isn’t any 108. Just a
“There was a 108 Osborne when I woke up
this morning. There was a 108
yesterday. I’d say it’s a good bet
there’ll be a 108 tomorrow.”
“Ma’am, I’m standing in front of where
that address should be and there’s no 108.
It’s a construction pit.”
Carla opened the slider and looked out at
the street. “Where’s your truck?
I don’t see a white truck.”
“Well, it’s blue. Maybe kinda
hard to see because of the rain.”
“Look, I don’t have time for
chit-chat. I’m missing the Oprah Winfrey
Show right now.”
She heard a snort of laughter. “What,
on DVD? Oprah’s been dead for three years.”
“Don’t get funny. I don’t
criticize your taste in TV shows.” She paused as his words struck her. “What do you mean rain? Are you
in San Jose?” And, slyly, “Are you drinking?”
“Ma’am, it’s pouring cats and dogs, I
had to get permission to get through the police barricades because of the bomb
blast here, and I’m not getting paid overtime....”
“What bomb?” Her face went pale
and her fingers groped for
the cane next to her chair.
“Excuse me, lady, but a city block is
missing. Just like 108 Osborne is
missing. I know you don’t have TV, but
it was terrorists or something and I’m standing in an empty street getting
soaked. Now, is this a joke?”
Quietly, Carla asked. “What is today’s
“There is no 29th.” Carla
insisted. “This isn’t a leap year.”
“Sure as hell is February 29, 2032, or
my name isn’t Juan Lopez.”
“Juan, listen, this is June 22nd
He laughed humorlessly. “You ask if
“Juan, the sun is shining, there’s
traffic on Osborne, headlines in the Mercury
have Donald Trump saying we’re winning the economic war, and....”
The guy who was president? He’s a
freeway in Miami or something, like Reagan’s an airport in Washington. He
got assassinated after losing the election.”
“Juan....” Her words tumbled
over each other in confusion. “Juan, I’m in the past and I’m
talking to you
in the future. This is June 22, 2020,
and somehow I’ve got connected to the future.”
“Lady, I’m hourly paid. I got
to get back to my truck and....”
“No, stop! You have to tell me. The President was assassinated? And
there was a terrorist bombing in San
“Ma’am, I’ll file a report, but I really
got to go.”
There was a series of clicks and a recorded
voice came on the line. “This call is
being monitored for quality assurance and will now be terminated. If you continue
to have a problem, please
She disconnected and then redialed. A recording
stated that her call could not be
completed as dialed, to check her number and try again.
She stared blankly at the dark
television screen. What would David do
in a situation like this? She felt
completely isolated and confined knowing the future was going to be difficult,
and made more so by not sharing it with David.
Walt bounces among writing genres, from mystery to
humor, speculative fiction to romance, with a little historical nonfiction
thrown in for good measure. His work has appeared in print and
online in over two dozen publications, including half a dozen in Yellow
Mama. He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university
posts, and from homes in eight states and to a couple of Asian
countries. He now lives in New Jersey, a nice place to visit, but he
doesn’t want to die there.
If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Willy Wonka sired
a bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped by dear friends and a freak by passing
strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when he was ten, and his skill has improved
with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He is for the most part self-taught, only
ever crediting the help of one great high school art teacher. His art has been shown at
his local library for multiple years only during October due to its macabre nature. If
you want to see more of Michael’s strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him
on Instagram at mad_hatters_mania.