You Get What You Pay For

Harvey looked at the amount of glassware in the room.  This was a laboratory that defined the word, at least that’s how Harvey saw it.  The blinking lights and the buzz of a lot of electricity flowing into the machines arrayed before him made Harvey want to squeal like a teenager at her first boy band concert.  Harvey reached out to twist a knob on the nearest piece of equipment.

“Don’t touch that,” boomed a man’s voice coming from behind Harvey.  The accent was extremely German, probably from the Black Forest region.  At least Harvey was pretty sure about it.  That region of Germany put out the best engineers, as evidenced by this amazing room.

“Did you have to import all this from Germany?” Harvey asked.  He still wanted to turn a knob so bad.  Any knob would do.

“Germany?” asked the voice.  “Why do you say that?”

Harvey finally put his knob desire on hold and turned to the voice.  The man was completely bald and had bushy white eyebrows that looked like they were trying to burrow into his face.  He wore a pristine white lab coat with a pair of dark rimmed glasses that really screamed scientist.  Harvey shrugged.  “I assume since you were from Germany, then the equipment came over here with you,” Harvey said.

“I’m not German,” the man said.  “I am Swedish by nationality, but born and raised in Brooklyn.”

Harvey laughed and turned back to the equipment.  He reached for the knob and gave it a slight twist.  The man’s hand slapped Harvey’s away from the instrument.  “Please sir,” the man said, “Do not touch the machines.  They are calibrated precisely.  If you fiddle with them they will not work.”

Harvey kissed his hand to make it feel better.  He looked at the knob, satisfied he had turned it at least a little.  “Well Dr. Bjorkman, I just want to make sure these work the way you said they do.  If I’m going to invest all that money, then I need to see something that will knock my socks off,” Harvey said.

“That should be pretty easy,” Dr. Bjorkman said as he pointed at Harvey’s flip-flop adorned feet.

“What do my feet have to do with time travel?” asked Harvey, suddenly becoming suspicious.

Dr. Bjorkman smiled.  “Not time travel, but socks being blown off,” Dr. Bjorkman said.

Harvey looked at his flip-flops again.  “I don’t get it,” Harvey said.

Dr. Bjorkman gestured at Harvey’s feet.  “You are not wearing socks,” Dr. Bjorkman said.

“Of course not,” Harvey said.  “I’m wearing flip-flops.  Duh.  You are not filling me with confidence in your ability to travel in time.”

Dr. Bjorkman smiled and gestured at the room.  “You are a clever man,” Dr. Bjorkman said.  “We shall see if we can instill that confidence.  Look around, see for yourself.  Just don’t touch.  Time travel is a tricky and costly business.”

Harvey walked around the room.  He leaned in close to a few of the more impressive instruments, but nothing was labeled in anything remotely understandable.  “So this will let me go anywhere in time?” Harvey asked.  “I always wanted to visit my grandfather when he was my age.  He would tell me about his drinking buddies from then, and I think one of them sounded like it was me from now.  I figure that is the first place I want to go back to.  I want to make sure that I get born you know.  I want to avoid the pair of ducks if I can help it.”

“That is paradox,” Dr. Bjorkman said.  Harvey looked even more confused, so Dr. Bjorkman decided to drop the matter and moved on.  “This machine can’t go into the past,” He could see Harvey about to interject, but Dr. Bjorkman quickly continued.  “That’s not to say it won’t soon.  I wanted to work out the kinks doing the easier part, traveling to the future, first.”  Dr. Bjorkman adjusted the knob Harvey had touched back to its original setting.  “So I suggest going into the future.  Then in the future maybe I have the machine ready to go into the past.”

Harvey sat in a chair, and then spun himself around.  “So I go into the future first, and then I go into the past?” Harvey said.  “Sort of backwards then the way Dr. Brown did, don’t you think?”

“Dr. Brown?” asked Dr. Bjorkman.

“You know.  Dr. Brown from the Back to the Future documentaries,” said Harvey.  “They really were captivating.  I was always trying to figure out how they got the camera crew back in time.”

“Of course, Dr. Brown.  I can’t believe I’ve met someone who remembers the good doctor’s work,” Dr. Bjorkman said.  “We have been trying to get his energy requirement much smaller.  That many gigawatts are unsafe.”

That made Harvey sit up and take notice.  “Really?” asked Harvey, “You’ve managed to get the number down below 1.21 gigawatts?”

“Much lower,” said Dr. Bjorkman.  “We are now in the terawatt range.”

Harvey shook his head in disbelief.  “That is amazing.  You are doing some amazing work here,” Harvey said.  “So you said in your ad that for ten large you will allow me the honor of being the first to use your device to go into the future?”

Dr. Bjorkman nodded.  “That’s all it takes.  And don’t worry about anything.  I have tested it on mice and a chimp.  The only side effect seemed to be a bit of dry mouth and a headache,” Dr. Bjorkman said.

Harvey reached into his pocket and took out a wad of bills.  “It’s all here,” Harvey said.  “You can count it if you want.”

Dr. Bjorkman hastily stuffed the money into his pocket.  “No need.  I trust you implicitly,” he said.  “So when do you want to leave?”

Harvey took out the phone and checked for messages.  Luckily six pm on a Friday was pretty dead for him. Harvey was so ready to put 2015 away for good.  He put away the phone into his pocket.   “Why not right now?” he asked.

Dr. Bjorkman clapped his hands together once.  “Very good,” he said.  He pulled out a blue pill from a drawer.  “Here, take this.  It will make you sleepy.”

Harvey looked at the pill.  “Shouldn’t it be a red pill?”

“I am out of the red ones,” Dr. Bjorkman said.  “Take it or leave it.”

Harvey took the pill and swallowed it right down.  “What’s it going to do?” Harvey asked.

“It will make you sleepy,” Dr. Bjorkman said.  “I have found it a lot harder to make things go into the future if they are aware of what is happening.”

“That makes perfect sense,” Said Harvey.  His eyes began to droop.  “How will I find you in the future?” he asked in between yawns.

“Don’t look for me.  I’ll find you,” Dr. Bjorkman said.  “Just remember to reads the note when you wake up.”

“What did you say?” asked Harvey.  Or at least that’s what Harvey tried to say, but the drug made it sound more like, “Wajusy?”

“Read the note,” Dr. Bjorkman yelled as Harvey passed out.




Harvey emerged from sleep slowly.  His head felt like he had head butted a jackhammer.  He tried to whimper, but there wasn’t enough saliva in his mouth to do much of anything.  Gently he opened his eyes to find himself lying on the ground.  In front of him on the floor was a water bottle and a note.  Harvey grabbed the water bottle and guzzled it down.  He managed to maneuver himself into a sitting position.

Harvey was amazed at how much had changed in the future.  The room was completely empty.  Even the chair he had been sitting in was gone.  Harvey wondered how far into the future he had gone for the lab to be completely dismantled.  Harvey picked up the note and opened it.  The only thing said was, “Welcome to the future.”  Harvey smiled, enjoying his moment.  “I wonder what amazing things I’m going to see.”  Harvey said to the empty room.

Harvey gingerly stood up and felt his thigh almost cramp.  He went to massage away the pain when he realized he had been lying on his cell phone.  He took it out, and by some miracle it still had power.  “The future is amazing,” he said to himself as he unlocked it.  Harvey looked closer at the date.   According to his phone it was now Sunday.  Harvey got excited until he realized it was still 2015.  He had only traveled two days into the future!

Harvey went from being pissed to laughing.  You get what you paid for.  The doctor must have counted what Harvey had given him before sending him into the future.  “I knew I shouldn’t have tried to trick him.  He created time travel for goodness sakes.  I was just trying to save a couple of thousand for the interest,” he said as he shuffled to the door.

Harvey let himself out the door and into his cheaper future.

A Simple Pleasure

Sam stood before the mirror in his hospital gown and rubbed his bald head.  Those blue eyes hadn’t faded under the stress, but the rest of his face seemed foreign to him.  Sam had always had a rounded face, but now there were too many angles and hallow spots.  At first Sam had actually enjoyed the lost weight, but now he wished he had the ability to eat like he had just a month ago.

Sam closed his eyes, trying to remember back when life was simpler.  Oddly he focused on the last time he had his hair cut at the barber’s.  He felt the ghostly tug on his hair from the barber’s callused hands pulling each section lightly taunt, before the itchy cut of the shears separated the wanted from the unwanted.  Sam smiled at the memory of the tickle of the trimmer along the back of his head.  The scent of powder and aftershave almost drove him to tears.

Sam forced himself to open his eyes and walk out of the bathroom.  He didn’t bother closing the back of his robe.  He didn’t care if someone saw his backside.  There were more important things to focus on.  There was a quiet knock at the door.

“Are you ready?” asked the nurse.

Sam tried to remember her name.  Was it Jessica?  No, that was the last time.  He gave up.  “I sure am.  Come on in,” he said.

The nurse came in wearing her Loony Tunes scrubs which made Sam smile.  ”Bugs is my favorite cartoon character of all time, Kelly,” he said, proud of himself that he remembered her name.  It was the little things that were important now.  Well, that and the one big thing.

“I love him too,” Kelly said.  “So are you ready for your next round of chemo?”

Sam nodded, not trusting himself to speak just then.  He rubbed his bald head and thanked God that at least his head was a good shape to be bald, but at the same time he couldn’t wait to visit his barber again.  That would be a simple pleasure.

An Awkward Proposition

Every family has a motto.  Mine is ‘It’s not murder if it’s family’.  It is right there on the family crest, written in the blood dripping from the crossed swords in front of a skull.  We really are pussycats, unless you cross one of our own, then well, you better find a black hole.  We won’t kill you per se, that is reserved for loved ones, but you will wish we had when we are done.  You don’t believe me?  Just ask Carlton Zebraski.  Oh, don’t know who that is?  Exactly!

Back to the family though.  Lately we have been taking our motto a bit too seriously, so there have been numerous positions opening up recently.  To that point, I’m looking to help the family business to expand.  I have decided to accept applications to join, and I was wondering if you were interested.  I guess what I am saying is will you marry me?

Gin and Tonic (A very circular tale.)

Gerald traded away his luck for a gin and tonic, but that wasn’t the worst decision he made that night.  That award would go to him giving his love away to April, who immediately cashed it in for a romantic private flight for two to Miami Beach, sans Gerald.  At least Gerald would always have the memory of April kissing him after she booked the reservation.  That was a moment he would not forget till he died, which was shortly after kissing April and taking a drink of his gin and tonic, because he slipped off his barstool during the kiss and smashed in the back of his head.  April was so distraught that she ended up taking the extremely handsome EMT that responded to Gerald’s demise on the aforementioned Miami Beach trip, because that was what she thought Gerald would have wanted.  So the EMT slammed back the rest of the gin and tonic, not wanting it to go to waste, before taking April to the airport for their first adventure together.  All this because Gerald traded away his luck for a gin and tonic.

Swing for Tomorrow

Marcus Coleman stepped into the batter box and looked at the Lev Anderson, the pitcher.  The Lev Train, as he was nicknamed, only had two pitches, a fast ball somewhere just short of light speed and a curve that broke so hard some said you could hear reality cracking as the pitch dove to the ground just as the ball got to the plate.  The catcher, Sanferd Fernandez, chuckled.  “Enjoy the view,” Sanferd said just loud enough for Marcus to think he almost imagined it.

It was the bottom of the ninth, Freddie and that other kid whom Marcus couldn’t remember were on second and third.  There were two outs and Luke Mathews was up next.  Luke was an RBI machine, so Marcus knew he was going to see good stuff.  There was no way they were allowing him to get on, much less walk him.  Marcus had had a good game so far going one for two with a double, but he had never faced the Lev Train in anything except simulation, and there he had sucked, striking out seven out of ten times.  The other three had been dribblers into the infield.  Still, now was his moment.  He could be the hero or the guy who should go back to the minors that he had just escaped from.  Marcus was sick of bus rides, so the minors were not a choice.

Marcus took a couple of practice swings as Sanferd and Lev began the ancient ritualistic communication of hand signs.  Lev shook off the first one before nodding yes.  Marcus steeled himself.  Fastball or curve?  Marcus guessed fastball and started his swing before Lev had even released the ball.  Marcus felt time slow down as the ball came closer and closer to the plate.  He adjusted the swing a bit to chop at the ball when the ball broke, bouncing off home plate.  Marcus couldn’t stop his swing, having to eat his own energy back as he followed through.

“Striiiiike un!” shouted the umpire from what seemed right behind the right ear of Marcus.  The home crowd groaned.  Marcus stepped out of the box and adjusted his gloves.  If he did get sent back to the minors, would he get another chance?  He was getting up there in age, a twenty-seven year old second baseman known more for his defense than his offense, and there might be no more tomorrow.

Marcus stepped back into the batter box and nodded at Lev.  Lev ignored him as Lev checked out the runners before launching another ball Marcus’ way.  Marcus moved to swing, but realized he was too late and barely took the bat off his shoulder.  The lightning bolt of a pitch smashed into the catcher’s glove with a “Striiike twooooo” filling in the role as thunder.

Marcus stepped back out of the batter’s box and shook his head.  The Lev Train was smiling and Marcus could see Spud, the pitching coach, call to the bullpen.  They must be thinking this was done and the game was going into extras.  Marcus thought about how his girlfriend was going to think about moving back to Albuquerque.  At least it was a dry heat, right?  It might help with that rash he had been fighting on his calf.

Marcus looked around the stadium.  He figured this would be the last time probably ever, so he basked in it for a moment.   Looking at the third base coach he had an idea.  Marcus quickly reverted to hand signs of his own, and the coach looked at him dumbfounded.  Slowly the coach shrugged and nodded.  Marcus smiled.  At least this should be memorable.

Marcus stepped into the box and smiled at Lev.  He dug in his left foot and squatted down low.  Marcus waited for Sanferd to say something, but the catcher must have decided to let him die in peace.  Marcus gripped the bat and lifted it lightly off his shoulder.  Lev nodded, accepting the duty of sending the death knell pitch.  Lev wound his body into a knot then unraveled, sending another bolt of lightning.

As Lev was releasing the ball, Marcus brought his bat level with his waist, facing slightly down the third base line.  At the same time Freddie broke for home at warp speed.  Marcus guessed right, and the ball never broke.  It hit his bat with a loud cracking noise.  Marcus took off out of the batter’s box in a hail of splinters as his bat exploded.  Marcus ran as fast as he could, ignoring everything else that was happening.  At least with his last moment on a major league field he would show he always hustled.

First base kept getting closer as Marcus’ blood oxygen content got smaller.  Marcus could feel every step ebb away more of his energy.  Every step focused his vision to a smaller and smaller point until he felt himself trip on the bag at first, and he fell forward into a cascading heap.  When he stopped rolling, he looked at third.  Freddie was still there.  Marcus looked at the first base coach and called time.  The coach came running over.  “What happened?” Marcus asked.

“Broken bat dribbler,” Coach said.  “They kept Freddie close, and you beat it out.  You got lucky, kid.”  Coach helped Marcus get up and back to first.  Marcus smiled.  No matter what happened now, he at least had a chance to stay here another day, and that beat Albuquerque any day of the week, even with the dry heat.

Happy Day (an Acrostic Poem)

Being there when you came into this world

I remember thinking how tiny you were

Red and screaming about being rudely ripped from your motherly home

The planet has come full circle around our star

Here I am encircled around your little finger

Day after day I watch your amazing metamorphosis

As you grow up so very fast

Yet you will always be my baby girl

A Blind Spot

The moonlight danced among the crystalline, crisp snow, yet Len couldn’t see any of it.  Still Claudia’s voice brought the scene alive for him.  “There is almost a hint of color peeking out here and there,” she said.

Len gripped her hand even tighter.  “That sounds wonderful,” he said.

“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry,” Claudia said.

Len turned in Claudia’s direction.  “Why are you sorry?” he asked.

“I keep describing things in…”  Claudia ran out of words to say.

Len smiled, reached out, and found Claudia’s face.  He caressed her cheek.  “Claudia, that’s one of the reasons I spend time with you.”  He pointed at his own face.  “You forget about this.  Too many people won’t do that.”

Claudia went on her tippy toes and gave Len a kiss on his cheek.  “They’re fools,” she said.

Len leaned forward and Claudia me him half way for a longer, more passionate kiss.  Claudia began to move away after the kiss, but Len held her close.  “I want to let you in on a little secret,” he said.  “I can see a bit.  Shadows, a bit of movement right in front of me.”

“But I thought you were blind,” Claudia said.  “Why would you say?”  Claudia trailed off, her confusion not only on her face but in her voice.

Len chuckled.  “I am blind.  It doesn’t mean that I can’t see anything,” he said.  “It just means I see so poorly that I have to have remarkable women describe the gorgeous but very chilly night.”

Claudia smiled and Len just stood there.  Claudia then realized that her smile was not communicating what she felt, so she leaned in and gave him another kiss.  “Maybe we should get out of the cold then,” she said.

Len didn’t respond right away, looking like he was pondering the offer.  After a minute, Claudia gave him a playful hit to his shoulder.  “Really?  You trying to give me the cold shoulder?” she asked.

“Ah, the twist of a phrase into a pun.  You know the way to my heart,” Len said.  He kissed her again.  “I agree.  Where do you want to go?  I heard McCarty’s has a great late night menu.”

Claudia bit her lip before responding.  “Nah.  How about my place?” she asked.  “I’m sure we could warm up nicely there.”

Len shivered, but not from the cold.  “That sounds like an excellent plan,” he said.  He offered his arm.  “Lead the way.”

Claudia took the proffered arm with hers.  “Oh, and I have a couple of halogen lights.  Maybe we can play with what you can see.”

“Offering to make a blind person see?” Len asked.  “Now that sounds like a miracle I just have to experience.”  Len leaned over and gave Claudia a kiss on the top of her head.  “Lead on.  I am eager to play.”

“Me and you both,” Claudia said as she led him onward.

The Blacktop Desert

Daryl walked along the blacktop desert and wondered how society had gotten to this point.  The pavement pitted and crumbled in the relentlessly pounding sun and wind.  The melted buildings in the distance were a testament of what had happened in the distant past.  Daryl always enjoyed imagining what had happened all those years before.  It didn’t really matter though, because this was now reality, and it was the place her and her children now lived.

Daryl looked over her shoulder and noticed someone was following her.  Daryl stopped and turned to face the stalker.  Daryl held her shotgun firmly in two hands, a small smile just peeking out from under the breathing mask.  The person dressed all in faded, blotchy black slowed down and stopped a respectable distance away.  “Sorry madam,” the stranger said holding his hands in the air, “but I was wondering if you happen to have some food to spare.”

Daryl slowly reached into her belt and grabbed out a small rat she had caught and dried just recently.  She tossed it to the stranger.  “Here you go,” she said.  “Take it and leave me alone.”

The stranger agilely caught the rat with one hand.  “You are mighty generous,” the stranger said.  “Does that mean you have a surplus around here?”

Daryl shook her head.  “I believe in following the rule of help when you can.  If you do you will be rewarded,” she said.

“You are truly a generous soul,” the stranger said.  The stranger bowed deeply at the waist.

Daryl watched closely and noticed the stranger mess with the tops of his boots.  As the stranger stood up suddenly, Daryl gave another gift, two barrels blazing.  The stranger fell backward as twin knives the stranger had threw sailed to either side of Daryl.  Daryl closed the distance and quickly put one more shot in the stranger’s head.

Daryl pawed through the stranger’s pockets and removed their contents.  A few more knives, some medical herbs, and bits and pieces of local currency quickly made their way into her backpack.  She also took back the rat and began carving up the corpse.  “Like I said,” said Daryl, “I did good, and now I’m rewarded.  My kids won’t have to eat rat tonight.”

She shoved the best cuts into her backpack and continued to walk along.  She chewed on the stranger’s pinky as she contemplated how society had gotten to this point.