Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 14


Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods

October 12, 1969.  WKNR DJ Russ Gibb airs a story during a phone-in show that Beatle Paul McCartney had died three years earlier in a car crash and clues to his death had been appearing on each subsequent Beatles release since then.  Many claim the hoax actually originated in print form much earlier than this, but the radio broadcast is widely regarded as the match that set the rumor ablaze like wildfire.  I had always been fascinated by the story and wrote a paper about it in high school.  Thinking back, that was probably the first inkling of my future career.

    Despite my predilection for conspiracy theories, I never actually believed Paul was dead.  I did always suspect that the Beatles either orchestrated this plot from the outset, or at least heard the early theories and decided to run with it by planting more clues.  When Ringo is the sole surviving Beatle, I’ve got a feeling he’ll spill the beans.

    Not long after my thought process hit the Paul segue I found myself outside of Nelson’s family estate.  Apparently the room I had been standing in while concocting this plan was part of the new addition Nelson’s mom described.  Without bothering to check inside the house, I headed further on down the road.  My grandparents lived in the same neighborhood, and I needed to track down my father.

    With the last few time trips I had developed an overboard and self-assured confidence that I’d always find the right memory to blink back to.  It seemed that time travel was much like any other skill:  if you believe you can do it, most likely you can.  But if you overanalyze too much, you haven’t got a chance in hell.  That applies to just about everything.  School, sports, work, writing, dating, etc.  Practice plays a part too, but confidence is key.  Life would be so much easier if I could keep that doubting little voice out of my head.  If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

    Embarrassingly enough, I had trouble finding my grandparents’ house.  Even though I’d been there hundreds of times over the course of the past twenty-eight (or, future thirty-three) years, it had always been a part of a family outing that I didn’t drive to.  My sense of direction is bad enough as it is, so when I’m occupied by something else as the passenger in a car (conversation, reading, sleeping, music, overanalyzing some little thing that I don’t really know enough about to really do so, etc) my internal navigation system shuts down.  A few landmarks here and there looked familiar, but I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do when I saw them.  Left or right?  Straight or stop?  The memories of coming and going were fused together into one blurry, circular map with no natural placement of cardinal points and no direction home.

    After an hour of wandering I finally found my way to what should have been a walk of less than fifteen minutes.  A buzzing noise filled the air as I approached the house.  A neighborhood teen was in the side yard, mowing the lawn barefoot and shirtless despite the October chill, wearing only a pair of basketball shorts that were a bit too short for my liking.  On the front stoop sat another young man, this one modded out in a sharkskin jacket with a velvet collar.  He was noodling on his guitar while wearing a bulky pair of padded headphones.  It had to be Dad.

    I paced in front of the house, making a point of clearing my throat while stomping and shuffling my feet to get his attention.  But he was so engrossed in what he was doing he barely looked up.  I’m not certain, but he may have been stoned.  Trying to learn a lesson from my past hesitations, I verified the distance between my feet and the lawn was negligible and marched up to the house to confront him.

    The quality of his jam left a lot to be desired, causing my critical ear to cringe as I approached.  My intended strategy was to kick off a conversation by asking him what he was playing, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to feign interest.

    “Excuse me mister.”

    “Nice song.”

    “Pleased to meet you.  Won’t you guess my name?”

    “Hey, what’s that sound?”

    Between the headphones, the guitar, and the lawnmower he was otherwise deaf to the world, including me.  I reached out to tap him on the shoulder, and was startled by the result.  It was the last thing I expected to happen, though I should have been prepared for it by now.

    My arm went right through him.

    Why?  What was different about young Dad vs. old Dad?  Maybe it was because I blinked back to before I was injected?  No, because then he wouldn’t have seen me at the wedding.  Or because it was before I was born?  Maybe he never really saw me at all?  But the park worker comment had to come from somewhere.  Plus he pushed me.  Real, undeniable physical interaction.  I racked my brain for an explanation, but came up with none.  The only answer was another question, and a rhetorical one at that.  There was still so much I didn’t know about time travel.

    A horn honked.  Several sweater clad girls ogled and whistled as they leaned out of the back of a pickup truck, trying to gain the attention of the mower who was now moving on to the front yard.  He pretended not to notice, but I could detect a sly smile forming on his face as they passed.   A few minutes later the same flatbed of girls did a slower drive-by, again accompanied by horns and leers.  Unfazed, the yard boy stopped mowing, wiped the sweat from his brow, and pulled a bottle of beer from his back pocket.  He opened it with his teeth, spat the cap into his hand, and took a long sip.

    Screams of ecstasy were heard from the Ford.  He was showboating, and the girls loved every second of it.  I laughed to myself, took one look back at my mod squad wannabe Dad, then started towards the street to figure out what use I could make of this side trip to 1969 if I was unable to interact with anyone.  En route, the boy silenced the mower and waved me over.

    Which meant he could see me. 

    Which meant he wasn’t just any young man from the block.  I had the wrong guy before.  Here was my father.

    I composed myself, checked my feet again, and shifted direction across the lawn to make my proposition.

    “Can I help you?”

    “Um, yeah.  I was going to talk to that guy…”

    He laughed.  “My cousin isn’t very friendly.  I am, but I’m not sure I can help you either.  My parents aren’t home, but if you come back later they may want to make a donation.”

    This caught me off guard.  “Donation?”

    “Yeah.  I figured you were from the hospital when I saw that outfit on you.  Never heard of LBDG though.  What’s that stand for?”

    I had forgotten about my attire again and for the 250th time wished I could go back to the present for something new to wear.  At least he thought I looked like a hospital employee rather than the escaped mental patient that I really was.  And what did LBDG stand for?

    “Um, hospital.  Yeah.  The Lyndon B. Disease…something.  I forget what G was for.  I just work there.  But I wanted to talk to you.  Ask a favor actually.”

    “Never heard of that.  I’d have guessed Lyndon B’s Democratic Great Society if there had been an S, but that wouldn’t be a very good name for a hospital.”

    I changed the subject and introduced myself, telling him I saw the girls cooing and knew quite a bit about his reputation.  That was why I wanted to talk to him.  There was one girl in particular...

    “Hold on,” he interrupted.  “I don’t know if I’m freaked out or flattered, but I don’t have much trouble getting my own dates.  So if you’re here to set me up or sell me an aphrodisiac that can double my dating...”

    “You’ve got me wrong.  It’s more of a challenge.  This girl has a boyfriend.  A few of us who know your style have a little wager on whether or not you’d be able to break up the happy couple.  Are you up for it?  We’ll all chip in and give you the whole pot.”

    He paused and thought about it for a minute.  “What’s the catch?”

    “No catch, why?”

    “Are you pulling my chain?  Because if you are...”

    “Absolutely not,” I interrupted.  “It’s all on the level.  We just want to see if you can pull it off, and then learn from the master.  You’d be teaching us a lesson in the art of seduction.”

    He thought about it again, his smile widening with each passing second.  Finally, he spoke. 

    “Does this girl have a name?”