Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 26


Across 26 Winters

Darkness.  I felt a sharp pain in my neck, and then the colors started.  Green black green black green black green flashed before my eyes as the machine whirred.  The whirring turned to silence, and the silence was interrupted by my voice.  My older voice.

    “Blink now, or you’ll ruin everything!”

    He squeezed my arms just above the spot where the IV tubes entered me, using enough pressure to stop circulation and start an electric feeling of pins and needles.  Trying not to wince too noticeably, I took the semi-subliminal advice and forced my way back into a memory.

I woke up with a headache like my head against a board.  When did I fall asleep?  For some reason I was on the couch with headphones on.  I had been dreaming about something, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was.  Neither deep sleep nor coherent thought were options the way my head was raging with pain.  I hadn’t had a headache this bad since...

    I sat up suddenly, trying to catch my breath from my last thought.  Was it all a dream?  No.  At least I hoped not.

    Still pondering like a poi dog, my body rose from the couch against my will.  I ended up in the bathroom brushing my teeth.  The mirror told me I still looked like myself, but the uninterested passing glance given to the reflection indicated there was no reason for me to look like anyone else.  I wanted a closer look to be sure, but I no longer had control over my actions.  I remembered asking my older self to trap me, and I certainly felt like a stowaway.

    Teeth cleaned, my host lumbered into the bedroom and buried himself among the covers.  I tried to think my way out of bed, but it wasn’t happening.  The darkness had me feeling claustrophobic.  The last thing I wanted to do right now was sleep.  What if the doctor found a way to retrieve me?  What if I couldn’t ever take control?  What if I had to replay all of these events as nothing more than an internal witness?  And what if Dad never made it back?  I still had a lot of work to do.

    These were the thoughts that spun through my subconscious.  Although I couldn’t make my body act, the brainwave activity seemed to be having some effect on my real being.  Occasional violent rotations and blurred red lines interrupting the opaqueness told a familiar tale of insomniatic clockwatching that I knew all too well.  Thinking and tossing and turning and looking and listening continued for a couple more hours until my body had had enough.  It got up, walked to the kitchen, and pulled a bottle out of a cabinet.

    As the alcohol circulated my arteries en route to my brain, I felt the familiar warmth begin to take hold.  One more! I screamed from backstage, smiling inside as the bottle went down and the glass went up.  My eyes tensed shut, but I was able to force them open.  Excited to be back in the driver’s seat, I blinked.

Driver’s seat.  Driving. 

    I was driving somewhere.  Or at least I was a passenger in my head while another me was driving.  Maybe it was you.  I wasn’t sure where we were headed, and to be honest I didn’t really care.  The important part was that they couldn’t revive me.  Here in your head was where I needed to stay.

    I thought about everything that had happened to us so far, or in your case hadn’t happened anymore.  You never went back in time, though sometimes you had a strange feeling that you had.  Nothing specific, just a vague premonition of what might be (or what once was).  Don’t worry, that’s just normal everyday persuasion.  You may have it stronger than most now that I’m here to passively share memories with you, but it happens to everyone.  How else could you explain Jeff Tweedy using all of that post-September 11th imagery when writing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in a pre-September 11th world?

    As far as this self was concerned, a strange old man wanted you to make a crazy Hot Spot bet on the same numbers for two consecutive drawings.  You were in a bad mood so you blew him off and decided for some unknown reason to get blitzed.  You knew that meant you wouldn’t bowl worth a damn, but the voice inside your head just screamed for it and you caved.  You don’t remember much more after that.  But I do.

    You never lost your bowling ball during league night.  You couldn’t have since I can see it here in the car with us now, on the floor of the passenger side where you always kept it.  You like being able to glance at it while driving, giving you comfort that you’re still grounded in reality.  Passengers get a bit annoyed when they have to straddle it, but you tell them Glitzy is too good for the trunk and to just deal with it.

    You’ve never had a tattoo or a scar that wouldn’t heal, especially not on your neck.  We barely even remember the cute little redheaded girl, even though part of me still thinks we might have a shot if I ever see her again.  And we certainly didn’t steal hit songs from the future and then teach them to our father before they were written.

    “These are all things I thought you knew.  Oh things just don’t seem like they used to,” were the lines I found myself singing along to on the radio. 

    On the radio?

    The car screeched to a halt as I took control of our body in a rare moment of sober clarity.  You fumbled with the dial to turn up the volume.  Who was singing?  It certainly sounded like Dad’s version.  At the end of the song the station went right into “Captain Jack” by Billy Joel.  At least that was normal.  After three minutes and thirty-four seconds that seemed to last forever, the DJ returned and recapped his set.

    “That was piano man Billy Joel, and before that we had a great one by request from the archives, Local Boy with ‘Won One.’  Remember tomorrow is two for Tuesday, where we always play two songs from your favorite artists.  You won’t be hearing ‘Won One’ then, as it’s the only song Local Boy ever released.  Quite a shame to see his talent go to waste, but that’s why we call them one hit wonders.  We have The Beatles and America coming up next, so stay tuned.”

    I made you shut off the radio.  Won One?  I couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with that.  We didn’t even have the power to do so just yet, and having Dad undo it was a big part of how I got to be here now.  Did that mean that we would still go on to relive it all later in life?  That since the possibility still existed it continued to be so?

    I thought of Local Boy. 

    And Dad. 

    And a telephone call. 

    And then I blinked again.

We were at home.  You poured a drink and picked up the phone to call Dad while I eavesdropped.  He answered on the first ring.  After the usual polite how are you small talk you asked my loaded question, thinking it was your own.

    “I heard ‘Won One’ on the radio today.  Do you remember when you wrote it?”

    I could feel the smile in his response.

    “Son, have I got a little story for you.  It was the strangest thing.  I was mowing the lawn when some guy came up looking for donations.  I was in a bad mood and he wouldn’t leave, and I ended up having to forcefully persuade him.  Right after that I stormed into the house, picked up my guitar, and played that song on the first take.  Didn’t even try, didn’t write it down.  It was already in my head and I just knew it by heart.  Funny too in that it’s such a pretty song, but just moments before my blood was boiling.”

    Now I was smiling.  Dad must have taught it to himself as one of his last actions in that other life.  Very sly.

    Dad continued walking through the reminiscence.  “It still amazes me how easily it came that day.  I try all the time to write something else, but it never comes.  They say everyone has one book in their head.  I guess I just had one song.  Got by pretty well on it.  You could say I really won one there.  The royalties put you and your sister through college.  God rest her soul.”

    My sister.  It was good to hear someone else acknowledge that I had a sister again.  But she was still gone.  At least for now.  We’ll have to find a way to fix that. 

    If I can blink around within our own lifetime to subliminally guide you, infinite perfection could be just around the corner.  I’ll be there to protect you, making sure none of it ever happens.  There will be no experiment.  There will be no escaping and sending my younger self on a mission.  There will be no need to contact Dad.  There will be no setting sis up with Nelson.  No wedding or bad relationship or bad marriage or bad life.  Everything done would be undone.  The road to infinite perfection doesn’t necessarily intersect with the route of timely persuasion.  It’s a road best left untraveled, unless maybe you have a chauffeur who has seen it all as your guide...