Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 4


Four Hours In Washington

Back at the motel, I sat on the floor at the foot of the bed bouncing a tennis ball against the wall.  I had to break down how this time travel thing worked.  Assuming another injection was unnecessary, I decided to stop at a store to at least test the far-fetched ball theory.  But more reasonably, maybe I was using the newspaper in the wrong way.  If the future was off limits, using news from the past should do the trick.  Scanning the still open entertainment section, I found a more detailed article on the upcoming Dylan show that I hadn’t read in my earlier haste.  It was a standard concert pitch type article that I could have written in my sleep, but one section stood out:

    “If this visit to Eugene is anything like the last one, we’re in for a treat.  True fans are still talking about the rousing set played on June 14, 1999 at the 1,000 seat EMU Ballroom.  A last minute solo show added to his summer tour with Paul Simon, Dylan treated the intimate crowd to an acoustic six song set at the start of his performance.  Over the course of the evening he dusted off eight tunes that hadn’t been played on the current tour, including the live debut of “Down Along The Cove” from his 1967 John Wesley Harding album.”

    That would have been a heck of a show to be at.  I lobbed the ball at the wall as I turned the page, but it never bounced back.  Before I had a chance to look for it, I was distracted by a screaming baby beside me.

    The motel room was still the same, but a young couple and their child now accompanied me.  Surprised, I jumped up and tried to press my back against the wall, ending up splayed out on the carpet of the adjoining room.  Standing up, I raced over to the newspaper sitting on the dresser.  June 14, 1999.  I was miles away from the show, but I was back.

    Noticing the noise had subsided, I poked my head back through the wall into my original room to investigate.   The baby had calmed down but the family was still there.  Clearing my throat didn’t draw any attention to me, nor did a clearly stated greeting.  Back in the adjacent empty room, I walked over to the bed and was able to put my apparitional hand right through it.  (Not surprisingly, as I had just walked through yet another wall.)  Between the bed and the nightstand sat my missing tennis ball.

    Was it really the ball?  Everything seemed to be the same as before.  I still couldn’t be seen by anyone, which seemed to rule out the theory that whatever was causing this needed to be absorbed into my system.  Maybe interaction was learned over time, or maybe I’d need a separate, stronger dose to gain that power.  I had hoped to have acquired the ability to interact by now so my current mission would be more than just observational.  What if I could save Kurt Cobain?  What would the next Nirvana record sound like?  Would the mystery song from the Fitchburg show be on it?  Would the new music cause Wyld Stallyn-esque world peace?  Would the world be spared the boy bands and dance pop that would poison the ears of youth for years to come?  Rock could still reign supreme, copycat suicides would be stopped, and I might even have a career again.

    Like most others, I had always thought time travel would be achieved by a machine of some sort if at all.  Since my experiences were clearly not linked to any machine, it seemed to argue that time travel is mostly mental.  Was I tapping into the unused portion of my brain?  If so, how could my brain have such vivid memories of events I’d read so little about, let alone seen first hand?  And how the hell did the balls play into this?

    This was reminiscent of the Quantum Leap argument on whether it was the body or mind of Sam Beckett that did the leaping.  Internet newsgroups often debated the benefits of both, and individual episodes would tend to contradict themselves.  Sam gave birth as a woman once, giving a point to the mind theory.  But as a man with no legs, he was able to walk across a room, while others saw his host seemingly levitate.  That was definitely a vote for the body traveling.  Maybe it changed as needed by the situation God or Fate or Time put him in?  Or the situation the episode writer needed to solve a problem?

    My new train of thought must have broken the spell, as I found myself sitting on the floor in front of the newspaper having touched neither bruise nor ball.  How long had I been here for?  I retrieved a second tennis ball from the canister, gave it a squeeze, then smiled a wide grin as my new plan fell into place.