Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 8


Eight Days A Week

The neighborhood hadn’t changed much in the year since I’d been gone.  I couldn’t outright pinpoint any major changes over the past several years either.  Surely some things were different, but a slow evolution often goes by unnoticed, whereas a larger jump is more jarring.

    The first thought to come to mind was how I missed the crispness of a New England autumn.  Time just blurred on by in California with picture perfect weather every day.  After making it less than a quarter of the way around the neighborhood, the second thing to come to mind was that I was freezing and didn’t really miss crisp Septembers at all.

    The lights were still on when I returned home, meaning Mom and/or Dad were still up.  Not yet ready to venture inside and talk more about the supposed reason for my trip home, I wandered into the backyard to further ponder my true plan.  Aside from the tree house, I hadn’t sorted out as much as I would have liked to on the plane.  I’ve always been the sort who kept the real planning until the last minute.  Internal debate is my prep work, used to keep my mind limber more than anything else.  Need to give the synapses some work to keep them clear for times when serious thinking is required.

    I decided that I should make all contact with my other selves in reverse chronology.  That way if he happened to freak out I could avoid severe mental trauma by pinching off each episode by moving the first contact up earlier.  The last thing I needed was to be known as the guy who was always talking to himself, or worse yet always trying to talk to himself even when there was no other self to talk to.  Using days of the week as a simple analogy, if I went back to Friday and screwed up, I could still go back to Thursday and try again, essentially erasing the Friday trip from the flow as far as my younger self was concerned.  On the other hand, failing on Thursday and Friday in proper order keeps both strikes “on the record” so to speak.

    Although I didn’t know all of the blinking mileposts on the path I would take, the most obvious would be to go back to just before her death and make sure I was there to stop it.  I considered cutting to the chase of what older me really wanted to do by eliminating the problem at the most probable source: the wedding.  We were both all but certain this was the beginning of the end, but Mom’s comments had given me a slight case of doubt.  Suppose there was even the smallest chance that I was wrong.  Would it hurt to have some verification first?

    After much consideration, I decided to do the right thing and play it straight by first trying to save her life directly.  I could always stop the wedding later since it wasn’t necessarily dependent on the success of this primary mission.

    Breaking from my thoughts, I realized I had been walking around in circles within the fenced-in perimeter of my childhood backyard.  This was a common walk for deep thought when I was younger, and I had picked up the trail where I left off.  I remembered jumping the fence to retrieve wiffle balls hit into the woods during epic games of home run derby.  Hitting homers over the four foot chain link fence used to be hard, but as I grew it became easier and easier until I finally had to rotate the field to aim at the twelve foot deck on the back of the house as a more challenging target.

    Continuing counterclockwise, I finally reached the tree house.  It overlooked the open area where the family dog used to frolic.  He wasn’t around anymore.  Hit by a car during my freshman year of college.  We never got another dog, but kept the area either as a tribute or out of laziness.  I was never sure which.

    At the vacant doghouse I kicked around in the dirt at the back left corner until I heard my heel knock on plywood.  The hiding place was still there.  During high school I’d bury my marijuana stash here in a tin box under a small square of wood.  And here it was, undisturbed after all these years.  I pried open the box and found a lighter, a book of matches, and a plastic bag with some ancient shake and two clumsily rolled skinny joints, now yellow with age.  The matches didn’t work, but the lighter was still in fine working condition.

    I climbed up the creaky ladder, flipped open the trap door in the floor, and emerged in the creakier tree house.  Leaning out the side window towards the temple of the dog, I lit the crumbly parchment.  A bit harsh, but still refreshing.  On many a summer night the neighbor girl and I would get stoned up here and fool around a bit.  Or—no, wait.  We got stoned once and I made a move, but she was less than receptive and stormed off into the night.  We never hung out again.

    Did we? 





    Definitely not. 

    Why couldn’t I remember?  How could I forget?  Which version was right?  I guess I was choosing to remember the happier fantasy.  Either that or I was already stoned.  There was only one way to find out.  Time to party like it’s 1991.