The prompt for the local Manomet Writers Group was “If I knew then…” and this is what I wrote for them. It’s short-ish and I wasn’t sure it’d go over well because of the parenthetical stuff, but they seemed to like it when I read it to them. I hope you do as well.
Note to Self Found on a Blackberry Left in a Yugo Abandoned on I-80 and Towed to a Yard in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska
(some breathing can be heard before the note begins)
Note to self:
In my time it’s April 9th, 2010. I have a sense of what Dorothy felt when she landed in Oz, specifically on a house in Oz. I don’t think any of the people in front of my car will be able to tell me whether or not it was a witch’s house I landed on. I doubt they know English, though they do possess the ability to look rather pissed off.
In order to move along, I need more fuel. I don’t know where, or even when, I am. The clock I installed in the dash stopped working.
(there is a tapping sound, presumably tapping on the clock)
I’m in no position to dial the one-eight hundred number listed in the warranty; there is no service between realities. I don’t think I crossed any oceans and based on the people crowding around my car I’d say I’m in the middle of really early North America. That makes me the first white man to arrive.
I really thought I’d get better mileage with this car. Is that the term to use? It’s not miles per gallon I’m concerned with because I’m traveling in time, though I am actually moving across terrain—sort of. The Yugo was purring like a Slavic kitten and moving through ripples of time when it sputtered, suddenly accelerated, and then coasted to a stop in front of Tonto’s crew.
I’m looking out the windshield of my highly modified 1989 Yugo at a bunch of pissed off pre-Columbian Native Americans who are looking back at me with a growing sort of gang bravado. The dust is settling around my car and the Wayne Gretzky bobble-head on the dash is the last thing moving. A few of the natives have noticed the bobble-head and are tilting their own in fascination.
I’m worried that if I exit this vehicle now, I may never have the chance to get back in. I suppose to the casual observer of my Yugo, that might seem like a good thing. Mine still looks like a car that’s been assembled at gunpoint; but I’ve spent years doing modifications based on a thesis I did in college regarding space and time and finding the right kind of warp. That I discounted the Fermi paradox seemed to bother my professor; there may be time traveling tourists—we just don’t recognize them as such. Are UFOs really UTTs? Unidentified Time Travelers from a time beyond mine?
Another dilemma occurs to me once I get past worrying for my own skin. If I die here, did I have the children I had? If I am forced to live here, will I change something enough that I would never be conceived? And if I was never conceived, can I ever return? Or upon leaving, will my destination be the journey? A time traveler forever roaming in his 1989 Yugo. The paradoxes multiply and fold in on themselves, dizzying me.
The natives are looking at me oddly. They’re watching a man talk to something in his hand that’s shiny. They must think I’m nuts.
If I knew then what I know now, here in the past, I wouldn’t have modified a 1989 Yugo into a time machine. I would have given Jeff Branson the two and a quarter to buy his ’81 Greyhound Bus. At least it had a bathroom, and an aisle down the center to walk off a leg cramp.
I’m looking in my rearview mirror, noticing the petcock sticking out of the rear dash for a reserve tank which I installed in the trunk. The five gallon tank is from a Harley Davidson Sportster.
(there is some extended shuffling and grunting and then he continues)
I switched the valve for the reserve. I’ve got to go back and put a bigger tank in this thing. The Indians moved in closer while I was in the back seat. Let’s see what this does.
(there is the sound of an engine turning, a pause and then again. finally it starts)
Whoa, these guys have never heard a car start. Look at them backing away now. Wait’ll they get a load of this.
(there’s a clatter and then the sound of a car moving over rough terrain)
Hah, I knew they’d high tail it.
(the four-cylinder engine screams, then it is accompanied by a howling rush of air)
Man those twin turbos sound sweet.
(sounds of chiming, pinging, and then the hum of an electrical charge mix with the whining engine)
I love when my rooster-tail of dust turns all shimmery. It means…I’m…nowhere…
(the voice trails off and that is the end of the recording)
Okay readers. What do you think? Comments, witticisms, and critical thoughts are all welcome and highly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by.