Nothing but trouble was open for business at that hour.
“Grabbing a tree,” Bruce said.
“Don’t,” said Allison. “I’ll pay the fifty bucks tomorrow.”
Dawn arrived without Bruce. Allison’s texts remained unread.
She assumed either Bruce was dead or they’d use his mug shot on their Christmas card.
Iain Young still can’t convince his family to get a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
Who knows why I even bother, but I inform every army that the rented siege weapons must be returned in the same condition if they want their deposit.
“Of course!” they all say.
Then they haul back a pile of splintered wood and mangled metal, assuming they return at all.
Iain Young found a two-for-one discount in his mail. He’s wondering how he got on that mailing list.
It was bad enough when Phoebe knew she was eating kale. A single taste, no matter how her boyfriend prepared it, confirmed her aversion.
Stir fried? Vile.
Roasted? Equally so.
Discovering her boyfriend had slipped some into the brownies she raved about? That was a line that couldn’t be uncrossed.
Iain Young can’t remember the last time he ate kale, and he’d like to keep it that way.
Allison didn’t recognize her at first. “…Mom?”
Her mother, impossibly young, stood at the door, a toddler on her shoulder.
“Oh, good,” said her mother. “You’ve turned out okay.” She handed Allison the toddler. “This is you, just barely two. I learned to time travel. I’ll pick her up tomorrow.”
Iain Young used to enjoy time travel, until that one unexpected layover in 1985. Losing his passport didn’t help.
“Call it in the air, ma’am.”
“Tails,” said Spring, lounging by the pool.
The groundhog caught the coin. “It’s heads, ma’am.”
“Best of three?” Spring asked.
“No,” said Winter, “and absolutely no more favors.”
“Not even a little one?”
“I’ll be at the bar,” said the groundhog. “Let me know.”
Iain Young asserts that no groundhogs were harmed in the writing of this story.
I pulled over, rolled down my window.
“What’s up?” I asked my mind.
“Waiting for a bus. Can’t wander far enough by foot.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Good luck.” I drove away.
That evening, I returned. “Done waiting?” I asked.
“The Boston bus doesn’t stop here, does it?”
Iain Young doesn’t let his mind wander without a round-trip ticket.
As usual, Joe was prepared: food and water, map and compass, rain gear and tent, flashlight, matches. He left a note with his name, date, time, and route.
He set out, hiking the yard’s unvarying relief. Around, around.
His wife, pouring herself more wine, hoped he’d get lost this time.
Iain Young thinks the best part of a hike is the end, when he sees his car in the parking lot.
They hadn’t meant to wake Nigel up, but the runners were unaware that their route would go through his bedroom.
“That wasn’t on the map,” they said. “Fun change, though.”
Nigel thought he’d been dreaming, but the scent of sweat and the wet footprints down the hallway convinced him otherwise.
Iain Young has a water stop set up in his bedroom in case any runners pass through. So far, none have.
She felt guilty for doing this, but Time waited for Zoe. Time tried to maintain her standards—a second had always been a second for everyone, no exceptions—but, captivated by Zoe, she found herself unwound. Time couldn’t stop herself.
Zoe wondered why her life seemed to move so slowly.
Iain Young once, mistakenly, thought Time waited for him, but it was just something he ate.
Death’s hand, which I shook reluctantly, was a plumped pillow.
“You’re safe,” he said. “For now.”
“I pictured you as a, you know—”
“Skeleton? You should’ve seen me before the Western diet.” Laughter rippled his corpulence. “Doctor’s telling me to eat better, but she thinks I’m lying about my work.”
Iain Young hasn’t forgotten the childhood nightmare in which he was chased by angry vegetables. That might explain a lot.