This post, like many, has been in the hopper for a bit. Perhaps this one is a bit overdue. For the first installment, go here.
I hope you enjoy both!Tom
“Thank you, Dear.” She said with a happy smile and began eating her eggs. He grabbed the small shaker bottle of ground black pepper and applied it to his eggs.
“Oh!” She said, getting quickly out of her chair. “I went out and got the early edition this morning. I figured with everything that happened yesterday you may want something to read. Do you want more coffee while I’m up, Dear?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Yes, please.” He tried to hide being startled by her sudden movement. Everything seemed off. He was still trying to figure out if this was an elaborate prank or an intensely lucid dream, not sure quite where the ‘real’ world was, here and now with her or the dream in the other place…
He drank more of his coffee, making extra room for the refill as she came over with the pot and paper. He didn’t remember having such a taste for just straight black coffee before, didn’t he like it with cream and flavoring? Was that a real thing? Did he imagine that? With his cup refilled he stole a second to look at her, all of her, as she walked towards the counter and back again. Classy, beautiful, feminine. She noticed him looking at her and she slightly blushed.
“You just focus on your breakfast and stop looking at me like that before your breakfast gets cold!” She scolded him with a wink.
“I guess she told me.” He said to the boy and continued, “We’d better eat our food before she really gets mad!” The boy chuckled.
Unfolding the paper, he was greeting with large, bold, black type about four inches high:
“ROOSEVELT WINS BY LANDSLIDE!”
It was dated: November 6, 1940.
1940…1940, he thought to himself, what happened to…? He put the paper back down on the table and took another sip of his coffee.
“Is there something wrong with your eggs? You’ve barely touched them.”
“Huh? Oh no, no. I just got distracted, is all. First with your beauty and then by all the…” He tried to think of an old-timey world “hullaballoo in the paper. Eggs look and smell delicious.”
He cut into the eggs with his fork and began eating. He looked at her again as he ate. He knew her face, he knew her name, he knew he loved her. But something was off. Was sleep finally starting to wear off and the dream he had been in was losing its grip? Was it a dream? Everything seemed so clear in the dream. He could read words, interact, taste food, know the feeling of making love to her. But it all seemed so fancy compared to ‘now’. He remembered things in the future dreamland with equal or greater clarity. It felt like a completely separate life. But how? Her voice came through the fog of confusion.
“Isn’t it exciting? A third term!”
“Mmhm.” He responded, trying to think, trying to recall the last place he had been and ‘act normal’, but what did that even mean, act normal? Music had been playing softly over the radio and a clarinet drew him back out of the fog just enough to hear the announcer, “Yes, that was Artie Shaw and his Grammercy Five with their-” when silverware clattered to the floor. The young boy had a startled look on his face, more from seeing his Dad jump than anything.
“No, no, it’s ok.” He went to retrieve the the silverware and his wife interjected.
“Oh! I can get it, you don’t have to do that!”
“I got it, hon, you finish your breakfast. I’m already done with mine. See?”
That response came more natural than earlier. Taking the silverware from the floor, he picked up his own plate, cup and silverware and brought them to the sink. He finished the last of his coffee and rinsed off the dishes.
“What was that?”
“Didn’t you hear a little noise, like a ping?“
“Oh that was probably just one of the water pipes, it does that so much that I don’t even notice anymore.”
“Huh, yeah. You’re probably right.”
He turned off the water, swearing he heard a different noise. Glenn Miller and his orchestra was playing now on the radio. 1940… Ray Anthony should be playing in that band, he thought to himself.
“Are you feeling well enough to go back to the office, love? You had quite the spill!”
“Yeah… Yeah, I’ll be fine. Speaking of, I’d better hop to it and get going.” He ruffled the little guy’s hair and gave his wife a kiss. It felt tender, loving and familiar… yeah, it was her, but the feeling of different seemed to linger as he began to fall into routine. Walking down the hallway and back to his room, he grabbed a clean dress shirt and tie and began to dress himself. He heard his wife say something about needing the car and if he hurries he can catch the bus just down the block.
He stopped halfway through tying the knot in his tie.
“The hell is that…” He muttered to himself as he looked around the room and down the hall, his hands distractedly fumbling with his knot. Finishing up, he came back down the hallway and stopped in his tracks at the door.
“…just enter the code Pandora1 at check-out and you get 20% off, today! “
“What did she just say?” He turned back.
“There was a woman’s voice on the radio talking about a discount for-” Ping “Do you hear that? That little ringing just now?”
“After last night’s tumble I don’t think it’s a good time for jokes, dear… are you sure you’re feeling well? Maybe you should stay home today?” She asked, trying to hide a small nervousness creeping in about her husbands behavior. He was more steady than this, he was out of character. “Maybe we should go see a Doctor?”
“No, no… I’ll be fine. I’m sorry for worrying you. Probably just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, especially after last night. I’d better catch the bus. You two take care and I’ll see you at supper time.”
Putting on his overcoat and fedora, he stepped out of their apartment and began to navigate his way down the stairwell. By the time he reached the main level, he felt slightly disoriented after a handful of counter-clockwise turns down the stairwell, barely wide enough for two people to pass by each other. Out on the street, the morning noises began to swell. Delivery trucks, the paperboy at the end of the block, the sound of a few cars, the bus coming up from behind him.
He picked up the pace to make it to the stop in time, the bus arriving on his heels. He gave a coin to the driver and got on, taking off his hat and putting it in his lap as he sat down in a seat near the front.
He looked around, toward the back of the bus, nothing, only a few passengers spread through the length of the bus. Facing foward, he looked out the window, the rocking of the bus, the drone of the engine and traffic all began to lull him to sleep. He woke with a start a few blocks from work, the morning rays of the sun now flooding in the bus. When the bus came to the stop, he stood and walked towards the exit.
As his foot hit the sidewalk, a pedestrian crashed into him.
“Hey, watch it, asshole! You almost spilled my latte!” The pedestrian yelled in an overly aggressive tone, then looked back down at his phone and walked away, sipping at his coffee.