Author : Garrett Harriman

Mesdames Snell and Putnam clashed into the nurse’s office. Most weeks, their campy enmities proved indispensable in the rebuking of their children.

Not today. The diversity and girth of this congress fared worrisome. Present were Sloan, half the teaching roster, Nurse Doogal pacing a conspicuous circuit–a deputy? Plus some self-possessing stranger: dimpled and gallant, yet teetering guffaw.

With unspoken armistice, the mothers churned his hand.

“Thank you for your promptness, ladies. I’m afraid what’s transpiring here is no minor school infraction, but a grievous misappropriation of street dates and space time.”

Sloan (long dispensed with the formality of “Principal”) skittered forth. “Lilith, Miriam, this is Marvin Knot. Head of Public Relations at Temporal Bros. Toys. He’s here–”

“The company,” Knot preempted, “broadcasted its recall too late, but I’m now personally minding the entirety of the requisition. I was debriefing the precinct on Tide protocol when Sloan phoned to–”

Maternal floodgates ruptured: “Tide?” “Is Marcus Hurt?” “Recall?” “Where’s Toby?”

Marvin Knot simpered, dismounted it nimbly. “You two are unfamiliar with our latest…diversion, then?” Knot withdrew an overgrown lobster-blue die from his blazer pocket. It was bevel-edged, membranous, and bright.

“Our most anticipated summer product–the Iteration Cube–launches tomorrow. It exploits the same quantum isolation fields as our Slow-Mo Yo-Yo. Governing their fluctuations yields Time Skeins–our proprietary temporal snares–which enable the transitory persistence of exacting spatial envelopes.”

The mothers’ hips stockaded. You can skip the fineprint.

“Apologies.” Knot strummed his bow tie. “Fundamentally, it’s a space time manipulator for the mid-school demographic. Target children are committed to self-replicating loops, and anything’s a-go–burps to belly-flops, thirty seconds maximum.”

“That’s humiliating!” scorned Lilith Snell. “What kid’d memorialize his friend’s faux pas?”

“Denial’s a river in Egypt, hon.”

“Oh, don’t dramatize, Miriam.”

Dramatize? Toby always gets the brunt of it!”

“Marcus’s a practical joker!”

“He’s a nihilist!”

“Ladies,” Sloan edgewised. “Please.

Mrs. Putnam shied her fuse first. “Let me guess, Mr. Knot: Marcus used the Cube on my Toby?”

“Those were the abridged proceedings, yes. Unabridged, he eloped at recess, smuggled a unit, then pitted the Cube against Sloan’s cameras to reenter.” A momentary pensiveness grafted Knot’s expression. He stifled a titter. “Very adroit improv.”

“But these loops,” pressed Mrs. Snell, “they’re temporary, right?”

“Heavens, they’re relatively instantaneous for targets! Only this shipment’s auto-revising cores were, ah…neglected.” A quizzical hush. “I needn’t impress how devastating radiation can be for little egos, but when unregulated Skeins mangle, they excrete singularities. Tides. Meaning the event, and any associated discomfort, is experienced perpetually.”

Stillborn seconds bridged a gulf of maternal agitation.

“Our boys,” breathed Miriam, “are lodged in time?”

Were lodged in a recirculating instance of time. For approximately fifty minutes. I’ve counteracted what I can”–he gesticulated his Cube–“containment’s the acme of the hour, but I can’t dissever Skeins outside of headquartersppththphfff!

Droll chuckles overcame him, teachers. He purged his verbose tract. “You’d better see for yourselves. Miss Doogal?”

At Sloan’s approbation, the nurse rallied her keys to the examining room door:

The vignette’s petrified, the Cube its glowworm heart. Toby’s face writes tireless, vengeful glee; Marcus’s contorts like a Renaissance clown. Two actualized fabrics co-mingle in his buttocks.

Miriam Putnam laid eggs in the threshold. “Heehee! Of all the t-times to stand up for himself!”

Shedding his courtliness, Knot hugged Lilith, in throe. “There’ll be no litigation, Mrs. Snell. I don’t champion thievery, of course, but this’ll make an infamous grassroots prank: ‘The Subatomic Wedgie!’

“And don’t discourage, ma’am. He’ll only be Suspended for two weeks, tops.”

Principal Sloan said the exact same thing.

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