Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The dilapidated sign above the front door read, “Doctor Hawking’s Tackle and Bait Shop”.

“I don’t know, Anthony,” stated Lamar Gregory of the University of Georgia’s Temporal Physics Department. “Do you really think that’s ‘The’ Stephen Hawking?”

Anthony Toole scratched his head as he studied the Tpadd’s readouts. “According to this, we are at the correct place and time. But personally, I don’t know what to believe anymore. Ever since the library’s records were corrupted by the Metis virus, everything is screwed up. That’s why the government gave us the two trillion dollar grant, so we could travel back in time and get hard copies of the monumental technical papers, and rebuild the database from the ground up, similar to what the Greeks did for the Ancient Library of Alexandria.”

Despite their misgivings, they decided to walk in and introduce themselves. However, when they entered the store, they were practically bowled over by the stench. Fighting the urge to hightail it back to the twenty-third century, they pinched their noses and soldiered on. “Excuse me, sir, are you Doctor Hawking?”

“That’s me,” replied the portly man with a broad smile, minus his left front tooth. “Doctor Hawk King, at your service. What kin I do for you gentlemen?”

Toole consulted his Tpadd and began reading, “We’d like to get copies of your papers on black hole thermodynamics, dark energy, condensed matter physics…”

“Whoa, son. If you’re one of them ‘green people’ collecting paper to save the planet, then say no more. I keep a whole pile in the back for wrappin’ fish. Wait here and I’ll fetch you a box.” King walked into the back room and came out carrying an oil stained cardboard box. The lid, which had the word “papers” written in crayon across the top, was tied tight with crisscrossing twine. He handed the box to Gregory, who nearly collapsed from the weight. King watched Gregory tote the box outside, presumably to throw it into the back of his pickup truck.

That was easy thought Toole, remembering how tough it had been to get Patricia Stewart to hand over copies of her celebrated papers on early space exploration. “No way,” she had said, “unless you also take my collection of flash-fiction stories. They’re way better than those dumb old papers.” Toole read a few, and had his doubts. But after three hours of arguing, he ended up taking both.

“Well, thanks for all your help Doctor Hawking,” said Toole, as his fingers queried the Tpadd for their next destination. “Damn, piece of crap,” he lamented as he repeatedly pounded the reset button. “Excuse me, Doctor Hawking,” he said as they both walked outside, “but my Tpadd appears to be malfunctioning. Is there any chance you know where we might find William Robert Duke, the Nobel Laureate in quantum fluid dynamics?”

King thought about the question a moment, trying to figure out what a Nobel whatchamacallit was. Most likely a high-falutin city word for “moonshine”. Aaaaah, he suddenly realized, these fellas weren’t green people, they’re just lookin’ for hooch. Good ‘ol boys, in other words. “Sure do,” he finally said. “You’ll find him up the road a piece. See that smoke risin’ over yonder. Just head toward that.”

The strangers climbed into their fancy floatin’ car, and silently glided away. Uh oh, thought King. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Don’t sneak up on him, boys, or you’ll be pickin’ buckshot out of your hide. And don’t call him William Robert, he goes by Billy-Bob.”


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