Author : Brandon Crilly

I finished chewing a bite of deep-fried haddock – my fourth such meal of the week – and said, “I beg your pardon?”

Across the table, my teacher-turned-colleague and very good friend stared at me over his glass of stout. He savored his next sip with exaggerated slowness.

“I said that I just realized something,” he repeated. “If men truly understood women, nothing on this world would ever get accomplished.”

“That part was clear. My problem was that I don’t quite understand your meaning.”

He smiled at me in the same wily manner that had taunted me for decades. “Consider this. If men knew exactly what women wanted – no, better, if men actually knew what women were thinking – they could get them at any time. Men would therefore do nothing else.”

Through another bite of haddock, I asked, “And by ‘get them,’ you mean…”

“Use your imagination.”

I tried my best to look unimpressed while I dislodged something from between my teeth.

“You don’t agree?” he asked.

“I just wonder about your fixations sometimes. Our purpose here is a little more nuanced than…”

I stopped as our waitress wandered over to refill my glass of water. My friend turned his attention on her. “A question, if you please. Consider: if men understood women perfectly, nothing would ever get accomplished. Agree?”

The waitress frowned for a moment. “No, everything would.”

“How do you mean?”

“If you understood exactly what we wanted, you’d know you have to get everything done to keep us happy. Like the camping gear my husband still hasn’t put away.”

I smiled at her lumping us in with ‘men’ – an ongoing testament to the work we had done on our appearance. She favored me with a wink and wandered away, no doubt assuming the matter to be settled.

By the crease in my friend’s brow, I already knew what he was going to propose.

“That was a challenge,” he declared. I mouthed along silently without needing to look up. “This must be tested!”

Since I knew there was no way to dissuade him, I simply waved him ahead.

With a dramatic flourish, my friend extracted his shifter from the pocket of his coat and placed it gently on the table. None of the other patrons paid him any attention. When he pressed his palm to the shifter, the tiny, crescent-shaped device began to glow. I closed my eyes, as its effects usually made me nauseous.

I noticed the silence first. When I opened my eyes, the pub was empty. By the dust on the tables, the empty bottles on the shelves, and the groundhog munching plants nearby, I gathered it had been that way for some time. Through the open double-doors, I could see a similar emptiness outside – save for a couple sitting atop a car across the street. If I had been more bashful I would have immediately averted my gaze.

“How far back did you affect the change?”

“Two years.” He looked almost gleeful.

“Good gods. Fine, I owe you the next meal.”

“At a place of my choosing?”

The couple atop the car distracted me briefly. “Yes, yes. Just get on with it.”

He beamed at me as he touched the shifter again. I closed my eyes and waited for the pub to return to its former glory. The din of activity returned, the patrons unaware of anything having happened.

Our waitress passed nearby and I tipped my glass in her direction.

As he finished his stout, my friend’s smile never wavered. I reminded him not to gloat and then returned to my meal.

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