Author: David Henson
Debra dipped a shrimp in cocktail sauce. “I’m glad my folks could take the kids so we could have a quiet night in. How’s your father spending this New Year’s Eve? As if I have to ask.” The couple sat at their dining room table in a space open to the living room.
“Same as always since Mom died,” replied her husband, Richard, as he smeared mango chutney crab spread on a cracker. “He’s time-traveling back to when they went to Vienna for New Year’s Eve on their honeymoon.”
“That’s sweet, but it’s a little sad he always uses his annual temporal allowance to revisit the same time and place. I’d think since he was a science teacher for all those years, he’d like to peek over the shoulder of Newton or Einstein. Shake hands with Kryne of Euler. Even get crazy and see a T-Rex for gosh sake.”
“He misses her so much. And the day he describes sounds wonderful— Sachertorte in a Viennese cafe, seeing the Lipizzaners, waltzing to The Blue Danube at midnight… Speaking of temporal allowances, where would you like to go this year?”
“I was thinking the Globe Theater, 1610, first-ever performance of The Tempest. It would be wonderful for us and educational for the kids.”
Richard raised his champaign flute. “One of my favorites. ‘all … are melted into air, into thin air…’ It’s a date.”
Debra touched her glass to her husband’s. “I wonder if the future will ever be declassified? I’d love to take a peek.”
“Time will tell.”
Debra laughed. She loved Richard’s sense of humor. The couple spent the evening lost in conversation. A few minutes before midnight, Richard announced he had a surprise. “Computer, run New Year’s Eve program.”
A virtual stage and a tuxedoed man at a standing microphone appeared in the living room. “For Debra and Richard,” he said.
“Our song, Honey. Shall we?” Richard stood and held out his hand. Before Debra could take it, his ring began flashing. “Who’d contact me so late?” His voice was pitched with alarm. “Computer, pause program.” The crooner’s face froze in a microexpression that made him look as if he were screaming in pain.
Debra’s husband twisted his ring. “This is Richard Rinehart.”
“Mr. Rinehart, Temporal Command here. I’m afraid I have disturbing news. Your father has somehow deactivated his Paradox Prevention Buffer, gone off-script and refuses to return. Our agents are en route to perform the necessary corrections — and elimination. You should say your goodbyes.”
“What? Wait! No!”
“Don’t panic, Debra. Dad’s wiley. Maybe he’ll elude the agents … at least long enough for him and Mom to …” He pointed to himself. “I —”
“Five minutes till midnight,” Samuel said loudly above the din of the festive jazz club. Debra forced a smile across the table. The vague sense of loss that never left her gnawed especially deep this time of year and made her reflect on her life. Her parents had thought her too young to get married all those years ago, but Samuel turned out to be a wonderful husband — smart, romantic, and someone who’d have been an excellent father if she hadn’t decided against having children.
The singer began her last set. Samuel stood and held out his hand. “I got her to do your favorite song, Honey.”
Yes, my song, Debra thought. It made her ache for some lost place and time. She’d go there with a temporal allowance — if only she knew where and when.
“Sorry.” Debra tried to smile, took Samuel’s hand and danced with him into tomorrow.