Thursday, June 23, 2011

Friday Fiction for June 24, 2011

Welcome to Friday Fiction, hosted right here tonight at Pod Tales! Please feel free to add the link to your blog at the bottom of this post, and check out the other submissions for your first summer reading weekend.

I’ve been missing the last couple of weeks, but had to make sure I wrote something new for this week. This is basically just a short character sketch piece, featuring Bill Williams from the Pod series. I’d like to dedicate this short story to Kim, in honor of her husband Gary, who passed away this week. It’s always been a joy to know two people who love each other, and we’re saddened by his passing. May his memory be for a blessing.

First Choice

FBI Special Agent Marion “Bill” Williams straddled the stool at the coffee shop counter. His legs splayed wide to either side, and he leaned forward on both elbows with the steaming mug of coffee trapped between his hands. The morning news and variety show played on the television attached high on the wall, with the smiling hosts interviewing an attractive actress.

To Bill’s right, Agent Roberts licked his lips and let out a soft whistle. “Man, she could sure rock my world,” Roberts said.

Bill sipped his coffee and shook his head. “You’re married,” he said.

“Yeah, but I’m not dead. My wife already knows if I ever got a chance to meet her, I’d take it.”

On Bill’s left, Agent Johannsen offered her take. “For me, it’s Bart Manley. My guy knows that I’d be single for Manley anytime.” She gave a lusty feline-style growl. “Those eyes, those shoulders, that behind – rar!”

Bill rolled his eyes and took another sip of coffee, lowering the cup for a refill when the waitress came by with the carafe.

“How about you, Williams?” Roberts asked. “Who’s your dream girl?”

“Angela,” Bill replied.

“Yeah, yeah, okay. Now that you’ve given the reply that’ll keep your wife happy, give us the real answer.”

“Really, Williams,” Johannsen added. “Are you afraid I’ll rat you out to the wife?”

Bill stirred some cream into the refreshed coffee. “My answer is still the same. Angela has always been my dream girl.”

“Oh, come on,” Roberts scoffed. “Every guy has a fantasy girl. How about this? What if your wife gave you a ‘pass’ that, for one weekend, you weren’t married. You could go after any woman you wanted without penalty, free and clear. You can’t tell me you’d go after the same woman you’ve been waking up next to for years.”

“Yes, I can,” Bill said. He gestured at the television screen. “You think it’s okay to want her because she’s a beautiful celebrity, and you can rationalize that you’ll probably never even meet her, let alone have any chance that she would agree to anything else. The issue, though, isn’t whether you might ever cheat on your wife with her – the issue is that you’ve expressed your first choice, and that first choice isn’t your wife.” He sat up straight, and looked both left and right to meet their eyes. “Angela is my wife. When I proposed to her, I didn’t ask her to marry me because someone I liked more wasn’t available. She wasn’t my second choice, and I didn’t ‘settle’ for someone I could have instead of someone I couldn’t have.”

“So you’re telling us that if a magic genie told you that you could have any woman in the world, just for the wishing, you’d wish for Angela?” Johannsen asked.

“Why not? She’s my best friend. She’s the mother of our children. She already knows all about me, and loves me anyway. If I wished for anyone else, I would be throwing away the best thing that’s ever happened to me, for the uncertainty that I might find someone better.” He took another sip of coffee. “My vows didn’t include any provisions for someone on the side. There was no infidelity clause based on how beautiful another woman might be, or how famous, or rich, or whether I thought maybe I wasn’t getting enough at home, or anything else. My vow was to remain faithful to her for the rest of our lives, period.”

“But, what if she released you from the vow?”

Bill smiled. “She can’t. I made the vow with her, not to her. We made the vows to God, so we can’t release each other from them.”

“Now you’re getting religious on us.” Johannsen moaned.

“Say what you want, but however you want to couch it, the last thing I ever want to say or imply to Angela is that there is someone else in this world that I’d rather be with, regardless of how unlikely the scenario might be. She was my first choice when I proposed to her, she was still my first choice when we married, she’s still my first choice now, and if we’re so blessed, she’ll be my first choice on our fiftieth anniversary.” He glanced at his watch. “Now, if you two are done salivating over people you’ll never get to meet, we have a meeting to get to.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Friday Fiction for June 3, 2011

Welcome! Friday Fiction is hosted right here this week! Please submit your link in the Linky tool at the end of this post, so we can all enjoy some great reading this week.

This week is the final part of Step Through. The story and the concept offer a lot of potential for expansion, but for now, I liked how this wrapped up the tale. I hope you enjoy, and maybe get a little something to dream about yourself.

Step Through

Part 5

The street to the building was just as deserted as before, and he stopped at the entrance alcove. Well, Ian, you’ve put this off as long as you could. It’s time. He pulled the key from his pocket as he stepped towards the door, and slipped it into the lock. He turned it until it clicked, and then swung the door open. Once inside, he relocked the door and then headed for the stairs.

Pausing at the bottom, he looked up towards the floor above. C’mon, Ian. It’s not like there’s any mystery to what’s waiting up there. You’ve climbed these stairs before, after all. He ascended slowly, taking one step at a time and hesitating between each one. Funny; it didn’t seem like such a long climb last time.

At the top of the stairs, he turned towards the center of the room. The Step-Through was active, offering the view of the room in two different time periods. He leaned against the wall and just stared at it, before Chronos noticed his presence and ran up to him, wiggling his tail-less backside enthusiastically. He pulled a biscuit from his coat pocket, and offered to the dog. “Here, boy. Did you miss me?”

“Ian?” Jeff said.

“Yeah, I’m here. You can shut the machine off, Jeff.”

“I didn’t see you come back. When did you return?”

“Just now.”

“Huh. My mind must have phased out, or something.”

Ian stepped away from the wall, and adjusted his glasses. “I didn’t come back through the Step-Through, Jeff. I came back through the front door.”

“But, that means - ”

He took the hat off his graying, thin hair. “It means it’s been over 21 years for me, since I left here.” He chuckled. “I guess all those years, people were wrong when they told us that we can’t live in the past. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing since I left here.”

“Why? You could have set things up back then, and returned here to a better life.”

“Who says I didn’t?” He reached down to scratch Chronos’ ear, when the dog kept pushing a wet nose into his hand. “When I first went back, I called my Dad, and went to the old theater and watched a movie. I decided I liked the world better back then, and when I left the theater, I went to a hotel and stayed the night.”

“You weren’t worried about keeping me waiting here?”

“Yeah, about that. I figured out the next morning that, if you didn’t come looking for me, then something must have told you there was no reason to be concerned. I spent another night, and you didn’t come looking for me, so the only conclusion I could reach was that you knew right away that I wasn’t coming back.”

Jeff began to laugh. “Now that I think about it, it makes sense. The same rules of continuity have to apply whether we’re looking backwards or forwards. Yeah, if you hadn’t come back in a reasonable time, I’d have come through looking for you. So, what have you been doing the last 21 years?”

“Living well, in a small town in the Midwest, where no one ever knew who I was, or had any reason to question why there might be a younger me in this town. You were right – knowing what investments will be lucrative makes it easy to amass a decent portfolio. I met someone, got married, and we’ve got three kids now. When I walked in here before, I didn’t have much life to worry about leaving. Now, I have a great life, and a reason to never need the Step-Through again.” He held the key out to Jeff. “Thank you, my friend, but I won’t be coming back again. Tomorrow morning, I’ll call my old job and tell them I quit, and then get back in my private plane and go home.”

“Does she know? Your wife, I mean. Does she know who you really are?”

He smiled, and nodded. “After a while, she wondered how I always managed to know what stocks to pick, what teams to bet on, and so on. I told her I was from the future, and she thought I was joking. She didn’t believe me until I told her when the big earthquake was going to happen. Then, I brought her here, and let her see my younger self. I think sometimes, she still doesn’t completely believe me. Sometimes, I think she would rather believe I’m psychic or a prophet, rather than believe I really stepped through from the future.” With a shrug, he added, “I don’t think it really matters, though. I don’t need the future knowledge anymore.”

“And your Dad?”

“Nothing changed. I didn’t try to warn him, though in talking with him, I learned he already knew all the warning signs he should watch out for. Even knowing all that, he still ignored the symptoms, with a phone within arm’s reach of his chair. I know now, though, that he died knowing his son loved him and appreciated him.”

Jeff took the key and shook his hand. “Will I see you again?”

“Yeah, you’ll see me again. I can’t say whether I’ll see you again, but we’ve gotten together several times in the last 21 years.” He winked. “You don’t really believe my memory is so good, that I remembered all those investments and sports results all by myself, do you? Just remember, when you step through to visit, bring some good information with you.”

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