Wherein We Wrap Things Up
Last time: Brown crawled backed into the time machine while his friend, Carpenter, waved goodbye from the burning laboratory. After flicking the capsule’s switch, nothing happened.
I cracked open the hatch and shouted, “She’s kaput, Ray. Get me out of this Easter egg.” An old, wrinkly hand reached for mine and guided me out of the capsule.
“I smell smoke. We must have a short somewhere.” The voice wasn’t Ray’s, but rather Doc Wainwright’s.
“Son of a gun,” I said.
“Your clothes,” Doc said. I still wore the dungarees and undershirt I purchased at the department store. “How far?”
“Sixty years. How long was I gone?”
“Son of a gun. Where’s Ray?”
“The kid? He isn’t back from the automat yet.”
“Which automat? I need to see him.”
“Your bologna sandwich can wait, Brown. We’ve just had a major breakthrough,” Doc said. He pushed a metal stool toward me. “Take a seat and tell me everything.”
I did. I told him about the man-children of the future, and the amazing restaurants that hand automobile drivers sack lunches through their open windows. I told him about the pocket computers that also functioned as telegraphs and telephones, yet were so commonplace that no one seemed to notice them. Doc nodded as I explained that women and minorities were managers and business owners, and he laughed when I insisted that a game show host will be elected president. I think he thought that I was exaggerating when I described televisions the size of small movie screens and quiet cars that could park themselves.
“What a fantastic decade,” Wainwright said.
“And the amazing thing is that half of them think that it’s a living hell. They live in this McCarthy-ish state of fear and paranoia, certain that everyone is out to get them. They want nothing more than to turn the clock back 60 years, but I don’t know, Doc. Seems to me like it would just be more of the same for them.”
Doc fell silent for a long moment. “Well, I guess that’s just how we are,” he said. “The future always looks better because it’s filled with promise, and the past always looks better because it’s filled with romance. I guess the only thing to do is focus on making a better present.”
The lab door opened, and there stood Ray Carpenter, young and healthy, back straight and rosy-cheeked. He held a brown paper sack. “I got the sandwiches, Dr. Wainwright,” he said.
“Thank you, Raymond,” Doc said. “Why don’t you join us? After lunch let’s knock off early. Do you boys like to fish?”
“What happened to your clothes?” Ray asked me.
“I’m a trendsetter,” I said. “You just wait. Somebody everybody will be dressed like this.”