You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Thursday, June 12, 2003

1000 words (or less)

They used to say time travel was impossible, something to do with the speed of light maybe, or time paradoxes. That was before they discovered you could go back in time, but only inside yourself. You could not change anything, like kill your Grandfather, or some stupid thing. All you could do was relive a few moments, an hour maybe, then you were back in your older skin, the same you.

The scientists were not happy with this of course. They wanted to learn the mysteries of the past, to observe the ancient Pharaohs, visit Lincoln at Gettysburg, or check the Grassy Knoll. So they put it away; mothballed it as an expensive toy, and went after bigger things.

He is a janitor, night shift for the past three years. He feels tired, and used up. The world has lost its color. His music, once so important, has no meaning; now there is only the mop and broom.

The box had been taken from storage and marked for disposal. The cardboard was old and dusty and made quite a mess where they had dragged it in. It was full of vacuum tubes and wires, yellowed manuals and assorted papers. It had been gone through and everything of value removed. He placed the box in the garbage cart and dusted off the front of his work shirt, all the while poking through the contents looking for something useful to take home. He has read somewhere that vacuum tubes where still used in some high-end guitar amplifiers. Maybe he could find a buyer somewhere. Probably not, how would you go about even looking for someone who dealt in such arcane material. That is probably why they pitched it in the first place. With a sigh, he pushes the cart down the hall towards the next room. Something in the box catches his eye.

They round the corner and pause at the top of the stairs to allow her to lift the hem of her gown. At that moment, everyone in the foyer looks up and there is an audible intake of breath. His mother-in-law begins to cry, followed by several aunts and nieces. He turns his head to look at his daughter and realizes she is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. Every moment of his life to this point now makes sense. Just to be the man she called Dad has given him all the strength he could ever need.

The video camera is still new to him and he is having trouble finding her in the viewfinder. He zooms back to locate her in the line and then zooms up close. She is wearing a very grown up, lady-like dress. Her hair is French braided and she has on a pair of her Mother’s earrings. All the other kids are jostling and fidgety, but she has her hands folded in front of her and is patiently waiting. As she steps up to receive her grade school diploma, she turns and smiles at him through the lens of the camera.

All of the other times he has ever been here have been for someone else. He feels a foolish grin creeping up his face and presses his nose against the glass. This is their child, newborn and perfect.

The janitor job is gone, now he is a street musician, playing his songs for whoever will listen. Sonnets of memory, word pictures so clear they bring his listeners to tears. Pictures of a family lost years ago, too much tragedy to bear alone. He finishes for the evening, sorts the money in the hat, closes the guitar case, and picks up the strange little box.

Now he lives life in the moment, a moment at a time.

If you could go back and relive a moment of your life, what would you pick?

Would that moment relived effect who you are now?

What would change?


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