“What if I screw up?” he asks as he sits down in the cold chair.
“You won’t,” the silver-haired man in white says matter-of-factly.
“You don’t know that,” retorts the man. “I could get distracted, or I could say the wrong thing, or I-“
“You won’t,” the silver-haired man interrupts as he checks his gold pocket watch. “Trust me William, I know you won’t.”
“Well if I do, can I try again?”
“Tell you what, if you fail, I’ll quit my job. If you succeed, you buy me a drink.”
Like everyone else, William had regrets. He lived a good life, yes, but not a complete one. There was one thing that he just had to change.
He knew he couldn’t go back and buy a lottery ticket or bet on the Super Bowl. That was against the rules. But he didn’t need the money; he had banks full of money. No, that’s not why he wanted to go back. He wanted something more.
“Do you know where I’ll end up?”
“I don’t need to.”
“So,” William starts. “You just push some buttons and hope I go where I need to be?”
“It’s not up to me,” the silver-haired man sighs as he takes William’s pulse. “I only prepare the machine, you control it.”
“But I didn’t go to school for this,” William says. “I don’t know how it works.”
“You don’t need to,” says the silver-haired man. “I’m doing the hard work. Just relax. You’re a grown man. You know exactly where you want to go and this will take you there.”
The silver-haired man hands William a switch. “Just flick this when you’re ready to go.”
“Does it hurt?” William asks.
“It feels like your going down a slide,” the silver-haired man says calmly.
“Well I haven’t been on a slide in about 50 years,” William says to himself. He gathers his courage. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“Goodbye William, I know you’ll do fine.”
William closes his eyes, flicks the switch with his thumb and begins his journey back.
He slides down what feels like a 200-yard slide in a matter of seconds.
Well doc, William thinks to himself as he lands quietly on a sidewalk outside Sammy’s Pub. You were right.
“That’s a little weird,” William tilts his head as he gazes at his reflection in the bar door window. “I don’t look like me.”
“Excuse me,” a very familiar voice says from behind William. “I’d like to get in and get myself a-”
“Stinger on the rocks,” William finishes quietly as he slides over.
“Uh, yeah,” the man says. “Probably.”
William follows after the man and sits next to him at the bar.
“Excuse me son, you look a bit familiar,” William stammers, afraid to even ask the question. “Can I ask your name?”
“Name’s William,” Young William says as he sticks out his hand. “And you are?”
Holy shit, William thinks to himself. I’m ACTUALLY talking to myself. “Ah yes,” William shakes his hand. “My name is…Uh…Jack. Jack Morgan.”
“Well Jack,” Young William raises his glass. “I hope your night is going better than mine.”
“Yeah,” William whispers as he glances at the light blue Bud Light calendar: You must be born before June 2nd 1970 to drink Bud. “I went back to 1991…”
“What was that?” Young William asks.
“Nothing,” William says. “Just thinking about my younger years.”
“Yeah, they were probably as exciting as yours,” William chuckles.
“I bet,” Young William says doubtfully. “So whaddya do Jack?”
“I used to work in finance,” William says. “That was ten years ago. I’m retired now.”
“Finance eh,” Young William says. “I do finance work at Morgan Stanley.”
“You don’t say?” William asks the question to which he already knows the answer. “How long have you worked there?”
“I just started,” Young William says. “It’s not too bad, though.”
“Well that’s nice,” William says. “I know some good people over at Morgan Stanley.”
“Yeah they’re not too bad,” Young William sips his stinger on the rocks. “You got a wife?”
“Never married,” William swallows hard. “But I was in love once, when I was around your age.”
“What happened?” Young William sits up in his chair.
“I was young and selfish,” William admits. “I cared more about myself and my job. Heck, even this bar saw more of me than she did. One day, I came home from a night of drinking, and she was gone.”
“No note,” William repeats. “I didn’t need one. I knew why she left. She needed someone to actually be in her life. I was a hollow man concerned with numbers and charts. There wasn’t much to leave, because I was never there.”
“Oh…” Young William says slowly. “That’s rough.”
“Yup,” William says. “I never knew how much I loved her. I hate to quote a cliché, but I never really knew what I had until it was gone.”
“I hate clichés,” Young William agrees. “But I think I know what you mean.”
“You having problems, son?” William asks another question to which he already knows the answer.
“Yeah,” Young William says thoughtfully. “My girl and I actually just got into a fight, so I decided to come here.”
“I see,” William says with a wince. “Well…You going to go back?”
“I don’t know, I was going to wait until she calmed down.”
“Go now,” urges William. “I’ll cover the tab.”
“Thanks,” Young William says standing up to leave. “I think I needed this.”
As Young William heads to the door to leave, Old William spots a shiny object on the ground. “Hey kid, I think you dropped this,” he yells.
“Excuse me,” a familiar voice interrupts from behind Old William. “I believe that belongs to me.”
William turns around. “Oh, well here you-“ He stops. “Thank you,” William says as he slowly hands over the pocket watch. “Thank you so much.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” the silver-haired man says with a wink. “But I do think you owe me a beer.”