Smokey Joe and the Time Bandit: Chapter 2

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The strange tale of Ryan O'Malley and his Spontanteous Temporal Displacement continues.

Ryan O’Malley was not the first person I ever met who claimed to have traveled through time. Living in New York City for the past several years, a fair number of people had made that claim while offering an unsolicited accounts of their lives. Typically these claims came on route to the person asking for change or attempting to convince me that their time travel experiences proved some debate notion like man and dinosaurs peacefully co-existing or that the pyramids were constructed by wookies. Sitting across from O’Malley as he calmly sipped his drink, I could see that he lacked the trademark wild, roaming eyes and reflexive twitching that usually characterized the average self-proclaimed time traveler. He was coherent and relaxed as he talked about spontaneously finding himself in a time long since past. No darting eyes, no conspiracy theories.

"I was in town visiting a friend of mine who was working as an adjunct at Northeastern," he began. "The 2011 baseball season had just started, but I can’t remember the date exactly, I never have been very good at keeping track of time," he said, cracking a smirk. "We had gone out to watch the Red Sox game at a bar near the campus and I got pretty drunk. I didn’t usually drink much back then," he explained before finishing his drink. "My professor friend had to get some work from office so we walked through the campus. I was feeling the effects of the alcohol and decided to wait outside while he retrieved his papers. Not long after he had entered the building, I become uncontrollably ill. I rushed over to the nearest bush and, well, purged myself, you understand."

"After that unpleasantness was over, I attempted to right myself with little success and collapsed, landing under a bronze figure of the great Cy Young. Beyond that, I have no further memory of that evening or of any event of the 2011 baseball season for that matter."

"You got lucky there," I interjected, which brought a rather baffled look to his face.

"Yes, I guess that might true," he said, after considering the matter. "I was sad to hear that Stahl... or Francona- I mean- got the axe, Unavoidable though, I suppose."

At this point, the bartender returned and he ordered another bourbon. He took out a fresh cigar and seeing another disaster starting to form, I quickly reminded him that he could not smoke inside.

"Right, of course. It’s a terrible habit anyway," he conceded as he put the black cylinder away. "Where was I?"

"You were passed out under the statue of Cy Young," I reminded him.

"Yes, that’s the last thing I remember from that night. When I woke up I was not underneath any statue or on anything that resembled the Northeastern campus. I was staring up at a rather surly looking fellow with a thick Irish brogue.

‘Ell, ya dune sleping ‘ere,’ the man barked as prodded me awake with the end of some kind of ancient trowel. When my eyes had finally adjusted to the morning light I looked around and saw that I was now in the middle of some type of construction site. The Northeastern Campus was gone. The statue of Cy Young was gone. Instead, I was lying on a muddy square plot of land where several dozens of men were working to dismantle the remnants of a rickety old set of wooden bleachers.

At first I thought I must have wondered onto the set of some type of period drama during the night. The work men had to be costumed extras; they were all wearing thick wool coats onto top of overalls or ragged button up shirts and suspenders.

"Muv alawn now, ya ‘ere," this guy keeps barking at me. So, I got up and stumbled out of the lot, still in a fog. The skyline offered me no useful information regarding my new whereabouts, but considering that I had been fairly drunk and on foot, I had concluded that I must be in the greater Boston area. This turned out to be correct, of course.

I exited the lot onto Huntington Ave and found that the street was not the Huntington Ave I had just walked down yesterday. Instead this alternate version, recognizable only by the street signs was busy with the early morning traffic of harried pedestrians, streetcars, Model-T’s and even the occasional horse cart. I received more than one suspiciously look as I walked aimlessly through what had to be a dream. I concluded that no filmmaker on earth could ever made such a completely thorough and massive set as this and there was no sign anywhere that any other reality existed, sitting just outside the frame. No, I thought, this can only be dream.

In my awed state, I wondered aimless through the streets of the city. Every now and again I would recognize a building, like the Musuem or a stately old home, mostly, the city that I had traveled to so often as kid growing up in Connecticut looked as foreign to me as the Land of Oz. I gazed at the passing streetcars and the hand-cranked bugeys that dominated the street with unconcealed wonder and as a result, I attracted more than a few insults from offended passers-by. The majority of these insults were aimed at my clothes, which stuck the good people of this place as otherworldly.

It was sometime before the novelty of this strange place wore off and when it did, I began to worry. If this was a dream, there did not seem to be any conceivable method of waking up. I tried pinching myself and quickly lashing out with my arms and legs, but none of that work. I found some cold water in a park and splashed my face, but that didn’t help either. I even tried lying down and go to sleep in the hope that I would return to a more familiar time and place but nothing worked. The longer this continued, the more desperate I became. At one point, I even tried running straight at a wall, hoping the fear of the impact would shock me awake, but it did not and instead, produced the far more predictable result- a painful collision with the wall.After that I was fairly convinced that this was not a dream and I started to panic.

My panic reached its crescendo when I stopped at a corner news stand. The first newspaper I saw was not one that I was familiar with. It was called the Boston Town Crier and it was dated April 9th, 1912. In fact, all the paper's were dated April 9th, 2011. Along with Town Crier cover story about some famous aviator’s death, there was a small side bar piece announcing the maiden voyage of the "unsinkable" Titantic, the world’s largest steam ship. The sight of this impending tragedy sent a shiver down my spine and for the first time I actually began to take stock of my situation. I had gone sleep in 2011 and woke up 99 years earlier into a world that did not know the Titanic as one of histories great tragedies, but instead held it up as a modern marvel and was eagerly awaiting its glorious launch. It was at that moment that I nearly made a potentially fatal error.

I picked up the paper, I reached into my pocket and fished around for some change to buy the paper, without so much as a thought. I pulled out a handful of change and began to look for three pennies. At this point, I noticed the date on one of the quarters, which read 1999. All of the money, I had with me came from decades into the future. I closed my fist quickly around the futuristic currency, but I was too late.

The man at the stand saw that I was going to put the money back in my pocket. "what’s matter there, buddy," he asked, "you got plenty of coin, you got a nickel in there, I seen it," he said, holding his hand out forcefully. "This ain’t no library". I tried to return his paper, but he was persistent. "Come on, guy, it’s just three cents" he said, as he pryed my hand open and removed a nickel. He pocketed the coin without looking at it and returned two cents change, all with a bullying smile. I took the paper and rushed away from the scene as fast as I could.

After that troubling incident I decided it was best to get rid of all my remaining money and so I returned to the muddy little pond in the park where I had tried to revive myself and took out the remaining currency. I separated the two pennies the newsman had given me as change and checked the date of the rest. All but one was yet to be made and had to be tossed. One quarter, however was dated 1910 and featured the head of what looked like a roman god. I kept this coin and turned my attention to the paper money. I had seventy dollars in cash on me destined for a water grave, but after finding that quarter, I decided to look it over, just to be sure. Against odds that I can not even image, since such currency was long out circulation before I was even born, the lone ten dollar bill I had wodded up with the rest of my change from the bar the night before was larger than the other bills and it bore a very different design. Instead of Alexander Hamilton, it featured two small portraits of Lewis and Clarke around a central image of a buffalo."

"Oh, come on! That’s unbelievable," I interjected, starting to feel that the story was taking a turn for the truly ridiculous. Accidentially slipping into a time long since passed was one thing, but arriving there unknowingly carrying the correct currency was just going to far.

"Of course, it is. You’re right," O’Malley conceded. "Which is why I do not believe this temporal displacement was "spontaneous" at all. I believe sent to this time and that I was meant to see something there, though I guess that sounds even more insane," he concluded, deflating with the realization that he had lost me.

I felt bad for the guy. He appeared to be enjoying telling his story and, to be honest I was enjoying listening to it. Did it really matter if it was even remotely plausible?

No, not all," I said charitably. "Please go on." He straightened himself some and drank before continuing.

"Well, finding the money actually just shook me up more. The idea that I could actually have to make my way in the world of 1912 was starting to take hold. I looked at the paper I had purchased and stared hard at the image of the Titanic. I felt I should try to warn someone, to do something to stop this horrible tragedy. Of, course after that, I thought- if I change the course of history, there is no way of knowing the consequences.

"The butterfly effect?," I asked.

"Exactly!," he said, now gaining real momentum.

"Is it real?" I asked, happy to have him talking excitedly again.

"I have no idea" O’Malley replied. The question seemed to vex him some, but he let it go. "Of course, then I thought, if the theory was true, I had already radically altered history, simply by waking up in that dirt lot. Whatever was going to happen differently, I had no way of knowing. I may have spent the remainder of that day wildly soliciting help from strangers as I tried to warn the captain of the most famous shipwreck in human history about the iceberg. I may have saved thousands of people from an icy grave and millions more from the subsequent film had I not seen one final item an the very bottom of the page. It read Red Sox to Open New Park Today and that followed with Stahl’s Team Meets Harvard Nine in Exhibition at the new Fenway Park.

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