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From Time to Time

by Mary King

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People travel to the past for all sorts of reasons. I find it interesting at times, but for me it’s just a job. I am what you might call a travel agent. I make sure that the travelers know what to expect, and I soothe their misgivings. And since I work on commission, I’ve sometimes been known to give the reluctant or undecided traveler just the slightest nudge in the right (to my way of thinking, anyway) direction.

Upon their return, the travelers record an interview about their experience. It’s strictly voluntary, of course, but most of our clients are eager to share their feelings with us, and I make it a point to view each and every response. Part of my job is studying human nature, and I do take pride in my work...

Susannah’s Story

The ad said, in bold face type, two inches high, “If You Could Do It Over Again, Would You?” Underneath it, in slightly smaller italicized script:

Treat Yourself to the Ultimate Trip

Well, that certainly got my attention. I’d heard of time travel before, of course, as who hasn’t these days. More and more people are doing it, for whatever reason, but I’m happy with my life. I’ve never felt the need to go back. So I just laughed a little at the absurdity of it all and forgot about it.

Or so I thought. But you know how it is when an idea gets into your head. You may think you’ve forgotten about it but all the time it’s there lurking in your subconcious and just waiting to pop out at you at odd moments.

So, in order to put it behind me, I decided that I might as well check it out. I made it clear to the travel agent that I was only inquiring — I had no intention of actually taking the trip. I didn’t need to. I’m a contented, happy person. I have a good life.

When asked to, just for the fun of it, choose a time that I would return to if I could, I didn’t even have to pause before answering. I guess it was somewhere in my mind the whole time. “If I could,” I said, “I’d go back to that summer in 1969, just for a bit.”

* * *

August 1969: I can hear the music before I even see the group. They’ve started without me, but since I’m always late I’m pretty much used to that. Now I can see Bear tuning up, saying something to Cody that makes him laugh. There’s a good sized crowd already, milling around, waiting for us to start our set.

I’m running by the time I reach the group, the wind whipping my long hair into my eyes and mouth. Heart pounding, I take my place just as they begin the intro to my song.

“Didn’t I make you feel like you wanna own me...”

God, we’re in good form tonight. Passers-by are stopping to listen and throw coins into the battered top hat we’ve placed just in front of us. The crowd is really into it, I can tell, as my voice weaves itself around the music and rides it high into the summer air.

Clouds are gathering and it begins to rain. I glance over at Bear and he’s grinning that same old crazy grin that I’ve seen so many times. As he tilts his head, raindrops cascade from the brim of his hat and rest like small stars in his beard. I lift my arms to the heavens and twirl, my long skirt drifting around my legs.

By the song’s end, the rain has stopped and, without missing a beat, we go into the next song. It’s Cody’s turn now:

“Now somewhere in the black mining hills of Dakota there lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon...”

The audience sings along, stamps, claps in time. I move back just a bit, playing the tambourine and swaying with the music. I fill my eyes with those faces in the crowd just as they are filling their eyes with me. This is where I want to be forever, this is....

Suddenly, mid-song, Cody begins to laugh and misses a lyric. Now Bear is laughing, too, and when I look around I see that a small black dog in a red bandanna is running happily through the crowd, the top hat with our night’s takings clenched firmly in his teeth. A middle-aged lady in a rainbow-colored caftan retrieves the dog and returns the hat and money to us. We laugh the rest of the way through the song, and so does the audience. It’s a good night.

It’s quite late by the time we finish our set, and although the crowd claps for us to go on, Bear says, “That’s it, folks. If the creek don’t rise and the good lord willing, we’ll see you back here tomorrow.” As we pack up the instruments and head for the van, I smile with the sheer joy of being alive on this warm summer night. And we’ll be back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. As long as they want us.

Yesterday. That’s what it feels like, just yesterday, everything all fresh and new in my memory. Funny how life works, isn’t it? And yet I’m happy in the here and now. I’m very content and happy and I wouldn’t change a thing, not one decision I’ve made anywhere along the way. I have a good life.

The only thing I can’t figure out is why, since I’ve come back from that “ultimate trip” into my past, I keep feeling that I might cry.

Copyright © 2005 by Mary King

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