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From Time to Time

by Mary King

Table of Contents
“Frankie’s Story” appeared
in issue 160.

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...

Well, it certainly takes all kinds to make up a world, doesn’t it? And while Frankie’s case might seem a bit extreme, I must reiterate that we are simply providing a service. Supply and demand. How the travelers choose to make use of it is entirely up to them and we can take no responsibility for their actions.

Some of the most interesting travelers, in my humble opinion, are those who choose to go back with a definite purpose in mind and not just a sentimental longing for times gone by.

Dara’s Story

You might recognize my name. I’m quite well known in poetry circles, having had several volumes of poetry published and having contributed my work to various anthologies.

I suppose you could say that I have always had the soul of a poet although that didn’t become apparent until I was sixteen. Up until that time, I was quite happy in my high school career which included the honor of being head cheerleader and participating in the occasional gymnastics competition.

And then one fall day, just as the leaves were turning from green to red and gold, I submitted the following poem for an English assignment:

and stepping back
thru the looking glass
she found the colors in her room
faded; the silken fabric torn
the fire in the grate
long since burned to ash
a chill rain blew
thru tattered curtains
and though she called, no one came
even her golden curls seemed
just a bit less golden and curly
her starched white pinafore
limp and soiled
looking about her, she sighed
and without so much as a last glance
made her way back
into the looking glass

What teenage angst could have inspired that lapse into poetics? Unrequited love, perhaps? Or maybe just a general malaise, a sort of disenchantment with life in general?

Whatever the cause, that poem earned me an A and was published in the school newspaper for all to read and admire. From there on, there was no stopping me. I had discovered a completely unknown side of myself, a side separate from the cheerleading gymnast and prom queen. People began to look me differently. I was no longer just the popular girl, the pretty girl. I was deep.

I continued to write throughout my college career, having my first volume of poetry published when I was just a junior. It was a slim, tasteful little book called Water Shadows, not a huge seller, but my name was beginning to be known in publishing circles as an up and comer.

Which more or less brings us to the present. After enjoying a quite successful poetic career, I seem to have lost my Muse. I can find no source of inspiration in anything I see. The thought that I may have said all that I have to say is, to say the least, disturbing.

And that is where my little high school poem came in. I decided that I needed to recapture some of the feeling that inspired my very first poem. I needed to go back to my poetic roots, back to that fall day in 1985...

October 1985 Oh my God, it’s raining again. It’s raining again and I have cheerleading practice in about five seconds and I’m not even close to being dressed and I think I might be getting cramps. And on top of all that, I have this ultra-lame English assignment to write a stupid poem. It can be about anything, she said. Nature, or something that you like or something that you hate. Or just about your feelings in general. Anything.

Crap. Should I ditch practice and try to write this crappy poem? Or should I go to practice and “forget” to do the poem? Crap. I have to do the poem. My grades have been lousy enough without failing English on top of everything else. If I don’t pass English, I’ll be booted off the squad.

Okay, so what am I writing about? Something I like? Let’s see, I like learning new cheers, I like dancing with David, I like going to the movies. I like grilled cheese sandwiches. Yeah, that would make a great poem, wouldn’t it? The grilled cheese sandwich poem. I can just see her face if I did. It would almost be worth it.

So maybe something I hate? Well, I hate rainy days like now. I hate Madonna, well no, I don’t exactly hate her, she’s just not my fave anymore. I hate homework assignments where you have to write stupid poems for no reason at all.

Crap. I need some ideas. Maybe if I check out Mom’s bookcase, I can find something. Oh my God, why haven’t I ever looked in here before? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. Valley of the Dolls. Oh my God.

Here’s something that looks like it might be poetry. The Seagull’s Shadow. Okay, blah blah blah, roses in bloom, the fiery sun, lilac-scented wind, blah blah blah. Wait, this one sounds kind of cool. It’s called “Alice.” Must be about Alice in Wonderland...

No, it can’t have happened that way. It just cannot, because if it did, it would mean that my entire career, my entire life, has been based on a lie. So it must be a false memory. I may ask for my money back because obviously this is a mistake. The travel company has made a mistake. Surely I would remember if it had happened that way... Wouldn’t I?

Copyright © 2005 by Mary King

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