Drunk on Time
by J. H. Malone
Saul is a 20-something computer expert. He’s somewhat undisciplined and drinks too much, but he is charming and has a soft spot for older people and for his love interest, who is a brilliant but enigmatic researcher. They unlock the secrets of parallel universes with unexpected results for themselves.
Table of Contents, parts:|
1, 2, 3, 4. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
I gave Cannelita — she of the lost key — her ride home late Friday afternoon. She lived on Kling Street, on the other side of the Ventura Freeway. Her home had a Fifties look to it, with a rough brick chimney stuck to the front of the house. The yard was landscaped in pebbles and overgrown drought-resistant plants. A large white cat with black and brown markings came out to greet us at the curb, tail up.
“Okay,” I said to Cannelita when we got out of my Jeep. “Let’s find your key.”
Cannelita picked up the cat with an effort.
“That’s a good-looking cat,” I said. It studied me with blue eyes. “What kind is it?”
“She’s a ragdoll. It’s a newer breed. Very lovable. She follows me around like a little dog. Where’s your computer?”
“Let’s start the old-fashioned way,” I said.
A Kia Rio was parked in the driveway. I walked over to the driver’s side. The car was locked.
“You beeped it locked?” I said.
Cannelita nodded. I bent down and looked under the car. Nothing. I inspected the ice plant next to the car. No key. I followed the stone path that curved from the driveway around to the front porch. I rustled each bush, left and right, as I came to it, checking underneath.
“I did that already,” Cannelita said. She cradled the cat in her arms.
“Did you go inside your house with the key?”
“No. I unlocked the front door with the house key but, before I went in, I remembered that I had left my granddaughter’s drawing in the car, and I went back to get it, but I couldn’t get in.”
I came off the porch and walked back to the driver’s side of the Kia. I motioned, and Cannelita came over with the cat.
“Let’s re-enact the scene,” I said, stepping back. “Pretend you’ve just gotten out of the car. It’s dark. Show me how you locked it and went up and unlocked the front door. Take your time.”
Cannelita stood by the car door. “I got out,” she said.
“Take it slow. Put down the cat.”
She put down the cat.
“What’s her name?” I said.
“Tira, because she reminds me of tiramisu. The black and brown on white.”
“Okay,” I said. “Was your purse on your arm like it is now?”
“With the key in your hand? Or back in your purse?”
“In my hand.”
“And you locked the car right here?”
“No, I picked up the cat.”
“Okay, pick up the cat.”
She picked up the cat. “I walked around the front of the car and up the path,” she said.
She did that and stopped by a rampant lavender. She turned back toward the car.
“I beeped it locked from here.”
“And put the key in your purse?”
“No, because of the cat.”
“I went up on the porch and got the house key out from under the mat and unlocked the front door.”
She carried the cat onto the porch and squatted with an oof. Her purse, hanging from her arm, settled on the concrete next to the doormat. Cradling the cat with one arm, she quickly slid a hand under the mat.
“Well, I’ll be,” she said.
“Car key under there?”
She stood up with the cat, the purse, the key and another oof.
* * *
I drove home with her thanks ringing in my ears. I went upstairs and did a quick check of Tommy’s day, which again was spent at the track and again resulted in winnings modest in the extreme. Like other gamblers I have known, he did not give up hope.
Liesl and I drove down to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut the second week in November. A storm up from the south brought mild temperatures and heavy rain for the weekend. My Jeep was in the shop, so we rented a sporty Dodge Challenger and took I-95 south to Providence. On the way to the casino complex, Liesl wanted to visit a German colleague, a professor named Otto Lehmann, who was on the faculty at Brown.
We met Lehmann for lunch downtown in a cafe at the Providence Place Mall. Before we went in, Liesl asked my permission to spend the time with him talking shop in their native tongue. When lunch was served, I ate my chicken satay and kept quiet. Our umbrellas dripped in a line, propped against the wall.
By the time my plate was clean, Liesl had Otto panting with excitement. They took turns scribbling on a yellow legal pad he had fished out of a large pocket in his tweeds. They drank coffee and, in the end, carried their food out in doggie bags.
After Liesl sent Otto on his way, we got back on I-95 and followed it south to Route I-84 and Route 2 West through a stretch of old-fashioned Connecticut countryside, taking it easy in the downpour. The rain let up at North Stonington. Twenty degrees of rainbow appeared briefly between parting clouds. When the sun emerged, gray forest transformed to wet brown woods.
“Herr Lehmann seemed quite excited,” I said.
“Herr Professor Lehmann, Liebchen,” Liesl said.
“Sorry. What were you telling him?”
“I gave him new ideas about Umkehreinwand,” she said.
“What a language,” I said.
She repeated the name into her phone.
“Loschmidt’s paradox,” the phone said.
“Which one is that?” I said.
“The irreversibility paradox,” Liesl said.
She looked at me, and I wiggled my eyebrows.
“Entropy increases,” she said. “The laws of thermodynamics are time-asymmetric, but the laws of physics are time-symmetric. It should not be possible to derive the fact of entropy from the laws of physics.”
“There are many attempts to explain this. I suggested a fruitful new approach to the Herr Doctor.”
She smiled at me with a warmth that made me grip the wheel a little tighter.
“When you discuss physics like you did today,” I said, “are your theories figured out by yourself or based on knowledge you’ve acquired in the future? I asked you this before, up on the mountain.”
“The theories are mine and the future’s, mixed together.”
“You must have learned a lot in the future. Are you sharing this with scientists like Professor Lehmann?”
“Not the scanner.”
“But the rest?”
“The answer to this question is complicated.”
“Complicated why? Complicated how?”
“Do you want to know the future?”
She didn’t answer.
Traffic was light. I squinted into the sun’s glare on the wet road. “Give me a hint,” I said. “I don’t want details. Spare me the particulars. Tell me why the answer is complicated without giving me any specifics.”
“This is not possible.”
“All right, forget it.”
We continued in silence. I was surprised at the rundown property we passed from time to time. I had assumed that the state was populated exclusively by rich and recent New York refugees.
“If you bring back knowledge from the future, isn’t that a paradox?” I said. “How did it get there in the first place?”
“I explained to you how I learned about us together while I was still in Germany. Bringing knowledge from the future is all the same.”
“I was wondering about that,” I said. “If there are infinite universes where a Liesl finds me in some other universe and there are no time loops, how does the scanner get past those universes to reach others where you and I, and maybe Earth, don’t exist?”
“In the same way that you solve Zeno’s paradox by taking a single step.”
A speeding pickup passed us, splattering our windshield with water. I touched the wipers. “So what was the fruitful idea that you offered Lehmann?” I said. “Something to do with dimensions and infinities and contiguous points in space?”
“How do those things solve the entropy paradox?”
“Entropy summed over all directions of time yields a null result. There is a convergence. It is why we sum over infinity.”
“Infinity,” I said, “nature’s all-purpose tool.”
“It is so in this multiverse,” Liesl said. “In higher orders, past and present may evolve. Paradoxes may be normal.”
No end to it. “We’re almost there,” I said.
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2020 by J. H. Malone