Short Story: Time and Time Again by Collin Piprell


The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Ellen puts steaming bowls of soup on the table, while little May shows her granny some colouring she has done. But May really has eyes only for Eddie.

“You little coquette!” Ellen says, laughing. “Eat your soup before it gets cold.”

“So where do you work, Eddie?” asks Ellen’s mother, helping herself to an egg salad sandwich.

Egg salad sandwiches are Eddie’s favourite. With lettuce, just like this. His Mom used to make them this way, with onions and chopped pickle and not too much mayonnaise. And Ellen looks better than she did earlier, nicer hair. Kind of a chestnut brown, and the soft wave suits her.

What the hell’s wrong with me? Here I am, sitting at the table polite as can be, telling myself this creepo social worker’s not too bad looking, this stuck-up loser, as I grin and nod at her old bag of a mother. “And where do you work?” she asks me. Where the hell does she think? Who’s going to give Eddie Slocum a job? I mean, who am I going to work for; you think I’ll work for some jerk-off? Gofer this, gofer that?

A minute ago I was on my way out. For good, I mean. Jesus, I hate heights. That falling … But it doesn’t really go on all that long. You get used to it. After a few seconds everything goes black. Yeah. Nothing to it, once you get your feet wet.

Eddie gives Ellen’s mother a big grin that feels something like a wince and gets up from the table. “You want to know what I do? Here, watch this.”

Eddie walks over to the window and he raises the window as high as it’ll go. The parking lot is frosted with bright white snow. It’s really pretty, and the air is sharp, invigorating. “See? I’m a flyboy.” Eddie gives his three lunch companions a deep bow before he climbs up on the sill. He crouches there a moment, listening to Ellen’s frightened voice, “Eddie? Eddie, please. What? …”

She sounds really bummed. Probably scared I’ll get snow on her nice clean kitchen floor. Don’t worry. I’ll be careful. It’s funny. It’s not so bad this time. I can look down there; I can look all around. There’s a big building that wasn’t there before. And that’s something I should’ve thought of already—there aren’t any of those dinky little cars around anymore, those Jap imports and like that. Big changes in the world. I’m really not afraid. Isn’t that funny? Like those birds there, flying free, don’t have to worry about nothing.

Eddie sees Ellen coming before she gets a grip on his pant leg and he jumps.

“Hey. That was good stuff.” Eddie ate three whole tuna sandwiches and two bowls of soup. And the sandwiches were delicious. Just like his mother used to make them, lots of mayonnaise so they weren’t too dry, and mustard. Toasted. He lights up a second cigarette, a Charleston, and drags deep in satisfaction. He finishes his coffee and says, “Let’s go.”

Eddie isn’t much for children, snot-nosed rug-rats, but this May kid is okay. She’s kind of funny. Nutty. And she likes him. Nutty as her mother.

 

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