“A boy. A boy will come to see me on some day when it’s raining,” Mr. Torrance said. “You can’t let him see me. He’s going to say he’s my grandson. He’s not my grandson. You can’t let him see me. Got that, Marcus?”
I might want to say when he told me this, where I was, what I was doing. But I can’t tell you, because he told me this a bunch of times. Sometimes when he was in his bed. Sometimes, while I made sure he was eating his lunch. I could check in on the rec room and get this statement.
My responses were always pretty much the same. I might say, “Sure thing, Mr. Torrance. I will tell your grandson that you don’t want to see him when he shows up. No grandson visit, check.” That was usually it. Nothing else to say. But one afternoon I couldn’t help myself and asked, “Why would you say that, Mr. Torrance? I mean, you don’t get visitors at all. And now you are telling me that if a kid shows up you don’t want to see him. I mean, me and the other attendants are great company, but I don’t think we’re the same as a grandson showing up.”
He looked up from his fruit salad and said, “Because it’s not my grandson Marcus. It’s me. Me as a young temporal traveler. I know he’s coming, and I have nothing to say to him. Never have. Never will.”
At Reynold’s Home, that’s where we end the conversation. Now the thing about this place, and why we attendants get paid pretty good coin, is that all the people who reside here claim to be time travelers from way back. Yeah, I know. What’s that about? I’ll tell you what that’s about. It’s about five dollars more an hour in my paycheck, so the residents who live here are whatever they want to be. And who’s to say that they aren’t? There are things out in the world that I don’t comprehend, so why bother. Besides, the place is well run and the folks are as good as you would want.
So when Mr. Torrance says his grandson is actually him on a different timeline, fine, let’s move on with our conversational topics, shall we? Days passed. Months passed. Things pass like that at any rest home. Time moves on.
Then one afternoon, I was leaning against the help desk, making flirt talk with Agnes, when a cute ten-year-old with apple cheeks came up saying he wanted to see Mr. Torrance. That he was his grandson. Agnes, adorable thing that she is, was going to let him pass, when I put the halt on. I said I had to check.
I went to Mr. Torrance and asked him, “You got a visitor. I don’t care if he’s your grandkid or a spy from Planet X or whatever. You have a visitor, Mr. Torrance, that’s like gold.”
Mr. Torrance paused and thought about it and he looked kind of teary. “Can’t do it, Marcus. Can’t see myself. Can’t look at what I used to be. I don’t need that memory, from then and now. I am too old for circular time lines.”
“That’s a no, then?” I asked. He closed his eyes and nodded. He began to cry.
I went to the front lobby and there was the kid talking baseball with Agnes. I said, “Kid, your granddad isn’t up to it today, you might want to try another time.”
The kid looked hurt, “But this is the only time I can see him.”
I was going to say something, but Mr. Plaistow put down the paper he was reading, and rolled up in his chair and said, “Hold on there. I hate to see a cute kid come all this way and then be turned away. Why don’t you talk with me?” He had a desperate lonely look on him, but a lot of them have that look, so it wasn’t too different from normal.
The kid said, “I don’t know. I don’t know you, mister; what would we talk about?”
“It doesn’t have to be talk, kid,” Mr. Plaistow said. “We can watch TV, we can play cards.”
The kid looked up. “Cards? My grandfather taught me cribbage. I like playing that.”
Mr. Plaistow jumped in, “Sure, sure. I love cribbage. We can play cribbage.”
“My grandfather always said you can’t play without some wager. How about a quarter a point?”
That shook Mr. Plaistow some. He thought on it and said, “Sure, sure. But I don’t want to take your money, but sure, that’s fine.”
He and the boy went to the rec room and I went back to making pleasant chat with Agnes.
A couple hours later, the boy left and he was whistling and bouncy. I checked on Mr. Plaistow and he was there at a table with the cards and the cribbage board still out. His checkbook was out as well. “The kid wiped me out,” he said. He then rolled away without saying anything else.
Next stop for me was Mr. Torrance, who was crying. Crying hard. But it took me a moment to realize that it was tears of laughter. “Yeah, I totally ran the board with him. Seventy years ago and I still remember wiping the floor with that schlemiel. Double skunked him three times”
“Wait, Mr. Torrance, do you mean that you didn’t want to see him so your younger self would hustle Mr. Plaistow?”
“Back then, I was poor, starting out walking through time, I needed some fast money. Plaistow was, I mean is, an easy mark. I know it just happened, but I remember it like it was just yesterday.”
I left him and went to Agnes and said, “From now on, no one gets visitors.”
David Macpherson lives in Central Massachusetts with his wife Heather and son George.