Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020
From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.
ITEM ONE: A faint knock on the door shook the typist out of a nap inspired by the late afternoon football game.
ITEM TWO: The typist found a blue-eyed boy with tousled brown hair clad in faded blue jeans, high-top basketball shoes and a faded replica Walter Payton jersey with a set of headphones with orange foam covering the speakers and a portable cassette player hanging from his belt.
ITEM THREE: The typist recognized the boy immediately: It was his younger self at about age 10.
ITEM FOUR: The child had become unstuck in time.
ITEM FIVE: Author Kurt Vonnegut made up the phrase “unstuck in time” for his famous novel “Slaughterhouse-Five.”
ITEM SIX: Dan-10, as the typist would call him, had not yet read that book, nor had he known the loss of his parents by age 14, understood the true weight of his struggle to survive while they lived and the profound sadnesses of the many failures and regrets carried by the typist, Dan-45 as he would call himself.
ITEM SEVEN: Dan-45 invited his younger self in for milk and cookies, except he had no cookies to offer the boy as Dan-45 is diabetic and such things were bad for him.
ITEM EIGHT: Dan-10 settled for a can of Cherry Pepsi, which he declared almost as good as the fountain cherry Cokes at Montross Pharmacy on the Winterset square.
ITEM NINE: The boy sipped the pop and walked around Dan-45’s apartment; He marveled at the collection of pop culture ephemera.
ITEM TEN: Dan-10 peppered his older self with questions. Many exchanges went like this:
Dan-10: “Who’s the lady in the poster?”
Dan-45: “Taylor Swift. She’s a singer. I like her.”
Dan-10: “Is she like Madonna?”
Dan-45: “Yes and no. She’s her own artist.”
Dan-10: “I have a crush on Madonna.”
Dan-45: “So do I.”
ITEM NINE: Dan-10 noted Dan-45 had a lot of toys. The boy asked his older self if he still played with them. Dan-45 said he did, but not as much as he used to. Dan-10 retrieved a few Transformers from a box by Dan-45’s desk and they had an adventure on the coffee table. The good guys won.
ITEM TEN: Dan-10 was curious about Dan-45’s TV. The middle-aged man turned on the TV and tried to explain how streaming services worked.
Dan-10: “You mean you can watch anything you want any time you want?”
Dan-45: “Well, almost.”
Dan-10: “Can we watch ‘Doctor Who’ with Tom Baker? Iowa Public Television is showing the Colin Baker ones right now and I don’t like them as much.”
Dan-45: “You bet we can, buddy.”
And so we watched “City of Death.”
Dan-10: “I have a crush on Romana.”
Dan-45: “I do, too.”
ITEM ELEVEN: The two Dans spent some time reading comic books and eating lunch meat sandwiches with cheddar cheese and yellow mustard on a Hawaiian bun. The afternoon faded to evening and the sun set. The streetlights started to flicker on.
ITEM TWELVE: Dan-10 said he better be getting back home again. Dan-45 walked him to the door. The middle-aged man felt sad for the boy. He knew the next half-dozen years would be really hard on him and there would be many rough patches after that, like now. Dan-45 had told Dan-10 little of the future, but mentioned the virus and how people aren’t very nice to each other.
ITEM THIRTEEN: Dan-10 opened the door. Dan-45 felt like he should give his younger self some sort of wisdom, but the boy spoke first.
ITEM FOURTEEN: “You seem kind of sad, but you showed me your phone that can play video games, watch movies and TV and listen to any song you ever heard whenever you want,” Dan-10 said. “You said you wrote for a newspaper just like Clark Kent. You can drive a car, buy beer and vote. I bet nobody ever said ‘Adults need to be seen and not heard.’ You have friends that you can call long-distance for free. When I grow up, I hope I’m just like you.”
“You will be,” Dan-45 replied, “for better and worse.”
ITEM LAST: Dan-10 walked through the apartment door and seemed to fade in the bright hallway lights. He must have restuck in time. Dan-45 closed and locked the door, sat down in his big recliner and put on some more Tom Baker “Doctor Who.” Maybe the virus, the economy, politics and so many other things were just terrible. But through the eyes of his 10-year-old self, Dan-45 realized the simple pleasures of life were worth their weight in comfort.
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