October '05 -- stories that Brad likes
I won’t let Oprah get away with this.
“You are the dumbest ten-year-old in the world, Michael,” my sister says.
“Fuck you, Mary,” I say. I know what I saw.
“Why don’t you just go get another one?”
“Because mom didn’t make anymore, Mary. Besides, it’s principle. What, just because she’s Oprah she can go around robbing little kids?”
“I don’t know why I argue with you, Michael. This won’t work.”
Yeah it will. I know it. Don’t really know how. Just do. At my age imagination is at the pinnacle of its ability.
I get underneath the cardboard box that I drew wings and computers and a timeline on. Before I go back though, I lift up the corner and look at Mary.
“See ya on the flip, sis!”
“What a” she begins to say.
I crouch down, close my eyes and think hard. Oprah. Pirate ship. 1632.
My sister’s voice is gone.
My imagination must be fuzzy and clotted with other things because this isn’t where I thought I’d be. I’m ankle deep in a big old swamp and I don’t hear anything. No bugs, birds, nothin. It’s hot and muggy too. I think I went a little too far. Good thing I came prepared.
With the microscope from my back pocket I examine the water. Yep, my suspicions are confirmed. There’s a bunch of single-celled organisms and stuff. There’s a hydra beating the shit out of a paramecium. That’d be tough, being a paramecium.
Back under my time machine. Oprah. Pirate ship. 1632.
A tumble weed blows into my machine as soon as I lift it. Wrong again.
It’s a dry red desert and some mountains. Above me, an etched sign hanging from a post reads LAS VEGAS. On the ground is a dead body in a cowboy hat. I take his revolver, and put it in my belt to look cool. The Vegas strip is all small, wooden buildings and there’s some guys in white hats shootin at some guys in black hats in front of a saloon with those swinging doors you always see.
But now they’ve seen me and they’re shooting at me, black and white hats alike. A bullet goes through my box, through the left wing. I’m gonna be pissed if these assholes fucked up my machine.
I hear bullets zing by. Oprah. Pirate ship. 1632.
The bullet sounds disappear. Now I hear this pinging noise, like radar.
I’m in the wrong era again, but I don’t know if it’s because of me or the bullet hole in my time machine. It’s a tunnel on the ocean floor, like an aquarium shark tunnel. It goes into a living room where some guys in these silver diving suits sit on a couch watching an Alf rerun on a shitty TV that is probably a legit three hundred years old. Outside, more guys in the silver suits swim around. They’ve got these green bullwhips, probably seaweed, and they’re herding some great whites into a pen. Above them is a bulky submarine zapping fish with red and green lasers, the source of the pinging.
“Hey who the hell are you?” one of the Alf guys says.
I hear em running across the tunnel floor. Oprah. Pirate ship. 1632.
I don’t hear footsteps anymore. I hear Japanese and swords clanging and another swishing noise that ends with a thud.
It’s a cabin with bonsai plants all over. Some dudes in ninja suits and samurai armor are around a table eating sushi with heaps of wasabi and playing cards. Screw your neighbor, I think. In the back there’s a ninja fighting a samurai who has a big battle axe. A screw your neighbor honor dispute? The swishing noise comes from the front of the room where some guys throw ninja stars at a dart board. One sees me and says super fast, “Ho-lee-hood-ju-wa!”
I dive under my time machine and a ninja star thuds into it. Shoulda used my revolver. Ah well. Oprah. Pirate ship. 1632.
I hear a soft breeze. An ocean breeze? Nope. A horse brays.
I’m on top of a hill with pristine grass surrounded by trees with pink leaves. In the clearing on a rock is a white horse, but not a horse. There’s an ivory horn coming out of its head. It gestures and whinnies all over the place. On the grass around it are all sorts of animalseven grizzly bears and lionslike the unicorn is holding court. It stops, looks right at me and makes a whinny that sounds a lot like “huuummaaannn.” The animals get up, turning towards me. I may have made a world-jumping machine instead of a time machine
Oprah. Pirate ship. 1632.
but just as suddenly as I was worried, I’m not anymore. I feel the gentle rocking and I smell the salt and hear water.
I’m in a small escape boat dangling from the aft end of the huge time-traveling galleon. How Oprah managed to hide this enormous ship (The Rocket is painted elaborately above me) among the tall sail ships lining Lake Michigan’s Navy Pier is beyond me. But when I saw it before it didn’t have the Jolly Roger flapping in the breeze either.
Jumping onto the deck, I hear someone speaking on the other side of the cabin. I draw my revolver and creep around.
She’s there, holding what I came for above her head like an idol. She’s addressing the motley pirate crew. Some are very tall, some are very short. A tall one with golden teeth and dangling mustaches has another pirate, a midget, sitting on his shoulders. He’s wearing a bandana and he’s got his arms crossed, flintlock pistol in each hand. Grass covers the deck at the fore end of the ship. One group of pirates plays whiffle ball with a yellow plastic bat. I assume that if you belt it off the ship it’s a round-tripper. Another group throws lawn darts. But most are listening to Oprah, gazing at what’s above her head. Something, but not a parrot, sits on Oprah’s shoulder. It’s a shitty little dog that looks a lot like that annoying Taco Bell dog. Behind Oprah are boxes and boxes filled to the brim with fireworks. One of the boxes is labeled. Fireworks for the Quincentennial Celebration of Oprah’s World Dominance.
“Brethren!” Oprah says. “Look at what I hold before you. The Greatest Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie the world has ever seen! Both healthy AND delicious!”
There’s a loud and unanimous HUZZAH from the pirates.
“We must decipher the recipe of this cookie, this delectable morsel I took from a stupid kid in my time, while he sat on a bench. You know that time, the same one that brought you whiffle ball and lawn darts!”
“Once we do that, then I shall have the means of making these cookies, and thereby intake all the energy I need to continue my world dominance for millennia! And then, my dear brethren, I shall be able to bring you back all the knowledge and riches you need for decades of plundering!”
Well, this is just horseshit so I fire my gun into the air. All eyes and arr’s turn towards me. That shitty little dog yelps and leaps off of Oprah’s shoulder.
“Alright Oprah, hand over the cookie or say goodbye to your little boat.”
“YOU! How did you get here! How’d you know where to find me?”
“Well when you shouted ‘1632 here I come!’ as your pirate ship disappeared it kinda clued me in. Pass the cookie over here or you’re done.” I aim at a wick hanging from a box.
She throws the cookie at me.
“Sick him, Tito!”
I scoop the pathetic dog up and look back at Oprah. “Children are the future, motherfucker!”
I drop Tito and punt him high over the side. He disappears with a satisfying yelp. Then I fire the gun and take off.
I knock my machine off the boat. It floats and I jump and land in it, take a bite of my oatmeal-raisin cookie.
The fireworks are beautiful amidst the burning fragments of wood and sail cascading through the air like meteors.
I hope my machine works while upside down. Mary. Home. 2005.
But as I’m disappearing, Oprah, in the escape boat, hair alight, appears above the edge of my machine and snatches the cookie out of my hand.
I feel backyard grass beneath me, hear Mary finish “dork,” and I know that I almost put an end to Oprah’s world dominance. And she got my cookie.