My name is Thomas Carson. I have a problem. I guess it’s a problem. It’s not as bad as somethings. But it is a bit of inconvenience at times.
I time travel.
Not like that asshole in the book with the girl where he jumps around to different periods of her life, losing all his clothes every time and showing up stark naked.
Nor am I anything like the guy with the box, the blue one that says ‘Police’ on the front.
I don’t have control over it.
You see something happened to me.
That’s not quite right.
I guess you could say, I happened to me.
I guess I should start out by telling you the year and the month it all began. Since years and months are going to be so interchangeable from here on out. It was a December. A week before Christmas. 1934.
My son’s birthday. He was three. My wife was looking at me with eyes all dopey and wide. Her baby was three years old. She wanted another. She wanted a fresh little tot with big round eyes, pink cheeks, and tiny fingers. Callum -that was our boy- he was three and so grown up. He could brush his own hair, and was already trying to figure out the laces in shoes, though I knew he had sometime before he’d master it.
My sweet boy.
I thought he’d have had years to figure it out. I thought he had time left to kick his dirty boots out in front of me or his mom, asking for them to be tied. Time left to trip over them when we weren’t around. Time enough to outgrow a few pairs more at least.
I see that pair of shoes in my dreams sometimes.
Not even six inches long from heel to toe, brown and rubbed over with shoe polish by his mom on Sunday mornings, scarred from the play yard, dirty from the dust that wouldn’t settle. The sole pulling away from the leather. His toes pressing at the end, threatening to burst out.
They’d gotten too small.
He needed a new pair. That’s what I tell myself every night, he needed a new pair.
Nothing like a child’s need to justify the rolling of metal in the chamber and the click and pull of a trigger.
I don’t need to tell you money was scarce. It was the height of the Great Depression, money was always scarce -except for an elite group.
At the time, I didn’t know that. At the time, I only knew that I was always hungry, that my bones ached from the hard work. That the dust wouldn’t settle and the crops wouldn’t grow. That the cows died, that we had to eat our dinner -what little there was- underneath the table cloth. We made a game out of it for Callum. Sitting round our little wooden table, plates out in front of us, the white linen cloth thrown over our heads, the three of us peering at each other in the muffled light. Callum always giggled through his meal, why shouldn’t he have? We were comical. If the alternative is suffocating, being comical to a three-year-old is bearable.
No, it’s a dream. Being comical to a three-year-old is a dream.
Survival is a kind of prison.
I didn’t know that then either.
Where am I now? I’m in Normandy. I’m in a ditch. The sun is rising somewhere behind my head. I can see the yellow streaks on the horizon scrape and scramble against the pink and purple. Remnants of the previous night. As if the sky is bruised, purpling from the assaults we’ve made against each other, and against the universe itself.
I’ve been in the foxhole for two days, and before that I was on a beach. Like I said, survival is a kind of prison.
You should know that when I said I don’t have control over where I go, that that was true, but somebody does.