Clockwise, p.5
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       Clockwise, p.5

           Lee Strauss


  WOOZY, I GRABBED AT the blouse stand, the shadows of two sales clerks lurking overhead. Lucinda reached under my arms and lifted me up. Then I remembered Nate and Jessica, and spun a little to check if they were still there. Still watching. Yup. Jessica was laughing. Laughing! Nate’s eyebrows arched. With concern? I couldn’t avoid peering into the rectangular mirror across the aisle. I was wearing the jeans and T-shirt I’d left in. The dark circles around my eyes were in full glory, as if I’d lost a boxing match.

  “Let’s go,” Lucinda said gently. Agreeing to be my friend took heroics on some days. When I got home I crawled into bed. I managed to wiggle out of my clothes and into my PJs and snuggled under my quilt, falling into a heavy sleep.

  The next morning I spent extra luscious moments lounging in the warmth and coziness of my bed. My experience gallivanting around Boston with Sara Watson in an impractical hoop skirt felt like a dream. It always did. I tried to relate to my travels like a dream life. This was my real life, my reality. This was where I had to try to build a life for myself. It wasn’t easy.

  “Casey!” My mom called me from the bottom of the stairs. “Your dad is here.”

  Oh. I'd forgotten about that. I rolled myself out of bed, and threw on clean jeans and a sweater. I made a quick pit stop in the bathroom, splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth. I passed Tim on the way down the steps.

  “Dad’s here,” I said, in case he hadn’t heard Mom bellow.

  “Tell him I’m not coming.” Tim was going through a punk phase, dressed all in black; his eyes looked suspiciously like he'd used “guy liner.”

  “Tim, you have to come. You missed last time.” I followed him back upstairs. “Come, on Tim, you’re not being fair.”

  Tim tilted his head and flashed a fake sympathetic smile. “Like Dad says, life’s not fair.”

  “He misses you.”

  Tim stopped at his bedroom door. “Well, I don’t miss him.”

  Great. I guess I was on my own again.

  We lived in the outskirts of Cambridge in a white colonial house that had eight symmetrical windows of equal size each framed with black shutters. Our yard was sizable, with a fenced lawn, mature trees and large azaleas. Dad sat in a wicker chair on the back porch.

  “Hey, Dad,” I said, opening the screen door.

  “Hi, Casey.” He rose to give me a hug. “How's it going?”

  “Pretty good.” I shoved my hands in my pockets and rocked on my feet. Visitations always started off so awkwardly, like we were meeting each other for the first time. Not like when he'd lived with us and it'd been just normal to have him around. Didn't have to say 'hi, how are you?’ all the time. We just knew.

  “Where's Tim?”

  “I don't know,” I said, fudging.

  “Isn’t he coming?”

  I could see Dad's disappointment. I hated to be the one to break the news. “I don't think so. Sorry.”

  “Oh. All right then. I guess it’s just you and me.”

  I got into the passenger seat of his Passat as Dad folded his long body into the driver’s side. My height and hair were from Dad, though his was cut so short you couldn’t tell it was curly. Dad’s skin was quite a bit darker than mine and Tim’s, but because he was adopted, we didn’t know what ethnicity was thrown into the mix. He reversed out of our driveway and headed in the direction of Boston.

  “He's still mad, isn't he?” Dad finally stated.

  Yes, Tim was still mad. My father’s indiscretion with a co-worker was the reason Dad no longer lived with us.

  “Timothy's mad at the world,” I said, gawking at the blur of traffic. I pushed the images of horse drawn carriages out of my mind. “He'll come around.”

  “I hope so.” He shifted into fourth and cleared his throat. “Does she talk about me?”

  Uh-oh. Entering the uncomfortable zone. “She’s not much of a talker,” I said.

  “Just so you know, I’m not proud of what I did.”

  Oh please. Do we have to talk about this? Normally, I like hanging with my dad, but this was awkward. I stared hard out the side window.

  “If I could erase the past and start over,” he continued, “I’d do it differently. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just turn a switch and go back in time?”

  Could life be more ironic? “I’m sure going to the past has its own sets of problems.”

  “I know, I know.”

  Uh, no, he didn’t.

  “Time travel is a myth,” he ran his non-shifting hand through his almost non-existent hair, “but it’s a nice fantasy.”

  If that’s what you want to believe, Dad.

  He sped up to pass a semi. “I want to come home, Casey.”

  Huh? “What do you mean?” Dad had rented a great brownstone townhouse in Back Bay when he moved out six months ago. It was close to the office building he worked in.

  “I mean, I want to get back together with your mom.”

  Now I saw where this was all going. This was awesome! “Does she know that?”

  “No. I haven't had the courage to tell her.”

  “Well, you need to tell her.”

  “She’s not really talking to me right now.”

  “Tell her anyway.” I felt bad for him; he looked so defeated. “Find a way. Send her flowers, write a love letter.” Do something.

  “Well, we’ll see. Anyway, enough about me. How are you?”


  “You have a boyfriend?”

  What? Where'd that come from? “No!”

  “That's a pretty strong 'no'. Are you sure?”

  “Yes, I'm sure.” As icky as it was, I much preferred talking about him and his problems. “There's nothing exciting going on in my life.” Well, not from the usual time travel treks. “No secret romances.” Unfortunately.

  By the time we pulled into the underground parking at Copley Place, I’d had enough talking. There was a good cheesecake place there, and I planned on stuffing myself.


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