Welcome to Sucky Story Sunday, where my goal is to prove Ray Bradbury wrong and write 52 bad stories.
This week’s prompts:
A junk sculptor
Can go back in time and change one thing
If I Could Turn Back Time
Curtis Haymer lived for a good yard sale. He stood at the table, marveling at it all. Okay, back up, you could call it a table, but it was an interior door held up by a couple of old sawhorses, the old wooden kind that painters used to use to paint doors. Objects on the table, like the milk glass tea set, sat at odd angles due to the panels of the door. Curtis reached for one of the teacups and slid it so that it sat evenly on the white painted wood. Glenda, his wife, loved milk glass. If she were here with him, she would already be off haggling over the prices. But she hated the process of getting in and out of her wheelchair and the truck, so she missed out on Saturday morning adventures like this.
Adventure? Maybe that wasn’t the right word. He was collecting raw materials for his art. One of the local Sunday news programs was coming out to the house this week to film an interview and Curtis wanted his workroom to be filled with interesting stuff. He poked around the table some more. The milk glass set was priced at $250. Either these folks have never been to a garage sale, or they have been watching too much Antique Road Show. The people in this town did not pay more than $15 for anything that wasn’t a complete bedroom suite at a garage sale. Besides the tea set, there were old oven mitts, some mismatched Corellware, and, what was this? One of those iPod things that play music.
Curtis picked it up. It wasn’t tagged. He didn’t remember seeing one in a while, as most people just used their phones for everything these days. His daughter had one maybe, back when she was in junior high, but it was long gone. Maybe Glenda would like this?
He held it up and shouted to the woman at the card table.
“Excuse me, how much for this?”
She looked up from her cigar box of ones and fives. “Huh? That’s not mine. Have no idea.”
“Is there someone else selling here?”
It wasn’t hers. No one else was selling here. And when he held it up, no one claimed it either. He shrugged and slipped it in the pocket of his jean jacket. He walked around some more and found what he came for. The newspaper ad said that there were wheel rims for a 1950 Ford F150 truck. Unlike the milk glass, these were worth $250. He bought those, a few engine parts, and an old tripod from one of those windmill/water well things, the kind you see on old movies about farms. The blades were still on the windmill part, he could use those.
He hauled his treasures home and pulled his truck into his own driveway, greeted by a 22ft Tyrannosaurus rex, constructed entirely from the parts of the old Ford F150. After the accident, he reasoned, it didn’t deserve to be a truck anymore. As he turned off the engine of his current truck, a Toyota Tundra, he slapped himself in the head. Why did he bother to buy those rims? Old habits? The T-Rex sure didn’t need the wheels.
He went into the house. Glenda was in the living room, her wheelchair near the large front window where there was plenty of light for reading. She was never a reader when they first got married. She said she couldn’t sit still long enough to read and preferred to keep busy. She was a mover, that one, always cleaning or cooking or putting together things to take to the Church Society of St. Stephen’s ministry. As long as she had life in her legs, she’d say, she would use them for the Lord.
The Lord has a wicked sense of humor. Curtis walked over and kissed Glenda on the cheek, then he gave her the iPod. She turned it over in her rough hands. Turning the wheelchair wheels were not good for keeping a lady’s hands soft. If they were like this after three years, what they would be like in 30?
“What the hell is this?” Glenda said. She wasn’t one to mince words.
“I thought you might like this to listen to music.”
“And did you get the earbuds, charger, and maybe a computer to hook it up to?” Glenda shook her head.
“We can take it to the library. They got computers there. We can take it when we swap out your books.”
Glenda looked down at the book on her lap, then closed it. “Curtis, you would have been great in the fifties. There would be nothing you couldn’t fix there.” She handed the iPod back to him. “I do appreciate you thinking of me.”
Curtis put the nano back in his pocket and went to the back door. He stepped outside and pulled up his daughter’s contact on the phone He thought about grabbing a cigarette out of the pack in his chest pocket, but he had promised Kisha that he would quit. That wasn’t going to happen, but he could at least not smoke when he was talking to her, right?
She answered on the first ring, “Dad? Everything ok?”
“You don’t call on Saturday afternoons, you call on Sundays after church. What’s wrong? Is Mom okay?” Her voice quivered a bit.
“Mom’s fine, I’m fine, the cat’s fine. Jeez, can’t a man call his daughter just to say hello anymore?”
“Ok, Dad, hello.”
Curtis sighed. “I need your help.” He wished he could see her face. Asking for help was not a habit that Curtis encouraged in others, much less himself.
“Sure, what can I do? Do you need me to come home? I have work this weekend, but I can trade shifts…”
“No, nothing that hard. I found this music device at a garage sale and your mother says it needs things. Earbugs, chargers, and a computer to load it?”
“Buds, Dad, Earbuds. Music device? Like an MP3 player or an iPod?”
“It has an Apple on the back. It’s a small rectangle, 2 inches by one inch. Sleek little thing.”
“Sounds like one of the iPods you all got me for Christmas when I was ten and wanted a phone.” Kisha paused and seemed to cover the phone and speak to someone else in the room.
Curtis could hear her muffled voice. Probably some boyfriend he hadn’t met yet.
“I may have left all that stuff at your house if you all didn’t throw it out or sell it at a yard sale.”
“Oh baby, your mother would sooner throw out her legs… I mean the cat, than toss your stuff.” Curtis froze. Sometimes things like that came out of his mouth and he couldn’t stop it. Maybe Kisha didn’t catch that.
“Dad? You ok?” She caught it. “Hey, it’s the anniversary of the accident today, isn’t it? Three years?”
She caught everything. She was so smart, like her mother. She was also a great basketball player, like her mother, which was how she could be away at a college and not cleaning houses like the other girls she went to high school with. The two of them had been shooting hoops that day, this day, three years ago.
“Dad? It wasn’t your fault.” Kisha told him this every year.
And he didn’t believe her. It was his fault. He was the one who did not have the F150 secured on the jack correctly. He was the one who wanted a damn sweet tea. Hadn’t drank a drop of that shit since. “How are your classes?”
“You don’t get to change the subject. You called me, and it’s the anniversary. What did you really call me for?”
“You know, I think I hear your mom calling for me. We’ll call you back after dinner, maybe do a FaceTime so we can see your pretty face.”
“Got a game tonight. We load the bus at 3. You’ll have to see my face on TV.”
The other benefit of a large college, their games were televised, especially since the women’s team, unlike the men’s, were habitual participants in the Final Four.
He promised her they would watch and hung up. Sometimes, he dreamed about the old F150 at the very edge of the driveway, half in the yard. After the accident, he hadn’t even looked at it, much less gotten back to restoring it. Sometimes, he thought he could see two indentions in the front bumper, where it had crushed Glenda’s legs into the bumper of her Dodge Caravan, like a number three pressed into the chrome. It gleamed now, almost taunting him as the neck of the T-Rex. Glenda insisted use the parts of the F150 in a sculpture, to give it a new purpose. Becoming a work of art, she said, would let it atone itself. To be remade as an act of creativity rather than exist as a means of destruction.
Because that is what he was, a destructive force. He wanted to fix everything, but somehow, things would just get worse. Curtis kept staring at the truck. He destroyed his wife’s body, her life. If only there was a way to fix her.
He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Oh, right, the nano. He needed to go look for some cables.
He walked into Kisha’s room, Now that she was in college, Curtis supposed it could be a guest room, with its empty bookshelves and nearly empty closet. He opened the closet and pulled down a box. An alarm clock, some books, a small wooden box that Glenda picked out for Kisha in Hawaii on their last vacation. He pulled out the iPod to see what the end of the wire should look like. Such a simple gadget, really. Just that little circle with arrows. He pushed the arrow to the left.
The door to the hall opened, and Kisha walked in. “Dad, why are you in my things?”
Curtis stood up. “What were you driving when we talked? I thought you had a game tonight?”
Kisha rolled her eyes. “It’s not until 7, and I don’t have to be there until 6.” She pointed to the box. “What are you doing? I don’t do drugs if that is what you’re looking for.”
Curts stood up, legs shaky. “No, we spoke just a few minutes ago. You said you might have a charger for this.” He held up the iPod.
Kisha laughed. “Dad, the 2000s are calling, they want their technology back. Here in 2018, we just listen to Spotify on our phones.”
“Honey, it’s 2019.”
Kisha narrowed her eyes. “No, Dad, it’s 2018. I graduate this year, remember?”
Curtis looked at the iPod. He had to be losing his mind, right? “Okay, this is some kind of joke, you come home from college and pretend…”
“Dad, maybe you should sit down. You look ashy.” Kisha took his arm and led him to the bed, where he sat down obediently. “Should I go get you some water?”
“Yeah, that would be good.”
Kisha backed away, keeping watch on him until she left the room.
Curtis looked at this phone. March 8, 2018. Then he stared at the iPod again. This was a dream, right? He was dreaming that this little music box could turn back time. He pushed the left arrow two more times, then looked at his phone. March 8, 2016. It had to be a dream.
The door opened, and Glenda stood in the doorway. She was wearing basketball shorts and a tank top. Her face had a slight gleam from shooting baskets with their daughter. Curtis had forgotten how tall she was, about a walnut taller than him, more if her hair was done.
“What on earth are you doing in here?” She pointed to the box of things on the floor.
He could only stare, heart pounding. 2016. It was today. Right now, Glenda was standing, on two legs. By the end of the day, she will be in the operating room as the doctors amputated both legs. But she didn’t know that, not right now. “I, um, you don’t think Kisha might be doing drugs, do you?”
Glenda closed her eyes and shook her head. “You’ve been reading too many Facebook pages. You need to put the damn phone down. And, while you are putting things down, can you get that truck of yours down? It makes me nervous like that. Especially with Kisha out there shooting hoops.”
Yes! He would get the truck off the jack! He would save Glenda!
Curtis got up and raced out to the driveway. He squeezed between the F150, tail end up on a jack, and Glenda’s minivan. The two cars were nose to nose, with barely enough room for Curtis. As he passed through, he heard the groaning of metal and felt immense pressure on his legs. No, this was not the plan. He reached into his pocket and found the iPod. He hoped he was pressing the right button, one, two, three, as he passed out from the pain.
He jerked awake. Glenda’s hand was on his shoulder. “You okay? You were moaning in your sleep.”
Curtis yawned and stretched his arms over his head. “I had the strangest dream.” His legs ached. You would think after three years, the phantom pain would be gone, but every now and then, the familiar throbbing began.
Glenda took the brake off his wheelchair. “Well, let’s get you some fresh air and you can tell me about it.” She pushed him to the back door.
“It was about that old F150 truck I was fixing up.”
Glenda pushed him out to the sidewalk in front of the house. “Let’s just take a walk and forget all about that truck. The junkman picked that up three years ago. When we come home we’ll eat dinner. Kisha is playing on TV today, so we can watch while we eat.”
Curtis patted his pocket. “Have you seen my old iPod?”
Glenda tsked. “I told you I tossed that piece of junk. The only song that would save on it was Cher’s ‘If I could turn back time.’ Kisha shared her Spotify account with you. Time to join us in 2019.”