Friday, October 14, 2011

173/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Australia" by The Shins

Clint sat under a large pine tree in the school yard, his legs crossed, his arms slack in his lap, and his eyes pressed tightly closed.

"What're'ya doing?" asked a girl in a pink sweatshirt and torn jeans.

"Shhhh...." said Clint.

"You're stupid," said the girl.

"Go away," said Clint, without opening his eyes. The girl threw a pine cone at his head. It stuck in his hair but he did not move. The girl wandered off.

A few minutes later a teacher approached. It was Mr. Sheard, who taught gym and permanently wore a whistle.

"What are you doing there? Meditating?" asked Mr. Sheard.

"Shhhh...." said Clint.

"You should be getting some exercise you know, playing with your friends and--"

"Go away," said Clint. Mr. Sheard raised his eyebrows, and backed away with his hands up.

A squirrel approached Clint and chittered.

"Shhhh..." said Clint.

"Meep," said the squirrel with indignation.

"Go away," said Clint. The squirrel spat out a nut and threw it towards Clint (it only traveled an inch and missed Clint by several feet. The squirrel hopped off.

The bell rang and the yard quickly emptied, but Clint did not move. He pressed his eyes tighter, then balled up his fists. The air began to shimmer around him. He started to become transparent, and within a minute he had completely disappeared.

For the rest of the afternoon he was not missed, but by that evening, when he should have arrived home (in time for his favorite cartoon), his mother began to fret. The next day a police search was underway in the brush near the school. The day after that his parents appeared on the local TV station to make an appeal for his return. Over the next month flyers with his face were placed on telephone poles all over town. The neighbors blathered to a tabloid, accusing his parents of chopping him up and burying him in the backyard. The police dug up the backyard and found nothing but several shards of thousand-year-old native american pottery. As the year wore on, his parents separated, then divorced. Five years later his mother moved to the other side of the continent and his father remarried and moved to the next town. Mr. Sheard was arrested for heading up an illegal gambling ring. The squirrel died and the girl with the pine cone became a teen mother and starred on a reality show.

Ten years after that, in the winter, on a Sunday, Clint reappeared under the same, now fatter tree. He opened his eyes and smiled brightly.

"Wow!" he exclaimed. "It finally worked!"

He jumped up and raised his hands in the air.

"Wooohoo!" he yelled, then punched the air. Then he dropped his arms, seeing that no one else was there. His smile subsided. He wrapped his bare arms around his chest, then started running towards the school door. He tried the freezing cold handle, but it was locked. He stuck his hand under his armpit. He peered in through the window at the gloom beyond.

"Oh no," he said.

He ran out of the school yard and down the street, which was deserted of cars.

"Oh no," he repeated.

He crossed the street and bang on the door of the nearest house. An old lady came to the door. She opened the inner door but not the outside screen.

"I'm not buying any cookies or twenty dollar chocolate bars. I'm on a fixed income!" she said gruffly.

"I need your help! Please, I need to use your phone!"

"Why don't you use your one phone! Don't all you kids have cell phones these days?"

"What's a cell phone?"


"Huh? Uh, please just let me use your phone. I have to call my parents and get home."

"I'm not going to fall for that. You might force your way in here and rape me and then take my money for your drugs. I know how these things work!" She started to close the door.

"I'm ten years old! Why would I do any of those things? Please ma'am, please just let me make a phone call!"

"Hmm," said the old lady, opening the door wide again. "You look familiar."

"I do?" asked Clint, shivering.

" look kind of like that kid who went missing."

"Well I did kind of go missing, but I don't know for how long."

"How do you mean?"

"I figured out how to teleport, but I think it was just through time, not through space, you know. It was amazing." He grinned shakily. "Can't I come in? I don't have a jacket."

The old lady narrowed her eyes.

"You're one of those religious people, aren't you? You're trying to lure me into your religion by telling me you have special magical powers," she employed air quotes with the last three words.

"Huh? No. I really did it. Honest ma'am."


"Seriously. Please just let me in."

"If you can teleport, why don't you teleport to your house on your own."

"Oh," said Clint. "I-I didn't think of that. I mean, it's really hards and you need a lot of focus and concentration, but I guess since I've done it once, I could do it again. Thanks lady!"

Clint sat down on the cold stoop, then quickly stood again. He let his arms fall to his side, then closed his eyes tightly. He balled up his fists. The air shimmered around him and he started to become transparent. The old lady staggered backward and gasped. She watched as Clint disappeared entirely.

Fifteen years later, in the summer, Clint reappeared on the old lady's stoop. She was now dead, but the property was completely ringed with tents. People with tamborines and guitars wove around the encampment, some chatting happily, some singing, some reciting poetry to themselves. When Clint arrived, word quickly travelled through the tents and he was greeted with cheers and bows.

"Teach us!" they said in unison. "Teach us master of time and space! Teach us!"

"Uh," said Clint. "What?"

"The prophecy has been fulfilled!" screamed a young woman in a green dress (she was the granddaughter of the girl who threw the pine cone at Clint), before collapsing and writhing on the ground in religious ecstasy.

"Who are you people?" asked Clint.

"We are your devoted followers," said an old man with an impressive beard who looked suspiciously like Santa Claus. "Teach us how to teleport, please, master." He prostrated himself on the ground.

"Uh, I kind of need to use the bathroom," said Clint.

"This way!" said several people, leading him towards a row of porta-potties.

He stepped inside the one he thought was the cleanest and closed the door. The crowd watched the porta-potty expectantly. After ten minutes, the man with the santa beard knocked on the door.

"Um, everything okay in there master?" he asked. There was no answer. He turned to the crowd. "What should we do?" he whispered. They debated the matter, and half an hour later with no further response, they broke the lock and opened the door to find the porta-potty empty. The crowd gasped then burst into a spontaneous rendition of their anthem about teleportation.

Fifteen years later, Clint reappeared inside the porta-potty, which was sparkling clean, but covered in tiny messages written black marker. Dear Clint, take me with you next time. Dear Clint, teach me about time and space. Dear Clint, thank you for bringing world peace. Dear Clint, please heal my cancer. Dear Clint, I want to live in the future like you. He traced his fingers across the words. There were so many that he couldn't take them all in.

He opened the door and stepped out onto a marble floor. He looked around. The ceiling was made of glass and he saw stars on the other side. Around the porta-potty was strung a ring of velvet rope, which was then surrounded by red carpeting. He took a step further and a loud alarm sounded.

Guards in smart uniforms flooded into the vast room. Many of them gasped then prostrated themselves.

"You're twelve hours early!" exclaimed one guard before clapping his hands over his mouth then prostrating himself.

"Who are you?!"

"We're the time guard, oh master," said one guard, bowing low. "We serve you, forever and always!"

"Where are my parents?" asked Clint.

"Sadly, master, they are deceased."

"What does that mean?"

"Uh, they are dead, master."

"When did this happen?" said Clint, beginning to cry. "Were they in a car accident or something?"

"About ten years ago. Old age."

"Old age?!"

"Master, your first jump was 45 years ago. You do realize each one takes fifteen years?"

Clint stumbled backward and fell against the porta-potty.

"I'm fifty-five?" he whispered to himself. The guards leaned in, trying to hear what he was saying.

"What is your command, master? Are you ready to teach us your way?"

"My way?"

"You've mastered time and space. You've brought peace to humanity. We all follow you now," said the guard.

"Some of us believe you are our god!" shouted another guard from the back.

"M-uh?!" exclaimed Clint, pressing his hand to his forehead. "I'm just ten! I don't know what you want me to tell you! I was supposed to just travel across space! I just want to get back to my parents! And I can't go back!"

He lay down on the cold marble floor and started sobbing.

"He's--he's just a kid," said one of the guards. "He's normal!"

The crowd of guards started murmuring.

"We can't tell the government about this," said one of the guards to his fellow. "It would bring down the regime."

"We have to do something," said the other. He wrung his hands, then stepped over the velvet rope. The crowd gasped then fell silent.

The guard walked up to Clint and knelt beside him. He placed his hand gently on Clint's back.

"He touched him!" said someone in the crowd. There were more gasped.

"It's okay...buddy," said the guard.

"No it's not," said Clint, twisting to face the guard and leaving a trail of mucus on the marble. "You don't understand."

"No, I guess I don't," said the guard. "But maybe you'll feel better after a cup of hot cocoa and a good sleep. What do you say?"

"I don't have a house anymore, or a bed," said Clint, choking back more sobs.

"Sure you do," said the guard. "This whole facility was built for you. It's your house."

"It is?" asked Clint looking up.

"Yes, you own this."

"Is there a swimming pool?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact there is. Plus there are classrooms, you know, for when you are ready to teach your technique."

Clint furrowed his brow.

"Or maybe you'd prefer not to teach directly. Or maybe not at all, though I'd encourage you to try--"

Clint sat up and faced the porta-potty, away from the guard. He wiped his face on his bare arm.

"I'll take the hot cocoa," said Clint. "But anything else, well, if I don't like things here I can always see what your kids want to do for me instead."

The guards all sighed with relief. Hands were clasped. Several people prostrated themselves anew. They started to sing the teleportation anthem. Clint stood up and let the guard escort him to his lavish living quarters.

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