the bitter old man had a book

bitter old man read a book 29 cap here take a look

yeah, so? it’s a book an almanac I didn’t know they still printed these anymore

look at the indicia page read it

so?

look who printed it

they’ve been around a long time

have they, now? read it carefully

…and…?

ever hear of that company before? that precise name?

so it’s an imprint of a larger house happens all the time –

it’s not!

[let’s settle this / whip out phone / look up name]

okay, I don’t get a specific match for that name –

and you never will

still, it’s a recognizable company

look at the date

next year so? lotsa companies print books with the following year’s copyright date

look at the book not the contents the book itself

[a lot of mileage / beaten/scuffed/weathered/faded / decades old]

studio prop

read the contents pick any at random

okay, somebody went to a lot of effort for this…

why?

…art project…?  hoax? question is:  how did you get it?

I found it brand new sixty years ago

…and you’ve had it all this time?

correct

you had a almanac from next year back when you were…what…twenty…?

twenty-eight

[quick flip through / find lists / historical summaries / sport champions / wars / inventions]

must’ve been quite a temptation to use this to place a few bets make a few investments

[a bitter old laugh / the most bitter thing about that bitter old man]

there was no temptation! to be tempted you have to be torn between doing or not doing something I plunged right in

okay, so why are you here?

meaning where is my fabulous wealth?

precisely

[vague gesture] …there…somewhere…somewhen…

meaning?

I was a janitor working days to go to night school wanted to amount to something found this book in an empty apartment the tenants just up and vanished in the middle of the night nothing unusual about that lots of folks skipped out on their rent back then

…and they left this book behind

sure did brand new the spine creaked when I opened it

so what did you do?

I thought it was a joke, of course but hey I could spare a few bucks put a bet down on the world series won put that money on a heavyweight fight won that bet on football baseball basketball hockey racing

must’ve made a bundle

I did, but nothing compared to my investments got in on the ground floor of several big deals saw wars ramping up, invested in military contractors sank a few bucks in movie production, record labels did well did really well

…so…?

while making most of my money from investments I kept my hand in with bets just for fun for “old” times’ sake placed a bet on a horse she didn’t win shook me at first but then my next bets all paid off so I figured it was either a typo or maybe somebody complained and years later the commission made a decision that took away the original winner and gave it to somebody else

like the Tour de France scandal?

I have no idea what you’re talking about

skip it go on

so I placed other bets most paid off some didn’t but that wasn’t the worst part the worst part came when people started doing things the almanac didn’t mention

such as?

what’s that in your pocket?

[pulls out smartphone]

didn’t see that coming didn’t see a lot of things coming didn’t see certain politicians get elected didn’t see certain inventions come out of nowhere didn’t see certain discoveries get made because somebody somewhere had enough spare change lying around to actually build a prototype

how do you figure?

[shrug] had a wife had a brother in law he liked to bet, too saw how well I did gave him a few tips he did well, too told his friends I figure somewhere along the line one of those bets paid off well enough for somebody to sink a few bucks into a political campaign or take a chance on some crazy kid’s new invention know what you don’t find in that almanac? home computers smartphones the internet

there’s an entry here on computers in the index

big computers business computers computers for the military for industry for universities not one in every asshole’s pocket

so people started inventing stuff not found in the almanac…?

-- and they changed the future or at least changed this time stream

sounds like you did a lot of research on the topic

wouldn’t you?

point taken

near as I can tell I upset the equilibrium by letting people acquire money in my time stream that they wouldn’t have acquired otherwise this led to investments in things that almanac didn’t cover enough of those investments succeeded to change things [again that bitter laugh] should’ve never let my stupid ass brother-in-law in on my secret

maybe you changed it yourself [blank look] maybe you invested too early maybe you put money into businesses before they would have received it in this book’s original time stream surplus capital means more chances to try more things out

…damn…

[a long pause]

…so…can you help me out…?

meaning?

the book wanna buy it?

[for what?  too complicated a joke for a conversation piece] you tell an amusing story, old man for that I’ll give you two bucks 

two bucks?!?!?

I run a pawn shop not a literary agency take it or leave it

.

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© Buzz Dixon

thanx to Alfred Bester for writing "Of Time and Third Avenue" the 1956 TV anthology series Conflict! for adapting it, and YouTube for making it possible to watch with the stroke of a key…

 

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