Time Machine, Among Other Things

So, once upon a time, a family came downstairs and noticed an unfamiliar package sitting on their kitchen table. This happened to three families actually. But let’s start with the first one. I mean, not the one that got the package first, they all got it mostly at the same time. No, I mean the first family is just the one that’s arbitrarily been chosen to be talked about first. Mostly because they’re the most interesting.

So the first family in general, and the first mother specifically, found a package on the kitchen table. And lo and behold, the package contained a time machine. They knew it was a time machine because it came with a note that said “This is a time machine. Please don’t tell anyone about it. Thanks, Dan.”

It was a very polite note. They were impressed. And when they found out it was a real time machine, they were even more impressed. So they hooked up the time machine, elected someone to make the first trip, and travelled back a few weeks to buy some very cheap stock. The stock price skyrocketed as they knew it would and they sold it in the present, making a large sum of money.

They were very happy with this result and did it over and over and over and over and over again, until they had very much money, very much indeed, and then they put away the time machine away, got a new house, got their children enrolled in private school (they were big believers in the value of a high academic standing), and got a second car. That wasn’t all they bought, of course; they had more money than that. But I’d like to keep the list short. At any rate, they were more or less happy and prosperous. They put the time machine away then but brought it out every now and then (for Christmas and birthdays mostly) but eventually it broke and where are you supposed to find a licensed time machine repairman anyway? So they threw it away and started playing the stock market like normal people and they weren’t bad at it so they were fine either way.

You can stop reading now. This is as interesting as it’s going to get.

The second family also found a time machine on their kitchen table. This time from Stan. They were equally impressed by the polite note, less so by the time machine. There were so many wires! How were they supposed to put it together? They tried, really, but it’s not like the manual was any help, seeing as they didn’t read it, seeing as the type was so small. It hurt their eyes and really, they weren’t very keen on having a time machine anyway (well, not if it was going to be so bloody difficult), so they angrily stuffed it behind their unused TiVo and sort of just forgot it was there. Admittedly, every now and then, they got to talking about how cool time travel might be and so they pulled it out and tried to hook it up (they did the same thing with the TiVo every now and then too) but it always ended the same. So their lives didn’t change and everything went on as before.

The third family also found a time machine on their kitchen table, from Anne. They weren’t impressed at all by the polite note, mostly because they stopped reading after “This is a time machine.” It was very exciting and so they pulled it out and hooked it up and after they were done, they stood around and talked excitedly about all the possibilities. Why, with this time machine, one could solve historical mysteries and witness firsthand the making of the great cultures and the fighting of the great wars. And don’t forget all the artefacts one could uncover! We could help people and right wrongs they said. We could be heroes.

And yes. They did that. Each went back in time to some long ago event and came back greatly disillusioned. History was not nearly as exciting as the books made it seem and, as it turns out, it’s very difficult to kill Hitler.

They left the time machine alone for a while. But a time machine is a terrible thing to waste and it remained at the back of their minds until such a time as a situation arose that warranted the use of a time machine. It happened thusly:

The young daughter of the family had some fight with her best friend about the ease of assassinating Hitler and, in retribution for being so spectacularly wrong, she decided to punish her friend by taking her precious charm bracelet (with the lucky four leaf clover charm that, honest to goodness, got her an A in math) but then she lost it and now her friend will hate her forever and “My life is ruined!” the young (and very shrill) daughter wailed to her parents. But then she went back in time and stopped herself from taking the bracelet (yes, there’s a paradox there, but let’s ignore it) and everything was OK again.

And so they got used to their future selves leaping out from behind potted plants and making grave predictions about food poisoning from that sketchy meatloaf in the fridge. Life rolled out evenly this way, with nary a single mistake between them.

But enough about time machines. Let’s move on to something else. Though…

I would like to warn you that the next two stories are exactly like the ones preceding them, so feel free to skip them and go read something different now.

See, this is a story about a boy who could hypnotize people. Strangely enough, he was born on the same day three time machines showed up on three separate kitchen tables. Quite odd, yes.

Of course, he didn’t really hypnotize anybody until he was 10 years old. His parents were quite surprised when they found out he could do something as amazing as that, and swiftly got him to hypnotize them into quitting smoking and losing weight. In the end, of course, his parents decided it would be best if he made his own decisions about what to do with his talent and now the boy is a very famous magician who hypnotizes people into thinking they are chickens. He is quite happy I hear.

And this last story is about a boy who got a trumpet for his birthday. He was very good at playing the trumpet. Everyone said he had a great deal of talent and “you’ll go far kid” and things like that. He is now a business accountant and has two children and a wife. He woke up one morning, not long ago, and found a time machine sitting on his kitchen table with a very polite note and a manual in very small print. He sighed and threw it away, wondering who exactly would fall for such an obvious scam.

Nothing is free, he said aloud, not noticing his trash can had just beaned a dinosaur some few million years away.

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