Tag Archives: Time travel

Perchance to fix a quick mistake

“Perchance to fix a quick mistake, or pass over a terrifying moment of fate. To choose only one is your assigned task. Either jump to the future, or relive the past.”

It was a mysterious sounding rhyme, and I wasn’t sure I should take it seriously or not. I was combing through my attic when I had found the watch with the cryptic inscription. There was a note attached to it explaining the rhyme.

DO NOT TOUCH THE WATCH UNTIL YOU’VE FINISHED READING THIS NOTE! On the side of the watch is a dial. You can turn it clockwise until it clicks to set it to jumping forward in time, or you can click it once counterclockwise to set it to jumping backward in time. Be warned, once you set the watch, it will stay on that setting until you die. The period it jumps you either forward or backward is ten seconds. The watch needs about a minute to recharge between jumps. To activate, just tap the dial. Choose wisely.

Huh, clicking it backwards would allow me to fix some small mistakes in life, but clicking it forwards would allow me to skip the truly harrowing moments. I heard someone say that many great things are accomplished with just 15 seconds of pure courage. With this I watch I could have at least ten of those seconds. I could be infinitely brave for those ten seconds. I could live with making mistakes. Now I could skip all of the truly scary moments in life! I click the watch clockwise, and test it out. I throw a little ball in the air and tap the dial

It works. I have a small bruise on my head, and the ball has rolled to the other side of the attic. I didn’t feel the impact at all. The residual pain yes, but not the impact. This is going to be so useful for my date tonight!

Three hours later me and Jenna are sitting on a park bench. The sun is setting, my arm is around her, and the mood is right. The only problem is I’m as nervous as a moose at an NRA convention. Thankfully I’ve got the cure to my nervousness on my wrist. I tap her on the shoulder to turn towards me. As she looks me in the eye I tap the nob.

“You know I see you more as a friend.” She says.

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Letters to my father submitted to Amazon!

Hey all,

Letters to my father has just been submitted to Amazon! They’re going to process it for a few hours, and hopefully it will be available for download at about 7-8 PM EST. At that point I will also make the book available for download as a PDF under published works. Been an exciting month long journey to get to this point, and as I have said many times before, thank you all for being a part of it, just a little bit longer before I get the green light.

Sincerely,

Sam

First kiss redo

A girl is able to travel back in time to change her actions, until one day, something unexpected happens.

First kisses, you know they never seem to be quite what you think they will be. They’re either so light and so quick that you don’t feel it, or so sloppy and aggressive you feel like you’ve just been attacked by a giant frog. A girl’s first kiss should be something special, and mine had been the frog attack variety. I resolved to go back and change my first kiss with Tommy Jenkins to something magical.

Tommy and I hadn’t seen each other since high school. Ten years later I was getting ready to head back for the reunion, and it had reminded me of that night. I had kissed more guys since then, and intended to use that experience to resolve the problem.

I snap my fingers and we’re back on that ridge, sitting on his car. He’s just said something sweet and is leaning in for the kiss. I resolve to keep a firm grip on his lips with my own so that he can’t attack me with his tongue.

I close my eyes and lean in. Only instead of soft lips on mine, I feel a tongue licking the side of my face. I recoil, falling off the car, and staring up at the maniac. This isn’t how I remembered things.

“You jerk!” I shout.

“What?” He says with a wicked playful smile. “Did you think you were the only one?”

Letters to my father part 6

She’s wonderful. You couldn’t ask for a better girl dad. Her hair is long and flowing. It’s the color of chocolate. Her eyes are the color of the sky on a clear summer’s day. She’s elegant, funny, smart, and beautiful. Her voice could charm the birds from the trees, and her smile could tame a wild bear. She’s perfect, and perfect for you. You are going to marry a princess dad.”

                It’s over. It’s finally over. I’ve done it. Now I get to meet her. I get to meet a girl and instantly now it’s mean to be. No stressing over tiny faults that you don’t know if you can live with. No doubting how she feels. This is for real, and this is happening.

I don’t really need to tell you what to do. You could sweep her off her feet all on your own. So I’ll just as you have needed to learn to man up and become strong enough for her. She’s needed to learn to let go. Help her let go dad.” Cryptic, as usual for my daughter, but I kind of preferred it that way. I wanted to figure this out partly on my own, and I could craft a date for her that she would never forget.

“Now for the goods. You’ve done your job dad. You’ve come to the end of the journey, and now it’s time to reap the rewards. There’s a bridge in the regional park that crosses a large stream. She will be there at 1:00 tomorrow. Sweep her off her feet dad. You have a golden opportunity. You know for certain this this woman is going to be your wife. Use that knowledge, don’t hold back. Make this moment worth all the struggle.” No pressure, but that was okay. I could do this. This is what I’ve been working to achieve. I have a date, a time, and a general description. This is going to happen. It’s actually going to happen. I begin planning what I’m going to do as I continue to read.

I hate to tarnish such a happy moment, but because this is where you and your wife start, it’s time for me to step away. Our family is going to start in about thirteen hours, and I can’t be there to make it happen. That is for you to do, and it is for me to leave you to do it.” I notice there are some watermarks on the letter. This wasn’t easy for her to write.

If only you knew how many letters I’ve written you. These were the final drafts. I cannot tell you how many times I had to travel back and amend something because it turned sour later on. You know all those times it felt like I was reading your mind? I had to write the letter, send it, wait for you to read it, and then come up and ask you about it. You were so surprised whenever I talked to you. You hit your head on the attic rafters so many times when I made you jump. I have had to travel back and forth so many times for this, and now this is it, the final letter. So much time, so much energy, and now it’s all done.” She had to have dozens of instances in the letters where she had seemed to be reading my thoughts. She had to come back hundreds of times at least, and for my wife too no doubt.

I’m actually really terrible at goodbyes. I thought this one would be better because it’s not in person, but it’s not. I’m trying to think of more stuff to say just so I don’t have to stop writing. I shouldn’t though. I need to not drag this out. You’ve got to go to bed so you can be bright eyed and bushy tailed for your wife tomorrow. Okay, it’s okay. I’ll see you in three years dad. Love her like crazy. Go make a family.”

I felt like I had lost a friend. Whenever things had gotten hard she had been there for me. She had made me smile with her little games, and made me feel better when I couldn’t make myself feel better. No one had ever made me feel wanted and special like she had. Now she was gone. I didn’t know what that last letter held, but I wouldn’t know for three years. A lot could happen in three years. Maybe the letter would be a short thank you. She had written those before, or maybe some tiny little advice to set me straight with something. Maybe it would be a full letter like this one. I didn’t know, it didn’t change the way I felt.

It hits me just how much effort she has put into this. She has come back so often, and she must’ve always been watching from the shadows. She kept a careful eye on me to know just what I needed to hear, and when I needed to hear it. This was a labor of love that trumped anything else that I had experienced.

I remember the other letter in my wallet. I want to trade it out and put this one in instead, but that wouldn’t be right. This letter was meant to be a goodbye. Goodbye meant you went your own way. It wasn’t good to dwell on the past. I would keep her uplifting forward looking letter in my pocket, and put this one in the chest.

After I stow the letter I stand up and exhale. The punchline has been told. The story has had its ending, now it’s time to move on. I’ll always carry the memory of what she’s done for me.

The bridge that I’m going to meet my future on is a mile down the trail from the parking lot, and the walk gives me time to appreciate the scenery. The park is a forest that borders on a lake. The trail wraps through the woods alongside the lake, and affords a view of the sparkling water. The sun is reflecting off the water in such a way that makes it seem as if there is treasure at the bottom of the lake that is glinting in the afternoon sunlight. The water is calm, with a family or two of ducks lazily cruising across it.

The trees are splashed with autumn colors. There are deep reds, bright orangs, and dark greens throughout. Squirrels dart among the branches, some male squirrels are chasing female squirrels, subtly reminding me of why I’m here.

The path runs into the creek, and runs parallel next to it down to where it reaches the bridge. The stream isn’t deep, shallow enough to wade across. There are numerous large stones stones in it that suggest it’s possible to walk across without getting your feet way, but it would be a risky endeavor.

At last I see the bridge in the distance. It’s a plain wooden bridge that arches majestically over the running waters. On it is a lone figure, facing away from me. I can see long hair on this figure. It’s her.

I walk to the bridge reverently, as if I’m in a church. There is a tension in the air. A magic that has been building since I set foot on the path. Now it is coalescing into something special, and I dare not make any sudden move for fear of dissipating that magic.

If she hears me coming she gives no sign, and I stop at the foot of the bridge.

“Are you ready to begin forever?” I ask her.

She turns around, and I stop breathing. The sun is shining through a gap in the trees, and it lights up her face. She almost seems to glow in the golden beams, and everything Sarah said was true. Her smile could stop a wild boar’s charge, and right now she is smiling for all she’s worth.

Wordlessly, she runs to me and leaps into my arms. I catch her in an arm chair, and spin her round and round. She wraps her hands around my neck and I see that her eyes are like clear blue Caribbean water. It’s fitting, this girl seems like to be the living embodiment of the warmth and light of a Caribbean beach.

“Angelica.” I say. Her name flows off my tongue like honey.

“I’m ready.” She tells me.

“Then let’s get started princess.” I’m highly thankful for all my exercise. She’s light as a feather in my arms, and I can easily carry her most of the way back to my car.

“There’s so much I want to talk about.” She tells me.

“Let’s start with Sarah.” I suggest.

“Our daughter.” She confirms. “So you got the letters too?” She asks.

“All eighteen of them. It took me seven months to go through them.”

“Same here. I got twenty-two letters, but they took me the same time to go through.”

“It was a heck of a thing to go through that.” I say. “So many new skills to learn.

“Skills?” She asks. “Mine were mostly about dealing with old baggage. So many people who hurt me, and letting the hurt go. There was a little bit of learning, but mostly it was dealing with emotions.”

“I guess we had different issues to resolve.”

“So what kind of skills did you work on?” My future wife asks.

“A bunch of stuff, some of it suggested by her, some of it was on my own initiative.” I start to tell her what they were, then I get an evil idea. “But you’ll have to find out what those are later. We’re going to take part in some right now. Did Sarah tell you that I would help you let go?” I ask.

“Yes, she said you would help me loosen my grip on my past.” I want to borrow my daughter’s time travel so I can go back and fix whatever has scarred my wife. I had physical traits that had needed fixing, but she had emotional ones. I did not envy her for the path she had to walk these last seven months.

“Well. We are about to get a jump on that. Are you afraid of heights?” She nods. “What the dark?” She nods. “Perfect.” I say.

“That’s rather vague and not exactly comforting.” She tells me.

“Sarah taught me how to speak like that.” I respond. “Speaking, of Sarah, she also taught me how to do this whole courtship thing. On that note, I’ve got a question for you. You get three wishes, but you can’t wish for anything that you could buy or sell, and you can’t wish for anything generous. These wishes have to be about you, and for things without any monetary values.” She tilts her head back.

“That’s a tough one. What would you wish for?” She asks back.

“Oh no, you’re not getting off that easily. I don’t want to contaminate your way of thinking with my wishes. I want to know you Angelica, all of you. So tell me what you would wish for.”

“Well, that’s a little hard, because Sarah and you have already given me so much that I want. I guess I would wish to be able to help her when she time travels. Go with her and try to alleviate some the work load. She did so much for us that I would want to give some back. Is that a bad wish?” She asks.

“Not at all.” I say.

“Okay, then my second wish would be to help you during your journey. I know it wasn’t easy for you, and I want to go back and help you along in whatever way I can. Too cheesy?” She asks.

“No such thing.” I tell her.

“Good, then my last wish is that this is going to work between us. So that Sarah doesn’t have to go back in time and fix things again, and the three of us can just be together.”

“I gave you three wishes.” I say. “And you managed to wish for three things that would help others.”

“I know, that violates one of the rules you gave me.” She says.

“No, no, it’s good, because I know that’s what you want. I didn’t say that it couldn’t help others, just that it had to be about you. Sarah did a great job with your personality babe.” I tell her.

“She didn’t do so bad with you either. You carried us all the way back to my car.” She exclaims.

“I have been working out a little.” I humble brag. I put her down and open her door for her. She curtsies, and we drive off.

“Where are we going?” She asks excitedly, like a little kid trying to find out what they got for Christmas.

“Someplace I found while I was out exploring the woods.” I say.

“That’s not helpful.” She said.

“You wouldn’t want me to spoil the surprise would you? Come on this is exactly how Sarah talks to us in our letters. She can’t be here physically for this event, so I thought I’d make her a part of it spiritually.”

“That’s sweet.” Angelica says. “But that’s not how Sarah talked to me.”

“Really?” I say. “She always had this super playful attitude with me. We were always playing these mind games with each other. She would challenge me to do something and would always give me these hard deadlines and powerful hard hitting words to motivate me, with just the right mix of support to keep me going.” I wish she could be here for this. This is her great reward, and she’s not here for it. I am glad to have someone to talk to about Sarah. Marriage fixing daughters who time travel were not a common topic of conversation at the office.

“That’s not at all how Sarah talked to me.” My future wife responds. “With me they were very long very emotional letters that helped explain why things were and why they had to change. She would validate my emotions and explain why things happened the way they did, or apologized that they went badly. She was my shoulder to cry on, and her gift to me was her understanding. We slowly worked through all of my baggage and helped me to find closure with how things were in my life. She helped me to make a clean emotional slate so you could come along and fill it.”

“She’s even more amazing than I thought.” I say. “For me she was a motivational speaker and coach. For you she was a friend and a confidant. I thought she just happened to have a personality that fit well with mine, but she’s complicated and flexible enough to not only give me what I need, but what you need as well.”

“That’s our girl.” Angelica says.

“Our girl.” I echo. “That’s weird to say isn’t it?” Angelica nods.

“But she is our girl, or will be. I’m not sure what the proper grammar is for people who exist in multiple places in time simultanesouly, or actually I guess she doesn’t exist yet.”

“It’s so profoundly confusing.” I say. “Let me back up to something you said earlier. You confirmed for me that Sarah told you I would help you let go of this emotional stuff right?”

“That’s right.” Angelica says. “You would help me to move on.”

“That’s also different from me, because I’m at the end of my path. I’m done. She already told me in her letter that I’m what I need to be, but you’re not finished yet.”

“I guess she knew that somewhere deep down every princess wants to be rescued by a prince charming, so she left just enough baggage for you to rescue me from.”

“She’ got to be a psychologist or something.” I say. “We’re here, and I think you’ll find that I took our daughters advice to help you ‘let go’ a bit literally.”

I grab a couple duffle bags full of gear, and a short hike later we are on the edge of wide hole that goes down about four stories.

“You can’t really see from up here.” I tell Angelica. “But there’s a cave at this bottom of this hole. We are going to rappel down into it and then make our way through the cave.”

“I’m sorry; we’re going to do what to get down into this hole?” Angelica asks.

“Rappel.” I say. “You’re going to put on a harness, we are going to run some rope through it. I’m going to tie that rope to a tree, and then I’m going to lower you down.”

“I’m going to have to fall down into this hole.” She surmised.

“At a controller rate, but yes.” I say.

“I have a thing with heights.” She says. “I mean is there another entrance? Could we walk down. I’m really not comfortable doing this kind of thing, and like, have you done this before?”

“Yes.” I reply.

“With this specific cave?” She asks.

“You know what sweetie.” I drop the duffle bags, and tilt her chin up. I then grab both of her hands and squeeze hard enough that it’s almost uncomfortable. I maintain fierce eye contact with her and make sure my face shows the full weight of my words.

“This isn’t about you knowing exactly how safe or dangerous this is. This isn’t about how much experience I have, how good the gear is, how often people get into accidents about this. This is about me being the man you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.”

“I know, but could we just maybe start with something smaller?

“Babe, I would sooner jump off that cliff without any gear on than put you in the smallest degree of danger. Our marriage is going to be built on mutual trust. Show me that trust now. I swear on my honor as a man and your future husband that I will not let you come to any harm.”

She bite her lip and nods. As quick as I can I tie the rope to the tree, put her harness on, and clip her in. Before she can change her mind I’m walking her to the side of the cliff.

“You’re going to lean back, and put your feet flat against the wall.” I tell her. “It’ll all be over in a minute.” She’s biting her lip too hard to respond. “On the count of three.” I tell her. “One, two…” I lean close to her. “I’m not them. You’re safe with me…3” She leans back, and I catch my wife.

I hear her let out a giant breath of air, and slowly let her down to the bottom. As soon as I feel slack in the rope, signaling that she has hit bottom, I grab a duffle bag, the rope, and clip myself in, practically diving over the side to reach her in time.

She’s at the bottom of the cliff with her arms wrapped around herself. She’s shaking.

“It’s okay.” I say as I hit bottom, hastily unclipping myself to wrap her in a hug. “Thank you.” I say.

“Sarah chose her words well.” She tells me. “When you said three, and I fell, it was like I was letting go of myself and falling into you.” Her face gets angry for a moment. “Don’t mess me up.” She orders.

“Never.” I respond. “Come on, we’ve got a walk to do.” I pull out a couple helmets and headlamps, and walk her to the cave entrance.

“Now we got one more thing we’ve got to do.”

“After that fall, this shouldn’t be that bad.” Angelica tells me.

“I thought you might say that.” I say, flipping on my headlamp. Angelica flips her own headlamp on.

“That’s why you’re doing it without your light on.” I reach over and flip her headlamp off. She wants to say something. She’s biting her lip and inhales sharply, but she doesn’t say anything.

“Okay, let’s go princess.” I take her hand, and we walk into the darkness.

Caves are funny places. They’re very muddy, cold, typically damp, and of course, dark. There are many fears you cannot have if you are in a cave, claustrophobia, fear of the dark, arachnophobia, fear of snakes, you can’t be a hypochondriac, or be sensitive to getting cold or muddy, because caves are cold, dark, wet, cramped, dirty places that often have snakes, spiders, and plenty of other nasty creatures. If it has haunted children’s nightmares, there’s at least a small chance of finding it in a cave. Fun fact, Ebola came from a cave.

I know all of this, and I know Angelica is running through these horrible scenarios in her head. She’s imagining each in ever increasing detail, mixing and matching to create the maximum possible fear.

I feel none of this, and I have a way to show her what I see in a cave. I find a spot where the ceiling gets low, and we have to get on our hands and knees. Partway through this crawl space I stop and pull Angelica close. We are both curled into balls with our knees almost reaching the ceiling, or feet on one wall, and our backs on one wall.

“I’m going to turn my light off.” I tell her, and reach out to grab her other hand. “It’s going to be okay.” She’s still got her lip in her mouth, and doesn’t respond.

The light goes out, and I feel her squeeze my hands even tighter. I don’t blame her. Cave darkness is absolute. When you’re on the surface there’s usually some light coming from somewhere, even if it’s faint. With time your eyes adjust and make use of the light. In cave darkness there is no light at all. I hold my hand up to touch my nose, and I don’t see it.

It can also be very quiet. You could hear a pin drop half a football pitch away. Our breathing suddenly seems very loud now that we aren’t moving. It was in this cave that I discovered that blinking makes a very small sound. It’s quiet enough that even the electric buzzing that lightbulbs cause drowns it out, but in caves, you can hear yourself blink.

“There’s a funny thing about being underground.” I say. “Your brain is deprived of most of its primary senses. You can’t see anything at all, the smell of mud is so prevalent that your brain filters it out, and you’re left with smelling nothing, and it’s so quiet that if you stop moving and hold your breath you could almost hear your heart beating.” This does little to comfort her, but I’m not done yet.

“Your brain does an odd thing when it’s deprived like this. See, your brain likes to fill in gaps in information. It’s what allows you to see your blind spot. What we have done is create a blindspot, and now our brains will soon try to fill it in with all sorts of stuff.” Her grip loosens slightly.

“If you just observe yourself and don’t try and control it, your brain will relax and create a flow of imagination. You can play with that flow. I imagine that I’m not in a cave. I’m out under the stars. I see myself floating in a giant sea of black surrounded on all sides by tiny little points of light. I feel myself rotate around to look at all the different points.” I let this image sink into her head, and her grip loosens a little more. “I now imagine us together floating in this far off space.” Her grip loosens entirely, and she no longer feels afraid.

I then partake in one of the great joys of being in a cave. Many things about it like the tight spaces and the darkness can be replicated elsewhere, but I’ve yet to experience this thing anywhere but deep inside the earth, cave singing.

I start singing a song about flying around with someone and exploring the world. My voice reverberates through the cave. The cave walls and passages my voice depth and a unique sound that is not quite an echo. The total lack of other sounds allows the listener to hear a vast array of subtle fluctuations in my voice that would not be audible anywhere else. Every twist of my lips or motion of my tongue is clearly heard. One can almost imagine the exact moves my mouth must be making to create the sounds.

Then my voice does something else, it begins to fill the gaps in our visual imagination. The brain has nothing to work with buy my voice, so it makes my voice fill all the senses. The void we were hovering in suddenly becomes a starlit quest of rapid flying travel through faraway places and far off wonders.

It is a song I have heard many times, and that I had memorized long before I had ever seen our daughter’s letters. It depicts a journey together, with me and my future wife. That image of a journey blots out all else. Angelica turns to cuddle into me, listening to my voice. The cave is forgotten now. There are no low ceilings or muddy walls, there is just the two of us, and the adventure I am singing about.

The song winds down to a close, and silence resumes, but it is not an empty silence any longer. The images and dreams I have painted linger on, and make the dark not a veil that hides untold horrors, but a canvas on which to give life to the deep desires of the heart.

I am about to ask Angelica how she feels, but she answers me before I can ask. She answers me, with a song. I had nearly forgotten Sarah’s talk of my wife’s angelic voice. I understand it now. It is high and clear, different from my low full voice. It rings through the tunnels and speaks of a time of waiting. Of wanting something dearly, so bad that it hurts, and of almost giving up hope.

Then the song changes when she sings of finally finding that which she’s been looking for all along, and it’s everything she always hoped it would be. I have never heard that song before, nor would I ever hear anyone but her sing it again, because it’s her song. I don’t know if she wrote it ahead of time, or was inspired to make it up now, but it’s her song. No, it’s our song.

The song closes, and the silence descends again. Now the darkness is alive with romantic tones. It dances with the possibility of unbound dreams that have become reality.

I still hear her voice, even though there is not so much as an echo of it. I see the movements her lips must have made, going up and down, curving to make the air she was breathing out into words.

I reach out and place a finger on her lips, feeling the softness. She has them closed, and I slide the back of my finger because the back is more sensitive and I wanted to feel everything about them.

I feel a finger on my lips do the same thing, tracing a line all the way around, from the top to the bottom and back again.

I put one hand on the back of her head, and another on her shoulder. I pull her towards me, and she comes. It’s slow, and I can’t see in the dark, but I know our eyes are closed.

Her lips come as a surprise. It’s hard to gauge distance, but I suddenly feel warmth and moisture on my own lips. Her upper lip is between mine, and her lower one wraps around my lower lip. She’s soft, there is not much tension in her lips, and I match it with the strength of my own.

There in that moment, we are joined. I hear a great beast roar in my chest as everything in me says ‘yes, I can protect this woman. She is mine, and I am hers’. Her softness compliments my strength as for a few precious spaces in time we become one.

When we part I grab her cheeks, and kiss first her forehead, and then both her cheeks. She leans her head onto my shoulder, and I wrap an arm around her waist. I don’t know how long we sat there like that, but any amount of time would’ve been too short.

I can’t think of anything poetic enough to end the moment with, but I know it’s got to end because the sun might be setting, and it will be difficult to find our way back to the car in the night. I wordlessly shift my shoulder, and flip my light back on.

We both flinch and blink away after images. It felt like someone shoved a star in our faces.

“So soon?” She asks.

“All good things must come to an end.” I say. “But this thankfully isn’t an end. We will get to do this many more times. We just have to take a brief break.”

We make our way through the cave, and now it’s a joyous occasion. We point out cave formations that look like our favorite movie characters, and skip rocks across the small underground ponds we find.

There are a few points where the tunnel we are walking through crosses a river, and I carry her across them so she doesn’t get wet. Whenever I pick her up I bow and say “M’lady.” Offering my arms.

“Thank you my knight.” She responds with a british accent as she delicately sits in my arms.

We play prince and princess, pretending that through these caves are dragons and golden treasures. We must escape, but we must also find the treasure. I pause whenever there is a bend in the path, and feign fear as I peak around the corner to make sure the coast is clear. Playing make believe wasn’t something I had done since I could count my age on my fingers, but it felt right with her. It was like being a kid again.

Angelica had entered the cave closed up with fear, and she exits it bursting with happiness, and begging to go back again.

We hike back another mile or so to my vehicle, and I think that right now everything is as it should be. Our tasks are done. I have surely made Angelica let go of whatever she was holding on to, and now we belong to each other.

Our story has reached its perfection. Then, as Angelica has her eyes closed and is just leaning me on, trusting me to guide her through the trees back to the car, I realize it’s not perfect.

Everything should be perfect. Angelica is here, and both of us are falling head over heels for each other. Then why is there still a letter left?

“Angelica.” I say.

“Hmmm?” She responds.

“Did Sarah leave you any more letters?” She shakes her head.

“The last one told me to meet you here, why? Do you have a letter left?” She asks.

“Yes, and it’s for three years in the future.” I say.

“That’s strange. Do you have any idea what it could be?”

“She usually wrote to teach me something in order to make me a better person, or to comfort me in a time of sorrow.”

“Well I guess you still have one lesson left to learn.” Angelica says. Her dismissal of the other alternative does not escape my notice. She’s right though. She’s trying to tell me that that letter won’t be a part of our lives for another three years. I let it go, and we she changes the subject.

We spend the rest of the day enjoying each other’s company, she cooks me dinner, and I take her home at the end of the night. For the next year we spend many days like this. We explore many new things together. I am glad to have her at my side as I lead her through adventure after adventure. She continually amazes me with her grace and beauty in all things.

She begins to hang out with my family, discussing boys with Grace, and girls with James. She tries to discuss girls with Andy, but finds that he prefers a silent game of chess or some other strategy game. This too she obliges, making sure to study chess strategies before she pays my family a visit.

The happiness we have is tainted only by the letter. It hands over our relationship like a giant question mark. We spend many nights discussing what it could hold. We plan out our lives several years in advance, and begin to set our lives in order to avert any possible financial or medical crisis.

Both of us undergo rigorous testing and investigate our family trees to try and find where this mystery problem will come from. We take advanced defensive and evasive driving courses. We inspect our homes and vehicles regularly, becoming masters of maintenance and repair. We remodel our homes and upgrade our cars without ever having to consult contractors or engineers because we already know everything they could tell us.

Still, we find no answers, having explored all other possible options, Angelica finally says what I’ve been too afraid to say.

“It’s the baby.” Sarah said.

“What are you talking about?” I ask, feigning ignorance.

“We both know in about another year we’re going to marry, that leaves a little over one year until the letter. What can you think of that tends to happen a year after marriage?” Both of us had done the math early on. We had pretended that we hadn’t. We fervently pursued all other avenues which a sudden crisis would come from. We had even become responsible for our family’s home and auto repair to insure their safety as well, and both of our families were now on the same preventative diet. Both of us had hoped we would find some hidden time bomb that we could avoid, or at least foresee coming. We could no longer deceive ourselves.

“It could be something sudden.” I say. “There are some tragedies that you just can’t predict.”

“We can keep lying to ourselves all we want, but do you really think the timing is a coincidence?” She asks.

I say the other thing I’ve been avoiding. “It could be you.” I say. “Childbirth is dangerous.”

“I know.” She says. “And I know what I’m getting into. After all Sarah has done for us could I really deny her this?”

“Our first child might not be her.” I say. “She doesn’t say she’s our first born in my letters, maybe our first child…” I can’t finish the sentence

It’s the first and only time we have the conversation. We write a last will and testament together, something that is very uncommon for married people to do, and we both try and forget the conversation.

The time flies as our relationship grows and prospers. I propose to her on a beach in the Caribbean during a family vacation. Dolphins were involved. We anxiously plan a wedding where we invite all of our friends and family together to celebrate us.

We find each day that we are more and more a perfect match made for each other. A match made by our own daughter.

We spend our honeymoon hiking the trails of the grand canyon, and then spending a week on new Zealand beaches.

When we get back we set about making a home and a life together, insuring everything is perfect for the arrival of our daughter.

Sure enough, in early April, we get the news. Angelica is pregnant! We leap for joy, literally, when we get confirmation from the doctor, and proceed to run every single medical test in the book. We schedule every exam possible and run every test. They all come up blank. As far as we can determine, our child is fine.

We discover it’s a girl, and when the nurse shows us our sonogram we name her Sarah. We celebrate her arrival by reading each other’s letters. We had started to read them on the night we met, but it didn’t feel right without Sarah. Now Sarah had joined us, and we thought it was fitting that the first story we read to her was the story of how she had gotten her parents together.

We count down the days to December 25th, as it becomes clearer and clearer that is the day she will be born. The doctors tell us a due date, but we don’t remember what it is, because we know the exact date and time our daughter will be born.

On Christmas morning we don’t open presents, we don’t sing songs. We sit in a car outside an emergency room, and wait for her contractions to start.

The instant she feels them we rush inside and demand a bed. We are shown the room, and it’s the most tense hours of our lives. I glance from my wife, giving her assurance it’s going to be okay, to the doctors to try and read some sign of how the procedure is going, to the clock to see how much longer until 7:53 PM.

We demand constant updates from the doctors as Angelica moves through the birthing process. As ever, everything goes fine. Sarah’s head appears, and she’ not breathing.

The doctors rush her to another room. Angelica goes hysterical and they have to sedate her.

I follow the doctors and wait outside the operating room. I can’t believe it. I didn’t think it would really happen. I look at the look 7:53. I open the letter. On it there is no date, and no signature, just two words.

Turn around.”

I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn to see a nurse in blue scrubs with long brown hair and blue eyes like the sky. Just like her mother

“Hey dad.” She says.

“How, what, why.” I stumble through the words, trying to find the right ones.

“It’s okay.” She says. “I’m going to be alright.” She tells me. As if on cue a baby cries in the next room. She’s alive. She’s breathing.

“I wouldn’t have been able to help you along if I didn’t live through this.” She says.

“My wife.” I say.

“She’s fine. She’ll need you when the sedatives wear off, but there’s nothing wrong with her.” She had appeared like an angel, just in the nick of time to ward off evil.

“Why now?” I ask. “You’ve never appeared before.”

“Besides the obvious?” She says. “Because this is where the cycle begins.”

“The cycle?” I ask.

“The cycle of time travel.” She says. “I can only go back once per lifetime, and so whenever I am born again I will time travel again, so I must instruct you to hand over the letters to her, along with my notes so that she can fix the timeline and make things right between you and mom.”

“You have to grow up every time? I thought time travel was like driving a car between two different locations.” Sarah shakes her head.

“No, it’s more like sending a manned shuttle to Mars, it’s a one way trip.” She informs me.

“So every single time you came back. You had to wait for years for the plan to come to fruition, and when it failed you had to hand over what went wrong to me so I could pass it on to you.” She nods. I ask the big question.

“How many times did you go back?”

“It only ever feels like I’ve been once because I’ve been working off notes from myself, but I do keep a running tally of how many times I’ve tried to make things work.”

“How many?” I ask.

“103.” She says. I’m dumbfounded.

“103.” I repeat.

“Yes.” She says. “And now it’s done. The cycle is complete. It’s time for me to go. Say hi to your daughter. You won’t see me again, but I’ll be watching. You may not see me, but I’ll always be watching.”

The End

For those who simply cannot wait for another book ‘Unhooked’ is also available under novellas https://samgalimore.com/2014/10/16/unhooked-part-one/ as well as two shorter novellas Or one of the shorter novellas https://samgalimore.com/2014/10/12/for-use-in-the-apocaypse-novella-version/ https://samgalimore.com/2014/10/04/man-out-of-time/. I will also be working on another project that’s been sitting in my back pocket for some time now. Thank you for being a part of the creation of this book. Each and every one of you played a part in its creation. May you find peace and warmth in your life, Sam.

Breaking news! Just talked with an independent director last night, and Letters To My Father will be made into an episodic movie! Super excited about this. Many of you asked about a movie, and I guess somebody stepped up to the plate. If you want more details, go and bug reddit.com/u/ulyssesarias . He’s trying to make it as high quality as possible with location shoots and professionals, so he will be starting a kickstarter in a couple weeks, and shooting should start in February or March of next year. I’ll post more as things get closer.

Letters to my father part 5

“What do you mean run away? When did this happen?” I say in disbelieve.

“I mean he’s not here. I don’t know where he is, and I’m scared.” Her voice is shaking.

“Okay, what are the parents doing?” I ask, trying to wrap my head around what’s going on.

“The parents are on a plan to Ireland. They left this morning and won’t be on the ground for another. Brother, I’m scared.” She’s repeating herself. She’s freaked out.

“I know sis. Stay there, I’m coming over right now. Get our other younger brother and sit down in the down kitchen. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Sun down is in an hour. We will have to move quick to find him. I wish I had known about this before spending most of my time after I got home from my job working on dropping the lines.

I make the nearly one hour drive in thirty minutes, running several stop signs, red lights, and exceeding the speed limit by a very wide margin that has me dodging in and out of traffic. I probably wrack up a couple hundred dollars in tickets from red light cameras and speeding cameras, but by some miracle no cop pulls me over. I blaze into the driveway of my parent’s house and blitz inside.

My sister is red eyed with several used tissues in front of her. My brother is sitting across from her twiddling with his thumbs. Upon seeing me enter my sister runs over and hugs me.

“I don’t know where he went. I was making dinner, and wanted a hand chopping some vegetables up, so I called him, and he didn’t answer. I tried several times and he wouldn’t respond so I looked all through the house, thinking he had headphones on, and he wasn’t anywhere. I tried calling his phone and I find out he left it behind in his room.” He left his cell phone behind. He must really be trying to avoid us. “I called James, thinking he might be hanging out with him, but he said he hasn’t seen little Andy all day. I don’t know when he left or how long he’s been gone.”

“Did he say anything to you today? Has he been upset at you or someone else?” My sister pulls away from me and shakes her head. Her nose is starting to drip.

“I didn’t know anything. We don’t talk much, but he seemed perfectly happy.”

“Alright sis, it’s going to be okay. Come on, have a seat and we’re going to sort this thing out.” I pull her chair out for her, and then sit down next to her to talk.

“James.” I address my younger brother who hasn’t gotten himself lost. “Did you notice anything strange about Andy? Has he been complaining about something in particular, or talking about something excessively?” James shakes his head.

“I haven’t talked to him much recently either, but when I did he seemed perfectly happy. Maybe mom and dad said something to him that set him off.” This isn’t much help.

“Guys, I’m not around much. If I don’t know something about what’s going on I can’t be of any help. You’re telling me you have absolutely no reason why he would do this?” I ask.

“He complained about the food around here a few days ago.” James says. “That’s literally the last thing I remember him saying.”

“It wasn’t my cooking.” Grace said defensively.

“No one is making any accusations. We’re just trying to get the facts straight.” I tell Grace. “You guys really have no ide why this would happen?” They both shake their heads. Clearly our family has communication issues. No one knew what was going on with anyone else, even the people who lived in the same house together. I felt slightly better for not being involved in their lives. None of us were involved in each other’s lives.

“Alright, we’ve got to try and find him. Can either of you drive?” I feel like a horrible person for not even knowing if my own siblings can drive. They both shake their heads again.

“Okay, that’s going to make things harder. Grace, you stay here in case he comes back. You can also call people to try and get information. James, you come with me.”

“Who should I call?” Grace asks.

“Friends, neighbors, anyone, just call anyone who might know something or have seen him. Let them know we’re looking for him. At the very least having more eyes looking out for him is going to help.” Grace is still red eyed and drippy nosed.

“It’s going to be okay Grace.” I tell her, putting an arm around her shoulder. “We’re going to find him. If we don’t hear anything by sundown we will call the police and get them in on the search.” Grace nods her head.

“Okay.” She says. “Thank you for coming big brother.”

“Hey, anything for my siblings.” I say, ruffling her hair affectionately.

“We will be back to check in with you in an hour.” I pat her on the back and stand up. “Let’s go James.” I tell my remaining younger brother. The two of us head to my car and begin cruising the neighborhood.

“Do you know where he might go?” I ask James as we pull out.

“I don’t know man. He could be anywhere.” James dejectedly stares out his window.

“No he can’t.” I respond. “He’s got two legs, not much money, and no car. Does he have a bike? I ask.

“No.” James says.

“Then he could only go so far. Besides. He’s probably not just going to run randomly. He’s smart right?” I hate that I have to ask if my own brother is smart.

“Yes.” James replies.

“Then he’s got a plan. We just need to figure out what his plan is, and we can find him. Now, he might run to somewhere he’s familiar with. He’s got to be upset about something. Maybe he went to his ‘happy place’, so to speak. What I need from you, is where that might be.” James still looked out his window. He must be a big introvert.

“Come on James, I know you guys didn’t talk much, none of us did, but any information at all you can tell me about where he liked to go would help. Where were his stomping grounds? Where does he feel safe?” James pulls himself away from the window.

“I’ll start with the first one. He was good at school right? I see him posting about contests he’s won, teams he’s made it onto, and good grades he’s gotten.” The good grades was a little insensitive to be putting online, but I took it Andy had not yet mastered the social graces. “So let’s go to his school. You guys go to the same school don’t you? Can you show me how to get to it.”

“I’m in high school and he’s in middle school.” James says. Yet another instance of me not knowing anything about my brothers or sister. I want to give myself a by because I’m old enough that I don’t really remember how old high schoolers and middle schoolers are. I know how old he is, but I don’t remember what age equals what grade anymore. “But I know where his school is, make a left here.”

Our parents live several miles outside of town, it takes eight minutes of precious daylight to navigate to the school. I drop James off at the front.

“You wander through the grounds and see if you can find anything. I’m going to take a slow loop around the school in the car and see if I can spot him that way.” I start to pull away when James asks.

“What do I do if I see him.” I hadn’t thought that far in advance, and I think quickly to come up with the answer.

“He’s scared and maybe angry. As much as I hate to say this, treat him like a wild animal. He could bolt, or he could charge you. Approach him slowly, and in as non-threatening a way as you can. Then tell him it’s okay. Tell him he can come home.”

“Okay, I will, thanks big brother.” James calls as he hops a chain link fence onto the school grounds.

“Hurry!” I shout after him. I can see him start to bolt across the school as I pull away.

I can’t imagine what would cause a kid like Andy to run away. He had everything going for him. His scholastics were outstanding. He must have glowing support from the parents. At least, I think he did. He had run away right as they had left. Could it be something the parents said? Or could it be something else.

The parents had left, and then he had. Was it because he felt abandoned? But how could he feel abandoned. He had three great siblings. Grace had been cooking a meal for him. I remember Grace’s cooking. It was top notch. He was in for a treat. Then he had two brothers. James had been, well actually, I think James had been off somewhere else. The way Grace told the story it had sounded like she had been alone, and had to call James to her. Then there was me. I was never around. Could this be my fault? Had I so blotted out my family life that I had alienated my own sibling into doing something reckless and stupid?

I don’t see Andy anywhere. I finish my loop and meet James back in front of the school. He’s sweating hard. He must’ve been sprinting the whole time.

“Did you see him?” Andy isn’t with James, but maybe he had run off and was coming to get me so we could follow in the car.

“I didn’t see anything. If he’s here, I don’t know where he could be.”

“That’s okay. We still have a bit of daylight left. Get in. Have you thought of anywhere else he might go?” I ask James.

“Yeah actually.” James enters the shotgun seat. “Make a right up here.” We speed off.

“He used to go to the ice skating rink a lot.” James tells me.

“Ice skating?” I say in disbelief. “It’s the middle summer, where is he going to go ice skating?”

“At an indoor ice skating rink, it’s a left at the next light.” James says.

“We have an indoor ice skating rink?” I ask in disbelief. “When did we get one of those?”

“Four summers ago, after the winter Olympics.” James replies.

“I didn’t know Andy was an ice skater. How come he never posts about it.” James shrugs.

“I’m not really sure. Maybe because nobody knows he does it. I’ll bet when he goes there no one knows him for being really smart or popular, they just know him as a fellow ice skater. Andy gets a lot of attention, and I don’t think he likes it. He gets to escape all the people trying to talk to him here.”

I’m learning so much about my siblings on the drive. I pull into a parking space quick enough that James involuntarily slams his feet against the floor of the car in the hope that he will hit an imaginary brake pedal.

We both run inside to the front desk.

“Have you seen a little kid about so high.” I ask the lady at the desk, and hold up my hand to show my estimation of Andy’s height.

“More like this height.” James hold up a hand to contradict my own estimation. Andy has grown a lot since last I talked to him.

“Brown hair, he goes by Andy.” I add on to James’ statement.

“Oh yeah, Andy.” The lady says. We both get a glimmer of hope in our eyes. “I Haven’t seen him in three weeks. He normally doesn’t come here a lot during the summer. It’s too crowded he says.” I ball my hand into a fist and have to resist slamming it into the counter.

“Thank you.” I manage to get out, and grab James to leave.

“Anywhere else?” I ask. “We’ve got enough daylight to check maybe one more place. I’m going to make a loop around the parking lot, but I need to know where else he might go.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course.” James says as we both slide into the car. “There’s one more place. I don’t know if he still goes there, but Andy used to really like the local church. You know how the parents make us go? He sticks around a lot afterwards and just sits. I don’t know why, but he likes it.”

“The church with the stain glass window of the guy crossing a river with a lamb on his back?” I ask James as I complete my lap around the parking lot.

“Yeah, that’s the one.” James says.

“Great, hold on.” I run two red lights in order to get there before sundown, but I make it. James goes off running around the church to see if he’s sitting on one of the benches outside. I make my way inside.

Inside the church is empty, no Andy. I walk quickly to the back of the church to check the rooms behind the alter. I whisper Andy’s name into both of the rooms, no response. I should have run through and yelled his name, but somehow it didn’t feel right doing that in a church. It’s so quite and serene I don’t want to be the pebble that disturbs the pond, even if there’s no one there.

I head back outside and meet James.

“Tell me you found him.” I say to James. He has to have found him. This is the last place we can afford to look. The sun is going down. Grace hasn’t called to tells us he returned home. We’ve got maybe two minutes of daylight left. He has to be here.

“Sorry.” James says. “I got nothing.” I do punch the door to the church. He was supposed to be here. It was the last place we could look. Why would he not be here? I want to punch the door again, but I have to pull it together for James.

“That’s okay. We will go home and get the professionals on this. If we can’t find him they can.” I say, but I should’ve been the one to find him. I’m his older brother. It’s my job to take care of him, and in failing to find him I’ve failed. I’m sure Sarah is watching, and it hurts that much more knowing I’ve disappointed her as well.

We pile into the car at a normal walking pace, and head home obeying all traffic laws.

“It’ll be okay.” I tell James again. He doesn’t say anything back.

It’s a full ten minute drive home, and the sunset punctuates are failure. The last rays are just fading in the distance, signaling that our attempt to find him as reached its end. We are forced to give in. Everything closes around here at dark, and the lack of daylight will prevent us from seeing him.

As I turn into our parent’s neighborhood, I see a kid walking up the side of the road with reflective tape all over his shirt. He looks about the same height as James had estimated Andy would be.

“James.” I say, keeping my voice calm as we pull alongside him. “Is that?”

“Andy!” James shouts, opening the car door. I slam on the brakes and put the car in park in the middle of the street.

We both ignore my advice to be deal with Andy cautiously, and rush out of the car to bear hug him before he can get away.

“He gu…” He gets out before I pick him up and crush his lungs, before handing him over to James to do the same.

I spot a plastic bag on the ground. It’s got food in it. He had been getting supplies. I pick up the bag and chuck it as far as I can throw it.

“It’s okay Andy.” I say while James still has him in a bear hug. “You won’t be needing supplies. We are going to take you home and feed you. Grace has been preparing a hero’s dinner at home. Whatever it is that made you run away. We can fix it. We are here for you now Andy.”

James puts Andy down, and it is at this point I see the highly confused and surprised look on Andy’s face.

“Run away?” He asks. “Who ran away?”

His question caught me off guard. “You did Andy.” I say. “You’ve been gone. Your sister is horribly worried, and you’ve picked up supplies for your escape.”

“Escape?” Andy says. James is starting to examine the blades of grass by the sidewalk in an attempt to distance himself from the conversation.

“I wasn’t trying to escape. Those ‘supplies’ were snacks the parents don’t let me eat.” I look in the back. It’s full of soda, chips, candy, and other stuff that parents try to avoid feeding to their kids.

“Well um, I guess it is. Hang on though, you left your cell phone behind. You left without telling anyone, and you were gone for hours.” I think he might be just trying to cover his tracks now that he knows he’s been caught.

“I left my cell phone because I hate people texting and calling me all the time.” Andy says.

“You could’ve just turned it off.” I suggest.

“It feels more liberating to leave it behind.” He says. “As for the leaving without telling and being gone for hours, I was only gone for two hours, because that’s how long it takes to walk to the store and back, and I didn’t tell anyone because none of you guys ever take an interest in what I do.” He says.

Those words hit home. I see James feel them too. Me and him are both in the same boat, Grace too. We are all his older siblings. It’s not his responsibility for him to keep up with us. It’s our responsibility to keep up with him.

“I think we’ve learned our lesson Andy.” I tell him. “We’ve been worried sick over you. Let’s all go home and sort this out.” It’s a silent car ride up the street to the parent’s.

Upon our arrival Andy calls out for Grace. She comes streaking into the room to give Andy his third attempted asphyxiation through hugging of the day. Andy handles it well.

“How did you find him? Where was he?” Grace asks.

“We’ve got to have a talk Grace.” I say. “Let’s meet in the dining room. There are some things we need to go over.” Grace catches the somber tone in my voice. She nods, thinking she understand what’s going on. She puts on arm around Andy.

Once we are all seated around the dining I start off.

“First things first, Grace, Andy didn’t run away. He was walking to the store to pick up some junk food now that the parents were gone.” I produce the bag, and Grace looks appropriately shocked. “We all over reacted. He wasn’t gone long, and we had no reason to believe he had run. That’s our fault. Thankfully we kept our heads enough that this will probably not get back to the parents. If they find out we are this badly coordinated and irresponsible it’ll be bad for you guys. I’m out of the house so there isn’t a lot they can do to me, but I’m sure you guys are going to get the world’s biggest grounding. To make sure it doesn’t get back, we are all going to go through our phones and call back everyone we told about this to let them know it’s okay, and Andy didn’t run away. It was all just a misunderstanding. Hopefully, that will be enough.” Grace looks crestfallen. I’m sure she made many calls, and will now have to make many more. It would be good for us. We needed a little negative reinforcement after what we had done.

“Second, Andy, we are sorry.” James knows why I’m apologizing, but Grace’s face is asking me why I’m apologizing. “All of us are sorry. You didn’t know we cared enough to check up on you, so you didn’t think it necessary to tell us where you were going or when you would be back. Ultimately, this whole episode is our fault. So Andy, I am very sorry that I haven’t been the big brother you deserve.” I pause and look at James.

“I’m sorry too Andy. I should’ve kept in touch better.” James says.

“Me too Andy, I’m sorry I haven’t been a good older sister.” Grace says.

“I’m sorry too.” Andy says. “I haven’t been an enthusiastic supportive younger brother either. I can’t blame you guys for not talking to me. I haven’t talked to you either.”

“It’s good of you to say that Andy.” I say. “That brings us to the third order of business, making sure this doesn’t happen again. I think we can all agree, and this event has made it perfectly clear, we have all been pretty awful siblings too each other. We don’t fight, but that’s only because we don’t interact enough to have a reason to fight. We need to resolve to keep in touch better, and to start us off, I’m going to take us on a little adventure. Brothers and sister, we are going rock climbing tomorrow.”

What follows is an eager exchange between the four of us as we go over every detail with fervor. They want to know where we are going and how we are going to do it. I enjoy sharing my new hobby with my siblings.

I take them back to my place for the night, and setup a campfire outside. We make use of the marshmallows and chocolate that Andy bought to make s’mores. I feel, right, like this is how things are supposed to be, my younger siblings are at my house, using the fire I made, sleeping outside with my gear. I can’t wait until tomorrow where I can get to teach them new stuff, but I love our conversation around the fire.

James finally opens up after being tight lipped all day.

“I just don’t get it.” He says. “None of the sophomore girls seem to take an interest in me. I’m smart. I’m funny. I have a lot going on for me at school, but that doesn’t seem to matter to them.” He addressed his statement to Grace. No doubt hoping she could volunteer some helpful information, but I answered for her.

“Little bro, you’ve come to the right place.” I start my older brother job of teaching the younger ones the ways of life a little sooner than I expected.

The next day I wake them up with surprise cinnamon rolls and chocolate milk that I slipped out of the house to buy. They are ecstatic at the unexpected treats, and I tell them to eat them on the way, we are heading out to the rocks immediately.

On the way out we play old car games like ‘I spy’ and ‘Twenty Questions’. Andy is annoyingly good at picking very specific species of animals that no one knows, and James goes for a bunch of older historical figures that I haven’t heard of, but Grace knows every last one. I am without a doubt the worst at the game, trying to select animals that I think are cool is a rather poor strategy it turns out.

When we get to the cliff I have them inspect the gear I’ve brought, making sure the ropes aren’t frayed, and none of the metal bits have tell tale scratches or dents on them. We have a safety talk about what we are about to do, and they help me set up the rope systems.

I’ve done trust falls before. They are a good group exercise where each person takes a turn falling into another person’s arm. I had thought it was good for group cohesion because there is genuine tension when you trust someone else to catch you. This is nothing compared to leaning backwards off of a cliff because someone told you too.

We spend the afternoon moving up and down the cliff face. During the intermissions between climbs I discuss college plans with Grace, date ideas with James, and book plots with Andy. When the sun sets we head back to my place to call the parents. They’re happy to see us hanging out together, and as we sit around the nights campfire we make plans to keep in touch. Come hell or high water at 5:00 on Sunday we will all be in front of a computer screen to have a skype chat.

The next day when I drop them off I realize I’ve hardly thought of Sarah in two days, and I’ve got five whole days before her next letter. I spend them with my family, insuring that the bond we have started to form becomes strong. It’s not only what Sarah would want me to do, it’s the right thing to do.

Five days later I find myself making my way to the attic to retrieve one of the final three letters. I hope it’s this letter. The next letter is three months off. The final letter is over three years off. I have plenty of things to occupy myself with, but I can’t help but wonder about my wife. She’s out there somewhere. Is she talking to guys and hanging out with family? Are there people making her life hard? I want to read her letters and compare them to my own. I open the box and pull out the sixteenth letter. Please tell me where she is.

07/10/2014

Hey dad, wow, that is so weird talking to you. I mean I haven’t talked to you in months and now here I am, communicating with my dad. Wow, I can communicate with you whenever I want now.” What? Was there some mix up, this letter sounded like it was the first time we had spoken. Had my daughter’s, until now, perfectly formed plan suddenly developed a hole? Had she gotten cocky and forgot to double check her work?

I know that this is going to be one of the last letters you read, but it’s the first one I’m writing.” That didn’t make any sense at all. Who would start an 18 letter series with the sixteenth letter? “I know that’s confusing, but it’s because I wanted to say this first. All of the other letters are going to be edited and sent countless times as I go back and time again and again to get everything just right for you and make you into the man I know you can be.”

                “That’s the reason I’m writing this letter first. I don’t want what I’m about to say to be tainted by knowledge of the future. I haven’t gone back in time to see you yet, and I have no proof for how these letters will change your life, so you know that what I’m about to say is based on faith, and faith alone.”

                “Thank you dad, it’s been a long journey for you. You have fought so hard for so long to change the things about you that are dead weight. You have ruthlessly cut out the part of you that damage your life, and carefully grown new parts that give life to you and all those around you. You have become a pillar of strength, the cornerstone of your siblings. You have taken charge of your life, and helped to guide the lives of those around you. You’ve made yourself into the person that mom and I need and desire. You have become a true prince charming that saves the princess and protects his kingdom from invaders. I am proud to call myself your daughter. I know in good times and in bad our family can rely on you. You make us safe, secure, and loved. Thank you for being who you are.”

Love always,

Sarah

The first letter, this was her first letter. This was written without the knowledge that multiple trips to the past provided. All of her other instructions had been based on her experience and what she had seen. She must’ve traveled back countless times to make all this happen. She had done all of this for me, and she had known I could do it. From the very start she had known that her father was a man capable of doing incredible things, and she had empowered me to do them. I owed her so much. I would have to spend a lifetime paying it back to her. This letter I do not put back in the box. I fold it carefully, and put in the back of my wallet.

During the next three months I read it often. I honor her by keeping to the habits she has taught me. I continue to broaden my outdoors knowledge, develop into even better shape, grow closer to my family, and become more and more confident with the opposite gender. I wait dutifully for the right time to open the second to last letter, with the letter in my wallet it’s easy to find the strength to hold off opening it.

What could the last two letters be? Clearly one is to setup a meeting with my future wife, but what of the other? She had finished with her purpose of making me into a better human being, what else was there to do besides meet my wife?

Was there some dark thing that would happen on one of those days? She had written letters before with the purpose of encouraging me, or steering me back onto the straight and narrow path when I strayed off it. Was I going to slip somehow? Would I meet someone else and begin dating a woman who wasn’t my wife? I begin to be anxious about the approaching final letter. One of them is going to be bear good news, but I begin to fear the second. What else could it be but bad news? And it would truly be a dark day. There were no more letters for me. This event must be the worst event in my life to be the only thing from now until my daughter began time traveling that was bad enough to warrant some outside support.

The day finally arrives. After seven months, this could be the end. This could be it. I could read my wife’s name, and begin to date her. We would finally meet after seven months of toil and strife. I could not wait to hear the trials she had endured.

Or, it could be my darkest day. I drive to work using back roads to avoid traffic and any potentially horrible accidents. I do nothing at work for four hours, afraid that my slightest action would somehow get me fired or cause permanent injury, and then I think they might fire me because I’m not doing anything. So I spend another four hours writing emails that don’t need to be written so it looks like I’m doing something.

I jump every time my cell phone goes off, afraid it could delivering bad news. I open every text message slowly, bracing myself for the worst. It’s time to leave work, and still nothing has happened. I practically tip toe out of the building, and for the first time in my life, drive below the speed limit on the back roads home.

At my home I make my dinner while carefully inspecting each and every item to insure it is still in good condition, and free of any mold or impurity that could potentially damage my health.

After dinner I don’t make a fire. I just set in my living room, with my largest kitchen knife in my lap. The TV is off. My phone is on, but I don’t use it, and all other electronic devices are off. I glance anxiously from door to door, waiting for someone to break in, or a fire to start, or a bomb to go off. I glance down at my cell phone every now and then to check for messages, but it’s silent the whole night.

When the clock reads 11:40, I decide to head up to the attic. I walk slowly through the house, checking every corner and frequently looking behind me to make sure nothing has gotten in and begun following me. I reach the attic after the slowest most agonizing walk through my house I have ever taken. It was worse than watching a horror movie by yourself, in the dark, and then walking around your house alone.

I scan the attic for anything out of place that could signal an intruder, and then locate the chest. It’s in tact, just the way I left it. I put my back to a wall and keep the attic entrance in the corner of my eye as I open the box and pull out the seventeenth letter.

I pray fervently as I open it. I’m not out of the woods yet. This letter could be instructions for how to survive a disaster that occurred immediately afterwards, or could describe a horrible situation as it unfolds. I open the letter and begin to read.

10/17/2014

Dear dad, her name is Angelica.”

Letters to my father part 4

 Should I be worried about my daughter? Was this normal behavior for someone in the future? I was concerned how she knew all of this. Was my daughter a player? I mean, it had to work if she told it would. This time travel thing made her borderline omniscient, but still, we were going to have a talk about boys when she grew up.

Focus, think about your daughter’s dating life later, focus on getting her born. Ten lines in seven days, and they were some doozies. I was going to make such an idiot out of myself. Who said this kind of stuff?

This could be one of her tricks. I heard guys got slapped for saying pick-up lines to girls could get you slapped. Maybe my daughter thought it would be funny to get me slapped a bunch.

I had better buckle down to this, first I would pick a line, then I would need to find a girl to drop it on. So, which line was the easiest? It was kind of creepy to ask for a picture, so the first one is out. Religion is a hot topic, so second one is gone. Marriage was really fast paced, so the third one wasn’t an option. The fourth one had promise. I knew girl’s sometimes kept band aids in their purses, and asking strangers for medical help was kind of socially acceptable. It was cute. I could do it.

Next thing was to find a place. Where had I did girls go? Had I seen any recently? There was the dance hall, but I wanted to go back there sometime, so I didn’t want to make a fool of myself there. I saw girls jogging around sometime, but that took a while. Sometimes I could jog for miles without seeing a single female. There were bars and clubs, but I didn’t frequent such places.

Maybe this was why I needed more help with girls, there weren’t any places I ran into them a lot in my normal life. If I was a girl, where would I go? Hair salon? Nah, I didn’t need a haircut, and I would be strapped down to a chair. If I was going to do this I wanted a quick means of escape.

What about somewhere where they sold makeup? No good, I didn’t know if those stores existed, much less where they were. I needed some place more normal.

Girls had to eat too, what about a restaurant? Oh, a coffee shop would be perfect! There were probably plenty of girls, and I could leave whenever I wanted. It was perfect. I now had a mission, and there was plenty of daylight left to make it happen.

A short while later I found myself in a coffee shop waiting in line between two girls who, as luck would have it, worth both close to me in age. Good, this would be easy. The girl in front of me had three people in front of her, I would spend the next minute or two psyching myself out, and when she completed her order I would ask her for a band aid as she walked passed me. Good, this was good. I could do this.

Alright, two people left, here we go. Wait, isn’t this weird? She’s going to know I haven’t scraped my knee. I’ve been standing behind her this whole time. She’s going to see right through it. This wasn’t going to work.

One person left. No, I was being stupid. It wasn’t supposed to make sense. It was supposed to be cute. It was all for shock view anyway. I just had to get this out of the way so I could continue with my daughter’s plan.

Oh shoot, now she’s ordering, any second now I’m going to have to do it. She’s getting a hot chocolate, can I work with that? Maybe something about girl’s liking chocolate? No, no, stay on topic, don’t make this too complicated.

Now’s she’s turning, this is it. What was my line again, something about bleeding? That wasn’t it. She sees me looking at her! Look away quickly, act like you were looking at the menu. Good, I think I saved it. I forgot my line, but that was okay, there was still the girl behind me. I would order, turn, and drop the line. Make it quick and easy, don’t overthink it.

“Sir what can I get you?” The cashier asks me with a professional smile. What do they serve here again? I managed to not read a single word when I had pretended to study the menu.

“I’ll have what she’s having.” I say, gesturing to the last girl.

“Small hot chocolate?” She asks. I nod and hand her my card. Any second now I’m going to have to turn and address the girl behind me. I needed to focus on the line. ‘Did I scrape my knee falling for you?’. That didn’t make sense.

“Here’s your hot chocolate sir.” The lady said.

“Knees.” I say back to her. Her professional smile slips for a second.

I can’t say anything now, look at the ground and walk away. Just look at the ground away. I walk outside with my drink, too red faced to possibly go back in. I must be one of the world’s most socially inept people. I had whiffed not one, but two chances to drop the line, and had even botched what should be a routine interaction with someone who is paid to be sociable to me.

I kick a trash can on my way to my car. I stub my toe doing this, and spill hot chocolate on myself, which is still quite hot. I barely manage to stop myself from swearing as one of the girls from the shop comes up to me. She had been walking to her car, and had heard me kick the trash can.

“Are you okay? That sounds like it hurt.” She looks at my leg.

“I think it’s okay, but do you have a band aid? I think I scraped my knee falling for you.” She looks like she’s just seen an oncoming train, and I feel like a jerk. Then she laughs and gets a very genuine smile.

“Thank you.” She says, and starts walking away. It worked! Holy cow it worked! I didn’t get slapped, and she had even laughed! I kind of wanted to go back and pick up the conversation. Maybe I could take that somewhere. No, first rule of this thing was don’t pick up numbers. The goal was to get better with girls so I could treat my wife well. I wasn’t actually supposed to succeed.

Wow it was such a rush to make a girl smile like that. It was like that feeling of starting a fire, mixed with the excitement of jumping off the cliff. I felt exhilarated and validated as a man. I could make girls smile and laugh.

As I drive my car home I wonder why she said thank you. I had made a request of her, people usually either gave you what you wanted or denied your request by saying sorry. You didn’t thank someone who tried to get something from you. It was the person who received the gift that did the thanking. I should be thanking her for giving me a smile and a laugh.

It didn’t make sense to me, maybe she was a bit abnormal for a girl, or maybe these pick-up lines didn’t work the way I thought they did. I was going to call it quits for the night. I would think about other places I could go tomorrow. Maybe the other nine would all slap me and this was a one off fluke. I would bask in my victory tonight. I’d select the next line I would use, and then start my nightly fire. Today was a good day.

After work I head to a grocery store. I need to go to the store anyway, and I’ve seen girls in the store before.

I decided last night to use the heart line. I figured I could find a girl who was holding something her hand, and ask for it back. It wouldn’t be completely weird that way, just mostly weird.

It’s not long before I spot my quarry. She’s on the isle with all the sandwich stuff, holding two different brands of peanut butter. Brimming with confidence I stride over to her.

“Come on, give it back.” I say. She looks up, clearly confused. She’s supposed to say what. She doesn’t say anything. Why isn’t she saying what? This is weird, I should leave. No, I have to finish the line.

“My heart.” I say. She puts the peanut butter in her cart and walks away, glancing over her shoulder at me.

I’m a jerk. There’s no other way about it. I’m a jerk. I hadn’t been slapped, but I kind of wished she had slapped me. I would have deserved it.She had probably been having a perfectly fine day before I had walked up to her, and now I had ruined it.

I still had to do this another eight times. I needed to do at least one more today. Did my daughter know it would mess with the girl’s day? She must’ve thought it worth the cost or something.

I had to do this either more times. I buy some crackers and leave the store. Let’s just get this next one over with, and then we’ll call it a day. I already had the next line all figured out.

The interior decorator line was educationally related, so I could go to the local community college. I might maybe, in the right light, pass as college age, and college students asked each other what their major was all the time. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to finish off the line.

I drive to the local community college, and begin walking around. It’s not hard to find a girl, but it is hard to find the courage to say something. I start wandering aimlessly, and eventually begin to just walking in a loop around the campus.

Had I made a net positive with this bold way of talking to girls. The first girl had certainly walked away feeling much better. I think I had made her day, but had the second one balanced that positive emotion. Was I neutral then? That meant this next girl would either put me in a hole or give me a buffer for the next rejection.

As always, thinking wasn’t helping. There was nothing else for it. I’ve got to do it, and the more I walk around the harder it’s going to get.

I pick the very next girl walking up to me, she catches me looking at her and I flinch, but maintain eye contact and walk up to her. She’s carrying some books on her way to class presumably, and smiles as I get closer. I’m so focused I don’t notice.

“Hey, do you study interior design?” I ask.

“Uh, nursing actually.” She points to the large stack of nursing books she’s carrying. Of course she’s carrying books that invalidate my pick up line.

“That’s funny, because as soon as I saw you the whole room became beautiful.” She gets the same deer in the headlights look the first girl gets, and then titls her head back laughing.

“We’re outside silly.” She says. This line was about as airtight as a cheese grater.

“Well I guess that means you’re really good.” I say. She laughs again and puts her books down. She extends a hand.

“I’m Hannah.” I take her hand and shake it.

“I’m, uh….” Should I use my real name? Better not. I’ll go with my middle name.

“I’m Jack.” I say. She’s actually going to stick around and have a bit of a conversation? That didn’t happen with the other girls..

“Well, uh Jack, what do you study?” She asks. Oh man, what was I supposed to say? The letters hadn’t gone this far. I had used the pick up line I should just walk away, but that would be rude.

“I’m actually trying out pick up lines and figured that a college would be a good place to ask about what people are studying.” I say. Instantly I regret it as she just blinks at me and glances down at her books, no doubt having second thoughts about talking to me.

“That’s, blunt.” She says. “Nobody says that.”

“Well, I’m not a very normal person.” I say.

“Yeah, I can see that.” She says, getting a bit of her smile back. “Hey Jack, I’ve got to get to class, I’ll see you later.” I say goodbye and she heads off.

I watch her head off, and scratch my head. The letters had given me the impression that there was a method to this. There were different kinds of things you started a conversation with, and rules about how to initiate physical contact. It had started to sound like there was a formula, but I had used the same class of conversation starters with three very different results. This was not doing an experiment to derive a formula. This was going shopping blindfolded and being told to head left when you enter the store because the vegetables are somewhere over there.

I hoped the rest of the process wasn’t going to be like this. I liked consistency. In science you were supposed to use the same input to get the same output. It’s called repeatability and it was how you discovered facts. It seemed like there were no facts here. Every person was going to be different and the most you could hope for was general guiding principles. It was like sticking your hand into dark water. You could pull out a pearl, or you could pull out a piranha.

Thankful that I was one third of the way there, I went home. I spent the evening memorizing and ranking the other lines in order of difficulty. I was starting to get my legs under me, and had resolved the next day to use five lines. The fourth day I would use two, and then finish off with the really hard line. That would give me time to practice the physical bit the sixth day, and wrap up the other lessons on the seventh day, when I would open my daughter’s next letter.

How did people do this? I had one girl spontaneously give me her number. I accepted the number then threw it away to keep with the rules of my daughter. I had a second girl pretend not to hear me and keep walking. Two more girls did the deer in the headlights followed by a laugh, and a fifth looked at me strange and in a gentle but firm way told me she had a boyfriend.

It was like fighting a battle every time. You had to put this big investment of emotional energy into it, and you didn’t know if you’d get that emotional energy reciprocated or if you’d get it stomped on. I was glad I already had an introduction to my wife waiting for me in one of these letters, and wouldn’t have to mess around with this ridiculous nonsense.

It never truly got easier either. The fear and anxiety was still there, you just learned to cope with it and do what you came to do anyway. The last two I had saved were the angle line, and the boyfriend line. I had found two coffee shops next to each other, and was going to knock both of these out so I could go to my final location for the last pick up line.

I enter the first coffee shop, and spot a girl working on a laptop while sipping on a cup of something steaming. I’ve learned to instantly walk over to a girl as soon as you see her. It prevents you from overthinking things and freaking yourself out.

I try and catch her eye as I walk over, but she’s got her nose buried in what she’s working on.

“Hey.” I say as I walk over. She glances up briefly, but keeps working on her laptop.

“Do you know what this shirt is made of?” I ask. To her credit, she gives it a moment’s inspection before guessing.

“Cotton.” She says disinterestedly and returns to her computer.

“Boyfriend material.” I correct her. She snorts and says.

“Cute.” And doesn’t look up from her computer, it’s ,not a horrible response, but not a very good one either. I walk out the back to avoid people staring, and make my wake to the second shop. There’s just one last short line to dish out before the big one.

As with the first shop I enter the second one and as soon as I see a girl reading a book in a corner chair I approach her.

“Excuse me miss.” I say. She puts her finger in the book as she puts it down to look at me.

“Can I get a photo with you to proof to all my friends that angels exist?” I ask. She stares at me.

“I don’t let strangers take photos of me.” She says. Ouch, it’s the first time a girl puts the guilt on me. The girl in the grocery store had just walked away, but this girl had basically just called me a creeper.

“Cool.” Is all I can think to say before walking out the back. I had wanted to finish on a high note. I had this image of the girl calling one of her friends over to take the picture with me, and maybe get a number out of it. I didn’t use the numbers, but they made me feel a lot better.

Now I’m heading into the granddaddy of all pick-up lines with one tepid response, and one cold response, great.

The college campus is about the same as I left it, still plenty of girls walking about. Only I’m not just looking for any girl. I need a girl with a cell phone out. Which isn’t much of a restriction, but it is during the summer, so most people are running quickly to and from summer classes.

Eventually I see her. Like a hunter spotting a deer in the distance I instinctively froze. I was lucky she was standing in one place, but not lucky that she was angrily talking on the phone with someone.

I could find someone else. I could turn around go somewhere else. I could even come back another day. I still had plenty of time. I didn’t need to do the rest of the stuff in the letters. All she said was use the ten lines. That was it.

But that wasn’t the point of the lesson. It wasn’t about saying ridiculous things. It was about not letting fear determine your actions.

I walked forward, and didn’t even wait for her to finish her call.

“Hey, excuse me, can I borrow your phone.” She rounded on me like a lion about to pounce on her prey. Her eyes tried to bore holes through my skull, and she exasperatedly handed the phone, with the other person still on the line.

“Hello, is this…” I didn’t know her name. “What’s your name?” I asked. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. She was totally about to take her phone back or slap me or something.

“Lindsey.” She practically spat out the name.

“Is this Lindsey’s mom?” I asked.

“It’s her father.” A rough male voice came through the earpiece.

“Great, listen, I just saw your daughter, and she was so beautiful I wanted your help in getting her on a date. Where do you think I should take her.” Everyone stopped. Lindsey’s dad didn’t say anything. Lindsey’s jaw had dropped, and all the students in a ten foot radius, who had been rushing to get to their exams, now stood stalk still watching me.

“Hello?” I said. There was still nothing, and I was still being watched. It was like I was performing a magic trick or something.

The line went dead. I looked at the phone to make sure that the call was indeed over, and then handed the device back to Lindsey.

“Nice bracelet you have on by the way.” I tell her as she takes her phone back, her mouth it still hanging open wide enough to fit two cheeseburgers, and no one has started moving yet.

I had bombed, and bombed bad. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to go back to the campus for months without somebody pointing me out as that weird guy that called the girl’s parents.

I don’t care. I’ve won. I did something so entirely gutsy that most men wouldn’t even dream of. Things that people joked about, but never did. Every guy I know wanted this, this total mastery of self. This ability to defy social pressure and take hit after hit, and still keep coming, was something every guy wanted.

I walk back to my car with twenty plus pairs of eyes following me. They can’t believe what they’ve just seen. Some of them are horrified. Some of them are envious. Some of them are so shocked that they don’t know what to think. All of them know they’ve witnessed a profound act of courage.

I go back in the attic to complete a little ritual. After every trip out to drop pick-up lines I had returned home to check off a line from the list Sarah had wrote me. This was to make sure I didn’t repeat any that I didn’t have to, and to give myself a reward for sticking it out and having the guts to do it. I would now cross off the last line, and emerge victorious from another of my daughter’s challenges.

I open the box and pull out the letter, pen at the ready, and find there is new text. A few weeks earlier I might have dropped the letter like it was burning my hand, now I just read through it, curious at the new words. They are certainly new. I had read this letter many times, and there was never any additional text below the lines. It read:

I’m proud of you dad. As bizarre a thing as it is to be proud of, I am. I remember how crushed you were when that one girl didn’t call you. A single rejection ruined your day, and you’ve just walked away with your head held high from one of the most spectacular rejections I’ve ever see. You are an awesome man who is deserving of a wonderful person. There are still a few more letters, but know that I’ve written them to you knowing that you are the kind of strong man who can do what needs to be done even when all societal pressure and emotional turmoil tell him to stop. You’re the best, I love you, and I’m proud to call you my father.”

 

Your adoring daughter,

Sarah

She came back again! This is proof that she has been traveling back and forth through time on more than one occasion. Not only is there additional text, but the original text, the list of 10 lines, has been moved to the top of the page where before it was in the middle. My daughter must have rewrote the letter, but put the lines at the top. The lines I drew across the paper are also gone. She had to leave the old one, and then sometime while I was gone, she traveled back again, and then replaced the original letter with this new one. She was coming back and forth multiple times for me. I win at life.

The rest of the two days is fun. I enjoy practicing all the various kinds of lines and touch games. I start with the compliment openers, finding the right compliment was a game in itself. I would see a girl and instantly size up what she wanted me to compliment her on. Hair is in a ponytail, standard low effort style, no good, generic plastic necklace, t-shirt with no brand name, bracelet just looks like her name. Oh wait, it looks like silver, bingo.

“Hey I love your necklace.”

“Oh thank you, my mom got it for me on my last birthday.

T-shirt with band name, but I don’t recognize the band. Hair all the way down, no bracelets, ear ring, or jewelry.

“Excuse me, I just had to say you look very perky today.”

“Thanks, I’ve been getting a full nights rest.”

“Clearly, it’s showing in your face very well.”

Some girls were harder than others, but if you had a minute to think about it, you could always find something.

These lines were okay, you often got a conversation started, but only if you immediately had something else to talk about. That was why the situation based opening lines worked best, you just jumped straight into the middle of a conversation about something.

It was during these conversations that I mastered the fun little touch games. It was easier than I thought. First I usually picked something to point out. Just touch their shoulder and say ‘hey do you see that?”. Didn’t matter what, maybe someone was wearing a shirt you liked, or someone had a bumper sticker you identified with.

I would point out several things, and then I would progress to the hand games. They were ridiculous things. My favorite one started with me asking for a girl’s hand. I thought it would be a strange request, but people will just give you their hands if you ask. I would then place one of my hands below theirs, and one above theirs. I would then gesture with my head for them to put their hand on top of mine, so we had a pile of alternating hands. I would then slip my bottom hand onto the top of the pile. Without fail, every single girl would then slip her bottom hand out and put it on top. You could then keep going, building up until she couldn’t reach. You could move your hand from the top to the bottom. Or you could just pull both of your hands out at once.

My next favorite came from dancing. I was thinking dancing worked so well because it was something not a lot of guys did, but girls wanted to do. What if I did other things that girls liked to do?

I tested this theory by just walking into a coffee shop, and when the cashier asked what I wanted I responded by playing patty cake with her. She went along with it for two whole minutes before a gentleman at the back of the line clear his throat loudly. The cashier giggled, and then wrote her number down on the receipt.

I enjoyed messing around with all of the various ways that I could employ to start conversations and play touch games. I would think of an idea. I would execute that idea, and some worked, while others bombed. When the sun went down I had a small arsenal of games and lines in my back pocket that I could pull out whenever I wanted to. If I ever ran out of things to say, I would resort to a touch game to buy some time, or drop a cheesy line to change the subject. In a few cases I decided to literally pick the girl up and swing her around a few times. That seemed to reset the conversation and put a grin on the girl’s face.

I almost regretted climbing the stairs to read my daughter’s next letter. I was enjoying myself.

05/26/14

Well done father. I knew you could do it, and you have proven once again you are the kind of man that can be relied on. You’re one of the good guys. I’ve got a light task for you this week. Just spend some time talking to girls. Not just any talking of course. You’re going to be looking for information in these girls. See, you won’t know anything about the girl you’re going after, and you need to start gathering intel. Have you noticed that girls respond very differently to the same comment because all of them are their own unique person? You need to start figuring out what kind of person they are so you can find the right girl.”

                “To do that, you have to ask the right questions, see if she can carry a conversation, and pick your topics well. We’re going to start with the last one.”

                “Picking your topics well, there are a few things you’re going to want to know about a girl. One is her education. Education is the first step in a career, and you need to find out where she stands. This one is easy. Know that interior design line? Drop it in the middle. That line does ask what she studies. She will most likely tell you.” I remember, the girl had said she was nursing. “From there you can talk about what her career plans are fairly easily. There are other more direct ways of asking things, but be she sure you make a mental list ahead of time so you hit your subjects. Don’t get stuck discussing favorite movies. If you want movie reviews they have websites for that. You’re here to find facts.”

                “As regards the first one, here’s a fun question ‘you get three wishes, but can’t for anything that can be bought or sold, and the wish has to be selfish. Sounds like an intriguing thought experiment right? It can be rephrased ‘describe to me the three things you value most’. For the rest of the questions you want to stick with the interrogative ‘why’. What she does, how she does it, where she does it, who she does it with, are not nearly as valuable as knowing why she does it. All four of the other things can change, but the core of who she is can be defined with ‘why’. Find the why, and you find what truly makes her who she is” I strongly suspect that my daughter writes philosophy.

As for the third one, I’ve got one instruction for you. Close your mouth and let her talk. Girls like a guy who can carry and lead a conversation well, but you need to know this girl can hold her own. You don’t want to do all the talking in the relationship do you? Let her talk, see what she talks about. The compliment that means the most is the one that is unsolicited, so the conversation topic she picks on her own is the one that she assigns the greatest importance to. Keep a firm hand on the conversation, but also pay attention to where she steers it when you let her have the wheel.”

                “Got it dad, ask meaningful questions, ask ‘why’, and close your mouth every now and then. One last note, this may seem that I’m asking you to talk about personal stuff. That’s because there’s one more thing. Enjoy yourself! Goof it up a bit, mix things up, have a ball, but remember that you also want to figure things out about her.”

This and the next letter are the easiest my daughter gives me. I easily do both in the span of a week. The second one asks me to plan out the conversation so that we talk about a mutual interest that also makes for a great date idea. If you talk about the date the whole conversation, naturally you should go on it. It hardly seems like a date at that point. It’s just doing that thing you talked about doing.

When two weeks have passed I go into the attic once more to open the box. I take in the box before opening it, appreciating the craftsmanship and once more wondering whether it is made by my daughter’s hands. I take the time to enjoy it because I’m delaying.

In the box is the last instructional letter. There are four in total. I have a guess what the second to last is, but not what the very last contains. I do know what the one I will read today talks about, and I’m dreading opening it.

07/03/2014

Father, as I have said before, you have done wonderfully. You have become healthy, gained a fun lifestyle with multiple hobbies, and gained confidence and skill in the art of talking to girls. You just have one last thing on my list to do. It’s just one thing, but I won’t help you with this.”

                “See, I can’t fix this for you. I could figure out how. Like so many other things I have told you. I could find the precise words and acts necessary to do what needs to be done. I could craft the ideal plan and outline it for you that you can resolve the matter, but that would destroy the meaning of what I’m about to ask.”

                “Father it’s been weeks since you’ve talked to your siblings. Every last one of them is hurting and needing your support. I want you to fix your relationships. This is the last thing you need to do father, and then, we will bring this period to a close. I’ll be waiting for you dad. Show me you can take care of family.”

                So my siblings were hurt. It hurt that I didn’t know that. They all seemed to do well. Ever since I had missed out on my little sister breaking up with her boyfriend I had been checking their facebook pages pretty regularly in order to insure I was up to date with all of their information. They had all done well in school. My two brothers were active in summer sports, and my sister was having a blast preparing for college, what could be wrong with them?

I decide to call Grace first. She’s the one I’ve spent time with most recently, and it would easiest to talk to her. I already know we can discuss dancing. I could invite myself over, and we could dance, then talk about my other siblings in detail.

I dial the number, and she picks up halfway through the first ring. I don’t even get a chance to say hello. She starts talking as soon as she answers the call.

“Our youngest brother has run away.”

Letters to my father part 1

It should be noted a more polished version can be obtained by downloading the free PDF under published works. It also includes an alternate ending.

03/5/2014

Hey dad, it’s me Sarah.” I drop the letter I found inside. There were many letters, this one said ‘open first’, and the rest had more dates on them. As far as I could tell, all of the dates were in the future. All of that was insignificant next to the fact that I didn’t have a daughter. If I did I would’ve called her Sarah. With that thought sticking out in my mind like a stop sign, I pick up the letter and start reading.

May 22nd 2008, the day you went to prom with Jennifer. April 6th 2010, the day you switched majors and became an engineer. September 1st 2013, the day you bought this house. I’m sure right now you’re justifying how someone could know these dates, but right now can you just trust me okay? I’ve written these to help you on your journey to find mom.

I put the letter down for a moment. I don’t drop it, but I need a moment to think. I hadn’t written those dates anywhere, much less the name of the girl I went to prom with. This didn’t seem to be a scam. As long as this person didn’t suggest I buy anything, I guess this was okay.

Since you’ve decided this isn’t a scam, I promise not to ask you to buy anything, and if I do, I’ll keep the suggestions general like ‘clothes that fit’. Now then, currently I’m your only child because you and mom split up.” I have to stop again. I find out I probably get married and have a daughter cool enough to time travel, and then almost instantly find out it’s all going to crash.

I don’t have you in my life anymore.” Had I done something to prevent me from having custody of my daughter? Or had I just gambled and lost in the court system? “And I’m awful lonely without any brothers and sisters. Not to mention my stepdad.” I didn’t know it was possible to hate someone you didn’t know for something they hadn’t done yet. “I won’t talk much about him, suffice it to say things are not healthy. So I’m going to help fix your life dad. My mom isn’t perfect, but she’s got her own letters, and when the time is right, you’ll meet up.

A nasty thought occurred to me. This could still be some elaborate joke, I wouldn’t know until I met the woman probably, but if it was, my daughter could very well be erasing her own existence. I knew how reproductive possibilities worked, and the odds were basically zero of having the same sperm hit the same egg twice. I don’t know if I want to do this, maybe it’s not too late, maybe if I just put this box back it’ll still all go the same. I’ll still get divorced, but Sarah will still be alive. I take one last glance at the letter before finalizing my decision.

I know you’re now thinking that by sending you these I’m committing a kind of temporal suicide, and I accept that. I know that by you reading these, maybe by you just even reading one, I’ve already written myself out of the timeline. If you and mom are happy together, and if you have your kids, then it was worth it. One last thing though, and I know there isn’t any science for this, so bear with me, but I believe we’re more than DNA. I believe there’s something about us that you can’t diagnose or identify with a thousand tests. I may not look like your Sarah, I may not even have all of her talents, but it’ll still be me dad. Trust that it’ll still be me.

Love,

Your daughter, Sarah

I put the letter back in the box and close the lid. I need a second to breath. So I have a daughter. I’m going to get married. I’m going to get divorced. My wife is going to get full custody, and my daughter. Humanity invents time travel, and now my daughter is trying to retroactively fix my marriage.

Where do you even start to process those feelings? I think I was excited. I have a daughter who as far as I can tell is very dedicated to her parents, and very intelligent. That’s great! I had always had nagging doubts that I was sterile or would marry too late to have kids, and now all that was settled. I was excited to meet her!

Would I meet her though? I mean, what she said was poetic, but did it really work like that? I had better process that later, there was still the marriage and divorce. My wife got the custody, so I guess that means it was my fault. She still had her letters though, which meant there had to be things she was doing wrong too, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty about it being me.

I sat down, I felt overwhelmed and I had barely begun to think about it. Okay, I’m an engineer, I organize and streamline things. I figure out how they work, and then pursue a solution. I would probably still be thinking about this years from now. I could spend years just thinking about the concept of time travel, much less all the personal stuff. I would have to whittle this ocean of information down to a few manageable glasses of water that I could actually swallow.

So first, I need to work on some things. I’m sure she’ll help me out with exactly what. That must be what the other letters are for, things that she needs me to work on. I felt a warmth in my stomach at that thought. My daughter was such a good friend that she was willing to reach across time itself to help me.

I put my hand on the box. It’s wooden, and I can feel all the little random divots and ravines in the wood. There are dozens of little imperfections that let me know it wasn’t made with a machine. This was hand carved, or at the very least it was made with minimal machine work. I can’t know this for sure, but I know she carved it, for me. She must know I always admired handmade items.

I shake myself. I need to focus or I’ll get lost. Fact one, my daughter loves me. Fact two, she needs me to improve for her so that I can be a better husband, and probably a better father too. Fact three, she has written me instructions in these letters, which I should read.

Good, nice short list, all that time travel stuff was crazy, not to mention the divorce, and the subsequent custody battle was ominous, but if I did what she asked I wouldn’t have to worry about all of it. I would also get to talk with my daughter about time travel someday.

There was a little nagging doubt in the back of my head, like a fly that I just couldn’t swat. This could still all be some very elaborate joke. Maybe some local TV channel thought this was funny enough to put the effort in, but I didn’t want to believe that. I wanted to believe that somewhere in the future there was a wonderful little girl who cared enough to write me all these letters, and dig into my past enough to know what to write. I wanted to believe it, so I did. I might have been crazy, but there was enough evidence in the first letter that I wasn’t ready to question my sanity just yet. It also probably wouldn’t matter, if these letters were for real, and they made me a better person, then the self-improvement would be worth the heartbreak.

Well, that was enough introspection for now, best to get started with these letters. If they were a joke it should come out pretty quick.

I empty the box and spread the letters out in front of me. It’s an odd collection, counting the one I’ve already opened there are 20 in total. I fold the original up, and place it with the rest. They all have dates, so I line them up in chronological order, starting with the already opened letter.

Open this first

03/5/2014

03/11/2014

03/30/2014

04/09/2014

05/15/2014A

05/15/2014B

05/30/2014A

05/30/2014B

06/05/2014

06/09/2014

06/12/2014

06/19/2014

06/26/2014

07/03/2014

07/10/2014

10/17/2014

12/25/2017 7:53 PM

They mostly follow a pattern, with about 3 or 4 letters a month. That’s good, most self-improvement plans I knew followed a regular schedule. Then there were a couple oddities. Firstly, some of the letters were on the same day. There were two letters on the 15th of May, and 2 on the 30th of May. Huh, May must be an interesting month. There was also a letter with today’s date on it. That would be interesting. Why would she write me two letters today? I would have to open that one next.

The other oddity that sticks out to me is that the last two dates are so far apart from the rest. The first 18 letters are all within about 4 months of each other. The nineteenth is three months after the eighteenth, and the twentieth is over three years after the nineteenth. Why the large distance. What could cause a need for such a large gap? Couldn’t she at least have written me a few filler letters? Maybe something about her favorite book or movie? Maybe I shouldn’t be greedy, this was a lot of work she had put in, but I got the suspicion I was supposed to open each letter on the date that was written on it, and I didn’t like the idea of going so long without hearing from her.

Well, I got to hear from her at least one more time today. I had better go ahead and open the other letter with today’s date on it.

03/5/2014

Dad, I wonder what stuck out to you first. Was it the multiple letters in one day, or the large time gap of the last two letters?” My daughter knows me well. “I can just see you now, with them all lined up in chronological order.” Had she come back and watched me open the letters? I feel eyes on the back of my head and spin around. I see nothing but boxes. I pause to listen for a moment, but here nothing except the air conditioner running. I don’t if she’s not here, or if she just knew I was going to turn my head, but either way I’m not going to find her. I turn back to the letter. There’s still an odd feeling of being watched, like an itch on the back of my neck, but I force myself not to scratch it.

So does she know that I was going to turn my head around because she knows me really well? Or has she gone back and seen what I was going to do to so many times that she has my every move memorized? Lol, I should stop. I know you’re now equal parts fond of me for getting inside your head so well, and creeped out that someone can map out your actions so thoroughly.” It’s a good kind of creeped out though.

I hope you asked yourself why there were multiple letters on the same day first, because that’s the question I’m going to answer.” ‘I hope’ she says. Not, ‘I know’, so she hasn’t memorized absolutely everything about me. “As you’ve already suspected, you’re supposed to open the letters only on the date shown. I know it’s going to take a lot of willpower to open them all at once, but please dad, for me, only open them when it’s time. For the ones on the same day, the first one, you can open it at midnight if you want, but the second one, you’ll know when it’s right.” That’s vague. She knows I’m an engineer. I like precise things. I don’t decide to run an experiment or perform a mechanical operation ‘when the time is right’ I do it as soon as the data tells me too. “I know that sounds vague, but trust me, you opened this letter when I wanted you to.” That was it. The only way she could possibly have known when I opened the letter was if she had come back and watched me open it.

Sarah.” I call out. “If you can here me, come out and talk to me. I’m your father and I want to talk to you.” Silence, if she was here, she wasn’t coming, and I might have to look around later, but if she knew when I was going to write things, then she probably knew where I would look. If I somehow randomized my search would that help? What if she had written this letter, and then just not come back this particular time. But did that mean she had traveled back multiple times? Man, my head was starting to hurt. I was not supposed to have to think about time like this. We are four dimensional beings, but one of those dimensions doesn’t go backward.

This was getting to be too much. Maybe that was her goal; maybe she wanted to confuse me so I wouldn’t question it as much. If that was the case, it was working.

Now that I’ve thoroughly freaked you out, let’s both drop the time travel shenanigans. I promise to stop playing with your head so much, and you stop trying to find me. Deal?” Yeah right, like I’m going to give up on finding my time traveling daughter whose delightfully witty and sharp as a tack. “Well, maybe don’t give up on trying to find me entirely, but can you keep it to a minimum? If you try and find me I’m just going to go back and change what I did so you don’t find me next time anyway.” I smiled. She had to have put that in there because I found her a couple times and she had to go back and change it. “So go ahead and smile because you know I would only say that if you found me, and let’s move on with this letter.

Now then, you remember a couple paragraphs ago where I talked about the letter? I’m not sure the message got through here, we kind of got side tracked with the whole time travel thing, which was cool, but I really just wanted to make 3 points with this letter. 1- Don’t open a letter until the right date. 2-For the couple of letters that are written on the same day, you’ll know when to write them. 3- I’m not going to tell you why the last two are so far apart or why the very last one also has the time you have to open it. You’ll just have to wait and see. Once you read the letters, this will all make sense. So, as you can see, that’s it for today. I know you’re reeling from all this information and you need some time for it to sink in. If you try to do everything that I’m writing about it won’t sink in properly. You aren’t like a car. I can’t tell you what the problems are, and then you’ll just take a couple hours to fix it. These are life changes that take time. Even with all the extra motivation of having your future daughter cheering you on, these things take time. Right now, if you opened the next one, you’d just spend the next week or two thinking about time travel and it wouldn’t sink in. Believe me dad, I’ve done my homework. Only open the letters when the time is right. I’ll give you a hint for the next one. What does everyone have, but no one wants, and dies without.”

She makes riddles too! I wanted to get this framed so I could prove to all my friends how smart my daughter is. Or maybe I should say how smart my daughter ‘will be’, not ‘is’, or wait, maybe it was ‘is’. How did tense work for time travelers? Because she isn’t born, but she might be here, I wonder if there are inter-temporal grammar Nazis that sort out these kind of things.

I wanted to read through the letter again. If I had to wait almost a week for the next one, then I should get as much mileage out of the two I had first. I pick up the original, but then I think of all the moments when I was reading it that she knew what I was thinking, or played with my mind. That wouldn’t happen on a second read through. I already knew what I would read. Maybe at a later date I could go through again for nostalgia’s sake, but something tells me at least for these first two, I’m only supposed to read through them once.

I feel a sense of loss as I pack up the letters and put them back in the box, taking a few moments to admire the craftsman ship once again, before closing the lid. It’s like when you say goodbye to a good friend, when the time has gone too fast and you really want to stay for just a few more moments to talk about that one last thing, or when you leave a movie theater after watching the last movie in an epic series. When I was reading the letter it was as if my daughter was there with me. Especially with all the time travel business meaning she very well could have been, but now that the box is in another room, I’m alone again.

The attic had been the last stop in my walk through of the house. I had walked through it several times in the buying process, but this was my first walk through after getting everything settled in. All the furniture was in place, everything was on the proper shelf or cabinet, and I had wanted to admire my handiwork. Now I went to my kitchen and picked out some leftover Chinese carryout from the move in.

I go and sit in my living room, watching a clock on the wall tick away the seconds. Part of me wanted to go get sleeping pills and just knock myself out for the next six days. I couldn’t wait to see what she had written to me in the next letter.

The time for the next week passed very slowly. The project that I was working on with my job as a government contractor just needed some final touches, and none of my friends were in town. My family might have wanted to do stuff to take my mind off things, but I never knew what to talk about around them, so instead I just buried myself in a couple seasons of a show that was just put online. Thank goodness for streaming TV, I didn’t know how people survived without it.

While watching some of the less intellectual shows I zone out and think about the riddle. Everyone has it, but no one wants it, and you die without it. I assumed, based on the letters, she meant all of those things literally. Which meant it was probably a body part if you died everyone had it, and you died it without it. I could maybe see it being something highly essential like air, or food, or shelter. The trouble with those was not everyone did have them, at least not all the time, and certainly everyone wanted them. That definitely meant it was a body part.

What body part did people not want? Couldn’t be a limb, those were too useful. Anything on the face was out, eyes, ears, nose, those were all too essential. Did acne count as a body part? No one wanted that. I glanced at my reflection in a window. That was a little bit of a fault, but certainly nothing to write a letter that spanned time about.

Couldn’t be any of the vital organs, what did no one want in their body? As soon as I say that in my head I know what it must be. I can’t believe my daughter is going to lecture me on it, but there’s only one thing it could be. I run my head mournfully as I finish watching my show. 03/11/2014 cannot come soon enough.

When the day finally comes, I decide to wait until after work to open it. Just in case it involves immediately doing a lot of work. As soon as I get home from the office I practically jumped up my stairs into the attic, and nearly hit my head on several exposed beams as I made a dash for the box. I take out the first two letters that I’ve already read, remembering fondly what it was like to have my daughter play with my head during my last session with the box, and take out the third letter.

03/11/2014

Enjoy binge watching your favorite TV shows?” This letter was taking a judgmental turn straight away, but I already knew what she was getting at, and had expected this. “How much weight did you gain watching that show? I’m sure you’ve done the math at some point. I hate to start out a letter like this, but there’s going to be a lot of tough love in these letters dad, so you might as well get used to it now.” There were going to be more times where she decided to point out a bunch of my flaws? Great. “As you’ve already guessed, the answer to my riddle is fat. You’ve got a bit too much of it dad, and it’s only going to get worse. If you’re going to take care of me and mom, we’ve got to get you into better shape. I know, I know. She went through all this trouble just to tell me to lay off the cheeseburgers, and hit the gym a little more? Well, yes, it’s unclimactic, but it’s true. Trust me, we’ll get to the more fun stuff later, but this comes first. Once you see what the next steps are you’ll understand why we’ve started her. So, here’s how this works. You need to go rack up a 3500 calorie deficit to lose one pound. Here’s the interesting part. That next letter? You’re not allowed to open it until you’ve dropped ten pounds. That’s 35,000 calories dad, and all that’s before you start working out. Otherwise you’re going to damage your joints too badly. You have 19 days to drop 35,000 calories. You’re a smart guy. You can figure this out. If you don’t you might as well burn these letters. 19 days, 35,000 calories down, that’s 1842 calories down a day, or this conversation is over. On 03/18/2014 turn this letter over and read what’s on the back.”

This was much shorter, much less fun, and much more brutal than I had expected. I knew she was going to talk about my weight, but drop some pounds or we’re done talking? I could add ruthless to her list of qualities. I put the letter in the box and close the lid. I don’t feel the same sense of loss as I did last time.

Before I descended to my living room I wondered how serious her threat was. I knew what she was asking would hurt, a lot, and would probably turn me into a rather unpleasant person. Most weight loss professionals I knew would call this a crash diet, and I knew they were dangerous. I guess if she was suggesting it she knew my body could take it, but if I didn’t , how could she enforce her ultimatum?

Until now I thought her message was much more passive. I hadn’t see her, as far as I could tell she had just time traveled for informational purposes, and the only trace of her journeys was the box itself. Would she steal the box if I opened one too early? Was she somehow watching the box to know when I opened them. I felt eyes on the back of my neck again, and decided my attic looked a little too unfriendly. I had better head downstairs.

I decide I can’t know for sure if she’ll enforce it or not, but for now I had better take her at her word. She can time travel after all, who knows what else she’s capable of.

For now I’m willing to give this a shot. How hard can it be? A couple of internet searches later I realize that making that kind of a deficit means I’m allowed to have about 4 fairly plain protein heavy sandwiches a day, need to drink a bunch of water, and I would even have to take vitamin supplements to make sure my body didn’t run out of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be so easy. Well, better not do this halfway. I make my way to my fridge and open it. Time to throw away all the unhealthy stuff, I start taking out individual items and looking at their backs. American cheese, 100 calories per slice. Wow, just 1 slice? That was depressing. The bread was only about 250 calories, and that would be most of my calories for the day with just four of those. I pitch the cheese into the trash can.

Alright, how about chicken nuggets, how many of those can I have? 60!? No way, I’d barely have one full plate to max out. I was no longer entirely certain my daughter wasn’t trying to kill me.

How about condiments, ketchup is basically tomatoes, those are healthy right? Nope, that was going to tack on another 2 or 3 chicken nuggets worth of calories to put that on something.

Was there anything worth eating in my fridge? The short answer was no, no there wasn’t. The longer answer required a trip or two outside to throw away the full trash bags I generated.

Already regretting my decision to do this I head on to the internet for a solution. Several very depressing searches later I have a very boring plan that consists of a lot of fruits, vegetables, and brown rice. I manage to find a way to sneak in some tasty sauce and a little white meat chicken into the rice, but it’s little comfort.

The trip to the grocery store is highly masochistic. I have to walk past isles of potato chips, precooked ribs, ice cream, and soda in order to get all of my items, and it’s like walking past a bunch of friends. I want to stop and say hi, but I know if I do I’m going to leave with more than I came for. As I check out, and sign for my debit card, it’s like signing a ticket to the middle of a desert.

People who never have to know what a large calorie deficit is like are lucky. There are the hunger pains that come and go between meals. There’s the knowledge that even when you finish a meal you won’t truly be full. You start noticing how often people you know just seem to throw 500 extra calories onto a meal like it’s nothing. People actually open cans of soda without having an existential crisis.

Then there’s the more subtle psychological affects. You don’t go out to lunch with coworkers, and when your friends go out to eat, you have to pass. Your social life dwindles, and to top it all off, you get cranky. Your body doesn’t like not being fed, and it makes sure you feel its unhappiness.

After a week of hunger I decide to order a pizza. I don’t care. I haven’t see any more proof that I really do have a time traveling daughter, and it’s not like she’s going to weigh me and find out how much I way, and even if she traveled back in time, was she really watching me every single waking moment? One pizza couldn’t be that bad. I could keep it in the fridge and have a couple slices every now and then. Who does she think she is anyway? I’m her father. I should be the one dictating the rules to her, and why would she set such a ridiculous mandate? One that could only be achieved with a crash diet, this was dumb. I am an adult. I shouldn’t have anyone dictate to me what I should be doing with my own body like this.

Once the call has been made I remember her letter, and how it said to turn it over at some point. I had a few minutes, and I think the day was today. Maybe she could find out what I was going to do, and put some gloating words on the back because she knew this was the day I was going to fail.

I head up to the attic and before I head over to the chest I look around the attic to see if there are any bugs planted. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, so I feel around suspicious looking holes in the rafters, and even get my phone out to look in the head of the air conditioner unit to see if there is anything hidden inside.

She could have some super small future tech camera, but if she does, I can’t find it. As far as I can tell my attic is clean.

My search is completed I open the box and find the third letter 03/11/2014. I skip to the bottom and see the date I should flip it. On the back is written a short statement.

I love you dad, and I believe in you.

I see a mental image of a little six year old girl signing a letter. I know she must be an adult, but for some reason, reading that sentence, I think of her as a little girl.

I fold the letter back up and stick it in the box. I feel guilty. Moments before I had been dead set on violating this girl’s request, I had already called the pizza. It should be here before too much longer. She must’ve known what I was going to do. I wasn’t completely sure how this time travel thing worked, but I was sure she must’ve known. I had expected to find some harsh words chastising me, and instead of condemnation. I find forgiveness. She had been willing to cut off communication for the sin I was still partially in the act of committing, and she forgave it without a second thought.

When the pizza arrives, I ask the guy if he wants it, and throw what he doesn’t eat away. It is absolutely no trouble maintaining my diet until 03/30/2014.

When the day finally arrives I head up the attic stairs with a mixture of fear and reverence. The amount of power this person has over me is sinking in. They really know exactly how to press my buttons, and got me to accomplish the crazy goal of dropping ten pounds in 19 days. Someone who can do that can make me do any number of things.

I feel reverence because the source of that power is my love for her. It’s kind of corny, and it’s kind of weird loving someone that much when your link to them is weak, but it’s there. I suddenly lend a lot more credence to stories I’ve heard about parents hulk lifting cars to save their kids.

I open the box, and pull out the fourth letter.

03/30/2014

“Oh daddy, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t believe you did it! That was so incredible. I knew you could do it! And you did it for me too!” I could just see her jumping up and down, eagerly clapping her hands. “This next part won’t be so hard I promise, but before I tell you what it is, you have to promise me something. I already know who my mom is, and I don’t want you dating any women except her. Call me selfish, but you need to be ready for when she shows up, and you don’t yet know which of these letters is going to be the one where I set you two up. So no chasing numbers, unless I tell you ;), and if you get a number you don’t call them back. Got it? Great, now that we’ve got that down, it’s time to start making you more attractive. It’s time to start exercising! I happen to know a little bit about getting into shape, so here’s what you’re going to do.”

The letter went on to detail how exactly I was going to get into shape, along with a diet that included a much increased calorie count. It wasn’t as hard as dropping ten pounds honestly. As I start taking walks with calisthenics, I think about what the next letter contains.

With the diet instructions she had decided to give me a boost with her next bit of writing. Was this the same thing? It hurt sure, but it wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as the crash diet had been, and I loved the results I was starting to see.

I got an extra bit of motivation from the women I ran in to on my walks. I saw several, and got some second glances that were most gratifying. My daughter hadn’t said anything about smiling and exchanging some cheerful words with appreciative women, and it made working out even more fun.

As the date draws nearer I’m becoming more and more curious. I have it nailed down to two possibilities. Either it’s the fun thing that she hinted would follow, or it’s some sort of joke.

I have built up two a 4 mile walk on 04/08/2014, and am thinking about opening the letter at midnight, or perhaps first thing in the morning, when something happens to take my mind of things. A women who gave me a particularly meaningful glance stops a few paces ahead of me, and gives me a very obvious head to toe look. I’m a little off put by her forwardness, but smile as I start to walk past.

Her head tracks me as I go by, and she quickly fishes a piece of paper out of her pocket and hands it to me. I almost trip as I take it from her, and say a mumbled “Thanks.” Before walking on.

A girl just gave me her number? That never happened. I get half a block away before I realize she doesn’t have mine, and I dash back to hastily write down my number on another piece of paper. I’m thankful that I have a couple pens and scraps of paper from the office in my pockets.

I’m so shocked by the unexpected rapid exchange of numbers that it’s not until I get home that I realize I’ve almost broken my daughter’s trust, again. I haven’t called her back, so I just have to not dial her number. I tear up the piece of paper to make that doesn’t happen.

There, now I’m safe. I can read the next letter with a clean conscience. I still have several hours to midnight, and I spend them looking at my phone. While I’m cooking my nightly whole grain rice with sweet and sour chicken, and assembling the side dishes of carrots and celery I keep my phone propped up in the kitchen to see if she calls.

It won’t to get a call from her. As long as I don’t return it my daughter will be happy with me.

After I eat dinner I keep my phone on the arm of my chair as I watch TV. I bet the girl who I gave my number to was just sitting down to relax herself. I should probably get a call any minute now.

After a couple hour long episodes I turn off the TV and start heading towards the bathroom. Did I write the number correctly? Maybe I smudged an eight into a nine by mistake. I had a couple eights in my number, it could get confusing.

After I’ve showered, taken care of my teeth, I start to wonder if her phone is broken. Once I’ve cleaned my room, taken out the trash, water the grass, trimmed my toenails, washed all of my computer monitors, defragged my hard drive, and done a load of laundry, I knew she wasn’t calling.

I couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t calling. She had started this whole charade. Had she been intentionally leading me on? What kind of person just hands out numbers and then doesn’t call. I scrub an entire floor to vent my anger, and when I ascend into the attic after midnight I’d advanced to depression.

I didn’t get to interact with girls very often, at least I didn’t before I had started exercising, and this was the first time one had actually given me her number. It felt silly being hurt by someone who I had only met in passing, but it hurt all the same.

04/09/2014

I’m sorry dad. I know she was a jerk. I wish I could’ve done something to prevent her from leading you on, but I’m already risking a lot by doing what I’m doing for you. I can’t directly interfere with other people like that. It’s just too dangerous. I can say that she wasn’t my mom, and that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. I know it hurts, but it’s for the best dad. I’m also sorry to say that the next couple of weeks are going to be more of the same, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Your daughter knows what you like, and I know I’m going to put a spring in your step when I tell you we’re going to start turning you into a genuine manly man with the next letter. How you ask? We’re going to make things burn.”