by Walter Giersbach
The cable TV installer had stood Carla up for the second day. She was angry with the kind of irritation that seethed and couldn’t be controlled by taking deep breaths or doing distracting chores. The frustration was worse than waiting for a blind date who never arrived. At least the date would probably have a valid reason.
She worked to bolster her self-confidence as she stared from the telephone to the dark plasma screen television. Carla knew she was still attractive at 36, she dressed well, and her Master’s from Caltech was enviable among the techie cowboys in Santa Clara County. She was flush with the inheritance from David Marshall Sullivan, the man whose three names announced an ego that was impressively superior to hers. Moreover, she was desirable as a customer who had an excellent credit rating. She had always paid her bills — her cable TV bills — on time in her last apartment.
So where was the cable man? This was just a business appointment without emotional attachment. Not a date. Was this such a hard thing to schedule?
She had taken to referring to the installer as the damncableman, running the words together the way the Germans used polysyllabic words to define emotions that were too complex to be put into short nouns.
He had failed to show on Monday during the 9-to-5 window they scheduled. She had called the company’s 800 number. The customer service moron had said there had been a problem; would she be home tomorrow?
Of course she’d be home tomorrow. She had been let go from her job as a product support analyst for TekTrak in Menlo Park. They had been solicitous after David Marshall Sullivan’s coronary embolism. They regretted that by dying unexpectedly he hadn’t lived up to his contract, but they didn’t hold that against her when she was severed. They said it was just a corporate reorganization. Their severance package was generous when they fired her, but her own regrets had more to do with losing David than their employer.
She waited until noon on Tuesday before calling the 800 number and demanding to know where the installer was.
“May I confirm your address?” the clerk asked. This woman asked for her phone number again. And for the confirmation number they had given her a week earlier. The clerk spoke with an Indian accent, and Carla realized her voice was being shunted halfway around the world, to some place like Madras or Mumbai.
“I need that installation,” Carla said through clenched teeth. “I’m following the market. I’m an active stock trader and time is money.” This was a lie. She wanted to see Oprah during the morning and a lineup of reality shows in the evening. These were the shows that deadened the pain of remembering the man who had been so many things in her life: husband and lover, friend and bon vivant. David’s hand would have guided them into a fulfilling life together.
“He should be on the way,” the lady from India assured her.
“What is the problem?” Carla asked.
“Um, the log shows he couldn’t find your house.”
“Does he have a cell phone? Can’t he damn well call me when he’s in the neighborhood?”
“I will make a note,” she said. “I will try to page him to call you. And, please be patient,” the clerk pleaded. “This call is monitored for quality assurance.”
The rest of the day was quiet. Every small sound was magnified by the absence of a phone call. It was almost as if there had been a power failure. Or perhaps the Rapture had come down on the sunny streets of San Jose. Wasn’t that what the Bible-thumpers called it when all the good people go to Heaven and leave the sinners behind? Well, even the atheists, agnostics and apostates probably had TV’s and spouses, which is more than Carla had.
She was so annoyed that she microwaved a plate of frozen appetizers for dinner and opened a bottle of hundred-dollar wine from David’s wine cellar.
Wednesday morning dawned as blissfully cloudless as every other California morning. This alone unsettled her, thinking the apocalypse would be waiting for just such a day to kick Californians in the ass with tsunamis, earthquakes, pestilent Med flies or some other annihilation.
The telephone rang as she was going through her BlackBerry, updating phone numbers and looking for people she could network with. It shocked her into almost dropping the PDA.
“Miss Sullivan, this is the cable technician.”
“It’s Mrs., and I thought I was imagining your call. Where the hell are you?”
“I’m on Osborne Street at the corner of Arroyo Seco. Where are you?”
“Where I’ve been for three... days.” She almost laced her retort with a nasty adjective. “For three days. I’m at 108 Osborne.”
“There isn’t any 108. Just a construction site.”
“There was a 108 Osborne when I woke up this morning. There was a 108 yesterday. I’d say it’s a good bet there’ll be a 108 tomorrow.”
“Ma’am, I’m standing in front of where that address should be and there’s no 108. It’s a construction pit.”
Carla opened the slider and looked out over the terrace wall. “Where’s your truck? I don’t see a white truck.”
“Well, it’s blue. Maybe kinda hard to see because of the rain.”
“Look, I don’t have time for chit-chat. I’m missing the Oprah Winfrey Show right now.”
She heard a snort of laughter. “What, on DVD? Oprah’s been dead for three years.”
“Don’t get funny. I don’t criticize your taste in TV shows.” She paused as his words struck her. “What do you mean rain? Are you in San Jose?” And, slyly, “Are you drinking?”
“Ma’am, it’s pouring cats and dogs, I had to get permission to get through the police barricades because of the bomb blast in the center of the city, I’m not getting paid overtime...”
“What bomb?” Her face went pale and her fingers groped for the chair behind her.
“Excuse me, lady, but a city block is missing. Just like 108 Osborne is missing. I know you don’t have TV, but it was terrorists or something and I’m standing in an empty street getting soaked. Now, is this a joke?”
Quietly, Carla asked. “What is today’s date?”
“There is no 29th.” Carla insisted. “This isn’t a leap year.”
“Sure as hell is February 29, 2016, or my name isn’t Yoshio Setsuko.”
“Yoshio, listen, this is June 22nd 2007.”
He laughed humorlessly. “You ask if I’m drinking?”
“Yoshio, the sun is shining, there’s traffic on Osborne, headlines in the Mercury have George Bush saying we’re winning the war, and...”
“Bush? The guy who was president? He’s a freeway in Houston or something, like Reagan’s an airport in Washington. He got assassinated.”
“Yoshio...” Her words tumbled over each other in their race to the front of her mouth. “Yoshio, I’m in the past and I’m talking to you in the future. This is June 22, 2007, and somehow I’ve got connected to the future.”
“Lady, I’m hourly paid. I have to get back to my truck and...”
“No, stop! You have to tell me. The President was assassinated? And there was a terrorist bombing in San Jose?”
“Ma’am, I’ll file a report, but I really have to go.”
There was a series of clicks and a recorded voice came on the line. “This call is being monitored for quality assurance and will now be terminated. If you continue to have a problem, please call 1-800...”
She disconnected and then redialed. A recording stated that her call could not be completed as dialed, to check her number and try again.
She stared blankly at the dark television screen. What would David do in a situation like this? She felt completely isolated and confined, knowing the future was going to be difficult, and made more so by not sharing it with David.
Copyright © 2007 by Walter Giersbach