Two Minutes in Tomorrow
by Donna Hole
part 1 of 2
Peter was in trouble again, and ten-year-old Tommy Thurman had been sent to his room to get ready for bed a half an hour early. Tommy didn’t want to listen, but couldn’t help it.
“There are other ways of handling a bully, Peter,” Dad said.
“He started it,” Peter wailed.
“And you finished it,” Dad said. “I know.”
Tommy pictured Dad shaking his head, his fingers crossed under his clean-shaven chin. “We taught you better than this, son.”
Tommy tried to focus on his unread book, but instead imagined his brother looking to Mom for help.
“Honey, I can’t understand why you need to prove something to this boy.”
Oops, not good for Peter. Mom was always on his side. Guess she drew a line at two days of in-school suspension.
A flash of lightning glowed behind the curtains. Tommy counted off the seconds to the thunder, but didn’t have time to divide by five before the sound rolled over the house. Bounding off the bed he swished back the curtains. Out on the lawn, a brown smudge shook itself in the sudden downpour.
“Goofy, get back inside your house,” he yelled.
Tommy sighed as the dog trotted out of sight. Even if the mutt could hear through the closed window, he probably wouldn’t have listened. The dog loved the rain.
Tommy turned around as Peter stormed into their shared bedroom. And just in time to catch the black-clad Space Phantom as it torpedoed towards the lamp.
“Hey, quit it,” Tommy ordered, stepping forward to rescue the remaining action figures scattered on the floor.
“You want a piece of me too,” Peter yelled as he doubled his fists.
Tommy instantly backed down, his eyes drawn to Peter’s swollen lip.
“Come on,” Peter invited.
“What’s going on here?” Dad asked, causing Tommy to jump guiltily. “Peter, what’s gotten into you? Aren’t you in enough trouble for fighting?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Peter replied.
Dad shook his head and gestured toward the bathroom. “Get into your bedclothes and brush your teeth. Maybe an early bedtime will do your temper some good.”
As his father left, Peter turned his anger on the box of Legos and Matchbox cars neatly arranged on Tommy’s bedside shelf.
Tommy sighed and retreated to his bed with The Phantom and his minions.
“I’ll show him,” Peter complained as he opened a drawer on his side of the dresser. “Bobby Burkes will be sorry he ever picked on me.” He started to pull off his shirt, then noticed Tommy watching. “Turn around.”
It embarrassed Peter to show any skin, enough that he’d worn only long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, jeans and a hat that covered his blond curls even before the weather changed, which made all the kids tease him. And since nobody wanted to hang out with the class joke, it didn’t take Peter long to lose most of his friends.
Being the smallest kid in class had never bothered Peter so much before. Most of the sixth-graders had grown several inches over the summer, and the difference in height had angered Peter from the first day of school.
“I’m short too,” Tommy reminded his brother.
“Turn around or leave.”
Shaking his blond head, Tommy dropped to the floor between the two beds to pick up the scattered toys. He finished just as another wave of lightning and thunder shook the house. They both raced to the window. Hail the size of marbles bounced off the sidewalk.
“Cool,” Tommy and Peter said together, then hi-fived for the jinx.
Grinning, they stared out at the storm for several minutes.
“Pete, come on.” Dad’s impatience echoed from across the hall.
With a groan, Peter shoved away from the window and slowly trudged out of the room. Still grinning, Tommy glanced at the clock. 8:28. He scooped up his action figures to put them away. Struggling to hold onto the toys as he opened the closet door, he stumbled inside...
* * *
And stared into the dim, drizzly outdoors of morning.
He dropped the toys in shock. Before he could completely get his bearings, something large and wet bounded out of the hedges.
“Get off, Goofy.” He pushed the gangly mutt off his chest, then looked up as the back door banged open and his mother called him into the house.
“What are you doing out there with the dog so early?”
Tommy didn’t have an answer.
Growling happily, Goofy snapped up one of the action figures and started to chew on it.
“No, spit it out,” Tommy yelled as he wrestled with the dog for the toy. Goofy’s ears twitched at the sound of a revving engine. Tommy and the figures all went separate ways as the dog barked and raced around the garage.
Still trying to figure out how he went from opening his closet at night to landing in the mud in the morning, he heard his father’s voice calling to Goofy. He was sure Dad could figure this all out. Shaking the mud from his hands and bare feet, Tommy raced around the garage, toward the driveway.
* * *
“Hurry up Tommy,” his best friend, Todd Owens, called from the back of the line of kids boarding the school bus.
Tommy lifted his foot to show Todd he was still in his pyjamas. Jeans and blue Skechers covered his feet and ankles. He realized his shoulders were warm and weighted with his backpack, his bottom no longer caked in mud.
“Come on,” Todd called again as he disappeared inside the bus.
Confused, Tommy turned to stare down the street. His house was two blocks away, the driveway empty. The whoosh of air from the bus hit him as the double doors shut. Ingrained habit kicked in, and Tommy pounded on the side of the bus to get the doors to open again.
“What day is it?” he asked, sliding into the seat with Todd.
Todd blinked behind his glasses. “Monday. Why?”
Todd rambled on about his weekend visit to his Dad’s, but Tommy was barely listening. By the time they got to school, he’d decided he should have let the bus leave without him. He wanted to go home and let his parents sort this out.
Tommy quickly joined the stream of kids filing off the bus, half expecting to enter his bedroom closet instead of the chilly air in front of the school.
“I need to see the nurse,” he told Todd.
“Already? Man, at least wait till after breakfast. They got muffins today.”
Tommy smiled as his stomach growled, but he headed in the opposite direction from the office. Just outside, he sat on the cold stone bench to think up an excuse to call his mom.
* * *
The rain started again, and Tommy blinked cold dampness from his eyes. When he could see clearly again, he was on the playground.
“Not again,” Tommy groaned.
Tommy jumped, then stared at the huddled figure beside him. It was Peter, clutching his backpack. The shape was weird, as if it held something bulkier than the usual notebooks and papers.
He had in-school suspension to serve Friday and Monday, Tommy reminded himself.
Which meant Peter should have been in Teasdale today, a school across town. So, how far into the future had he skipped? As he thought it, Tommy decided that yes, he must be in the future.
“Not supposed to be on this side,” Tommy informed his brother by way of greeting.
Peter shrugged but didn’t look up.
“Where were you this morning? Did you miss the bus?”
Peter shifted his backpack and looked anxiously around. “Forgot something at home.”
“What’s in your pack, Peter?”
* * *
Suddenly he was in the classroom, listening to Bobby Burkes stutter his way through his times tables. Everyone else was on fives at least, but Bobby barely made it through his threes.
Ms. Steel called on Tommy next. He made it through his sixes and most of sevens before losing his way. Bobby glared at him, and Tommy knew he’d probably get kicked or pushed or something later.
Bring it on, he thought, nodding at Bobby. In a world gone crazy, why shouldn’t he relish a fight when he’d normally avoid trouble?
The bell rang, and Tommy followed the rest of the class to lunch. Snapping his fingers as the door closed behind him, Tommy rushed back into the classroom to get the check his mother had sent for lunch several days ago.
* * *
But it was the cafeteria he entered.
“Hey Tommy! You gonna sit and eat, or what?”
Tommy surveyed the crowded tables. The tray in front of him held his usual selections. The food made him nauseous.
“No,” he said, more to himself than to Todd. I was coming here anyway. Why the weird jump?
Dumping his uneaten lunch in the trash, he looked around as shrill laughter bounced off the walls. On the other side of the cafeteria a small knot of kids were laughing and jeering. The crowd shifted in its excitement. Bobby and another boy lifted a struggling figure in the air. Peter.
Not today, Tommy thought. It seemed a single leap separated the space between them, but Tommy was still too late to save Peter from being dropped into the trash.
Tommy grabbed Bobby’s shoulders, then thrust the bully’s head deep into the garbage. The can fell over, and both Bobby and Peter scrambled out of the mess.
“You’re gonna be so sorry,” Peter shouted at Bobby.
“Little runt.” Bobby lunged at Peter, but Tommy grabbed Bobby by his belt as Peter took off running.
Pain flared in the back of Tommy’s knees, and he turned...
* * *
Copyright © 2011 by Donna Hole