Two Minutes in Tomorrow
by Donna Hole
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
And stared at the principal. Mr. Faulk held up a hand — the other had the phone firmly pressed against his ear — and pointed at the chair behind Tommy. He slumped onto the seat, panic making him whimper.
“Thank you, Mrs. Thurman. I’m sure we can get it all straightened out when you get here.” Mr. Faulk stared at Tommy for a long time after he hung up.
Finally Tommy glanced up.
“This isn’t like you, Tommy. Want to tell me what’s going on?”
“It’s Bobby Burkes’ fault, sir. He and his friend dumped my brother in a trash can.” Tommy rubbed his sore calves, keeping his eyes averted. “It wasn’t Peter’s fault either.”
“Do you know where Peter is?”
Tommy stared directly at Mr. Faulk. “No. He ran away when I tackled Bobby. Don’t you know where he is?”
The door flew open and Ms. Dunstan, the school secretary, thrust her head and shoulders into the room. “Come quickly, Mr. Faulk!”
“You stay right there, Tommy, and think about the consequences of your actions today.”
Tommy slouched in his chair, glad to be alone for a few moments. The fire alarm went off, causing him to jump and slide off his seat. For a minute he remained on the floor, his eyes closed, wondering if he should go outside as always in a fire drill or stay and wait for someone to come get him. Or wait for another change.
He sat up, scooted around behind the desk so he was hidden, and pulled his knees to his chest. He blinked his eyes then peered around. Nothing happened.
His day had flashed by like someone hitting the “next scene” button on a DVD. But this was no movie he wanted to be in. He’d watched enough old Twilight Zone episodes with his Dad to wonder if there was something he was supposed to see or do. There had to be a reason he was here. Didn’t there?
The fire alarm was still blaring its warning, but Tommy also heard the clamor of a lot of people entering the outer office.
“Somebody shut that alarm up. And clear some space, I need to see inside that room as soon as possible. Are your men in place, Sergeant?”
Tommy let go of his knees. He tried to stand, but his right foot and ankle had gone numb. Shaking his foot, grimacing at the pins and needles stabbing his toes, he crept to the nearly-closed office door and nudged it open. A wall of uniformed men blocked his view, but he recognized Dad’s work pants and Mom’s favorite slip-ons through the shifting bodies.
“He’s just a child, for goodness sake,” Dad was saying. He sounded scared, which frightened Tommy. “Let me go in there and talk to him.”
“No way, Mr. Thurman. Your son’s already shot one boy. And we don’t know who else is in there with him.” The tall policeman tapped a shorter, younger uniformed man on the shoulder. “Where’s that video feed?”
No one seemed to notice Tommy as the door swung wider.
“Almost got it, sir. Tech says another minute.”
“It’s a ball and powder gun and only holds one shot,” Tommy’s Dad said into the sudden silence. “I doubt Peter thought to bring the whole kit.”
“Shoot the little creep,” another man yelled. “He killed my Bobby.”
“No one has authority to shoot,” a quiet voice said. This man was in a brown suit, standing in the background. “The SWAT team is standard procedure.”
Blue light flickered between his father and the principal, and Tommy saw a glimpse of a door with the number 17 on it.
Tommy’s knees buckled, and he nearly dropped to the floor as realization slammed into him. The thing Peter returned home to get must have been his father’s old-fashioned dueling pistol. The one he showed off during Old West Days.
Slipping quietly out the principal’s door, Tommy skirted around the cluster of people staring at a small TV monitor on the secretary’s desk. At the outer door, he decided to trust whatever force was fast-forwarding him through his day to get him to Peter.
“Inside, inside,” Tommy chanted. He closed his eyes, yanked open the office door...
* * *
And tripped as his numb ankle gave out. Catching himself on the doorframe, his eyes snapped open. The usual array of sweat shirts and jackets, shoes in jumbled piles, old toys and sports equipment returned his astonished glare.
“Oh no,” Tommy groaned.
He had to get back and save Peter. He backed out, shut the door, then opened it again. The closet was just a closet.
Whatever magic had infused it earlier was gone. He firmly shut the door and glanced around the room. The clock on his desk read 8:30. He shivered, suddenly aware he was cold and wet again. His muddy pj’s clung to his bottom and thighs and his hair felt heavy with crud.
“Dad,” he yelled as he ran out of his bedroom. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard his father’s voice from the master bedroom.
He nearly collided with Peter and his dad in the hall.
“That dog knows how to care for himself,” Dad admonished as Peter pushed past. “How many times do I have to tell you not to worry about him?”
“He needs my help,” Tommy answered without thinking. Or rather, thinking more about Peter than the dog.
“Hurry and get cleaned up for bed, Tommy.”
“Wait, Dad,” Tommy begged, grabbing his dad’s big hand to stop him from pounding down the stairs. “Something bad is going to happen.”
Dad shook himself loose from Tommy’s grip, turned him around, and shoved him toward the bathroom. “Only if you don’t get to bed in the next five minutes. Now scoot.”
As Tommy pulled on dry pajamas, he tried to think of how to tell Dad about Peter and the gun. Nothing came to mind that didn’t sound stupid to his own ears. Especially the truth. He crawled under his covers, still thinking about why he had been launched into the future.
Finally he decided the point was to show what Peter planned on doing to get even with Bobby. Now all he had to do was figure out a way to keep Peter from taking the gun to school.
By the time he fell asleep he had a plan to hide it where nobody would find it.
After breakfast, Tommy sneaked into his parents’ bedroom and dug through his mother’s jewelry box until he found the key to the gun cabinet. For a split second, he was afraid to enter the closet where the gun was locked away.
Then he heard Dad calling for Peter to get in the car.
“Just a minute,” Peter hollered from the boys’ bedroom. “I forgot something.”
Tommy realized he’d left the door open. He closed it and dashed back to the vanity to grab the chair. He dragged it into the closet and hopped onto the seat. Even then he wasn’t tall enough to reach the lock. He stood on his toes, bounced on the cushion and stretched his arms up high. The key was almost in the lock when he heard a noise behind him.
The chair wobbled and Tommy crashed to the floor, scraping his face on the side of the cabinet on the way down. He barely had time to touch the scratch before his father yanked him upright.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“I told you something bad is gonna happen today, but you wouldn’t listen,” Tommy sputtered.
“And you think taking a gun to school is the answer?” Dad released Tommy’s arm, then bent to retrieve the key.
Tommy rubbed his throbbing bicep. “Not me. I just wanted to hide it from Peter.”
“What nonsense is this?” Dad motioned Tommy out of the closet and pointed at the bed. Once they were both comfortably seated, Dad asked: “Did Peter tell you that?”
“Yes, sort of,” Tommy lied. He felt guilty but couldn’t make himself tell his dad the truth.
“Peter’s just a little frustrated right now. I’m sure he didn’t mean it.” Tommy started to disagree, but his father put a finger across Tommy lips and said: “Your Mom was right to have me move the guns out of the house. Ancient weapons that don’t fire properly half the time anyways. And I shouldn’t have let you watch that Columbine special. Probably what gave Peter the idea in the first place.”
Dad checked his watch, stuffed the key in his slacks and grabbed his wallet from the dresser. “I’m late for work, and I still have to take your brother to school. We’ll talk about this when I get home tonight.”
“Your Uncle Del took the dueling pistol last week, so it’s not here for anyone to take to school. Or hide. Go on, off to school you go.”
His dad wasn’t home for dinner, and he still wasn’t there when Tommy went to bed. He stayed in his room as much as possible Saturday, hoping to avoid any more arguments.
“Waiting won’t make it easier,” Tommy heard Mom saying from the living room when he snuck downstairs for a snack and soda.
“I know,” Dad replied. “It’s not here anyway, and we’ve enough to worry about with Pete’s troubles. Lets just let this slide for now.”
Goofy barked out front. Feeling relieved, Tommy hurried outside to share his snack with his best friend. Dad was right. No gun, no problem. Tommy felt he’d stopped the impending disaster by ensuring the gun wasn’t in the house.
Several times over the next week, his father seemed like he wanted to talk, but something always came up. At school, rain kept everyone cooped up in the classrooms at recess, and the lunchroom was full of attentive teachers who were quick to break up any signs of horseplay or fighting.
By the next Sunday, Tommy had forgotten all about his premonition, even when Uncle Del came over after church. Tommy was so busy with his cousins playing a new Sonic video game he barely noticed the black case Uncle Del handed Tommy’s dad, or how quickly Peter got up to follow the two men out of the room.
On Monday morning Tommy woke to a loud beeping that wasn’t coming from the alarm.
Outside, the thunderous rumble of the garbage truck reminded Tommy it was his turn to take the trash down to the street. Groaning in anticipation of the lecture his father would give him if the overflowing can wasn’t emptied for the second week in a row, Tommy raced out of the bedroom without stopping to dress or put on his shoes.
He was just in time and waited with a satisfied grin as the mechanical arm grasped the receptacle, jerkily hoisted it, then roughly set the toter down again. Racing forward on cold numbed feet, he hauled the empty can back up the driveway, through the back gate and parked it in the usual spot. Pleased with himself for bringing it back before his mother could tell him to, Tommy started for the back door.
And was promptly bowled over by a wet, furry mass. “Get off, Goofy,” he grumbled, shoving the dog off his chest.
He 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? And in your pj’s? Hurry up and get changed or you’ll miss the bus.”
Something hard and sharp scraped against his knee as he got up. Lying where he’d dropped them over a week ago were the Space Phantom and his minions. They were badly mangled and a couple were half buried in the mud. Tommy bent to pick one up.
Growling happily, Goofy snapped it up and started to chew on it.
A cold chill trickled down Tommy’s spine. It had nothing to do with the wet mud clinging to his pajamas and hair.
This was the day Peter would take the gun to school.
Copyright © 2011 by Donna Hole