The Time Warp

New short fiction by Zack Kopp © 2023 All Rights Reserved

Kids were daring each other to cough on things in grocery store produce sections, and Cubby read where a guy in New Jersey had been charged with making a terroristic threat after doing the same thing then getting high-horse with the hapless clerk who chastised him. People’s visceral fear of body fluids gave crooks the upper hand in this new world after the virus alert. It could be turned to their advantage. Sure, they were both senior citizens now, but they could still fuck shit up for this Plumber. That was the name of a freelance writer encouraging everyone to lighten up and stop being so afraid of their bodily fluids. A joker like that might fuck things up completely for their outfit if people took him seriously. “Apparently this guy considers himself to be a ‘freelance writer’ of some kind,” said Tony. “Whatever that means. I don’t know what he’s writing about, health or beauty products, maybe. Says I need to keep it down at night.” And the same joker lived right underneath Tony’s apartment! “The motherfucker.” Cubby felt so great, talking shit about a shared enemy with his little brother Tony again after all these years of wine, speed, acid, tortillas, and religious visions. Even Cubby had had his visions, though his were more of aliens, or that’s the way he’d chosen to interpret the visions he had of small bug-eyed people with giant heads. Indeed, this difference of opinion, whether these beings were God or the aliens—seemingly trivial, but critical to some enthusiasts—had caused friction between the two brothers in years past.

But no matter. The Smilodons were well versed in putting on the squeeze. Big Bugsy Smilodon had taught them, way back in the caverns by the sea where they were raised. Bugs was dead now. But that’s another story. The only thing standing in the way now was Brad. Brad and his dad, Pat. Standing in the backyard drinking beer. Cooking something at the barbecue. Goddam bad asses. Eating cans of baked beans. Shooting pool at the bar after work. Playing volleyball sometimes. Chewing tobacco. Frowning. Snarling. Wearing blue jeans. Once they ate enough beans or pork brains, the whole neighborhood started to smell bad. The Smilodons lived in a nearby back yard and had to get through this green cloud of Brad and his dad Pat’s bad smells just to get home every day after work. How could anyone ever do that? Dino threw some burning garbage, trying to make Brad and Pat go away. Pat turned and sneered as flaming trash bounced off his neck. A real bad ass. He saw everyone else as the enemy. But look, a storm was coming from the west. But no, that was just Brad’s motorcycle approaching, hell bent on Tony and Dino’s painful destruction by motorized force. Billy Bob Benson strolled back and forth two yards away, unhurt happy go lucky simpleton. Dino threw more burning chunks at Brad and Pat to get rid of them somehow, including a potato, a tomato, but they were too bad ass. The brothers needed to figure a way out of this one, and fast.

Vengeful teenage adults in conflict, they all hated the world. They were no longer children. They wanted to make the world pay for the passage of time. It had stolen their innocence, made them get years and years older, developing new values, slowly becoming more and more corrupt and jaded every day. First they had started as children, then grown into teenage children, then elderly children, then the same thing had happened with adolescence on into adulthood. These vengeful adult types had been fully grown by at least thirteen years now, some even twenty or thirty, some were middle-aged adults by now, some were even senior citizens, like Cubby, Tony, Dino, and the long-dead Bugsy Smilodon, now rotting in the earth. They were all full of wildness and fire despite being superannuated and had all devised complicated heartfelt systems for dealing with continually getting older after years and years of thinking about everything in the world, and undying vengeance screamed in their veins. They knew they were in a time warp because the clothes and shoes and hairstyles changed on people walking down the street. The men’s hair swept up into pompadours then back down, their sideburns changed from long to short then back again, and women’s hair bound itself up into buns then came loose, and the cars kept changing from bulbous 30s era style to 1958s shark fin style to bulbous 90s uniform commodity. They knew it was a time warp. One of them thought he saw a horse and carriage suddenly as if the whole process had gone off the rails slightly suddenly, and now it was 1880, 1870, even, and all this concerned how much of themselves they were honestly willing to share with each other. Someday everyone would find out about it. Until they did, only fortunate suckers like the Smilodons would know. The world became a bendable, flexible thing without any boundaries that belonged to lizards and crooks again, and everyone lived there together. Until people woke up and recognized their true place in reality? It seemed like an obvious first step to someday getting along. Until then, the Smilodons would clean up nicely.


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