Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

Daily Prompt: Horizon

via Daily Prompt: Horizon

 

The first thing that came to mind when I read this prompt was the song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. Here is the first stanza:

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.”

If you don’t know the song, go listen to it here.

It’s a beautiful song that makes me think of brighter days and brighter horizons. Since I’ve started this Daily Prompt journey, I’ve written more than I have in years. I know most of it is not what I used to write (fiction verses non-fiction) but I’ll take it in the hopes that in between the non-fiction ramblings, stories and poems will emerge more and more.

Here’s to new days, new horizons and new stories. Go listen to the song. It might make your day.

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Shana Goes Home

Shana met Bert three times before Spring Break started. She didn’t want to like him, but she did. Shana didn’t tell Larry why she was hesitant to go with Bert, but he could tell there was a reluctance. When Spring Break started, Shana packed a bag and went with Larry to A Bar Called Always. She gave her dad a big hug and left with Bert. Bert was beside himself with joy.

When Shana was gone, Larry turned to the bar, where Jersey was waiting. She was leaning against the bar, waiting for him.

“Tough day?”

He went and stood very close to Lisa. “You might say that.”

Her eyes closed seductively. “Invite me home, Larry.”

He hissed in air. “Is this a good idea?”

“Why not? You don’t have anyone waiting for you. I don’t either. Also, this doesn’t have to be any more than a one-night stand with a friend. No repeats expected. No obligations beyond acknowledging that it happened. And breakfast in the morning. And you have to bring me back here.”

He laughed. “I would very much like the company.”

“Then take me home.”

Larry grinned and slipped his arm through Jersey’s. “Is it ok if I keep calling you Jersey? I really like that name.”

She laughed. “Yeah, you can do that.”

He grinned, gave her a quick kiss and led the way out of the bar.

*****

Shana and Bert were at the bar before Larry. She wanted to get there as soon as possible that Saturday night. When Bert mentioned that they would have to wait for the appointed time, Shana didn’t seem to care. Bert convinced her to wait, but only barely. As soon as they could, they went to the door. It was in an alley way, like in Larry’s time, but unlike Larry’s time, Shana could see it here. It made her pause.

Bert was walking behind her, carrying her backpack. She was a few steps ahead. Until the alley, she had been walking by his side. Once they reached the alley, she started walking faster. Now, she stopped dead.

“Shana?”

“I can see the door here.”

Bert stood by his daughter and placed a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t push him away.

“I can’t see it in dad’s time.” She opened her eyes wide and looked to Bert. “My other dad’s time.”

He could see the blush on her face. “It is all right for you to call him dad. He raised you.”

She gave a shy smile.

Bert started her walking again. When they reached the door, he opened it and indicated Shana should take a seat at a booth. He placed her backpack down in the seat, then went to fetch drinks. It was a busy night. A lot of people were crowded around Lana, who was talking about one of her expeditions. Bert had heard about her, but never talked to her. He didn’t like finding out too much about other people’s past. He felt that might disrupt the future. Although if anything disrupted the future, it was Shana being born and raised in another time for so long. He shook his head and took the drinks Mort placed in front of him.

At the booth, he sat on the opposite side from Shana. He wanted to talk to her while facing her, to be able to watch her expressions.

“I finally figured something out, Shana.”

She took her orange soda and frowned. “What about?”

“Why are you so worried about Larry? I know he raised you, but you seem to think something bad will happen.”

She blushed and slouched in her seat. Bert was able to read her better than Larry. She decided not to play dumb and told him the truth. “Dad lost his wife and kid before taking care of me. He said he was lost without them. I’m not sure what time without me will do to him.” She looked Bert in the eyes. “I’m worried.”

“You are as lovely and caring as your mother.”

She blushed again. “We didn’t talk much about mom this past week.”

“Shana, do you want to come with me for the summer, as Larry suggested?”

“Yes, but…”

The door opened then and Larry walked it.

“Daddy!”

Everyone in the bar turned to see Shana jumping out of the booth and running to Larry. He caught her in a great big bear hug and held on tight. She let go a moment later and smiled up at her dad.

“I missed you.”

“Did you have fun?”

“Yeah, but I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.”

He looked around the bar, saw Bert standing at the end of the booth and nodded. He also saw Jersey in the group of people talking with Lana. Larry took Shana over to the booth and sat with her. Bert took his seat again and smiled.

“How are you, Larry?”

“Good.” He looked to Shana. “Glad to have Shana back, but I hope the two of you had a good time.”

“I want to go back in the summer.” Shana said quietly.

Bert looked to Larry as he took in this news. He could see the sadness in Larry’s eyes. He decided not to have any secrets with Larry, even if it meant exposing Shana’s worries. He didn’t want Shana’s absence to cause Larry to harm himself.

“Larry, Shana brought something up with me, and I want you to know her worries.” He looked to Shana. “Please tell him what you told me. It’s best for everyone if you do.”

Shana blushed and gave Bert an angry look. “I didn’t want you to do that.”

“But he needs to know your worries, Shana. He deserves that, as a human, and as your father.” His voice was gentle.

Shana rolled her eyes and pulled away from Larry to be able to look in his eyes. She was trying not to look embarrassed and failing miserably. “Dad, you said once that losing your wife and kid was the worse thing that ever happened to you. You also said you didn’t know what you would do without me, on numerous occasions. Are you going to be ok without me? You’re not going to do something stupid, are you?”

Larry looked shocked and took a moment to process everything she had said. It was true he had said he couldn’t live without Shana to Shana on numerous occasions. He also told her losing his wife and unborn baby was the toughest thing he ever went through. He sighed and pulled Shana in for a hug.

“Honey, I love you. I don’t want to lose you, but if Bert tells me I can visit with you here, then nothing will stop me from meeting you here.” He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “Bert gave me the opportunity to raise you. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thinks it was a very good idea, especially once he gets to know you more. You are my daughter, maybe not by blood, but by love. If you decide you want to live in the right time, then I won’t stop you. I also won’t do anything to harm myself. I promise you. I want to see you grow up, Shana. I know that might not be in my time, but I still want to know you, ok?”

Tears formed in her eyes and she hugged him hard. Tears steamed down Larry’s face as well, and he did nothing to stop them. The two stayed locked in a hug for a few minutes. Finally, Shana broke away.

“This is frustrating and sad and awesome at the same time. I love this and hate this.” She turned to Bert. “I really do, you know?”

Bert nodded as he wiped away a tear.

Larry sighed. “It’s ok. It’s a weird situation and we can’t control any of it. But as long as the three of us try, we can work it out.”

Shana turned more toward Bert and stuck her hand out, palm down. “We’re a team.”

Larry put his hand on top of hers, and Bert put his hand on top of Larry’s when he understood what to do. Once they were all touching, Shana said it again.

“We’re a team. We’ll work things out.”

“Agreed.” Larry spoke the word first and Bert followed suit. He looked to the two and knew he would do what he could to make sure Larry would always know Shana.

The three stayed and talked for a while, but while Bert said his goodbyes to his daughter, Larry went to Jersey. She met him at the bar.

“Things going ok?”

“Mostly. She likes him. I’m glad.”

“Is she going with him for the summer?”

“Yeah.”

Jersey caressed his face with her eyes. “Can I see you again before then? If only for drinks?”

He smiled to her. “I would like that.”

“What day is best for drinks?”

“Probably Fridays. My work schedule is changing.”

“So I’ll see you Friday?”

“If only long enough for a kiss.”

She giggled. “I like that.”

Larry gave her a lingering kiss on the cheek, then turned back to the booth. Shana and Bert were hugging. They let go as Larry approached. Bert gave Shana her backpack and left first. Larry took Shana’s backpack, slung it around his shoulders and left with his daughter. He smiled all the way home, glad to have Shana back, but also glad to have a date with Jersey set for next Friday.

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Shana Meets Bert

Shana sat nervously in the booth, while Larry ordered from the bar. He was getting a couple orange sodas and some food. Her dad was getting a burger. He said they were the best in time. Shana wanted pretzel bites with jalapeno cheese. She wasn’t hungry, but she wanted something to do to pass the time, while they waited for her Bert to show up. Larry wanted to be here ahead of schedule to give Shana time to relax, he said. She wanted this over with. Larry was her dad, not this Bert guy.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. That wasn’t really fair, and she knew it. It was all so weird though and juts getting weirder. If this meeting went well, she would be going to visit for a week. A week away from Larry. Shana looked to her dad, and saw he was coming over with the drinks. He sat down across from her and smiled as she took the glass.

She took a large gulp then looked to Larry as she smacked her lips. “Do they even have orange soda in his time?”

“I don’t know, hon, but you can ask him when he gets here.”

“Dad, what if I don’t like him?”

“Then you don’t like him, but you have to give him a chance. He’s your biological father.”

“If I decide to go with him, what are you going to tell everyone?”

“You don’t have parents listed on your birth certificate. If I say your birth father found you and wants you back, no one can dispute that. Also, he is your biological father. If they run DNA tests, it’ll prove he’s your dad.”

“What am I supposed to say to my friends? Where should I say he lives? With social media and the internet, it’s hard for people to hide.”

“Say he’s not from the U.S. Or say he was a missionary and was lost for a long time because of a head injury. That at least is part of the truth.”

“But…”

He reached out and placed his hands on hers. “Shana. You’re nervous. Understandably so. Take a deep breath. Calm down a bit and wait until you meet him.” He looked away and laughed as something occurred to him. He looked back at Shana. “I almost hate to say this, but you are going to have a ton more questions when you meet him.”

She rolled her eyes, took her hands away and hid her face. “God! This sucks.” She looked up. “I mean, sort of.” She leaned her head back. “I don’t know what I mean.”

“Sweetie, I can’t image what you are going through, but I’m here, no matter what.”

She looked to her dad. “I guess that’s the problem. I’m so used to you being there for me. If I go off to be with Bert, I won’t have you anymore.”

Tears started in his eyes. “You’ll have me. If you decide to stay with your biological father, we can still meet here every week. You can tell me about your week and I can tell you about mine. We may not end up in the same time, but I will be here for you. Always.”

Shana slipped out of the booth and joined her dad on his side. She kissed his cheek. “Thanks, dad.”

He kissed the top of her head and slipped an arm around her waist. “Thank you.”

They stayed that way for a few moments until the door opened. Larry craned his neck around to see Bert walking into the bar. Larry looked to Shana.

“That’s him.”

Shana moved out of the booth and stood. She looked to the door and watched as Bert drew near. There was happy surprise in his eyes. He walked quicker and stopped in front of Shana. He nodded to Larry, then looked back to his daughter.

“Shana. You look so much like your mother.”

She looked at him and stuck her hand out to shake his. “Hi.”

Bert gave an odd smile, but took her hand. “Hello, Shana. I’m Bert.”

They shook hands and Shana pulled away quickly. She sat by Larry and grabbed her orange soda from the other side of the table. “I’m going to sit with Larry. You can sit on that side.”

“All right.” Bert did as asked. When Mort came over, Bert ordered his usual, raspberry wine.

Bert looked to Shana. “I have a lot of questions and I’m sure you have some, too.”

“Do they have orange soda in your time?”

“Yes, but I’m sure it tastes different. May I?” He indicated her glass.

Shana looked at him, then at her glass. She shrugged and slid it over. Bert took a small sip and slid the glass back over.

“That one is much sweeter, but it’s not bad.”

She leaned back in the booth. “I don’t know what to say to you. Dad said you had amnesia. That’s why you didn’t get me sooner, but why didn’t you fight for my mom and you to be able to be together?”

Bert sighed. “Because I wasn’t that strong. I did as told most of my life, Shana. I hope Larry has taught you to stick up for yourself.”

“He taught me a lot of things.” There was defiance in her eyes, and Bert felt it was more toward him than anything else.

Bert sighed again. “Shana, once I remembered who you were, I did everything I could to get better so I could come looking for you. If I could have come sooner, I would have. I know we lost time, but I’m here now. There is no way I can answer all your questions tonight and there is no way you can answer all my questions tonight. That’s why I wanted you to come with me to visit.”

“But I don’t know if I want to go. If I go and hate it within hours, will you bring me back here?”

Bert frowned. “Of course, I would. Shana, you’re not a prisoner. You’re my daughter. I want you to experience my time. You should have been born and raised there.” He leaned forward. “Please Shana. Give me a chance.”

She crossed her arms. “I’ll think about it. Spring Break isn’t for a little bit.” She turned to Larry. “I want to go home now, dad.”

Larry looked to Shana, then to Bert. Larry had a helpless look on his face. Bert nodded minutely. Larry turned back to Shana. “All right. I already paid for the drinks. We can go.”

She nodded, and practically ran to the door. Larry turned to Bert.

“One week. I’ll bring her back in one week. We should keep having the two of you meet.”

Bert looked at Larry gratefully. “Thank you.”

Larry nodded then left to take his daughter home.

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Lana and Chauncy

Mort waited up for Chauncy, with the two glasses and the Calvados sitting on the bar. Chauncy came at his usual time and Mort helped him haul in the boxes. After they were unloaded with the empty boxes by the door, Mort poured them both a drink.

“You look like you have something on your mind. Is that why you were quiet when I came in?”

“That and I have a guest. She’s also the issue.”

“Over staying her welcome?”

“Not in the least. Remember the caveman I told you about?”

“The one Theo killed? Yes. Did it cause problems?”

“It seems as if it did.” He told Chauncy Lana’s story. At the end of it, Chauncy downed his drink.

“That’s terrible news.”

“Is there any thing we can do to help?”

“I don’t know, but I need to find out what else happened due to the caveman dying. I wasn’t able to find anything in our systems after you told me about it, but with her information, I might be able to find out more.”

“Do you want to talk to her? We don’t have to tell her who you are, but we can say you need her help.”

Chauncy thought or a moment, then nodded. “I need information that is easier to get straight from her. If she is here now, do you mind waking her?”

“Sure. One moment.”

Mort went to the second bedroom and knocked on the door. He kept knocking until Lana came to the door and yanked it open.

“What?”

“I’m terribly sorry to wake you, but there is someone here that needs your help.”

“My help. Why?” She rubbed her eyes to try and wake up.

“He can explain better than I can.”

“Fine. Give me a moment. And I’ll need some coffee.”

“Of course.”

Mort left and Lana closed the door. He went to make coffee and by the time it was brewing, she was in the main room, walking toward Chauncy.

“Are you the person who needs my help?”

Chauncy stood and held out his hand. Lana shook his hand. “I’m Chauncy.”

“Lana.”

They took seats at the bar as Mort brought over a cup of coffee for Lana. He indicated the Calvados bottle but Chauncy declined. Mort put the bottle away and looked to Chauncy.

“Do you need privacy, Chauncy?”

“You can stay, Mort.”

Mort nodded and stood nearby, but let the two talk.

“How can I help you?” Lana looked skeptical.

“I cannot tell you all the reasons why, but I need the names of your ancestors. I need to be able to trace their existence, or non-existence as the case may be.”

Lana gave him a quizzical look. “Why?”

“I cannot tell you that.”

She folded her hands on the bar top and took a deep breath. “I’m a researcher, Chauncy. That was my job in my time. Research history and help make sure we humans, as a species, do not lose any of it. In my time, there’s no more of this ‘the winner writes the history’ bullshit that happened throughout most of the history before now. If you can tell me anything that would help me understand why I need to help you, I would appreciate that. My curiosity is running wild.”

He looked at her stoic face, at Mort’s surprised one, then took a deep breath. He thought of what he could say and how to say it, then nodded. “In my time, well into the future, there is time travel. I need the names to find out how badly time was damaged by the caveman dying. I wasn’t able to find anything before, but with the names of your family, I may be able to find a lot.” He placed a gentle hand on Lana’s arm. “I may be able to correct what has happened.”

She nodded. “All right.” Lana looked to Mort. “Do you have pen and paper?”

Mort nodded, went into the back room and came back with paper and pen. Lana took a long time to write out all the names. She even wrote out the name of the town in Germany where the caveman remains had been found and the year. After she handed over the list, Chauncy started to question her on the dates of birth and death. At that point, Mort excused himself and asked Lana to turn off the lights when Chauncy left. He was tired and knew there was nothing more he could do.

*****

It took Chauncy two months to come back with information. He made his regular visits, but was not able to give any more information on Lana and her family during those visits. With Chauncy’s approval, Mort let Lana know when the man came to the bar. She told Mort to let her know if he had news, but she usually stayed in her room and slept when he visited. Lana wanted to know when and if he had information, and didn’t see the point in being up every time.

While waiting for information, Lana visited other times with the other regulars. She only stayed for a day or two, mostly to see what historians missed. She didn’t know if she would go back to her time, and her life, but she wanted to be ready anyway. Theo offered to have her visit his time, but she declined. Lana told Mort later she blamed Theo for her predicament, because he killed the caveman. Mort didn’t argue. He felt it was the bar’s fault, but perhaps she didn’t want to see it that way, as she was stuck with the bar.

When Chauncy finally had information, he came into the bar in his usual way, with boxes to unload. Once the two were empty and Mort had poured him a drink, Chauncy looked to the back.

“I have news for her.”

“It’s not good, is it?”

Chauncy shrugged. “I can’t tell you that. Only she can be the judge. Please wake her.”

“Of course.” Mort was back moments later with Lana. She looked a little scared.

“Hey.”

“Hello, Lana. Would you care to take a seat?” Chauncy indicated the stool next to him.

“Yeah. Mort can I have coffee, but with something in it?”

“Of course.” He went about his business as Lana sat down.

“Please remember, I cannot tell you a lot of how I found this information.”

“That’s fine. What did you find out?”

“The caveman was in fact your ancestor. When he died, your father’s line went with it. The thing is, removing him from the timeline has not done too much damage. Many people think that somewhere in their timeline, one of their ancestors or one of their heirs would end up being famous or doing something history changing. Sadly, that is not the case. Most people, most families have nothing special about them other than the love they share for each other. I followed all the time lines of all the people in your history. No one in your family was a history maker. And though some seemed to have inspired others to greatness, once your father’s line left history, the inspiration was found through others.”

She looked at Chauncy with a blank look for a while, processing all the information before answering. “I guess I kind of figured that out, but still. It’s weird to hear it from someone else.”

“Unfortunately, having a family such as yours means that I am not allowed to restore it.”

“Ok, but wait. Did I get saved from oblivion because of this bar? I mean, that’s what I figured, but I wasn’t sure.”

“A Bar Called Always is out of sync with time. Since you were here when your ancestor died, you were saved from oblivion. The bad part of all of it is that you know what happened.”

“So, what happens now? I can’t keep living here.”

“That depends on you.”

“You’re making it sound like I have choices.” A part of her was intrigued, but she didn’t think there were any choices.

“We would have to lie, but you can come with me. Live in my time. We’re used to Time Wanderers. The only problem with that: you would no longer have free access to this place. If you did come here, it would have to be with me.”

Lana gave him a quizzical look. “When do you come from?”

“The 61st century. Time is thought of differently where I am, but for you, it would still be that. We need historians. You could work with me.”

“Should I ask what you do?”

“You can, but I am not able to give you an answer yet. Also, Lana, please understand, if you did come back with me, there are many rules and laws you could never break. Things you could never say to anyone, not even here.”

“That’s why I’m still thinking about it. Look, could I live in another era? Or could I go back to my time and have someone help me reconfigure the chip to give me a new identity?”

Chauncy shook his head. “You could contaminate the time line.”

“Can you see that?”

“In a way, yes. If you went to another time, you would not be able to have a family. If you came back with me, we could watch and make sure you were with someone who could help you not make ripples.”

She opened her mouth to ask questions on how he knew that, but shook her head instead. She stayed silent for a few minutes, looking at a spot behind Chauncy. Finally, she met his eyes again. “I need time to think.”

“Take it.”

“All right. I’m going back to bed. I need to rest.”

“Good night, Lana.” Chauncy’s voice was kind.

Mort came out from the kitchen and nodded to Lana as she passed. She waved to him but said nothing. Mort went to Chauncy but didn’t say anything until he heard Lana’s door close.

“Can you get in trouble if you take her?”

“No, people have been pulled out of time before and end up in my century. Sometimes we’re able to find their timeline, sometimes we are not. If someone’s life leaves ripples in the Time Stream, then we take them home. If it does not, we ask them if they want to stay with us so that we can learn about their time.”

“With all the research you did on her, no one will know her true history?”

He sighed. “My dear Morton, I am far too careful to get caught.” He snorted. “Far too paranoid as well.” He looked Mort in the eyes. “I am very careful. And even if I get caught, it would not affect her or this bar. This bar seems to protect itself.”

“I was more worried about Lana.”

“I understand, but you needn’t. I will make sure she’s safe.”

“What happens if she doesn’t go with you?”

There was sadness in Chauncy’s eyes. “I would rather not contemplate that. Do what you can to convince her to come with me, Mort. It’s her only chance.”

“Are you sure? What if she went to another time and never had children?”

Chauncy took a moment to think. “There are still dangers with that, but we might be able to work something out for her.” He nodded. “Yes. Yes, I think we could.”

“Thank you for thinking it over, Chauncy.”

He nodded and stood. “It’s time for me to go. I’ll be back as usual next week, but let her know she can take all the time she needs.”

“You’re welcomed here any time, Chauncy.” Mort stuck his hand out.

Chauncy took Mort’s hand and shook it. “Always a pleasure, Mort.”

The men smiled at each other and Chauncy left for the night. Mort finished cleaning up and went to bed, hoping that Lana would be able to find a good solution to her life.

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NaNoWriMo 11/30/17

I did not “win” NaNoWriMo. I only hit 25966 words, but everything I wrote, I will publish here. I plan on finishing the stories I started. Shana’s story, Lana’s story, and Hiroshi’s story (not yet published) are not done. I want those stories fully told, to the best of my ability. I also realized I have an “end” to the collection. A story that will, to me anyway, tie up Mort’s story. I see it now, how the chapter will start. The door is open for me and I will walk through and tell it. I have a little time tonight…. I will be writing something other than this.

I won’t publish that story tonight. I have other stories to place here first. I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories so far. As I said when I started this journey, the stories are first  draft and are probably flawed. I will get them edited though, and I will be placing them in book format on Amazon Kindle (free) when I have all the stories written. Until then, please continue reading. And if you feel like it, let me know in the comments what you think. Thank you, and have a good evening.

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Lana

Lana sat in the bar stool and waited for Mort to come to her. Unlike her other visits, she was subdued and didn’t interact with the other patrons. It was busy for a Wednesday, and there was a newcomer. Someone from Canada, in the 1800s. He was a trapper and a moose had attacked him. His gun jammed, he ran and found the door to A Bar Called Always. He had a thick French accent and was rather glad to find friends.

Mort was surprised that Lana wasn’t joining in the discussions. She loved new people. Loved history, too. He walked over to her and smiled.

“Welcome.”

She looked up at Mort and he gasped. The sorrow in her eyes was thick.

“Lana, what’s wrong?”

“I’ve been erased from history.” She spoke quietly.

He leaned in closer and matched her volume. “What do you mean?”

“When I went home after Theo killed the caveman, I didn’t exist. Or rather, my family didn’t exist. My dad had never been born, my mom was married to someone else and had kids with the other man. She had two boys, no girls. I’ve been erased.”

Mort was white as a ghost. He had too many questions, but didn’t know where to start. He looked down at his hands, which were on the bar and thought for a moment. Once he had a plan he nodded and looked up. “Would you tell me more tonight after close? There is an extra bedroom. You can stay and we can talk after everyone else is gone.”

She looked lost. “Why?”

“I want to see if there is anything I can do to help.”

She was about to open her mouth to question him, but then realized there was a lot about this bar and its bartender that she didn’t now. Lana nodded. “I would appreciate that.”

“For the moment, may I offer you something to drink? On the house.”

She shook her head. “Thanks, Mort. I can still pay.”

“I’m not offering because I think you can’t pay, my dear Lana, I’m offering because I can’t imagine what you are going through.”

She gave a soft smile of gratitude. “Thanks, Mort. I appreciate that. I’ll take a beer.” She took a deep breath. “Anything new?”

“No, but I have one of your favorites. Golden Ristrim.”

She nearly melted. “Oh, that is the best beer here. Why don’t you have it more often?”

“I don’t know. I don’t buy the supplies.”

“Right. I’ll take one.”

Mort smiled and nodded. He turned and grabbed her beer. After serving her, Mort moved away to make sure his other patrons didn’t need anything.

*****

Lana helped Mort clean up that night, but neither talked much. Once they were done, Mort invited Lana into the second bedroom. There was a bed and a comfortable recliner. There was a also a dresser, a nightstand and a lamp. It was very simple, and not made for a long time stay. There was a bathroom in the main bedroom, which guests could use as well. Mort sat in the recliner and Lana sat on the edge of the bed.

“What happened when you left that day?”

“I went home, except it wasn’t there. My dad built it for my mom. I mean, the house was there, the address existed, but the house was different. I saw that and decided not to walk right up like I owned the place.”

“You’re living with your parents?”

“Dad has health issues. I decided to move back in after it became worse. I work, pay the bills, and help mom with dad. Or I used to.” She sighed. “Dad was a history professor. He passed that love on to me. We had our family tree, mom’s and dad’s side, on a genealogy website. I practically memorized it as a kid. I was fascinated. Dad found his lineage all the way back to the bronze age.”

Mort looked surprised. “I didn’t think that would be possible.”

“With DNA testing, it’s very easy, as long as remains were found from that era. My family originally came from Nienstedt, Germany. In 1993, they found remains of people from the bronze age near that town. My dad’s family can trace its roots right back to one of the remains. A male. The caveman was from the Bronze Age, Mort. I’ve done enough research to recognize what he was wearing.”

“You believe he was your ancestor?

“Yes.”

“But he would have died no matter what, Lana. There was a volcano erupting nearby.”

“What if he had found a way around it without the door? What if he became so fascinated with the door to here, that he didn’t run when he could have?”

Mort held up his hands. “All right. Let’s go back to what we do know. Who do you know your dad doesn’t exist?”

She nodded. “I went back to my house after the caveman died. As I said, the house looked different. I went up to the door, knocked and plastered a lost and confused look on my face. My mom answered, and I almost said hi, except that she didn’t recognize me. Also, she looked a lot younger.” She hung her head. “I think the stress of taking care of my dad aged her. Now, she has a healthy husband.”

Lana shook her head. “I told my mom, who isn’t my mom any more, that I was looking for an address three blocks over. I live on Dubai Road. Dubai Street is not too far away. We have…had… that issue all the time. She smiled as if she understood and told me my mistake. I thanked her and left. I found a hotel, got a room and cried my eyes out. The next morning, I went to the library to research. The first thing I looked up was the archeological dig. It happened, but one less body was found than I remembered. Then tried to look up my dad and everyone in his family that I remembered names for. It was a lot.”

“No one existed?”

“No. My dad’s family is gone. My mom’s line is intact, but not my dad’s.”

“Did you have any siblings?”

She shook her head. “No, they just had me, but my dad’s brother had two kids. They’re gone now too.”

Mort sighed, thinking of Chauncy and the Time Constables, or whatever they were called. He needed to talk to Chauncy.

“Lana, what year are you from? I forget.”

“It’s 3102 when I leave that door.”

“And you were born in what year?”

“3075.”

“All right. Thank you. Try and rest. You’re welcomed to stay here for a while. There is someone I need to talk to about all this, but he only comes on Saturday nights. Until then, you can stay here, or not, as you please.”

“For tonight, I’ll stay here. It’s not that safe for me in my world.” She rubbed a spot on her forearm. “We have chips implanted into our arms as infants. Has all our identification. I had to avoid a few sentry points to get all the information I needed. Luckily, my dad knew a few things about computers, and he taught me. But the more I tamper, or travel in my time the more I have to worry about.”

“Understood. Stay here.” He stood. “If you care to help me here, you can.”

She smiled. “I would like that. Gives me an opportunity to earn my keep.”

Mort smiled, nodded, then left the room. He closed the door and went to his own room. He laid down on the bed to think, but did not fall asleep for a long, long time.

 

 

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Shana

“Dad, where are we going?” Her voice was slightly annoyed, and a bit put off. They hadn’t walked very far, but now they were in a dead-end ally. Her dad didn’t seem like he was going to stop.

Larry squeezed her hand. “A special place. You’ll see.”

He didn’t like that she couldn’t see the door, but wasn’t able to do anything about that.

“Dad…” She pulled at his hand when he reached out to the empty wall. “What’s going on?”

As soon as he took the doorknob, Larry knew everything would be all right. He looked to Shana. “Trust me, Shana. Please. I’ll explain everything in a moment.”

“You’re being weird. You’re not usually weird.”

He smiled and relaxed when she did, too. “I’ve done plenty of weird things, Shana.”

“Yeah, but most of it is our level of weird. This is new weird.”

He opened the door further, large enough for Shana to see inside. Surprise blossomed on her face as she finally saw the door and the bar.

“That was…”

“Something I wanted to talk to you about. Come on.”

Shana walked in first and Larry followed her in. He closed the door behind them and looked around. He smiled when he saw Selna, then felt his heart flutter when his eyes met Jersey’s. He blushed and looked toward Mort.

“Mort! Orange soda. Two of them, please.”

Mort nodded. “Coming right up! Take a booth. I’ve got some dessert you might be interested in.”

“Dad, what are we doing in a bar?”

Larry put a hand on her shoulder and waited for Shana to meet his eyes. “Sweetie, you’re going to hear a long story today, but it starts with: this is where you were born.”

As the news sunk in, Larry led Shana to the booth. By the time they were at the booth, Shana was already full of questions. Larry held his hands up.

“Honey, let me tell you the story. Once I’m done, you can ask questions, OK?”

She slouched in her seat but was silent for a while. Finally, she nodded. “OK.”

Larry nodded and started the story of her birth.

*****

“So, when I was born, you weren’t doing too well?”

It was her first question. Larry looked taken aback, but nodded. “I had lost my wife and unborn child about a year before all this happened. It was still hitting me pretty hard.”

“I helped you get over her?”

“No…” He signed. “There’s no getting over someone you love. You just get used to a new normal.”

“I guess I don’t really understand that.”

“It’s ok. You shouldn’t understand it. You’re too young for that kind of pain.” His voice sounded strained.

Shana heard the tone of voice and decided to change the subject. “You told me a while ago that I was adopted, but I guess I didn’t think my parents were alive.”

“Your dad is.” He sounded relieved that the line of questions had changed.

“And my biological mom died in this bar?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.” She looked toward Mort and Selna, who were at the bar, doing a good job of minding their own business. The two had shared their stories, to help Shana understand Larry was not lying. She hadn’t needed their stories. She knew her dad wasn’t lying. He never lied. Shana looked back to Larry, to the man she had called ‘dad’ for her entire life. “Dad, what happens if I don’t like him? Or the time he lives in?”

Larry held his hands out to Shana. She took them. “You always have a life with me, Shana. Just because Bert wants to see you, doesn’t mean you have to live with him. He’s the one who said you have a choice. But you do need to give him a chance.”

“When?”

“We need to tell him that you know. Then he’ll meet you here. This is neutral ground. Once he’s met you, I think it would be best if you visited him. Spring break is a month away. I think you should stay with him for the week, finish school here, then live with him for the summer. It’s less disruptive of your school life that way. If you agree, of course.”

“Do I have to decide now?”

“No, honey. You don’t.”

“Ok. Can we go home now?”

“Yes. Let me pay the bill.”

She nodded, slipped out of the booth and went to the door. Shana crossed her arms and waited for Larry. Larry went to Mort and paid his tab.

“Do you know when Bert is coming back?”

“He’s in here once a week, usually on Saturday.”

It was Friday night. “I didn’t know he came in here that often.”

“He’s anxious. When do you want to bring Shana back?”

“I want to give her some time to think. I’ll be here next Saturday. A week from tomorrow. If Shana wants to come, she’ll come. If she doesn’t, I’ll talk to Bert and we’ll try to figure something out.”

“I’ll let him know.”

“Thanks, Mort.”

A soft voice spoke in Larry’s ear.

“Hey. Mind if I’m here when she meets her dad? You might need a friend.”

Larry looked to Jersey. He swallowed hard. “I…yes. But I don’t know when that’s happening.”

“Well, can I be here next Saturday?”

“I’d like that, but I might not be able to stay long.”

“I like your company. If you don’t mind the confession, I think about you when I’ not here.”

He blushed a little and she saw it, but didn’t ask. “I like your company, too. I’ll see you Saturday.”

Larry finished paying his tab, smiled to Jersey and left with Shana.

Mort looked after Larry, then looked back to Jersey once he was gone. “Be kind with that one.”

She raised an eyebrow. “I’m never anything but. I may have a rough exterior, but I know pain, Mort. I don’t mess with hearts.”

Mort nodded, then went to other customers to help them out. When he had a free moment, he wrote a note to Bert about the meet up. He sighed. The death of the Caveman had left a bitter taste in his mouth and put him on edge. He wasn’t sure anything was wrong, but something felt off. He hoped that getting Shana to her dad and her right time would set things right.

 

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Sometimes…

Though no one really planned it, the third Friday of the month was starting to become the meeting night. Most of the regulars were here, and though the bar was not packed, it was steady. Mort noticed that Larry, Terrance, and Bert were not present. A few others weren’t at well, but he watched for those three on a regular basis. Terrance, he kept an eye on, mostly due to the man’s age. Mort wasn’t sure how long the man had, but he hoped to see him again.

Larry and Bert came when they could, but with Shana to take care of, he wasn’t surprised they weren’t here. Others trickled in, getting their drinks and sitting with friends or new faces to talk of life. Mort enjoyed these nights, as did Chauncy. Mort told Chauncy of these gatherings and the founder of A Bar Called Always came when he could. No one knew who he really was, but Chauncy preferred it that way. He didn’t want to have to field a bunch of questions about the existence of the bar. Chauncy felt he knew as much as anyone else.

“Hey, Mort. Got any new beers?”

Mort smiled kindly to the woman in front of him. “Lana, nice to see you.”

“It has been a while, hasn’t it?” She simply wicked and waited for Mort to hand her a bottle of beer.

“This is an interesting batch. One of the first beers made in the U.S.”

She took a sip. “Not bad. Not what I’m used to, but not bad. Thanks.”

She walked away as he smiled. He wrote the price down on her tab and turned to another customer. Lana walked over to the dart board and started playing a game with a few other patrons.

*****

It was close to the end of the night. How most patrons knew the time in this place was beyond Mort’s understanding. A few had already gone, but Lana, Theo and a few others were still around the dart board, talking more than playing. The door opened, which surprised Mort. It was late for regulars. He started around the bar, wondering if it were a new person.

The door finally opened fully, and the bar filled with red light. All the patrons turned to the door and saw a man in shadow. Beyond the man was the source of the red light. Close by, a mountain was spewing forth fire. A volcano was erupting.

“Shit! Close the door!” Someone yelled as they realized the lava was flowing toward them.

The shadow of the man yelled incoherently, and he tried to turn around. He saw the lava was closing in on him and he turned back to the bar. Several people ran toward the door. Theo reached the man first, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him through. Mort reached the door second and slammed it shut. As if in the distance, a mighty fire seemed to destroy a door. The noise was gone quickly, and everyone turned to the man, who was hitting Theo and screaming.

“Oh my god. That’s a cave man.”

It looked to be true. The man’s hair was long and unkempt. He was dirty and wore crude animal hide as clothing. He wore no shoes.

Mort was trying to find a way to help Theo. Lana finally went to the men and waved her hands in the air to get the newcomer’s attention. She also called to Theo.

“Let him go, Theo. He’s freighted.”

Theo let the man go and tried to get away. The newcomer raised his hand again, but Lana stepped forward. The man bared his teeth in anger. She held her hands up as if to reassure the man she meant no harm and had no weapons. She spoke in a quiet voice.

“It’s ok. We won’t hurt you. Are you hurt or hungry?”

His mouth was open, as if he were questioning the world around him. Lana thought he might be. He was not looking into her eyes, but she didn’t know if someone from that time would look into her eyes. She tried another tactic. She patted the seat in the booth nearest her.

“You can sit if your tired.” Lana sat down in the booth and saw that he was watching her. “Someone get him something to drink and eat. Water and the closest thing we have to a vegetable or fruit. Uncooked.”

He watched as she spoke, then regarded her carefully as she sat. He looked to the other people in the room and saw that they were backing away. The man carefully sat on the ground, but looked to still be on his guard. He grunted and made a few other noises. Theo, nervous about the man, had his hand on his gun, but was in the back of the crowd. He wouldn’t pull his gun if he didn’t have a clear shot, but he wasn’t afraid to kill the man if he had to.

Mort came out of the back with a mug of water and an apple. It was clean but not cut up. He didn’t know if the caveman would know what it was, but it was worth a shot. He carefully made his way to Lana and placed the items near her. She took the water, stood and then sat cross legged on the ground, like the man. She drank the water from the mug and offered it to him. He took it and sniffed. He frowned, but drank as she had. He looked surprised, then drank down the rest of the mug. As he handed the mug back, he made happy noises.

Lana took the apple next, and bit into it, to show the man it was safe. He took the apple and looked at it quizzically. Before Lana could say anything, the man ducked and guarded his head with his hands. He screamed as if confused or hurt. He shot up from the ground and slammed into a nearby post.

Lana stood and tried to stop him, tried to reassure him. The others scattered, afraid of getting in the way of his large, muscled hands. Lana reached out to him.

“It’s ok!” She said in her most soothing voice.

He looked angrily at her and she held her arms in front of her, palms up, as if trying to offer him something. He apparently saw it as a good sign and reached out to her. He touched the fabric of her sleeve and screamed again.

Mort saw this happening and understood that the bar was giving the man information about the fabric. It had probably also told the man what an apple was. As the man screamed again, it finally clicked home for Mort.

“He’s pre-speech! The bar’s telling him things in his head and he doesn’t understand what it means or where it’s coming from! We need to help him get out!”

Though Mort spoke loudly, he did not speak menacingly. He tried to get others to herd the man to the door, but the man wouldn’t go. Mort felt the man might be afraid of the possible lava.

Lana saw that the man was becoming more and more frightened. Theo saw it, too. He slipped his gun out of it’s holster and held it behind his back. He also tried to get in a better position. He didn’t want to use the gun, but would if he had no other choice. He wasn’t sure it was a good idea to shot anyone in this bar, but he would deal with the consequences later.

People were still trying to move the man to the door, to get him to turn the knob; only he could get himself home. The more they tried to explain, the more agitated he became. Finally, Lana stood in front of the man and turned her back to him. She yelled at the bar.

“Everyone stop!” she looked at the others in the eye for a moment and then continued. “He’s scared. We need to let him calm down. When he’s calm, he’ll probably leave on his own.”

“Lana, he’s scared because this place is feeding him information.”

She turned back to the man. “Then let him sit on the floor and we can leave him be.” She sat on the floor, cross-legged. The man watched as she touched the floor in front of her and looked at him kindly. He grunted and finally sat down in front of her. He made some more noises and settled down. He kept looking around as if expecting more noise to come to his mind.

Lana didn’t say anything, she didn’t even look at the man. She only sat, looked at the floor, and breathed calmly. After a few minutes, the man seemed to calm as well. The other patrons started to drift away, but no one else left. They went to places where they could watch the man, but not make him feel uncomfortable. About a half an hour later, Lana stood. The man did as well.

Without saying anything, she led him to the door. She pointed to him, then to the knob. He frowned and grunted, but touched the knob, then grasped it. He tried to turn the knob, but nothing happened. He grunted and turned the knob harder. It did not budge. He screamed and yanked at the door. Lana reached for him to try and help him. He bellowed when she touched his arm. In a blink of an eye, Lana was sailing toward the bar. Everyone heard when she fell in to the stools. The man had backhanded her hard enough to send her flying. A second after she hit the bar stools, a shot rang out. Silence, and the man, fell at the same time.

The patrons turned to look at Theo. He looked terrible. He also had his revolver out. His arm was poised, and steady. There was no tremor in his hand as he lowered the gun. He sighed.

“Someone check on Lana.”

That got people moving. They stretched her out on the ground, as she confessed to being dizzy. Theo went to the caveman and checked for a pulse. There was really no need. Theo was a good shot. There was a gaping hole in the man’s head. He was dead. Theo moved the man out of the way and went to fetch towels to clean up the mess.

*****

“Second death here.”

“I’m really sorry. I don’t like killing and I didn’t want to kill anyone in here. I wasn’t sure there would be any odd, well, occurrences because of it.”

“Everyone here seems all right. Even Lana. She already went home. You’re the only one still here.”

Mort and Theo were sitting in a booth at the back of the bar. They had moved the body to Theo’s time. The door to the bar opened in Theo’s time in the middle of the dessert. Theo hid the body and was planning on burning it. Others thought it was a better idea than trying to bury it. Burying it might lead to confusion in the human time line. No one knew if a man from that time lived in what would become Texas. Burning the remains lessened the possibility of remains.

“The moment he came in here, I knew there would be trouble.” He shook his head. “Mort, I’m scared to leave. I don’t know that killing that man here didn’t change anything out there.”

“He was about to get torched by lava. He wasn’t surviving.”

Theo was silent for a moment, then looked to Mort. “I wonder why the door wouldn’t open for him?”

“When we closed it behind him, after he came in, there was the sound of wood being set afire. I think the lava destroyed his side.”

“I didn’t think anything could destroy the door.”

“It is only wood.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“It doesn’t make me feel very good either, but there is nothing we can do. A Bar Called Always never promised forever.”

Theo stared at Mort for a moment before both men laughed. “All right. I get your point.” He stood. “I guess I better call it a day. I got a body to burn.”

“Is it safe to do so, where you are?”

“Yeah, only thing out there is some spiders and insects. And my horse.”

Mort stood as well and walked Theo to the door. “Keep safe and come back, my friend.”

“Not much keeps me away.”

The men smiled at each other and shook hands. Theo left and Mort closed the door behind the cowboy. As Mort touched the door, he noticed something had changed. It was a small change, but it was there nonetheless. In the wood, running from top to bottom, about a millimeter thick, was a black mark. It was to the right, close to the hinges. He doubted anyone would notice, but he had stared at this door many times. It was as if someone had taken a piece of charcoal and drawn a very thin line on the door.

As Mort stared at the line, he understood. A patron of A Bar Called Always had perished. The door was now incomplete. When Shana died, the door was not harmed; he felt that meant the door was for Bert, not Shana. He always wondered if it meant that the door size was an indication of how many people could come to A Bar Called Always. Mort didn’t know. As he touched the line, it suddenly occurred to him that he had no idea if the line was there due to the man’s death, or to the man’s door being destroyed.

Mort contemplated the line for a few more moments and walked away to finish cleaning when he realized the bar was giving him no help in answering the questions. He would ask Chauncy the next time the man came in, but Mort had a feeling not even Chauncy would know.

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Mort Again

Mort stood behind the bar, hands on the top, thinking. The last patron had left for the night. Sometimes new people came through after midnight, but for the most part, no one came through between midnight and 8am. Most of the time, Mort was in bed by one and did not get up until nine. If a usual came in before he got up, they would serve themselves, and either leave a note with money, or stay until he was awake. Not everyone in the real world worked the day shift.

Terrance visited about a week ago, and the name Chauncy was still rattling around Mort’s head. He wanted to know who the man was. He talked to some of the regulars, this past week, and asked if anyone had heard of Chauncy. No one had. He also asked if anyone else came across someone English. They had not. Mort tried to put it out of his mind, but somehow, he couldn’t. The name whispered in his ear at night and came to him at odd moments, when no one else was around.

After a week of this, he knew he had to find out who the man was. He wasn’t sure how to go about doing that. Mort turned around to look at the liquor bottles, mostly for something new to look at. As he looked at all the bottles, he wondered if there was in fact a way to find out who Chuancy was, at the very least, when he came in. Oddly, almost every one that came in drank something different. Theo asked for whiskey, Selna asked for Screwdrivers, Terrance always drank coffee, black. Larry drank a dark beer, bottled.

Mort looked at each of the bottles and rattled off the regulars in his head. There were a few bottles he couldn’t identify, but it might be due to the regulars not coming in for a while. Mort stopped for a moment, cleared his mind and shook his head. He needed more time to think. He would sleep on it and try and get Chauncy out of his mind.

*****

It took three months for Mort to match up the regular with the alcohol they drank. As he did so, he had to wonder how all the alcohol came here. Before Lucy went away to have her baby, Mort tried to ask her questions about the bar: how was it powered, who dropped off the supplies, who wrote up the menu? The food menu was different every week. She said she didn’t know and told him he would probably never know as well. He left the questions alone and tried to forget about them.

The other thing that surprised him was the payment. Most of the customers were not from the same time. Some people shared the same decade, but not most. Everyone paid what was usual for their time. Each week, money disappeared, and supplies arrived. How was the supplier paying for the supplies if the money was not from the same era?

The questions continued, but Mort had no answers. He thought he was a little closer now, though. It turned out, the supplies were delivered every Saturday night, after he went to bed. He knew that because that was when the menu changed. That was the first question he answered, and he wondered why he didn’t notice it sooner.

He also had most of the drinks crossed off. There were three bottles he could not connect with anyone. One was an old bottle of wine; Mort didn’t remember opening it, but it was half full and had been for the past three months. The second was a bottle of some liquor he had never heard; it smelled like some sort of brandy. It has an old label, but the date on it was 4335. Old but very much in the future for Mort. The third was a bottle of clear liquid that had never been open. The label was in a language he couldn’t understand.

In the past three months, Mort wrote down what each customer asked for and drank. In the past three months, no one had asked for those three. He had the three bottles in front of him now, staring at them, as if their drinkers would appear in the bar.

Mort picked up each on and gave them each a long look. Once he looked at each one, he nodded, went to the storage room and came back with a pencil. He wrote down in a notebook that the clear liquid was full, and that the wine and amber liquors were both open. He then marked on the bottles with a very small line, how full the bottle was. Done, he admired his handy work, then placed the bottles back where they came from.

If Chauncy, or the supplier drank while here, he would be able to see the difference. As he went to bed that night, he wondered if Chauncy was the supplier. Mort wanted nothing more than to find out.

*****

The bottle of amber liquor was on the bar in front of Mort. He had thought about pouring himself and the customer that drank this beverage a glass before the person arrived, but Mort didn’t know how he drank it. It was late Saturday, or early Sunday, depending on your point of view. It took another month for Mort to confirm the supplier drank the amber liquor from the 4000s.

The marks showed that it was the only liquor being consumed, but it was not drank on a regular basis. The person seemed to only drink every couple of weeks. If Mort calculated correctly, this was the week the man would take a drink. As he pondered the drink, the door finally opened. A man in a lab coat walked through, but wasn’t looking Mort’s way. He was struggling with a box of supplies. The man set the wooden box on the floor, closed the door and turned.

The man saw Mort, blinked a couple times and laughed. “I thought someone would do this far sooner.”

“Chauncy?”

“Yes.” He moved forward and held his hand out. “And you’re Morton, the current bartender.”

Mort shook Chauncy’s hand and shook it. He smiled. “Pour you a drink?”

“Not until after I’m done. Since you’re up, will you help me?”

“Yes.”

Mort rounded the bar and went to the box Chauncy had carried in. Chauncy waited for him by the box. “I have one more outside the door. One moment.”

Mort nodded, and moved the box out of the way. He placed it on the bar close to the door. Once Chauncy was back with the other box, Mort held the door, then closed it when he could. In silence, they walked to the kitchen and started unloading the food. In one of the crates, there were copies of the new menu. Mort set those aside and collected the old ones.

With the food put away, Mort and Chauncy went out to the bar. Mort took his spot behind the bar and Chauncy sat near the bottle of liquor. They faced each other for a moment before Mort spoke.

“How do you like it?”

“Neat, in a snifter.”

“To warm the liquid.”

“Yes.”

Mort nodded, grabbed two glasses and set them down in front of Chauncy. “Mind if I join you?”

“By all means.”

“What are we drinking?” He started to pour.

“A very old, or very new for you, calvados. French apple brandy.”

Mort gave Chauncy a look. “I have so many questions.”

“I can’t answer all of them.”

A light came to Mort’s eyes. “But you can answer some, maybe?”

“The only way to know that is if you ask. If I can answer, I will. If it would harm the time stream, I will not.”

Mort nodded. “What year are you from?”

“Let’s start with you: what year are you from? That will help me understand how to answer your question.”

Mort frowned, but answered. “1500s. England.”

“I too, am from England, or what was known as England. I’m not able to tell you more, as that might harm the time line. Time is calculated different in my ‘when’ but in your time, it would be known as the 61st century.”

Mort gave Chauncy a strange look, as he tried not to laugh. “How in the world would telling me anything about your time change anything? Even if I went back to my time, no one would believe the things I say.”

“I understand that but there are people that come here from times close enough to mine to change things. I cannot allow that. I work for the Time Stream Constables. We know how fragile everything really is.”

“Why are there Time Stream Constables?”

“Because when time travel was invented, people weren’t as careful as they should have been.” He held up his hands. “I can’t say any more on that.”

Mort narrowed his eyes as a thought came to him. “You shouldn’t actually be here, should you?”

“No. This bar is against everything I work to uphold in my time.”

“Then why…?”

“Because some things are worth the risk.”

“What happens if your colleagues catch you?”

“If I’m walking through the door when then see me, I’ll come through and never return. If they somehow find out when I’m not going through, I will do what I can to come here.”

Mort nodded. “How do you pay for all this?”

He gave a sheepish look. “I know when the money changed from one time to other. I trade some of it or I sell it to historians.”

“And you’re not afraid to get caught?”

“I…” He took a deep breath. “I would rather not answer that question. I don’t exactly do things that are wise in order to not be caught.”

Mort nodded. “Don’t worry, Chauncy. You don’t have to answer.”

Chauncy took a sip of his calvados and sighed as the heat of the liquor warmed his esophagus.

“France is still around?”

A look of admiration reached Chauncy’s eyes. “Yes. A stubborn people, the French.”

“But England’s different?”

“Well, everything is different, but yes.”

Mort took a sip of the calvados. It was very good. He could almost taste the apples. He set his drink down and looked around the bar. “How did you know what we needed?”

“Almost every century in civilized time has bars and/or restaurants. It seemed like a good idea. Also, this place told me it what it wanted to be. I listened.”

“You found it?”

“I did. It was nothing like this when I found it. It was a work of love to transform it.”

“How long did it take?”

“Months, but only because I had to work my day job, too.”

Mort nodded. “How do you power this place?”

“There is a generator from my time in the room you can’t go into. And no, I won’t show you.”

“That’s fair. How about the alcohol? How do you know what we need?”

“I pay attention to the bottles, see what is low.”

“That’s not what I meant.” He frowned and looked away for a moment to think. “How do you know, for instance, that coffee would be a good idea. I’ve been told that is not a staple in most bars. Or how to you know someone would want raspberry vodka? That seems rather random.”

“The bar tells me.”

Mort nodded. “Of course. It is a bit odd to have knowledge appear where it was not before.”

“I rather enjoy it.” Chauncy played with his glass, rolling it in between the palms of his hands, warming the liquid.

“I thought it odd when it first happened to me. I know a few people who tolerate it, but almost hated it when they first came here.”

Chauncy looked surprised. “That is unfortunate. I’m not able to stop it, at any rate. That is a mechanic of the bar, and not something I did.”

“I understand.”

Chauncy gave a terse smile and took a sip of calvados. As he drank, Mort grabbed two other bottles and placed them in front of Chauncy.

“Do you know who drinks these?”

“You should know the wine. That was Lucy’s favorite.”

“She didn’t drink while I was here. Did you know she was pregnant?”

“Really? Is that why she left? I wondered.”

“She was pregnant for three years, until she went back to her own time. Then the pregnancy progressed normally.”

“Ah. Wonderful. Has she been back?”

“Once. She introduced her baby and then left. She hasn’t been back.”

“I supposed that happens sometimes. We don’t always need this place.”

“True.” They both fell silent as they contemplated his statement, then Mort tapped the top of the other bottle. “And this?”

“I bought that one about ten years ago. If no one is drinking it, I either bought the wrong thing, or the person it belongs to hasn’t stopped by yet.”

“Ten years is a long time on the outside.”

“Yes, well, this is a labor of love.”

“Chauncy, what happens when you die?” The man didn’t look old, but he didn’t look young either.

A whisper of an answer came to their minds and they knew that someone else would take Chauncy’s place when he did pass on. The two men drank in silence for a while, contemplating things. Mort understood that though the bar new he didn’t like odd bits of information coming to his mind, it would happen anyway. Chauncy was wondering about his death, then pushed that aside and asked Mort about the regulars. Mort gladly told Chauncy about the customers, passing on his favorite story of each. When they were almost done with the drinks, Chauncy looked to Mort.

“Anything else you want to ask?”

“I thought I would have more, but I only have one: May I visit with you again?”

“Of course, but please don’t tell anyone else about me. I would rather be anonymous.”

Mort raised his glass, which had one sip of alcohol left. Chauncy raised his glass as well. They both had the same amount left.

Mort touched his glass to Chauncy’s. “To the secrets of A Bar Called Always. May they stay secret as long as they need to, in order to keep us safe.”

Chauncy nodded and drank when Mort did. They finished their drinks, Chauncy took the money from the cash register, took his boxes and left for the week. Mort cleaned up the two glasses, straightened up for the night and closed the bar. It had been a good night, but he needed his rest. Though Sunday was a quiet day, there was always the possibility someone new would come in.

 

 

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Terrance

The door opened slowly, and an old man ambled in. His cane clicked against the concrete floor, drawing the patrons’ eyes toward him. He looked to be about 80, had short grey hair and sharp eyes. They looked his way and Mort rounded the bar to help the gentleman to a seat.

“Welcome. Can I help you to a seat?”

“May as well. My bones hurt today. Raining in my time.”

Mort didn’t say anything, but led the man to the closest booth. Once he was settled, Mort asked the obvious. “Get you anything?”

“Coffee, if you got it. Black.”

“Sure.” Mort left to grab the coffee and was back quickly. There was always coffee brewed here. He set the cup down in front of the man. “What’s your name?”

The man took a sip of coffee and grinned at Mort. “Terrance. Nice to see you again, Chauncy.”

Mort shook his head. “Sorry, but my name is Mort, not Chauncy.”

“My mistake. You have the same accent, and it’s been a while.”

Mort pointed to the seat across from Terrance. “May I sit?”

“Sure, sure.”

Mort nodded and sat. “Tell me about Chauncy?”

“I met him the only other time I came in here.”

“Tell me about it?”

Terrance nodded. “It was 1953. I was seventeen. Church was just finished. I was on my way home with some two other friends. A car drove up next to us, full of white farm boys. They were started jeering and making fun. Normal stuff. My friends couldn’t take it anymore. I told them to calm down, to ignore it, but they didn’t listen.” He frowned. “I hated staying quiet, but I knew if they thought we were uppity, they might cause us problems.”

“They did, didn’t they?”

“Yes, sir. Anthony said something, and the truck stopped, and the boys got out. We tried to run, but there were too many. Two grabbed Anthony. Another three grabbed Michael. I ran. I was on the track team in school. It was a poor school, but I was still able to participate. I knew how to breathe right and knew not to look back. I outran the white boys, but they caught my friends.

“I could hear them talking about a lynching long before I ran out of hearing range. The boys were still chasing me, and I prayed to God to help me. That’s when I found the door. Weirdest thing, too. It was in the middle of a stone wall. I went by that wall many times before and it was never there. I went in, and the boys didn’t follow me. This place was empty, except for Chauncy. He gave me a cola and let me stay for a long time.”

“I’ve never heard of anyone named Chauncy. Do you know what time he was from?”

Terrance squinted his eyes as he thought about it. “I don’t believe he ever said.”

“This may seem like a strange question, but do you know what he drank?”

“Something that looked like whiskey. An amber liquor. Didn’t think to ask.” He said it with a smile on his face.

Mort smiled as well, then took a slow breath. “What happened when you went back?”

“Chauncy let me stay the night. I left in the morning, and was on my guard the entire time. I went home, found out that miraculously, neither of my friends were killed. My family thought I was killed, but I told them I was able to hide in the woods and fell asleep. My dad whooped my ass for being out all night, but they were happy to see me alive.”

“From what I know of that era, you three were lucky.”

Terrance frowned. “When are you from?”

He smirked. “England, 1500s. I’ve listened to a lot of stories though, and I know what the world is like to people of color during that time.” He frowned. “And for a lot of other times, too, unfortunately.”

“There are good people out there though. You and Chauncy. Others out in the real world, too.”

“Why did you stay away so long, Terrance?”

“We moved to Chicago. My dad had an offer in the meat plants and he took it. His brother was up there. There was still racism, but it was better. We were able to go to better schools and mom found a job too. We did all right. I decided to go into law.”

“Were you a lawyer?”

“Things happened, and I had to take care of mom. I wasn’t able to finish school, but I was able to make enough money to get my siblings through college. I ended up working for my younger brother, who did become a lawyer. I was his assistant.” He looked proud of his life.

Mort nodded. “Sounds like a good life.”

“It was. Is.” He chuckled. “I’m not done yet.”

Mort smiled. “What brought you back here?”

“I decided to see if I could find the door again. I wanted to thank Chauncy again for his kindness and I wanted to have a drink with him.”

“Well, in the years since, he’s moved on. I’ve never heard of anyone with that name here.”

Terrance frowned gently. “Why did you ask what he drinks?”

“I know what the regulars drink. It’s one of the few things I can remember well. If you knew what he drank, it might help me to find out if he has been here since.”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you with that.”

Mort held up his hands. “Don’t be. It was a shot in the dark.”

Terrance smiled and nodded. “Well, I’m sorry that he’s not here. If you ever see him, please pass on my thanks.”

“I will. I should check on the other customers. If you’re staying a while, I’ll be back to talk some more, if that’s all right.”

“Sure, sure. I’ll be here, resting my bones.”

“I’ll be back with a refill if you would like.”

Terrance looked into his cup. It was half full. “In a few minutes. I’m all right for now.”

Mort nodded and left the booth. A few minutes later, a man in tattered but clean clothing walked over to Terrance and asked to sit. When Terrance nodded, the man sat down and said the usual.

“I’m Sergei. 3685.”

Terrance looked astonished for a moment, then nodded. “Terrance. 2015.”

“Interesting times.”

“Aren’t they all really?”

“I suppose. I lived to see the first African-American president. I didn’t think I would see that.”

“Ah, yes. President Barack Obama. History was kind to him. The next one though, was not seen kindly.”

Terrance held up one hand. “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know yet.”

“No problem. We’ll talk of other things. I like to ask about people’s favorite food.”

Terrance’s eyes lit up. “That, I can talk about forever.”

Sergei smiled and leaned in. “Tell me all about it.”

Terrance smiled with happiness and started telling Sergei of his favorite meals.

 

 

 

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