Recently I bought a new time machine. My old one broke so I had to get a new one because I need a time machine. My new time machine was cheap. When you go through a lot of them like I do, you can’t invest a lot of money. The one I have now is adequate. It tells the date along with the time and even has a chronograph that I never use. It’s held on my wrist with a Velcro strap and has a button to push if you want to see what time it is in the dark.
You didn’t think I was talking about a Marty McFly-type time machine, did you? I can’t afford a DeLorean. I’d have to make payments even if Dr. Brown made one out of a Ford Pinto. I’ve often thought it would be nice to go back in time, but just for a short visit. No matter what they say about the good old days, they were tough. But if I could go back in time to at least change things in my life, I think I might. For instance, I would change the first girl I ever kissed.
The first girl I ever kissed was a pudgy little blond fourth-grader named Nancy. I lived in South Dakota at the time. One day Nancy and I were walking home from school together, because we lived in the same direction. We were engaged in a probative, intellectual discussion about whether Dick and Jane were actually symbols of President Eisenhower and Secretary Khrushchev which would of course make throwing the ball a euphemism for a nuclear missile launch (RUN, SPOT, RUN!!), or maybe we were giggling about Whitey Thompson eating his boogers in class– it has been a long time so I’m not sure. Eventually we came to Frost’s diverging roads. Nancy had to turn north to go home while I continued west to my own house.
“Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” she asked.
I was just at the point in life where I realized girls weren’t just long-haired, sissy boys who wore dresses, but I had never considered kissing one. I looked around and we were alone. If there had been so much as a stray dog to see I wouldn’t have done it, but I leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek when she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a lip lock that loosened two baby teeth. When I finally pried myself away from the little tow-headed floozy, I was gasping for air and sputtering, but somewhere deep in my brain the ember of a thought was kindled that maybe girls served some purpose other than to have someone to beat at Dodgeball.
Nancy giggled. “Now don’t tell anybody about this,” she said.
“It’ll be our little secret,” I said. “I promise.” Unfortunately I didn’t extract the same promise from her. By the time I got to school the next day, Nancy had told the World about the kiss: the girls, the boys, the teachers, the local paper, the three TV networks and even Walter Cronkite, And that’s the way it is. Our school didn’t have a resident leper, so I filled the shunning niche amongst the boys. When they did talk to me it consisted of ribbing and teasing. The girls on the other hand seemed somehow friendlier than before. The tormenting finally got so bad my family had to move to Iowa. My dad made up some cock-and-bull story about getting a better job, but everyone knew the real reason.
If I could go back in time, I’d have a different first car. When I was seventeen I had a driver’s license and no car–which is like having no legs to a teenager. Our local car dealer was clearing out their inventory of used cars. Walking by I saw a gray 1959 Dodge Pioneer with a push button automatic on the dash. “How much is it?” I asked the salesman.
“Fifty dollars,” he said. “Seventy-five if it starts.”
I let out a sigh. It would be a bit over my budget if it started. “Go ahead and crank it over,” I said. He did and the car started up with almost all the cylinders firing. My heart sank.
“I tell you what,” the salesman said, trying to find me through the thick cloud of blue smoke billowing out of the tailpipe. “I’ll let you have it for the fifty bucks even if it does run.”
Finally, I had my car. I called it the Gray Ghost because it sounded cool and because the car had died years ago but still moved around now and then and scared the bejeebers out of me–such as driving down the road and having the brakes go out.
The first girl ever to ride in The Gray Ghost was my wife. When she willingly got in it the second time, I knew it was true love, and I had to marry her. I’d never find another woman that brave again.
The car met its demise one night when the brakes went out at a T-intersection. It went into the ditch and rolled over. Halfway through the rotation, any thought of joining Joie Chitwood’s Thrill Show left me. You might say it scared the Chit (wood) out of me.
If I could go back in time and have a do-over, I’d start trying to get published at a younger age. By all statistics, someone who starts publishing at my age has a slim chance of ever attaining even moderate success. I wrote a Christmas play for my church when I was fifteen and didn’t try to publish anything else for the next forty-five years. If you have a couch and a psychiatric degree or at least a booth with a sign that says “psychiatric help 5 cents” maybe we can talk about it.
All in all, if I could go back in time and make changes to my life, I don’t think I’d do it because of a thing called The Butterfly Effect. It’s a theory by Edward Lorenz which says if you go back in time you’ll become a butterfly and immediately get splattered on the windshield of a Buick Skylark. Even if that rather silly theory isn’t true, who knows what major unwanted change might result from making even a minute change. If I hadn’t kissed Nancy, maybe we would have stayed in South Dakota and I never would have met my wife, and I wouldn’t have the kids I do. I like the wife and kids I have…most of the time. If I’d had some newer, sportier car than The Gray Ghost for my first car, maybe it would have been able to go fast enough to hurt or even kill me when I went off that T-intersection. Maybe if I had started publishing at a younger age I’d be a rich, famous, arrogant, conceited man who would want nothing to do with any of you, instead of the warm, loving, kind, generous and very humble person that I am today.