Double Beams Part I [short story]
This is part one of a short story I'm working on (in progress). Feel free to leave comments and/or constructive criticism.
‘your peace is in the now’
He was rich, I mean dumb rich. His startup had come the closest to time travel. 'Cross The Double Beams' was his company slogan. Michael was the epitome of money can't buy happiness. His cool cars and fancy suits couldn't satisfy his need for love. Don't get it twisted, he had his stable of thoroughbreds ready to please him at his call. But it didn't fill that deep hole in his heart left from the cancer that destructed his wife.
He had known about the other world for some time. His Phd research had years ago tapped into the double beam. It took some time for him to quantify it. It was just the business side of technology. In the beginning he was just geeking out over the differences in the other world, but eventually he would be on a journey to his other wife.
* * * * *
"Well you said you wanted a fixer upper soo.” She looked at him with supreme sarcasm.
“I always wondered what type of person would buy a property unseen. These auctions are full of suckers looking for a steal.” Once again she piled on the cynic criticism.
“I mean don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain but c’mon.”
Her husband took it in stride. This was part of her charm, but she wasn’t completely wrong. It was her money that he used to buy the property, but it was his idea to move across the state to live on the beach. An honorable attempt to do his part in revitalizing his old neighborhood and curtailing gentrification. However, this wasn’t exactly what he envisioned.
“Ok, this isn’t the best situation, but look at the potential.” Thom outlined the property with his hands like a Price Is Right item. Lisa resisted the urge to punch him in his white teeth.
“Don’t you try to use your marketing magic on me. I know a shit hole when I see one.” She laughed.
The house had been weathered by time. The salt air rusted the outside structure. Overgrown weeds and mold created a thick layer from the outside world.
“The numbers did look right on paper.” Attempting to convince herself that she made the sound decision of a professional accountant. The morning sun exposed a rusted green Ford truck on cinder blocks in the driveway. The doorknob was stuck from rust and grit. Thom gave the decrepit wood a swift front kick. His 250 pound frame released a cloud of dust and fumes into the air. A putrid stench worse than sewage invaded their nostrils.
“Oh Jesus.” Lisa swiveled her head to avoid a prolonged inhale. She stumbled back onto the entry, spitting whatever saliva she had in her mouth. “Fuck. Is there a dead body in there. That’s horrible.”
Thom covered his nose and mouth with his arm.
“Ohh, that’s strong,“ he muffled thru his shirt sleeve. They both retreated to the front yard.
“Just let that air out for a minute. I think I just lost some brain cells.” Lisa was adept at dramatics.
“I think I’m dying. Listen, just pull the plug OK. I don’t want to be a vegetable on life support. Save your money and enjoy your life.”
Thom ignored her theatrics. He leaned against the palm tree for support.
“I didn’t say this was going to be easy, but I promise you will love it when we are done.” He was the consummate optimist.
“My arms feel numb, I can’t feel my hands.” Lisa complained.
“Maybe you should put them down and walk around. Everything is going to be fine.”
“Oh thank God,” Lisa said as the cleaning company vans pulled up along the curb. She adjusted the bandana around her afro and rubbed her cute button nose. The cleaning team immediately went to work. Removing trash, extracting clouds of dust with industrial vacuums.
“I guess we can start clearing this jungle down.” Thom grabbed the shears and handed them to Lisa. He took hold of the machete and playfully chopped away the branches. Hours had passed and it seemed like they weren’t making any progress.
“We’ll get back to this later, let’s start opening these windows, air this shit out.” The pair went around the four bedroom, three bathroom resort home forcing windows open; trying their best not to break anything.
“Mr. Ross, just wanted to confirm that we are not cleaning the loft, that wasn’t included in the contract. If you want us to service that we can, but it’s going to be extra, especially on these old houses, there can sometimes be a safety issue with the flooring.”
He felt Lisa’s eyes drilling into his head.
“No, we’ll take care of it. It’s a relatively small space. We gotta keep our costs down on a tight budget.”
“Yeah, I get it. No worries. We should be done in 4 hours.” The supervisor walked away in a rush.
The cleaning crew finally finished the interior of the house. This first stage of cleaning made everything look 10x better. They had planned to completely demo parts of the home but that would happen much later after they saved some money.
“Home sweet home!” Lisa and Thom sat on the living room wooden floors, eating takeout Chinese and drinking wine out of the bottle.
“Isn’t this better than big city life? These floors are in pretty good shape.” Thom smiled claiming this as one victory.
“Yeah, they are pretty good. Just need to be sanded and stained, but definitely a keeper,” Lisa admitted.
Thom leaned in for a kiss, as if he was owed a reward. Their lips met with a loud pop. They laid on the blanket in each other’s arms.
“I have to say I’m starting to see the big picture, your vision.” Lisa confessed. She started to ramble about decorating this and painting that. Her inner design goddess was starting to appear. Thom laid back and fell into a deep satisfying sleep. He had won the day.
* * * * *
“Thom, did you hear that?” Lisa nudged him.
“No, what did you hear?”
“It sounded like it came from the attic, could be a rat or something. Can you just check real quick.”
Thom looked at his Applewatch, it’s two in the morning babe. I’ll handle it tomorrow.”
A loud bang shook the ceiling. “Yeah, I heard that.”
Thom jumped up and grabbed a broom and machete on the stairs to the attic. He handed Lisa the broom. She followed him up with her own flashlight in hand.
“See anything ?” she said from the bottom of the stairs.
“Nah, nothing.” Thom continued to search thru the dark room. Shining a light on the double beams in the exposed ceiling then down to the floor.
“Hmmm, I guess this fell.” He shined the light on the small box. He opened the box to find pieces of a broken ceramic urn and a pile of fine dust.
“It’s nothing, just a broken vase. C’mon up.”
Lisa came up and saw Thom hunched over a much larger box. The shipping label read
“42.393008, -83.248729. “
He opened the box to find vintage electronics. At the bottom he found blocks of cash; 100 dollar bills neatly Saran wrapped. It was obvious this money had been here for a while, maybe decades. The mint green had turned a sandy brown and the edges of the paper started to deteriorate, it looked almost burnt. He looked thru the box to find a few dozen blocks.
“I think we should report this. I mean, someone is looking for this kind of money.”
“It’s a blessing, when you do good, karma works in your favor. Don’t worry.” He put his hands on her shoulder and smiled. “Look at it like this, this property has been on the market for years, so whoever that money belongs to has probably passed on to another life.
“Wait, wait a minute.” Lisa examined the money closer. The face on the bill was not recognizable.
“What president is this?”
Thom put the flash light on the face of the money, then peeled the layers of clear plastic from the money.
“Hmmm, that’s uh, that’s Aunt Jemima,” he said jokingly.
Lisa took another look at the money. “That is a black woman. What does this say ‘AEQUE DISTINCTA’ ?”
As she said it, the eyes in the face started to twinkle, iridescent almost. Lisa peered deeper into the pupils, it was mesmerizing, hypnotic almost.
“You OK ?” Thom lightly punched Lisa on the arm.
“Yeah, I’m here.” Her response delayed.
“What black woman would be on the hundred dollar bill?” She looked to her side then up, pondering the possible scenarios.
“Let’s go to bed, I’m exhausted,” Thom said while yawning. Lisa followed him downstairs still perplexed.
* * * * *
Without any window treatments the sun landed right on Thom’s face, making his caramel skin glow. He shifted on the comforter and rubbed his eyes to get a clear vision of Lisa.
“This is so crazy,” she said as she held the bill. Lisa had been up all night researching this strange money. “I mean, it says 2019, it says TUBMAN on the bottom. Right.” She was talking fast and her head bobbing in agreement with herself.
“What are we talking about,” Thom whispered. “Why are you up so early?”
She handed Thom the laptop displaying a digital cork board of news clippings, Wikipedia leaks, and photographs.
Thom sat up and leaned in. He rubbed his eyes once again and rubbed his curly short hair furiously.
“Okay. Where did you find these ?”
“Online; CNN, MSN, Wikipedia, The Root. I mean credible sites. It’s real.”
“Yeah, I see, but I thought Harriet Tubman was supposed to be on the 20? “
“Keep reading, you see the pictures ?” Thom’s eyes widened, he couldn’t believe the caption he was reading.
‘Former president, Barack Obama visits Pasadena hometown after economic boom.’
Thom looked at Lisa with confusion. She jumped up and started pacing, rambling about redemption, reparations and revolution. “It’s about time. What a time to be alive. And the meek shall inherit the Earth.”
“OK babe, calm down. Easy, let’s not jump to conclusions and delusions.” Thom continued to browse the research. He typed in his favorite website, The Onion. They specialized in sarcastic, off brand news.
'Kanye West has decided to run for the top position at the U.N.. He’s announced everyone on his campaign has to be of European descent.’
“What in the world ?” Thom stood up and started pacing with Lisa. They were interrupted by three loud thumps and the monotone doorbell.
“Cleaning service. Mr. Ross.”
“Good morning Javier”
“Good morning sir. We came a little early, wanted to complete the job today. Sorry for waking you.”
Thom turned his back before he could finish.
“No problem,” he said under his breath whilst waving his hand to come in.
“It’s been an interesting morning. Hey Javier who is the president of the United States ?”
Javier paused, was this a trick question or bad joke.
“Trump,” He said hesitantly.
“OK, just making sure.”
Javier walked away with a half fake smile, as if he didn’t understand English.
“Thom,” Lisa shouted from the kitchen.
Lisa handed him the laptop.
“Who the hell is this ?”
A photo of a beautiful Hawaiian women and a man that strongly resembled Barack Obama in a more than friends embrace.
Thom stared at the screen.
“This is soo weird,” Thom said.
“I can’t fuckin’ believe this, not Barry. I’m going out. I need some air.”
Lisa stormed out of the house, enraged, and walked down the boardwalk.
“Yas gurl, I can’t believe he would do this to Michele” The tears mixed with sweat streamed down her face.
“Look it up, it’s online.”
“What’s online, the photos?” Sharon said
“Yes, type in Barack Obama.”
There was a long pause.
“I’m not seeing anything. What website specifically did you see these photos?”
“I don’t remember, but it was everywhere, People, US, BET.”
“I’m not seeing anything. Send me a link,” Sharon mumbled trying to hide her lack of lack of tech ignorance.
Lisa opened her phone browser and searched for the photos. She searched for 5 minutes then 10 minutes.
“Let me call you back.”
She kept searching, there was nothing, nada, zilch. This Hawaiian woman didn’t even come up in any searches. She typed in Harriet Tubman and the image of her big face was on the 20 dollar bill.
“What the?” She put the phone in her pocket and ran home.
Breathing heavy from the sprint, she stood in the open doorway, Thom slowly approached her.
“You OK ?” Thom said following her onto the porch.
“I’m losing it.”
She handed Thom the phone.
The photos provided confirmation that she was losing her mind.
Thom refreshed the page. It went black and a 404 error flashed. He typed in several searches, Tubman 100, Kanye U.N., Barack Hometown. There was nothing that made sense, like someone erased history.
“Where did it go?” Thom went into the house to get the laptop. He slowly walked towards the door while looking at the mysterious photos, as he walked out of the house, the screen went black and read ‘the website could not be found 404 error’ popped up.
He stepped back into the house, hit refresh and the photos appeared. He stepped out again, then refreshed they were nonexistent. He sat down next to Lisa. They both were dumbfounded. Not sure what to make of this.
“OK, you got me. Ha ha. Nice one. Don’t know how you did it but it’s a good one.” Thom laughed mockingly.
Lisa’s face was blank. “I didn’t do this. I wouldn’t even know how to.”
Thom laid back. He was hungry, fatigued and puzzled, but at least Lisa was as confused as he was.