The Time Machine
by Jerry Constantino

“A time machine?” Ray never really believed in stuff like that. “Get outta here, you crazy old fart!” And with that, the bummie in the train station walked away.

“Geeze. Never heard that one before.” Sometimes Ray had more patience. He even liked to ‘pull their chain,’ once in a while.  But when you just miss your train, you aren’t the same person for a minute or so. And Ray just hated to be late for anything.

“You live in this city all your life and nothing surprises you anymore. A time machine…” he smiled as his mind was already focusing on the next train to Grand Central.

There was a big commotion on the corner as Ray walked up to 42nd Street… late. People were yelling and screaming… fist fights… police cars all over the place.

“What’s going on,” Ray asked a man in a business suit with one sleeve ripped almost off as he ran past, giddy with delight.

“Some nutso over there was throwing out hundred-dollar bills by the bushel basket!” he hollered, holding up his fist full of money.  “I grabbed mine before some broad pushed me down me chasing her own c-notes!”

“Damn! Ten minutes earlier. I’d have been right there… if I hadn’t missed my train.” 

Ray almost never missed the 6:46, but the very next day, when he stopped to sip his coffee instead of slopping it down the front of his fresh white shirt, the doors closed in his face.

“This is getting to be a habit.”

On 42nd  …finally, through the crowd, he saw the back of Madonna’s head as she got into her limo with some guy. When Ray heard she was looking for her biggest fan on the street to take on-stage that night for a special song she wrote, he shook his head. No one was a bigger Madonna fan than Ray. Knew the words to every song she ever wrote, sang or danced to. That should have been him.

“Twice! Just two times I miss my train and I’m odd man out. I never miss my train!”

Ray was five minutes early the next day. He wasn’t going to miss his 6:46 and let life pass him by again. “You let grass grow under your feet and you miss all the stuff that coulda been yours. Not today!” he vowed. “Not today.”

And he was right.

An ambulance and three police cars were screaming to the scene. “What’s going on?” asked a woman who was late arriving because she had just missed the 6:46.

“Guy just got crushed by a piano that flew off that truck over there when it was smashed by a semi. Poor bastard! He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

erry Constantino is a former magazine publisher who lives in North Carolina. He smiles a lot and sees the glass half-full and the world half-sane. Among the news media, books and magazines, the coffee shop and life in general, it is the unusual that most often catches his eye. He walks, he talks and he writes. He is not a cynic though he sometimes sounds like one. He believes in people, human nature, sun, stars, etc. although it sometimes gets distorted through his glasses. He doesn't often refer to himself in the third person unless he is trying to pretend someone else is saying this. Contact Jerry.