Lost Time Is Never Found

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In an alternate 20th century, Walt is a down on his luck resident of British-occupied Philadelphia. When his friend Benny becomes the latest fugitive from the British, he launches an investigation which changes his perspective on his friend forever.

Submitted: March 01, 2012

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Submitted: March 01, 2012

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Lost Time Is Never Found

 

Philadelphia. God, I hate this town. Ruined buildings, narrow streets, the homeless roaming around using any open pit as a toilet. It used to be decent ‘til the redcoats returned and started parading around the State House. They wanted their pay for our little uprising nearly two centuries ago, they say we still haven’t earned our keep. They savagely raid and torch our homes, our businesses, our civic buildings, our jobs. Seems the only decent person in the God forsaken place is Ol’ Benny. And he’s a nutcase. He always thinks someone is after him. At one point he was convinced the Freemasons were after him, the next day he thought the mailman was stalking him. He also sometimes forgets important things: names, streets, stuff like that. Other than that, he’s a great guy who just seems to be down on his luck like myself.

As I’m walking down Market Street this morning, Ol’ Benny runs up to me with an expression I have only come to know so well from him: terror.

“Mickey! You’ve got to help me, Mickey! The redcoats are after me, Mickey! The redcoats!” he says to me.

ForChristssake,Benny,mynamesWalt!

“Oh, that’s right. Terribly sorry, Mickey.”

I can’t help but let out a long, frustrated sigh.

“Benny, you’re imagining this. The redcoats wouldn’t be after you unless you were made of gold bullion.”

“Then why would two of them be chasing me?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Benny! It’s all in your…”

As I was explaining to Benny that he was a nut for the twenty-fifth time, I couldn’t help but notice two redcoats were running this way with guns at the ready.

“Holy shit, Benny! You were right, the redcoats are after you!”

Benny’s eyes widen.

“The redcoats are after me?!”

No time for explanations. I grab his arm and make a mad dash.

“I’ll take you to my office. You should be safe there.”

WerunoffofMarketStreet,intothenarrowalleysoftheOldCity.WerunpastChristChurchontoCuthbert.IdecidetoconfusethebastardsevenmorebyrunningintoElfrethsAlley.Itwasarisk,someoftheseredcoatsarelocalboys,butitpaidoffintheend.Themoronsranrightpastus.

As Benny and I make our way back to my office on Front and Arch, it starts to rain. Even the cold November rainfall couldn’t put out the fire inside me. I couldn’t help but wonder what those damn limeys would have against an old homeless man like Benny. It was then that I knew I had to find out. We enter my office. Opening the creaking door floods my senses with the smell of mildew, cigarettes, and bourbon. The place looks like it’s ready for condemnation. Water seeps through the roof and into the carefully placed buckets strewn across the floor. A small stack of papers sits on my desk to make myself look busy but all they are is bills. Whenever I look at ‘em, I can’t help but think how close I am to becoming like Ol’ Benny. But that’s in the long term, I must focus on what’s going on now, on those redcoats. We take off our coats and hats. Benny lets a long, happy sigh as he lies down on my threadbare couch. Poor guy probably hasn’t been on anything softer than stacked newspapers for longer than I’ve known him. I sit down behind my desk and pull out a cigarette from my carton of Chesterfields and frown. Yesterday I read in the newspaper the Virginians were being overworked by the redcoats to produce this stuff for them. They didn’t even have enough farmland left to produce food to feed their people anymore. I put away my cigarette and get down to business.

“Benny, why were the redcoats after you?”

“I have no idea.”

“Ya tend to forget things, Benny. Maybe ya forgot what you did.”

Benny looks up to the leaking corner of my office. His eyes grow distant and then he bolts upright. He looks at me with his dull brown eyes and says:

Truthwillbetruththoughitsometimesprovesmortifyinganddistasteful.

I couldn’t help but be taken aback. In the three years I’d known Benny, I had never heard the guy say something like this. It was poetic.

“That… that was beautiful, Benny,” I said. “What’s it from?”

“Huh?”

“The thing you just said, Benny.”

“I don’t… remember.”

I give him another long sigh.

“Benny, do you still remember the redcoats?”

“Of course I do!” he said matter-of-factly.

I can’t help but wear a big, old grin.

“Do ya know why they were after you?”

Once again, Benny stares at that corner. I’m thinking this is going to be some sort of loop and we will be sitting here talking like this for days while Benny speaks a riddle he can’t remember. To my instant relief, he says something different:

“…No,sorryMickey.Ihaveabsolutelynoideawhytheywouldbeaftermebut butIknowsomeonewhomight.

Finally we’re getting somewhere!

“Who would that be?”

“Professor Bill near the University. I see him with redcoats all the time.”

Great, just what I needed.

Billsadamnloon,Benny!HeonlyspeaksinShakespearequotes,hewouldntbeabletotellusanything.

“Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead. Who’s not to say a crazy man could be considered dead to the redcoats?”

I’m not sure Benny fully grasped the irony of his statement but he did raise a good point.

“All right, Benny. We’ll see if Bill knows anything.”

Itakemyhatandcoat.Thecreakinthedoorbecomesascream.BeforeIleaveItakemypistol.IgetthefeelingImnotgonnalikewhatBillhastosay.

Therainiscomingdownhardandfast.Ipulldownonthefrontofmyhattoshadowmyeyes.WouldntwantthoseredcoatstoIDmenow.WedecidetochecktheOldCollegeonFourthandArchfirst.Wepassbytheslabofgraniteonthecornerneartheuniversity.Thewordsarebarelyvisibleaftertwocenturiesofneglect.Itreads: TheBodyofB.FranklinScientist,Provost,Printer;LiketheCoverofanoldBook,ItsContentstornout,AndstriptofitsLetteringandGilding,Lieshere,FoodforWorms.ButtheWorkshallnotbewhollylost:Foritwill,ashebeliev'd,appearoncemore,Inanew&moreperfectEdition,CorrectedandAmendedBytheAuthor.HewasbornonJanuary17,1706.Died46.

Benny looked at the stone forlornly.

“I didn’t know they would use that one.” Benny said.

“What are you talking about?”

Benny looks at me and attempts a smile.

“It’s nothing. You go ahead I need some time here.”

I head for the New Building, an ironic name considering it was around when this place was called the Academy. A man is curled up on the steps. I make my way over to him. The man looks up at me and scowls. He adjusts the hat covering the large bald area on the top of his head. When he recognizes me his mouth contorts into a smile.

“Hello Bill.” I said to him.

Bill looks away and says nothing.

“I need to ask you something.”

Bill picks lice out of his once well-groomed beard.

“It’s about Benny.”

Bill stops. He looks at me again. Benny walks up to us.

“It’s the redcoats, Bill! They’re after me and I don’t know why!” Benny says.

“Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! Thou talk’st of nothing,” Bill replies.

“I’m telling you the truth this time Bill! There really are redcoats after me!”

“He’s right, Bill. There are redcoats after him, I saw them trying to catch Benny myself!”

Bill looks away again. This time though he appeared to be contemplating something.

“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand,” Bill says.

Bill gets up and brushes himself off. He is much shorter than me and only slighter shorter than Benny.

“I take thee at thy word.”

“Then can you help us?” I say.

Bill looks at me and then starts to walk.
“Come, let’s away,” He says.

I brush my face with my hand. Gonna be a long day.

“I think we should follow him.” Benny says.

“Perhaps you’re right.”

Billhasntshownanysignsofbetrayingusyet.Evenifhetriedtoturnusin,theredcoatswouldprobablyhaveahardtimeunderstandinghimanyhow.WefollowBill.Asweheadfurthersouthitbecomesapparentwherehesleadingus.IcanseethestatuesofthemonarchsthathaveruledovertheDominionofAmericaincludingthecurrentbastardonthethrone:KingGeorgeV.TheycallitImperialSquareonthemapbutinmyheartitwillalwaysbeStateHouseSquare.Thecenteroftheredcoatoccupation.ImbeginningtothinkBillisleadingustoprison.Billstops.Helooksatthebuildingbesidehim.Itsanoldbuilding,fromthe18thCenturymostlikely.Overthedoorwaythemarqueestates: LIBRARYCOMPANYOFPHILADELPHIA. ImayhavepassedbyitahundredtimesbeforebuttoBillitseemstoholdsomesortofaffinity.Billentersthebuilding.Nothingfishysofar.Thelibraryisasbusyasitalwaysis,beingthebestoneintheCommonwealthofPennsylvania.Areceptionistsitsonadeskbesideanautomatedgate.ThereceptionistsmilesatBill.

“Good afternoon, Professor.” She says.

Bill smiles and nods at the receptionist. He walks on through. The receptionist closes the gate.

“I’m sorry but I need to see some identification, please.”

Great, just what I needed. If there’s an arrest warrant out for Benny or me, we’re dead. Bill turns around without delay.


© Copyright 2020 malvern. All rights reserved.

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