Whoo!!! Whoooo!!! Whooooo!!!! There is was! Finally! Gerald Parker pulled off his black dot work gloves and glanced down at his Timex. 5 o’clock sharp. “That darn whistle! Never a minute off one way or the other,” he grinned, “She’s always right on time.” He’d been waiting for that sound since the minute he had arrived at the Avondale Shipyard at 7:00 that morning. Now, it was quitting time. Finally, and thankfully, quitting time.
Gerald picked up his lunch pail, punched his timecard, and limped out to his old 1954 Ford pickup truck. It was Saturday afternoon and he couldn’t wait to get home to Edith and Joey. As he pulled out of the Avondale parking lot, he turned on the radio in the truck.
The Beach Boys were playing on 1035 AM, and Gerald began to sing along, “Good, good, good, good vibrations….” He tapped the steering wheel in time with the music. He was tired and the upbeat tempo of the music helped to keep him awake on the drive home. It had been a long week. The baby had kept him and Edith up most of last night, and he was glad that tomorrow was Sunday and he could sleep late. “How long do babies have the colic, anyway?” he wondered.
Gerald was what you might call a good ole boy, an average Joe. He had done 19 months in the army, 11 months of it in Vietnam, and had been sent home for good after being wounded just outside of Thanh Hóa on July 31, 1964. He had taken a bunch of shrapnel in his thigh, and a bullet in his knee, and the doctors said he’d never walk right again. Ethel called it her own personal miracle; not that he had been wounded, but that he had come home at all. So many of his buddies hadn’t been so fortunate.
Gerald worked hard to make a living in the shipyard, and he made decent money, $2.15 an hour. He went to church on Sunday at the Zion Baptist Church, and much to his mother’s distaste, had married his high school sweetheart, Edith, two weeks after he got home. Now, they had baby Joey, and Gerald often said that Joey was the best work he’d ever done.
Gerald turned the old green truck into the driveway and looked up proudly at the little wood-framed house that he and Edith had purchased right after the baby had come. It needed a lot of work. “Nothing a good coat of paint and a little elbow grease won’t take care of,” he’d told Edith. Now that the baby was here, he had a lot less time for things like house repairs and such.
Edith had supper waiting on the table when Gerald walked in. He kissed her soundly on the mouth, washed his hands, and went into the bedroom to check on Joey. “Baby’s been sleeping most of the afternoon. Guess he’ll keep us up again all night,” Edith said, her voice was tired and somewhat agitated. “Come on, supper is on the table. Don’t let it get cold. Nothing’s worse than cold liver and onions.”
Gerald and Edith ate together, mostly in silence, then settled in to watch an episode of Lawrence Welk on Channel 9 WBRZ on their new black and white television set. Gerald was snoring lightly in his recliner when Edith shook him gently awake. “Honey, why don’t you go on to bed? Oh, and this new thing with the time starts tonight. Don’t forget, we have to change the clocks.”
“What?” Gerald roused himself, “Are we supposed to do that tonight? Who ever heard of such a thing anyway? Setting the clocks ahead an hour, daylight savings time or some such foolishness.”
“I heard Walter Cronkite talking about it on the television last week. We change the clocks on Sunday, April 24th at 2:00 AM. President Johnson was on the news, too. He says that this new time change, they are calling it the Uniform Time Act of 1966, is going to revolutionize the way we do things. We’ll still have enough daylight to work at home when we get home from work.” Edith giggled.
“Yeah, just what I need, huh?” Gerald grinned as he walked back to the bathroom. “More time to work.” He came out of the bathroom, stripped down to his underwear, and crawled into bed, but not before reaching over and setting his bedside clock ahead one hour. “Hey Edith, you might want to go ahead and change the kitchen clock now. I sure ain’t getting up at 2 AM to set it ahead. Who ever heard of such a thing?” Edith complied and the last thing Gerald saw before falling asleep was his beautiful wife heading into the kitchen.
The morning sunlight came streaming in through the open window as a spring breeze billowed softly, ruffling the curtains. They brushed against his face, waking Gerald from a sound, deep sleep. He rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed. “Edith, hey Edith, you with the baby?”
No answer. “She must have stayed up with the little fella all night,” Gerald mused, “Never heard him cry. Not even once.” He rolled over and tried to fall back asleep, but his dreams were disquieting, and restless, and it wasn’t long before he decided to get up.
Gerald got out of bed, slowly. His knee was aching this morning, more than usual, and he was glad that he didn’t have to go in to work today. He went to the bathroom, then stopped to splash water on his face. He grabbed for a washcloth from the rack near the sink and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “Oh, Edith must have bought some fancy new towels, these sure are nice and soft,” he thought, still rubbing his face as he walked to the living room and opened the front door. He reached down to get the Sunday Morning Gazette off the stoop, then glanced at the headline, Trump wins Big in New York Primary. “Trump?” Gerald wondered, “Who in the hell is Donald Trump?” Then he looked at the date above the byline: April 16, 2016.
He stepped back into the living room. ‘Edith, hey Edith? What the hell is going on here? Not another one of your practical jokes now. This isn’t funny Edith. Not one bit funny.”
“Dad, come on Dad,” An old man walked into Gerald’s living room.
Gerald was taken aback, and drew back his right arm, ready to throw the first punch. “What the hell are you doing in my house? Where’s Edith? And Joey, Oh my God, where’s Joey?”
The intruder was at least 50 , maybe 55 years old and dressed in his underwear. He had on a black t-shirt that had a picture of a man with a guitar and the name “Garth Brooks” on it. Gerald was horrified. “What the hell……”
“Dad, it’s me, “The intruder spoke loudly as he grabbed Gerald’s raised arm. “Dad, look, it’s me. It’s Joe. What’s the matter, Dad?”
Gerald looked down at his fist, ready to go at it again, but he stopped dead in his tracks. This was a hand he didn’t recognize, wrinkled, scarred, and covered with age spots. Gerald looked down at his feet. His feet were bony and gnarled, and his legs! His legs were thin and bowed, sticking out from beneath a pair of baggy old man’s boxer shorts.
“Dad, It’s me, your son Joe.”
“Joey? My little Joey?” Gerald was dumbfounded. “Who you kiddin’? Where’s Joey and where’s my wife, Edith? What have you done with my wife and my baby?” Gerald raised his fist again, ready to fight.
“Dad, I’m Joey, only I’m all grown up now, and Ma? Dad, Ma’s been gone for 6 years now. Remember, she had cancer, Dad. She died in 2010.”
Gerald looked confused, “It's that damn daylight savings time! This is all Johnson’s fault! I knew we should have left those damn clocks alone,” he screamed.
“Dad, what are you talking about?” Joe’s voice was short and irritated. “Stop and think, Dad.”
“Grandpa! Good morning!” a frisky six-year-old came running into the living room. “Can I have some Cheerios, Grandpa?”
Gerald sat down in a tan leather recliner, rubbing his head. It didn’t make sense, not any of it…… well, except maybe… maybe ….the little boy. He did sort of remember the boy….little Gerry. “Are you my grandson?”
The little boy shook his head, “Don’t be silly, Grandpa. Of course, I am. Now, who ever heard of such a thing?”
“And I am Gerald Parker? Gerald James Parker?”
Some of it was beginning to make a little more sense to Gerald now, but what was happening? He had fallen asleep in 1966 and here it was….. “Oh what the hell, what year is it anyway?”
“Grandpa, it’s 2016.”
“ "What? Where has all the time gone?” Gerald was so confused. “50 years, where did it all go? It was 1966… only yesterday. Who ever heard of such a thing?”
Joe Parker took his cell phone out of his t-shirt pocket, walked into the kitchen and placed a phone call.
“Dr. McKenny? Yes, this is Joe Parker. Gerald’s son. I think my Dad’s Alzheimer’s medication has stopped working. He seems really confused this morning. More than usual." Joe paused, listening to Dr. McKenny.
"No his appetite's been fine." He paused again.
"No, he hasn't been sleeping well. He woke up about 2 this morning, He was talking a bunch of nonsense... something about Avondale Shipyards, my mother and a baby, Oh! and daylight savings time! I have no idea what that's all about, he's really confused. Do you think you can see him today?”
Gerald, overhearing the conversation from the kitchen, leaned forward, holding his head in his hands; and wishing he could go back in time to 1966…. This time, for real.
He leaned over to see if anyone was watching, then he threw his Alzheimer's medication in the trash.