Joe is starting to find holes in his memory as he fakes his way through his new timeline. In this installment, he has some close calls when he goes to a social event at his brother’s house. It’s getting interesting, especially when he has a revelation at the end of this part of the story. Maybe there is no way out.
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Joe piloted the Tesla to Mike’s house. Mike had moved into a very nice gated community on the opposite side of town from Joe. The area around Langerton was very rich with lakes and Mike’s house was also nicely perched on the shore of Lake Lackawanna. Joe pulled into the large circular driveway, exited the Tesla and rang the front doorbell.
Mike answered the front door wearing a pair of sweatpants and a black Spiderman t-shirt. Joe had to get used to the sight of the fit, hip version of his brother.
“C’mon in Joe. The undercard’s about to start, the wings are hot and the beer is cold.”
Joe walked into the great room and was immediately struck by the contrast between Mike’s home and his own. Mike was married and his home was a shrine to family. Joe’s home was a shrine to accomplishment with a twinge of loneliness. For a moment, Joe felt the same solitude in this timeline that he did in the original as he piled a plate with six breaded chicken wings and some hot sauce. As he carried a beer back to the great room, Mike motioned for him to sit down in front of the giant television screen.
“Falling off the wagon. This is the first time I’ve seen you with that many chicken wings and a beer since college.”
Joe was taken aback by Mike’s comments. He feared dead spots in his memories and behavior and knew his brother would spot them right away. He suddenly had regret for agreeing to come to Mike’s house. He also realized, however, that he needed to learn about his life in this timeline if he was going to continue along in this alternate universe. He looked down at his plate and then up at his brother.
“I’m celebrating a bit tonight. The merger is on track. We’ll have a good life when it’s done. I’ll work it off tomorrow with all of the nervous energy going into Monday.”
Mike seemed to accept this.
“Well, it’s good to see you loosening up a bit. Have a seat and enjoy the fight.”
Joe was never a huge boxing fan, but the group that had gathered in Mike’s house seemed enthusiastic and he made the effort to get in the spirit of the event. As he looked around at the faces, many of them were familiar. It would be interesting to see how these people that he knew from his old life would fit into this new timeline. He again felt regret for venturing into this situation. As if on cue, a young, fresh-faced man approached him.
“Mr. McClean. It’s good to see you.”
“Thank you,” Joe said trying to estimate the amount of recognition he should bestow on the young man.
“I sent you all of the due diligence paperwork you requested. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Joe surmised that the young man worked for him.
“Thanks. Yes, I got them. Good work,” Joe answered even though he had no clue if he actually received the information.
“Your welcome, Sir,” the young man answered. “Good luck with the merger on Monday.”
“Thanks. It should go well,” Joe answered. Based on the information he had seen, this was the truth. Joe settled in and watched the first undercard match. It was a featherweight battle with two small, but heavily muscled and heavily tattooed young men he had never heard of. After two rounds, the boxer in the white trunks defeated the one in the blue trunks and the guests at Mike’s house dispersed to get more food and drinks and to use the restroom. Mike walked over toward his brother.
“You seem preoccupied, little brother. Is something up with the merger?”
Joe wasn’t concerned about the merger. He wanted to tell his brother about his trip to Pittsburgh and what had happened with Beth. He wanted to tell him about the stadium seat and about his wanderings through a total of three timelines thus far. Instead he just gave Mike the predictable answer.
“I’ll just be glad when it’s finalized.”
“That’s not it, though, is it, Joe?”
“What do you mean,” Joe said starting to feel the heat rise into his neck.
“You came alone. I told you to bring someone. What happened with that attorney that you were dating? Did she finally see you naked and dump you?”
Joe had no idea what Mike was talking about.
“She was busy tonight,” Joe quickly answered.
Mike must have sensed his unease at the question.
“Hey, just kidding, little bro. She seemed nice and was a good fit for you, that’s all. I just worry about you being alone, especially with the merger coming up and you potentially having more free time.”
Mike was accurate in what Joe felt. The visit to Beth’s office had been a foolish disaster. He was alone and was destined to be a rich, successful, but lonely, old man on his present course.
The rest of the evening went as smoothly as could be expected. Joe tried to avoid any voluntary details when conversing with Mike’s guests. Finally, the main event started and ended with the heavyweight champion defeating his opponent in just over 90 seconds. There were those that went to the restroom that missed the entire fight.
As the guests began to leave, Joe made his way over to his brother.
“Mike, I’m going to head out. Thanks for asking me over.”
“Do you want to stay? We’ve got plenty of space.”
“No. I’ve got some things to do tomorrow.”
“Don’t forget dinner at Mom and Dad’s. You’re coming, right?”
Joe didn’t have to think about this response.
“Of course; I will be there for sure.”
Joe made his way back out to the car and headed for home. He parked the Tesla in the garage, plugged it in and covered it. It was a great automobile and he wanted to take care of it. He made his way up to his room and prepared for bed.
He laid in bed thinking of the day’s events. He had done something impulsive which he never would have done in his prior life and it had not helped him in his situation with Beth. He began to wonder if he even had a situation. He also started to think about the holes in his memory because of the shift in timelines. Almost an entire business career had passed him by, but, in some instances, he had an instinctual knowledge of things that he had done in this life but had not experienced in his past psyche.
He drifted off to sleep and into another dream. This one was not as vivid as the other, but its central prop was the stadium seat. He saw the room in his old apartment and had the point of view of standing behind the seat looking at a stooped figure, an old man, that was sitting in it. He also saw a tall pile of what appeared to be Langerton Chiefs program books sitting next to the seat on the floor. He struggled to see the man’s face, but it was obscured from his point of view. Joe then looked up into the reflection of the television that was across from the man and a cold, sad realization came over him. The man was a much older version of himself. Apparently, the scene being portrayed was one of him traveling to multiple timelines without achieving the desired outcome. The scene bothered him so much that he shook himself awake. Then a thought immediately passed through his mind. He had been through most of his house in this timeline. One thing slipped his mind until now. Where was the stadium seat?