Joe is starting to see some cracks in this timeline. On the whole, it seemed positive. What he learns this week may shake him on that assumption just a bit. We will have to see what his ultimate conclusion is and, if it’s negative, if he has a way to rectify it.
Please enjoy this week’s installment of Extra Innings.
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Joe sprung out of bed in a panic. He thought he had been relatively comfortable in this timeline. It had its flaws, but two of the things he thought were extremely important, his career and his parents, were apparently flourishing in this timeline. So why was he in a panic? Was it the fact that if something went wrong in this timeline, he might not be able to go back and repair it? The situation with Beth certainly had not turned out the way he planned, but his career was on track, the merger was about to make him rich and his parents were alive and he would be having an early dinner with them later in the day. It seemed like a very positive outcome in most ways. Still, where was the stadium seat?
Joe showered, ate some breakfast and went on a search of the parts of the house he hadn’t explored. The house had a full-sized basement and a crawlspace attic that he had not explored yet. Joe went down to the basement. It was well lit and partially finished. A large room of the basement was set up as a home theater with comfortable leather recliners, a high definition data projector and an electronic screen that dropped down from the ceiling. In the rear of the home theater was a bar and even a vintage popcorn machine. The bar was well stocked and the room, although well-appointed, appeared to be used often. It was decorated with more sports memorabilia focused on the Langerton Chiefs, New York Yankees and New York Giants. The stadium seat, however, was not in this room. Joe went to the storage portion of the basement. It was well stocked with canned goods, drinks and other household items. There was a top-of-the-line washer and dryer, a hot water heater, furnace and other things you’d expect to see in a basement, but still no stadium seat.
Joe left the basement and headed upstairs in search of the attic access. He assumed it was somewhere out of the way upstairs. He found it at the end of the hallway between his room and his sports memorabilia room. There was a short pull cord which opened a spring-loaded trap door and revealed a fold out ladder. Joe unfolded the ladder and climbed to the top of it. He discovered the attic was relatively uncluttered when he pulled the chain that turned on the lights. There were some boxes containing books and photographs, boxes with sports memorabilia that apparently didn’t make the cut in his display room and a minimal amount of seasonal decorations. He could see the particle board floor across the whole attic and there was no sign of the stadium seat. A heavy feeling in his chest started to develop as Joe turned off the lights and descended the stairs. Would he have gotten rid of it? Did it exist in this timeline? Maybe because of the success of his business, Joe considered that maybe he didn’t even purchase the stadium seat like he did in the other timeline. He would have to let it go for now, but he still needed to be convinced that this was the right timeline. Until he could do that, his feeling of unease wouldn’t go away. There wasn’t much he could do about it now. He had to come up to speed before he headed over to his parents and needed to make sure he was all set for the merger the next morning.
Joe showered and dressed. He spent some time going through the merger materials one more time. He was looking for traps or some negative aspect to him or his company and he saw none. He then had a somewhat urgent thought. He was going to visit his parents and he had no idea where they lived. In his original timeline, they lived in a modest raised ranch in a blue-collar neighborhood on the east side of town, the house he grew up in. Joe assumed, with the success of the business in this timeline, his parents’ standard of living must have also increased. He just wasn’t sure where they lived. He hoped that his cell phone from this timeline had their address on it. He looked up his parents’ number on the phone. Luckily his thumbprint was the same in both timelines. He went to his contacts and was shocked to see that his parents didn’t live at the same address. His mom lived on the north side of Langerton and his dad’s address showed that he lived on the west side. What happened? Did his parents get divorced?
Joe was confused. Mike said that they were having dinner with his parents. It wasn’t singular it was the plural – parents. So where was the dinner and which parent was going to be there? As if in answer to his questions, Joe’s cell phone rang. It was Mike.
“Hey Mike, what’s up?” Joe asked trying to sound casual and less panic-stricken than he actually was.
“Joe, I just wanted to let you know I’ll pick dad up this week on the way to dinner.”
Joe paused struggling with what to say.
“Um, okay. That’s fine. So, we’ll meet at Mom’s?” Joe asked tentatively.
“Sure. Just like always,” Mike answered.
“Okay. I’ll see you there.”
Joe disconnected the call and put thoughts of the stadium seat, Beth and the merger out of his mind. He needed to know what was going on with his parents. Was there another flaw in this timeline?
Joe tried to focus on some of the merger material, but decided instead to spend some time running on the treadmill in the basement. It felt good. He was never one for running in his past life, but in this one, his body was in much better shape and the burning in his muscles and the sweat leaving his body felt more natural than it ever had in his life. It also helped him organize his thoughts. He needed to fully assess this timeline. The merger seemed positive. The developments with the firm seemed beyond expectations. The situation with Beth and his parents, however, troubled him. Then, of course, if this timeline turned out to be negative, he didn’t have a way to get back and change it unless he could find the stadium seat.
Joe showered and dressed and by then it was time to go. He decided to take the BMW. He felt more comfortable driving it. The Tesla still intimidated him a bit. He plugged his mother’s address into the navigation system and found that it would take him about 15 minutes to get there.
Joe’s mom lived in a condo in an upscale retirement community. He pulled into a spot near her building and walked through the well-maintained grounds to her door. The community was one of those that went from independent living to assisted living to nursing home care.
Joe recognized his mom’s door right away. Her door had a welcome mat with the Langston Chiefs’ logo on it. He knocked and Mike answered the door.
“You’re right on time, Joey. Big surprise there,” Mike said with an edge of sarcasm in his voice.
Joe walked in and marveled at the familiar smell coming from the kitchen.
“Mom made lasagna this week. It’s a special pre-merger meal for us.”
Joe saw Mike’s wife and kids streaming in and out of the kitchen. The condo was larger than the house Joe’s parents owned and that he and Mike grew up in from the original timeline.
Joe’s mom came out of the kitchen. Joe was taken aback by how she had aged. He had, of course, never seen her at this age since she had passed ten years earlier in his original timeline. She also looked fit, stylish and full of energy.
“There’s my baby boy. You look tired. Are you okay? Are you getting enough sleep?”
Joe welled up a bit at the site of his mother, but he knew he had to keep it together.
“I’m fine, Ma. Just a little tense about the merger.”
“Joey, there’s nothing to worry about. We’ll all be fine from the money and maybe you can finally relax and have a life for yourself.”
“I know, Ma. It’s just a big step.”
“I can understand it. You’ve worked hard all of your life building the company, but you’ve earned this.”
“Thanks, Ma,” was all that Joe could come up with.
“Your father’s in the living room probably asleep on the couch in front of the T.V.,” Joe’s mother said. “He’s having one of his foggy days.”
Joe didn’t know what this meant, but he tentatively headed for the living room not sure what to expect. When he saw the shrunken figure on the couch, he was shocked. It looked like his father, but it looked like all of the life had been sucked out of him. He was in front of the T. V. with Blue Bloods blasting his way at high volume. His head sagged against the back of the couch and the only sign of life was his emaciated chest rising and falling. He had a three-legged cane next to him. Joe just stood there and stared.
“Ma said he’s having a foggy day today,” Mike said as he came up next to Joe.
“Yeah. She told me. What’s going on with him, Mike?”
Joe regretted the question as soon as he asked it. In this timeline, he should have known what was going on with his father. Mike didn’t seem to pick up on it, though.
“Just the usual, Joe. The effects from the stroke tire him out and the dementia is getting worse. Alzheimer’s is a bitch.”
This hit Joe hard as he struggled to keep composure. His father had survived, but his quality of life was terrible. He had suffered a stroke and now had Alzheimer’s disease. Would he have been better off if the heart attack from the original timeline had claimed him?