The Clock’s Retreat – Going Back to Retrieve Lessons

Dylan Jack James
Guest Contributor

I awake to the sound of a raucous blue jay in my yard. A genie appears before me in the thin stream of sunlight that’s peeking through my bedroom curtains. I rub my eyes thinking I’m still asleep, dreaming. He speaks to me and I can barely believe my eyes and ears.

He shows me a clock with a big red button attached. It floats above his head. The clock spins backward in time. “It will stop whenever you press the button,” he tells me. I watch as the days, months, and years rewind. My thoughts are spinning in my head as fast as the clock. “When do I hit the button?” I barely have time to think of why this is happening to me when the genie seems to read my thoughts. “Choose a simpler time,” he tells me. I welcome what he says, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I take a deep breath and hit the giant button.

Where do I stop it? In the summer of 1978. 

Bell bottom jeans clothe my legs and a black KISS t-shirt hugs my pecs. Dark blue Chucks are always on my feet when I’m not walking barefoot. I’m almost 16 years old. It seems my mother drags out dinner on the nights my friends and I have plans. The black rotary dial Western Electric Bell in the kitchen rings. 

“Hey bro, it’s Danny, are you almost ready?” 

I pull the receiver and tangled cord into the dining room almost choking my mother who runs into it as she puts the milk on the kitchen table. “No man, my dad isn’t home from work yet and we gotta wait for him before we can eat.” 

“Well hurry up, there’s gonna be a lot of chicks at the concert tonight.” 

“OK,” I sigh and hang up the receiver. “Ma, the boys and I are going out tonight, can’t I just eat now?” I plead. She nods a quick yes. I gulp down my meatloaf and mashed potatoes in a hurry. 

“You forgot about your salad!” my mother yells, but I’m already bounding up the stairs headed for the shower. I strip, turn on the water, grab my English Leather soap on a rope off the cold water knob and lather up good. I wash my shoulder length brown hair and step out of the tub when my little brother storms in.

“What the fuck man!” I yell at him. 

“I gotta take a shit!” he yells back. 

I towel off. My little brother stinks up the bathroom while I blow dry my hair. It falls in feathered waves, the style the girl I can’t take my mind off likes. I hear she’ll be at the concert tonight. I hope my homecoming queen doesn’t come with her homecoming king. After our tryst in the bleachers last summer when she said she liked my hair this way, she disappeared from my life and she and her Ken doll of a boyfriend stayed together. He never found out about our rendezvous so I guess she never told him. Nevertheless, I’ll never forgot about our night under the summer stars. Hearing she would be there tonight made my heart beat just a little bit faster. 

I crank the transistor radio on the bathroom counter. “Hot Child in the City” comes over the airwaves. I dress while dreaming about seeing my bleacher girl again. I grab Dad’s English leather lime and splash it on my face. I don a tight pair of Levi’s, a crisp clean white tee and tuck a fresh pack of Marlboro Reds in the chest pocket of my denim jacket. I grab a few Genesee beers from the refrigerator, step outside into the cool summer night, and wait for my ride. Black Sabbath blares from the speakers as Danny’s Pontiac Firebird pulls into my driveway. I squeeze in the cramped backseat next to Donny, tossing him and Danny a Genny. 

“Anne said your bleacher chick is definitely gonna be there tonight with her girlfriends,” Danny smirks as he guzzles down his brewski. 

“Kissy kissy!” Donny blows kisses my way. 

“Fuck off, asshole!” I scowl at him. 

“Anne said Mr. Homecoming King has to work tonight so it’s your turn!” Danny says while he gives me the OK sign with his left hand and sticks his index finger on his right into the hole. 

My bleacher girl, Sue, is wild. Everyone knows her innocent demeanor is a load of shit. She loves the local heavy metal band we’re all going to watch tonight. I hope we get it on again, but this time in the back of her daddy’s silver Cutlass. 

The genie stops the clock and just like that I’m thrust back into the present. “Now tell me what you learned … going back.” 

Without hesitation I speak. “It was a time of longing and anticipation. Of looking forward to what was to be. A time of true human connection and face-to-face meetings. A far cry from the current time where many connections are made over social media or dating apps. A virtual meat market where you can choose what you’ll be getting before you even meet. There is no mystery about life unfolding before you anymore. It all seems so planned, and at times an emptiness prevails. We were young then, unencumbered by phone screens with countless faces appearing at every click of a button.” 

And with my answer, the genie faded away as quickly as he had come to me.

I woke up, in my bed, to the sound of the blue jay still screeching his warning call to the morning sun.

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