After a long day of doing absolutely nothing in his retirement and making absolutely no contribution to the world for the last fifteen years, the past decided to head to the bar before his wife, who was almost ten years his junior, got home from work.
Since it was dinnertime, most of the patrons were at home with their families. The future was tending bar and sucking on pretzels because
business was so slow.
—Today is my daughter’s birthday, the past said to the future.
—Why aren’t you spending it with her?
—She cut me out and said she doesn’t want anything to do with me. It hurts my feelings, the past said. —But I’m trying not to personalize it.
—Why did she cut you out? asked the future who was half listening because he had one eye on the game.
—Because I abandoned her when she was young, and she’s never forgiven me.
—Is it true? asked the future.
—Yes, I suppose it is.
—And did you tell her you were sorry?
—No, because I have trouble taking any personal responsibility for my actions. Except once I got into an argument with my car salesman, and I wrote him a letter of apology and it cleared the matter right up.
—It’s hard to have a good relationship with children, the future said. Family relations are always fraught.
—They disappoint you and you disappoint them, I suppose, said the past
—Really having children is absolutely the worst thing you can do for yourself and the world. They cost so much and never give back what they should, the future said.
The past agreed. —Look at me. I’ve been retired for fifteen years, and in all these years I’ve been up to no good. I’m practically a waste of space. And I rarely if ever visit my parents.
The future looked over at the big screen TV. —Let’s talk about sports, he said. —That will help you forget your troubles and the way things really are.
The past and the future were sharing a laugh about something funny.
The past held a stone in his right hand, and when they both averted their eyes, the past grabbed the future’s hand and gave it a little squeeze.
Taking this as a sign, the future leaned in for a hug.
The past put his lips on the future’s forehead and
—Don’t kiss me.
—I wasn’t planning on it, the future said.
And they stood there—unable to stay, unable to let go.
Kathryn Mockler is a writer, screenwriter, and poet. She is the author of the poetry books The Purpose Pitch (Mansfield Press, 2015), The Saddest Place on Earth (DC Books, 2012) and Onion Man (Tightrope Books, 2011). Her writing has been published in The Butter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Lemon Hound, and Geist. Currently, she is the Toronto Editor of Joyland and Publisher of The Rusty Toque.