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Authors: James L. Rubart

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BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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Yes! This was it. There was no doubt in his mind he was fully conscious, but this wasn’t real. Clocks didn’t disappear in the real world. This was definitely a dream. Next step, try to create something out of nothing.

He focused on the table and imagined a slice of Black Forest cake with a dollop of white-chocolate macadamia-nut ice cream on the side. Instantly the ice cream appeared, then started to fade. Brock breathed in deep—was he really breathing?—and focused on the image of the dessert. Again, the cake and ice cream appeared and this time they stayed solid.

He took a bite and knew he was ruined for real Black Forest cake for the rest of his life. This dream-cake version was perfection. He lifted another bite to his mouth and started to chew, but suddenly the taste overwhelming his taste buds wasn’t cake, but squash—the food he loathed most in the world.

Brock spit the yellow mass of mush out of his mouth, pushed away from the table, and tried not to retch. A moment later he woke, his eyes watering. Obviously this lucid dreaming would take some work.

The next night he flew himself into a wall of the Grand Canyon, but hey, he flew! And controlled it. Mostly. The night after that he couldn’t find the lucid state, but on Thursday night he found his way in again, and after he arrived he upped the stakes.
If he was going to be able to control the dream with his dad, he needed to practice interacting with people—people that would set his adrenaline pumping. Strange thing was, since Morgan had given him the book on Sunday, the dream about his dad had not returned.

He recreated a scene from college where he’d been jumped by three frat boys during the fall of his junior year. The whap of their tennis shoes on the gray pavement behind him sounded like tiny firecrackers, but before they reached him, he imagined a thick walking stick in his hand, and it appeared. He spun and whipped the stick in a tight circle.

“It’s not going to happen this time, boys.”

“What’s not going to happen?” the tallest of the three said.

“You’re not going to bruise two of my ribs and borrow my wallet.”

“What?” The stocky kid to the right looked hurt. “We wouldn’t do that.”

The third, the kid in the middle, grinned. That’s when they attacked.

Brock focused and the three thugs moved toward him in super slow motion. By the time they reached him, he had strolled out of the way, then watched them spin and stare at him in amazement.

Stocky kid gaped. “How did you move like that?”

Brock started to answer but woke before the words could leave his mouth.

The sound of robins outside his bedroom window ushered him into morning. The dream wasn’t perfect—it would have been nice to stay in it and figure out how to subdue the thugs—but it gave Brock the belief he’d be able to do something the next time his dad invaded Brock’s dream world.

Chapter 4

T
he next evening, Brock pulled into the parking garage of the Sheraton hotel in downtown Seattle where his thirty-fifth high school reunion was being held, shut off the engine, and tried to push the meeting with Ron a few days back from his mind. Not easy. Something felt off. Even more difficult was ignoring the frustration he felt toward Karissa for making him go to the reunion alone. Wrong. She would have come. But he’d coerced her into too many corporate events over the years; he couldn’t blame her for bowing out on this one. In truth, he couldn’t blame her if she never joined him for another event the rest of their lives.

Thirty-five years since graduation. As he stared out the windshield of his silver Lexus at the semi-familiar faces moving toward the garage elevator, he marveled at the fact high school had happened that long ago. Didn’t feel like it. The people going to their fortieth, forty-fifth, and fiftieth reunions probably said the same thing.

Brock glanced at his watch. A gift from Ron on the day three years ago when Black Fedora had hit twenty-five million in annual
sales. Last month they’d hit fifty-three. So why did they have to pull their worker-funding program? The business side of Black Fedora was certainly Ron’s, but the sense that storm clouds were gathering on the horizon made Brock wish he were more skilled at forecasting the proverbial weather.

Time to get in there. Smiles, everybody. Smiles.

The moment he stepped through the doors of the reunion room, he saw a face he hadn’t seen since the first reunion back in ’85; a face he could have waited to see till their class’s two hundredth reunion: Mitchell Green.

“Whoa, baby!” Mitchell strode up to him in an Armani suit and a drink in both hands. “Brock Matthews, baby, I was going to die if you didn’t come. Perfect timing. Here.”

Mitchell handed him one of the drinks.

“Hey, Mitchell. Long time.”

“Too long.” Mitchell flicked Brock’s shoulder. “We might not have been buds in high school, but times change and I’d like to propose a toast.”

“To what?”

“You and me, rocking the business world down to its foundation.” Mitchell raised his glass against Brock’s. “I’ve seen what you’re doing, you seen what I’m doing? Went public a year back, baby. You saw it, right? Score city. Yeah, I expected the IPO to jack up my net worth a few points, but fifteen million? Nah, didn’t think it’d be that high. We’re just a tiny little company, you know?”

Brock didn’t know. Yes, he’d heard that Mitchell was part of a company that was doing well. And he’d heard the company was going public. But he didn’t know exactly what they did other than some kind of venture capital investing.

“Talk to me. Time for your story.” Mitchell punched Brock in the arm. “I’ve been tracking Black Fedora. Amazing how a nine-hundred-year-old commodity can stuff such copious amounts of filthy lucre into a man’s pockets. But you guys know marketing, and that’s what it’s all about. Tell a good story, get the glory.”

“We’re doing fine, thanks.”

“Fine? Fine!” Mitchell turned around in a slow circle, lifted his glass again, and spoke loudly. “This man and his brother run a fifty-million-dollar company, one that Forbes says could be to coffee what Apple is to tech products if they worked a little harder. He says they’re doing ‘fine’? Watch out!”

Brock waited till Mitchell spun a second time and finished the rest of his drink in one gulp. “Are you married? Kids?”

“No, no. Don’t try to change gears while the bike is in motion. When are you guys going public? Crazy that you haven’t. The private stock thing you guys have going, not the way to go. Get out of the Dark Ages, baby.”

“Not in the cards.”

“How can it not be? You ever need any help, call me. I can launch you higher into the stratosphere than you knew a company could fly. I have the connections. I’m wired, baby, like no one knows.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Hey, just saying you better do something. Or someone like me is going to swoop down!” Mitchell made a motion with his palm like a bird in flight. “Swoop down, grab all that private stock, and take over your company, and there’ll be nothing you can do about it.”

Brock didn’t answer. With Mitchell’s blood-alcohol level undoubtedly climbing like a rocket, the man wouldn’t remember
the conversation twenty minutes from now. Brock eased away as Mitchell pointed at him and grinned. “You and me, it’s business destiny.”

As soon as he made a full turn away, Lennie Buck’s grinning face filled his vision. Lennie Buck had been a good friend since their sophomore year of high school, but they lost touch after Brock became—in Lennie’s words—a Jesus freak. They’d reconnected after Lennie’s fifteen-year career with the New York Rangers ended and he moved back to the Seattle area. He’d been a bruiser in the pro hockey world, and even though he was of average height, he still looked like he could body check a player twice as young and twice as big across the room.

Lennie, dressed in a black suit and high-top Converse sneakers, grabbed Brock by the shoulders.

“Did you hear me?” Lennie shook Brock’s shoulders. “She’s here. Can’t believe she came. First one she’s come to. Wild, yeah? And man, she is looking fine. So fine. Fireworks could happen, I’m telling ya.”

Brock laughed and gave Lennie a quick hug. “You want to clue me in as to who and what you’re talking about?”

“Sheila! Your Sheila. She walked through the door five minutes before you did. Asked me about you. Smiled big when she said your name. I’m telling ya.” He wagged his thumb at Brock. “When’s the last time you saw her?”

A surge of anticipation coursed through Brock and he scolded himself—as if he could have stopped the feeling.

Sheila Waterson had been his high-school sweetheart. College sweetheart as well. And when they broke up—and even though Brock had been the one who did the breaking—she walked away with a piece of his heart. That wasn’t a secret, at least not from
Karissa. He’d never seen Sheila after they went down their separate paths, not even when connecting with old friends via social media became the rage. He’d never looked for her and was grateful she’d never looked for him.

“Hey, I’m talking here. Listen up, buddy.” Lennie poked Brock in his stomach. “Whoa. Hold the presses. Nice abs, no BSG on your early-fifties frame. Steel abs, just like me.” Lennie patted his own stomach. “She’ll like that.”

“BSG?”

“Big Sweaty Gut!” Lennie burst out laughing.

“You always did have a beautiful way with words, Len.”

“Right?” He laughed and grabbed Brock by the shoulders again, then ran the back of his hand down the front of Brock’s sport coat. “Looking fine, so it’s gotta be candy time. So tell me, how long since you’ve seen her?”

“It’s been a while.” Brock set his drink on a tray carried by a waiter who strolled past them. “But that’s not why I came to the reunion.”

“How long is a while? Years?”

Brock gave his head a light nod. “Not since we broke up.”

“What? Serious?” Lennie rolled his head. “The love of your life still looking almost as good as she did in high school and you haven’t been in touch?”

“See this?” Brock held up his left hand. “It’s called a wedding ring. Part of it symbolizes that you’ve given your life to someone and you’ll never betray them, that you’ll stay with them through thick and thin.”

Lennie grinned. “I probably should have figured that out during the time I was hitched.”

“Yeah. Might have helped.”

“And the time before that.” Lennie grinned again and glanced around the room. “Okay, let’s find her.”

“We don’t have to find her.”

“Sure we do.”

Brock’s pulse tripped along faster than it should have as he glanced over the crowd. Nervous? Why? He shouldn’t be. Yeah, right. He hadn’t seen her in more than thirty years, and that little piece of his heart he’d never gotten back was calling out to him. Lennie might be looking for Sheila so she and Brock could connect, but Brock was looking for her so he could avoid making contact. Then her voice, exactly the same as it had been thirty-five years ago, floated over his shoulder.

“Hi, Brock.”

He spun faster than he should have and lost his balance for a half second. He did a half step-hop to his right and steadied himself. “Sheila. Hi.”

“You okay?”

She smiled and Brock thought about how hearing songs from years back often flooded his mind with memories from the days when he’d first heard them. Sheila’s smile wasn’t a song, but a flood of biblical proportions. When Lennie said she looked good, Brock had thought his old friend was exaggerating. He wasn’t. Sure, there were lines, her skin not quite so smooth, her blonde hair not quite so bright, and the years had stolen a bit of the beauty that youth gives so liberally, but no stranger would put her age past the midthirties. And one thing hadn’t aged a day. Those sea-green eyes. Still captivating as a summer morning.

“Yeah. Fine.”

She laughed and more memories flooded in. “A little too much to drink already?”

“Not a drop yet. I guess I’ll never make it on the ice-skating circuit.”

“You look great, Brock. Really.”

“So do you.” It sounded lame coming out of his mouth, but if it was, Sheila didn’t let on.

She tilted her head. “Can we go somewhere to catch up that’s a little less noisy?” She turned and gazed at their old classmates clustered together in groups of threes and fours as if scouting for a path through them.

“Sure.”

“All right, fun times again.” Lennie patted them both on the shoulders and nodded. “Be good, you two.”

Sheila gave Brock a sympathetic smile, took his arm, and they slalomed toward the back of the room past a few winks and smiles from faces Brock knew, but their names were lost. The Eagles played too loudly overhead, but they saved him from having to speak.

She released his arm after they emerged from the crowd on the other side of the ballroom, then clasped her hands in front of her as she glanced along the back wall for a quiet spot. “Good to see Lennie is still Lennie after all these years. He looks like he’s doing well for himself.”

“Would you believe he owns a company that builds high-tech docks for Fortune 500 companies all over the world?”

“Lennie?” She smiled. “Not in a million.”

“Me either. And I didn’t think our senior class pres would wind up working long hours at Home Depot.”

“Scotty Anderson is working at Home Depot?”

“Just goes to show those ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ polls we took for the yearbook were a complete guessing game.”

They wandered through a door that led to a long hallway, which led to an empty bar, except for a bartender with spiked hair and droopy eyes that made her look comatose. They settled at a table in the middle and she meandered over a minute later.

“Get you two anything?”

“Yes.” Sheila smiled at Brock, then looked up at the bartender. “If you can do it, we’d love two butterscotch milkshakes, with an extra splash of butterscotch. Maybe two extra splashes.”

The bartender’s face contorted as if to say, “You’re in a bar, not a drive-through,” but she stayed silent and moseyed back to the bar and started making their milkshakes.

Brock couldn’t stop a grin from breaking out. “You remembered.”

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
8.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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