School Safety Part 1

Rock’s phone buzzed on the locker room bench and he picked it up and looked at it.  He texted something, hit send, and put it back down.

“Is that the girl you’ve been seeing?” Jacob asked, tying his shoes, which is something I’ve heard people like to do before gym class.

“The black girl? Yeah, well, kind of,” Rock said, responding to another text.  “We aren’t really seeing each other.  We’re still in the feeling each other out phase.”

“I see,” Jacob said.  “You should probably refer to her by her name.  Not ‘the black girl’.”

“Why?  It’s not like we’re dating yet,” Rock said, answering another text.

“That isn’t really the point,” Jacob said as Rock typed away.  “Dude, this is a pretty intense conversation.  What’s she want?”

“She wants me to call her.”

“Are you going to?”

“Nah, I don’t feel like talking.  I just told her I don’t have my phone on me,” Rock said, standing up.  “You ready to head to the gym?”

“Yeah.  Well, no.  We’re not in the gym today.  We have to go outside.  The girls’ class is in the gym.”

“What?  That’s bullshit.  Why do they get to use the gym and we have to go stand outside in the cold like a bunch of jabronis?”

“Rock, it’s like 75 degrees out.”

“Whatever.  Still bullshit,” Rock said.  He shook his head for a moment, then his eyes lit up.  “You know what would be hilarious?  You know that cart we use to wheel out the tables when we set up for bingo?”

“Sure.  What about it?”

“We should have someone go out and ride the thing across the gym.  We can stand on the the front of it, like a recreation of Washington Crossing the Delaware.  It’ll be awesome.”

“I’m a little surprised that’s the reference you went with.  I’d have said Leo in Titanic.”

“Yeah, dude.  We can scream ‘I’m the king of the world’ as we do it.  The girls will be all like ‘whaaat’.”

“Well, your plan is solid,” Jacob said of Rock’s very shaky, very bizarre plan as he look over the cart that was conveniently left near the back of the gym.  “The problem is these things are not very stable.  Someone could get hurt, or we could get in a lot of trouble.”

“We’ll cover our faces.  And we’ll get someone else to stand on the front and yell.  You and I will just propel the cart from our locker room, across the back of the gym and out the door on the other side.  There’s absolutely no risk.  To us.”

“Right, but who the hell is going to agree to something like that?”

“What about Dylan?  He’s been pretty impressionable lately.”

“Yeah, dude.  That’s because his parents just got divorced and he’s going through a pretty rough time.  Only a complete monster would take advantage of someone in such a difficult position.” Jacob looked across the locker room.  “Hey, Dylan, you want to do something stupid and reckless that will get you attention, and though we’ll be more laughing at you than with you, you won’t figure that out until you’re in your mid-30s?”

Dylan shrugged.  “What did you have in mind?”  They explained the plan to Dylan, which I’m not going to repeat because I’ve already done it, and reiterating it would be boring, so fuck that shit.  After Dylan heard the plan, he shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Sounds kind of dangerous.”

“No, dude, check it out.  This is the type of shit they’re always doing on those stunt shows you watch,” Jacob said.

“I don’t watch those.  I’m pretty sure nobody does.  What made you think I like those?”

“I assume all unlovable fuckups watch them.  Now, are you going to ride our cart or not?”

“Not.  Besides, those shows all have disclaimers telling you not to try this at home.”

Rock put his hand on Dylan’s shoulder.  “Those only apply to kids people care about.  For kids like you, they want you to try them at home.  If you get hurt, it doesn’t matter, because your parents can always make another you.  Or at least they would have been able to if you hadn’t been such a rotten child that they had to go get a divorce.  And then your mom killed herself.  All because of you.”

“Fine.  I’ll do it,” Dylan said.

Rock and Jacob bumped fists.  “Way to bring up the mom’s suicide to close the deal.  Nicely done.”

“Guys, this feels really unstable,” Dylan said, standing on the handles of the cart.

“That’s because it is.  But don’t worry, it’ll be fine as long as we’re either holding onto it or standing on the back to counterbalance your weight,” Jacob said, using his obvious foreshadowing tone of voice.  “Ready?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Dylan said.  They went out into the gym, and after a running start, Rock and Jacob jumped on the back.  Dylan, per the plan, yelled, “I am the king of the…”

“Shit, it’s Ms. Walters,” Rock said as the girls’ gym teacher walked in.  “Run.”

Jacob and Rock hopped off the back of the cart, predictably, and even more predictably, Dylan screamed and the cart toppled over forward, sending him headfirst into the wall.  After Jacob and Rock had retreated to the safety of the locker, they looked out at the chaos unfolding in the gym.

“Well, that didn’t go as planned,” Rock said.  “Oh, well.  At least we tried, but I guess that wasn’t as funny as we thought it would be.”

“Yeah.  Well, I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Jacob said, pointing at the girls’ gym class.  “They seem to think it’s pretty funny.”

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Back to Universe A

“Welcome back, Jacob,” Tyson greeted Jacob as he removed his helmet.  The universe jumpy one, not the time-travelly one.

“Yo, Tyson B, what gives?  Did this not work?  Come on, man, I need to get back to my universe.”

“What?  Jacob, you’re back in Universe A.  It worked.”

“But you look and sound just like Tyson B.”

“We’re the same person.  Just different timelines.  Did he not explain this to you?”

“I have no idea what he said or didn’t say.  I wasn’t listening.  It was a bunch of sciency mumbo jumbo.”

“Right.  Of course,” Tyson said, shaking his head.  “Anyway, how was Universe B?”

“Actually, apparently we’re Universe B?”

“What do you mean?  How are we Universe B?  They’re the one where all the weird shit happened.”

“We elected Donald Trump as President.”

Tyson thought for a moment.  “I guess I see their point.  Regardless, how was the other universe?”

Jacob shrugged.  “Alright, I guess.  Though I did forget to ask about the spiders.”

“Spiders?  What spiders?”

“The camel spiders, dude.  You wanted me to ask if they had camel spiders in Universe whatever the hell letter we’re assigning it.  Universe not this one.”

“Universe B.  And what’s this about camel spiders?  I never asked you to ask about them?  Why would I?”

“Because they’re fucking huge, dude.  They’re like this size of your face, and they’re spiders.  If they don’t have them in Universe B, then we need to move there, like now.”

“I don’t think either of those things are accurate, and besides, you don’t live in an area that has camel spiders anyway.  What do you care?”

“I want to get out before they start some sort of nuclear war.”

“Nobody’s going to start a nuclear war over camel spiders.  What the hell is wrong with you?”

“If I woke up and one of those suckers was on my face, or really even in the vicinity, I’d nuke the shit out of it.”

Rock shrugged.  “It’s as good an argument for using nukes as I can think of.”

“Alright, if you guys are done being stupid,” Tyson said, looking at Rock and Jacob.  “So, how was it?”

“It wasn’t really any different.  Tyson B looked just like you.  I wasn’t even sure I’d left our universe, to be honest.”

Tyson nodded, hanging on Jacob’s every word.  “Right, right.  We planned it that way, so you wouldn’t be too taken aback.  What about the timeline?”

“What timeline?”

“Well, the universe should have been drastically different in terms of historical outcomes.  What happened there and how did that affect everything in the present time?”

“I don’t know.  Tyson B didn’t mention anything being different.”

“What do you mean?  That was the whole point of sending you,” Tyson said, growing frustrated.

Jacob shrugged and gave Tyson a stupid grin.  “I guess he just forgot.”

“He didn’t forget.  You just didn’t listen, you fucking idiot.”

“I’m pretty sure I listened.  Don’t blame me because alternate you is an airhead.”

“Jacob, he didn’t forget.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he’s me.  I’m him.  He’s the same person, except in an alternate universe, and I wouldn’t forget.  We’re exactly the same.  You just never listen to us.  Me.  Whatever.”

“Good idea.  I could totally go for some soup right now.  Rock?”  Rock shrugged, and he and Jacob headed toward the door, but Jacob stopped and turned back.  “By the way, I didn’t get to meet alternate Jacob because Tyson B sent him out on a fake errand.  It made me think of all those times you sent me to the store.  If you two are exactly the same, does that mean…”

“Hey, let’s celebrate,” Tyson said quickly, cutting off Jacob’s thought in a way that should have been obvious, if Jacob had been a little less soup-obsessed at the time.  “Soup’s on me.”

Hello from Universe B

“Hi. Welcome to Universe B,” said Tyson, extending a hand to shake Jacob’s.  “I’ll be your guide.  I’m Tyson.  Obviously,” Tyson said with a nerd snort.

“Yo, Tyson, what’s up?  Did this not work?” Jacob asked.

“What do you mean?  Did you not hear what I just said?  Yes, it worked.”

“But you look exactly the same.  Besides, you know I never listen to what you say.”

“I’ve never met you, being the Tyson from Universe B, so no, I don’t know that.”

“Tyson B, come on, are you telling me that Jacob B listens to you?” Jacob asked.

“No, he doesn’t.  And just call me Tyson,” Tyson B said.

“No, not going to happen,” Jacob A said, looking around.  “So, what’s the deal?  This place looks exactly the same.”

“Me and my counterpart from your universe thought it best not to start you with anything too dramatically different from your universe.  Therefore, things on an individual level are mostly the same,” Tyson explained.  “However, there are some major differences on the geopolitical level.  The South won the Civil War, the Germans won World War 1, and some obligatory third thing also happened.  What are things like in Universe A?”

Jacob shrugged.  “Donald Trump is President.”

“Oh,” Tyson said.  “I guess that makes you Universe B.”

“Whatever. I don’t believe in, like, labels, man,” Jacob said for some reason.  “Anyway, where’s alternate Jacob?  I want to, uh, meet myself.”

“We thought it best to keep you two apart, for now.  As I mentioned, we’re kind of trying to ease you into the whole alternate Universe thing.  Besides, you’d end up fucking him and we don’t want that.”

“I wouldn’t…” Jacob began, before accepting the futility of arguing the point.  “So, what’d you do with him?”

Tyson laughed.  “I sent him on an errand.  I told him that if he brought back a box of donuts and a pack of D batteries, I could send him to a universe made entirely of swimsuit models.  He’s such an idiot.”

“Aren’t we pretty much identical?”

“Yeah.”

“And aren’t you pretty much identical to Tyson A,” Jacob said, putting the pieces together.  “Does this mean…”

“Hey, this is a pretty monumental occasion,” Tyson said quickly, feigning excitement.  “We should celebrate.”

“Cool.  How do you celebrate here on Universe B?”

“In Universe B.  And, well, we basically eat too much and give people shit they don’t want.  Sometimes we dance.  How do you guys celebrate?”

“The same, except throw in drinking too much and fighting with family,” Jacob looked around.  “I don’t see any of my family around here.”

“No, you wouldn’t.  Again, we’re trying to ease you in.  This is more a test run than anything else.”

“Then who am I supposed to fight with?”

“Let’s just forget that aspect of it,” Tyson said.  “Anyway, you should be getting back before I have to think through the implications of the changes to history I mentioned above.  Any questions for me before you go?”

“No.  I’m good.  This was boring,” Jacob said, putting his helmet back on.  “Next time I want to go to a universe that’s actually cool.  Not populated by lamewads like you, nerd-smo.”

“Hmm.  You sound like Rock B,” Tyson said.  “Anyway, off you go.”

“Wait.  There is one thing,” Jacob said.  “We have this guy in our universe who’s really depressed.  I think he might be suicidal.  I can’t remember his name, because he isn’t that important, which might be why he’s so depressed.”

“Jeremy Stone.  Sure, we have him too.”

“Right.  Anyway, I’ve been putting off helping him because frankly, I just don’t care that much.  But I also haven’t referred him to anyone because we don’t live in an alternate universe where people are actually helpful.”

“What’s your point?”

“You’re an alternate universe.  Are you guys helpful?”

Tyson shook his head.  “Not in the least.”

“That’s what I figured.  Just checking,” Jacob said, putting his helmet on again.  “Catch you later, Tyson B.”

Tyson’s New Toy

“Come on, where is nerd-licker?” Rock asked, shifting impatiently from foot to foot like a child.  A petulant, smelly, six-foot-tall child.  One who probably sucks his thumb.

“Relax, Rock,” Jacob said, checking his watch.  “He said he wanted to show us something.  He didn’t say when.”

“I wonder if it’s another one of his inventions,” Rock said, looking out the window of the science room.  “You don’t suppose he tried it out himself, do you?  What if something happened to him?”

“Dude, don’t say something so awful.  That’d be devastating.  We’d have to plan the funeral, and I don’t got time for that shit.”

Rock shrugged.  “I think his parents would probably do that.”

“Oh.  Well, we’d have to go, and act upset.  I’m just not feeling that,” Jacob said.  He stared out the window and pondered for a moment.  “On the other hand, we’d get to act all bereaved and show everyone how sensitive we are.  Maybe spearhead a campaign to put a tribute in the yearbook, or at the year-end assembly.  You know, make his death all about us.”

“That would get us laid for sure,” Rock said, remembering the motivation for all male actions.

“Yeah, and we wouldn’t even have to do that much.  And if we found the body, I bet we could take like a month off school.  You know what, I take it back.  I hope he is dead,” Jacob said as a minivan pulled up outside the window.  “Ah, shit, here he is.  Well, maybe some other kid will die.”

“Hey, guys, sorry I’m late,” Tyson said.  “I had a doctor’s appointment.”

“For what?  Your nerd glasses?” Rock said mockingly.

“Uh, yes, actually, it was an optometrist appointment.”

“Aww, and did your mommy pick you up?”

“Yeah,” Tyson said.  “What’s your point?”

“Ignore Rock.  He has this idea that you’re a nerd, and he’s a jock, even though he’s never played an organized sport in his life.”

“So?”

“He thinks he has to give you a hard time.”

“Why?  That doesn’t make sense.”

“He says it’s the way high school works.”

“But most of the jocks are actually really nice to me,” Tyson said.  “A few are dicks, but no more than you would expect from a random sample of 40 or so.”

“And that’s why he thinks you’re a nerd.  Anyway, don’t worry about it.  Very little of what Rock does makes any sense,” Jacob said as Tyson began puttering around a desk area.  “So, that was your mom, huh?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

Jacob shrugged.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before.  What’s she do for a living?”

“She’s a nurse.”

“That makes sense.  A lot of nurses are fat.”

“Hey.  I’m letting you try out my new invention,” Tyson said.  “Don’t fat-shame my mother.”

“One, you’re using me as a guinea pig.  Two, I don’t consider it fat-shaming to mention that people are unhealthy.  Or to throw donuts at them*.”

“Whatever.  Here,” Tyson said, pulling out a helmet that looked exactly like his time-travel helmet.

“That looks exactly like your time-travel helmet,” said Jacob.

“Right.  But it isn’t.  This helmet allows you to live your life in multiple realities.”

“So, see multiple universes?”

“In essence, yes,” said Tyson.  “You see, every time you or anyone else makes a choice, or there are otherwise multiple possible outcomes…”

“Multiple universes.  Got it.”

“Don’t you want to hear how it works?”

“No.”  Jacob began fiddling with the helmet.  “How do I work this thing?”

“Just like the time-travel helmet.  I’d like to combine them, eventually,” Tyson said.  He helped Jacob put the helmet on.  “Now, as I was saying, whenever someone makes a choice…”

“Tyson, your guinea pig is sold.  Stop with the sciencey bullshit.  Now, which universe should I check out first?”

“I’ve already decided that, and made arrangements.  You will be going to what I call, uncreatively, universe B.”

 

 

*This joke is endorsed by Ariana Grande

Tyson’s Note

“All I’m saying is a think it’s very unprofessional to be talking down to us like that,” Beth said, complaining to Jacob and Rock as they left health class together.

“What do you expect?  It’s health class,” Jacob said, trying his best to ignore her.  “They’re going to try to teach you to be healthy.”

“Fat is not unhealthy,” Beth said, indignantly.  “Besides, weight loss can’t be boiled down into calories in versus calories out.  The human body isn’t a Bunsen burner.  It’s more complicated than that.  You can eat very little and still gain weight, if you have the genetics for it.”

“You’re absolutely right.  The human body is some mythical thing, unbound by the laws of biology, physics, or even basic common sense,” Jacob said, trying to get away from the conversation by walking slightly faster.  Beth was quite fat, if you hadn’t figured that out by now.  I feel like you probably figured that out.

“All I’m saying is that weight loss is complicated, and the human mind can’t quite grasp the complexity behind weight loss.  It’s much more complicated than things we do understand, like rocket science or DNA sequencing,” Beth said, continuing her self-absolving rant.  “Besides, aren’t schools supposed to be a forum for debate?”

“If colleges are any indication that only applies when your views are some variant of the prevailing orthodoxy.  Besides, I’m not sure you can debate facts.  Opinions or interpretations of facts, sure, but facts are just kind of facts.”

“Evolution and vaccines would like to have a word with you,” Rock said, opening his locker.  A note fell out and landed on the floor, as things that fall out of other things often do.  Rock picked it up.

“What’s that?” Jacob asked.

“It’s a note.  Didn’t you read the narrator’s description?”

“What’s it say?” Jacob asked.  “Who’s it from?”

“I’m going to kill you,” Rock said, reading from the note.  “Well, shit.  That could have been written by anyone.”

“No, dude, there’s something on the other side,” Jacob said, flipping the paper over.  “It’s a note from Tyson.”

“Nerd-mo-tron?  What’s he want?  Ooh, did he finally figure out the whole time-travel thing?”  Rock asked.  “I want to try it, but figure there’s no point if I can’t remember it afterwards.”

“I don’t know.  It says he has something else to show us,” Jacob said.  He shrugged.  “I guess we should go check it out.”

“Who’s Tyson?” Beth asked.  Jacob jumped back and Rock looked up quickly.

“Woah.  What the hell are you doing there?” Jacob asked.

“Have you been eavesdropping on our whole conversation?” said Rock indignantly.

“What are you talking about?  I’ve been here since the beginning.  We were in the middle of a conversation when Rock found his note.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jacob said.  “You stuck around after we switched topics?  That’s weird.”

“Where would I go?  My locker is right here.  That’s why I was walking with you in the first place.”

“I don’t know.  Away.  Wherever people go when I’m not talking to them,” Jacob said.  “I mean, we weren’t talking to you, and you weren’t adding anything to the conversation anymore, so I just figured, you know, you were…not here.”

Beth chuckled awkwardly.  “Well, yeah.  People don’t just go away because you aren’t paying attention to them anymore.”  Rock and Jacob looked at Beth uncomprehendingly.  “You guys do know that people continue to exist when you aren’t around, right?”

“I’m not sure there’s any evidence to support that,” Rock said.

“What are you talking about?  There’s plenty of evidence.”

“All I’m saying is that I’ve never seen people existing while I’m not around.”

“Well, of course not.  You aren’t around to see it, so by virtue…how the hell do you argue with someone rejecting basic facts?”

“Now you know how we felt,” Jacob said, before turning to Rock.  “Let’s go see what Tyson is up to.  If he still exists, that is.”

The Bowling Alley

Rock and Jacob walked into the bowling alley and looked around.

“Why are we in a bowling alley?” Rock asked.  “It seems like a weird place for high school kids to go on a Friday night.”

“What are you talking about?  We’re here to hang out.”

“Why?”

Jacob shrugged.  “That’s what all cool high school kids do on Friday night.  They go down to the bowling alley and meet their friends.  Hang out.  Eat nachos and crappy hot dogs.  Play arcade games.  Maybe bowl.”

“I’m like 90% sure that isn’t the case.”

“What?  You mean hanging out at the bowling alley isn’t a thing anymore?”

“I don’t think it ever was a thing,” Rock said, looking around uncomfortably, as he should have, because I’m pretty sure bowling alleys have a pretty high per capita proportion of rapists.  “I’m not even sure bowling alleys are still a thing.”

“What? Really, dude?”

“Maybe in the 1950s.  Wait, there’s Lucy.  And a bunch of other people,” Rock said.  He looked confused for a moment.  “I guess this is a thing.  Not sure why, but let’s roll with it.”

“Hey, guys,” Lucy said, walking up and greeting Rock and Jacob.

“You know, you don’t have to say hi to us every time we happen to be in the same place at the same time,” Jacob said.  “We can both just be somewhere.  What’s this song, by the way? It’s awful.”

“It’s Meghan Trainor.”

“Ugh.  Doesn’t she have a black guy to go fuck?”

Rock and Lucy stared at Jacob.

“You know, because she’s fat and white.”

They kept staring.

“And, stereotypically speaking, black guys tend to be attracted to fat white girls.”

Lucy and Rock continued to stare, before Rock spoke, saving Jacob from himself.  “I actually kind of like her.”

“Really?” Jacob asked.

Rock shrugged.  “Like, I know all her songs are incredibly stupid, and the lyrics are entitled and obnoxious, but they’re catchy.”

“I think they’re manufactured to be that way,” Lucy said. “I think professionals or whatever draw them up specifically to appeal to our brains in a way that makes us enjoy them.  You just have to find a way to ignore the lyrics.”

“Is that what they do with Lady Gaga?” Rock asked.

“I don’t know,” said Lucy.

“Lady Gaga I actually respect,” Jacob said.  “It takes a real artist to wear a meat suit to prove…something.”

“Hey, does anyone want to go get some nachos?” Lucy asked.  “I’m thinking that’s what we do in a bowling alley.”

“Actually, I was thinking about going and playing some crappy arcade games,” Rock said.  “Man, this is so much better than being at home with our high-tech video games and smart TVs, or in a park drinking.  No wonder all the kids these days are hanging at bowling alleys.”

“I know,” Lucy exclaimed excitedly.  “If we were at a football game or something, I might be able to walk ten fucking steps without getting ogled by some creepy pedophile.  And can you imagine interacting with someone at a concession stand who isn’t drunk or stoned?”

“Truly, the bowling alley is the Mecca of high school kid hangouts,” Jacob said.  “Just as it always has been and always will be.”

As Rock and Jacob broke apart and started moving toward the arcade games, Jade Pelfert walked in and caught Jacob’s eye.  He tapped Rock and nodded toward her.

“Hey, what do you know about that girl?” Jacob asked.

“Some sophomore,” Rock shrugged.  “Pretty hot.  Why?”

“Well, don’t tell anyone, but I think we’re meant to be together.  Someday, I’m going to marry that woman.  It’s destiny.”

“Marry her?  Aren’t you getting, like, three steps ahead of yourself?” Rock said.  “Who is she?”

“Jade…something.  Pelfert, I think.”

“Don’t you think you should know her name before you start making wedding plans?  Have you talked to her?”

“Not yet,” Jacob said.  “Back off my ass.  I’m slow playing this.”

“Yeah, I mean, it looks like you’re missing just a few preliminary steps between now and marriage.”

Jacob sighed.  “Maybe.  But I have this crazy pipe dream where something actually works out and life doesn’t completely suck.”

“You may be asking for too much there.”

“I know.”

Rock sighed.  “Is this going to be another extended series of you obsessing after a girl you hardly know.”

“Probably.”

“Don’t you think that plot point is a little tired?  That you’re kind of turning into a one-trick pony?”

Jacob shrugged.  “I don’t know.  There was that one timeline where I ran for President.  Besides, we’ll throw a lot of time travel and other shit in there to break up the monotony.  The love angle is just one thing we’ll do.  Sort of an underlying baseline, if you will.”

“I just think you should be more creative, is all.”

Jacob shrugged.  “Maybe.  But I’ve never really been much for plot structure.  It’s just kind of…boring.”

Time Travel III- The Aftermath

“So, how was it?  What happened?” Tyson asked Jacob as he removed the helmet back in the present.

“They raped me and killed my pa,” Jacob cried out, melodramatically, though I suppose it’s tough to overreact to rape and pa-murder.

“What? Really?” Tyson said, putting his arm around Jacob.  “What happened?”

Jacob shrugged.  “No.  Nothing happened.”

“Are you sure?” Rock asked.  “It certainly looked like something happened.”

“I think I’d remember going back in time, Rock,” Jacob said condescendingly.

“Hmm,” Tyson said, grabbing the helmet and looking at it.  “It looked like the helmet worked.  You should have gone right where we planned to send you.”

“It didn’t.”

“Are you sure you can’t tell us anything about your experience?”

“I can tell you they were all horrible people.”

“Were they?”

Jacob shrugged.  “I assume so.  Most people are.”

Tyson sighed.  “So, you really don’t remember anything?”

Jacob shook his head.  “Nope.  Sorry.”

“Alright, let me take a look at it.  Watch the door,” Tyson said, taking the helmet over to his corner with a bunch of science stuff.

“Why do we have to watch the door?” Rock asked.

“To make sure teachers aren’t coming.”

Rock laughed.  “Dude, we’re doing science stuff.  Not smoking weed.  I think we’ll be alright.”

“Rock, this whole time-travel helmet thing isn’t exactly OSHA-friendly, so we only work on it when people aren’t looking.  Just watch the door and stop being a tool, alright?”

“Damn, Tyson,” Jacob said, approaching the door.  “You never struck me as much of a rebel.  You’re a lot cooler than I thought.”

“Yeah, well, a crime committed in the pursuit of knowledge is no crime at all,” Tyson said, his focus still primarily on the helmet.

“Never mind.  You’re right back down to baseline,” Jacob said, shaking his head and looking at Rock.  “You try to give a guy a compliment and he has to go and ruin it with pretentious shit like that.”

“The quote doesn’t even make sense.  He says it’s a crime right there in the quote.  By definition, it’s a crime,” Rock said.  “I mean, if he’d said it isn’t wrong, or is honorable or noble, then the quote would make sense.  But it’d still be a crime.”

“Eureka,” Tyson said, because that seems like something a science bitch would say when they figure something out.  “I think I’ve figured it out.”

“Alright,” Jacob said.  “Explain it to me.”

“Well, your thoughts, perceptions, and most importantly, your memories, are nothing more than the function of electrical impulses in your brain that are the result of your current biological makeup.  It looks like the helmet did send you back in time.  However, when you returned to the present, you have your current body at the current moment in time, which only has experienced what you’ve experienced up to this point in your life.  Therefore, the memories from the past that you experienced aren’t imprinted in your brain. That’s why you can’t remember them.”

“Uh, what?”

“Because your body is an object, it couldn’t be moved through time.  Therefore, it never gained the memory of what you experienced,” Tyson said.  “Of course, this whole thing presupposes the fallacy of the soul, the idea that we have some permanent, absolute consciousness, but I’m still working that part out.  The point is that you can’t remember because the memories never got imprinted on your brain.”

“So, what exactly went back in time?” Jacob asked.  “My perception?”

Tyson shook his head.  “No, that doesn’t make sense.  Your perception and personality is nothing more than a manifestation of your physical being.  I haven’t quite worked this part out, but somehow you went back in time without taking your physical body with you.  It doesn’t really make sense to me.”

“Alright, so what now?”

“Tell you what,” Tyson said.  “I’ll keep working on this.  Figure out what’s going on.  You go do, well, whatever it is you popular kids do in the meantime.”

“Drink, do drugs, and have sex?” Jacob asked.

“Whatever.  I’ll let you know when I figure this out.”

“Alright, Rock.  Come on.  Let’s go drink and have sex,” Jacob said.  He paused, turned around and looked at Tyson.  “Uh, not with each other, if that was unclear.”

Time Travel II-The Cadaver Synod

So, Jacob went back in time to the year 897, but everybody was speaking Latin or Italian or some shit and he couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, so he left before he was accused of being a witch for his modern dress.  Hell, even if they’d been speaking English, he wouldn’t have been able to understand them.  The dialect would have been too different.  Have you ever tried to read Chaucer?  Yeah, like that.  So, anyway, I guess I’ll write this story about the Cadaver Synod, since he went there, couldn’t understand what was going on and left is a shitty story, but you have to meet me halfway with the willing suspension of disbelief.  Just pretend that everyone spoke English, or Jacob magically spoke Latin, or whatever floats your boat to smooth over the aspects of this time travel thing that really don’t make any sense.

“Holy shit, I think it worked,” Jacob said, looking around as a crowd entered a nearby building.  He grabbed some random dude by the arm.  “Excuse me, random dude, is that where the trial of Pope Bernie is being held?”

“The trial of Pope Formosus?  Yes, friend, it is.  Would you care to join me?” random dude asked, since Jacob is going to need someone to bounce shit off of, Rock not being here and all.

“I sure do.  So, what’s this pope on trial for?  Banging 12-year old boys?” Jacob asked inappropriately as the two entered the papal court, because apparently this trial is open to the public, at least in this version of history.  I have no idea if it actually was or not, but standing around Rome would be boring, so here we are.

“Excuse me?” random dude asked.

“Hey, it’s the pope.  I’m sure he’s banging hot, top-notch 12-year old boys, am I right?  Well, hot by Catholic standards, anyway.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Oh, right, that hasn’t happened yet,” Jacob said, remembering that this was over a thousand years ago and he should probably ease up on the contemporary references.  “Well, I mean, I’m sure it’s happened, you just don’t know about it.  In the future, priests bang little boys, by the way.”

“Right,” said random dude uncomfortably.  “We’re in the Holy See, so, uh, let’s try to keep the blasphemy to a minimum.”

“Pope Formosus,” a man in papal vestments began.  This was actually Pope Stephen VI, but Jacob didn’t know this because, well, why would he?  It’s not like he researched the trial he was about to go see before he left.  Hell, I’m just pulling information off a Wikipedia page myself.  Being well-informed is overrated.  “When you were bishop of Porto, why did you usurp the universal Roman See in such a spirit of ambition?”

The crowd started to yell, and Jacob yelled along with them. “Yeah, convict him.  He’s a bad pope.  Bad pope.”

The corpse started to raise his hands, which were attached by string to the deacon behind him.  “Oooh, I’m a spooky pope ghost.  I did it because I’m a wicked, bad sinner.  Or was a wicked, bad sinner.  You should totally convict me, and also cut off three of my fingers and bury me in a foreigners’ graveyard.”

Jacob leaned over to random dude next to him.  “I’m beginning to think this trial may not fully incorporate all due process concerns.”

“Lies.  Pope Formosus was duly elected.  He never usurped anything,” came a shout from the crowd, followed by more yelling.

“Yeah.  He’s innocent.  Pope Formosus is the greatest pope ever,” Jacob yelled.

“Dude, which side are you on?” asked random dude.

“Whichever side is yelling the loudest.  Now, shut up, I’m trying to join the riot.”

“Silence,” Pope Stephen, the pope who was still alive, yelled.  “Pope Formosus, I find you guilty of all the bad shit I’m accusing you of.  (It was violating canon law, perjury, and serving as bishop while a layman, if you care) I nullify your papacy, and will cut off three of your fingers then bury you in a graveyard for foreigners, since it’s like 900 AD and we still hate foreigners, so that’s a disgrace.”

“Yeah, foreigners suck,” the crowd yelled as they followed the two popes to the graveyard for the interment.

“Dude, we can be openly xenophobic here? Sweet,” Jacob said.  “Can we be openly racist too?”

“Sure,” said random dude as they put the corpse in a foreigner’s tomb.  “It’s 897.  You can be whatever you want.  Racist, xenophobic, sexist.  Hell, we downright demand you discriminate based on religion.”

“There,” Pope Stephen VI said, wiping his hands clean.  “Your papacy has been nullified and you’ve been buried in a place of degradation.  I think my work here is done.  Time to go take a nice pope bath, and get a good night’s sleep in my pope bed.”

“Dig him up and throw him in the river,” Jacob yelled.

“What?  Who said that?” the live pope asked.

“We all did,” Jacob said in a different voice.

“Is that what you all really want?”

“Yes, it is,” Jacob yelled in a third voice.

Pope Stephen VI sighed.  “Fine, if that’s what you want.  Get to it, boys.”

“What are you doing?” random dude asked Jacob.

Jacob shrugged.  “What? I thought it’d be funny.”

“This stopped being funny a long time ago.  Now it’s just sad.”

“Hello? Did you not get the Weekend at Bernie’s references?”

“The what?”

“Oh, right, you still don’t get future references,” Jacob said, resting his hands on the small of his back and stretching.  “Well, I think I’ve gotten my fill of xenophobia and corpse desecration, and since that’s pretty much all there is to do in the past, I should be heading home.  Unless…do you think asking the living pope to rape the dead pope is going too far?”

Random dude gave Jacob a look.  I’m not going to describe it.  You can imagine what the look was.

“Right.  Too far.  Well, see you, random dude who wasn’t worth naming.”

Time Travel-Part I

“What’s up, nerdatron?” Rock asked as he and Jacob walked into the room where the science club was being held.

“Hey, guys,” Tyson said, still tinkering at the time-travel helmet that will become central to this episode.  You would have thought he would have finished that up by now, given that he offered Rock and Jacob to check it out, but whatever.  “Go ahead and have a seat.  We’ll be starting up shortly.”

“Oh, no, no, nerd-dinger.  We’re here for the time-travel you promised, not to learn something,” Rock said.  “Now, make with it, needle-dick.”

“You know, you really should be nicer to him if he’s doing you a favor,” Jacob said, employing common sense and decency.  “It’s not like he has to let you use, well, whatever his time-travel dealy is.  Keep being a dick and he might tell you to piss off.”

“No, it’s okay.  As a science nerd, I’m thankful for any human contact.  As long as he’s paying attention to me and acting somewhat like my friend, I’ll mentally justify any abuse,” Tyson said, falling back onto easy stereotypes because it makes writing easier.

“Really? You mean you don’t plan your life around minimizing human contact?  Interesting,” Jacob said.  He shrugged.  “To each their own, I guess.  Now, what do you have for us?”

“This,” Tyson said, proudly holding up his time-travel helmet.

“What’s this?  Is this one of your LARPing costumes?” Jacob asked.  In his defense, the helmet did look as goofy as you’d expect a time-travel helmet to look.  “Damn it, Tyson, you promised us time-travel.  I didn’t come here to look at your LARPing costume.”

“That’s what this is.  The time-travel thing, not the LARPing thing,” Tyson said.  “You put this helmet on, and it allows you to walk through time.”

“A helmet?  That’s different.  I expected a machine or something,” Jacob said, taking the helmet from Tyson and looking it over.  “How’s it work?”

“Think of it like a rocket pack, or anti-gravity boots,” Tyson said.  “In the same way those things allow you to move up and down in addition to forward and back and side to side, this will allow you to move along the fourth dimension.  You’ll be able to move forward and backward in time, the same way you move through space.”

“Is that supposed to make sense to me?”

“To you, no.  If I say something that makes sense to you, it was probably an accident,” Tyson said.  “This is complicated stuff, but the user interface should be relatively simple.  Why don’t you take it for a whirl?”

“Hold on a minute, there, pokey,” Rock interjected.  “Why are you letting Jacob use this?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean why aren’t you using this yourself?  What are the side effects you aren’t telling us about?”

“Side effects, none,” Tyson said.  “The risks, however, are substantial and unpredictable.  Nobody’s ever attempted anything like this before.  There’s no telling what could happen.”

“Yeah, I’m not so sure…” Jacob said.

“On the other hand, time-travel.”

“That’s all I needed to hear to go ahead and do this.”

“Great.  Where do you want to go?”

Jacob looked at Rock and shrugged.  “What do you think, Rock?”

Rock thought for a minute.  “So, I heard Pee Wee Herman has a new show.”

“What?  What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”

“Are you sure it’s a show?” Tyson asked.  “Are you sure it isn’t just an episode of To Catch a Predator?”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s his own show,” Rock said.

“Still, how is that relevant?” Jacob asked.  “Are you just spouting off random facts again?”

“No, I was thinking you could go back to the nineties and watch old Pee Wee Herman shows.  Kind of to get ready for the new one.”

“I can watch old Pee Wee Herman shows now.  I’m not wasting a time-travel helmet to go back and watch old kiddy diddler shows when they first came out.  I want to see something cool.”

“If I may,” Tyson said, even though nobody asked him to speak.  “That may not be such a bad idea.  Not the Pee Wee Herman thing, per se, but something mundane.  After all, we don’t know a lot about how things may go down.  Controlling the variables may be smart, as opposed to jumping right into something major.”

“Nah, fuck that.  I want to see cool shit,” Jacob said.  “So, suggestions?  D-Day, American Revolution, Renaissance?”

Tyson shrugged.  “There’s the time the pope dug up another pope, put him on trial, reburied him, then dug him up again and threw him in the river.”

“Wait, what?”

“Yeah, look it up.  History is weird.”

“Alright, pope trial it is.  How do I use this thing?”

“Just put the helmet on like this,” Tyson said, showing Jacob how to put the helmet on.  “Then it should become obvious.”

Machine Gun Jesus

June 29, 2017

“But doesn’t the Constitution guarantee the right to own a gun?” asked Jillian Hyde, raising her hand but not waiting to be called upon.

“What does that have to do with the Louisiana Purchase?” asked Mrs. Adams.  Jillian shrugged.

“I don’t know.  I heard you say Constitution, and took it as an opportunity to shoehorn my pet issue into the conversation, because I’m one of those people,” Jillian said.  She may not have said it exactly like this, but instead of transcribing whatever bullshit justification she gave for changing the topic, I decided to just dispense with pretenses and write what she really meant.

Mrs. Adams sighed and suddenly became very tired, as we all do when dealing with people who have opinions.  “That’s basically right, though there is some controversy on what it means.  The Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.  Does anyone know what part of the Constitution says this?”

“The Second Commandment?” Jacob said.

“You mean Amendment?”

“Oh, right.”

“Yeah, dude, the second commandment is a religious thing.  I think it’s about Machine Gun Jesus,” Rock said.

“Anyway, returning to the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson was conflicted.  He recognized the opportunity before him, but didn’t think the Constitution gave him the power to make the decision.  He was torn between principle and pragmatism,” Mrs. Adams began, before continuing on to talk about more history stuff.

“Dude, what’s wrong?” Jacob asked Rock.  “You look dejected.” Rock looked dejected, by the way.

“Nobody laughed at my joke.”

“You told a joke?”

“Machine Gun Jesus, dude.  You don’t think that’s hilarious?”

Jacob shrugged.  “As a concept, maybe, but it doesn’t really play out when put into practice.  It seems a little forced.”

“Whatever, bro.  You know how demoralizing it is to tell a joke and not get laughs?  Even Jeff Dunham gets laughs.  You don’t even need to be funny.”

“You just have to let it flow organically.  You can’t shoehorn the joke in.  It sounds forced.  Speaking of shoehorning, why the fuck are we talking about abortion now?”

“Carrie Grant brought it up,” Tyson Dechert said, joining Rock and Jacob’s conversation, likely in an attempt to avoid the class conversation where everyone who’s never read the Constitution decides it means whatever the fuck is most convenient for them at the moment.

“What the hell?  Is it National Asshole Day?” Jacob said.  “Why does every discussion of the Constitution have to turn into a fight?”

“I think it’s because the Constitution is an ambiguous document with several legitimate, differing interpretations,” Tyson said, listening briefly to the class conversation going on behind them.  “And a lot of really stupid ones.”

“It’d be nice if we could just go back in time to figure out what the founding fathers were thinking when they drafted it,” Rock said.

Jacob shrugged.  “It wouldn’t matter.  The fact is, they probably didn’t all agree on what it means either.  Those were just the broad principles that they agreed on.  If you asked Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to interpret the Constitution, you’d probably get responses as different as those of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

“I know.  I was setting up a plot line.”

“You know, we could go back in time,” Tyson Dechert said.  “Come by the science club sometime.”

“Wait, really?” Rock said excitedly.

“Yeah, really?  We’re really doing a time travel bit?  Isn’t that a little worn out?” Jacob objected.

Tyson shrugged.  “Not a bit so much as a convenient way to shoehorn in various bits at different parts of history.”

“You can really do that?” Rock said.  “You can really travel through time?”

“Sure.  It’s just another dimension, like space.  People used to travel all the time through space, time, you know, whatever.  But then people started making all these stupid time paradox movies, so NASA cut the funding.  A couple of Congressmen went to see Interstellar some Friday night and were like, ‘nope, fuck this.’  They cut the funding for it the next day, but the fact is you can move through time as easily as you can move through any dimension of space.”

“Really?” Jacob said.  “Then why can’t I just step back two seconds like I can move two feet to the right?”

Tyson shrugged, which seems to be his go to move.  “Same reason you can’t move higher or lower at will.  You are being pulled through time the same way you are being pulled to the earth.”

“But you have a way of breaking that?”

“Sure.  Stop by sometime.  I’ll show you.”

“Yeah, we will,” Jacob said.  “Sometime.  You know, when it’s convenient.”