Long Now

by T. Gene Davis

Julie knocked, balancing a warm Crock-Pot on one knee. Lance answered, holding a 20-pound textbook in one hand. Julie smiled. That was his idea of light reading, but she planned to marry him anyway.

“Come on in.”

“Whoa!” Julie stopped mid-step, nearly dropping her pot. “I thought it was just me.”

Lance escorted her gently through the door so that he could close it.

“It’s just the two of us.”

The house entryway opened into a great room—a combination kitchen living room. Every counter in the kitchen area had pots, plates and bowls of freshly made food. The living room area had folding card tables crammed into it, and those tables had assortments of foods. There was Chinese take-out, delivered pizza, freshly baked roast, boiled eggs, beans, peas, watermelon, hamburgers, casseroles, even a huge stuffed turkey.

“There’s enough food here to feed a hundred people,” Julie stated hoping Lance would explain why she needed to bring food, if he had a house full of freshly cooked food.

“Yes. It is enough to feed a hundred people, or, … one person for a month.”

“Sorry to say, honey, this food’s not going to stay warm for a month. You can’t fit it in your fridge either.” She said this while giving him a slightly concerned look. He smiled back and set down his textbook to give her a hand with her Crock-Pot.

He smelled chili. He wondered if he had any saltines to go with the chili. He set the chili in the only remaining space on his normal dining table and pulled out a chair for her to sit across from him. She smiled at the gesture and accepted the seat. He rushed over to the other seat across from her and sat down.

“I was afraid you might be late, so I asked you to come early.”

“So other people are joining us?”

He shook his head, no.

She remained silent, so he spoke.

“Now that we’re engaged, I need to share something with you.” Lance began.

“You like to cook?” Julie smiled at her own joke.

“Yes. But, that’s not it.”

She thought he seemed nervous—almost more nervous than when he proposed. It was cute. He had his moments. She took a breath. The food smelled good. If this was a normal dinner date, Christmas dinner must be something else.

“Um,” Lance stuttered trying to find words. “Let me make you a plate.”

“I really can get my own,” Julie responded moving to stand.

“No, … please. I’m not sure how accurate the clock is. I don’t want to eat alone.”

She sat back in the chair while he took her plate. Yes. He was adorable, but silly.

“I’m sure your cooking isn’t so bad I’ll leave. I promise.”

He smiled, and quickly filled her plate, acting as a waiter taking her order. He set the full plate in front of her, and quickly filled her glass. She had him cut a slice of turkey and layer it with gravy, even though Thanksgiving wasn’t for a month yet.

“So what is this all about?” Julie asked. “Are you just showing off?”

“Yes, and no. I’m showing you in a demonstration. You need to see it before we get married. You’d never believe me if I just told you.”

His cell alarm went off.

“Five minute warning,” he explained while shutting it off. He set it on the table next to his plate.

Julie tasted the turkey and rolled her eyes.

“This is fantastic even if it is weird having it on a normal week day.”

They chatted about her day and his cooking. Mostly they made small talk. Every time she asked what the mystery was, he reminded her that she wouldn’t believe him until she had seen for herself.

She looked down at her half empty plate and was startled by a loud whooshing sound. She looked up, and all the food was gone. Not only that, but the folding tables, pots, bowls, everything was gone—as if the room had been cleaned from top to bottom.

Looking around, she noticed that even Lance was missing.

“Lance?!” She managed in a voice just a little higher pitched than normal.

“Oh. Sorry!” Came the reply from another room.

Lance strolled into the great room. He wasn’t shocked. In fact, he was smiling.

“You were right,” Julie said.

“What? I don’t remember the conversation too well.”

“About me not believing it. I don’t believe everything disappeared, just now.”

Then as an after thought she added, “Where is my crock pot?”

“Oh. Yes. Just a second.”

Lance opened a couple of cupboards looking for the missing pot. After some clanking, he produced the cleaned pot and placed it on the table in front of Julie.

“I’m afraid I was a bit of a pig,” he stated. “I didn’t fix quite as much food as I needed, so I don’t have anything else for you for seconds. I can take you out for pie after you finish, if you like.”

Julie had forgotten the half finished plate in front of her. She set down a fork full of mashed potato, not feeling hungry at the moment.

“Are you going to tell me what just happened?” She looked Lance in the eye as she spoke.

Lance took a deep breath.

“I ate the food, cleaned up, and it took about three weeks for me to do it.”

“Three weeks?”

“I can guess how this sounds, but it is true. For you, it has been just a blink of an eye, but for me it has been about twenty days.”

She looked at him doubtfully.

“Julie, you’ve seen the evidence. You can check my cupboards, all the pots and plate are there. The card tables are in the hall closet.”

Julie sat silent for a moment, and the moment turned into a minute.

“Okay. I believe you.”

Lance smiled.

“But, does this happen at every meal?” She asked.

“Actually, only once a year. Once a year, time stops for everyone but me. I keep going, but the world around me doesn’t. Clocks stop. Movies stop. And cooked food stops getting cold.

“I call it my ‘long now,'” he continued. “It gives me a lot of free vacation time. I do a lot of reading, mostly.

“On the down side, I can’t use the microwave, stove or oven. That’s why I make so much food just before it happens. Also, it gets very lonely. There is no one to eat a meal with for breakfast, lunch and dinner for week after week.”

“And that is why you wanted me sitting at the table when it happened,” Julie guessed.

“Yes. I hope it’s alright with you—not creepy or anything.”

“No. It is kind of sweet.”

She looked at him with a strange look on her face.

He blushed a little.

“So you’re not going to cancel our engagement?” Lance asked.

“No. Not at all. Why?”

“You just gave me a look.”

“Oh,” she smiled wickedly. “I was just thinking, … You won’t need my help addressing and delivering our wedding invitations.”

Notes …

T. Gene Davis writes, … “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of getting trapped in a moment. Having the world freeze in place around you might seem novel at first, but when you get into the practicality of how do you survive in a world where time has frozen for everything but you, you start realizing life is miserable, or deadly, if nothing moves but you.”

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