Lunch with his sister Glenda brightened Sam Farnam’s day every time, but work was piling up at their time travel agency—partly because Glenda had the day off, and their father Lee, the agency’s founder, was riding him to get all the federal government orders processed before the end of the day. Sam was ensconced, head down, in their headquarters downtown.
He called Glenda on his Galaxy 12. “Hey, Sis. I’m not going to make it today.”
“You tell Daddy to lay off and take care of what’s really important—like family,” she said.
Sam chuckled. “I will, but not today. Things really are piling up.” In fact, his father had bawled him out for showing up five minutes late and told him not to leave his desk until the orders were done.
“In that case, I’m keeping your birthday present.”
“Glenda!” She always gave him great presents. The line clicked.
Sam grunted and buried himself in the work, and his head grew dull by late afternoon from the repetition of placing orders.
His phone rang.
“Sam, it’s Mom.” Her voice firm, but quavering. “Glenda’s been airlifted to Saint Bernard’s Hospital. A bear mauled her. I’m going there right now.” The line clicked.
Sam tore out of the office and raced to the hospital. By the time he arrived, Glenda was dead.
He put his arm around his mother, who wept at Glenda’s bedside, and sat with her.
“No,” he said. He pecked his mother on the cheek. “It’s going to be all right.”
Sam drove to the time travel facility just outside the city and took a trip in a time machine back to that morning. He road a cab to HQ and confronted his father.
“I know we’re under the gun, Dad, but let’s not lose sight of what’s important. I’m going to lunch with Glenda. I’ll stay late after if I need to.”
“Fine,” his father said. “Give her a kiss for me.”
Sam filched his father’s phone and texted the Sam in the past with the note: ‘Go ahead and lunch with G. Stay late if you have to.’ He taxied back to the time traveler facility and upon activating the time machine, he disappeared.
The text Sam got from his father was a nice surprise, though he was still a bit pissed at his tantrum that morning. Shortly before noon, he took the company car to Spinetti’s Italian restaurant and treated Glenda to their favorite dish, salmon scallopini.
“What time do you have to be back?” asked Glenda.
“You know what? Let’s not worry about it. Dad’s being a real pill, so I’m going to enjoy a long dessert and coffee with my sister.”
“I approve,” said Glenda.
On the way back to the office, Sam spied a woman kneeling at the side of the road next to her van with a flat tire. She banged the lug nuts with a tire iron. He pulled over, positioning his car to shield the woman, his driver-side wheels on the shoulder’s line, and turned on his emergency lights.
He got out and let the woman get back in the van with her child while he changed the tire. As he twisted off the third lug nut, a painter’s truck smashed into the back of the company car, slamming it into the van and crushing Sam between them. He died instantly.
Glenda held her mother’s hand at her parents’ house.
“They won’t even let me see him.”
“Don’t torture yourself with thoughts about that,” said Glenda. “It was very quick, Mom. Think about that.”
Her mother nodded, then broke down sobbing because she hadn’t seen her baby that day.
Glenda stood and kissed her mother’s cheek. “It’s going to be okay, mother.”
She hopped on a shuttle to the time travel facility and took a time machine back to the late morning. She snuck into her apartment where the shower ran as she knew it would, and texted Sam with her past self’s iPhone: ‘Sorry, mi amor. Can’t do lunch today.’
Next she drove to headquarters and peeked over one of the engineer’s cubicles to watch Sam’s office. When he walked toward the kitchen holding his coffee cup, she slipped in and used his phone to text herself: ‘Can’t do lunch. Dealing with crisis after crisis. DON’T ANSWER YOUR PHONE.’
She took the shuttle back and upon activating the time machine, she disappeared.
After reading her brother’s text, Glenda only felt slightly sorry for him. He let the job rule his life too much. When isn’t there a crisis in this business?
Glenda always made the best of any situation, and with her afternoon cleared up, she decided to take a long hike in the woods.
Sam was having one of those days. His father ticked him off, then he had a change of heart about letting him lunch with his sister, and now his sister canceled lunch. He was just getting into the groove at work when he was hit with the crusher—his sister mauled by a bear.
He rushed to the hospital to find a dead sister and a devastated mother. He couldn’t abide this. Not at all.
The time machine took him to early morning. She’d taken her car to the national reserve about an hour away from town, so he disabled it by popping the hood and pulling the fuel pump fuse. He returned to the time travel facility, and ran into his sister as she exited one of the machines.
“What are you doing?” said Sam.
Glenda’s face reddened. “Just a routine check-up.”
“Since when do you check the equipment?”
“I do lots of things for the company.”
“Hm.” Sam rubbed his nose. “What do you say we get some breakfast?”
“That would be nice,” said Glenda. “But I’ve got a thing…”
“No, no,” said Sam. “We’ve got to be true to the important things in life.”
He took his sister’s hand and led her to the time machine she just came out of.
“Ssh.” Sam configured the time machine to return from when it had just come. “These shared moments are just too precious,” he said. He gave her a big hug and hit ‘ACTIVATE.’