“Eat your beans, Timmy”
His mother placed the plate down in front of Timmy with a soft noise. Timmy looked at this mother and then down at the plate. It was beans again. At first, he enjoyed this novel meal, but the smell of toast and tomato sauce had become all too regular. He picked up his knife and fork and paused for a moment to look again at his mother. In the last few months, her normally radiant face had become drawn and pale. She didn’t eat as often now and whenever she did, she didn’t eat much.
“Don’t look at me like that Timmy, we can’t afford anything better at the moment”, she said, trying to divert his innocent gaze away from her. “Please, eat your dinner, your Father will be home any minute…” her voice trailed off as the striking white light of the headlights entered the room. Like spotlights on a stage, the lights swung through the room following the path of mess like it was a broadway star. And like a hare caught in headlights, Timmy’s mother froze with fear. She stared at a point on the wall where the paint was peeling and as if by reflex touched her recently bruised cheek bone.
The noise of the rough sounding engine filled the small kitchen dining area. When the engine cut out, the silence was louder than the rattling of the engine. Within seconds the cooling motor started to make a pinking noise, relieved that it’s day’s work was over. A car door handle was flicked open and the door was pushed. The old car door resisted at first and then relented but not without crying out with a loud screech in protest. The noise roused Timmy’s mother as she reentered her present circumstance. With two strides she was next to Timmy, her mouth an inch from his ear, “Time to go to your room son, I’ll be in shortly, I love you”.
Timmy left his almost untouched plate at the table, thankful in a way that he didn’t have to eat the beans again, yet still quite hungry. He began to walk towards the darkened hall and paused. He heard his father’s unsteady footsteps grow louder as his father walked towards the door. As Timmy walked slowly down the hall, his father fumbled with his keys and dropped them twice. Timmy stopped and turned once more to look at his mother. She was leaning wearily against the kitchen sink, clutching a hot cup of coffee as if it provided some comfort, some protection.
The front door opened and Timmy tripped as he turned into his room. Unhurt, he dusted himself off and looked for the offending debris that caused his fall. He watched as an empty bottle of alcohol rolled away from the door into the hallway and came to a rest at the skirting board at the other end of the hall. Timmy had noticed quite a few of these bottles around lately. His mother was usually pretty good at getting them out of sight by the next day but this one must have missed her patrols.
As his father entered the small front room, Timmy’s mother began what had become their nightly ritual. His father would go out each day looking for work. After the first couple of rejections, he would stop looking for work and start looking for the bottom of a bottle. By late afternoon or early evening, with his liver working furiously to process the excess poision but obviously overwhelmed, he would arrive home armed with fresh excuses and she would be ready with fresh accusations. His unemployment and subsequent drinking had become a wedge in their relationship. Each afternoon they would take turns pounding that wedge deeper and deeper until their relationship was so broken as to be beyond repair.
Timmy had seen this performance before and as he stepped into his room a shiver ran down his spine and his empty stomach churned with anxiety. Too anxious to sleep, Timmy looked around the room. The bed was still unmade from the morning. There was a loud crash in the kitchen. This was followed by another and another as the yelling grew in intensity. Timmy’s room had become like a war zone, with the sounds of war very near. The books and toys on the floor were scattered like wounded soldiers escaping from a bomb blast.
The curtain in Timmy’s room was only closed about half way. A shaft of light from the street lamp outside shone into his room. The little specks of dust flying in and out of the light were like little butterflies flying haphazardly around the room. Timmy noticed that the butterflies had been settling on a cardboard box. Intrigued he stepped closer to inspect it as the light from outside illuminated the box.
The dust butterflies had covered the box. He slapped the top of the box and all of a sudden butterflies had filled the room. They danced about without care or worry, ignorant of the war that was happening all around. They were merely carried along by whatever whim drove them. Timmy’s present cares seemed to float away with the butterflies. He looked about his room and spied his crayon collection. He stepped over the wounded soldiers and picked up each crayon as he came to it. With a fist full of crayons he climbed over dirt and debris to what would become his Time Machine.
Now inside his Time Machine, Timmy began to draw a console and all the various dials and switches that were required by any good time machine operator. The interior of the machine had an eery glow about it and Timmy’s controls seemed to light up. An explosion rocked the Time Machine as Timmy’s experienced fingers nimbly pressed each key and the new date was entered. The Machine began to lift slowly at first and then faster and faster as it approached the speed of light. Timmy could feel a splash as his Machine dove into the time stream and accelerated beyond his present. The sounds of explosions, clanging pots and warring parents also began to change; it compressed like it was stuck on fast forward.
Timmy lay back onto his seat and listened to the acceleration of the sounds outside his machine. They sounded like chipmunks fighting over acorns and he giggled at the thought. Timmy watched as the hours and days counted down to his new time. Timmy tried to keep his weary eyes open but as the time dials sped forward into the future he couldn’t resist the ever growing weight of his eyelids. Within a few short minutes, Timmy lay curled up in his Time Machine, crayons in hand, dreaming of a time far into the future.
The pictures were so real to him, he smelt the freshly mown grass as he stepped out of his Time Machine a fully grown man and onto his lawn. The sun had warmed the air so the flowers would release their scents and the shrill laughter of children could be heard nearby. He looked around and saw a beautiful woman walking towards him. He turned to look at her and she spoke ever so softly, “Timmy, Timmy”. Her sing song voice echoed in his ears. Confused, he watched as her facial features lost their initial clarity, he reached out and his hand passed through a mirage. Like pouring salt into hot swirling water, the woman’s features began to dissolve. In her place the drawn and familiar face of his mother appeared.
“Timmy, time to wake up, son”. She whispered quietly and gently shook him.
Timmy’s reality was shifted like two continental plates finally releasing their force. He was back in his bedroom. Everything was blurry at first but as his eyes focused he looked past his mother to the door. Two suitcases stood awkwardly as if waiting for their owners to retrieve them. Instinctively, he knew some change had begun in his family and it would never be the same. Up on one elbow, Timmy asked his mother, “Are we going away?”.
Sadly, but with a confidence that was reassuring, she answered, “Yes, we’re going to your aunties place for a while. Your father has gone for now. He’ll be back but he’ll be angry and we need to go quickly. Get your favourite toy.”
Timmy looked at his box, and then at his mother, a barely perceptible shake of her head told Timmy that the box couldn’t come. He went over, and grabbed his crayons.
“I might need these”