by: Dennis R. Humphreys (the Dream Writer)
Maxwell Fields, at sixty-six, wasn't altogether happy with his life. He retired, but he arrived there, taking a dozen or more detours thought his working career, after graduating college. None of his jobs were what you'd call successful, hindsight is always better than foresight. Looking back, he could see the paths he took in error. Life might have been different if he had taken one of the other avenues he had been exposed to. Then again it might not have been but in his mind, he would have been better taking one of the other courses.
In his earlier days, he attempted not to listen to suggestions from family. They may have tried to be helpful, but they just clouded the works and made him feel insecure when it was time to make a decision. His mother often said he wouldn't amount to anything unless he listened to her because she knew best. Sounded like some of the political cronies she supported. Friends tried to help too. He tried to turn his back on all of them and decide for himself, but now, looking back, he wondered if his mother had been right.
Having just gone through a divorce after retiring, he had little to do now, except some of the things with which he had been unsuccessful. Now though, you weren't dependent on an income, and you could tell someone to go to hell. Life is compromise, everyone told him that before graduating college. They just didn't say it required greasing your ass and gritting your teeth.
He painted pictures most of the day. He was a trained commercial artist that enjoyed artistic expression on the side, which of late became full time. He spent more on supplies than his return, yet people would ohhh and ahhh at his works. He had even had paintings stolen, once from a gallery where they didn't bother with the money in the tills or any other artist's works. It was a mixed insult. Now he dabbled all day and sold one every other month. He had that to look forward to each morning when he got up and ate breakfast. The little mail, when it wasn't trying to get you to change medicare plans or bills... was always an extra diversion from his boring existence.
Maxwell heard the mail come one day while he was making frames on which to stretch canvas, so he could begin another painting. There were usually, three to four letters you could expect each day... a bill, something to change insurance or some advertisement. The same one came consistently each month. It was time for lunch anyway, so he put down what he was doing and climbed the stairs to see what came.
Right again... there was the bill, two insurance pieces and then there was something else... a free trial for a night at a place called Hotel Yesterday. It had opened a few weeks ago, and they were soliciting people to go there. It made a big claim about going there to 'relive your past'... go back and tell someone you never told what an ass hole they were, or that you loved them. Change whatever you want to change and make your life different.
Maxwell wondered how they could make a claim like that and what exactly happened when you used a free night the card promised. You got a free lunch upon arrival and then checked in at the desk. Your 'adventure' began as soon as you were shown to your room. Max laughed at it and threw it into the trash with the other stuff, just not the bill. They could probably eliminate the national debt by outlawing junk mail. In the era of electronic mail and doing away with paper, it was amazing how much more junk mail Maxwell got now than before he retired. It seemed like it kept increasing.
He ate lunch and sat for a while before going back downstairs, but he fell asleep for an hour. It didn't really matter; he had no itinerary. When he awoke, he got up to continue what he was doing. There was the Hotel Yesterday advertisement lying on the floor, outside of the trash can. He thought he got it into the can, but he guessed not, so he picked it up and threw it into the can.
Maxwell was tired of breathing sawdust and climbed the stairs at five thirty. He wasn't very hungry but decided to make some potato soup... something simple, warming and he could make just a single bowl serving. He brushed himself off before stepping through the downstairs door and entered the hall. He looked into the living room and there was that hotel advertisement again lying on the floor. This time he remembered picking it up and throwing back into the trash. How the devil did it get back onto the floor? There was no one else around to pull it out and throw on the floor. His dog died last month so he couldn't blame him.
Now that was a good dog. She was an old Chocolate Lab that knocked herself off balance when she wagged her tail, she'd be so happy to see you. Her whole body moved in juxtaposition like one large canine wave. She had been getting slow to move, although sometimes she surprised him. She'd grunt and groan, getting up in the winter from her arthritis giving her problems. He missed her but he hated to buy another pet this late in life. First, his wife leaving him and then his dog. It's both a blessing and a curse at this time of life to end up alone. That's when you get cantankerous because you have no one to complain to on an ongoing basis, or to talk to, so you end up letting everything out all at once to some unsuspecting waitress, at the diner counter some morning over breakfast. Yesterday he was talking to a Russian girl who was his waitress. He commented his mother was Polish and her father headed the Polish cavalry under the Tsar. When the communists took over the country, he took the family, with fourteen children and fled to the United States, knowing they communists would automatically kill the family. Luckily, he escaped but the rest of the family was put to death. She told him the same thing happened to her family in Russia and when the communists came in almost her entire family was put to death. That's the way of socialism and communism, but it's interesting to know this history and to talk to someone else that is aware of it personally as well. So many people today try to hide it or say it was a made-up part of the past. No... it's real and it's not taught to the kids growing up today.
Maxwell sat in his recliner and threw the card on the table next to him. He ate the potato soup and put the bowl down on the advertisement. Turning on the television, he channel-hopped awhile before he finally became bored. How can you become bored with three hundred channels? The problem was, no creative programming... you could find a dozen channels either with the same thing, or something similar.
Unsettled, he finally pulled the advertisement out from under the bowl. He wiped off a bit of potato soup he had dropped on it and read it more carefully. There was a number to call to make a reservation twenty-four hours a day. Hell, it was free, and it promised no 'sales pitches'. A free lunch before beginning your free overnight stay... that was a decent offer for a retiree. That was better than the early bird special. What did he have to lose? He didn't have to sign anything but the hotel registry. Just read any fine print requiring his name at the bottom of the page it was printed on, that should suffice.
He picked up the phone and dialed the number carefully. Normally it took him, three tries to get the number right.
“Hello, Mr. Fields, we were expecting your call,” the voice on the other end of the phone told him. Then he realized, these days that was nothing new with the computers they have identifying the caller, as they answered the phone. It must be one of those things.
“Yeah, I got your notice today in the mail and was thinking about checking your place out Friday night. Now I'm not going to owe you anything by doing this?” he asked the man.
“Not a thing. Only if you decide to do it again in the future. We want you try us out first. If you like what you see, we can give you particulars while you're here,” the man told him.
“That sounds fine. When do I need to be there?” Maxwell asked the man.
“Come in for your free lunch from twelve to two and then check in is at 2pm. Checkout in the morning is eleven,” the man told him. “I'm Stan Tanner. Just ask for me when you get here. I'll have all your arrangements when you arrive. There is a gym here, a hot tub and a sauna, so you may want to bring a bathing suit with you,” the man informed him.
Maxwell hung up the phone and was glad he called. The hot tub and the sauna would be great for his over-the-hill body. He wasn't sure about the gym though. It had been a couple of years since he attended one. He wasn't just going to lift weights for an hour and end up getting sore two days later, after he got home, without a hot tub or sauna.
Friday, Maxwell got up and just had coffee for breakfast hoping the lunch would be good and satisfying. The hotel was only forty-five minutes away near the airport. He wondered why he hadn't heard about its opening on the radio before, or television.
“Hi, I'm Maxwell Fields here to checking in for the free night?” Maxwell told the man at the desk, "Are you Stan Turner?” Max asked.
“Yes, I am, Mr. Fields. It's so good to have you with us. I have all your paperwork here. I need you to think about this and tell me what your favorite year was. If you wanted to go back in time what year would that be? I you want to think about it awhile, I can give you a voucher for lunch and you can come back here but when you sign you need to put that year down on your registration. All the rooms here go by the year. For example, Room 1956 is the year you were born and so on,” Turner told him.
“I see. What happens if you get two people requesting the same year?' Max asked.
“That doesn't matter. We can accommodate one or a hundred,” the man told him.
Max went to the restaurant there and saw it was a buffet lunch filled with what looked like everything he liked. That was a good score on their card for him,” he thought.
The visitor ate until he was stuffed and walked back to the counter where Turner was standing.
“Did you enjoy your complimentary lunch, Mr. Fields?” the man asked.
“My compliments on the complimentary lunch,” Max answered, thinking he was being funny, but the man just looked at him with a big smile, seemingly not getting the joke.
“Have you thought about the year you'd like to revisit, change, or just reexperience?” the hotel guy inquired.
“Yes, I did... 1980. That's when my wife and I got married. It was the best year of my life and I'd like to see if I can change a few things,” he told the man behind the desk.
Now Max didn't really believe anything different would happen... the past was the past and there was nothing on God's green earth he could do to change that, but this would be a test to see what kind of shenanigans they came up with to make him believe otherwise.
“1980 it is then. Now you will be there until checkout. You will experience ten years passing during that time, although coming back here, only twenty hours will have passed,” the man explained.
“Oh... great... sort of like having a dream. You might only dream a few minutes, but you experience a large passage of time,” Max clarified.
“Exactly. Ms. Beezle here will show you to your room and carry your bag for you,” Turner informed him. "Speaking of time, here is a watch all our guests wear. The alarm is set for when you need to come back and check out. If for any reason you need to come back before, just put this reset button on the side.”
“No need to... I can get it myself,” Max offered. “I haven't seen a watch like this in years!”
“Sir, none of our guests carry their own luggage. We will do it for you and there will be no tipping,” he told Max as he waved an attractive young lady over to the counter for Max's bag.
Well, if they insisted, she carry his bag without the need to tip, so be it. He wasn't about to argue. Everything so far was actually free as they said. No one misrepresented anything or lied, so he felt comfortable.
There was a middle-aged woman standing at the counter waiting to check out, eyeing Max as he got ready to follow Ms. Beezle.
“Is this your first time here? The place has only been open a few weeks and this is my third time. I'll be coming back all the time. It's the most incredible experience you'll ever have! You won't be able to live without it,” she told him excitedly.
With that guarantee of satisfaction, Max followed Ms. Beezle as she carried his large gym bag towards the elevators. The room was on the fifteenth floor.
“What's that perfume you're wearing?” Max asked. He actually felt slightly intoxicated from it. It wasn't strong but it seems somehow to alter your senses. There was a sharp awareness staring at the elevator ceiling that seemed to strobe to something less precise. It wasn't a pleasant aroma, but it wasn't unpleasant either.
“I'm not wearing any perfume. I've been told it's my body chemistry,” she told Max.
The doors opened and she led him three quarters of the way down the hall and turned to open a door on the right.
“Stay here while I put your bag in the room and give it a once over. I'm not allowed to be in the room with any of the guests,” she informed him.
That was odd. Why not? At his age he wasn't exactly seductive. Max thought but then didn't feel like asking to get into a whole dissertation as the whys or why nots. In a minute she came out, being certain everything was fine. As she was leaving, Max tried to give her a tip, but she declined.
“Oh no... that's against hotel protocol. Have yourself a wonderful stay and I'll see you when you come back,” Ms. Beezle told him.
Come back from where? Or maybe she meant coming back to the hotel in the future. Who knows? Max entered the room. It was a nice size room but nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Then suddenly as he looked out the window, he was looking out of the window in his first home with his wife, Stephanie. The flashback was disorienting and was difficult to see the difference in a distant memory or reality However, there wasn't a difference as he looked around everything was as it was in 1980, probably the happiest time of his life. He wandered around in the room picking up little things which his wife collected and littered the room. Turning them over he looked at the bottoms expecting them to disappear in a whiff of smoke. Everything was as it was. This was some kind of reality, not a dream... not a mirage... not some flight of fancy.
“What's the matter with you? You're acting a little strange,” Stephanie asked.
“Did you ever have that sense of deja vu? But maybe somehow the thing's in reverse,” Max explained.
“In reverse. I don't think I understand,” his wife answered.
“It's not important. I just am so thankful we're together. What do you want to do today?” he asked his wife.
“Did you forget your company barbecue? We have to leave in an hour if you don't want to be late,” she announced.
“Well, if we don't want to be late, we'd better head to the bedroom right now and take care of things,” Max informed her as he grabbed her hand and led her down the hallway to the bedroom. In tow, she giggled the whole way.
At twenty-three, their hormones flowed freely. At a drop of the hat, they were in the backseat of the car, or in the woods while taking a walk, or on the downstairs sofa of her parent's finished basement. Now they were married and had a place of their own.
For ten days they enjoyed each other's company and the things they had always done as young adults. Max saw old friends, some still living and some dead. Max knew his ten days were coming to an end and in few hours the watch would sound its alarm. As hard as he looked, he didn't see anything he could change to alter the course of their eventual divorce.
“Hey for old times' sake, let's go to the place we always parked and had sex. We'll slip a little more fun in here yet today,” Max told Stephanie.
“I'm a married woman now, we have a bed. I'm not going out to some secluded place to have sex in the car,” she admonished him.
“Why should being married change the fun of it?” Max asked.
“Let's go upstairs then,” she suggested.
“I want to go out and park, for the excitement of it,” he told her getting a little outdone with her attitude.
“Oh, Max don't be such a child. It was exciting then, it just isn't now,” she informed him and that ticked him off as he took his jacket off the wall.
“I'm going for a walk,” he told her as he went out the door. “Why is it when you're dating a woman, she finds and does everything exciting but then as soon as you marry, she can't do it anymore because it's beneath her? There ought to be something against 'bait and switch' in a marriage..”
He walked a way when a car pulled up to the curb. It was an attractive young girl looking for directions. She stared intently at Max while he gave her the path to follow, outlining everything he said with hand gestures. Finally he looked down at her and smiled.
“Is something funny?” Max asked.
“Sort of... the way you give directions with all your hand gestures. You're probably pretty good with your hands, aren't you?” she asked. “I'm Dina.”
“I'm Max. I've been told my hands know what they're doing but sometimes have a mind of their own,” he told her, going with the path she already inspired.
“It does get a little boring around here at times. Can you recommend something interesting to do and someplace to do it?” Dina inquired.
“Well, as a matter of fact there's place nearby, I used to park at when I was younger. It's secluded and I found it a lot of fun to go to. A person can get very creative in surrounding like that,” he told her.
“I'd like to see it. Is it very hard to get to?” she asked.
“No... but it's very hard once you get there,” Max chimed in with more double entendre.
“Maybe if you have time, you can show me where to find this place,” she asked as she reached over and opened the door. Max got in, thinking finally back to his old parking spot where he first learned to drink beer as well hone is skills at sex.
It was the most unbelievable sex he had. Maybe it was parking out in his old parking spot in broad daylight where anyone could see. More likely it was having sex for the first time in years other than his wife since his marriage. The girl, Dina, wanted to get together again and Max took her number, but he felt guilty now. He had gotten pissed at Stephanie not wanting to relive the good old days... something that really turned him on, in lieu of the sex that was quickly becoming boring.
Max got back a couple of hours later and hung his jacket up behind the downstairs door.
“Did you have a nice walk?” she asked.
“Yeah. It was good. Let me ask you something. We've been married almost a year, but we've been having sex for a few years now.; Do you find it boring?” Max asked her.
“Not at all, but we used to do some crazy stuff for the sex. We don't need to do that anymore... we're married,” she reasoned.
“But that's what made some of it so exciting and passionate. You sort of just want to lay there now and take it without some of the thrill we used to have,” he told her.
Well, that pissed her off and she clammed up. Then she revisited the comment.
“Are you saying I'm not passionate?” she asked.
“No but just because we're not married doesn't mean we have to stop doing what we used to. It's not like were seventy years old,” Max reasoned with her.
About that time his watch went off and it was time to go.
“What's that. Where'd you get that watch?” Stephanie asked almost in accusation.
Max found himself standing outside his hotel room door. His bag was next to him and a couple of other things he left in the room. It was strange how things were handled. When your time was up, it was up. About then, Ms. Beezle came off of the elevator smiling and grabbed his bag.
“Did you have a pleasant stay?” she asked.
“I did... just how does the hotel accomplish what they do?” Max asked her.
“I don't know the details. I just work here,” she explained as they got onto the elevator.
“I hope your stay was pleasant?” Turner inquired of the guest as Max stepped up to the counter to check out.
“It was very enjoyable... and enlightening,” Max told the man.
“I hope you'll be visiting us again soon,” the man espoused.
“I most likely will,” Max informed him.
Max droves home slowly, thinking about things. It wasn't quite like he remembered it. He had forgotten that Dina's name altogether and never gave her much further thought. It was a thing he did to get back at Stephanie and her attitude towards their intimacy, which had changed from before they were married and after they were. It may have been a childish thing to do but Stephanie was dear to him.
For several days he thought about it. He needed to get back. Maybe, he could go back and not go for the walk and never run into this Dina. Maybe skip the conversation altogether with Stephanie and just look the other way but was that healthy to ignore something that gets under your skin?
“Hello! Is this Stan Turner?” Max asked, finally making a call to the hotel.
“Yes, it is Mr. Fields. How can I be of help?” Turner asked. This guy was super polite and helpful. You wondered if he ever got pissed off.
“Just for the heck of it... how much would it cost a night there at your hotel?” Max asked.
“It's a thousand dollars a night,” Turner disclosed. Max almost took gas.
“A thousand dollars? Isn't that a little steep?” Max asked him.
“Not really... when you consider each day you spend is a ten day stay in the past. It's actually a decent price when you consider it one hundred dollars a night,” the man explained.
Max thought about it, and there was sense to it. They were certainly a great ten days with Stephanie again, even though they fought about the whole sex thing a bit. He didn't even remember the argument originally back that first year they were married. It had been a contention somewhat the first several years of becoming acclimated to each other. What bothered him, she wasn't the same person he married. Well, no one is the same person over time than when you first know them, but she changed overnight.
“I'll tell you what... book me for this Friday night again. I want to go back to 1977,” he told Turner., and then thought to himself... “When I first met my x wife Stephanie. Maybe I can change things then and I won't have to worry about running into Dina later.”
“Alright then you're booked. You still get a complimentary buffet lunch when you get here and then check in is at two, Mr. Fields. Thank you for choosing us again for your stay.
It was a strange feeling stepping through that hotel door at Room 1976. Suddenly he was back in college, in line signing up for classes to start his sophomore year. It was just like then... he was standing looking at the clock wondering if he was ever going to get up to the front to turn in his request. There were always a couple classes he wouldn't get. Then he'd have to quickly redo everything and take what he could. Someone tapped him on the shoulder to ask him something. When he turned it was Stephanie. It was love at first sight... or something close to it but the hormones definitely overflowed the pot.
“Can you tell me what line I need to get into for this?” she showed him her paper.
“No... only if you give me your name first,” Max traded even though he was well aware it was Stephanie. She stopped and smiled and that was that.
“My name's Stephanie. I just transferred from the community college,” she told him.
“Ouch... you may lose most of your credits,” Max warned.
It so happened she was supposed to be in his line so he let her go ahead of him so they could talk. He got a couple of dirty stares from the people behind him in line, but this was the woman of his dreams.
After spending two hours in line, they went to the student union. In those days everyone openly smoked pot and campus security would just look at the students lying around on the floor, dazed, and shake their heads. By nightfall, Max and Stephanie were exploring her dorm room all night long to some heavy metal. Max commuted from home to the college campus while Stephanie had transferred from a community college in Philadelphia.
They spent some of their electives together in class since they were of no account but they each had other plans as far as a career. He planned on a commercial art future while hers was destined to be a cytologist.
She was insane sexually and wanted to explore things she had never done before. There were a few things new to Max but not much. Max was more than willing to accommodate her and explore her inner wild side.
“I hope we never change,” Max began one night after an incredible sexual workout. Max was trying to grease things for that change he saw coming after they were married that caused some opposition. “Promise me you'll always be wild and crazy and never let either one of us get boring like some of these old, married folks.”
“Never... I hate that. You see these old people married for fifty years and all they do is complain... there is no excitement in their lives,” she laughed.
Max wondered if they had ever had a conversation like this the first time around. He didn't think so. She certainly didn't sound like his Stephanie he was to marry in a few years. He didn't question anything further. He figured if this had changed, he'd know it as soon as he walked through the door of his home... the one Stephanie and him shared their entire lives together before she moved out. She moved into her sister's apartment after her husband died from a heart attack, and their divorce.
Soon, Max was back checking out of the hotel and saying goodbye to Turner and Ms. Beezle. She was a strange sort... something naturally condescending about her. It appeared she was judging you on a minute-by-minute observation.
“I'd like to book a room for next Friday night... Room 1977,” Max told him. He wanted to see how things progressed during the time they dated. Maybe it was a just a little change... or their relationship needed just a little tweak, so he wasn't sitting alone in the living room at age sixty-six.
Over the the next several months, Max spent more and more time at the hotel. He kept traveling into the past to see what needed to be changed, but when he'd take a look later it seemed nothing ever changed. He tried even doing more than just talking but it always came out the same. He'd return to an empty house when he was sixty-six, soon to be sixty-seven.
From what he saw, the best years of their lives was when they were dating. After tying the knot, she was still a different person. Yet she complained about him time and time again that he would never change. He still thought he was in college. People grow together and some people grow apart over time, but when two people begin life together and immediately grow apart there's something wrong with the relationship to start.
That's what Max began suspecting and knowing what he knows now, so he could look for problems ahead of time, maybe he could forestall things from happening by being there all the time. Those first three years were the best anyway... then he'd have a lifetime of tweaking things.
“Turner... can we talk?” Max asked going in to spend the night again. He was spending two to three nights a week here now and was beginning to put a dent in his retirement.
“Sure, Mr. Fields. What would you like to talk about?” the hotel manager asked.
“Is there any way that when I go back, say to 1976, I can stay?” Max asked the man.
“You know, a lot of our clients eventually ask me that? I think they want to relive their youth and maybe have a second chance at rectifying their mistakes. Everyone thinks it's one or two things they need to change initially when they go back, but then they find it's not that simple, and usually there's a whole host of little things over time that need changing,” Turner told him.
“Exactly! I've come to that very conclusion. That's why it's so hard just to pinpoint one thing, and if you change it, it seems like it doesn't do any good,” Max told him with the comfort Turner knew exactly what he was thinking.
“If you do go back and stay, you'll have to forfeit a lot in the present, so you have to think about it,” Turned advised him.
“If I go back, I'm leaving my money but who'll need it. I'll be starting over again knowing a lot of things ahead of time I didn't know the first time around,” Max told him.
“There's also the issue of your declaring your allegiance and unwavering loyalty to your lord and master,” Turner told him.
“My Lord and Master? You're kidding right? Is this some kind of punk?” Max replied.
“It's no joke Mr. Fields. Everyone eventually pays the piper for consideration. You're no different. Three quarters of the performers in Hollywood wouldn't be there without the Master. It's a good trade... youth, vitality... the ability to rectify your mistakes... begin again Mr. Fields. Begin again!” Turner stressed. “Get another chance at the success you always dreamed of, just never quite got there.”
Max thought about it. It would be good to start again. Moneywise he knew what was going to happen now before it happened, he could score a lot of money with the right investments.
“OK, Mr. Turner, you have a deal. Where do I sign? Do I sign something?” Max asked.
Mr. Turner seemed to pull the contract to be signed out of midair with the flick of his fingers. It seemed there was a bit of smoke coming off the page as he spread it out in front of Max. It was in unusual script and was difficult to read. Turner saw Max's dismay trying to decipher the verbiage.
“It just says you agree to becoming one of the followers for consideration of starting your life over again,” Turner interpreted the paper simply. It was good enough for Max, he was ready to start over.
“Ms. Beezle Please take Mr. Fields to his room... Room 1976. Have a nice trip Mr. Fields,” the man told him.
Ms. Beezle took Max to his room and unlocked the door. Max picked up his bag.
“I'll take this. I'm not a guest anymore... I'm staying,” he informed her, and she knowingly smiled back at him, as he thought he saw a shadow slide across her face, changing her demeanor almost imperceptibly.
As soon as Max entered the room, it seemed he was again there in his college standing in line to register for classes when someone tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned.
“Oh hello... can I help you?” he asked looking at the pretty girl. There was something vaguely familiar about her, but it was probably just one of those deja vu things.
“Can you tell me what line I need to get into to take care of this,” she asked holding up the papers.
“I'd be happy to. My name's Max, how about yours?” he asked her.
“I'm Stephanie. Have we ever met before?” she asked Max.
“If we had I'd remember you. This is the line you want. You can get in front of me. I have no idea how long this is going to take but we'll probably be here the rest of the day as slow as they are.