Jenson, or Jayden—no, actually his name was Jarell—sat on his living room couch watching television without recognizing the program. Maybe it was something old, like “I Love Lucy.” Or maybe it was a modern sitcom. Who knows?
Jarell propped his feet onto the table in front of him, eager to see how things would pick up after the commercial break. When the show resumed, however, his amusement was out of place. He wasn’t watching a comedy. It was a historical drama, Jarell’s favorite.
Or Jameson’s favorite, rather. His name wasn’t Jarell. It was Jameson —a proper, dignified name to match his sophisticated personality.
Jameson took his feet off the table, realizing for the first time that he was wearing his golfing attire—khakis and a polo-shirt.
Was he about to meet his friends for golf?
No, he had just gotten home from playing golf already. Now, he was about to catch a special on President Lincoln.
There was a pen and notepad in his hands. He needed to take notes for the class presentation he’d be giving next week. Or was the presentation next month? Whatever the case, Jameson was a straight-A student who liked to prepare early.
No, no, no. That was all wrong. Jameson wasn’t a student. He was a teacher. An eleventh-grade high school teacher, to be exact. And watching historical dramas was his favorite pastime. He didn’t need to take notes; he already knew everything there was to know about President Lincoln.
“Honey, could you bring me a cup of coffee?” he called out to his wife. A nice cup of joe and a Lincoln special would make his morning perfect. But then he checked the time and saw that it was already past noon. Not only should he have had his morning coffee already, but he should be at the school, on his lunch break.
Oh, Jameson thought, today is Saturday. There is no school.
Or was it Sunday?
Never mind. It was Saturday. Because if it was Sunday, he’d be sitting in church listening to a loud sermon while the old ladies behind him gossiped about their neighbors as if no one could hear them or realized they were just randomly shouting out “Yes!” and “Praise the Lord!” to pretend they were paying attention.
Jameson laughed. Maybe he would go to church tomorrow. If so, he would certainly get a kick out of those old ladies. As long as it wasn’t him they were gossiping about.
Of course, there was always a chance tomorrow wouldn’t be Sunday. For all he knew, he was in some kind of alternate universe where they days went backwards.
But no, that would be silly.
He checked the watch on his wrist. It was only eight o’clock in the morning. How could he be back from playing golf already?
That’s all wrong. I haven’t actually gone anywhere yet, he thought, glancing down again and noting that he was dressed in khakis anymore. He was wearing plaid pajama pants, a robe, and house slippers. A newspaper rested on his lap.
That’s better. Now, where’s my wife with the coffee? Maybe she’s busy with the kids.
But the house was too quiet. They didn’t have kids.
Had they decided to remain child-free, or were they still working on children? Or maybe they were still newlyweds and kids weren’t in the plans yet.
Hmm. Jameson frowned, trying to figure out how old he and his wife were. But when no answer came to mind, he stopped caring. He just wanted his coffee.
What was taking his wife so long?
It then occurred to him that he was a perfectly capable man—whose name was Ronald, by the way. Jameson was better suited as his last name. If he was going to have a first name that sounded like a last name, it should be something cooler. Like Jackson.
Should he be called Jackson?
Nah. Ronald Jameson sounded much more like a history teacher.
Anyway, who was he to be sitting around, waiting for his wife to bring him coffee? She wasn’t his maid. In fact, he should get up and see if she wanted anything. Make himself useful for a change.
Ronald stood from the couch, ready to fix his own coffee and see if his wife would like anything. But then he realized he didn’t have a wife, nor did he even want coffee anymore.
He sat back down on the couch and took a moment to self-reflect.
He supposed it had been decided that a married, middle-aged, newspaper-reading, history-special-watching, coffee-drinking-on-a-Saturday-morning, church-going high school teacher wouldn’t be entertaining for the target audience.
Too bad so much time had been wasted before realizing this.
Ronald shook his head, annoyed. He annoyance dissipated upon learning that his name was Jackson now, and he was cool. He lived with his girlfriend, Nadia. She was cool too. And pretty. They both had jobs working as…
Well, he didn’t know where they worked, but presumed their jobs had to be just as cool as they were.
Or maybe they didn’t have jobs yet…
Because they were students. Teenaged, high school students.
Yes. That was a popular choice.
Jackson was a 16-year-old high school junior, whose name was Jarell. The name “Jarell” suited him best, and he was glad to be back to it.
This Saturday afternoon, Jarell was dressed comfortably in jeans and an oversized t-shirt, watching a basketball game.
This is more like it, he thought, grabbing a can of Sprite from the table in front of him.
Oh, and Nadia wasn’t his girlfriend. She was his mom, for crying out loud! And her name was Nancy, not Nadia. She was upstairs, vacuuming.
No, she at work… After all, her job was important because she was a doctor. Or maybe a lawyer. Or maybe she was a secretary, climbing her way up the corporate ladder.
Whatever she did, Jarell just knew she did the same type of work as his dad, who also wasn’t home. So Jarell had the whole house to himself.
Or so he thought.
He jumped, startled by the sudden appearance of a girl on the couch beside him.
It was just Nadia, his sister. “Why are you watching this garbage?” She reached for the remote control. “I want to watch my show. Gimme the remote. You’ve been here all day. It’s my turn.”
Annoyed, Jarell moved the remote out of Nadia’s reach. It wasn’t his fault that he’d been on the couch all day. “No. Why don’t you go find something to do? Get away from me.”
Still, Nadia tried to wrestle the remote away from him.
How annoying little sisters were! Jarell hoped he didn’t really have a sister. A cool big brother would be better. And while he knew what he wanted didn’t always have a shot at coming true, in this case, there might be hope, given all the indecision thus far.
Surely enough, Nadia began aging right before Jarell’s eyes. She was now in her late teens, or early-twenties. Then, she wasn’t there anymore at all!
She was away at school. A junior in college, she lived on-campus, three hours away and wouldn’t be home again for another two weeks for Christmas break.
No, make that summer vacation. It was warm outside.
Jarell nodded, pleased by how well that had worked out. He didn’t mind having an older college-aged sister. Maybe he could visit her on campus sometime and meet her friends.
Anyway, now that Nadia no longer beside him, Nate was there instead.
Nate was Jarell’s best friend, who also loved sports and therefore wasn’t trying to change the channel.
“Man, did you catch the game last night?” Nate asked excitedly, except his name wasn’t Nate anymore. It was Derek.
Jarell thought about the game they’d watched last night, until the memory began to shift into the game they had played last night. As it turned out, Jarell and Derek were star players on the basketball team at school. They’d recently played a game against their biggest rivals, while college recruiters watched.
College was just a year away, after all. Childhood was practically over. Jarell was 17, not 16. And Derek would be 18 in a few months.
Jarell and Derek began discussing tactics for their next game, when suddenly, the conversation ended because neither of them were on the basketball team anymore.
They played football, despite not knowing much about it.
Jarell rolled his eyes. He was positive he like basketball better than football!
Jarell, whose name was now Jordan (he smiled smugly, taking this latest name-change as a sign he was standing his ground, letting his preference for basketball be known), glared upward at the author hovering above his page. He stared at her through the black letters that made up his eyes.
She held the ink-pen with the chewed-up top as she reread the previous sentences, and changed her mind again and again.
Jordan sat helplessly, knowing he was just words on a page, and wondering what would be written next. He hoped with all his inky heart the lines wouldn’t be drawn through him, erasing him from existence (as seemed to be the case with Derek, who was no longer there).
Jordan thought back to the months he’d spent motionless because the author’s severe case of writer’s block. With that in mind, he realized he should be grateful she was writing for him again at all. The constant changes were annoying, but they at least spared him from boredom
Plus, he had to look on the bright side. His name was Jordan now and he liked basketball. Maybe if he learned to stand his ground more often, he could shape the story…
The pen lowered onto the paper again. Clearly, this brainstorming session wasn’t over.
His mother, who was supposed to be upstairs, at work, out of town, or maybe in outer space, suddenly burst through the front door with a wide grin on her face. “We’re going on vacation! Start packing!” she announced.
Derek returned to the couch and became his sister, Dana. Apparently, he now had two sisters, one older and one younger. Dana was the younger one.
Jordan wondered whether this vacation plotline would last. A vacation meant they had to leave the house, which made him nervous. His author sucked at writing scenery and whenever he went outside, it showed. The last time he’d been sent out the house, the whole world had disappeared for a month!
Jordan glanced upward, noting the fevered look in his author’s eyes. She’d had too much caffeine today.
Uh oh, he thought, knowing something bizarre was on the way.
The pen scribbled onto the page and Jordan’s legs began carrying him to the door. Along the way, he glanced back at his little sister, who was in the process of being scratched out and changed into his unnamed brother.
His indistinct brother followed him to the door, with their pet dog—or cat—no, dog, trotting behind them.
Jordan opened the front door and nearly screamed.
A raging bull was running down the street!
What the hell? Jordan thought. The randomness of the bull was even stranger than that one time a squirrel on the windowsill had turned into a dinosaur.
Fed up, Jordan shut the door, taking a stance against his author. He refused to be in such an absurd story, and he didn’t care how she felt about it. So she’d better figure something else out, because a raging bull in the middle of the city made no sense.
Jordan glanced up again, seeing the author setting down her pen in confusion. Slowly, his surroundings grew dark. The notebook was closing.
Here we go again, he thought. And it would be the last thought he had for at least a week.