by Bob Thurber

The rooming house had a main door that was supposed to remain locked at all times but seldom was, and occasionally, especially in summer, when another roomer would wedge the door wide-open with a brick, hoping to pull in some air, someone would just wander in off the street. I lived on the third floor, at the far end of the long hall, the very last place on any wandering stranger's trek, so I was never bothered by these invasions, but one hot August night, while I was eating stale crackers and reading at two a.m. with my own door open, I was visited by a strange white-haired man in a rumpled sports jacket who claimed that he was from the future, my future, that he was in fact me. He was old and obviously unhinged, a fact made quite evident by his manner and expression: not only his mouth but his whole face, including his tired eyes, were fixed in a deranged smile. He noticed my typewriter, and before I could rise from my chair he went over and stood beside my desk. He put one hand on the keys, and without looking aligned his fingers with the JKL;

I expected him to start typing. Instead, with his back to me, he said, "Whatever you accomplish will be insignificant, you know, but it is vital that you never stop, never quit, not for a day, and that you don't dwell long and repeatedly on the insignificance of your work, or your failure, and that you continue to do it anyway."

And what I found curious about that statement was that I had not told the man I was a writer or anything else about myself. I had barely said a word.

"Do you understand what I'm telling you?" he said.

And I nodded, though he could not see me.

"Good," he said. "I'll be on my way now."

And then, with his hand still touching the keys, he collapsed to the floor. Heart attack, the EMT said. They lifted him onto a stretcher, covered him with a sheet, and strapped him in. A policeman had come up with them. He asked me if I knew the deceased. I was still shaking, feeling I might be implicated in some sort of foul play. "No," I said, then nervously explained about the downstairs door, how the old guy had just wandered in.

"So you never saw him before?"

"No sir."

The officer glanced around the room, looking for I don't know what, perhaps some evidence that I was lying. Which, all these years later, as I climb the wooden steps of this old rooming house on this hot, airless night, I realize I most certainly was.

Bob Thurber is an old, unschooled writer widely published in literary journals, magazines, and on the Internet. He resides in Massachusetts. His short story, “The Cat Who Waved,” appeared in Issue #5 of The Cafe Irreal; “Shuteye” appeared in Issue #15; “The Bartender Story” appeared in Issue #32; “You Don’t Belong Here” appeared in Issue #34; and “A Woman on the Bus” appeared in Issue #38. Paperboy, his first novel, was released in May of 2011.