Going Along With the Crowd
by Jeff Baker
“Okay, Okay. You. Can. Do. This”
Andrew Dominski puffed out the words in rhythm as he jogged along. He wasn’t at the front of the group but he wasn’t bringing up the rear, either.
He let his gaze wander down the road; he could just make out the top of a familiar building over the trees. Yeah, the old Alma Mater.
He had to have been crazy entering his College’s “Run-A-Thon,” but it was for scholarships. Besides, he’d turned down the High School coach when he wanted Andrew for the track team and never tried out for the one in college.
He kept jogging on, feeling the pavement pound under his feet. How old was he physically, anyway? Not chronologically, but physically? He could pass for being in his early thirties, he knew
He thought: The Taking had happened when he was about twenty-five. He’d aged about five years over nearly a hundred years being out in space and back in time. He’d been returned about two weeks after he’d left and his aging had been starting up as of a few years ago, albeit very slowly. Within a few years he would probably be aging like everybody else.
Yeah, like any other thirty-something who had been born over fifty years ago.
He thought again: He’d graduated College in 1984, he’d been working at the warehouse outside town early one morning when the spaceship had showed up and the aliens told him they needed someone with his metabolism for an incredibly important mission “with everything at stake.”
The job was going nowhere so Andrew had said “yeah.”
What followed was nearly a century of being in outer space and reliving parts of Earth’s history during the nineteenth century. Twice in some cases.
It was when he’d been in space he realized he had outlived his folks and probably most of his friends. He’d cried a lot for a few weeks.
He shook the memory out of his head. When it was all over, he’d been returned to Earth, just two weeks after he’d left. He wasn’t sure his folks believed him but he didn’t care. He’d never expected to see them again and he’d broken down in front of them and hugged them. They’d thought he’d been kidnapped. He had to find another job though, but he didn’t mind.
When you’ve been through what he had the world looked different, and the little things either didn’t matter or they were wonderful.
He looked at the runners ahead of him. He smiled. Just the kind of athletic guys he’d have checked out in college.
They were coming up towards the finish line in front of the college, by the old brick Administration building and the old Gymnasium. A bunch of spectators were standing in the early-afternoon sun on both sides of the finishing line. Somebody had already broken the tape and several of the first group of runners who’d crossed the finish line were lounging or collapsing on the grass.
Andrew heard something familiar. Over the other cheers and applause of the crowd was a familiar name: “An-Drew! An-Drew!”
His Mom and Dad, almost in their eighties were standing at the front of the crowd cheering him.
Andrew grinned broadly and put on a last burst of speed.
He glanced down at the number they’d handed him: 42.
He suddenly remembered—wasn’t that the number they used in that Hitchhiker In the Galaxy show?
Andrew was laughing as he crossed the finish line.
I hadn’t expected to write another story about Andrew Dominski, one time time-traveling space agent but this one just popped into being. His first appearance, at his school reunion, can be read here: https://authorjeffbaker.com/2021/02/26/long-time-no-see-friday-flash-fics-by-jeff-baker-february-26-2021/ I wrote the original story after stopping in at my old school and thinking “It feels like a hundred years since I went here.” —–jeff
This is delightful, Jeff!