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9 Minutes to 1960

Sue Erickson sat in her living room staring at the front window, waiting for her ride. She was nervous about her first day on the new job. She had relocated to Texas from Reno, Nevada, and still wasn’t sure she’d made the right decision—which was probably what kept her up half the night.

A bolt of lightning shot across the sky, startling her. It was seven o’clock. Where was her ride? She hated having to depend on someone else to get her to work on time.

Finally, a late model, light blue Cadillac Eldorado pulled into her driveway. She hurried out the door and got into the car just as it began to rain.

“Thanks so much for the ride, Betty. My car should be out of the shop by this afternoon.”

“Happy to do it anytime,” said Betty, backing out of the driveway. “So, how are you liking Magnolia?”

“It’s a nice town. We used to come here and visit my aunt and uncle when I was a kid.”

“Well, they must have thought a lot of you.”

“Yeah, I was shocked when I found out they left me their house.”

Betty turned onto FM 1488.

“What are all these FM roads?” said Sue. “What does FM stand for?”

“Farm-to-Market. I think we’re the only state that has them. They built them years ago, so the farmers would have a way to get their crops to town. I don’t imagine people even think about that anymore. Most of the time we leave off the FM. Like this road. Most folks just call it 1488.”

After a few minutes Betty exited to Interstate 45 South.

Sue felt her foot begin to tap the floorboard. She forced herself stop.

“We’ll make it on time.” Betty pointed to the electric billboard above the highway. “Look. It updates every few minutes.”

Sue read the sign aloud. “Nine minutes to 1960. That’s our exit.”

“Feel better now?”

“Yeah, a little,” said Sue, smiling. “You know, it’s sort of funny.”

“Funny? What do you mean?”

“The sign said, ‘Nine minutes to 1960.'”

“That’s right—we’re almost there.”

“No. I mean it makes us sound like time travelers. Nine minutes to 1960. Like it’s telling us we’re about to arrive in the year 1960.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”

“Oh, goodness,” said Betty. “I’m gonna have to stop for gas.”

“But that will make us late.”

“I know. I’m sorry. It’s your first day and you want to make a good impression, but I’m sure your boss will understand. Besides, you’re going to be really late if we run out of gas.”

“It’s okay,” said Sue. “I appreciate you giving me the ride.”

“And here’s our exit.” Betty took the 1960 off ramp.

“I’ll just swing by this convenience store. It’ll just take a minute.” She pulled up to a pump. “Oh, Honey, would you mind running in and buying a box of donuts. I just remembered it’s my turn to bring breakfast.” She pulled a ten out of her purse and handed it to Sue.

“Sure.” She got out of the car and went into the store, deciding to grab a diet Coke for herself while she was at it.

Glancing at the shelves as she walked to the back, Sue noticed products she’d never seen in Nevada. She did a double-take when she saw a sign advertising a half gallon of ice cream for seventy-nine cents. Now that’s a Texas-sized sale, she thought.

Sue smiled when she spotted rows of the familiar Coca-Cola logo. She opened the cooler door and reached in. Interesting, she thought—they carry quite a selection of the vintage-style bottles, even the 6.5 ounce.

A young man wearing an apron walked by.

“Sir?”

He stopped and turned back to her. “Were you talking to me, Ma’am?”

“Yes. Could you help me, please?”

“Certainly, Ma’am.”

What a well-manner young man, she thought. How refreshing. “Where is your Diet Coke?”

“My what?”

“Diet Coke.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I’ve never heard of that product.”

“You’re kidding me. You don’t carry Diet Coke?”

“Oh, wait.”

“I thought so.”

He opened the adjacent door. “Here you go.” He handed her a bottle.

“Tab? What’s this?”

“It’s like Coke, but without calories. It’s a diet cola.”

Sue was afraid to ask, but she had to know. “How much is it?”

“Thirteen cents.”

Sue began to tremble as she handed the bottle back to him.

“Are you okay, Lady?”

She ran out of the store, praying that everything would be okay once she got back into the car.

The car was gone.

All of the cars in the parking lot were old models—yet they didn’t look old. It was like a classic car convention.

“Did you get the donuts?” a woman shouted.

It was Betty’s voice. Sue spotted her standing behind a light blue 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. The back fins were enormous.

Sue ran to Betty. “I’m sorry. They were out of donuts.”

“Oh, darn.”

“Betty, would you mind driving me back home? I’m not feeling well.”

“Are you sure, Honey? You really want to miss your first day?”

“I just can’t do it. I’m sick.”

“Okay, sure, I’ll take you home, Honey. Get in.”

Betty made a U-turn and got back on I-45. “You’re not gonna throw up, are you?”

“I don’t think so. I just need to lie down. I’m feeling dizzy.”

“Lean your seat back and take it easy. Use those electric controls on the side of your seat.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Sue was beginning to relax when she saw another electric billboard. “No, not again. I can’t take any more of this.”

“What?”

“The sign. Read the sign,” she said, pointing.

“Four minutes to 1488.”

“It’s happening again. Look over there—on the other side of the highway. Is that a horse and carriage?”

“Huh? Where? I can’t tell. It’s raining too hard.”

“We’re going further back in time. 1960 was bad enough—but 1488!? I can’t survive in the year 1488.”

“What on earth are you talking about, Sue?”

“I can’t. I just can’t do it. I can’t!!!”

Lightning struck the car and Sue fainted.

She heard a knocking sound and her eyelids popped open. She was sitting in her living room.

“Sue? Are you in there?”

It was Betty at the front door.

Sue opened the door.

“Well, are you ready for your first day?”

“That depends. Do you have plenty of gas in your car?”

“I just filled up. Why?”

“Did you remember the donuts?”

“Yep. I already picked them up—three dozen glazed. Hey—how did you know about the donuts?”

“I feel like I’ve already made this trip once this morning. But this time everything is gonna be okay. It’s gonna be a great first day. Let’s go.”

“I love your positive attitude, Sue,” said Betty, as they hurried to the car through the rain. “But we may be just a little late getting to the office.”

They got into the car.

“Why?

“There was a major accident on I-45, so we’re gonna have to go around the back way,” said Betty.

“The back way? On one of those Farm-to-Market roads?” Sue held her breath.

“Yeah, that’s right. But it’s not far—it’s only about two minutes to 2978.”

Sue gasped, “I can’t breathe.”

“Oh, you’ll be fine. Have a donut.”

THE END

Copyright © 2012 Robert Burton Robinson

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