“What are you doing here?” I shouted.
She looked completely different than the way she looked that night at the bar, almost impossible to recognize. Instead of a belly shirt and jeans, she was wearing vintage clothes, like the people outside. She had jewelry on. Expensive stuff. Pearls and everything.
“You’ve been selected.” Rachel Lynn said calmly.
“By whom? For what?” I pointed my finger at her face.
“Well… you selected yourself, really.”
“That’s stupid. You’re stupid!” The pointing continued. “You better start making sense real fast.”
“You selected yourself when you volunteered to break in,” she said, gently brushing my finger away. “This house, the things inside it, they draw people in. If someone desires an item or the lifestyle, the house acts as a transport.”
“So, I stumbled into… what, a time machine that goes to 1940?”
“Think of it as a transport to a simpler time.”
I went back to pointing. “Now you’re stupid and crazy. How do I get back?”
“It’s not that easy. You were brought here because of your desire. You would have to give it up or satisfy that desire before you can go back.”
“So, this is all supposed to teach me some lesson about money?” I went on. “I think your time machine house is broken, lady. I don’t care about the money, I never did.”
“You’re right… about part of it.” She smirked. She knew something I didn’t. “It’s not the money you desire. You want to be famous. A famous cat burglar known as the Six-Minute Man.”
She had me there, but I figured I shouldn’t let her or the house know it.
“That’s not even…” I stammered. “You don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
That oughta shut her up.
“Oh, I know lots about you,” she said.
I was beginning to regret this whole thing.
“Your name, for example…”
“No way, I never tell anyone my name.” I shook my head and stopped making eye contact to throw her off.
My eyes were darting back and forth.
“Klugman,” She laughed, “Jack Klugman” She said a second time like she was her own sidekick.
“It’s pronounced different from the actor,” as I crossed my arms. I hated my name and always got made fun of for it. I had tried my best to always go by the nickname, but those don’t stick when you think of them yourself. I even had a partner at one point, but he quit after all the torment of being called Felix Unger. That joke didn’t even make sense! They should have been calling him Tony Randall, the idiots. Maybe that’s what got him so fed up.
I started looking around the room for answers. There had to be another explanation, a way out of this old house.
“Jack? Don’t you want to stay here with me?”
She hit me with that same face-tilt smile. I had almost forgotten that all this was to impress her in the first place... now I’ve got her trapped in a time machine house that won’t budge. I looked through the window once more; it was like Mayberry out there. Everyone was smiling and whistling that jerkoff song.
“I guess it’s not all bad,” I said with a shrug.
“Great!” Her eyes lit up.
She hurried over to a grandfather clock and adjusted the hands to read 12 o’clock, which I thought was odd because they started ticking in the opposite direction.
“What’s with the clock?”
“Oh, it’s just this thing. C’mon, I’ll give you the grand tour.”
She pushed right past my question and into the next room. I didn’t think much of it, mostly because I had more important things on my mind.
“Rachel Lynn? Are there yoga studios in 1940? I’ve really started seeing improvements.”
Rachel Lynn set me up in the parlor on the opposite side of the house from the master bedroom. She had me sleeping on a nice, cozy couch. Cozy as in it was too short for me to stretch my legs out. I thought about asking if I could sleep in one of the three unoccupied bedrooms, and maybe even use one of the beds, but I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries on the first night.
It took me a while to fall asleep after all the excitement. I was still wide awake when that grandfather clock struck twelve. Except it didn’t ring twelve times, only seven.
“First, the hands tick backwards and now the thing can’t even count to twelve,” I thought in annoyance. By then my legs had gone to sleep, so I decided the rest of my body should follow.
The next morning I crawled out of my room, into the kitchen, and pulled myself up onto a chair where Rachel Lynn was waiting with a cup of coffee.
“How did you sleep?” She asked with a glow.
“It was great. Most of my body was numb all night so… decidedly comfortable.”
“Any big plans for the first full day of your new life?”
“Well, I was thinking--” The doorbell rang, interrupting me. I wasn’t expecting it and tried to jump out of the chair, but my legs hadn’t fully woken up so I didn’t make it far.
“That must be James and Linda.” Rachel Lynn rushed to greet them; I hobbled after.
By the time I arrived at the door the greetings had already commenced. The woman turned to me and smiled.
“This must be Mr.--”
“Jack,” I interrupted. “Just Jack.” I smiled and shook her hand.
The young couple looked confused, maybe a little insulted. I was fine with that; I wasn’t going to let them start in on the jokes.
“Jack, can I talk to you for a second?” Rachel Lynn said, squeezing my arm.
“Hey, that hurts!”
“What are you doing? These are extremely formal people,” she whispered loudly.
“I’m pretty sure James and Linda can hear you,” I said.
She squeezed again. This time her fingernails pinched my skin.
“These are my friends. They are wealthy. They have manors. Don’t insult them.”
“Wealthy, huh?” I peeked around Rachel Lynn to get another look. “Now that you mention it, they do have really nice shoes.”
You can tell a lot about a person from their shoes.
She reiterated, “Be polite. What are you worried about anyway? Jack Klugman doesn’t get his break for another 10 years.”
Rachel Lynn went to reengage her friends, but I was stunned. She was right, I was in a world where I could be myself, and I wouldn’t have to explain that Walter Matthau isn’t Jack Klugman. I was so thrilled; I felt a burst of energy rush up from my chest and spew out of my mouth.
I realized I had interrupted their conversation and practically shouted it. To make matters worse, I was standing there frozen, with my arms in the air. Rachel Lynn looked worried.
“Mr. Klugman… is my name.”
I shook their hands and we all laughed. I thought I made it through the hard part but James threw another curveball.
“So, what do you do for a living, Jack?” he asked.
I didn’t want to upset Rachel Lynn again, I had to come up with a lie, and fast. I couldn’t tell them I’m a famous cat burglar, so I went with the first thing I could think of.
“I’m an aspiring actor,” I nodded repeatedly, needing to convince myself more than anyone.
I winked at Rachel Lynn, but she didn’t notice; she was looking at the floor with her palm pressed to her forehead. I figured she must have been feeling sick so I wrapped up the visit.
I suggest to Rachel Lynn that she go lie down. As soon as she was out of sight, I darted out the side door and began tailing James and Linda back to their house. I had a new target in my sights and needed to do a little information gathering. The Six-Minute Man was going to strike again!