“No not that silly search engine thing! My acronym expands to ‘See It Re-remember It, Reclaim it!'” Harold says.
Stephanie looks confused.
“In other words, you can find whatever you lost if you remember where you saw it last?” Stephanie teases. “That’s brilliant dad! Really excellent work! Is it too late in the year for a Nobel nomination?” She rolls her eyes.
“No, no, no! My system is much more than that! It’s more like, umm, okay this is going to sound crazy, but it’s more like the Law of Attraction than that!”
“Picture something you once had but have lost. Now slowly, it’ll probably take you a few months of intense memory work to get this to manifest but once you do, you’ll be amazed.”
“You sound super-crazy right now dad,” Stephanie says smiling.
“No, I promise, give me an example. I’ll prove it to you. I’ve been doing SIRIRI so long, I can perform it almost instantly. A few seconds at most.”
Stephanie lowers her gaze considers the request. “Okay I got one! Mom’s brooch! Find that and I WON’T spend the rest of today trying to find a retirement facility to commit you in tomorrow! And GO!”
The brooch had been in their family for several generations. But it had been lost years ago.
“Sweetie you’re thinking too small with…,” but he trails off. Actually, the brooch is a perfect thing to demonstrate the powers of his powerful new system. It had been lost long ago.
Stephanie knows it’s an impossible task. She had seen it fall in the water herself. She had been on her college roommate’s sailboat in the English Channel on summer vacation. Her roommate, Beverly, had even contacted a scuba diving buddy who had then spent seven tedious hours trying to find it. That had cost her almost $7000. But it was truly like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The brooch was hopelessly, forever lost to her. Afterwards she had tried dating the diver, he was hot, he was French, he was named ‘Jacques’ for crying out loud, but he was also, Stephanie was surprised to discover, irredeemably boring. “Did you know that hot French guys could be boring?” She had asked Beverly as if she’d discovered a new principle in physics.
“Duh! Didn’t you notice I kept sneaking away from the two of you on the boat?” Beverly had answered. Stephanie had assumed it was because she had sensed some spark between her and the lean, dark, diver with the smoldering brown eyes and wanted to give them space to get to know each other.
“Your time is counting down old man,” Stephanie says and then begins humming the theme song from Jeopardy.
She pauses a beat, picks up her phone.
It was through Jacques that she had met Derek. Derek was not French. In fact Derek was from Montana. But, more importantly, Derek’s speech, motions, and very being didn’t put Stephanie immediately asleep every time she witnessed them. Derek quickly became her boyfriend.
“While you’re stalling I’m just going to go ahead and begin searching for a facility for you.”
She resumes humming the game-show melody.
And Derek, who was now her husband, was the father of their two children: Samantha (7) and Stephen (5). She wonders if she had ever shared that odd Derek / Jacques connection with her father, decides that she hadn’t. Thinks about mentioning it now in an ‘oh by the way did I ever tell you’ but doesn’t.
“Oh hey! I found one! How does ‘The William Wilson Whackadoodle Retirement Village for Demented Old Farts Like Stephanie’s Crazy Ass Dad’ sound?”
Harold considers ‘finding’ the brooch. Thinks of Jack, or was it Jacques?
“That thing with the French diver? Jacques was it? It never went anywhere right?” Harold asks.
“Jacques!? The diver? No! Of course not! He was so boring! You’re stalling, trying to distract me.” She thinks again about mentioning the Derek / Jacques connection and again doesn’t.
Harold sighs, relents. Capitulates. He lowers his gaze in concentration. He closes his eyes for a second, maybe two, max. He opens his eyes.
“Mom’s brooch? Done!” he smirks.
She stares, flabbergasted.
“Daaaaad! You can’t just say something.
“Sweetie it’s in your cedar chest the one mom gave you the summer she got the diagnosis? You kept it there after she died, you wanted to build a little shrine to her, basically.”
“Dad! I lost that thing …in … ” she trails off.
That’s weird Stephanie thinks. What the hell was that? she thinks. Her train of thought totally disappeared.
“Nope, I constructed a false bottom in it… Well! In my memories I mean. I ‘re-remembered‘ constructing a false bottom in the cedar chest. By re-remembering it that way, by reinforcing the memory, I’ve edited reality.”
Stephanie looks perplexed, annoyed. Something just shifted but she can’t say what exactly. But it was something big and its departure has left her feeling oddly depressed. She sees despair on the horizon. But why?
“Oh yea of little faith, come with me Thomas,” her father says.
He leads his daughter up the narrow back stairs to her cozy, carpeted bedroom. Still preserved as she’d left it twelve years ago.
Why am I feeling empty suddenly Stephanie wonders despondently. She kneels before the wooden chest, opens it.
“You saw it fall in the English Channel, not me! That’s your version of ‘reality’ Sweetie.”
“Wasn’t it fuller than this?” she asks as she tamps down on the clothes in the chest.
But reality, Harold had discovered was a bit more malleable than one might’ve expected. And far more dependent upon memory!
“Your friend Beverly put you in touch with a driver named Jacques. A real boring fellow by the way, so you’re welcome! I’ve excised that memory from your head! Well not exactly excised but it’s gone at any rate.”
Stephanie looks puzzled. She is starting to be more concerned, not joking-concerned but actual concerned-concerned for her father’s mental state! French divers? English Channel? Has he had a stroke?
For her, the memory reconfiguration was immediate, invisible, undetectable.
“Jacques? Who is that?,” she says as she begins emptying her cedar chest. Where once she had only put stuff in her that was related to her mom she would’ve sworn that it had been fuller than this. That at some point she had started stowing other things in her as well? But what? When?
But that was a ‘derived’ memory and it fades even quicker than the others.
Harold sees the depleted condition of the chest.
Uh oh, what have I done? WHAT HAVE I DONE?!
The last items are removed from the chest. She sees the notch and lifts the false bottom out of the cedar chest.
“Well that was weird. How’d I forget this old thing?” she laughs. “You made this compartment the summer I went to spend with Beverly, right?”
The only way to bring the brooch forward in time was to hide it away in some safe place that would keep it from creating side effects (some of which might be undesirable) was to hide it safely away until this moment. Hence the secret compartment.
Sitting in the small wooden tray is her mother’s red ruby brooch.
Harold had altered his memories and thus altered reality. He ‘remembered‘ fighting with his daughter, forbidding her from taking the brooch on vacation – Stephanie had thought it was a token way for her mom to experience England and France – but he remembered not letting her take the family heirloom on vacation. And now here it was. NOT resting on the bottom of the English Channel but here, in a shallow tray sitting in the bottom of a false bottomed cedar chest.
Stephanie is thrilled have her mother’s brooch again.
Because Stephanie hadn’t taken the brooch on vacation it hadn’t fallen into the channel when the clasp broke when she brushed past the mainsail’s stay.
Harold had shifted reality with his memory technique. But because he was the “shifter” his memories didn’t update as quickly to this new reality. There was a delay. A latency in which things shuffled into their new configuration. Stephanie, mercifully, is spared this phenomenon.
Because she hadn’t lost the brooch, she had never met the boring but beautiful Jacques, the diver.
Harold isn’t so lucky.
Because she hadn’t meet Jacques, she didn’t end up going on, not one but two tedious dates with him.
Harold begins scrambling; desperate to find a way to keep the memories safe.
It was on their second awful meeting that she had met Derek. She initially thought he was cute in a more rugged, sort of mountain man way. He didn’t smolder like Jacques. Unfortunately Jacques wasn’t content to just smolder he had to go and ruin the thing by wanting to speak once in a while. So she broke things off. After starting things up with Derek, she never thought about Jacques again. But because she hadn’t met Jacques, she never got to meet the ruggedly cute mountain man Derek.
Harold runs to the kitchen. It’s the only way he thinks. He can physically feel the memories of Stephen and Samantha quickly pulling away from him like a departing train.
Because she never met Derek, she never made Samantha or Stephen.
It’s gotta be a knife Harold thinks. It’s the only permanent solution that he can think of.
In the bedroom Stephanie is putting on the brooch for the first time in over fifteen years. The feeling of a big shift is still there but it’s attenuated now. Happy to be reunited with her mother’s brooch, she decides to see where her father got to and heads back downstairs. She heard some noises from the kitchen.
The gory scene in the kitchen hits her hard. She was only partially joking with her father earlier but now? No. He’s lost his mind. Stephanie grabs three dish towels and covers her father’s clearly self inflicted wounds. It’s only later, at the ER she learns from the attending surgeon that the cuts are all superficial but will lead to scars. Her father had carved two names in the fleshiest part of his left forearm.
“Stephen and Samantha? Ring any bells?” the doctor asked Stephanie hoping for some spark of recognition that will unlock the mystery.
“That’s weird… how did he … I didn’t, ever, … did I?” she trails off.
“What is it?” the doctor pushes just a little.
“Oh those are just two names I always thought I’d name my kids, if I ever had any,” Stephanie says.