Posts Tagged Frank

[partim] The day I first travelled in time.

November 6, 2000

I woke in the dark to banging on my door.  I rolled over to look at the clock:  4:30 AM.  Must be Ralph, then. All the sane people are still in bed. I got up to open the door, still mostly asleep—fur ruffed, eyes half shut, wearing nothing but an old pair of blue-and-white-striped boxers.

“Beautiful tiger,” Ralph said, “Time to face destiny.”

“Ralph, I’m sleeping,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah, you can keep sleeping, sweetheart.  Don’t worry about it.  Just sleep.  Would you like to go for a piggyback ride?”

I’m half sure I had fallen asleep on my feet and was dreaming at that point, because there’s no way that should have worked, but I found myself climbing on Ralph’s back and being carried through the dorm out to Ralph’s truck, still in just my boxers and sporting a serious case of bed fur.

He heaved me into the bed of the truck and I fell asleep immediately, into a dream replaying the events of Saturday evening.

“That’s actually a pretty dangerous one,” Steve said.  “I’d wait till we figure out what specifically it is you can do before you try anything.  I can run a few more tests, but it’ll take a couple of days.”

He took a couple more measurements­­—photos of my face and feet—and all the while Ralph was unable to sit still, talking excitedly about time travel, freezing time, and all the other possibilities Steve said might fall under the heading of ‘temporal manipulation’.

“There’s no use in speculating, buddy,” I said.  “We’ll know by—”

“By Monday,” Steve said.

“That’s the best part, though,” Ralph said.  “We might not even have to wait till then.  You could come back from the future and tell us!”

While I was trying to come up with a reason why that would be a bad idea, he went on: “Of course, Steve, you’ll still have to do the tests—the information will have to come from somewhere…”

“Just—hold on, hold on…” I said.  “Can I just say, I’m totally not comfortable with this?  I don’t want… doppelgängers popping in with oracular proclamations from the future!”

“Then let me do it,” Ralph said.  “I can switch places with you and—ho, crap, I can do what you can do!”  He hugged me so tight I was sure I heard bones crack.  “My chrono tigger!”

I tried to peel my crazed boar off me.  “We’ll wait for the tests,” I said, dragging him away.

I was just about to relive the more intimate portion of that night when Ralph shook me awake.  “We’re here.”

I recognized the place, or at least the area—a couple miles down Apison Pike.  Steve’s house was small and run-down, dingy white paint cracked and peeling, and no lights on.

“Are you sure he’s up already?” I said.  The sky was still dark; it was still a couple hours before sunrise.

“Yeah—yeah, I got his email.”

“Email?  Ralph, you don’t have a computer.”

“Dorm does.  Couldn’t sleep, so I’ve been checking the lobby computers every fifteen minutes or so.  I don’t know how he thinks he can live without a phone, but he does.”

Ralph didn’t knock; he just opened the door and went in.  He led me down to the basement, a windowless room whose entry was dimly lit by a small lamp covered in seashells. The walls were plywood and the carpet was a garish orange-brown.  The most distinctive feature of the room, though, was the one blacklighted wall entirely covered in electronics.

About half a dozen monitors of various sizes were laid out on a workbench; a couple were partially dismantled, three were running Matrix screensavers, and Steve was sitting at the last.

“Hey guys—you’re gonna love this.  Sit down.”

There were no other chairs in the place, so we sat on the floor.

“There’s good news, there’s bad news, and there’s good news.  The good news is, your skill is pretty much undifferentiated over the potential spectrum.  You have the capacity to do pretty much everything, temporally, that you can imagine.”  Beside me, Ralph was squealing with anticipation.  “The bad news is, to balance that, the strength of the effect is very weak—your natural range could be measured in picoseconds.  The other good news, though, is that I’ve been working on augmenting abilities with computers.”

“Isn’t that impossible?  I mean, you can’t just feed the energy into the machine…” I said.

“Lots of things are impossible… but heck, you saw me do it the other day—with the scanner?”


“Charging a computer that way is—was—my brother’s knack.”  He pointed to a battered-looking Commodore 64 sitting on the counter.  “That’s the one he set up for me back then—it’s kind of old-school, but it still works just fine, and I can connect it to one of these babies if I really need heavy calculating.”

Ralph started snoring beside me.

“Wow,” Steve said. “60 to 0 in…”

I shushed him.  “He was up all night,” I whispered.  “Mind if I sleep too?  I’m not supposed to be up this early, and… who knows when I’ll get another chance, eh?”

“Go ahead,” he said.

I held Ralph and dozed off, wondering why being up all night never stopped him before.  I looked through my memory of Ralph’s mind, and realized he probably hadn’t slept since Saturday.

When I woke up, Steve was hooking a laptop up to the C64.  “I want to try and set this up so you can take it with you.  It’s no good if you can only work from this basement, or someplace with Internet access…”

“Instead, I’ll be working on about 45 minutes of battery power?”  I said.  “Wait—‘work’?”

“Well, even if you don’t go into the heroics business, you’ll still want to practice.”

“I’m not going into the heroics business.”

“Suit yourself.”  He fiddled with one of the wires between the computers.  “Damn… the connection’s not going to take.  I unplug this, and the power that works with it now—stops working.”

Ralph came up behind me, resting his chin on my shoulder.  “What’s going on?” he said.

“He’s trying to give me a computer with the same power as his,” I said.  “Isn’t working.”

He stepped around me and looked the setup over.  “You can get them working together, though?”

Steve nodded and hooked the cable back up.  Ralph stared at the command prompt that appeared, its cursor blinking slowly.

“How’s it work?”

“Just type in what you want to do.  It’s basically just extending your mind, so it can understand natural language—and it’ll let you know if you ask it to do anything it can’t.”

I’d never actually seen Ralph at a computer before.  He typed with one finger, hunting out each key, till at last he managed to produce: “BOOST MY POWER.”

The computer responded: “OK.”

Ralph stood up and laid a hand on each computer.

“They’re not minds, exactly…” he said, “But they’ve got magic, which makes them more than just things.  With this boost I should be able to pull this off.”

“What’s he doing?” Steve asked me.

“Well it’s his knack to switch minds.  That’s actually how we sort of ended up as…such…close friends.”

A progress bar appeared on the new computer:  “Transferring…”  After about a minute, whatever was being copied was done, and Ralph sat down hard in Steve’s chair.  “All right, unplug it, see if it works.”

Steve separated the computers and asked the new one:  “All ok?”

“Functional,” it answered.

“All right, tiger,” Ralph said, “Let’s get out and have us some fun!”

We’d slept enough that by now it was already after noon, so we stopped at Taco Bell for lunch.  We sat down with a couple of trays piled high with burritos at a booth in the back.  Ralph pulled out the laptop with one hand while the other started stuffing his face.

“So excited,” he said, mouth full.  “What do you want to try first?”

“Ralph,” I said, “You’re pushing me.”


“I’m not ready for this.  I know it’s something you’ve been looking forward to your whole life, but… I haven’t—I haven’t been dreaming about this like you have… I was used to being mundane.”

“But you’re not mundane, tiger,” he said.  “You have this totally amazing ability!”

“No,” I said.  “You heard what he said.  I can move picoseconds.  That’s, like, infinitesimal.  I mean, I don’t even know how small it is.  I don’t have an ability. What I have is a machine.  Let me get used to the idea?”

Ralph looked disappointed.  “Tiger…. Where’s your imagination?  Why don’t you have any dreams?”

I didn’t have an answer, and I didn’t want to keep fighting.  Neither of us said anything for the remainder of the meal.

After lunch, Ralph took me back to his place.

We sat on the couch.

I wanted him to say something.

“I love you,” he said.  “I’m sorry.”

I leaned against him, and he put an arm around me.  I felt tears at my eyes, but I didn’t want to let myself cry over this…

“I don’t understand you, though,” he said. “I wish I did.”

And that just confused me.  “You don’t remember anything about me from the day you were me?”


The day Ralph and I changed places.

June 8, 2000 — The day Ralph and I changed places
“I stood in the rain on White Oak Hill. In the heat I was
getting soaked, clothes and fur, but I didn’t move…”

Finished the first part of Ralph’s story and posted it to the library and FA.

The day Ralph and I switched places.

Previous | First(ish)
Almost done with this story’s first draft, then I’ll get the full first draft posted. Also, I’ve decided I’ll be calling Ralph and Shine’s world Turia.

We worked out for a good half hour, till I was good and sweaty, even with the big fan going full blast.

I felt better. Endorphins’ll do that, Ralph thought.

And that’s why you’re always on the weights, eh?

He didn’t have to answer.

I got up, wiped down the equipment and took a good long shower in the guest bathroom, thinking of Ralph while the sweat rinsed from my fur.

1st draft [partim] – The day Ralph and I switched places.


Ralph didn’t intervene as I tried to recover. I was glad of it, too—I was embarrassed enough I needed to be alone. By the time I’d calmed down, wiped my face, and felt I could face the world again—or at least try—dinner had already ended.

Fair enough; maybe I could face the world, but I didn’t really feel like facing campus again today.

I missed Ralph. Stupid evening shifts.

I headed back to his place, and I was so distracted by my own thoughts about my future that I didn’t notice Ralph had taken over my body again till we were walking through the front door. He went to his weight room, sat me down on a bench, and we started pumping iron.

1st draft [partim] – The day Ralph and I switched places.

The previous section of this draft was posted a month ago.    This outcome is something I had not at all expected would happen, but it seems inevitable, really.   I know it ends pretty weak here; in draft it’ll be smoothed to segue better into whatever ends up happening next.

“You’re in my chemistry class, aren’t you?” he said, to the burly human in line in front of me.

Ralph’s smiles were infectious, even with my face cracking them. At least, they felt that way from the inside. The guy was not won over. “Yeah… so what?”

By the look he gave me, you’d think I was some new species of pond scum—uninteresting and distasteful.

“I just thought that—”

“I’m not interested in speaking to you,” the guy said, and turned back to face the front of the line.

Ralph turned to face the mouse girl in line behind him. “What was that about,” he said.

“Everyone knows you’re gay,” she said. “You do realize that limits your social circle, right?”

I didn’t know what people thought about me, so of course Ralph couldn’t have.

I’d like to say Ralph handled it gracefully, made a joke, and shrugged it off, but he didn’t get the chance—I took over, fled the cafeteria, and hid under some stairs in the music building, crying, for a good long time.

1st draft [partim] – The day Ralph and I switched places.

I’ve already got the beginning and the ending of this story written out; this week, like the past few times I’ve been working on it, I’ve been writing to link the beginning and the ending together.  Since this is a bit out of context, I should explain that Ralph’s mind is in Frank here; Ralph is mostly in charge of the body but Frank’s mind is still present, chiefly as an observer by this time of the day.

Usually I got my sleeping done while Ralph was at work. For the moment, though, I’d had enough sleep. You bet you have, Ralph said, and took over. “Time to be a better tiger.”

He put on my shoes and got in my car, heading for campus.

I wasn’t really sure what he had in mind, but I felt him running through my memories on the way back.

You don’t know how good you have it, he thought.


Heck, you even get free food out here…

It’s not free.

Well, it gets billed to your parents and they don’t complain. They won’t begrudge you your brain food! My dad won’t even buy me a hamburger.

He got in line at the cafeteria.

Now me, I don’t really know anybody at school. I keep to myself when I’m not with Ralph.

Ralph obviously wasn’t having any of that.

The day of the naked hike.

October 1st

Sleepy. Was up all night studying.

Well, I say studying. It’s hard to focus on stuff when Ralph‘s around. He knows it, too.

Right. Sleepy. Was up all night; spent five minutes studying and the rest of the night doing things with three hundred pounds of pig meat it’s not even proper to hint at in polite company.

So much better to just be honest, right?

Still, sleepy. It’s ten a.m. and Ralph’s supposed to take me hiking today.

He’s got the energy of his weight in plutonium. He’s banging around in his room as he packs. I think I’ll nap a bit.

I woke up wrapped in a blanket, riding in the back of Ralph’s pickup.

Also, naked.

I banged on the back window and opened it up.

“Hey, I’m driving here!” he said.

“Ralph, where’s my clothes?”

“Clothes? Where we’re going, we don’t need… clothes.”

“What, but—”

“Hold on.” He pulled over by an overpass and let me get in the cab with him. I tried to keep the blanket around me; Ralph was driving in the buff, as naturally as if he had been born that way.

“Dangit, Ralph, you can’t just pull this kind of thing on me without telling me.”

“What, and ruin the surprise? Besides, I didn’t think of it till I had loaded you in the truck.”

“You’re a psychopath,” I said.

He laughed and grabbed a corner of my blanket, pulled it all off at once, and flung it out the window.

We drove way out into the mountains before stopping again. I still wasn’t too keen on what I’d been roped into, but at least it was a beautiful day; clear skies through the trees, and warm enough that Ralph didn’t seem uncomfortable.

Of course, by the mad grin on his face I’m sure he would’ve been up for this mid-winter.


The trail head was obscure and not marked by much other than a gravel-covered space for parking, which Ralph’s truck pretty much obliterated.
He grabbed his backpack from the truck bed and put it on, yelling at me to get out of the car.

I crossed my arms and held my ground. He came around to my door and pulled it open.

“Come on, buddy.”

“Ralph,” I said, “You know I usually don’t mind this stuff you come up with, but… this is way too public, hey?”

He laughed at me, and pointed at the trail. “This is a forest,” he said, then pointed to the road. “Now this, this here is public.”

A car drove by, and he waved at it cheerfully. It honked back.

“Now come on, buddy,” he said, pulling me out. Let’s see how good this famous tiger camouflage hides you.”

And really, I couldn’t do anything else but follow him.

About an hour up the trail I was sweating heavy and begging to stop.

Ralph and I sat on a rock by the trail, and he passed me a bottle of water from his pack.

“Do we ever stop going uphill?” I said.

“Not till we get to the end, buddy,” he said. “This is Green Frog Mountain we’re going up.”

“Mountain?” I said, raising my arm to my forehead and falling on my back in a mock faint. “Ra-alph…”

He lay down next to me, his body so warm against mine. The strong smell of sweaty pig made my stomach rumble. I shut my eyes. The wind was rustling through the trees, and it felt nice and cool. It also brought another sound that ruined my restful moment: other hikers.

I jumped behind the rock, hiding myself from the trail. Ralph didn’t seem to have heard them. “Dude,” I said, “People are coming!”

He sat up slowly and stretched, and I saw a pair of hikers coming around a bend in the trail.

Ralph just lay on his back as the hikers approached, laughing to himself—about me, I was sure.

They didn’t stop to look at him as they passed, but he rolled over to face them and gave them his manliest oink. When they had passed out of sight, he rolled back over to the edge of the rock and looked down at me.

“I love you,” he said.

I kissed him.

“Come on,” he said, patting my belly and getting up. “We’re about halfway there, and I want to get up to the top with time before sunset.”

At the top of the mountain there was a level place, with sycamore all along one side and a view of the Cawhee valley on the other, where the sun was going down.

I sat by Ralph and he leaned in with an arm around me, watching the bland yellow sunset.

“Well, tiger,” he said, “What do you think?”

I thought about it.

“I could have stayed home… I miss my comfort zone…”

He bit my ear. “You’re so tame,” he said. “More like a housecat than a tiger.”


“No,” he said. “I’m serious. What do you think I brought you out here for? A second-rate sunset and an infestation of fleas? I wanted to explore life, and I wanted you with me.”

“But I didn’t want…”

I didn’t finish the sentence. Ralph was getting to his feet. He moved like he was angry but he seemed to be trying to keep it down.

“I know,” he said, a bit sadly. “Let’s go home, tiger. I’m tired.”

The hike down was silent. I was afraid I’d crossed a line with him; his footsteps were heavy and he never took his eyes off the path.

I tried to remember what it was like to be him, for some clue on what to do, as the sky darkened with oncoming night and storm.

When I found the answer I almost didn’t understand it. It was a very clear signal from that overflowing memory box in my head that was everything I knew about Ralph, but it was one of those fundamental things that makes one person different from another. Well, it was two things.

First was that, because he loved me, he saw our differences as a problem in himself. The reasoning, as far as I could tell, was that if he loved me, he’d change to match me. But he both loved me and didn’t want to be like me.

The second was that he was lonely with me. The same part of him that let him open up to me, that let him act, around me, as though no one was watching—that same part of him failed to register me as someone providing companionship.

The rest of the way down, I thought about how to make things better.

“Ralph,” I said, as we arrived at his truck. “I wanna make it up to you. Tomorrow.”

“Hmm?” he said, frowning, as he started up the truck. Rain was beginning to fall, and it passed, over the space of a few seconds, from a sprinkle to a downpour the windshield wipers couldn’t keep back.

“Tomorrow,” I said. “Another adventure. But on my terms. How’s a burger-eating contest at K.R.’s sound?”

He laughed, and then kissed me. “You’re on,” he said.

Even with the rain, we rolled the windows down; the heat was stifling and the AC broken. I stuck my dusty feet out the window and let the storm wash them, and I slept that way, leaning against my Ralph, the whole way home.