Stephen Hendry’s Time Machine

Stephen Hendry has won a record seven world snooker titles. He lives in Scotland with his wife and children and is 42 years old. He is determined to become ‘Hendry the eighth’.

He practises on his own for six hours a day in a specially built snooker room with bare walls and no TV or stereo or anything like that (but he has never noticed this). His face is determined as he pulls off his specialty shot from top side of the blue to split the pack open. His wife pokes her head in and informs him that tea will be ready in five minutes so he should go and wash his hands, she tells him. Stephen nods imperceptibly yet his strangely smiling expression and peculiar stance do not change, his eyes go from red to cue ball to pocket in sequence and then the red is slammed home, the cue ball bouncing off two cushions landing nicely on the black with an angle to go up for more reds. He will leave the game there (in his mind he is beating Ronnie again) and as he puts his latest cue on the baize he remembers his time machine side project which is in the garage with a sheet covering it. He goes and washes his hands thoroughly and sits down for ham and eggs thinking of the thing. His wife talks quickly and non stop all meal time and all this makes Stephen happy. And the kids are at scout camp making bows and arrows. After tea the two of them go for a walk down the field to the river and watch the cloudy sky turn darker. su says

“Oh when will you become Hendry the eighth. Is seven world titles not enough? The new breed nowadays, I don’t know with Jud Trump and Mark Allen…”

“Yes dear. I know when I’m hitting the balls right I am a match for any one of them.” They return to the house.

After this Stephen gets in his car and drives to the health club now again with his head full of the chaos over his cue action, he turns the radio off. On the way there he stops in at JJB sports and buys a pack of black Patrick sports socks for £3.99 and puts them in his sports bag. When he gets to the Scots Oats Sports Club he has a shower and a sauna and does two miles swimming at a fair pace. The pool had been empty except for him, and only the very fat man was around with his flask of cocoa as always. They had nodded to each other as Hendry picked up his towel and went through the glass doors leading back to the changing rooms. In the changing rooms Hendry gets out the new pack of socks that he had bought, as his old ones which were already bobbly and had holes in somehow even though he was sure he had only recently bought them. The new pack seems fresh and promised long use and that ‘new’ feeling for an unspecified time. But when he pulls the first one onto his foot his finger goes straight through it leaving a big hole in the heel.

“Fuckssake. Can’t even get a decent pair of socks these days. I remember my Dad had a pair that lasted him forty year until his death,” he tells the empty changing room. His Dad had seen his son become a pro in the mid 1980’s and Stephen was glad to have won his first world title with him in the Crucible audience (possibly wearing those socks) – a great day for Scotland.

Back home he greets his wife who is watching a film with ice cream. She had asked if he had seen her swimming partner Ada at the club but he had answered in the negative.

In the garage Hendry looks about. The wall is satisfyingly stocked full of tools and the floor is swept. His project is in the middle of the room – he removes the big white sheet covering it and folds it up looking all over the contraption. It is basically the cockpit of an American Navy helicopter with big coils from a dismantled electricity pylon bolted and welded expertly to the sides. But the internal components are vastly complex and had taken many days of work and trial and error and inspiration to make the place not explode and the circuits look to him as if they might work. But of course the thing had thus far stayed right where it was in the present day. But that would change one day soon, he told himself, as next week the final piece would be his; one of the only Japanian Crystals from the Wutai semi-savages from the mountains of Japan. They just so happened to be big Stephen Hendry fans and watched all his matches in one of their rich descendants palaces. They had sent an email that the crystal was in the post and he thought of it now hidden in a big storage crate sailing across the Indian Ocean on its way to Scotland. The crystal was a one time only use item made synthetically by the Wutai people in ways only known to them. They would use it for casting out demons but Hendry, who had done months of research into mountain rock types around the world and their interactions with certain blood groups (a vague search he knew it) had come to the amazing realisation that this faction of his fan club might be able to help him! And so he had travelled there to ask them this favour – that was nine years ago; the crystal took all that time to create. One time use only he pondered for the thousandth time. He could go back to any location on Earth at any point in history, travelling back to the present day sixty minutes (only) later with no other alterations to the Time continuum than those he engineered, if his calculations were correct. Maybe he could make it in time to the hospital to see his second son born where he had previously missed it. Or he could play the shot on the black in the 1998 masters final against Mark Williams that he had missed handing the title to his friend. Or he could find the baggage handlers that had broken his cue a few years back (the one he had won all the titles with) and prevent this from happening…

The following Thursday the package arrived in the post and Stephen’s wife signed for it knowing its importance. She took it to him where he was in his practice room.

“It’s here Stephen!” she cried

“Thank the heavens,” he replied emphatically as like his many victories over Jimmy White in various important matches. His wife left him alone and said she was going for a game of cards with the girls and wanted to hear all about his time travelling when she got home.

He went into the dark garage and turned on the powerful overhead lights which gave a satisfying industrial sound as they lit up. He went over to his time machine which was uncovered. He sat in the cockpit and opened the package carefully discarding the brown packaging that had many strange stamps on it he noticed. The crystal was within, wrapped up in cotton wool. It had taken fifteen years searching but now it was here. He sent thoughts of thanks to the heavens. He swivelled around and inserted the blue shape into the copper holder which had awaited it for so long. The machine gave a beep and a light which had always been red became green for the first time. Hendry felt overcome with emotion. The only things left to do before pulling the lever (that was made from an old butchers bacon grinder), were to strap himself in, which he did, and then set the digital clock… The moment was here – the moment to choose which part of history to go back to. Maybe go and see the dinosaurs? Maybe go back and see who shot JFK? But he keeps thinking back to that missed black. Surely it had to be that? – he wouldn’t miss it a second time. But how would he get his former self to take a toilet break mid frame? Maybe he could confront him in the mid session interval if there was time? Or he could go and see the Beatles in concert in the early 1960’s. He sits still for several minutes looking around and frowning in concentration eventually looking down at his feet. Then his frown deepens and he slowly reaches out and sets the clock for 8th of November 1976, to arrive in his present location, and pulls the lever.

There is a flash and some crackling. But no floating down a wavy cylinder shouting WOOOAAAHHHH (although he had kind of hoped there would be) and no clocks flying around his head with cuckoos – he is simply one moment in his garage the next exposed to the elements on what is surely the plot of land where his house will be built; he recognises the hills and some trees. He gets out, stepping down carefully in case the floor is insubstantial. The machine is smoking and hissing and on the dashboard the clock has a countdown running to when he will have to be back and strapped in – it now reads 59:20. He has less than an hour…

He runs down the hill towards town. Seeing the rooftops he thinks that at least there is civilisation in this time that he now finds himself in, but is it really 1976? He rushes to the news stand and is amazed to see it how he remembers them to appear with yellow metal work and painted letters, he feels very exited and feels that when he checks the date on the paper it will confirm his machine not only works but works perfectly. He half forgets where the date should be for an adrenaline filled moment but then he traces his shaking finger to the top of the page finding it and it does indeed say 8 Nov 1976. He is very happy.

He looks at his watch as he tries to remember the exact direction he should head in from where he had ended up. “Should have thought all this through more carefully.” he mumbles. But then he knows and sets off at a quick walk.

The shop bell tinkled and a dusty, homely smell greets him – the sign above the door had read ‘All Scots Sock Shop’

“Can I help you today sir?” says the man who is stood behind the wooden counter and whose family own the shop.

“Yes certainly. These blue and green stripped socks in the window, I would like seven pairs please. Will that be a problem?”

“No problem sir,” he goes out back through a dark door and comes back again with a bag which he hands over to Stephen. Stephen hands the shop keeper some coins; the man looks dubious for a second but says nothing. The transaction completed, Hendry steps back outside and looks at his watch – he now has only fifteen minutes to get back to the time machine. He set off running with his bag of socks under one arm.

THE END

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