Mr. F. Back had always taken a quiet pride in his profession. For a quarter of a century he, like his father and grandfather before him, had worked silently in the shadows of some of the nation’s most wealthy, anticipating their every need. Where most employees seek their employer’s approval or, at the very least acknowledgement, F. Back measured “a job well done” by his clientele’s complete obliviousness that he even existed. They were never bothered to wonder where the specially-ordered pellet ice had come from for their Coca Cola or who was responsible for making sure all the broken cashews were carefully removed from the bowls of mixed nuts at their favorite pub. It just was.
Never a day off, there was no such thing as a ‘sick day’ or ‘vacation day’ for F. Back, and he liked it that way. In Back’s line of work there were several days that were of particular importance, and depending on the clientelle, those days varied with one exception- The end of Daylight Savings time. A day that was a mild inconvenience for most; the end of Daylight Savings time was like the Super Bowl of Back’s profession. Flying through the client’s homes, places of business or anywhere the time was kept, F. Back would personally see to it that the setting on every electronic device, watch, clock, oven, microwave etc. was turned back an hour- it was like Back’s very own Christmas. Weeks of planning, of mapping out routes and of reading manuals went into the execution of setting the correct time on the hundreds of time pieces owned by the elite and F. Back was the best of the best.
Until one fateful year- when history was definitively changed forever, at least for one man. On that brisk November day, things started normal enough. F. Back rose at his usual 4:30am and, with the self-contained giddiness of a teenager on Christmas morning, went about his routine of preparing to turn his client’s clocks back an hour- an event that was only hours away. Of course, Back had already begun to turn some of the lesser-used timepieces back and as the day progressed he worked his way down his meticulously planned schedule.
And then, the unthinkable happened- F. Back, the picture of professionalism, the man who had never been sick a day in his life, was struck by a wicked case of what he believed to be food poisoning. Checking his schedule Back saw that if he hurried, he could check himself into the hospital for a quick IV, and make it back in time to meet his next benchmark, setting the client’s collection of watches back. Arriving at the hospital Back was whisked to a curtained room and before he could protest was hooked up to some sort of pain killer and scheduled for an ultrasound.
Waking up in a panic, Back looked around the dark room, desperately searching for something- but what, he couldn’t be sure. A searing pain in his abdomen sent him plummeting back into his starched pillow, “what in God’s name has happened to me?” he moaned. Alerted by the patient’s increased heart rate, a nurse came rushing into Back’s room. Checking his medication levels, the nurse increased one of the dosages and, without so much as a word, made to leave the room. “Excuse me, nurse? Could you tell me what is wrong with me, please?” Back called after her feebly.
Turning with a surprised look on her face, as if she were shocked to realize the patient was capable of speech, the nurse took a few steps closer to Back’s bed and, picking up his chart. After a few seconds she looked up and said, “Well, Mr. Back, it looks as if you were somehow exposed to some sort of toxin. Yes, ok, I see here.. a very dangerous level of the toxin, Orellanine was detected in your system. You were rushed to the OR and underwent emergency surgery to remove one of your kidneys. Orellanine, that’s strange, have you been foraging for your own mushrooms, Mr. Back? No? Hmmm, well anyhow, it looks like the surgeons were able to save the other kidney, and you should be out of here in a few days,” the nurse said without conviction.
That’s when it hit him, and in renewed panic, Back screamed, “Nurse, what time is it?!?”
Unconcerned by her patient’s sudden histrionics the nurse looked at her watch and replied, “Well, it’s about ten after three in the morning, or I guess since the time changed, it’s actually ten after two in the morning. Goodnight Mr. Back”.
He had missed it. He had failed his employer, his family, himself.
“Oh, and I almost forgot, you have a delivery,” the nurse said before exiting the room. Reappearing several minutes later with a large bouquet of carnations- a flower he absolutely detested, the nurse cooed over the flowers saying, “Aren’t they lovely, and look, there’s a note. Shall I read it to you?”. Snatching the note from the chubby fingers of his nurse, Back asked for some privacy and upon seeing the door close, began to read the note:
“Hi ya Fall!” (The use of his first name whittled down the possible senders to a handful of people, but Back read on…)
“So sorry to hear about your FALLING ill, might I suggest cutting BACK on the mushrooms in the future, they just don’t seem to agree with you, old chap. Don’t take it too personally, Fall, you can’t always be perfect and I was just dying (you’ll excuse the pun) to see how you would handle a black mark on that sterling record.
Crumpling the note in his fist, Back didn’t know what was worse, the pain from ingesting poisonous mushrooms (snuck into his daily wonton soup he suspected) or the humiliation of allowing that pipsqueak to one up him. Spring Forward had been the bane of his existence for as long as he could remember, much as her mother had tormented his father and her grandmother practically ruined his grandfather. Whereas F. Back was charged with setting the clocks back every November, Spring moved them forward each March. Back never understood the Forwards’ obsession with tormenting his family, the Back men had chosen to ignore their actions, discounting them as pranks undeserving of attention. The ‘pranks’ however, had grown more and more dangerous, and now as Back thought about his missing kidney, he knew it was time for retaliation.
“Just you wait, Miss Forward. I have months to plan until March… this has just begun,” Fall muttered to himself as revenge swelled in his heart and his mind churned with the possibilities for retaliation.
TO BE CONTINUED…?
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Today was the first day after the clocks rolled back and just like it has in the past, the entire day has felt… weird. Not only that, I swear the number of objects with the time multiplies overnight so that I spend my entire day trying to sync up everything with the exact time (picture me standing in front of microwave and oven, staring at my cell phone, fingers at the ready waiting until the minute changes so I can hit enter… multiply that a few times). I found myself wishing there was someone who could just come in and change all my clocks for me. Someone who could expertly sync up everything so that the oven doesn’t read 11:23 while the microwave reads 11:22 (Crap, I still didn’t get it right!). Then I wondered if the uber-rich might actually have someone that does this sort of thing for them. That thought morphed into a kind of super butler character who has an arch-nemesis that messes with him simply because she is Spring Forward and he is Fall Back. Now if only I could put this imagination to work on something that might actually make me a little moolah… oh well.
Love & Squirrels.