Bob the same backwards and forwards existed. In every universe in an upholstered mustard colored armchair watching the Eagles who were no goddamn good and why did they ever let that guy Michael Vick be their quarterback? In the Farrago quadrant, 34th century, he was known as the constant and studied in advanced quantum mechanics classes, but was unknown to lesser beings in our 21st.
Always with a mug in his hand. Not beer unfortunately since AA and diabetes. Sometimes coffee. Sometimes just an empty mug when Wife didn’t fill it or he was too exhausted to do it himself. There was always a rotary meeting to go to or the dog—sometimes a one-eyed black schnauzer or a Jack Russell—or a son or daughter or his own mortality to worry about in the back of his mind buzzing, yet still he watched.
In many universes, this octogenarian activity was ignored. But there were others where he was venerated if not worshipped.
Once, when there were giant dozer-mouthed robots with laser beam eyes that had destroyed every house in the neighborhood but his, a man with just enough stubble to be a rebel but not enough to be ethnic pounded on Bob’s back door until Bob opened it.
“What? I told you people—NO SOLICITORS” Bob said, pointing at the sign.
Sighing, Bob let him in: “Hurry up. There’s a game on and I—”
“How is there a game on?!”
“It’s a repeat, but there’s a great play coming up—The Immaculate Reception—if I could just get through this darn reverse mortgage ad!”
“Why are you screaming at me?”
“Sorry, I thought that was how you talked.”
“It’s not. I’m hurt. Oh.”
‘Here!” Bob gave him some paper towels, a glass of water, and two—make it three—baby aspirin, which he’d forgotten again to take for his heart. “Oh darn, Bob said, it’s coming. You wanna watch?”
The man eased his broken body into the couch, dripping blood all over the Home Sweet Home pillow Wife had crocheted. Bob handed him an open can of Planter’s Peanuts.
“Bob, we really—”
They were silent for a while until the man’s eyes widened: “I have to admit that’s a great play.”
Bob wiped the sweat from his brow. “The greatest. Too bad it’s the Steeler’s.”
“Bob, join us. We really—”
“I told you, ‘No Solicitors.’”
The door slammed.
After the robots won, they kept Bob alive in that universe, respecting the mechanics of rituals.
Another time, dolphins swam outside his window and he had gills. His hands had evolved to flippers with opposable thumbs underneath a web of skin that were just strong and flexible enough to press the “Vol” and “Ch” buttons on his remote. He still had his mug, although it was almost always full. It was keeping it dry and the saltwater out that was tricky.
Wife swam around and burbled at him, “Get off the couch, Bob.” So, he moved to his chair. But then there were guests, like octopi, and they needed arms on their seats to prop up their mugs, or, sometimes when a game was on, they wanted to drape on a rock they’d dragged in the front door which Wife thought was rude.
Once, there was a hard, humped shell on Bob’s back, which, he would admit in our universe, was a carapace. His house was on a giant altar in a giant temple. A whole other caste species had evolved, been bread actually, to change the stations for him, and every channel just had football, different games of course, and the Eagles still sucked. Life was good for some time, although there was, admittedly, no calendar until one day a man—it was a man—with a big pointy hat barreled into the temple with a staff, smote Bob’s clicker caste bug with it, ruining the reception, grabbed Bob by his humped shell, carried him to a volcano top, raised Bob over his head as Bob’s little legs squirmed, and the man said, “Do you know what this means?” to his thousands of male followers, “The same backwards and forwards!” Then he muttered something about the alpha and omega and hurled Bob into the ceaselessly flowing lava, right before they were going to replay the Immaculate Reception. Rude. Bob’s miniature armchair disintegrated beneath his eight squiggly legs.
In another, a man in a white lab coat and headphones, like coach Lombardi, came into his living room and removed Bob’s big toe, narrating into a Dictaphone as he did so about subject this and subject that but quietly so as not to interrupt the game. Bob had agreed to this surprisingly painless amputation as they—an anonymous government they, which had eagles and crossed swords on its logo—had offered him commercial-free cable, but he still found the narration intrusive, the labcoat-y man whispering Subject doesn’t flinch for biopsy, etc.
His living room was in a big white warehouse of scientific curiosities, but because it was a warehouse, he didn’t know exactly what was outside. He missed windows, odd as the TV had always been the most appealing one. Even though in other universes he never really looked through them, he’d felt their presence. Much like his children whom he didn’t engage much with but liked having around or knowing at least in the back of his mind they were somewhere out in the world.
Occasionally, he’d get up for snacks. Wife was still in the government they’s replica of the kitchen where she’d died. They’d preserved her under glass for further study in her final pose, reaching for the Nespresso button to fill his mug. A ham, swiss and mayo sandwich half mayoed was on the counter beside the fridge with the knife erect in the open mayonnaise jar. Amazing how they’d managed to keep everything in place, although the mayo had discolored from its preternatural white to grey and the ham dried, barely perceptible to anyone but Bob, the wilting meat like the flowers of his youth.
Today, the labcoat-y man was excited, and brought other labcoat-y men and one woman, which was weird, and they laughed and said “Eureka!”
Bob later saw on the news during the halftime a picture of the warehouse and some cells under a microscope. They were static and crystalline and the newscaster showed a tank and body armor and bullets with the caption Bob-ocite, and said, “This could win the war.”
That night, he went upstairs to the warehouse’s replica of his bedroom and dreamed of pieces of himself raining on foreign lands and blowing everyone to smithereens.
He felt a strange queasiness in his belly and went downstairs for a glass of milk. Wife was gleaming in the dark where they’d preserved her under glass like Snow White. Only she was on her knees, one hand clutching her chest, and the other reaching skyward. He felt a twinge. She’d grown distant recently and he’d wondered why. In his head she was always Wife, but when the kids were here, Mother, confusing in the years they’d come. But they’d stopped after she’d died which, if he was being honest, was a relief. The distance between him and her was in their absence. And now winced, head bowed as she reached for the cup like his vassal. The room felt both tiny and immense simultaneously. This kitchen, this cloistered space with the sink before the embroidered white-curtains, the perpetual thrum of the fridge, the oven off, unused, was a chasm filled with the life they’d lived.
Yet it wasn’t too. Those days not here. Not now. And the scientists waiting in the living room to collect more of his skin knew better than he did about time.
In about one tenth of the universes which was still infinity, Wife left him with a My name’s Mary. You prick! In another tenth, she was a he and they watched the game together. And in a few infinities she was another Bob, the last protozoic survivors of a climactic or/and nuclear apocalypse, asexually reproduced via cloning by utopian/dystopian, depending on your POV, computers, except she/he/Bob was a Raiders fan and it was exhausting fighting over the microscopic remote when replays of both teams were on simultaneously—something anerobic organisms were incapable of realizing the computers who bread them were doing for their amusement.
Sometimes, they kissed, sometimes more. It wasn’t quite masturbation, but strange, like touching two grains of sand, only there was no beach for them to live on.
Image – Pixabay.com
11 thoughts on “The Eternal Bob by Lewis Braham”
“My name’s Mary, you prick!” is one of the funniest lines I have read in a long time. I’m going to take a shot at spelling “Trafamadaiian” in concept. The all time, all possibilities at once Universe(s) has seldom been presented with such elan.
*Looked it up. It’s “Tralfamadorian”–not the mess I wrote above.
God knows why I enjoyed reading about Bob but I did.
In fact I loved this!!
It’s weird and some of the imagery was unbelievably interesting. I liked how the football was the constant.
This is probably a damn sight more clever than I’ll ever understand but there was a lot in this I liked even if I didn’t understand.
Excellent my fine friend.
Definitely Ellisonian but wonderful in its own right! Funny and weird – one of the best combos.
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Weird, funny, imaginative and —according the multiverse believers , who say everything that can be, is — absolutely true. Nice work n
Much thanks to everyone who commented. I’m so glad you liked the story. It’s a different style from others I’ve written.
I’m glad someone is filling in for Douglas Adams. “Alter” temporarily derailed my trainwreck of thought.
thanks for that – corrected now
I don’t know if this could be called a love story, but the wife was always there, even when preserved under glass. And no Universe where Bob was alone, always something happening…wizards, wounded people’s scientists… I like the sense of eternal busyness….according to the Bhagavad-Gita he’s never gonna find Nirvana this way.
Thanks, Harrison. It’s funny but structurally I think it is an odd kind of love story, or at least the relationship holds the story together as much as football and the many worlds concept. It is in the background in the beginning and the foreground by the end. That shift is important to me.
I’m not sure what the hell I just read, but I seriously enjoyed it! It’s part Hitchhiker’s Guide / part Slaughterhouse 5 / part Possibility of an Island.