there’s no time like the present you know?” Lorna Trabish leaned on her desk
for emphasis and opened the brochure. A full figured woman in her early
sixties, Lorna looked the part of the eager to please travel agent. “We have
tours to fit every budget and every activity level." She eyed
the heavyset couple sitting across from her and gave them a dazzling capped
“You could visit the pyramids. We’re having a big promotion right now—two for
the price of one. A tremendous savings. It’s filling up fast. You get to be a
part of a slave gang and actually help build the pyramids. Just think of the
stories you can tell your friends. It’s very exciting. We have a wonderful
guide who will be your overseer. You get to live with a slave family and...”
“I don’t think that’s for us,” interjected Myrna Crump who had been leafing
through the brochure during Lorna’s breathless pitch. “Lester doesn’t like the
“Perhaps something a bit more luxurious,” suggested Lester Crump who was trying
to picture Myrna pulling a twenty ton block of sandstone across the desert in
her high heels.
“I have just the thing,” chirped the irrepressible agent. “Have you been to Rome? I’m talking about
It’s part of our two week Classics Tour package. A week in Ancient Greece and a
week in Rome.
You get to hear some of the ancient world’s great orators—Seneca, Plato, Marcus
Arelius. A day at the coliseum and a big Roman feast on the last night.”
“Mmm, I don’t know,” said Myrna. “Togas make me look fat.”
“And I heard about that Roman feast from our neighbor,” said Lester in his most
confidential tone. “He said it turned into an orgy.” He gave Lorna a lascivious
“Well,” said an embarrassed Lorna, “I hope that wasn’t one of our tours.”
“I think it was Tick Tock Travel.”
“Well, that’s a relief. They’re a low budget outfit and, like so much in life,
you get what you pay for.” Lorna was relieved and recovered her poise. "I
can assure you our feast is with a better class of people.”
The Crumps exchanged looks and silently congratulated themselves for choosing
Temporal Tours even though it cost a good deal more.
“Are you interested in something of a religious nature?” asked Lorna hopefully.
“We have a few openings left for the crucifixion.”
“We’re Jewish,” said Myrna.
“Oh. Well then how about joining the Israelites on their wandering in the
”What’s with you and deserts?” asked
Lester. “We told you I can’t take the sun. I burn very easily then I peel.”
“It almost ruined our last vacation,” added Myrna. “We were watching the Aztec
coronation in Palenque.
We were standing in the crowd and Lester forgot his hat and all that sun. It
was just too much. We had to leave and missed the whole human sacrifice and the
“Maybe something a little more northerly, then,” said Lorna, mentally
scrambling for a cooler scenario. “I have just the thing,” she pointed to a
page in the brochure. “The Camelot package. It’s perfect. Fourth century England,
nice and cool. Lovely costumes. Atrocious table manners but that’s all over the
ancient world. Let’s see, there are jousting tournaments, and combat for the
men and wandering minstrels and a dance around the maypole for the women. Now
doesn’t that sound exciting?”
The Crumps looked at each other and 32 years of knowing flashed between them in
a glance. “Sounds good,” said Myrna, “tell us more.”
“Well, you arrive at the end of April for the wedding and participate in the
festivities. You’ll be in period costumes, of course. We have an excellent
guide who will explain the quaint customs. There’ll be lots of celebrating,
music and dancing in the streets. It’s very exciting. You’ll be staying in a
five star Inn that we’ve completely renovated
to the highest local standards which will give you a first hand taste of life
at that time— generally filthy, superstitious and brutal. I know you’ll love
“Will we get to see King Arthur?” asked Lester who considered himself pretty
knowledgeable on that time in history having once read an excerpt from the Song
of Roland in seventh grade.
“We can’t guarantee you’ll get closer than 500 feet, but you’ll definitely get
to see the royal couple at the wedding.”
“What about crowds?” asked Myrna, “I get claustrophobic in crowds.”
“Well, it is a popular destination. I dare say that half the people there will
be time tourists like yourselves. There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s the
peak season and the past is public property.”
“I wouldn’t mind something a little less public. I’ve heard about private
tours,” said Myrna. “Surely Temporal Travel offers private packages.”
“Oh we do. Of course we do,” Lorna was happy to pitch private tours. They cost
a fortune and the commissions were, how would you put it, huge. “They’re our
Lorna reached into her desk and pulled
out another brochure. It was bound in leather and was made to impress. “I have
to warn you that our private tours set the standard in the time travel
industry. No one does it better. Here, let me show you.”
After another grueling hour of suggesting and rejecting, the Crumps were ready
to sign. With Lorna’s help, they had settled on a private tour to 18th century France. They
would have a room at Versailles
and an audience with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Their personal guide would
be a well regarded professor of the period who would make the whole experience
even more real than it already was. The only problem was the timing. By their
nature, private tours were not shared with the time traveling public; only
certain dates in the past were available and most of them were already booked.
“We have an opening in July 1793. My book says it’s cutting things a little
close with the political ferment and all, but it’s the only date still open.
Besides, a little local politics might not be a bad thing. The French
revolution was such an exciting time after all and I’m sure Professor Nichols
will keep you safe. We’ve never lost a customer yet, you know.” Here Lorna gave
a little giggle, “and we don’t intend to start now. If worse comes to worse
your guide will have the latest in emergency extraction technology.”
Lorna flashed her white capped smile and segued away from the unpleasant
subject of personal danger, launching into a detailed recital of the beautiful
clothing worn at court, the delights of French cuisine and the splendors of Versailles. By the time
she was through, the Crumps were hooked and ready to leave right then and
“Of course you can leave at your convenience. Professor Nichols is available,
let me see, pretty much for the rest of the month. So should I call him and
Myrna and Lester exchanged looks. Lorna held her breath. “Okay, sure, let’s
book it,” said Myrna.
“You only live once,” added Lester.
“Great,” Lorna exhaled and beamed.
The Crumps and Professor Nichols materialized in a Paris park. Myrna was dressed in the latest
fashion. Her mousy brown hair piled under an enormous silver wig, her dowdy
figure concealed beneath a magnificent silk dress embroidered with pearls— she
looked like a countess from a remote province visiting the city for the first
time. The men also wore wigs and with their powdered faces looked like
caricatures of themselves.
“Well, here we are,” said their guide. “I suggest we stroll around a bit while
I point out some of the sights.”
“I’d like to see the EiffelTower,” said Myrna.
“I’m afraid that’s two hundred years in the future,” said the amused Nichols.
“I can try to get us in but it doesn’t open to the public for a couple of
“Well, what else is there?” Lester wanted to know.
Nichols was looking around. They were the only fashionable people in sight and
the local peasants were eyeing them with scorn. One fat peasant was hurrying
toward them yelling “Allez!”
“I have a better idea,” said their guide, “perhaps we can take a cab around the
city and I’ll point out some interesting sights.”
Professor Nichols hurried his charges to the nearest exit, flagged down a cab
and instructed the driver to drive around the city. The driver balked until
Nichols gave him some additional coins. They all piled into the cab and, with a
snap of the reigns, their tour of the city began. Behind them an overweight
peasant halted panting in the road having failed to stop them.
“What were you arguing about?” asked Lester.
“With the driver? He said there were demonstrations all over the city. He
demanded extra money to take us. It’s an old trick to take advantage of
gullible out of towners. Don’t give it a second thought.”
The Crumps relaxed and Professor Nichols pointed
out the historic buildings and the famous streets of the city. The Crumps were
interested at first but their appetite for architecture soon faded and they
began to grow restless. Sensing he was losing his audience, Professor Nichols
suggested they stop at a sidewalk cafe and have a bite to eat. He dismissed the
cab and found them a table on a busy boulevard.
Lunch was disturbed by a mob of several hundred peasants carrying banners
proclaiming Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The boisterous mob surrounded the
hapless Crumps. When Nichols attempted to explain that they were just visiting
and had no political preferences, the peasants shouted them down and held them
until members of the Paris Militia came and dragged the three away. They were
accused of being anti-revolutionary. When it was revealed that the Crumps were
foreigners, their fate was sealed. The militia escorted them to the hotel
d’ville where a paranoid member of the Jacobin Committee of Public Safety
charged them with crimes against the revolution, being monarchist sympathizers
and spies for the English. It all happened so fast the Crumps thought it was
just another exciting part of the tour. The crestfallen and worried look on
Professor Nichols’ face quickly dispelled that notion.
Nichols, lamenting the confiscation of his emergency retrieval device by the
militia, was quite beside himself. The prison guards ignored his demands for
the device’s return, considering it further proof of his monarchist sympathies.
All he could say to the bewildered Crumps was, ”Be brave, my friends.” Then he
put his head in his hands and wept.
An hour later, the militia dragged all three to the guillotine where they were
quickly and painlessly dispatched. It was a lot more local color than they
When the Crumps and Professor Nichols failed to return, Lorna Trabish and the
folks at Temporal Travel were forced to investigate. Theodore Wienstock, the
agency’s portly owner, went back in time to look for them. He suspected that
his clients may have been caught up in France’s revolutionary fervor. And
so, dressed as a French peasant, he materialized in the same Paris park at roughly the same time as the
Crumps. After a quick look around, he spotted them across the lawn. They were
the only beautifully dressed people in sight. They were too far away to call so
he hurried in their direction. He saw them turn toward the exit so he picked up
He ended up running and shouting in French for them to stop. “Allez, Allez,” he
called but he watched them board a fancy cab and disappear down the street. He
tried to run after them but was soon out of breath and forced to stop. When he
tried to flag down a passing cab, the driver refused to stop. The next time Mr.
Wienstock saw them, their heads were on display in the public square with a
sign declaring them enemies of the revolution. There was nothing he could do
but return to his own time and begin filling out the paperwork.
2011-07-06 07:16:46 Another good yarn, Mr. Tobias. You should , if you have not, read "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis, just for the fun of it. Being a novel it has the scope to develop the theme more completely than a short story can. Nonetheless, the concept of the novel is very similar in having multiple travelers at the same event, as well as travelers visitng the same event multiple times. What is most intriguing in these two narratives is the concept that try as one might, time travelers become part of the milieu, and though they may think they are only observing, or may think they are actually changing the past (Think "Back to the Future", they inextricably become part of the event itself. It's all happened, they were a part of it, and nothing changes but awareness. As an aside, It seemed to me that the Crumps and their guide, and the travel agency in general, met their fate. It seems capricious in theory, but heads on pikes seem fairly fated to me...HH
2011-07-01 10:53:47 Great final twist.
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