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Timewave: Wanna read the rest? (Become A Beta Reader!)

April 5, 2022

This is the opening scene from a shortstory I’m working on for a writing contest. Give it a read. If you are interested in reading the rest of it, send me an email or reach out to me on social media, or leave a comment. I’m looking for Beta Readers.

Raucous laughter rolled throughout the lecture hall. Gabe felt his stomach tighten and his sweaty palms made it difficult to hold his redundant red pen. He was here to present a radical, some would say laughable, theory.

But, the laughter wasn’t any more palatable for Gabe having expected it. Despite the audience being filled with PhDs, he half expected them to start throwing things across the lecture hall. The Convention Center had a strict no food or drinks in the auditorium policy. So at least the threat of being pelted with rotten vegetables was off the table.

At twenty-nine years old, Dr. Gabriel Vernon was one of the youngest attendees at the prestigious anthropology conference on origins of Early Man. He was by far the youngest presenter. And he was one of the few black men at the conference.

His innocuously titled “Novel Approach To Early Tool Development

Among pre-Filipino Negritos People” would have normally attracted only a handful of older academics. But, somehow a copy of his unpublished paper had been leaked and as a result the auditorium was packed. And rather than a few nodding sycophants he was faced with a rowdy crowd of doubters.

“Dr. Vernon,” a voice called from the third row. Questions were supposed to be at the end, but Gabe was pretty sure he wasn’t going to get to his numerous slides with their carefully researched data trends. “Are you saying that it was little green men who taught the Negrito people to make fishhooks?” More laughter filled the hall.

“No, there is zero evidence that early man was visited by extra-terrestrials. The records in Egypt and Mesoamerica clearly show. . .” he got no further before being interrupted by the same questioner. “So, what was it then?”

The auditorium fell silent. The laughter evaporated as Gabe felt the weight of five hundred pairs of eyes on him. He paused to take a deep breath. “My research indicates it was,” Gabe unsuccessfully willed himself to silence, “a traveler – a time traveler.”

The room again erupted into laughter. Several shouted questions were lost in the resulting din. “Thank you for your attention,” Gabe mumbled as he surrendered and quickly retreated to the safety of the prep room behind the stage. He immediately collapsed in a chair his head buried in his hands. It could not have gone worse.

“Dr. Vernon?” With a start Gabe jerked his head up. He hadn’t heard the door open. His questioner was a typical conference attendee. He had the undecipherable look typical of middle-aged black men. He could have been anywhere from thirty to sixty years old. He wore the classic corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches. He had the ubiquitous lanyard and conference badge dangling from around his neck.

“Can I help you?” Gabe’s tone indicated that the subtext was “go way before I do you bodily harm.” The stranger seemed oblivious to the electrified third rail he was about to touch.

“I wonder if I might ask you a few questions about your research?”

“You guys are too much. You didn’t get enough laughs out there? You gotta chase after me and keep it up?” Gabe rarely let his temper get away from him, but he could feel the anger rising. The stranger, finally cluing into Gabe’s state, said, “No, you don’t understand.”

“I understand just fine. I’m young, but I’m not stupid. Now if you’ll excuse me, the question period is over!”

Grabbing his messenger bag, Gabe exited through the second door out into the hallway leaving the stranger in confused silence.

Gabe decided he’d had enough of the conference. He really should stay. Perhaps if he met individually with some of the other researchers that had been friends with his doctoral advisor, Dr. Hetzel.

Gabe slammed open the crash bar as he headed for the parking lot. The asphalt was already heating up in the Colorado summer sun. Approaching a discarded Pepsi can he lined up and remembering to keep his knee over his ankle launched it across the parking lot barely missing a silver grey Mercedes. He’d played forward through high school. Simpler times.

Originally, he had planned to attend the conference together with his mentor. Dr. Hetzel, a well-respected and longtime researcher, had promised to introduce him to sympathetic researchers. They knew it would be a controversial presentation. But, with Dr. Hetzel’s guidance he had believed he could get enough reviewers to give it a fair hearing.

All that had changed four months ago when Dr. Hetzel had passed away from pneumonia brought on by cancer treatments. Gabe had believed he could still make it work. The benefit of being young and naïve.

Gabe dumped his bag into the backseat of his 1966 Mustang fastback. The car had been a graduation present. Bits of rust around the wheel wells attested to the severity of the Colorado winters. As he pulled out of the parking lot to start the hundred-mile drive back to Colorado Springs, his thoughts turned to his former friend and mentor and how disappointed he would feel.

As the cobalt blue Mustang exited the parking lot, Gabe failed to notice a black man in a corduroy jacket standing just outside the convention center doors watching him leave. . .


Feel free to reach out if you’d like to be a beta reader.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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