The door-to-door salesman opened his case and pulled out what looked to be a pair of scissors with a cylinder attached.
“These are perfect for cutting hair. The blades never dull, and the tube vacuums up the hair as you cut.”
“I don’t cut my own hair.” I didn’t remember letting him in. He knocked, and the next thing I knew we were sitting on the couch as he tried to sell me useless gadgets.
“Well, then, how about this . . .”
“What’s that?” I pointed to a small, otherwise plain-looking box that had three buttons on it. It looked like a miniature traffic light as the red button lit up, followed by the green, and then the yellow, before returning to the red.
“Oh, you wouldn’t be interested in that. This, however . . .”
“But I am interested. What is it?”
The man sighed and pulled out the box. “This is a Time-Delay. Some want us to call it a ‘Start-Clock’, but that’s silly. It really is nothing more than a parlor trick. Someone of your standing . . .”
“What does it do?”
The energetic – and saccharine – charisma had drained from his voice. “It stops time.”
“You’re kidding. How could this stop time?”
“I’m just the salesman, not the inventor. But I assure you, it works.”
“Very well.” The man reached out and waited. When the red button lit up, he pressed it.
Nothing had changed, but he sat back as though the demonstration was over.
“When does time stop?”
“It already has. And started again.”
“I didn’t notice anything.” As I had suspected, this was all a joke.
“Of course you didn’t notice anything: time was stopped. Being in time, you were stopped as well.”
“That’s a convenient excuse.”
“Check your back pocket.”
I never put anything in my back pocket, so I was surprised when i discovered a driver’s license. It was the salesman’s.
“How . . . ?”
“While time was stopped, I placed it in your pocket.”
“Why weren’t you stopped?”
“Because I pressed the button.”
“Not really. It just . . .”
Eager to test it myself, I reached out and pressed the red button. The salesman seemed to freeze in place. Realizing the opportunity before me, I closed the salesman’s case and put both him and it outside. They were both light as a feather, a side effect of the time stopping, I guess. I locked the door and turned back to my prize.
Since I had seen his hand come back from pressing the red button, I reasoned that that was the trick to start time moving again. To test it, I took a pen and held it high. When I let go of it, it stayed where it was, suspended in mid-air. Upon pressing the red button again, the pen fell to the floor.
So if the red button caused time to stop and restart, what did the other two buttons do? The traffic light appearance might mean that the yellow button slowed time down, but that seemed redundant. Why slow time if you could stop it? But I couldn’t even guess what the green button did.
As I considered the possibilities, the salesman (or someone) began banging on the door. If I hadn’t stolen the box, I assume I could have asked what the other buttons did, but it was too late for that.
Instead, I took the risk and pressed the green button. My consciousness seemed to speed forward several days. Several people were in the room with me. They used some sort of device which caused me a great deal of pain before reducing me to ash. I felt every moment of it.
When I recovered enough to realize I was back in my present, I picked up the box, opened the door, and shoved it into the salesman’s hands. Then I started packing. I’m not sure what I saw, but I was going to get as far away from my house as possible.