(To find out how Dennis got here, read 'Mulligan' below)
It’s 4:00 am and I’m sitting in bed. Lucas is snoring like a pig and Emily is curled up sucking her thumb. I’m back in Mrs. Landry’s group home where I grew up. At this age I called her Momma. I’m three years old.
Well, my body is three years old. I was told the time thingy would send me back a couple of hours, not thirty years! I have a Ph.D., dammit! I have a wife, though at this point she hasn’t even been born yet, and a one-year old son of my own.
The house groans and I pull a blanket over my head. That groan terrified me until I was seven and stopped believing in monsters under the bed. This time the fear stops now. I push the covers away and climb down to the floor.
I try to walk over to Lucas; I manage an advanced toddle. In about six months he’s going to grow bigger than me, and then he’ll be an obnoxious bully until he runs away at fifteen. I resist the urge to punch him in the stomach and turn instead to Emily.
Even at this age Emily is pretty; there’s no signs of the girl cooties that scared me away. I remember our first real kiss, eight years from now, and watching her turn from kid to girl to woman. I vow to be nicer to her, though I know I won’t. Well, maybe a little.
I lightly stroke her brown curls and she stirs. Green eyes flick open and stare into mine.
“Go to your own bed, Dennis. I’m asleep.”
“You’re pretty, Emily.”
Her eyes widen. “Really?” She leans toward me, puckering.
My every urge said let her kiss me: every urge except the ones controlling my body. I jumped back and started toddling as fast as I could. She chased after me shouting “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” Pretty soon I was half-screaming, half-laughing as we ran up and down the hall playing tag.
Emily had me cornered against the child gate at the top of the stairs when Momma’s door opened and a monster stood there. It had a green housecoat that matched the gooey paste covering its face. It looked up and down the hall and spotted us. We stared in mute horror.
“What has got into you two this morning?” It was Momma’s voice. Rational thinking took over and I remembered facial creams and other strange beauty secrets. She approached and knelt down. “It’s too early to be running around like that. Back to bed for the two of you.” The finger pointing at our doorway silenced any argument.
We got in our beds and she tucked us both in, then gave us each a kiss on the forehead.
“Now if you’re nice and quiet, we can watch the Challenger launch on TV later this morning. There’s going to be a teacher with them!”
As she pulled the door shut I reflected on how much life was ahead of me, for good and ill.