When they visit their old high school, Alex and Roger meet Alex’s future daughter, Mackenzie. Keeping their real identities secret, they accompany Mackenzie to the graveyard to hang out with her friends. There they meet Sierra, Jasmine, Noah, and Mackenzie’s boyfriend Chase… who Alex immediately dislikes.
4:10 p.m. on October 14th, 2017. The graveyard.
Alex leans back against the tombstone, eyeing Chase and Mackenzie. Chase casually pulls Mackenzie close, and Alex feels heat rise up his neck. But Mackenzie nestles her head into the crook of Chase’s shoulder. What could she see in a jerk like that – someone who says letters instead of words, and stretches out his earlobes with giant rings, and makes fun of people’s perfectly acceptable mustaches that only look thin because they’re blonde? Then again, Jennifer likes Todd back in 2017, and Todd’s a total jerk. Maybe poor taste in men runs in the family.
Alex pops the top on his Mr. Pibb – and the soda foams up over the edge. He manages to dodge before it drips on his pants, but his fingers are soaked in sticky liquid. “Aw, bogus!”
Chase laughs. Alex shoots him a dirty look.
“Wait, I took some napkins from the mall,” Roger says. He digs in his A-Team backpack.
“Is that a magazine?” Sierra is pointing to the Playboy, which protrudes from the backpack.
“What? No!” Roger shoves the magazine down inside.
“Do they even still make magazines?” Chase asks. “Let’s see it.”
“No, it’s boring…” Roger finds the napkins, hands them to Alex.
“Come on, what are you hiding?” Chase grabs the backpack from Roger. Pulls out the magazine. “Playboy?!”
“I like the articles.” Roger’s face has turned a bright crimson.
“Obviously,” Chase says, flipping through it. “Who would pay money for some nude pics when you can get hardcore porn free online.”
There’s another reference to standing in line. Alex wonders if Chase is talking about the same line the dispensary clerk mentioned earlier. And where is this line where you can get addresses, phone numbers, and pornography?
“Hey, it’s the music issue,” Sierra says. “Let me see that.” Chase hands her the magazine. As Sierra flips through the Playboy, Chase slips his arm back around Mackenzie. Alex notices how Chase’s thumb “accidentally” brushes Mackenzie’s breast. An inexplicable fury fills Alex, and his vision momentarily tunnels. “So Mackenzie,” he says, a little too loudly.
“Yes?” Mackenzie straightens, subtly shrugging Chase’s hand away from her chestal area. That makes Alex happy, but she’s expecting him to ask her something. He takes a deep breath to calm himself. “You’re trying out for the school play?”
Mackenzie’s eyes light up. “Yeah, we’re doing Hamilton. It’s gonna be dope. Most of the girls are hoping for the Eliza part, but I really want to be Angelica because I want to sing ‘Satisfied.’ It’s my absolute favorite song.”
Chase scowls. “Baby, if you get cast, you’re going to be in rehearsals all the time. We’re never gonna see each other.”
“I’ll come over after every rehearsal. I promise.” Mackenzie squeezes Chase’s hand.
Chase shrugs her off and stands up. “Yeah but then you’re going to be too tired, or you’re going to have homework to do. It’s gonna be a huge buzzkill for our relationship.”
Mackenzie’s face falls. “You really don’t want me to be in the play?”
Alex feels the anger rising again. “Maybe you should just get her a leash while you’re at it.”
Chase turns slowly toward him. “Excuse me?”
“JK.” Two can play the JK game.
Chase glares at Alex, taps something into his phone. A moment later Sierra, Jasmine, and Noah laugh simultaneously.
Mackenzie looks at her phone and gasps. “Chase!”
“What was that?” Alex growls. “You just sent a message about me, didn’t you?”
Chase gives him a smug smile. “I thought you were too hipster to care about social media.” Chase digs in his backpack and pulls out a flask. He takes a swig.
Sierra’s eyes light up at the sight of the flask. She tosses the Playboy back to Roger, who quickly stuffs it in the backpack. Alex notices that Roger is still flushed, eyes fixed on the ground, despite the fact that nobody seems particularly shocked, interested, or disgusted by the magazine.
“Watcha got there, Chase?” Sierra says.
“Just a little rye. Figured it was time to start pregaming for the homecoming dance. Want some?” He holds out the flask.
“Let’s get the party started,” Sierra says, and takes a big swig.
Chase laughs. “The party never stops with you, S.”
Mackenzie pipes up. “How about bringing that party to your girlfriend?”
“Now you’re talking.” Chase sits back down beside Mackenzie and pours booze from the flask into her Coke can. It’s a long pour.
“Making that kind of strong, aren’t you?” Alex says.
Mackenzie laughs. “I’m not a lightweight.”
“Yeah, but people sometimes make bad decisions when they drink.”
Chase gives him a dirty look. “What are you, her father?”
“What? No, I’m sure I’m nothing like her father. I just mean... are you sharing that?”
“Okay, newbie.” Chase holds out the flask. Alex takes it, staring Chase down. Alex takes a swig—
And coughs and chokes as the booze sears his throat.
Chase laughs. “Looks like someone is a lightweight. JK.” Chase reaches for the flask.
Alex pulls it away. Defiantly chugs the entire contents of the flask, ignoring the esophageal pain.
When he finishes, he gives Chase a smug smile. “Now who’s the lightweight?”
* * *
4:15 p.m. on October 14th, 2017.
Alex is draped over a tombstone, dry heaving. The graveyard spins around him.
Sierra crouches down so her head is next to Alex’s. She extends her phone and snaps a picture with him.
Through his bleary vision, Alex can see Mackenzie, hands on her hips, glowering at Chase. “This is all your fault,” she says.
“WTF? I didn’t make him drink it,” Chase replies.
“Guys,” Jasmine says, “I gotta bounce. My mom always checks the tracker app on my phone after her four o’clock budget meeting.”
“I’ll pick you up for the dance at eight, Bae,” Noah says.
“Homecoming,” Jasmine sighs. “It kinda makes me sad. Next year you’re going to be at NYU and I’ll be at Oregon State.”
“We’ll Facetime every night,” Noah says.
“Good luck,” Sierra mutters.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jasmine asks.
“It means nobody ever stays together when they go to different colleges,” Sierra says. “No judgment on you guys, monogamy is just an outdated concept.”
“Maybe for cynics like you,” Mackenzie snaps.
“I’m not a cynic. I’m a feminist. I’m not going to let some patriarchal custom keep me from having fun when I want, with whoever I want.” Sierra puts her arms around Noah and Jasmine. “My advice to you: enjoy the dance and forget about the future.” She gives them a squeeze and then goes to collect her things.
“Don’t listen to her, Jazz,” Noah says, kissing Jasmine on the forehead.
As Noah and Jasmine head off, Sierra shows Alex her phone. The screen displays the image of her posing beside him as he retches. But in the picture they each have demon horns. “You got 325 likes already.” Sierra giggles, and sashays off toward the school.
Alex feels his head. “Do I have horns?”
Mackenzie turns to Roger. “I think you better get him home.”
“Uh, we don’t really live in the vicinity,” Roger says.
“What are you gonna do, then?”
“Probably just hang here.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Mackenzie says, eyeing Alex. “He’s pretty wasted. Maybe you guys should come back to my place until he sobers up.” Through the haze, it occurs to Alex that going to Mackenzie’s place would be going to his home.
“But Mackenzie,” Chase protests, “we were going to hang out before the dance. You know, just us.”
“I’m not leaving them like this. Get an Uber while I say bye to grandpa.”
Alex’s booze soaked brain takes a second to make the connection. If Mackenzie is his future daughter, her grandpa would be…
“You’re too nice, Mac,” Chase grumbles as he taps on his phone.
Alex watches Mackenzie walk to a grave marker a dozen yards away. Alex tumbles off his tombstone, crawls after Mackenzie, trying to ignore the way the ground keeps shifting and waving under him. He leans against a tombstone about six feet behind her.
Mackenzie stands over a granite cube with an angled surface, featuring a brass plaque that reads:
Alexander “Bud” MacDonald
1939 – 2016
Beloved Husband and Father
Alex’s stomach knots, and this time it’s not the booze. His father is young, healthy. How can he be dead?
Mackenzie kisses her fingertips, then bends down to brush them against the plaque. “Bye, Grandpa. I miss you.” Alex rolls behind the tombstone he’s leaning against as she turns. Mackenzie doesn’t notice him as she passes by, heading to rejoin Chase.
Alex tries to push himself up into a squat, but ends up falling back against the tombstone, scraping his back. Roger approaches, offering a hand. “You okay, buddy?”
Alex points back over his shoulder, whispers, “That’s my father. My father’s dead.”
Roger nods. “Yeah. Sorry. 2016, though. At least you know it doesn’t happen for a long time.”
The thought is not as comforting to Alex as it should be. Thirty years seemed like forever yesterday, but now it seems like no time at all.
“Alex, Roger!” Mackenzie gestures from the road, where one of the sleek future cars has pulled up. Roger helps Alex to his feet, and they trudge over to the car, Alex’s head spinning, not entirely from the alcohol.
Alex and Roger slide into the back seat beside Mackenzie. Chase has taken the passenger seat. Distorted, rhythmic music pounds over the car stereo, and into Alex’s pounding head. Alex looks at the driver, a chipper young man in his twenties. Alex leans into Mackenzie and whispers, “Do you know this man?”
Mackenzie recoils a little at Alex’s breath. “No, he’s an Uber driver.”
Alex eyes the twenty-something. “I don’t care how good a driver he is, it’s dangerous to get in a car with a stranger.”
“He’s got a 4.9 rating. See?” She holds out her phone.
Alex stares at the screen, trying to interpret the image. His vision is doubling in a disturbing fashion. “Maybe we should just call a cab?”
Apparently Alex wasn't talking as quietly as he thought, because the driver cranes his head around and says with a grin, “Taxis are old economy, bro. The sharing economy is the future. You get a cheap ride, I get dough to help pay for my car. It’s called collaborative consumption.”
“You earn good money this way?” Roger asks.
“Oh yeah,” the driver says. “Sometimes I can make $15 an hour.”
“Whoa. That is pretty good.”
Chase looks back at Mackenzie with a confused expression. Mackenzie just shrugs.
The driver pulls the car away from the curb. “It’ll keep me going until my start-up takes off. I’m designing an app that lets people trade the clothes they don’t want anymore.”
Alex tries to puzzle out the future slang. “So like a thrift store?”
The driver laughs. “No bro, it’s new economy. I’m matching haves with needs.”
“So more like a garage sale.”
“No! Why you throwing shade, bro?”
The driver seems to be getting upset, though Alex can’t figure out why. Mackenzie leans forward to try to diffuse the situation. “Don’t mind him. He’s a little inebriated.”
“Well he better not puke back there,” the driver grumbles. “This is my mom’s car.”
* * *
Alex is just starting to doze off when a female voice with a British accent says. “Turn left in a quarter mile.” Alex looks around for the speaker.
“Turn left.” Alex realizes the voice is coming from the driver’s phone, which is mounted in a plastic holder on the dash.
Roger whispers in Alex’s ear. “His phone is giving him directions. Those things are totally awesome!”
But Alex is starting to think the future is pretty bogus. Nobody talks to each other, they have heinous pizza and the arcade is gone.
“You’re destination is on the right,” the phone voice says.
Alex looks out the window. They are in a neighborhood filled with gigantic houses with small lawns. The car pulls into the driveway of one of the more elaborate houses.
Alex looks at Mackenzie. “You live here?”
“Home sweet home.”
The kids get out of the car. Alex stares at the two-story house with its three-car garage. It’s twice the size of the house he currently lives in, though the front and side yards are smaller.
Roger elbows Alex again. “Dude, you’re gonna be rich!”
Mackenzie looks back from the porch. “Are you guys coming?”
Alex staggers up the walk to find out what his house is going to be like in thirty years.
Go to Chapter 10