Caris's Reviews > Timequake

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
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Sep 16, 11

bookshelves: 2011, sci-fi
Read from September 12 to 15, 2011

Listen: At 2:27 pm, on February 13, 2001, a timequake occurred. It set the universe back ten years. As such, the unfortunate occupants of Earth were forced to repeat a decade of their lives starting in 1991. Think of it as a prolonged and constant state of déjà vu. They knew what was going to happen, knew what the impact was going to be, and were powerless to do anything about it. Time, after all, is time. There’s no monkeying around with it.

The timequake was very unfortunate for me, now that I look back on it. In February 1991, I was six years old. I was in first grade. In first grade, I was in Mrs. Oatman’s class. That was the first time I was expected to change classes for different subjects. I didn’t know what to do. It was very frustrating the second time around.

Just get out of your motherfucking chair! 2001 Me cried. You just stand up and walk to the classroom next door. It’s for your Language class! Just follow the kid next to you!

My stupid first grade self just didn’t get it. My stupid 2001 self had a better idea, but it turns out he didn’t know any better, either: Mrs. Oatman didn’t seem to give a shit one way or the other which classroom I was in; she had to teach a roomful of dumbass first graders regardless.

Let’s move way the hell on to 1995. My goddamn hillbilly family decides they’re going on a fishing trip. I detest fishing, so, once we find ourselves at the chosen location, I politely excuse myself for some much-deserved alone time. I set off to explore the blasting site.

What? you ask. Blasting site?

Why, yes. My hillbilly family’s preferred fishing hole was a DO NOT ENTER BLASTING AREA. It was an ugly, boulder-strewn place on the side of a small dam. The small pools of water that collected on the DO NOT ENTER BLASTING AREA side of the dam (which did something, I presume) apparently were the perfect environment for some type of small catfish that constantly eluded my hillbilly family. To answer your question, no. I did not get blown the hell up.

I was minding my own business climbing some boulders. I came to a place where the boulders pressed right up against the dam. I stood there, perched on the edge. There was a four-foot gap between one boulder and the next, with nothing but slick, algae-covered cement in between. As ten-year-old me carefully reached his foot out and tried to find purchase on the algae covered wall, my 2001 self cried, Don’t do that, you stupid little shit! It is slippery! You are going to SLIP! Oh, fuck me.

Being that time is the way it is and that my fate was way the hell gone anyhow, my ten-year-old self, for the second time in his life, slipped off of that boulder.

Don’t worry. He didn’t fall and die. At first it was frightening. He managed to hold on to the edge of the boulder with the tips of his fingers as the rest of him dangled there. After a few seconds, he realized he wouldn’t be able to pull himself back up, so he just let go (there’s that apathy for you). Luckily for him, the dam curved and acted like a big, nasty waterslide. There was even a moment where that dumb little fucker thought about how enjoyable the ride was. But that was before the dam ran out. There was a six-foot drop into some muddy shit, and that was where the dumb little fuck went.

Splat! said the mud. Squish!

Crack! said the beer bottle. Slash! Cut!

Oh, shit, both versions of me thought in unison.

That little shit stood up, clutching his mangled, bloody hand and stared down at the offending bottle. Budweiser. He looked at his hand. All bleeding and fucked up. Once he made it back to “camp,” he was covered in blood (I’m actually going to start saying “I” again now that the traumatic bit is over). My mother wrapped a t-shirt around it and everyone grumbled about having to go home. But why did we go home? It’s not as if my parents took me to the doctor! It’s not as if they helped me clean my wound!

It was hard for me to live that event over again, hard to watch myself do the thing that would render my left hand not quite as functional as it may have otherwise been. It still hurts sometimes. There’s a lot of scar tissue. I have trouble making a fist or spreading all of my fingers apart. But that’s ’95 for you. What’re you going to do?

And there was that bully in 1997. He spit on me on the bus and called me a faggot as he rode his bike past my house. 2001 Me said, Kick him in the balls!. Thirteen-year-old me just got spat on and got called “Faggot!”.

All of this anecdotal bullshit is just a way for me to illustrate why I think Kilgore Trout’s explanation was not quite right. I agree that apathy was the likely cause of death for all those people once 2001 rolled around for the second time. I just don’t think it had anything to do with a lack of free will. I think all of those people were so baffled and ashamed by their six-, ten-, and thirteen-year-old selves that they wanted to die out of sheer embarrassment.

So it goes.
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Carol Best review for Timequake that I have come across.


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