Grady O’Toole was a born loser. On the up side of sixty, he lived in a seedy neighborhood above a Vietnamese grocery store. His one room flat was as hopeless as he was.
Unable to sleep because of the heat, Grady rose at first light, padded to the open window and stared down on his personal hell. He wiped his brow, scratched his belly, and sucked down the dregs of a longneck left from the night before. Hung over, he was thinking of ice cubes and aspirin when there was a loud knock at the door.
Grady groaned. “Who in the . . .”
“Hold your horses, I’m comin’.” He pulled on a pair of soiled pants and crossed to the door.
Grady twisted the key in the lock and cracked the door.
“Ah, good morning, Mister O’Toole.” A tall man smiled and slid a shiny business card through the opening. “ My name is Benjamin, may I come in?”
“Please, I have something to show you, it won’t take long.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll have to show you,” Benjamin said.
Curious, Grady pulled the door open. “Okay, you gotta minute.”
“Over here,” Grady pointed towards the open window, “catch the breeze.” He dragged a chair across the room. “Sit,” he ordered Benjamin.
Grady leaned against the wall, crossed his arms. “ Show me. Make it quick.”
Benjamin opened his briefcase and removed a laptop and a DVD. He held it up so Grady could see it. “It’s a DVD. Do you agree, Mister O’Toole?”
“Yeah,” he said, “so what?”
“On this DVD is your life in living color. I have been directed by my client to show you one minute of your past, anywhere you choose. Think about it, Sir. Where would you like to spend the next minute?”
Grady jerked a cigarette from a crumpled pack, lit it, inhaled, exhaled, stalling. “Is this some kinda sick joke?”
“No sir,” Benjamin said, “ it’s no joke. Give it a try. What have you got to lose? Now, where would you like to go?”
Grady pushed away from the wall. He cracked his knuckles, opened his mouth, “Uh . . .” closed it. Opened it again, “Okay, okay let me think about it.”
Benjamin smiled. “Take your time.”
Finally, “Lets go to the summer of 1957.”
“A special time Mister O’Toole?”
“Want to tell me about it?”
“I was ten,” Grady began, “my dad took me swimming for the first time. He bet me a burger and coke I couldn’t do a back flip off the high dive. He didn’t even know if I could swim.”
Grady stared at the ceiling, remembering, gathering words.
“He was always tryin’ to make me look bad.”
“I tell you, I was scared. He kept yellin’, ‘come on chicken, come on chicken!’ over and over, laughin’at me.”
Grady stubbed out his cigarette, lit another.
“A perfect flip, that’s what it was. I’ll never forget the look on his face. Man, you should have seen it. I think he was disappointed I didn’t belly flop.”
Grady felt good.
“He’s been dead a long time.” He shook his head. “ No matter, that’s what I want to see, that sorry look on his face.”
Benjamin turned on the computer and inserted the DVD. His finger touched rewind.
“So be it, Mister O’Toole.”
The machine whirred and stopped. “Is this the right place?” he asked.
Grady looked at the screen. Bile rose in his throat. Excited he said, “Yeah, it’s the right one.”
“I’ll press play now and for the next sixty seconds you will relive that minute. Are you ready?”
The figures came alive and began to move. He saw himself wave a skinny arm at his taunting dad. He walked to the end of the diving board, bounced, and jumped. He flew through the air in a perfect back flip. Down he went in slow motion.
Grady watched, waiting for that golden moment.
“Five, four . . .” Benjamin counted the last seconds. “Two . . .”
At one second, a manicured finger touched pause. The machine ground to a stop. Grady’s perfect flip was frozen one inch above the water, forever. He was cruelly robbed by Benjamin of that happy moment, seeing once again his father’s silly face.
“Hey! What’s goin’ on?” Grady blurted.
Without a word, Benjamin switched off the machine and stowed it in his briefcase. He walked to the door, turned and spoke to the shocked Grady, “Your father sends you a message . . . ‘once a loser, always a loser’.”
BIO: Ron is a native Texan. He spent time in the Navy in the early 50's. He is married, a college graduate and a retired air traffic controller. Soon after retirement he began to write mainly as a hobby. He has completed several college level creative writing courses and is active in two fiction writers groups. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Ron has been published by LITBITS.CA, ESC! magazine and Powder Burn Flash. He also received an honorable mention in flash fiction from Byline magazine.