Chapter 8 – The Pierogi Principle

As it turned out, the Amtrak time machine turned out to be a literal time machine, returning as it did, Randy to July 4th, 1976—the 200th anniversary of this nation's birth. Besides not being able to instantly post selfies in front of Markley's doughnut machine, Randy found little inconvenience in the erasure of 40 years of runaway technology (though didn't cherish the thought of becoming, all over again, proficient with the Liquid Paper). After he briefly considered buying some Google stock or something, Randy decided he wouldn't push his luck, and he'd just go downtown early to Markley's and watch the automatic doughnut machine drop the rings of batter into the hot oil, and after they cooked on one side, flip them over, until they'd finally slide down a chute, piping hot and ready to eat. He did eat a few, too—since he wasn't yet gluten-intolerant—as he sat at the counter and drank coffee.

Some older men were sitting at the counter discussing the Presidential race now going on, and how there were no suitable candidates. “Maybe Gerald Ford if he had Chevy Chase play him,” laughed one man. “Ronald Reagan,” another guy shook his head. “He's not even a good actor.” “I'd put my money on Jimmy Carter,” Randy piped up, and the men looked at him and laughed. “That redneck peanut farmer? That'll be the day.” “No really,” Randy insisted. The men looked at him curiously, then, possibly perceiving that there was something to his confidence. Also, he was checking his phone to see if he got service, but of course he didn't.

“Seem pretty sure of yourself,” one of the old guys finally squinted over at him. “That's because I just came in on a time machine—from 2017,” Randy said, matter-of-factly, and they all laughed. “I'll give you guys a hot tip. Once Jimmy Carter is President, his brother Billy is going to have his own brand of beer, called Billy Beer.” The guys all roared with laugher, thoroughly enjoying Randy's yarn. “Yeah. It won't be too popular, though, so they'll discontinue it pretty fast. So what you've got to do then is save a few full six-packs, because in few years, people will pay $1000 for one.” “Yeah?” said one of the guys, now figuring it wouldn't hurt to make a two dollar investment, should this ever come to light. “$1000, huh? So what's a six-pack of this Billy Beer get you in the time... when's you say?” “2017.” “Right. So what's a six-pack of Billy Beer go for in 2017?” “About two dollars, on eBay,” sighed Randy. “So make sure you sell while it's hot.” They all laughed.

“So, Mr. 2017,” said another of the guys, now figuring Randy was probably crazy, but at least harmless and entertaining. “Who's President in 2017. Musta been a woman got in there by now.” “Well, no, actually,” said Randy. He thought about how Trump might seem all too plausible, but how any mention of Barack Obama would just confuse the guys. “Not Reagan, I hope,” said one of the guys. “Them nut-jobs in California will elect anyone, but not the rest of the country.” “I know,” continued Randy. “In California they might even elect an Austrian bodybuilder.” The men gave him sideways looks, and then the one guy finally demanded, “So. Who's it gonna be? President in 2017?”

Randy thought for moment, then smiled. “Well, I am, actually.” The men all laughed and shook his hand, saying glad to meet you Mr. President, before getting on with their respective days. Randy got another cup of coffee and another doughnut and thought about it. Knowing what he did now, would he have a chance? He didn't think he'd have a prayer of chance. He didn't think he'd be able to get elected class president, in his high school, even with 40 years of life experience among those 16 year olds.

“What I might do,” thought Randy, then, “is get back on the train but go east, head over to New York City—maybe have a very spooky lunch at Windows on the World. Maybe buy a closet somewhere for a thousand dollars, that'll be worth a million when I return.” But maybe I should do something that would be good for the World, and not just me, he thought. Like maybe I should hunt down that Mark David Chapman. But that's what people always think about doing, with time machines—they figure they'll go kill a very young Hitler—but in doing that, they change the course of time so much that they themselves never even got born, and so then, poof—back to square one.

Randy thought about all this as he sat at the counter of the Veselka, before it had been remodeled, and ate pierogis, since he was not yet gluten-intolerant. This was always the dead-end with time travel, he thought, as he stared down at a glistening pierogi, speared on the end of his fork. It's what is called “The Pierogi Principle.” He just made that up, but it sounded good. Maybe he'd try to get that into a textbook, with the proper footnote, before he headed back to Milwaukee. Which is what he must do, he knew then. Reverse the time travel. Because otherwise, he was at the end of this movie, a man sitting in a diner, having just turned back the hands of time, done his good deed for humanity, and now sitting there staring down at his half-eaten pierogi, and poof. End credits.