My Sliding Doors Story

First things first… Sliding Doors was a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow where we see her character along two different timelines. One where she catches a subway train and one where she does not. And then the movie shows us how different that one moment has made her lives from each other.

It is very much a Butterfly Effect style of movie where changing the one incident causes more and more ripples until things are not anything like what they “should have been”.

Slidingdoors

The thing is, you never know if something is going to be that defining moment of your life. No one knows when it is coming, what it is going to look like… heck, it could be a very minor thing like missing a train or it could be a major thing like getting arrested by the police…

***

Anywhere the foliage above didn’t completely cover the area, the sun found its way and broke through in a patchwork of light. I crept along, trying to keep the amount of noise I made a small as possible. Not an easy task when every step you take is through broken tree leaves and limbs. Not the best thing when it is Autumn and everything takes on that extra bit of crunchiness.

About ten feet to my right I see one of the others, the barrel of his gun protruding slowly from where he was hiding behind his tree for some cover and possibly surprise.

He hasn’t spotted me yet.

I could try and sneak up on him, but the floor of the woods would give away my position quicker than anything else. I don’t have any kind of clean shot from here. And I don’t know where the rest of his family might be waiting. They hear the shot, and maybe I’m down before I even have time to think about finding another target.

In fact, they might have already seen me and are just waiting for me to shift, to move into their sights. To be easy prey for them.

I glance down at my watch and realize the time. I only have about thirty minutes before I have to be at Kroger to begin my shift. An odd time for it to begin: 5:00 where normally I either have to be in at 3:00 or not at all during the week. It’s alright though, they really just needed some extra warm bodies for this school project. Something about the family feuds from Huckleberry Finn… at least I think that’s what it’s for. I film one more scene – my death scene, and then wish them good luck for the rest of the afternoon.

What I don’t know… what I’ll find out later is about 15 minutes after I leave the cops will arrive to investigate some kids running around the woods with BB guns. Somewhere during that there will be word that an neighbor’s dog might have gotten shot by one of the guns (I never did find out whether anyone of our group had accidentally done this or not, but since I don’t believe anything came of their trip to the station… I’m guessing not).

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A number of my friends will get to experience something that it’ll be another 4 or 5 years before I get around to it: being put into the back of a police car.

***

I’m going to be late. I’m always late. I could leave twenty minutes early for something and still be ten minutes late. At Kroger, I’ve become a master of the clock in by 5 after so I don’t get docked the quarter-hour pay. And when you’re only making $4.25/hour, that’s a significant chunk.

They’ve only talked to me about it a couple of times at this point. In my defense though, I told them that I could start my shifts at 3:30 since I get out of high school at 2:15. That would give me just enough time to head home, change, maybe grab a snack, and then get to work… and not feel rushed.

In all my time working there I never had a 3:30 start time.It’s always be in at 3:00.

Of course, I also mentioned that 9:00 was as late as I could work. You know, so that I could get home by 9:15, eat dinner, and then actually do any of the homework which might be waiting for me in my book bag.

I always worked until 9:30.

They must have had something in their ears. I probably could have complained more, but when you’re 16 and me, you just roll with it.

This day though, this day was some rare thing. I’m not entirely sure, looking back now, that I ever had another 5:00 start time.

The thing is, I never complained. Never bitched about these things. I just came in when they scheduled me.

That day I sped into the parking lot, the time on my dash telling me I might not make it by even the 5 minute after cut-off. I grabbed a parking spot far enough away not to steal any potential customer’s spots… and only then did I realize there were a number of cop cars all around.

frog and cop

When I entered I saw more, mostly huddled around the bank, but a couple talking to the floor manager. And it is only then that I find out I missed the incident by ten minutes… tops.

In the same day I missed getting picked up by the police (and all the fun that would have been for my parents) by about 10 minutes and then additionally miss the bank robbery by the same amount of time. Had I left a few minutes early or a few minutes later my day could have been completely different. Somewhere in that drive to work was a pivot point in my teenage life. Now that’s not to say anything sinister would have come of either things had I been there, but considering I worked at Kroger for 2 1/2 years and never heard of this happening again. And I worked on plenty of school projects and never had the cops called on me…

I don’t know. I didn’t end up getting a different haircut. I didn’t have an alternate reality open up for me, but… something was in the air that day. Something strange, something weird… a day of close calls to be sure.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

40 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I passed by the magical/terrible 40 year mark this past weekend. The point in your life you are surely supposed to question all your decisions and really hold onto your regrets until they eat you up from the inside.

Right?

Oh, and buy a sports car, and go nuts in about 1 million other cliché ways.

Sadly, that sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t want to do all of that.

Instead I thought I’d provide some nuggets of information (whether you wanted it or not). A peering into some of the events, 40 of them, that put me in front of this computer typing at this exact moment on this exact night.

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1 – From around the age 7 to the age of 11 I was sick every year on my birthday. For a while there I dreaded the day.

2 – At some point growing up my Mom baked me a strawberry birthday cake. 30 some years later and my wife still wonders if I might want to have a different cake this year (the answer is always NO).

3 – By the time I was in the 8th grade, I’d moved 6 times that I was old enough to really remember. I thought this was a ton of times… and it probably was, but when the teacher asked the class who had moved the most I raised my hand and said 6 thinking I’d “win”. Sadly, there was another person in the class who’d moved over 10 times (I’m guessing it was some sort of military family). That actually bummed me out (losing, not that they’d moved so much).

4 – One of my biggest What If moments will always be not making the 8th grade basketball team. At the time I didn’t understand it, and if I’m being really honest, I still don’t understand it. I still don’t know how it happened as I know I was one of the top 12 or so players in my class. There was some kind of weird point system the coach used over the course of the week tryouts and on Thursday morning I was in 1st place, and by Friday I wasn’t in the top 14. Thursday afternoon’s tryouts went poorly IF you were only looking at points scored. If you looked at blocks and rebounds (I played center), then even if I slipped in the standings a little, it shouldn’t have been by so much. Not making the team crushed me. And I think that not making the team put me at a disadvantage going into high school tryouts the next year (if only by having the extra practice time/game time).

5 – My parents had me when they were 19 years old. They had my brother 11 years after me. In between they divorced and then remarried about 10 years later. It is because of this that I believe Love never truly dies between people. It can be lost, but it is always there… waiting to be rediscovered.

6 – I started reading comics almost 30 years ago. I now own just under 10,000 comics. I don’t think I had any clue of what stories lay ahead of me when I walked into that convenience store and bought those first copies.

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7 – The only reason I ever worked at Kroger was to get my parents off my back about getting an after-school job. It was literally the first and only place I went to. I had the interview that day and started the following week.

8 – Once I became a cashier at Kroger, I was often stuck on the Express Lane. And yes, I hated when people who had 50 items tried to check out through my lane (read the damn sign!).

9 – I met my wife while working at Kroger. Yes, we are high school sweethearts (awww).

10 – I was one of two baggers to win the bagging challenge at our Kroger and got paid to go participate in the district competition.

11 – I don’t drink alcohol (though I had a taste of some over the weekend… and by taste I literally mean 2 swallows). While some of my circle of friends did drink, my future wife couldn’t because of medicines she took, and other friends were effectively “Straight Edge” (and therefore didn’t do drugs or alcohol). So it really was a reverse sort of peer pressure that caused the decision.

12 – I had/have a Kermit the Frog hand puppet. Senior year of high school I brought it out in Computer Science class. The words “John, put the frog away.” might have been heard for the first time ever at Parkview High.

kermit

13 – In all of high school I only skipped class 1 time and only had detention 1 time. I was/am definitely a rule follower.

14 – I was a Jehovah’s Witness for much of my pre-college life. I have gone around at 9 in the morning on a Saturday and knocked on doors. I also didn’t want to be awake if that’s any consolation.

15 – When I started college I tried to keep my high school “after school job” at Kroger. However, they wouldn’t allow me to have 2 to 3 weeks off to get settled in. So I was “forced” to quit. Not really sure why I thought keeping that job was a good idea at the time since it would have required me driving back and forth from school.

16 – I was a DJ in college for my freshman year. But I don’t mean in the club. I worked a couple of shifts at the Ga Tech radio station where I learned that lots of the stuff we played was not very good. But the ones I liked, those got played every chance I could.

17 – I maintain I was screwed out of housing my senior year at Georgia Tech. When you co-op, you’re not taking classes and so are a little out of sorts with campus life. This is less noticeable during the winter months (I co-op’d Winter and Summer quarters), but during summer it truly hits home. In an attempt to be aware of the due dates for the various payments needed for classes and housing, I called at the beginning of summer to find out the due dates. Wrote them down in my planner. And when the time came, called up to pay for school… and was told I’d missed the deadline by a week or so. I wrote down what they’d told me. Tried to be responsible, and still got hosed.

18 – I have had the distinct pleasure of walking in on college roommates while they were… being intimate with their girlfriends… twice.

19 – My landlord (after the Georgia Tech housing SNAFU) actually became my boss about 1 1/2 years after I moved in. He was a civil engineer as well.

20 – I am not good with tools. And while I can follow instructions when putting things together, there was a long time that I didn’t know what a Phillips Head screwdriver was (why don’t they just call it “the not flat one”?).

21 – I know absolutely nothing about cars either. Another one of those “guy” things where I just have to smile and nod and hope no one sees through my half-hearted smile and asks me a question about it.

22 – However, I do love sports. I can bond with my fellow guys over football, baseball, or basketball. But never soccer.

23 – My one fear is probably heights. Luckily it is the one I don’t have to test all that often.

24 – I think I have a mild form of OCD. If I misplace something, I cannot focus on anything else until I find it. I can’t do anything else, and I certainly can’t go to sleep.

25 – The old saying that nothing good happens after midnight is wrong. I believe that nothing good happens before noon.

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26 – I saw Limp Bizkit open for Korn prior to their big breakthrough. I’m still unsure at what moment it became uncool to listen to them. It still feels like one week they were cool(ish) and the next everyone had sworn they’d never liked them in the first place.

27 – I like a myriad of different music. If you were to search my iPod you’d find Slayer, Bryan Adams, Pearl Jam, Boys II Men, and the Misfits among many others. Though if I had to pick the music I listen to the most would either be Grunge or Nu Metal.

28 – I love music for the lyrics more than the instruments. While everyone else is trying to figure out the beat or the chords or whatever, I’m trying to figure out what the meaning of the song is supposed to be conveying.

29 – I love stage magic. I love the idea that someone is trying to show you something which you know is not true and yet you want to be true. And I hate the fact that when you know how the trick is done, a piece of that hope is dashed.

30 – I’m not always the best friend I could be. I don’t always pick up the phone to call someone else, but instead wait for them to call me.

31 – However, I’d like to think that when the shit hits the fan, I’m the person you want beside you. At least, I hope that’s true.

32 – In the last year I have fallen back in love with watching wrestling. I blame my nephew.

33 – I started wearing glasses in the 3rd grade. However, in those first weeks I would forget them at home and my Step Father would have to bring them to me. After I finished writing “I will not forget my glasses at home any more.” about 500 times, I stopped leaving them behind.

34 – After my senior year of high school my parents moved to Richmond, Virginia. But since I was going to go to Georgia Tech and the house wasn’t sold, I effectively lived by myself for much of that summer.

35 – I am a Professional Engineer, which means that I have the ability to actually stamp plans saying they are good to be constructed. However, I have only stamped 1 set of plans so far (and I’ve had my stamp for about 10 years now).

36 – Before I started dating the girl who would eventually become my wife, I’d never been on a real date with a girl before.

37 – When I was in 4th and 5th grade I had a Rat Tail. I still maintain it made me cool.

38 – I am a sap. Give me a tear-jerker scene or anything with an animal dying and I will lose it (no, those aren’t tears, I just have dust in my eyes).

39 – I once saw The New Kids on the Block with a friend. No, we were not being ironic. He had an extra ticket, for some reason, and I said I’d go (must have hit my head). I remember the squealing of the teenage girls more than any of the music they played.

40 – My all-time favorite concert was Pearl Jam at the Fox Theater April 3, 1994 (the one they broadcast). Sadly, I didn’t get to see those whole show as we left when the house lights came on not realizing they were going to play one more song that way. Since then I stay a little longer than I probably should at shows to ensure such a thing never happens again.

41 – Turning 40 isn’t as scary as people make it out to be… so far.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.