Tense Futures (Watching Watches)

I want to write to the future through a past writing to the future, which may or may not be now. I wanted to write to the future through a past writing to the future, which may or may not be then. They call it High School because it’s easier to get through it if you are. This is mostly something I wrote for my High School paper when I was 30. You can read it now or in twenty years; I recommend both.


Recently I was thinking about writing topical jokes for the future. It started with me trying to think of new but old seeming things to say about old things: new jokes about Nixon or Charlemagne. I thought that was a good idea and I think it will be a good idea. In the moment when I thought of the other idea, though, that became a better idea. I was and will be anticipating who the corrupt mayors will be, what we’ll consider misbehaving from the celebrities that will be just like we will be but different, whether we’ll still have weather.

Perhaps, in a roast, I note that “Alderman Elzdor is here tonight. Thanks for making time for us too!” You see, in the past, a roast would include jokes about those in attendance. In this future, Alderman Elzdor will have invented a way to make time. This is the kind of line that might kill in the future. Most likely Elzdor is “here” only in the sense that some kind of vaporous projection of her is near the other vapors.

Now that I am from the future, I have seen lots of graduation speakers. They all agree that it is an honor to receive the offer to speak, to proffer their thoughts. They note, have noted, will note, that those in wizard costumes (or dressed by height) constitute the future. They will most likely extol the virtues of hustle, of humility, of thoughtfulness, of generosity, of community. Me too. I think everyone should do great things all day long and care for each other.

In the future, I congratulate Principal Myngyx on another bumper crop of wizard costumes. “In Patagonia,” I note, “the gaucho marks—” I can barely finish my remarks. Time is moving in reverse. Everyone is Ben Button or Frank Zipper. The vapors my speech are projected on begin to recede, while the words wink back into the grass. “You,” I remember “are the past.” I knew the speech was a bummer. It began with boos and finally, having slogged through the moment I teared up, the extended quotations of the most important numbers, the pithy jokes and Mz. Myngyx’s breathful introduction, we arrived at the middle.

“Friends,” I will have had intoned “congratulations. The future was here. I am glad we would have enjoyed it.”

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