It all started before children had to wear helmets when they rode their bicycles and skateboards. Long before children had been made cowards by their overly protective parents and society.
It had all started when children still wanted to destroy the ugly monsters that lurked in the closets of their jet-black bedrooms or that lived under their beds.
It was a time when children were the bravest of all.
Jimmy was just learning to ride his bicycle with his father. He was five years old when it first happened.
As his father pushed him down the sidewalk, the sprinklers came on between he and his father and Jimmy saw it. It was the first time that he saw his father’s past and future, playing out in front of him in the mist.
It was just like the western movies that he and his tall, handsome dad watched together on television every night after his father arrived home from work and settled in for the night.
Jimmy was no longer afraid for himself. He saw what the future held for those around him, and he only feared for their safety.
On that fateful Friday morning, Jimmy asked his father to be extra careful on his way home from work. He knew something was waiting for him around that sharp bend in the road.
Sadly his warning didn’t make any difference. Perhaps the future cannot be changed. Maybe the future, like the past has already played out somewhere and there is no changing it.
But Jimmy, had to try to save his father, no matter what the cost.
His warning was of no use. It just didn’t matter in the end. His father was taken from him like he had seen, in the mist that floated away from the sprinklers. That vision had looked like a television show.
When the sidewalks were wet, or when there was the slightest trace of fog, he saw everyone’s secrets played out in front of him as they walked by him and his parents.
Their stories were laid out in front of him, under him on the wet ground, or on the sides of cars or on the shop windows that were wet from the mist that floated on the air and then settled on many of the surfaces around him.
Jimmy didn’t know that he was different at that time. He thought that everyone could see these things like he did.
When his father was killed on the way home from work in his car, just as Jimmy had seen in the mist, Jimmy wasn’t a bit surprised. Jimmy knew exactly what was going to happen and when.
He was sad, yes, but he had already seen the possibility and he somehow knew that the reality of it would surely follow. It had comforted him in the end, somehow.
He knew he could say nothing to his mother or any other adults around him. He knew what would happen to him if he told them of his power to see in to the future. He had seen those places on television where they took the children who were “special,” like him.
As he grew up, Jimmy came to realize that he was different, if not special.
He couldn’t turn off the movies that played all around him until the dry winds came in the summer and the fog was gone.
That was when he could try to live like a normal boy for a few short months without those distractions playing out all around him.
When the seasons changed and the summer had left with the hot sun sitting high in the afternoon sky, he had to deal with all those stories floating around him on the clouds and in the fog again.
When the rains came, there were no secrets that he didn’t know.
He knew that his neighbor was beating his wife, and he knew why.
He was too young to understand when he saw the other man, standing in the dark, but he knew that the other man loved her. Jimmy knew that man was part of the reason for her beatings.
He saw the story played out every night in the dampness that hung low on the grass. He saw all of these stories painted in the clouds above him as he lay out by his pool on his back in his backyard every Saturday, thinking about what little boys think about.
Jimmy knew that the mailman was dangerous, and so he stood behind his mother’s skirt for protection when she spoke to him at the front door when a large package arrived now and then.
Jimmy hoped that he might just be able to get her away from the front door if the mailman tried anything.
The mailman had just come back from the war in a place called Korea, wherever that was, and it had changed him somehow. He hadn’t hurt anyone yet, but it was coming as sure as the mail was.
Jimmy had seen it played out in the puddles on the driveway, left from the hose when is mother had washed the car.
As Jimmy got older and the stories became clearer, he seldom had doubts any longer. He knew that his visions were true.
He knew that his mother would live to be seventy-eight and die in her bright yellow kitchen peeling potatoes with that little, black handled knife in her hand as she collapsed on the floor.It was comforting in a way.
He knew that he didn’t cause these deaths. He only saw death before it knocked on the front door of every house in town.
When he finally went to school, he saw the successes and failures sitting all around him.
He saw Johnny Dupree sitting in prison fifteen years before he killed Lenore.
Jimmy knew he had no power over the future. All he could do was observe it. He had learned that long ago with his father’s death.
He also knew that he could do nothing to rid himself of this gift or curse. He couldn’t close his eyes or look down at the floor forever, and besides, sometimes the floor was wet and he would see the future of some poor soul that was standing across from him on that smooth, damp floor. That floor was like the giant screen at the movie theater.
He got his first job when he was sixteen, working in the Springfield Mansion watering the houseplants and the yard.
When he sprayed the houseplants or watered them, he could see all of the secrets and the futures of those who visited or who still lived in the great house, all around him.
They were interesting, sad, and sometimes funny just like life itself.
He had tried to remove the terror from his visions, and he had succeeded for the most part by his late teens.
Now, sometimes in the Summer, when he was bored, Jimmy would set up the sprinkler in his back yard, sit down, and just watch what played out above him in the mist.
Even then, it wasn’t always pleasant, but he saw some wonderful things as well.
He saw himself in the mist with everyone in his family and his friends playing in the yard. But those things he saw would happen, just the next day.
Somehow seeing his future was different for him. He couldn’t see deep into his future. It made him think that perhaps there was a God after all, and that God was protecting him.
Jimmy gained some valuable insight from watching the lives of everyone played out in front of him in the sprinklers and the rain or fog.
But he would have preferred that they would have told him their secrets in confidence instead of him seeing them like home movies, and without their permission everywhere in town.
He could see that the market was going to burn down, and he knew when. He could see the date of the fire on the newspapers in the racks in front of the store.
He had made sure that he was there to warn and save as many people as he could when that day arrived.
He had made a small difference at least once in his life with his unusual gift.
When he saved all those people, he wondered why he couldn’t save himself from some of the sadness that this power had bestowed upon him.
Then he realized that he was just like everyone else.
He had to experience all of his life’s problems without seeing them coming to him. He needed to feel and wonder about his life like everyone else, so when he saw what he saw, he wouldn’t go mad. That thought made him think that he was almost normal again.
Jimmy never asked for any of this of course.
He often wondered why he had this power, and what would become of him. But it was his nature to worry more about those around him than most people did. So it only seemed right that he would be given this gift.
He still had one eye on the mailman as he walked by everyday.
In the summer, when his visions were at their weakest, he would wash his car just to catch the spray between him and the mailman. Luckily, the mailman was only the second murderer that he had come across.
Most everyone else, were victims. Not of horrendous crimes, but victims of misfortune or bad luck lying in wait for them around some distant corner, like his father.
Jimmy seldom intervened. He didn’t want to try and change the course of history, unless he felt sure of the outcome, which was difficult at the best of times and surely impossible most of the time, especially for a child.
He had perhaps changed history at the grocery store and the fire there, and a few other times like with Lucky Jones and his friend Thomas.
Sam realized the dangers of trying to change things soon enough. But he was human after all, and he wanted to help. The results were mixed at best.
He saw his father’s death, and couldn’t stop it. He did manage to save those people in the store however. So why wasn’t he allowed to see his own future? Why could he help others, but not himself?
Finally, what he came up with, after much trial and error, and many attempts at changing his own future, was this. The statistics didn’t lie after all.
He had the power to help friends and strangers hundreds of times in small and large ways, but he was unable to intervene in his own future.
He couldn’t even see the next history test coming his way. He was a victim, like everyone else, of the luck that fate sent him in life.
He was a victim, like everyone else when it came to fate. But he had this power at his whim, to help a complete stranger. The irony was not lost on him, but he was determined to help others even if he couldn’t help himself.
He tried at different times, to wean himself off of the drug of prognostication, but he never succeeded, fully.
In the driest months, after sitting quietly with his family, he would find himself setting up the sprinkler again, to spy on his neighbors.
They didn’t know what he was doing, but he did it. They thought, “what a nice boy, watering the lawn for his widowed mother.”
He had a conscious, and it ached sometimes.
But he reminded himself of the greater good and that what he was doing might be important as he watched his neighbors living out their often dull, little, lives.
Besides, he reminded himself, that the mailman was still out there somewhere waiting to strike.
He wasn’t sure what he would do if he saw the mailman getting ready to hurt someone around him when he was younger.
Who would believe a young boy who said he saw someone getting ready to do an evil deed. He had no evidence. No evidence that the authorities would understand or believe anyway.
Was he supposed to go up to the chief of police in the café on the corner where he ate lunch everyday with his deputy and tell him that he saw the future in his sprinklers or up in the clouds?
He didn’t. He knew that they would suggest to his mother that he was a little touched and needed some psychiatric intervention or worse.
No, he had to catch the mailman in the act if he were to prevent the death or injury of the mailman’s next victim. That would prove, to him, if not to the world, that he wasn’t insane.
He watched him for years, until he was old enough and big enough to do something about it, if necessary.
He couldn’t tell anyone what he suspected and he had to keep an eye on the mailman without the mailman or anyone else knowing it.
That was a tall order for a boy of seventeen, but he had no choice in the matter. After all, he had been watching him for twelve years now.
He was the only person on the planet equipped to do it, as far as he knew.
He tailed the mailman on his bicycle as often as he could for years, and succeeded at never being seen.
But he wasn’t sure how long his luck would hold out, and what would happen to him if the monster that delivered the mail with a warm smile ever saw him following him as an adult?
How long was he supposed to wait for the mailman to act, after all, his entire lifetime?
For more short stories read “Sunrise, Sunset,” my book of ten short stories. It’s on Audible as well.