Twists of Time is the third novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.
This page contains three of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel Twists of Time.
“Dad. I did not flirt with those boys, okay? Ick. They’re wannabe skinheads. Look, I was nice to them when I talked to them, probably nicer than I would’ve usually been. But that’s just common sense. Who’s going to give you information if you’re rude? Come on.” Alex had to agree his daughter made sense.
Teddie was angry at Ms. Johnson’s accusation, but Alex wondered if she resented being accused of flirting, or resented being accused of flirting with these particular boys. Either way, from Teddie’s point of view she’d done nothing wrong.
“Shouldn’t you have told the boys you were asking about their projects on behalf of the school paper?” Alex prodded.
“Oh, that would have gotten me a lot of information. Those kids really believe all school-sponsored activities are part of a liberal propaganda machine, dad. Seriously paranoid people.”
“Well, you’ve made yourself an enemy in Ms. Johnson, dear. I don’t think she’s a fan of mine either, now.”
Teddie winced. It was hard enough being a freshman without always having to worry about how every little thing you did seemed to reflect on your teacher father.
“You know, dad, I don’t think Ms. Johnson is the kind of friend you want anyway. I hear she tows the line in front of the administration, but in the classroom when no one is there except students, she comes out with some pretty racist things. I mean she always phrases them like questions, so if they get repeated they don’t sound so bad, but her class spends a lot of time talking about things that make some kids uncomfortable.”
“Teddie, you’re exaggerating. If that were the case, kids would be speaking up, to their parents, and to the department head.”
Teddie had her you-adults-do-not-understand expression on her face. “Dad, if a kid reports her, then she twists it around like they were having a class discussion and this kid is saying stuff because he didn’t do well on a test or something. And that kid can kiss a good grade from her goodbye.”
Her dad gave the possibility some thought. “I think the other history teachers would know and be involved if this lady was crossing a line.”
More of the look. “Dad, you need to get out of the science department more. Word is most of the Early Gulch history teachers agree with everything Ms. Johnson teaches, even though they keep their opinions more to themselves. The few that object, like Mr. Hanson who left, they don’t last long. I think the whole history department is part of some racist group.”
“Now who sounds paranoid?” her dad kidded.
“You know what they say. Doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Look, I’m sorry I put you on Ms. Johnson’s radar. Be careful, Dad. I think she likes hurting people who don’t agree with her.”
Stan tried to control his enthusiasm the next morning as he woofed down breakfast at the hotel and supervised loading the trucks. The department head had chastised him by phone the previous night for even opening the box, and for doing as little as brushing off the dirt. Stan had expected that and he was willing to take the criticism. He hadn’t spent twelve years of his life swatting mosquitoes to take a back seat while some senior faculty member flew down here to do the honors. This was his research. These were his kids. They all deserved their moment in the sun. Yesterday, he had taken it.
Today, however, they would back off and show professional restraint, as they concentrated on photographing and measuring and recording data while they waited for more expertise before anything further was disturbed.
There was lightness in Stan’s step as he helped unload the two trucks and made his way to the cave’s small entrance. “You first, Dr. Drexler,” Nelson said politely. Stan wasn’t even all the way in when he noticed mud tracks he was sure neither he nor his students had made. No, come on, he thought. Surely we didn’t have intruders last night.
He looked around quickly. Everything else they had found over the last few days was completely undisturbed. Only the ornate box and its half disintegrated bit of cloth covering were completely gone, as if they had never existed.
You’ve got to be kidding, Stan muttered to himself. Locals? For christsakes, did one of my students tell somebody? Then he had a second thought. Was there any chance any of the five students could read hieroglyphics from this region that well?
Because Dr. Stan Drexler, of course, could. He had studied nothing but for the last twelve years. Even though there was a fair amount of local variation and he’d only gotten a quick glance, there are certain words anyone who has ever loved archeology knows, at least in the culture where they have expertise. “Treasure” is one. Even higher on the list is any phrase translating roughly as “the greatest treasure ever.”
Alex and Xuha continued their tennis workouts into the summer, with Xuha growing stronger each week, as his left-handed playing improved. After two and a half months, he felt confident enough to try his right hand.
“I think I’ll always practice left-handed, too. It could be a real asset on the court, giving my right arm a rest or even using my left to throw off an opponent.”
Alex agreed. “If I were you I’d focus on serving with both hands. That’s where you’ll get the most impact.” So the two of them worked on serves, until the June sun rose high enough for the summer heat to take over the morning completely.
“That day you got attacked. You still have no idea who they were or why they picked you?” Alex wondered aloud as they both gulped water and gathered up their gear.
Xuha shook his head. “I mean, I can guess. It’s pretty obvious around school who’d be inclined to do that. But they didn’t say anything to me and no one has threatened me since. I try to stay out of trouble.”
“You do,” Alex agreed. “But given the way you fought the first two attackers off, I’d guess you’ve been in a fight or two before. I have to admit, I had no idea you could move that fast, and I work with you physically.”
Xuha grinned. “I don’t like to fight, but I can if I have to. I know this’ll sound odd, but if it’s a situation where I really have to, or really want to, make my body do something, like hit a ball or a person, it’s like everything slows down for me, so I can do it. Does that make any sense?”
Alex felt his own heart loose a beat.
“I tried to tell this to a boy I played soccer with. He was like scary good and was trying to help me, give me tips and stuff, and I was afraid he’d think I was crazy, you know?” Xuha made a crazy face. By now Alex had gotten used to the boy’s odd facial humor and he ignored it.
“But this soccer player didn’t think I was crazy at all. He said that’s exactly what happened to him sometimes on the soccer field.”
Now Xuha really had Alex’s attention.
“He told me he wished he could control it, like make a kiss with a pretty girl last longer, but it didn’t seem to work that way. It happened when it needed to and he said he thought maybe all great athletes could do this sort of thing when they played, even if they didn’t realize they were doing it.”
“That’s an interesting theory, Xuha. Do you think maybe some people become good at a sport because they can do that? Or maybe they get good first and the technique follows?”
Xuha shrugged. “I’ve heard people describe something like it right before a car crash. You said you used to be quite a basketball player, Mr. Z? Did you ever have this happen to you?”
Alex smiled. “Maybe a little. I think I have an idea of what it is you’re talking about.”
“Okay. So, that’s what happened to me during the fight you saw. Like I didn’t ask for it or anything, but these guys just started moving slower, you know, slower to me and it made it easier to defend myself.”
“I wish it could have protected you from the idiot behind you whom you couldn’t see.”
“Me too,” Xuha said. “For that kind of protection I have to go to my alternate plan.”
“Don’t piss people off and stay out of fights.”