Robert Lopez

Time Without Number

Sam told us it was a free for all and we believed him. We always believed what Sam told us and this business with the free for all was no different. A couple of years ago Sam told us about daylight savings time and how it was a sham and had nothing to do with the farmers. He said it was a government conspiracy. Sam was also right about the polar ice caps and PCBs and solar energy, too. This is why whenever Sam tells you something you should believe it, that is if you happen to know Sam, if he’s still alive. If you don’t know Sam or if he’s not alive then this is probably beside the point and a waste of everyone’s time. Sam would be the first to point this out because Sam didn’t like to waste anyone’s time, especially his own. This is one of the reasons he hated when we had to move the clocks back. He would say, what was so good about daylight anyway, and he was right. Someone said that daylight was the best disinfectant but Sam said malarkey. He said it was sunlight, that sunlight was the best disinfectant and then he said white vinegar was better than either. Then someone said what’s the difference between daylight and sunlight and Sam said, man, if you have to ask. Everyone stayed quiet for a minute and then Sam walked away shaking his head. We could tell he was disappointed. We didn’t blame him because we were disappointed in ourselves. We also don’t blame Sam for this business with the free for all. Sam had seen more than his share of free for alls and we knew that going in. He grew up that way, what with his mother and father. He used the phrase, time without number, to talk about how many free for alls he’d witnessed. We never saw Sam’s mother and father do this, start a free for all or participate in one, so we figured they did it at night when no one was around. It was like they taught us in school with that tree in the forest. But Sam would tell you this was beside the point and he’d be right. What matters is we went down to the free for all to help Sam because we thought he needed our help and we wanted him to think the best of us. But by the time we got there the cops had the whole area cordoned off and Sam was nowhere to be found. Right after that they hauled everyone off to the clink and sat us down in rooms with no windows and bad lighting. They asked us questions about Sam, how we knew him, where he liked to go at night, what his parents did for a living, how everyone in the family got along. They told us we shouldn’t leave town, that if we heard from Sam we were to call them at once. They kept after us for two days like this before they let everyone go. It was something like police brutality, which is another thing Sam told us about. All of us had to shield our eyes for the sun when we stepped outside and it was like we were blind for a few minutes. We even had trouble walking as our joints were stiff from sitting still the whole time. We had to wander around the parking lot for an hour as we regained our senses. But all of this is beside the point, too. All we want to say is that if Sam is out there somewhere, if he’s still alive, that he should be proud of us, because we told them nothing and never will.

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Robert Lopez is the author of two novels, Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River, and a story collection, Asunder. He has taught at the New School, Pratt Institute, and Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn.