I invented a time machine. It was an accident. I was trying to repair my phone after I dropped it down the stairs.
The next thing I know I traveled back in time. It was freezing and ice formed on my nose and mouth. A woolly mammoth followed me back. I wasn’t trying to find a woolly mammoth pet, but I didn’t mind. He was cute and furry.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a woolly mammoth, but they don’t fit in most apartments. Especially not my one bedroom. He kept knocking over my dishes and books and scaring my cat.
I don’t know what woolly mammoths eat, so I tried giving him carrots. He didn’t like those. Then I tried Frosted Flakes. He seemed to like those a lot more. I dumped the contents of three Frosted Flakes boxes on the floor. He ate them all. Or at least I thought it was a he. I didn’t know that much about the anatomies of mammoths. And I really didn’t want to get too personal.
I named my mammoth Charlie. I rode him to the grocery store. His back was very soft and comforting, like a scratchy blanket on a winter night. People stared at me. I don’t think they’d ever seen a woolly mammoth before.
I filled my car with nothing but Frosted Flakes and apples. Apples seem like a food that every animal likes. Worms even live in apples, eating them from the inside out. Maybe Charlie would like apples too.
Charlie got a parking ticket at the grocery store. I tried to explain to the police officer that Charlie wasn’t a car. And he didn’t understand things like parking spaces, speed limits, or not to use his tusks to throw cars around. But we got a ticket anyway.
Charlie was just too big. I couldn’t afford that many boxes of Frosted Flakes. And the neighbor downstairs kept complaining because when Charlie walks it sounds like a marching band jumping up and down.
I don’t even want to tell you about the problems we had with Charlie when nature called. I won’t give you the dirty details, but Charlie and I were not allowed back at the dog park.
I liked Charlie, but I needed to take him back home. I got my time traveling phone but nothing happened when I punched the buttons. I thought maybe you can’t go back to the same place twice. I don’t know the rules of things like time travel. But it didn’t work, no matter how many buttons I pushed or times I yelled at my phone.
I tried a few different things. I tried to see Jesus. I wanted to talk to Shakespeare. Or Charlemagne. Or John Lennon. My last try was to go back and see John Ritter. None of it worked. I was still in my apartment and Charlie was staring at me impatiently. He scratched his tusks on my wall, leaving long lines that looked like waves. I think he wanted to go back home too. It must be very lonely when you are the only one of your kind.
I invited my friend, Louis, over. Louis knows about a lot of things. He’s been to a lot of places too. But it turns out he didn’t know anything about woolly mammoths.
We went online and searched for information about woolly mammoths. It turns out scientists say they liked to eat flowering plants and shrubs. I live in the middle of a city. This wasn’t going to work out well at all. And I don’t think Mrs. Collins would like it if I let a mammoth stomp through and eat her prized garden.
I tried taking Charlie to the zoo. Maybe they’d know what to do with him. The zoo keeps elephants. Woolly mammoths and elephants look a lot alike. Maybe nobody would notice if they let Charlie live with the elephants. But the zoo wouldn’t let Charlie or me in. They said we needed to buy tickets. I didn’t have enough money for both of us.
I took Charlie home. I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, Charlie. He looked at me. I think he was frustrated too.
On the way home, I spotted Elisa. I liked how her face was always scrunched up like she was trying to think of an answer to a question. But we didn’t talk very much. She was going to a movie with her friends. She asked me if I wanted to come. I really did, but I asked Charlie first. He nodded that it was ok.
I told Charlie to go back home and wait for me there. I couldn’t be with him every second of every day anyway. It was time we set some boundaries.
I went home after the movie, but I couldn’t find Charlie. I screamed his name out of my window. Mrs. Collins told me to be quiet. When I asked her if she had seen a woolly mammoth, she didn’t seem very happy and she slammed her window shut.
I was pretty sure a woolly mammoth wasn’t going to be able to hide very long. I looked around my apartment just in case. Everything was back where it belonged. Even his tusk marks on the walls were fading. I don’t even see them now when I look at the wall.
Charlie didn’t belong here. I think he knew that. It was nice having a friend who didn’t really belong. I never found Charlie. I hope he’s okay. I’m pretty sure he is. I think he found a way home.
Neal Suit is a recovering lawyer. He is a writer of fiction and is working on his first novel. His short story ‘Bar Fights and Brain Scans’ will be in the July 2020 issue of Boston Literary Magazine. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, two daughters, one cat, one dog, and periodic writer’s block.