Chad Grogan popped his collar and stared out across the Miami skyline. It was January in the year 1984. The TV show that would forever epitomize this city in this decade was over half a year from making its debut, but Chad was sporting the look right now. He had the Sonny Crockett linen jacket. He had the Sonny Crockett hair. A lot of guys were still taking their fashion tips from Scarface, but not Chad. He came from the future. He knew of things to come.
“I don’t see why you have to take the boat out tonight,” Claire St. Clair said while clinging to his arm. Claire did not come from the future so her sartorial choices were derived from already extant pop culture. In her case, this meant Flashdance and aerobics videos. She wore knit leggings and a sweatshirt with a cutaway collar that hung off one shoulder. A knotted headband cinched her hair, once silky tresses now teased into a tumbleweed of Aqua Net and split ends.
“Duty calls, babe,” Chad said, his gaze still fixed upon the skyline. Asserting dominance over the listeners by not looking at them when he spoke was one of Chad’s people skills.
“Promise me you aren’t getting involved with loser drug lords,” Claire said.
“You know me better than that.”
Indeed she did. Chad was not one to consort with disreputable characters. He was also not one to promise Claire anything so he packed two truths in the space of just one. She regretted what she said, but kept talking anyway.
“But why tonight? The guy from the Olympics is going to be at the studio at 10 tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be there. Besides, Bobby is the star. If they pick anybody, it’ll be him.”
“Bobby’s a jerk.”
“Maybe so, but he’s also got the best moves.”
This was true. Nobody liked Bobby Street, but they tolerated him because he was the best breakdancer in the studio. If he could make it through his routine without mouthing off, he stood a good chance of getting chosen.
Breakdancing was not yet an official Olympic sport. That wouldn’t happen until the 2080 Summer Games in New Bakersfield. This year, the dancers would simply serve as entertainment during the closing ceremonies in Los Angeles.
Still, it would be great publicity for the studio if one of its dancers were selected. Since Chad owned the dance studio, he had the most to gain and if that meant propelling the loathsome Bobby Street to stardom, so be it.
Chad was nearly as good a breakdancer as Bobby, except he could not do a shoulder spin to save his life. Every time he attempted one, he came to a complete halt. He vowed to master that move one day, but it wasn’t going to happen by tomorrow morning.
“Can I at least come with you?” Claire asked.
This made Chad smile. If she saw what he was on his way to see, he would have to kill her. No witnesses, the rules were very clear about that. While he would idly fantasize about murdering Claire from time to time, he had no real desire to do it anytime soon.
In fact, Chad was happy to have her around. She was easy on the eyes, provided sex on demand, and even showed some real promise as a dancer. Breakdancing wasn’t her thing. Her specialty was the kind of slow, choreographed workout shown late at night on Showtime that made horny young boys and sad old men beat off until they were red and raw. Claire had a real future ahead of her if her public-access television show and those private parties with conventioneers were any indication. If she only learned to keep her mouth shut she might have actual relationship potential as well.
“Sorry babe, but this is business, not drug business, but business all the same. I’m doing it for the studio,” Chad said.
Chad was not lying. One of the perks of his assignment as an operative was that he could settle into an existence of his choosing and his expenses would be covered. This was a good thing as Chad was no businessman and the dance studio he ran absolutely hemorrhaged cash. The money came from a financial team, also from the future, whose investing savvy came from knowing how the stock market was going to behave ahead of time.
It was a pretty sweet deal. All that asked in return was when Chad was called upon to perform some duty, he would do so without hesitation or question. Tonight was the night for him to earn his keep. The timing was not perfect, but he more than willing to carry out his orders. Disobedience was punishable by death so there was that as well.
“Do I at least get a kiss?” she said with a pout.
“Of course,” he replied then shoved his tongue down her throat and gave her cooter a playful pinch.
An hour later, he was on his 19-foot aluminum fishing boat heading southeast on the open ocean. He had plenty of fuel and his equipment locker held what he needed to remedy a situation should one occur. The water was calm, bordering on glassy, and the moon was almost full. All in all, it was a near-perfect night to watch countless tons of future poo pour down from the heavens.
Chad learned about the scheduled dumping from a decoded obituary. He had been monitoring the obits since his 1984, always on the lookout for a Mr. Brown who drowned in a log ride. When he finally came across a notice matching those criteria, he applied a cipher to its contents to get the date, time, latitude, and longitude of when it would. After reading the obituary, Chad flipped to the crime section of the newspaper and sure enough, there was a man named Brown found drowned in the log ride at a nearby amusement park.
Good ol’ HQ, Chad thought with a smile. They are nothing if not thorough.
He cut the engine just shy of the event’s exact location, making sure he was not directly under it. He turned on the radio and tuned it a spot on the dial where there was nothing but static. He opened the equipment locker and pulled out an RPG launcher and the first of six grenades he brought on the trip. This was not 1984 technology. A computerized field sight in the launcher gave instructions to the target-acquisition program in the grenade. Once launched, the grenade would pilot itself, navigating around all obstacles to reach its target. The grenade carried a micronuke warhead that would vaporize everything within a 200-meter radius and left no radioactive footprint.
There weren’t going to be any witnesses. As for a ship and its people gone missing, this was the Bermuda Triangle. Things like that happened all the time.
Chad sat and waited, unaware that this scheduled large-volume dump need not have happened at all. All offloading channels from 2017 onward were suspended pending a confirmed resolution of the Homeless Bob incident. Meanwhile, sewage containers were filling to the brim so an emergency dump plan was hastily drafted.
Homeless Bob died in police custody after tripping and falling down a flight of stairs 17 times, according to the official. If people knew that, there would have been no need to panic. Alas, the public-records database went offline so there was no way to verify that the threat to the operation had been neutralized.
Back in 1984, Chad continued to wait. The scheduled time came and went with nary a single butt nugget plopping from the firmament. He checked his watch. Something was clearly wrong.
It was possible that the mission was scrubbed, but if that were the case he would have been notified via the radio station he was tuned to. The cancellation announcement would come in the form of a custom-made radio ad that began with someone who sounded like George C. Scott saying “Turn it off! Turn it off!” followed by a voice that sounded like Don Pardo saying “When your diarrhea is hard core, you need Pepto-Bismol.”
The radio just hissed static.
Chad looked around at the night sky, but there was no poo. There was, however, something that looked like a blue sperm with a white tail. He reached for his binoculars and saw it was a space shuttle heading up into orbit. But why was it surrounded by that blue field? Also, why was it there at all? The next scheduled shuttle launch was three weeks away. Something didn’t add up.
Maybe it was some airplane disguised as a space shuttle and sent to spy on him. That seemed unlikely, but no probable explanations came to mind. Chad was fascinated by primitive space travel growing up and here on assignment, he liked to relive some of that history by listening in on radio transmissions between the shuttle and mission control. He tuned his radio to that frequency. If this was a legit shuttle launch, he would know soon enough.
“Roger, go at throttle up,” crackled through the radio speaker. That definitely sounded like a shuttle transmission and Chad might have accepted that as proof if he didn’t recognize the voice of the person speaking. He’d heard a recording of that very transmission countless times as a child. The voice belonged to Francis R. Scobee. He was indeed a shuttle commander, or rather, would be. His doomed Mission aboard the Challenger wouldn’t happen until 1986.
“My God, it’s full of poo,” said Francis R. Scobee.
The Challenger exploded. Chad was looking forward to watching the disaster in person. He just never thought he would witness it two years ahead of time.
“Need Another Seven Astronauts,” Chad said, making him the first person to ever tell that joke.
This anomaly was caused by an unwise decision made in the future. Someone figured that if a new fecal-transfer channel was to be opened, they might as well make the most of it. The problem was that throughput was not unlimited. Much as a massive bowel movement can rip rectal tissue, the temporal transfer of a large amount of fecal matter can tear the very fabric of time and space.
This was elementary future-poo physics, pretty basic stuff. They really should have known better. Chad saw what poo did to the Challenger and knew right away what was going on.
“There must be a shit storm everywhere,” he said then added “and everywhen.”
Indeed, the entire decade was getting peppered with poo. Most of it was not terribly noteworthy. There was a carpet soiler here, a punch-bowl floater there, all part and parcel of everyday life in the 80s.
However, there were exceptional cases such as these:
- In December 1980, a single poo fell from the sky over New York City and froze solid during its descent. It struck a mortally wounded John Lennon as he lay on the sidewalk and came to rest sticking into one of his bullet wounds like a lawn dart. From that day forward, Yoko Ono could not bear to look in the bowl after doing her business.
- In early 1981, John Hinckley was about to abandon his unrequited crush until he found a bowel movement in his mailbox. Believing it was a love offering from Jodie Foster, he decided to carry out his plan to win her heart forever.
- In late 1983, a starving villager in Ethiopia found a small, brown loaf in his food bowl. After having a nibble, he said “ምንም ንጥረ ነገር የለውም” and died from malnutrition. His death was one of many that would inspire Bob Geldof to form Band Aid and make people in the developed world feel better about themselves.
- In March 1989, a huge amount of future poo materialized inside the forward tank of the Exxon Valdez. The added weight caused the ship’s bow to dip low enough to run aground on Bligh’s Reef. The spillage slurry, which would one day be known to historians as “pootroleum,” was an ecological disaster erroneously blamed on the tanker’s captain. One whistleblower seal balanced a poo on his nose in an attempt to have the real cause be known, but he was quickly clubbed to death by a passerby who was also a future operative.
Chad could not have known all the details, but he knew enough to engage damage-control mode. The procedure was simple. Go home and pretend nothing happened. If suspicions arise, attempt to explain them away. If the suspicious party persists, kill the person.
Chad turned the boat around and headed back to Miami, hoping the entirety of whatever mess there was would be someone else’s problem.
He was awakened by a banging on his apartment door at 7:30 the following morning. He opened tge door and saw Claire standing there. She had been crying.
“Hey babe, what’s up your ass?” Chad said, expressing concern.
“I ran into Bill the janitor when I was jogging this morning and he told me he quit. He said there was no way he was going to clean up that mess,” Claire said.
“The shit, there is a huge pile of shit on the stage at the studio.”
“Have you seen this pile of shit? Bill sniffs glue. You can’t take his word for anything.”
“OK, so Bill dumped a bucket of shit on the stage and refuses to own up to it. Fine, I was planning on firing him anyway.”
“It isn’t a bucket, Chad. It’s more like a truckload.”
“All right, let’s go. I want to see for myself.”
The two of them took Chad’s car and drove to the studio. On the way, he pondered the possibility of losing control of the situation. If this happened, he would have to kill or incapacitate Claire, retrieve the RPG from his boat, and eliminate her, the studio, and everything within the blast radius. It would be an acceptable move to HQ, but they wouldn’t like it and he would likely be reassigned working in fast food or selling Amway. Chad hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
When they arrived at the studio and Chad looked at the pile of poo on the stage, he could see that Claire was not exaggerating. It was at least a truckload worth, probably more, and the lack of forced entry or bits of poo anywhere else made look like it appeared out of nowhere, which of course it had.
“I think it’s pretty obvious who is responsible,” he said.
“You mean Bill?”
“Nah, it’s not his style. Besides, he has no license. To move a truckload, you need to drive a truck. I’m talking about Bobby.”
“But this is his ticket to the big time. Why would he want to ruin that?”
“Bobby’s a schemer. If he stops today’s audition, he can try out for the Olympics on his own and cut the studio out of the bargain.”
“Are you going to confront him?’
“No, he would just deny everything and continue with his plan. We have two hours to get this mess cleaned up. When Bobby arrives, we accuse him of nothing and ask for his help. The important thing is to let him know that the show will go on with or without him. Look, I want Bobby gone as much as anybody. I just want to get something out of the deal.”
Bobby Steel’s Camaro pulled into the studio’s parking lot at 9:15. He exited the car and flicked his cigarette away without bothering to see where it went. Bobby was 22, the same age as Claire, and wore the same red Member’s Only jacket with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows every day of the week. Equally consistent was Bobby’s facial expression, which as equal parts smirk and sneer. He ran his fingers through his John Oates poodle perm as he strutted toward the entrance to the building.
“Goddamn, Chad. It smells like the inside of your mother’s asshole in here,” Bobby said as he walked through the door.
“Yeah, we had some vandals break in here last night,” Chad said. “Bill must’ve left the door unlocked again. Long story short, he doesn’t work here anymore. I guess that makes me the new janitor. Grab a mop. We don’t have a lot of time before the Olympics dude arrives.”
“You expect me, Bobby Street, star breaker, to clean up other people’s shit.”
“Not as a full-time gig, but this is kind of an emergency. Claire is helping me out here. I sure could use your help as well.”
“I’m happy to help,” Claire said, happy to help.
“Claire is helping because she is your bitch. I am not your bitch. And if you think I’m going to break dance on a pile of shit, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“So what are you going to do, just walk out of here?” Chad said.
“No, I’m going to moonwalk out of here,” Bobby said and started doing an impressive Michael Jackson moonwalk, backing away toward the door.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys like you, Bobby Street,” Chad said. “Always ready to quit when things don’t go your way.”
“Screw you,” said Bobby.
“No, screw you. You’re going to keep giving up until the world gives up on you. And you know what you’ll be then? A worthless bum and you’ll be known as ‘Bobby on the street.'”
Bobby gave Chad the finger and continued his moonwalk until he was out the door, never to return. In time Chad’s prediction would be proven correct except for one minor point. No one would call the former star break dancer “Bobby on the street.” They would call him Homeless Bob.
When the 10 o’clock hour approached, Chad sent Claire to stall the Olympics representative while he put the final touches on the cleanup job. The poo was piled up in one corner of the studio with a tarp covering it. Fans were set up at the front of the stage to blow the aroma of feces back away from the audience.
The only problem was the stage itself. Future poo is not like regular poo. In addition to its unsuitability as a fertilizer due to its lack of nutrients, its consistency makes it difficult to clean off most surfaces. You need a high-pressure hose to remove it completely. Chad’s and Claire’s mopping efforts only succeeded in spreading it like Vegemite, leaving a brown, oily layer on the stage.
“He’s here, Chad. Go ahead and start,” Claire called out from the audience.
It was too dark to see either her or the guy from the Olympics. Oh well, Chad thought, formal introductions would have to wait until later. He put on his musical accompaniment (“Rappin’ Rodney”) and started his routine.
It began disastrously. His attempt at a one-armed handstand failed to gain traction on the slick stage floor and down he went. To avoid breaking his nose on impact, he windmilled his body around and came down hard on his hindquarters, bruising his coccyx. He tried to push himself up, his foot slid just as his hand did and down he went again.
“No respect, no respect,” blared from the speakers.
There was no winning against this kind of poo. A man from the future should know that. Still, Chad was not about to admit defeat. If future poo was going to make him slip and slide, then he was going to deliver the slippingest, slidingest breakdance routine in all creation.
Chad whipped his body around and managed something he never could before, a shoulder spin. With no friction on the floor, he was spinning like a goddamn top. To increase speed, he did the figure-skater move of drawing his arms and legs closer to his body and spent a full minute a whirling blur.
When he stopped, a slow 80s clap came from the audience.
“Thank you sir,” Chad said.
“That was me clapping, silly,” Claire said. “The Olympics guy couldn’t stand the smell so he left.”
Chad sat up and laughed because he had been such a fool. Of course he wouldn’t get chosen. He had watched a video of the closing ceremonies before he got sent back in time and he would have noticed if he was one of the dancers. Maybe you can’t change the course of history just by smearing shit on it, but maybe, just maybe, future poo’s keeping Chad and Bobby from stardom in 1984 and blowing up the Challenger in 1986 always were how it was supposed to be.