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My Uncle Gave Me a Time Machine

August 29, 2001, 23:04

Today, for my birthday, my Uncle Haim brought me a present. He always tries to be cool, with his funny moustache, which looks fake, and those glasses which make him look like someone from a really old TV show, from the seventies or something. And he always tries to bring me presents that won’t be just like any other present, and generally, as he says, breaking the rules. Two years ago, when he got back from America, he brought me a chemistry experiment kit, and I almost got my face burned off. Mom didn’t respond well to that. Last year he brought me a snake, and Mom almost kicked him out of the house. I can really see why Dad ran away from her.

Anyway, I think Uncle Haim learned his lesson, because this year he brought me a record. A vinyl record. A very strange one, and not by any band I ever heard of. It’s not as cool as the snake, but still it’s not bad, really, because I don’t have too many records for my old and totally retro turntable, and I don’t think anyone else has a copy of this record. But I didn’t want to show him that I liked it, because then he’d nag me about it. And also Mom would be pissed if she saw that I liked something that he brought me. So I just said “thank you” very nicely and went to my room.

Oh, and Mom bought me a small and really slick electronic journal, which isn’t so bad either. Last year she bought me a laptop computer, but that was because I kept nagging her for a whole year. This year I didn’t have the energy for it. The journal doesn’t look too new, but that’s probably because she didn’t have much money left after buying me that computer. Never mind.


August 29, 2001, 23:14

This record looks pretty old, really. It looks like it’s been played a million times already. It’s totally grooved. The name of the band is silly, Pita Morgana. What does that mean? The name of the album is also stupid, The Universe in a Pita. Someone probably had a fixation on Pita bread. Or is it an inside joke? Anyway, I listened to two songs already, and it’s some kind of weird rock. Reminds me a little of The Police, when they just started, and still liked to shout a lot, before they started making white reggae music. There’s a guitar and a bass and drums and a singer, and that’s about it. But the lyrics, those are kind of... weird. Mom shouted at me through the door to turn down the volume, but Uncle Haim calmed her down. I locked the door, just for safety. Twice. And I put the key in my pocket. Sometimes he’s really ok, Uncle Haim, when he’s not being such a nudnik. I wonder where he got this record from.


August 29, 2001, 23:40

I listened to the whole album. In the middle of it there’s one really cool song called My Uncle Gave Me a Time Machine. It goes something like this:

My uncle gave me a time machine, it is a jolly day,

A silly greeting card he added, on the wrapping lay,

And the machine a button has, upon which you may press

To move time in reverse

Like a video, I guess,

So cool, yes yes!

(Funny, but I took the gift wrapping back out of the trashcan to look at it. He did put a silly greeting card there. Nudnik he may be, but he’s got a sense of humor. Sort of.)

My uncle gave me a time machine, and now I’ve got to know

Is it really working, or is it just for show?

Now I shall investigate

Whether Time has a fixed state

I’m gonna press the button, mate!

And then, right after the singer says that, the song starts going in reverse. Cool! It goes backwards faster and faster, and somehow turns around again, like a fast forward, which slows down, and then comes the third chorus:

My uncle gave me a time machine, and it works like cheese & mutton

Now I know that I must never ever press the button!

Remember, children, it’s a crime,

To go like that and travel in time,

And now I feel ready and prime,

To press the button again—

Cuz I LIKE traveling in time!

The rhyming could be much better, right, but then the reverse starts all over again, but messier and noisier than before, and goes faster and overturns and then there’s an ending like in a rock show, when everybody just hits the instruments ’til they’ve had enough. Not bad at all!


August 29, 2001, 23:38

I listened to it again. It’s the best song on the album. And I just noticed another funny thing. On the back of the sleeve, like in every other album, there’s a list of all the songs with their playing times, like, Zero Gravity Shower: 4:12, Dark Side of the Sun: 3:56, etc., but near the playing time of this particular song there’s a small dash, which I think could be a minus sign. Someone there really put some effort into that joke.


August 29, 2001, 23:35

I listened to it again, and then I noticed something weird. My wristwatch doesn’t match the cuckoo clock. I keep them synchronized, and the cuckoo always runs ok, especially when you consider the fact that it’s been hanging on the wall since Grandpa and Grandma lived here, which is a really long time. Now that I’m checking, the clock of the electronic journal doesn’t match the wristwatch either. Something’s weird here.


August 29, 2001, 23:28

That song is really addictive. I listened to it three more times, and I still haven’t had enough. I looked at the times of the entries I just put in the journal, and they seem to go backwards, with each entry written previous to... eh, to the previous one. But when I sat and looked at the journal’s clock, it seemed to be going forward. Either the journal is fucked up, or I’ve got some kind of time machine here. Ha ha. Someone’s knocking at the door, but I left it locked. Nudniks.


August 29, 2001, 23:20

This isn’t funny. Either I’m hallucinating, or this song is actually taking me back in time. Two minutes and something every time. I knew Uncle Haim wouldn’t bring me just a regular record. I knew it. How do I know? Because the computer’s clock doesn’t agree with my wristwatch either, and in fact all the clocks in the room agree with each other, except for the wristwatch. I’m going to listen to this song some more, just to make sure.


August 29, 2001, 23:04

Oh yes, for sure. Done deal. That thing is a time machine. But what can you do with a time machine that moves you two minutes back in time? I think I’m going to make an experiment, break the rules, like Uncle Haim says. Who says that I have to play the song on a turntable? I’ll sample it to my laptop computer. I have this software that can take any sound and do whatever I want with it. I’ll make it play the song over and over at high speed, and we’ll see what happens. Cool!


March 31, 1964, 10:12

Damn! I don’t believe it!


March 31, 1964, 10:20

Oh my God, I’m stuck here!


March 31, 1964, 22:34

Ok, you must relax, man. Wait a minute. Let’s think about what happened here. Ok, what happened was this: I sampled the song into the computer, and then played it really fast lots of times. Then the cuckoo clock on the wall started going backwards, really really fast, and the computer played the song faster and faster and got stuck, and wouldn’t stop even though I pressed all the buttons, and then it started making weird noises, and I don’t know what, and then the paint on the walls changed its colors, and the wardrobe suddenly vanished, and the bed was replaced with some other bed, and there was a real mess. Then somehow I managed to stop it. I looked at the date the computer showed and then I freaked out. 1964. I couldn’t believe it at first, but then some thug entered the room and asked me, in some sort of silly Polish accent, what the hell I was doing in his house. I told him that it was my house, and then he grabbed my ear and threw me out. Schmuck.

I wanted to try the software again, but the battery in the computer died.

I’m stuck here.


April 1, 1964, 14:16

That thug, I just realized, is Grandpa Efraim. It occurred to me after spending the whole night in his garden, which I remember playing in when I was little. It was really cold last night. I’ve decided to sell him some story about being a remote relative, so that he’ll let me sleep inside. I know enough interesting things about our family to convince him. I hope. Now I just have to wait for him to come home from work.


April 1, 1964, 19:35

When Grandpa Efraim got home from work I went up to him, told him that I’m a distant relative, and that I just arrived in the country, and that I don’t know my way around too well, and I added all the stuff I knew about him and Grandma, everything he told me when I was little, how they both came to Israel without anything, and were pioneers, and worked hard in drying the swamps and all that. And then he told me that he never heard such stupid lies, not even on April Fool’s Day, and grabbed my ears and threw me out. Nice job, Grandpa. The only person in the family I ever trusted. I should have known better.


April 2, 1964, 11:18

One more night in this garden and I’m dead. I’m itching everywhere, and I have a cold. I have to get inside, somehow. I think I’ll talk to Grandma. She died before I was born, and, considering the sad state of Grandpa’s reliability, there’s not much that I know about her, but I’ve got to try.


April 2, 1964, 16:20

I made it! I think Grandma adopted me. I told her all sorts of weird stories about how I came to Israel, and made them as different as possible from the stories Grandpa used to tell. I also made sure to be properly impressed and excited about her newborn baby twins – that is, Dad and Uncle Haim. That worked quite well. I just have to convince her enough so that when Grandpa comes back from work, he doesn’t throw me out.


April 2, 1964, 19:40

Grandpa came back from work and threw me out.



April 3, 1964, 10:50

Grandma found me, half-dead and shivering, in the garden. She took me inside. I think I got pneumonia.


May 5, 1964, 12:42

I was really sick for about a month. Grandma took care of me. I think she likes me. I didn’t see much of Grandpa, probably because she didn’t let him come in the room. I didn’t see much of the twins either, but I heard them a lot. They cry so much, it gives me a migraine. Anyway, while being stuck in bed with nothing to do I had an idea: the record is still in the house. All I need to do is play it over and over again backwards, and it’ll get me back to my own time. I’m just waiting for them to let me get out of bed. I feel dizzy.


May 12, 1964, 10:37

Yesterday I finally got out of bed. Grandpa was already at work, and Grandma, after brewing me a disgusting cup of tea and making me drink it, took the babies and went to work too. I was left alone in the house, and immediately went to work trying my idea. I found the record in the trash heap outside, put it in the old phonograph, put the needle on the right track and started rolling the plate backwards like crazy. I spent six hours like this, my finger hurts like crazy, and all I’ve managed is to do is reach now. This isn’t going to work.

And Grandpa threw my computer out and got it broken.

I’m stuck here.

It’s hot during the day, cold at night, there’s no TV, no computer, no internet, no friends. Not like I had any friends before, but still...

This just can’t be. It can’t go on like this.

I have to keep turning the record.


May 12, 1964, 19:22

Grandpa came back from work, saw me turning the record, grabbed my ear and threw me out of the house.

I have to find another solution.

At least it’s gotten a little bit less cold here in the garden, at night.


May 14, 1964, 13:46

I know what I have to do. It’s horrible, but it’ll solve the problem. It’s the only solution.

I have to break the rules.

I have to murder Uncle Haim.

If I kill him, he won’t be able to give me the album. And then I won’t go back in time, and everything will be all right. He deserves it, really. That silly sense of humor. Nudnik.

The problem is that I have no idea who’s who. They’re identical twins, only a few months old, and I don’t think even Grandma herself can tell the difference. But I bet finding out is much easier than going back to 2001.

I hope.

Meanwhile, I put up a tent in the garden. Grandma gives me half a lira a week to keep an eye on the babies while she’s at work. Excellent.


May 22, 1964, 17:54

I figured it out. I thought about it a lot, dug out everything that I knew about Dad and Uncle Haim, and now I know. I always teased Uncle Haim about his glasses and his moustache and his silly artificial tan, and he always told me that he’s tanned because when they were little, his bed was the one near the window, and Dad was in the bed near the wall. There you go, Uncle Haim, everybody knows that too much tanning can cost you your life.


May 23, 1964, 18:05

No. I can’t do it. I’m no murderer.

But I’m stuck here.

But it can’t be.

But I’m stuck here.

And it’s all Uncle Haim’s fault. He’s the one to blame. No matter how you look at it, it’s his fault. The schmuck.

But he’s a baby.

But he’ll grow up to become Uncle Haim.


It can’t be. It just can’t.


May 25, 1964, 18:05

It can’t be. It just can’t.

I killed him, and I’m still here.

Grandpa and Grandma haven’t come home from work yet, and I don’t know what to do. He’s dead—I smothered him with a pillow—and I’m still here. How can that be? Damn!

It can’t be!


May 25, 1964, 18:09

Oh, no. No no no. I understand now.

I killed the wrong baby.

But Uncle Haim said...

But wait... the schmuck knew that I was going to go back in time. He knew! So he made sure to tell me the wrong story! I don’t know why he did this to me, but somehow he knew! Son of a bitch!

I’m going to kill him!

Sorry, Grandma.


May 25, 1964, 18:20

This is really impossible.

I killed him, too. I killed both of them. And I’m still here.

How did he do that? How? If there’s no Uncle Haim, there’s no record. If there’s no record, there’s no time travel. How the hell am I still here?

Maybe it’s a dream?

In any case, I have to hide the bodies. And find some excuse. Real quick. If Grandpa catches me, it’s the end of the story, and this time not only for my poor ear. He’s absolutely deranged. No chance he’ll understand.


May 26, 1964, 12:32

There’s a big mess. Grandpa and Grandma came home yesterday evening and found me unconscious on the floor, with a bruise the size of an egg on my head. I did that myself, with Grandpa’s hoe. It hurt like hell, but not as much as it did when the doctor stitched me later. I told them that someone hit me on the head and that I couldn’t remember anything. Everyone feels sorry for me now, and Grandpa and Grandma are crazy with worry for the babies. I feel kind of sorry for them, but Uncle Haim had it coming.

Wait a minute.

If I killed Dad, how come I’m still here?

Something’s really wrong here.


I’ve got a terrible headache.


June 12, 1964, 19:40

They took out the stitches today. It hurt almost as much as when the doctor put them in. I yelled like crazy. Hanna, the neighbor’s kid, came to visit me today. Nice girl. Definitely not a Nudnik. I have to get home somehow. If there’s no other way, I’ll just spin that record until my finger is gone.


August 14, 1968, 13:01

All my fingers are gone, and today—the phonograph too. I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this. Years. It just doesn’t go fast enough. It’s horrible. Whenever Grandpa and Grandma are gone I spin the record, over and over and over again, until they come home. When they come home I have to stop, otherwise Grandpa grabs my ear and throws me out of the house. There’s no going through him, that man. Why are there no home computers in sixties? Why?


February 15, 1972, 17:34

I have a great idea! I’m a genius!

A tape recorder!

I’ll buy me one of those old reel-to-reel tape recorders, record the damned song—which I really can’t stand listening to anymore—on a tape, put the tape back in it in reverse, play it in fast-forward! I’m a genius! That’s how you break the rules! I’m going home!


February 28, 1972, 11:20

It took me almost a week to convince Grandma to help me buy the tape recorder, and several more days to find out where I could buy one, and then a few more days to locate some tapes. Where did all those stories about the coolness of the seventies come from? Phooey!

But now I have everything I need, and I’m going to fly home like a rocket and never use a turntable or a phonograph in my whole life. I’m a genius!


February 28, 1972, 11:28

So much for being a genius. It seems that after each playing you have to run the tape backwards, and every time you do that, it tangles up in the machine, and the fast forward isn’t really fast. It’s even slower than spinning the record with my finger.

Hanna suggested that I record the song several times on the tape, to save time. That’s a good idea. She’s kinda smart, that Hanna.


June 7, 1976, 13:08

She doesn’t look that bad, either.

But after one test run, which brought me to this time, the tape recorder blew up.

Grandma won’t buy me another one, and Grandpa is still strong enough to grab my ear and throw me out. At least they bought a new phonograph, and I keep turning the record, underground, as before.


March 3, 1980, 15:55

Smart, eh? Doesn’t look bad, eh? My God, Hanna is Mom!

How could I miss that?

An Oedipus complex. Damn it. I’m really disgusted with myself. Maybe I’ll kill her too?

But on the other hand, I already killed Dad, so how come I’m still around anyway?

Oh, no. No no no.




June 6, 1981, 16:66

We just got married.

Yes, it’s horrible, but it’s also survival. My survival. I don’t want to die. Or to cease to exist. I want to live. And Hanna, really—I don’t want to call her “Mom,” I’ve had enough of that—Hanna isn’t such a bad choice. She’s ok. She’s even really ok.

And she loves me.

But it’s still all pretty weird.

I don’t know how long I can stand this.

At least until I’m born, that’s all I can say.

We live at Grandpa and Grandma’s place, and there we’ll stay. We don’t have the money to move. I wanted to buy a computer, but there’s no money for that either. They’re expensive, those things! From time to time, I still run the damned record backwards, just to pass the time.


August 29, 1984, 04:32

I was just born.

I had a really hard time making that happen. Hanna wasn’t ready at first, she wanted to have a career. She drove me crazy. She didn’t understand why it was so urgent for me to have a child. You try to explain it.

Truth be told, I got used to her. I don’t think of her as my “mother” at all anymore. She’s really okay usually, and I kind of love her.

But still, it’s difficult.

The baby is screaming like crazy. You would think that he already understands what’s in store for him, but I don’t remember knowing anything like that, when I was him.


August 29, 1989, 20:44

Today I caught Grandpa telling the kid all kinds of lies about how he was a pioneer and worked in drying the swamps. When I came in the room, he didn’t even blink. There’s no one in this family who isn’t a liar. It’s really unbelievable. At least Grandma wasn’t there to see it.


May 14, 1990, 09:54

I feel old. My childhood memories seem to be dimming. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and the house doesn’t look the way I remember it from my own childhood, but rather like a strange place, an alien place. Maybe I should go and see a shrink.


May 15, 1990, 10:60

Or maybe the kid should go see a shrink. In my whole life I’ve never seen such a crybaby. I just refuse to believe that I was really that way. I mean, of course I was, the evidence is right in front of me, but... I don’t know.

Perspective, even more than being complicated, is embarrassing.


August 29, 1991, 19:20

That’s it. I ran away. Couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m going to America. I left Hanna a note, wrote that I love her, but that my mental condition... blah di blah. She’s going to hate me. She thinks that she’ll never see me again until the day she dies, but I know what’s really going to happen. I figured it out already. In order to continue living, to continue existing, I must someday return.


April 1, 1999, 03:12

I have returned. At last. Old, bitter, and with a silly moustache and sillier glasses, hoping that she wouldn’t notice. Here comes Uncle Haim. Damn it.


April 2, 1999, 17:33

And here’s Hanna. She still looks young. I still love her. Maybe. But I’m the uncle—the father has gone. I don’t know whether or not she recognized me through the disguise and the additional years. I just have no idea. The kid recognized me, for sure. He grew up quite a lot while I was gone. On the other hand, he doesn’t look anything like me. I’m sure that as a teenager I wasn’t so fat and flaccid. And, alas, stupid. And a Nudnik.

He started asking me some very uncomfortable questions. Foreseeing this, I gave him a chemistry set that I bought for him in America, just to shut him up. Or so he’ll blow himself up, or something. It worked, at least temporarily. I need to keep giving him gifts like that. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get him interested in computers.


December 7, 1999, 18:30

I looked for that album and for the band that recorded it in every record shop in town, and in several other towns. Nobody has ever heard of it. Where did Uncle Haim... where did I find that damned album? I mean, I still have my own copy, but...



August 29, 2000, 21:45

I bought him a snake for his birthday, which was a bit of a death wish on my part. It almost worked—Hanna almost killed me. The more presents I give this horrible child, the more pissed off she gets. The child separates us, stands between us, and keeps asking terrible questions. He suspects me. I can feel that. I have to get rid of him. Not to mention the fact that he must get back in order to make sure that I’m born. Nudnik. I told him the stupid lie about my artificial tan. Who came up with that piece of crap? Hanna had to buy him a computer, and if she knew who put that idea into his head, she’d probably kill me for real.

I just can’t believe that this kid is myself. On the other hand, I really don’t give a damn anymore.


October 11, 2000, 20:00

Today, as I was walking down the street, a stranger asked me how I was doing. Reflexively I said that I was okay, and then I looked at him and I saw that he was some kind of a beggar, with really old and shabby and weird clothes. And glasses. And a moustache, which looked fake. I turned away and started walking, but then he asked me whether I was interested in something. Interested in a record. He made a you-know-exactly-what-I’m-talking-about face, and then added, “You probably understand that you’re not the only time traveler around here, and that someone has to keep an eye on you people.”

I wanted to strangle him, but didn’t dare. What he said pissed me off, but not as much as his irritating, arrogant smile, and definitely not as much as the record that he pulled out of thin air. I had been looking for it for so many years. It was by a band called “Fatta Morgana,” and track number five was called “A Time Machine Bought Me an Uncle.”

I told him that at least he could bring the real record and not some cheap fake, and he started blabbering out all sorts of technobabble and tried a silly story on me about how for this place and this time this record is the right one.

I sent him to sell it to someone else. I can’t be fooled anymore, and I’ve already got the right record, thank you very much.


January 1, 2001, 00:10

The last year has arrived, the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t have to restrain myself much longer. The damned kid drives me crazy, but if I’ve been able to restrain myself till now...

Sometimes I ask myself just how I’ve managed to do that, but that’s a dangerous line of thought. Very dangerous. I’ve killed enough people already.


August 29, 2001, 22:30

This is it. Today is the day. I took the record out of the attic, cleaned it, put a nice wrapping on it and added a silly greeting card. That’s it. The waiting is over. The little parasite will go, and Hanna and I will be left alone, to spend the rest of our lives together. Hanna complained that she has no money for a reasonable present, after the bloodsucker made her buy him that expensive computer last year. I wonder who gave him that idea. I gave her an idea of my own—this electronic journal. I won’t need it anyway, after the Nudnik is gone.

That’s it. We’re going to give him the presents. Goodbye, dear journal, and we shall never meet again.


— ??, ??:??

I refuse to try to understand this universe, whichever one it may be. I want to die. Or maybe I’m already dead without knowing it. Or maybe it’s the universe that’s dead without knowing it.

We gave the Nudnik his presents. He tried to hide his satisfaction but couldn’t. We both know him too well. He took them back to his room without a word of thanks. For several minutes there was silence, and then he listened to some songs, at a disturbingly high volume. Hanna shouted at him to turn it down and he didn’t answer, though he did turn it down a bit, and I tried distracting her by talking about other things. Or maybe she was also was waiting for something, I don’t know what. Anyway, the brat reached track number five, that horrible, abominable, endlessly repeating song, and then after that it got quiet. Total silence.

“That’s it,” I said. “He’s gone.”

“Gone?” Hanna said. “What are you talking about, Haim?”

“I’m not Haim,” I said, and removed, for the first time in two years, the silly glasses. “Don’t you know me?”

“Of course I know you,” she said. “For two years I’ve been trying to figure out what you’re trying to achieve by playing this silly game. Not to mention the moustache.”

“It’s a long story,” I said.

“We’ve got all the time in the world,” she said. “The kid’s asleep.”

“Yeah,” I said, “we’ve got time. And he’s gone at last. He won’t bother us anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Here, look for yourself,” I said, and led her to the parasite’s room. I opened the door—the key has been in my pocket for all these years—and entered.

The room was empty—except for the little fool, who was right there, sound asleep in his bed.

I looked at him for a long time.

And I understood.

All that time, all those years, I was organizing the history of the wrong fool. Of two fools, more alike than I feel comfortable admitting, but still different. I looked at Hanna who wasn’t my mother and at my son who wasn’t myself, and started to break the rules for the last and final time.

“I beg your pardon,” I told Hanna. “I guess I’ve reached the wrong universe.”

I got up, took the journal and the record, and went out.

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