“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”
After a brilliant flash of blue light, Dr. Beckett materializes inside a cluttered living room. He is seated in a comfy, well-worn leather chair facing a 50-inch high-def television set, which is currently tuned to ESPN, and a laptop, which has three different tabs opened to porn, one opened to Amazon.com and a final tab opened to a Tumblr page full of ferrets in various adorable outfits. He is dressed in red patterned boxers, a food-stained undershirt and a black bathrobe. All around him are discarded food containers.
He instinctually starts tidying up the place. During his cleaning binge, he stumbles past a mirror. Catching a glimpse of himself, his Swiss cheese memory vaguely recalls that he’s seen this face before, perhaps in an old, underrated Norm MacDonald movie he caught long ago on basic cable.
“Oh boy,” he says to himself.
Sam already has all of the food trash thrown out and is hard at work vacuuming under the couch when he hears the familiar sound of the hydraulic door to the Imaging Chamber sliding open. He turns around to see the holographic projection of his trusted companion Rear Admiral Al Calavicci, who is already messaging back and forth with Ziggy on the handlink, his right hand clutching an unlit cigar as it punches the keys.
“Okay, let’s see here,” Al says, glancing down at the handlink. “You are Arthur Steven Lange, Jr., better known as Artie. Born Oct. 11, 1967. Comedian. Radio host. Dabbles in television. Recently, you’ve fallen onto hard times due to some health and substance abuse scares and your radio show being canceled, but you are working the stand up comedy circuit and carving out a living …” Al stares intently at the handlink for a moment before continuing. “That is, until about 20 minutes from now.”
“While watching ESPN’s First Take this evening, Artie sends out a series of Tweets about on-air personality Cari Champion, including a grotesque sexual fantasy in which he roleplays as Thomas Jefferson with her as one of his slaves.”
“That … that’s can’t possibly be right. Why would any human being ever do that?”
Al punches in a few more keystrokes and slaps the side of the handlink for good measure. “As hard as it is to believe, we’ve double and triple checked it. It happened and it sent Lange’s already-struggling career into a tailspin. Champion filed a restraining order. ESPN banned Lange from the building. Networks began canceling TV appearances he had scheduled. All the while, Lange was defiant and combative. It completely destroyed his career. And ruined his life. A few years later, he’d eventually confess that this night was one of his greatest regrets – but that confession was delivered to his fellow busboys at the Waffle House he was working at / living behind.”
“So why send it in the first place?”
“Hubris. It was a very misguided attempt at humor stemming from trouble differentiating cyberspace from the night clubs he performs at and the satellite radio shows he hosts; places where the audience would have likely rolled their eyes at him, but there wouldn’t have been a public outcry. I doubt he actually meant to come across racist or misogynistic, he just thought he could thread a needle that didn’t need to be threaded in an unforgiving public space that keeps a permanent record of everything you say.”
“So I simply have to not send that tweet and I can leap out of here?”
“Ziggy projects a 99.8 percent probability that’s why you’re here. Though deleting the Twitter account altogether and throwing out some of the junk food in the fridge probably wouldn’t hurt.”
For the next 20 minutes, Sam continues to clean up the place while catching up with Al about the latest office gossip back at the project. Al tells a story about his third wife picking a fight with him on the way home from a Jell-o wrestling match she lost. Sam Windexes the television and coffee table, throws out a number of expired items from the fridge and picks up some dirty laundry in the bedroom (while being careful not to examine a single bedroom drawer for fear of not being able to unsee whatever it is he sees).
As First Take plays in the background, Sam writes “I really enjoy Cari Champion’s expert analysis and consummate professionalism” on Twitter before deleting Artie’s account altogether. He closes out the other open tabs and bookmarks a few healthy living websites for good measure before powering it down.
“I think that did it, Sam,” says Al. “Artie never goes back on Twitter. He continues to eek out a living and eventually he’s invited back to be a regular on Howard Stern’s radio show in its final years.”
“All I had to do was not send a tasteless tweet? It doesn’t get any easier than this, Al.”
A brilliant blue light engulfs Sam as he’s leaped out of Artie’s body and into his next mission. When the blue light fades, Sam is standing in a lush kitchen wearing an apron, holding a stick of butter.
A woman in business attire clutching a clipboard turns to Sam. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Deen, did you just say ‘Southern plantation wedding’?”
“Oh boy,” says Sam.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.