I always thought it was impossible to destroy the fabric of the universe while working at a parking garage. It was one of those comforting truths that I clung to when times got hard, one of those sentences you stick ‘at least’ on the front of, like: “at least rats can’t wield guns” or “at least I’ll never be eaten by a dinosaur.” Finding out these things are wrong is what I think is called life experience.
Bruno Brax was a friend of mine, in the same way a black hole and a passing star are friends. He had a sly, Tom Sawyer-esque way of making you think he was doing you a favor when it was really the other way around. I’m still not sure what he did for a living, but if I had to guess, it was to be friends with people like me.
“Hey Jimmy,” Bruno said, calling me up one day while I was puzzling over my doctoral dissertation. “I found you a job.”
“I’m not looking for a job.”
“Not anymore. Cuz I found you one. It’s a valet job at La Fesse D’or. It’s a swanky place. The guy who worked there before made like, eight bills a night.”
“8000 dollars a night?” I asked, skeptical.
“Not eight grand, idiot, 800. What, that’s not enough?”
“How do you make that much parking cars?”
“Tips, of course. It’s high class. Anyway, I’m always happy to help. I’ll text you the address. See you in an hour.” He hung up.
I went to meet him. I was stuck on my dissertation anyway.
La Fesse D’or stuck up like a crystal needle in the middle of the restaurant district, poised to lance the boil of the heavens. It was so narrow that there was only one table per floor but the restaurant went up thirty stories into the air, like a space-age middle finger to anyone who couldn’t afford to eat there, which was pretty much everyone. I drove but had to park four blocks away. Bruno was waiting outside, looking impatient.
“You’re late. I wanted to train you but your shift starts in fifteen minutes, so there’s not much time.”
“Come on, I even got your size uniform. Hurry up and change.”
There is a certain point, just like with black holes, when you pass the event horizon and struggling becomes pointless. Bruno had this weird gravity about him that sucked you in and compelled you see his point of view. And his point of view was invariably that you should do what he said.
“Okay, so this is all there is to it,” he said once I had changed into a uniform two sizes too small and was standing out front with him. “The customer drives up and gives you the keys. Then you drive it around the corner and onto the receiving pad. Then you go into the control booth and push the green button and the car disappears. Simple as that.”
“Where does it go?”
“It goes forward in time,” Bruno said, as if this was obvious. “A guy I know set it up since the owner’s a friend of mine.”
“You send them forward in time,” I repeated. I thought the collar might be cutting off my oxygen.
“To the year 5400, I think. Trust me, it was cheaper to do it this way than rent parking space in this neighborhood. Now, it’s important to send the cars at least four hours apart, or they might appear on top of one another. That’s bad. The world is a blasted wasteland at that time, so there’s no problem with future people messing with the cars. To get them back, select them on the list in the computer and hit the red button. Got it?”
I don’t absorb new information well so for the next quarter hour, my brain was curled up in the fetal position in the corner of my skull. Bruno took my frozen expression as a good sign and left me with a hearty “Good Luck!” and a slap on the back. “Oh, by the way,” he said, poking his head back in the door. “Never let the customers know about this, okay? For all they know it’s a normal parking garage. Got it?”
I got it eventually and after the shock wore off, I started to get excited. An hour before, I had been mired in an ill-conceived sociology dissertation and now I was sending cars forward in time. I went into the control booth.
There was dried blood on the floor. I called Bruno.
“Oh, that’s from the last guy, Charley. He fell asleep and spun the dial to send the car back into the distant past. A small dinosaur came back with the car and bit his leg off. He died.”
“The dinosaur or Charley?”
“Charley. I don’t know what happened to the dinosaur. Listen, you’re not allowed to bring a gun to work, but it might be a good idea to bring a large knife when you come tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Bruno had already hung up.
Someone honked outside and from just the tone and duration, I could tell he was a jerk. It turned out to be a she, a very well-dressed she in a Hummer. She dropped the keys into my hand and walked off without a word. A moment later, the Hummer was on the receiving pad. I wiped the sweat off my palm and pressed the green button.
Bruno wasn’t kidding. The Hummer just popped out of existence, no flaming tire tracks or anything.
Just then, the phone rang and I picked it up. “Hey, buddy, there’s a woman here who says you just parked her Hummer. She said her brother is asleep in the back seat, so just tell him to come in when he wakes up.”
Crap crap crap.
I had to call Bruno.