A Minute, Give or Take
by Mark Joseph Kevlock

Time’s a funny proposition

     Arthur Provinski lived his life ten minutes behind the rest of the world. He was late for every major event of his life, of which there were few. Try as he might, Arthur just couldn’t catch up. He missed every bus. He never kept an appointment. He celebrated every New Year’s at 12:10 a.m.

     Arthur’s only hope for happiness was to find someone even farther behind than he was. One day he came upon a car crash ten minutes after it occurred and spied in the wreckage a beautiful limb still attached to its owner, Calamity Benton.

     Calamity ran eleven minutes behind, so it took her an extra sixty seconds even to acknowledge Arthur’s presence at the scene. After she got released—late—from the hospital, they began dating. At the movies they took in a love story, Arthur reaching for her hand ten minutes after a tender scene unfolded, Calamity responding a moment later.

     Their own romance proved equally difficult—neither able to take action until long after a particular mood had passed. Arthur tried to watch a football game but his team had already lost.

     “We’ll need to anticipate each other’s moods,” Arthur explained. “Even guess, if we have to, just to be on time for a change.”

     A minute later, after Calamity heard him, she began to undress.

     “What are you doing?” Arthur asked her ten minutes later. “We’re in the middle of a discussion.”

     “I was trying to guess what comes next,” Calamity replied, a moment later.

     Eventually, their intentions became so convoluted that each stepped outside for a walk in separate directions. Arthur kept adjusting his watch so that it ran ten minutes slower. He developed a theory along the way. What if, instead of always trying to catch up, he allowed himself to fall farther behind? Maybe, if he lost twelve or even twenty-four hours, like a clock he would find himself back in sync, registering the correct time. Or would be simply be, then, a day behind?

     Arthur thought it worth the risk. He grew tired of soggy cereal and running out of hot water in the shower. He began to walk backward around the block, winding himself in reverse, losing ten more minutes with each step. He passed Calamity on her way out of his building. Then he passed her again as she had just arrived.

     Arthur grew excited that his plan was working, sort of. He checked the big hand and the little hand there on the face of the church clock, halting his backward march at precisely twelve hours and ten minutes. Eureka! He was half a day behind the world but exactly that! Arthur gambled that another twelve hours might do it.

     The birds flew backward around him,. A gas main un-exploded down the block. A cat came back to life on the roadside.

     I won’t have to eat dinners that have gone cold, Arthur rejoiced in his thoughts. I won’t get caught in sudden downpours every single time.

     Finally, he arrived—a day late but right on time. The plan appeared successful. It was 12:34 p.m.—for Arthur and for everyone else, too.

     He whistled at a pretty woman passing by. She heard him. He stepped in front of a taxicab. The driver swerved and cursed at him. Oh, the world was a wondrous place!

     Calamity then came to his mind. She could do as he had: catch up in reverse. Then they could do all the things they couldn’t do before.

     Arthur ran toward Calamity to tell her the news. But when he reached her apartment right on time, he found her not alone. After a moment of shock, he heard Calamity say, “I’m sorry, Arthur, George is the one for me. He runs one minute…ahead.”

     Arthur started arguing, seemingly with thin air. It came to blows. A sudden, sharp pain directed Arthur’s attention to his chest where a gunshot wound appeared. Arthur collapsed in real time to the floor. After a moment, he finally saw the gun in George’s hand.

     “Just a minute too late,” Arthur said.