On this particular Tuesday, Time Travelers Inc. had sent one of their lawyers, Maxwell Bishop, to an arbitration meeting. Joining him in the rented room was fellow arbitrator Milquetoast Foireè, and the offended party, a pink-haired, foul-mouthed 81-year old named Mrs. Sprightly.
Three seconds ago, there had been a miscommunication, and now Foireè said, “I believe what my client meant was—”
“Go suck on a grenade, you bloated louse!” Mrs. Sprightly threw a tattooed arm across Foireè’s chest, shoving him out of her way so she could lean across the table and slam a fist down on Bishop’s Steno pad.
“Mrs. Sprightly,” Bishop said while smoothing the wrinkles of his paper, “The waiver you signed is clear – Removal from the past is at the sole discretion of Time Travelers, Inc. Safety is our first priority.”
“Aw, baloney! In all my travels, I’ve never developed so much as a rash! Then on this last trip, you yank me out early and make me lose the Bingo to Vera Winnebago!”
Bishop made a note. “Vera Winnebago?”
“We’d been neck-and-neck the whole time. I was about to win with this last trip to the Jurassic, but before I’d swatted a single mosquito, I’m back inside the Terminal and some cotton-brained secretary’s directing me to Baggage Claim.” Mrs. Sprightly lurched forward and stabbed her pen through Bishop’s Steno pad. “And it doesn’t count if you don’t stay there the whole time!”
Foireè’s chair creaked as he leaned forward. “Was there a prize for winning?”
“Oh, you bet! Her kidney! We all had to throw down something. Shirley Tuppence had Knicks tickets, The Big Mouth Bass had a time-share, and Vera had a spare kidney. But now because of you morons, I’ve got to give my Bradbury Lithograph to Vera – Vera for godsake!” She kicked a leg out and sent Foireè’s chair spinning in circles. He went around twice before falling out. The empty chair crashed into the wall and tipped over; Foireè lay prone on the carpet.
Mrs. Sprightly’s eyes flashed. “You butternuts owe me a kidney! And if I have to claw my way through your guts to get it—” she pointed a bony finger at Bishop “—then that’s what I’ll do.”
Bishop wiggled Mrs. Sprightly’s pen free and set it to the side. “You know, my husband buys all of his kidneys at CVS. In fact, I believe this week they’re having a 3 pack special—”
“I don’t want one of those cheap, mass-produced kidneys!”
“Have you tried the new models? They’re very easy to insert.”
Mrs. Sprightly stood up with her cowboy boot already in hand and hurled it at Bishop’s water bottle, which tipped over and began pumping its guts out all over his Steno pad. “Cassie doesn’t want to insert a kidney! She wants to eat one!”
The door behind Mrs. Sprightly silently opened and closed, as Foireè crawled his way to freedom.
Bishop sighed, then lifted his Steno pad and dumped the pool of water onto the carpet. “To eat one, you say?”
“Of course! It’s her 16th birthday next week and I promised her she could have a real, hot, juicy, wriggling kidney!”
Bishop peeled apart his Steno pad’s soggy pages until he found paper suitable for continuing his notes.
“And Cassie is your…granddaughter?”
Mrs. Sprightly snarled. “I am talking about Cassiopeia, my French bulldog!”
“Ah, of course.” Bishop closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose to arrest an oncoming migraine. “Mrs. Sprightly, I’m afraid that the company will not be able to issue a refund, as it is against our policy. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we’d like to remind you that vomiting from the top of an Apatosaurus is a completely justifiable reason to remove a patron.”
Mrs. Sprightly clenched fistfuls of her cotton-candy-colored hair and grit her teeth. “Those idiot Time-Attendants forgot to pack me my Dramamine!”
Bishop checked his wristwatch, turned to a clean page, and made a note. “Mrs. Sprightly, in light of your many years of patronage with us and, I’m sure, our mutual desire to move forward with our lives, I think I know how we can conclude this meeting amicably.” Bishop explained his idea.
One week later, he was strolling down a hallway at work when a loud bark called his attention to an open doorway.
“Ah, hello, Mrs. Sprightly. Leaving today, are you?”
Mrs. Sprightly was standing in position while technicians fluttered around her, making last-minute adjustments. In her arms, she clutched a struggling French bulldog, who was wearing a birthday cone hat.
“And a Happy Birthday to you, Cassiopeia.”
Mrs. Sprightly grasped Cassiopeia’s hind legs together to keep her from kicking. “I was able to keep it a surprise until this morning. She’s very excited!”
“Ah, yes, well…” Bishop searched for words. “First dog ever to be granted permission to Time-Travel. Very special exception for a, uh, very special client. And where did you say you were going?”
“We’re ready now,” one of the technicians said.
Mrs. Sprightly slid her goggles over her eyes, then did the same for Cassiopeia. “We’re going to visit one of my ancestors: Vlad the Impaler. Yes, Cassie’s going to get all the kidneys she can stomach today!” She clutched the dog tighter to her chest and hinged forward into an offensive squat. “Hang on, now, baby. It’s about to get windy!”
Bishop nodded his Good-bye and backed out of the room, closing the door behind him as he resumed his stroll to the Supply Closet. He was fresh out of Steno Pads.