Mr. Reynard, 63, quite liked his front door. How it felt: the Knotty Alder (a wood with the “strength of maple and the personality of pine”) felt soft on his fingertips and on his lips. How it looked, of course, too: it was inviting but not too inviting; he could get close to it. Especially, he liked that his wife picked it out.
This morning, Mr. Reynard, of 2316 Longwall Court, had nearly forgotten his gloves, knit some years ago by one of his daughter’s daughters. Mulling over last night’s time-travel dream, he had nearly forgotten his Sunday newspaper as well. Only after locking his front gate did he realize his dilemma. When he finally got everything together, he went, as he always had, to Andrew’s.
There, Mr. Reynard, retired, got a small cup of coffee, a plate of bacon, and the 4-egg omelet- cooked-around-a-house-salad known as The Relic. His waitress Barbara was happy to help him this Sunday morning, as she had for the previous who-knows-how-many Sundays. After about 12 minutes, when the meal was delivered, he clutched the mug and let it warm his hands. He briefly kissed the edge of the toasty mug, before reaching for the newspaper.
Mr. Reynard, the father of three, pushed the mug to the side and swiped old crumbs off the laminate to make room for the paper, setting it down and letting it rest for a moment.
He grabbed another sip of the coffee and glanced at the headline:
QUEEN, 91, DEAD. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN.
The mug instantly slipped out of his hand and nearly delivered hot coffee right to his khaki’d thighs. He leapt out of his booth, banged his knee on the table, slipped on the slick tile, and stumbled over to Jeanette, the charming girl who worked behind the counter. Unable to find his breath, he motioned towards the tiny TV in the corner.
“Erm, Jeanie, could you switch it to Channel 4 for a minute please?”
“Oh, right now? We’re up 2-1 with 25 minutes left, we might actually pull this off!”
“I think there’s something you might want to hear about. Could ya?”
“Oh alright, for just a minute. Really, no more!”
She flicked the remote up at the TV.
“…and of course we are still covering our top story this morning: the train derailment just outside of Nottingham that has killed two and has left as many as 60 injured. Again, 2 people are confirmed dead as of now, both passengers…”
He looked down at his palms and squeezed them together, before wiping off his brow. His breathing picked up.
“Ok, thanks, Jeanie, I guess that’s good for now, er, uh, thanks again.” “Oh don’t sound so excited Mr. Reynard, sir. I can put it back now, ay?” “Yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure.”
Mr. Reynard, estranged from his children, staggered over to a group of patrons he’d seen before but never bothered to talk to: the old man and his brother. He dipped his head into their conversation in a not-so-subtle way and overheard more talk about football.
After a moment of hanging on the outside, he decided to interrupt, hesitantly.
“Did you guys here about what happened?”
“Did we what?” the old man replied.
“Did you, you know. What do you think about,” he motioned towards the TV, “what happened? Isn’t it a tragedy?”
“What, the Everton match? That’s a damned tragedy all right. But hey, we might pull it off.” The old man joked, while his laughing brother chimed in, “I think we’re up 2-1 now, though.”
“No. Not that. I meant. I meant the queen.”
“Oh, who cares about the her damned highness?”
“Well, I feel like you should at least be respectful.”
“And why’s that? What did she ever do for me? For my brother here?”
Mr. Reynard, divorced, slipped out of the conversation and quickly fell back in to his booth. He grabbed the first bill out of his wallet, kissed it, slammed it on the table, and ran out the door, shouting. The newspaper was in hand.
“What are you shouting about?” asked a man on a nearby bench, sitting next to his wife.
“The Queen is dead! The Queen of, how many, 63 years! Nobody seems to notice!”
His wife chimed in: “Oh goodness… are you sure?”
The man on the bench uncrossed his legs and stood up to Mr. Reynard. He grabbed his own newspaper and began to flip through the pages.
“I don’t see anything about that here. You know, if she really died, I’d certainly bet that it would be printed here.”
“Oh definitely,” his wife added. “I’m sure we would have heard about it already, don’t you think so honey?”
“Yeah, we would have, love. Say, sir, where did you here this news? In that paper?”
He motioned to the newspaper tucked under Mr. Reynard’s arm and reached for it. Scanning it over, he saw, sure enough:
QUEEN, 91, DEAD. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN.
“Oh, my. Oh, my!”
The bench man’s wife quickly rose up to her husband. She yanked the paper out from his arms. Mr. Reynard, assured of himself, took their place on the bench.
“This can’t be true, this has got to be a misprint.”
“Oh, of course! Of course, honey. Sir, this is just a misprint. Or, a prank newspaper. It is some kind of practical joke.”
Mr. Reynard opened his mouth to retort, just as the bother couple began to gather their things. The man zipped up his parka, adjusted his glasses, and flashed a glare at a confused Mr. Reynard. He held up the paper as if to rip it up, and instead crumpled it into a ball and threw it into the nearby waste bin. His wife gave him an affectionate nod.
“Woah! I don’t think this is a joke, this came right from the postman.”
“You just might want to go ask your postman, then,” the wife said.
“Yeah, and don’t go around scaring people like that,” her husband added. Immediately, the couple grabbed each other’s gloved hands and trotted away. After they crossed a bridge and turned the nearest corner, she looked back and flashed Mr. Reynard a glare as well.
Just then, Mr. Reynard, unfazed, noticed that a postman appeared from around the same corner. This was not Mr. Reynard’s postman. Running up to him, Mr. Reynard asked:
“Is the Queen dead, or is she not?”
The postman must have missed this as he kept going about his work day. Indeed, Mr. Reynard noticed, he had in earplugs.
“Excuse me,” Mr. Reynard said, getting closer. “Excuse me, sir, but has the Queen died?”
“I don’t think so. Why do you ask? I don’t make the news, you know, I just deliver it.”
Mr. Reynard showed him the headline.
“Oh. Very interesting.”
“Well? Am I going crazy here?”
“Hmmm,” the postman sighed. “This is very interesting, indeed.”
“What? What do you mean? Her Majesty has passed, no?”
“No, sir. Well, at least not today. Well, not according to this paper, that is. What date is on this paper, might I ask?”
Mr. Reynard looked above the headline and then showed it off to the postman.
“You see? This is next week’s paper! I’m afraid they must have given you this one b’accident! That can happen sometimes. I supposed it is better than getting last week’s news today. Just gotta ignore it, hopefully, you’ll get tomorrow’s news tomorrow. Hope that clears things up. Now, if you don’t mind,” the postman said, before walking away.
Mr. Reynard, alone, felt about ready to pass out. Mr. Reynard, holding on to the past, looked towards the future.