4 out of 5 in 1981

by B.J. Jones  

The hotels are empty, the shops are closed, and the sand is undisturbed. A few people walk by wearing jackets. Linda gets off a bus and joins the few walkers on the beach’s boardwalk. Linda just got off her shift at the hospital where she is a nurse assigned to pediatrics.

She often comes to the beach to sit on a bench and watch the ocean. She only comes in winter when all the vacationers are gone. In winter she owns the beach.

Linda takes a book out of her purse and starts reading when a man with a red suitcase stops in front of her.

‘Excuse me miss?’ he says.

Linda looks up from her book. ‘What do you want?’

‘Sorry to disturb your reading, but I wanted to know if I could interest you in what I have in my suitcase.’

Linda puts her book down without marking her place and looks around.

The man puts the red suitcase on the ground and shows Linda his hands, ‘I didn’t mean to alarm you. I’m only selling video tapes. Here look.’ He starts unzipping the red suitcase. Linda stands up but keeps watching the man. He isn’t lying. Stuffed in the red, imitation leather suitcase are video tapes. ‘Video quality is good. I can guarantee it. What kind of movies do you like? I have some nice romantic ones here.’

Linda sits back down on the bench while the man is on one knee shuffling through the video tapes. ‘I don’t like romance. What else do you have?’

I have it all miss,’ he says.

‘Wait, are those Beta? I don’t buy Beta.’

‘What? Beta is the future. VHS is going down! I predict that by the 90s everyone will be using Beta. Everyone!’

‘What makes you think that?’ she asks.

‘Because I’m also a professional psychic.’

Linda chuckles. ‘Sure you are.’

‘I specialize in sports and pop culture,’ he says.

‘Do you have any predictions today?’ she asks.

‘I’m a modern day Nostradamus. I will let you in on a few. One, a popular football player will be tried for murder. Two, the Boston Red Sox are going to win the World Series. Three, The Eagles will reunite. Four, there will be a black president. Finally, Beta will win the battle over VHS,’ he says counting with his fingers.

‘I’m sure all of that will come true one day,’ she says.

‘Thank you Linda. Good luck on your next shift at the hospital.’

‘How did you know my name?’ she asks, getting up from the bench.

The man points to his head and says, ‘I just know these things.’

Linda swiftly walks past closed stores and empty hotels with the man shouting from the bench.

‘Remember Linda. The future is Beta! The future is Beta!’  


B.J. Jones writes about rogue pharmacists, phantom limbed windmills, quidnuncs, Luciferian calories, amorous bowling shoes, Funkhousers, martyred coupons, Nietzschean wire hangers, invisible tomatoes, and pen clicking adversaries while living in Dubuque, IA with his wife. Some of it even gets published.    

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