Queens, New York. April 9, 1985.
“Merlin Be Praised!” Nerf toasted. The four men hoisted their glasses high, then downed the drinks in one gulp.
I just sort of wander into these things, I don’t know why. I guess Merlin would call that a paradox. I won’t tell you what I’d call Merlin.
I met the Quantum Leapers in one of the cocktail lounges at La Guardia Airport. I was early for a flight that had been indefinitely delayed, and I find that time seems to pass faster (another paradox!) when I don’t spend it scowling at a clock.
“Waitress!” Steverino called. “Another round.” He sniffled. Steverino looked like his nickname: Mr. Hollywood, or maybe Mr. Miami. He spoke incredibly fast, and while speaking, he glanced all around the small lounge. “Merlin, get her to tell me where the Men’s Room is.” He snuffled.
“Don’t worry, ’Rino,” Merlin replied, almost motheringly. “We’ll find a Men’s Room for you.” Merlin was shaped like something made of plastic trash bags, all random bulges and drooping sags of flab. He had a sparse beard, and his thinning hair looked oily. His clothes would have welcomed the miracle of surfaction, I’m sure; that’s laundering, for the benefit of those uninitiated in the higher mysteries. He winked at the one called Arsob. “Arsob, you’ll help Stevo find a john, won’t you?”
“Sure thing, Steve,” said the one called Arsob. He brushed at the lapel of his double-breasted jacket. He was very well appointed, though his glasses made him look slightly insectile. His smile was one of tolerant amusment. “After all, if a friend in need isn’t one indeed, I don’t know what is.”
“That’s right,” said Merlin. “You don’t know what is, if anything.”
Nerf said: “Merlin knows everything!” Although all four were physicists in their late twenties, Nerf was the only one to look the part. He wore (more…)