“I’m trying to tell you, Clem, I’m a Dusty Oyster. Just like you and Billy Lee, Davy, Sherm and Stevie. It’s me, Fizzy. You remember, don’t ya?”
Clement Ellis stared unbelieving from his wheelchair at the young man jabbering at him. “Dusty Oyster? You? Nonsense. I’m old, but I haven’t lost all my marbles yet.”
“Great! I sure hope you never lost that Red Devil you had. That was one lucky marble. I remember you traded Stevie a Tiger and a Turtle for it.”
An icepick of recognition stabbed at his heart, and Clement Elllis stammered, “You can’t know that. Nobody alive can. Who are you?”
"I’m Fizzy. Tom Fitz. One of the original Dusty Oysters. The six feisty runts in fifth grade that Mr. Severin told, 'If you boys always got to be fighting, I’ll teach you how, so you don’t end up a bunch of dusty oysters on the shore.'”
The wheelchair creaked as a tremor ran through Clement Ellis. “Not possible. That was eighty years ago. I’m the only Dusty Oyster left. Fizzy died when I was in college.”
“Wrong, Clem. Fizzy disappeared when you were in college. I disappeared and now I’m back.”
“You’re a young man. You can’t be Tom Fitz. Who told you to do this to me? This is a cruel trick to play. I’d whoop your smart ass if I could.”
“Like you tried after I threw your picture of Mary Kay Fletcher into the campfire at Beacon Falls? You were sure sweet on her, Clem.”
Clement tried to rise from his wheelchair, but failed. Everything failed him now. “Who told you these things? Who could’ve told you these things? Why are you here?”
“The question, Clem, is really: How am I here?” The young man took a thin piece of rope about a foot long from his back pocket. It was dirt-stained, badly frayed at each end and had three lumpy knots tied at uneven intervals.
Clement froze. His heart gone cold. His eyes locked on the rope. After a moment, he reached into the baggy pocket of his khakis and took out an almost identical piece of rope with three knots.
“See, Clem. It’s me. Fizzy. I kept my rope. Just like you. Just like all of us. Dusty Oysters always kept their rope with them. That’s how Mr. Severin said we’d always be tied together.”
“How? How, Fizzy?” Clement struggled to ask.
The young man smiled and crouched beside his old childhood friend’s wheelchair. “I didn’t die in college all those decades ago. And I didn’t exactly disappear.” He held his piece of rope next to Clement’s. “I kinda took Mr. Severin’s advice a few steps farther about staying tied together and learning to fight. I discovered how to bind time and fight death.”
Clement shook his head. “You can’t fight death. I know. Mr. Severin, Stevie, Billy Lee, Davy, Sherm. Time always wins. Death never loses.”
“I’m not talking about winning and losing. I’m talking about evading. I don’t expect you to understand quantum string theory, but I need you to believe that I’m real. That Tom Fitz, me, Fizzy, is real. I’m real. And that I’m still in my twenties because that’s when I figured out how to manipulate the invariant metrics of F-space to move between dimensions. I call it fizzing. And when I fizz, I tie up time. I don’t age.”
“But,” Clement’s eyes were wide and clearer than they’d been in years, “where have you been, Fizzy?” “Why are you here now? Why now?”
The forever young man, Tom Fitz, Fizzy, rose and snapped his length of rope at the sky. “Everywhere and nowhere you’d know. Always on the move in one dimension or another, but I’m tired of running from time. From death. And now I think I know how to bring the Dusty Oysters back to help me.” He locked eyes with his old pal. “You ready to fight, Clem?”
Clement Ellis looked a long time at the young man before raising his rope and snapping it at the sky like Fizzy had done. “Dusty Oysters don’t back down from a fight. That’s sure. But there’s more to life than whooping death’s ass. In this dimension or any other dimension. Fizzy, you got to grow up even if you aren’t gonna grow old.”
“How you figure, Clem?”
“You may have burned Mary Kay Fletcher’s picture at Beacon Falls, but she was my first sweetheart, my first crush. We travelled in our own dimensions, separate lives and marriages, until we were both widowed and reconnected a dozen or so years ago. We got married. We were happy. She passed last year.”
Fizzy looked at his friend, a strange sensation sapping his certainty. “We can find her, too, Clem. Bring her back with us. Live forever. Dusty Oysters forever.”
Shaking his head, Clement Ellis, chuckled softly. “There are other ties that bind, Clem. Other shores where dusty oysters hold the pearls, the real treasures, worth keeping.” He turned his wheelchair, tossed the little knotted rope over his shoulder and whistled an old show tune from their youth.
Fizzy picked up Clem’s rope. Slowly, he tied it around his.
Much less sure of wanting to live forever, the very old young man sighed as he fizzed into a parallel dimension. Only the dust he stirred up remaining.