One Step Beyond Logic


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Scene Title One Step Beyond Logic
Synopsis One year later, Tom Porter and Thomas Nowak settle into new lives.
Date November 8, 1970

"So, how was it?"

Tom Porter sits at a bus stop in the shadow of the Queensborough Bridge, squinting against late afternoon sun. The noise of traffic is heavy, and the man seated beside him in a maroon suit is forced to lean in to be heard over the combined noise of a pickup truck and distant road work. "AWFUL!" Nowak shouts in Tom's ear, causing the curly-haired man with thick sideburns to recoil, rubbing at his ear. "I took a Grayhound all the way to Massachusetts to hear some awful kids play rock and roll!"

Tom grimaces, sitting forward and draping his forearms over his knees, idly riffling through the pages of a paperback in his hands. "But it was Aerosmith." Tom emphasizes, bobbing his head. "It was a legend of rock and roll being born like, like, like Athena out of Zeus' head."

Nowak squints. "What?"

"Nevermind." Tom sputters, waving one hand in the air. "My point is, it's not supposed to be good, it's an experience. It's like—it's like if we wound up way in the past and we got to see Van Gogh suck at painting as a kid or something. We're not there to marvel over his first few pieces, we're there to say we were there, you know?"

Nowak tilts his head to the side. "Why didn't you come, then?" Tom recoils from that question, too, but for entirely different reasons.

"I—had—other stuff going on." Tom says, avoiding Nowak's stare, riffling through the pages of the paperback again. Nowak immediately smells shit like a housefly, leaning in with wide eyes.

"You met someone." Nowak whisper-hisses in Tom's ear. "You met someone! I know that look, you didn't come see the show because you were seeing someone!" There's both scandal and delight in Nowak's voice. Tom points a warning finger in Nowak's face in response, and earns a huge smile back in response.

"Ohhh does your wife know?" Nowak teases, and Tom rolls his eyes and slaps his paperback against his though.

"Delilah isn't my wife," Tom sputters, "outside of—legally-binding documents—that we signed."

Nowak's expression turns into the most pointed-little gremlin smile imaginable as a bus rolls to a stop across from them. He boosts up off the bench with a slap of his thighs. "Tom, you're an adulterer!" He teases, smiling cheerfully.

"One!" Tom yells at Nowak's retreating form as he stands up. "I am not! And TWO!" He waves at the bus with his book. "Are you really getting on that thing?" Nowak stops by the bus door, looking at it vacantly, then turning to shrug at Tom. "The last time I was on a bus we wound up in Roswell!" Tom shouts, gesticulating wildly at the vehicle.

Nowak flashes a pearly white smile. "Then I ride the bus, you go on the space ships!" He decides, waving farewell to Tom as he climbs aboard. The door to the bus rattles shut, and Tom slinks back down onto the bench, shaking his head. He flips the book over, running his fingers over the back cover as the bus takes off in a cloud of foul exhaust. Rankling his nose against it, Tom flips to the cover.

DUNE, by Frank Herbert.

A small smile ghosts across Tom's lips as he flips to the inside cover, where something is written in bright blue ink.

"The real universe is always one step beyond logic."
I think you'll really like this one.
♥️ Emmie

Two Hours Later

New York City

November 8th

7:12 pm

There's a skinny brickfront apartment building in Queens just a few blocks from the textile factory that will one day be WSZR. In Tom Porter's time this building is an empty cellar hole that used to be a ruin, but in 1970 it is a vibrant home filled with potted plants and three very affectionate cats named Humpty, Dumpty, and Dot. From the kitchen, Tom can watch traffic out a tall window overlooking the fire escape, cradling a warm cup of coffee in his hands as pedestrians bundled up for late fall move down the street. But inside, things are far warmer.

"You've been pensive all day," is the observation from a black haired woman in paint-spattered jeans and a crop top making Jiffy pop on the kitchen stove. Emmie looks at Tom with a wry smile, listening to the metallic patter-pop of the aluminum pan as it heats up. Tom rather belatedly looks up from his coffee, brows raised in query, clearly not having heard her. "I said, you look like you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Has work been bad?"

"No, no." Tom says as he wrings his hands, trying to force a smile. She catches him doing it and gives him a look to prove it. "It's just—a bad day? I have some really, like, unflattering associations with November 8th, and I guess I kind of have just been waiting for something terrible to happen today. You know just, anywhere."

Emmie flutters with laughter and rolls her eyes, shuffling the Jiffy-pop pan across the fire. "Tom, you are wound tighter than a spring sometimes." She says with a click of her tongue. "You get any reading done today? Take your mind off the bad stuff?"

"Oh." Tom reaches into his jacket draped over the back of the chair, pulling out the book. "Oh, yeah! Yeah did, I got about sixty pages in today. It's really good, I can't believe I'd never read it before. I mean you figure I'd have been all over this as a kid."

Emmie laughs. "You'll seriously find a reason to apologize for anything. It only came out a couple years ago, don't turn everything into a way you messed up." She affirms, shaking the pan again. "I'm serious. Especially if you ain't done anything wrong."

Tom hangs his head in response, shoulders slouching. He gently squares the book with the corner of the tiny kitchenette table and watches Emmie for a bit. Just, really watches her. Her smile grows, then twists a little awkward as Tom stares at her. "What, I got paint on my nose?" She asks with a crooked smile, to which Tom shakes his head and rises up from his chair, moving over to stand by the stove with her.

"No," he says with a shake of his head, sliding his hands around her waist. Emmie laughs, draping her arms over his shoulders, rising up on her toes to kiss him. The popcorn rattles across the stove, forgotten.



Thomas Nowak is a bag of nerves. His right leg jitters while he sits in an otherwise empty row of chairs outside of a warehouse office. Fork lifts buzz around the small warehouse bay, carrying palettes of cardboard boxes. A handful of workers with clipboards come and go from a nearby hall. Outside, the sun has set beyond the wall of concrete and glass that is Manhattan. Crinkling a resume between his hands, Nowak slouches forward and frowns inwardly, re-reading the lies printed in black and white across the page.

The door to the office opens and a young woman pokes her head out. "Mr. Chandler?" She says to Nowak, who responds to the alias with a bright smile. "I'm sorry, but we're going to pass. If you want I can take your resume, though?" She holds out her hand for it. "And if we have another opening in the warehouse, we'll give you a ring?" Nowak looks down at the floor and shakes his head, wanting to say 'no' but unsure how to do so politely. Instead he half-heartedly hands the woman his resume and stands up, disengaging from the conversation as quickly as he can.

As he turns around, Nowak runs head-long into a much broader-shouldered man, grimacing and avoiding eye contact as he does. "Sorry, sorry," Nowak mumbles, letting some of his accent slip through. As he side-steps the man in the dark suit, Nowak hears him call back over his shoulder.

"'Scuse me, son?"

Nowak turns, looking at the man he'd bumped into, pointing at himself with hunched uncertainty.

"Did you just apply for the warehouse job?" The man in the dark suit asks turning to give Nowak an assessing look with one brow raised. Nowak ducks his head and grimaces, holding up his empty hands in mock-surrender. "Ah, yes, sir. Not so lucky today."

The man in the dark suit exhales a breathy laugh and walks back to Nowak. "Well, for starters, it's a Sunday. You come on down when Bobby's in the office on Monday and you might get a fair shake. Trust me nobody wants to do an interview on a Sunday evening. You new around here?" He tilts his head to the side and Nowak grimaces, nodding.

"Ah, yes. Well, no. I've been here in New York for a year." Nowak explains, no longer trying to hide his accent. The man in the dark suit smiles, putting a firm hand on Nowak's shoulder.

"Your name isn't Ross Chandler, is it?" He asks, and Nowak is too disoriented to realize there's no way this man could have known that name. He hadn't seen his resume yet. Nowak shakes his head, smiling nervously instead. "Well, look. Everyone gets a fresh start in America." The man in the suit says with a squeeze to Nowak's shoulder before letting it go. "You come back on Monday morning, bright and early, and I'll make sure you get a fair interview. Okay?"

Nowak smiles warmly, nodding. The man in the suit offers out a hand, and Nowak shakes it firmly. "Charles," he introduces himself.


"Charles Deveaux. And you are?"

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