He had it all wrong: A wife who complimented his personality like a jackhammer compliments a buzz saw, a job history that resembled a rap sheet, and a home that fitted comfortably into a ratty looking trailer park squatting in suburban Chicago. And it was all the fault of the gremlins.
No, he wasn't psychotic; He knew the gremlins weren't really little creatures climbing around his brain. Still...
One miserable fall day at the beginning of the 21st century, while gulping vodka and pills in his miserable trailer, after losing one more miserable part-time job, and being again rejected by yet another girl, 58-year-old Peter Federson fell to his knees and begged providence for yet another chance.
In a maroon blur, Peter finds himself on a train headed to Southern Illinois University, where he wanders around on a campus devoid of color like a gray phantom of the student that he used to be nearly forty years before.
His gray matter is soaked with alcohol, and overrun with drunken gremlins which stain his mood the same shade of gray as the dorms across the lake. Finally he collapses into a fitful sleep.
...and wakes up on May 1, 1971.
What would you do? Scream? Run around waving your arms? Fall into a tearful collapse?
Peter went out for a sandwich. It seems that he was wolfishly hungry from the exertion of traveling nearly 40-years into the past.
At Lentz Hall, he meets Marta, a hippy girl he barely remembers who: blows soap bubbles, conducts experiments with her jello, and shows a keen interest in Einstein's theory of relativity.
Suddenly, a glass teeters off Peter's tray and smashes to the floor. Peter tells us what happened next.
After an appropriate pause, cheers and applause broke out around the room and spread to the rest of the cafeteria. And Marta-was applauding with the greatest enthusiasm.
“Bravo!” Marta cried. “There it is! You just demonstrated the theory of relativity. Well done, brother!”
She dropped her spoon into the cereal bowl with a plop and came over to help me clean up the broken glass.
“I demonstrated the theory by breaking a glass?” I said as I was trying not to cut myself.
“Damn straight you did, and it was bitchin’! You probably understand it already, and don’t even realize it. So let’s rap about the science behind this present experiment, shall we?” Marta had taken on the mien of a professor, pencil in bun and all.
“From your perspective, what did the glass do?” she queried.
“Before that.” Marta rolled her eyes.
“In which direction did it fall?”
“Down.” I returned the eye roll.
“But to me the glass scribed a definite arc through the air, because you were moving, yet
from your perspective it fell straight down. Do you understand?”
I paused a moment to let the thoughts settle. “Yes, I think I do...from your position, the glass traced an arc, because I was traveling away from it as it fell.”'
“That’s it exactly!” cried Marta. “The same thing happened at the same time, but we perceived the event differently. What we saw was relative to our positions.
Thus, the theory of relativity.” Marta’s voice had risen so that the entire cafeteria heard her impromptu lesson, prompting another round of cheers and applause.