Short Story #57: Of Time and Third Avenue by Alfred Bester

Title:  Of Time and Third Avenue 

Author:  Alfred Bester


Damon Knight - A Century of Science Fiction
A man calling himself Boyne shows up at a bar and spends $100 to rent the backroom.  The barman is skeptical but he is happy enough with the money. Oliver Knight and his partner show up and Boyne brings them into the backroom because he wants to talk with them. Once he has them there, he explains that he is from the future and that it is imperative that he takes the book that Knight purchased earlier that day.  Knight believes he purchased the 1950 almanac but Boyne knows it to be the 2050 almanac.  What ensues is a discussion about why it would not be advisable for Knight to keep the book (Boyne cannot forcibly take it without irreparable harm).  There is a rational discussion and finally, Knight gives over the book, but not without Boyne explaining that Knight would be repaid in some way.  Upon leaving the bartender raises a fury about the $100 bill that Boyne gave him because it is a fraud.  When Knight looks closer at the bill which is from the future, he sees his name as Secretary of the Treasurer and happily pays the bartender from his own pocket.   


Time travel stories can sometimes be over-convoluted or replace action for meaning.  Bester's story provides some curious thoughts about the nature of success and whether we really need to know what the future holds for us.  The story's punchline was also well set up in that it was somewhat unpredictable and amusing.

Short Story #57 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  2/23/2014
Source:   A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight. 

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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