I returned to the diner a few hours before the pipe burst.

I ordered my burger, cola and an extra side of slaw. Nik was wiping down the counter and Wendy, one of the waitresses, was busy serving a family of six.

I took a sip from my cup and walked to the men’s room. I kneeled before the sink and toilet and saw the thin stream of water spraying from a tiny crack on the side of a pipe.

I locked the bathroom door and took a torch and a pack of my special weld-a-patch metal clay out of my coat pocket. Within moments I had the pipe wrapped in the gooey stuff. I fired up the torch and cooked the goo until it glowed like hot gold.

Someone knocked at the door. “Occupied,” I yelled at the door.

I waited for the pipe and torch to cool down. The pipe was no longer dripping and the torch had cooled down enough that I could stuff it back into my big coat pocket. I washed my hand, unlocked the door and passed a fellow standing there waiting impatiently with his four year old who was bobbing back and forth with one hand clutching his belt.

“Gott’a go, Daddy… Gott’a go,” he said.

“Okay, get inside,” said the father after glancing at me.

I returned to my seat. Finished my burger and left the cola.

Nik walked by and I mentioned to him that I thought the water pressure was a little bit high in the bathroom and he should have someone check it out.

“You’re always looking out for me Mister Buster.”

“Hey… This is my favorite place.”

“I’ll call the water department this afternoon,” he said. “Thank you, Mister Buster.”

Back through the door I came in, a quick ride on a cloud of light and I returned home.

After a few hours in the lab I decided to go to Nik’s diner and see if changing the past had repaired the problems of the present. If the pipe didn’t burst, he would not have gotten a bad review. He would have not lost any business and he wouldn’t be considering selling the diner. Best of all, I would still have my favorite diner to visit.

I walked through the front door of Joe’s Burgers and saw that the place was packed with customers.

“Mister Buster,” Nik said greeting me at counter. “No tables at the moment. Can you wait ten minutes? That couple in the corner is just getting ready to leave.”

“Sure, Nik. Business good?”

“Isn’t it always, My friend?” He waved his hand around the room. “I’m a lucky man… Very lucky.”

We smiled at each other and then Nik glanced at a table in the back. He frowned.

“What is it, Nik?”

“That family… So sad. They come in here every once in a while… They order a plate for little Antoinette… Poor kid.”

“Antoinette?”

“You remember?” Nik shrugged. “They’re in here all of the time. You know I have a great memory, Mister Buster. You… Not so much. That day you told me to call the water department? I called like you said…”

“I remember, Nik. I thought the water pressure was too high.”

“Right… Well, I called like you said. The guy who shows up is that man over there. He’s a regular. He fix it all up for me. Would have had a really bad flood.”

“Well… So far so good…”

“Good for me… Not so good for others.” He paused and wiped his neck with a handkerchief. “He comes in here all of the time with his family… Every weekend. Well… The next day he comes in and a truck jumps the curb just as little Antoinette is getting out of the car. Hits the car and… Poor Antoinette… Such a beautiful, sweet kid.”

“That’s awful…”

“Mister Buster… If only I could go back in time and close up for the day… They would have never have been in my parking lot… They would have gone someplace else to eat that day. Antoinette would still be here. If only I could go back in time… I would change things.”

I looked at the family in the back… the empty seat with the full bowl of Cheerios on the place Matt… the sad faces.

“If only you could,” I said.

“You’re table is free, Mister Buster.”

“I’m not hungry, Nik.”

I rushed back to the lab.

Bft-voice command interruption—–779-ph/555001 alert alert—–659— Alert—– Tube 68—- Tube 68—– Bft-voice command interruption—–779-ph/555002

There’s more to this. I’ll finish later. Another tube just popped.

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