The Amazing Mrs. Mimms

Language: English
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There was a muffled rushing noise and the faintly acrid smell of ion electrodes as the Time Translator deposited Mrs. Mimms back into the year 1958. Being used to such journeys, she looked calmly about with quick gray eyes, making little flicking gestures with her hands as if brushing the stray minutes and seconds from her plain brown coat.

The scene of Mrs. Mimms' arrival in the past was the rear of a large supermarket, more specifically between two packing cases which had once contained breakfast foods. The excursion through time had evidently been a smooth one for the smile had not once left Mrs. Mimms' rotund countenance during the intervening centuries.

Two heavy black suitcases appeared to be the lady's only luggage accompanying her from the future. These she picked up with a sharp gasp and made her way to the front of the shopping center around which slick new apartment buildings formed a horseshoe.

Mrs. Mimms was, as usual, on another assignment for Destinyworkers, Inc.

It was early evening at the Greenlawn Apartments, a time supposedly of contentment, yet Mrs. Mimms was quick to sense the disturbing vibrations in the warm air. She pressed through the crowds entering and leaving the supermarket. A faint mustache of perspiration formed on her upper lip. No one offered to help her with the bags. With a professional eye Mrs. Mimms noted the drawn mouths, the tense expressions typical of the Time Zone and shook her head. Central as usual had not been wrong; the Briefing Officer himself had cautioned her on what poor shape the Zonal area was in.

Jostling Mrs. Mimms on all sides were mostly young men and women accompanied by energetic, wriggling children of varying ages. It saddened Mrs. Mimms to see the premature lines forming in the youthful mothers' foreheads, and the gray settling too quickly into the men's hair. Mrs. Mimms, who considered herself not quite in the twilight of middle age, was just 107 that month.

Outbursts of juvenile and adult temper grated harshly in the Destinyworker's ears. She witnessed a resounding slap and a child's cry of pain. A young mother was shouting angrily: "Couldn't you have kept an eye on her? Do I have to watch her every minute?"

Mrs. Mimms hurried swiftly on for there was much she had to do. Then she stopped abruptly before a small delicatessen. She entered and gave the clerk her order:

"One package of Orange Pekoe Tea, if you please. Tea leaves, not bags."

There were definite advantages, thought Mrs. Mimms, in being assigned to any century preceding the Twenty-Third. Due to the increasing use of synthetic products in Mrs. Mimms' home-century the tea plant, among other vegetation, had been allowed to become extinct. Ever since Mrs. Mimms' solo assignment to Eighteenth Century England, she had grown exceedingly fond of the beverage.

Ten minutes later Mrs. Mimms, one of Destinyworkers' best Certified Priority Operators, reached the Renting Office of the Greenlawn Apartments. "I do hope the Superintendent is still on duty," panted Mrs. Mimms, setting her bags down very carefully. "If the Research Department is correct—and it usually is—his hours are from 9 to 6:30."

It was one minute past 6:30 when Mrs. Mimms knocked.

"Yeah?" boomed a disgruntled voice. "Come on in. It ain't locked."

"Good evening," said Mrs. Mimms to a young man in work clothes seated behind a paper-strewn desk....