The Bison Agenda
Here is the unedited chapter 1 of the Bison Agenda. There is still time to sign up for a exclusive edition by supporting me on Patreon.
The world would soon weep at the name Barry Bison. The bullies who photoshopped his face onto various bovine would know that Barry was destined for greatness. He wasn’t sure what irritated him more, that people his whole life never saw his potential or that the images used to taunt him in school were not always the same species of animal. They put his face on a cow once. A cow!
Now, all the fools in college who ignored him and the teacher who told him that he might want to consider another degree pathway would sweat when they encountered his influence upon the world. Tears would roll down their face, and Barry would cackle with glee at his creation. They would sob and truly understand they had misjudged him their whole life for Barry had made the perfect Buffalo wing.
It was the perfect combination of spice, tang, crisp crust, and tender, mouthwatering chicken. Blue cheese or ranch dressing had nothing on his wing. He envisioned a restaurant packed full of sweating people, devouring his wings, and plates returning with untouched celery and dipping sauce because they were so good, people wouldn’t even consider eating anything else but the meat.
The single wing on his plate with one bite taken out brought a tear to his eye. It wasn’t the spice, but the fact that he had done it. He looked up at his crappy studio apartment on Montgomery. The engine backfires of the late-night cruisers could be heard outside his paper-thin walls. He wouldn’t be here much longer. The Village Inn uniform that hung from the hook on his front door would soon be a relic of his past and not his primary source of income.
The half-sized two-burner cooktop with accompanying miniaturized oven will be nothing but a story he tells to the Albuquerque Journal reporter who sits down with him years later to hear the origin stories of how he went from small family restaurant to a national brand. The trash that smelled day in and day out with all his failed attempts to make a better chicken wing would no longer be a part of his life. He would have employees who would do that for him.
He picked up his culinary certificate from Central New Mexico Community College off the wall and threw it away. The teacher who had suggested another career pathway didn’t deserve any credit for all of his hard work. Barry was the one who persevered through it all, and his name would be on the sign: Barry Bison Wings.
Barry collapsed on his futon. It was a tangle of sheets and always smelled of grease because he was too tired to shower after work. A tear welled up in his eye. It was almost perfect. The dream was near complete. Through an inconvenient fact of his birth, he was named Bison and not the more popular word Buffalo. However, he couldn’t call his creation Barry Buffalo Wings even if it happened to be more accurate. He would be dishonoring all the Bison’s who came before him.
His late father and mother were already etched in stone in a little graveyard near Yale by the university. His parents had even bought him a plot years ago as part of a package deal. He would not be buried with the name Buffalo, and there had to be a solution to his dilemma. Perhaps he could move to Buffalo, New York, and start a campaign to rename the town Bison. It would be fitting to release his innovation of an American favorite in the same city where they were invented.
He knew the idea wasn’t a viable solution. The chicken wing treat was already named Buffalo, and like it or not, the name stuck. The only path forward would be to somehow convince the world that bison was a better word than buffalo. Barry smiled. He was on to something. Bison was indeed the official name of the animal of his namesake. Maybe he could start a society dedicated to championing the word bison. There might even already be a bison enthusiast society he could leverage. Perhaps he could use them to squash the word buffalo from the English language.
He pulled out an iPad so ancient the software wouldn’t even update anymore, and half apps wouldn’t work because they were out of date. He pounded in his code and pulled up the University of New Mexico’s website. If there was a group with esoteric interests, they probably would operate out of UNM.
Before finding the Biology Department’s home page, he saw a little box that said, “UNM LIVE!” There were links to several streaming videos, including one of the duck pond. Barry almost dismissed them as a frivolous waste of time when he saw one labeled, Time Travel with the Professor.
Time travel would do the trick. He could go back to when people first started using the word buffalo and convince them to use bison. Then Buffalo, New York would be Bison, New York. His problem was solved. It was an intriguing thought, but changing the past was firmly in the realm of science fiction. Still, if there was even a remote possibility, it would undoubtedly be more straightforward than getting some bison nerds to lobby congress on his behalf.
He clicked on the live stream, and there was a man with greying hair and crow’s feet wearing a lab coat. He had a petite assistant with brown hair and glasses. She spoke with a mild English accent, “Honestly, professor, I don’t see why you are live streaming this. Nobody watches it.”
The man’s eyes darted downward and said, “We have one viewer. If that’s you, Theo, this will not count for extra credit. You still need to turn in your assignment.”
The assistant laughed and said, “He’s still there, at least Theo’s watching. Shall we get on with it?”
The professor stood up and said, “Right, Clara, go ahead and program the machine for thirty seconds into the future. Don’t want to inadvertently alter our timeline.”
“That’s exactly what I want to do,” Barry muttered.
Clara tapped the keys on a laptop. The professor pulled out a sealed test tube with a clear liquid. “Inside is a radioactive material that we will be able to measure down to the Becquerel.”
“In English, professor, you may chase off your one viewer,” Clara laughed.
“Theo should know this, don’t you, Theo? The point is if this did travel thirty seconds into the future, we will know by measuring how much the material inside has decayed. Clara, if you’d be so kind as to flip the switch.”
She pressed a button, and a blue vortex with crackling white energy appeared on a long black table. The professor tied a string to the test tube. He tossed it into the portal, and it crackled grew brighter. He waited for a few seconds and then pulled the line back. The severed string fell limp.
Clara shut the machine down and said, “Shame, maybe it will appear in thirty seconds.”
“It might not be in the same reference frame as us anymore. Remember, the Earth is spinning and revolving around the sun as we speak. We don’t know if time travel accounts for that.”
“Suppose it is still bound by gravity. Won’t the portal just open and plop the tube on the other side of it?”
“Sure, but we don’t know what it’s going to do. It could be 900 kilometers out in space for all we know!”
“So, we wait.”
“Maybe I need something stronger than string… a chain perhaps?”
They waited for the test tube to reappear. Clara closed down the controls of the machine while the professor fiddled with equations on a smartboard. Thirty seconds came and went. There was still no test tube. Barry wasn’t quite sure why he continued watching. Maybe it was the small hope that for once in his life, a solution would just present itself.
Barry had to struggle for everything he owned. The perfect Buffalo—no, bison wing was years in the making. He didn’t even know the difference between an oven and a stove when he first started. His parents microwaved everything they ate. It wasn’t until he was eighteen out of the oppressive small town of Crownpoint, New Mexico, and thrown into the deep end of the big city when he first discovered the power of food.
He had walked to the Frontier when a person from Math 0970 course at CNM had suggested it as a place to eat. He expected a small little greasy spoon and got a jaw-dropping display of the power of food. Room after room, stuffed with southwest décor and John Wayne paintings, were people of every ethnic background eating their lunch. It wasn’t like his school at all, which was mostly natives and a few white people.
The place was a well-oiled machine with people flooding toward the counter and red numbers displaying the ready orders. He was too overwhelmed to order at first, and people had pushed passed him. The polite ones would ask him if he was in line to which he could only mutter, and they would step ahead of him, avoiding eye contact.
The reason he had freaked out was that the closest thing to a restaurant he ever saw was Wendy’s in Gallup, and that was a rare treat only when his family would make their monthly trip to Walmart. It wasn’t that his family was poor, it was just that they were so remote. His dad was a white doctor who decided to practice in Crownpoint to help pay off his student loans. His mom was a native woman he had met during his tenure, and they had decided to stay near his mom’s family.
It wasn’t till Barry had decided to go as far away as he could for school when they decided to skip town as well. His dad had retired, they bought a townhouse in the neighborhood where all the professors lived and even got an extra room for Barry. His dad was so damned thrifty that they made Barry live in it. They even decided that Barry would attend CNM and transfer the credits to UNM after a major was selected.
Barry had figured out a profound truth about himself that day at the Frontier. There was something about the cluster of people. The sizzling of the meat in the back. The tortilla machine that resembled a Rube Goldberg device pumping out perfectly round and delicious tortillas. He had found where he was meant to be.
Barry had filled out his application and was rejected the very next day when the interviewer told him to “get more experience” and come back and see them. Much to his dad’s dismay, Barry had decided that a culinary certificate from CNM would suit him just fine. He had no idea how quickly he’d need that degree.
The Bisons had died in an aquatic accident a few months after his introduction to the Frontier. His father and mom wanted to see the world in their retirement and got more than they had bargained for when the shark diving cage malfunctioned. His mom ended up in the digestive tract of a great white. His dad’s wealth was sucked away by the expensive emergency room care treatment, and the days his dad stayed in a foreign hospital before passing on. Even the cost to get what was left of their bodies back to the United States wiped out their life savings.
Barry inherited enough to finish his degree, a plot of land in a graveyard, and a mortgage on a townhouse that went quickly into foreclosure. Unable to secure a job at the hallowed halls of the Frontier, he got one working at the Village Inn near the airport and been stuck there ever since. Until tonight, he finally created something of value in this world, and his late mom and dad would forever be a buffalo if he couldn’t do something about it.
Then it happened. The professor, who seemed to be unaware the live feed was still rolling, asked his assistant for a nightcap. She declined and packed it in for the night. The man turned back to the table, and maybe five minutes after she had left the room, the vortex appeared. A test tube attached to a string came out and fell to the ground, shattering. The radioactive liquid inside spilled to the floor.
The man shouted in triumph and ran into the hall. Clara must have been gone because a few seconds later, he trotted to his equations and inspected the numbers. He yelled, “Of course, the quantum tunnel would experience a time dilation effect.”
He jiggled around the numbers on the smartboard and said, “Yes, yes. That would make the time equivalency more accurate.”
The man typed in a new configuration into the laptop and fired up the time machine. He tossed a penny inside and powered it down. He looked at his watch and counted. The vortex appeared thirty seconds later, and the penny landed on the table.
“Oh my god! It works. Clara, it works!” He glanced at her empty desk. A frown crept onto his face.
He turned toward the computer that had been streaming the event. Barry jumped out of the window and closed down his iPad. He dropped onto his bed and said. “Bison. Barry Bison Wings.”
Clara has it all, a swanky new job, a hot robot babe, and even a time machine. Paradise all comes crashing down when she realizes her ticket to the future was stolen.
She wakes up in a world that has been reshaped by the whim of a time traveler with a strange obsession with Bison and chicken wings. Now she has to fix the timeline, or everyone she knows and loves will be wiped from existence.
There’s also a lot of flightless birds.
Find out how it all fits together in The Bison Agenda, the not anticipated sequel of Time Burrito.
Get an exclusive Patreon only edition by pledging now.