The scene opens in a laboratory, showing two bearded octogenarians in lab coats. One bespectacled scientist is tipping a conical flask full of frothy vomit green liquid into a beaker. The other one is sitting across from him and observing with one eye closed to make up for his misplaced glasses. None of them is a redhead and there is a complete lack of annoying sisters clad in pink, pirouetting all over the lab.
“Easy on the Sibling Rivalry, Maaz. You know what happened the last time!” he says, checking if looking through a beaker would help him see better.
“Those tentacles…” Maaz says and both brothers shudder as they remember.
“Ugh never mind the tentacles. Do you remember that cleavage?” Shehzad opens his palms wide enough to hold a grapefruit in each hand.
“Thanks, bro”, Maaz puts down the flask and gives his brother a disgusted look. “I’d only just managed to get it out of my mind.”
Shehzad replaces the seeing beaker with a magnifying glass and retorts with, “It is a good thing that you don’t have a brain then. Ain’t it?”
Used to his brother’s insults, Maaz ignores and starts searching for something, “Whatever. Where did I put the syrup of Running Away From Your Responsibilities?”
“Too long, bro. We agreed we’d call it RAFYR. It’s by that beaker. Just a squirt, mind you” Shehzad reminds his brother with one of his eyes comically enlarged behind the magnifying lens.
“Stop lecturing me, Shehzad. I know how much of what goes where” Maaz manages to grab the RAFYR after dropping a beaker or two in his pursuit.
“Fine. Fine.” Shehzad gets up and starts pacing while trying to remember, “What are we missing? Ah yes”, he says spotting an amber bottle full of viscous liquid, “a dollop of Exam Fear” he goes to stand next to his brother and adds the last ingredient, “and we’re back in business!”
Meanwhile, Maaz tallies the number of ingredients on his fingers twice until satisfied, “All right! I’ll whip it up nicely while you get in the chamber. Mind your beard.”
Still, in the lab, Shehzad is inside a glass chamber while at least half a foot of his beard remains outside its sealed doors. Outside, Maaz is pouring the concoction they whipped up into a U-tube.
Maaz raises his head and discovers his brother’s errant facial hair, saying “Dude, I told you to mind the beard!”
Hard of hearing, Shehzad puts the magnifying glass against the chamber door so he can read his brother’s lips, “Huh? What are you rambling on for? My what?”
Maaz looks away from the tube carrying the brew towards the chamber and grabs his own beard. It works because Shehzad says, “Oh my beard? Hang on, I’ll open the chamber doors and…”
* snip! *
Maaz had just finished adding the last of the brew and it filled the chamber in vapor form. The chamber lacked his bearded brother.
“Every damn time, said Maaz as he observes his brother’s pinky lying just outside the chamber.
“Every damn time”, says Shehzad, as he hurtles through time.
Shehzad is back in his own time while Maaz is jabbering at his brother in excitement.
“Did you get it? You got it, didn’t you? Please tell me you got it”, Shehzad doesn’t reply being busy extricating himself and his beard from the various cords without strangling himself.
He comes out and glares at his brother, “Of course, I didn’t get it. My younger version fed it to the dog this time. Mac was never happier than when he could rip into our report cards.”
Maaz tugs at the few remaining bunches of hair on his head in frustration, “Arrggh! Why don’t they get we’re trying to help?”
“Dunno. I even tried to tell our nine- and ten-year-old versions that if we keep Dad from seeing our report cards, he won’t leave Mom”, Shehzad’s voice is full of pain.
“It’s okay, little brother”, Maaz puts an arm around him and continues in a soothing voice, “We still have plenty of RAFYR left. We can make one more attempt before we hit the bed tonight.”
Shehzad shakes his head, saying, “I’m pooped. No more time travel for me tonight. Also, we’re out of Exam Fear. Make some and take you to bed if you know what’s good for you.” He keeps hobbling towards the door and delivers these parting words before leaving, “We aren’t young and sixty anymore.”
The whole world sleeps while a lonely scientist remains awake, searching for something in his journal until he arrives at the right page.
“Let me see…” he says, “a whiff of failing to make notes…”, he adds the ingredient to a test tube, “a pinch worth of absenteeism…” in goes that one, “handful of studying the wrong subject” this one is also dumped into the tube. “Can’t go to sleep. My idea to turn the Ds into Bs”, he mutters and pauses for a second to lament that fact. Then he picks up the tube again and reaches for his journal, “What else? What else? Darn you, you octogenarian memory! Oh yeah, 3 teaspoons teacher incompetence”, he brightens up and starts mixing and muttering again.
It is the following day and both brothers are in the lab. Maaz stands within the chamber while Shehzad remains outside. Something seems different about them.
Shehzad announces the day’s first experiment by saying, “Okay, Maaz. Let us run through the mental checklist. Batter check.”
Maaz glares at his brother, “If you keep saying check yourself, what am I doing here?”
Shrugging, Shehzad says, “Well, you were too slow and… okay, truce. You say check this time. Batter?”
“One shaved brother inside the chamber?”
“Chamber doors closed.”
The doors close with a * snick *.
“I’ll take that as a check,” says Shehzad. “I feel like we’re forgetting something” and he grabs a stool, sitting down to think.
Ten Minutes Later
* snick * the chamber doors slide open again.
“It has been ten minutes,” an exasperated Maaz, bellows. “I have been waiting inside this stuffy chamber while you’re fooling around. What the heck is it?”
Shehzad looked at his brother with an innocent look on his features that is as alien as a cold winter in Karachi.
“You want my pinky, don’t you?” Maaz catches on.
“Well…” Shehzad begins, “it is like a tradition. I know we have shaved our beards to keep it from happening again. But this could be the last time we ever do this. We can’t break tradition now! And anyway, it isn’t even your real pinky; it is just a robotic prosthesis. We lost both of ours in the first week of experiments.”
“I for one would be really happy if the 678th time was the charm. Pinky or no pinky”, Maaz admits and then catches the morose expression on his brother’s face. “Oh very well!” he says, moving to close the chamber doors.
* snip *
Shehzad looks down at the sliced digit his brother leaves behind and scoffs, “Ha! I left a bigger piece behind. Now, where did I put my glasses?”