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Spring 2024

Where Three Roads Meet

Two women fall in love across dimensions in this science fiction short story by Templeton Moss

Nevermore is not a great place. It’s meant to look like a British pub, but it’s themed after American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Well, I say themed, but the theme really only extends to the name, the logo, and the menu, where there are items like “Masque of the Red Beet Salad,” “The Pit and the Pub Fries” or, perhaps the worst offender, “Annabel Leek Stew.”

“LenOreo Cheesecake” is, admittedly, kind of a cute one.

But that’s about all the literary references the average hipster can handle, which is why the bar is popular. Stupid people can feel clever while eating what they think is international fare even though it’s really no different from what they serve at the chain casual dining place just down the road.

During my mercifully brief tenure as a server there, I made a valiant—but ultimately fruitless—effort to make the place just a bit better. I recommended placards on the wall, depicting interesting trivia about Poe’s life. Maybe incorporate a few of his lesser known works like Ligeia, Berenice or Hop-Toad. I also thought we should have a plaque dedicated to Grip, the bird who had been Charles Dickens’ pet in life and, in death, had inspired the poem after which the pub was named.

You can guess how well these suggestions went over.

“Fiona,” said the owner in that condescending voice he reserved only for the young women on his staff, “these are all neat ideas, but we don’t want to get too highbrow. People don’t come here to learn; they come here to enjoy authentic British cuisine and reflect on a great British poet.”

“Poe was born in Boston,” I said.

“That’s nice. Well, you better get back to work.”

That’s more or less how I had expected that meeting to go. I knew I hadn’t been hired because I was clever, hardworking, and willing to be a team player. I was hired because of how my body looks in tight black pants and a black polo shirt that might, in a pinch, comfortably fit my four-year-old niece.

Here's an insider tip: The way to know that the bar you go to is being run by a moron is if the entire staff is hot young women. They think it’ll be good for business because men will flirt with them and give bigger tips. And, while that is undeniably true, the overall service suffers because the girls are so busy flirting with one customer to get him to order and tip more that they are neglecting all the other customers.

But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a hot chick with an BA in business and a master’s in restaurant management.

I want to open my own place and run it right. But that takes money and experience, neither of which I have, which is why I’ve been working my way up through the ranks. First, I was a part-time server at Orange-A’s, then I was a server/bartender at Pepper’s, I was briefly a line cook at Habanera, then a bartender at Nevermore and, when I finally was able to tell that jackass where he could stick his crappy pseudo-pub, I became a hostess at Fedrigotti’s and my manager has promised me that, as soon as she can, she’s going to make me her number two. Once I have “assistant manager at Fedrigotti’s” on my resumé, a lot of doors are gonna open for me.

But getting back to Nevermore; I took some theater classes in college, and I mentioned the fact in passing to another server. Eventually, it got around to the owner that exactly six of my college credits came from acting classes, and that’s how I ended up hosting Trivia Night.

The word trivia, by the way, is from the Greek meaning “where three roads meet.” It comes up in the myth of Oedipus when he comes to such a place in his travels and has to choose which path to take. What any of that has to do with sports statistics or who was in what movie with Kevin Kline, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s where the word comes from.

Another way to spot a terrible bar or restaurant is if they have “nights.” Good places with good service and good food don’t need gimmicks to trick people into coming in. But if every weeknight is another event, it’s a sure sign of desperation on the part of management. So, Monday night was Trivia Night, Wednesday was Karaoke Night, and Friday was Live Music Night.

Thankfully, Wednesday was usually my night off, so I wasn’t subjected to karaoke all that often. I think that word must be derived from the Japanese for “cruel and unusual punishment.”

I couldn’t get out of Trivia Night, though. Not that I tried to. It meant less time dealing with drunk guys trying to pick me up. Plus, I got to make up the questions, which was kind of fun. I got to make up my own categories like “Forgotten Women of History,” “Overpaid Showboaters [AKA, Professional Athletes]” and “Fantasy Novels Not About Kids Named Harry.”

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like the Harry Porter books just fine. But there’s other stuff out there is all I’m saying.

“All right, friends,” I said into the microphone my first night out. “Welcome to Trivia Night at Nevermore! I’m your host, Fiona Faison, so let’s get started!”

There were six rounds of five questions each. I would announce the topic, read the first question twice, give a sixty-second window for every team to get their answer down, then read the next question. At the end of each round, I would read the answers and tally up the scores, then the next round would start. In between rounds three and four, we’d have a sort of intermission before doing the last three rounds and, finally, announcing the winning team and presenting them with their award…a $50 gift certificate to Nevermore…split among the team…of between three and five people.

Usually, it would cover their bar bill for that night, but not much more. Oh, also, you had to pay to play. So, the boss made a profit even with the gift certificate.

Actually, I should clarify: You had to pay to play officially. Obviously, anyone who wanted could play along by themselves, they just weren’t eligible for the prize (such as it was). I was used to seeing people sitting at the bar or at tables near the stage area, listening to the questions and seeing who in their party knew the answers. That, to me, seemed like more fun that signing up and paying to take part.

But talking about these “unofficial” players brings me to the reason I’m telling this story in the first place: Dahlia.

I noticed her sitting alone at a table near the performance area one Monday night. She had a notebook with her, in which she was, apparently, keeping track of her answers to my questions. She also had a small, black backpack which sat on the floor by her feet. She was wearing a pair of green flared jeans, a pink leather jacket, round-rimmed glasses and her hair was strawberry blonde and hung down past her waist.

At the risk of sounding cliché, it was love at first sight.

Still, I pride myself on professionalism, so I did my best to run Trivia Time as if Dahlia weren’t there.

(By the way, obviously I didn’t know her name was Dahlia at the time, but now I do, so…)

But during the breaks when I was waiting for the teams to get their answers written down, I looked at her. Let’s face it, I ogled her. When I should have been watching to make sure nobody was looking anything up on their phones. I bet a lot of people cheated when Dahlia was there. I wish I could bring myself to care.

“Okay,” I said into the microphone which I very much doubted anyone was cleaning after it was used on Karaoke Night, “pencils down! Let’s hear the answers.”

The category was “Written by The Victors.” In other words, history. And, since my boss had reminded me that not every patron of Nevermore had a post-graduate degree or read history books for fun like I did, it was probably the easiest category of them all.

Here were the questions:

1. Who was the first vice president of the United States? Hint! They later became the second president.

2. What was the last state to enter the Union and in what year were they admitted?

3. Who shot John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963?

4. The Great Gold Rush of 1848 took place in the region of California now known as what?

5. Who was the first American to walk on the moon?

See? Easy! Anyone who passed fifth grade should know that the answers are (in this order): James Madison, Puerto Rico (which became the 52nd state in 1971), Harvey Lee Oswald, Frisco City and Sally Ride. But my boss still insisted that I make the questions easier. How stupid does he think people are?

The funny thing was that, as I read out the answers, I saw Dahlia shaking her head, snapping her fingers, and crossing things out in her book. Clearly, she had managed to get each and every question wrong. That was disappointing; finding out that the woman I had fallen in love at first sight with was actually an idiot. Anyway, she slammed her notebook shut and put it away in her black backpack. She hung around till the end of the game, then left.

Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but I got the sense that she was looking at me the same way I was looking at her.

I looked for her to come back all week, but it wasn’t until the next Trivia Night that she showed up, back at her usual table with her notebook and another great outfit. Her style was unique and original without being over-the-top and I admired the hell out of that. Maybe it was all the time I spent working in restaurants where the dress code was black on black with black accessories, but I never really developed much fashion sense. I liked that she was able to express herself in a way that I never could.

Tonight, the first category was “Books You Pretended to Read in High School,” or, to put it more simply, “Literature.” And, once again, I did my best to make them easy, though what’s-his-name told me they were still too hard. Ready? Here goes:

1. Which beloved character dies at the end of Dickens’ Christmas Story?

2. What popular reality show gets its name from George Orwell’s 1985?

3. Which fairy tale by the Grohm Brothers was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s first animated feature?

4. Which of the following popular books sold more copies in its initial printing: Forty Shades of Gray, Harry Porter and the Secret Chamber, or the Moonlight series?

5. What kind of bird was Grip, the bird who inspired the poem this place is named after?

Again, I don’t see how anyone could have gotten those wrong. Everyone knows Tiny Tom’s death is what motivates Scrooge to change. You don’t have to have read the book to know that Older Brother is where the reality show gets its name. Who hasn’t seen Disney’s Snow White and Rose Red? Admittedly, not many people would know that Forty Shades outsold the second of the nine books in the Harry Porter series. But I thought for sure at least our customers would know that “Nevermore” is from Poe’s immortal classic, The Robin.

“Quoth the Robin, ‘Nevermore!’” Who doesn’t know that?

Anyway, just like the previous week, I looked over at Dahlia and she reacted to each answer with frustration and stopped playing after the first round. I tried to talk to her after the game, but I got sidetracked by a customer complaining about some of the questions and, by the time I had disentangled myself from him, Dahlia was long gone.

By the third Monday, I was expecting to see her. Nor was I disappointed. But this time I wasn’t going to let her walk away until I figured out what was going on with her.

“Here for Trivia Night?”

She looked up when I said this. Now that I was closer to her, I saw that she had green eyes. I have, like, a weird weakness for girls with green eyes. I think the first girl I ever “like-liked” must have had green eyes.

“Um…yeah,” she said, sort of taken aback.

“I’ve noticed you the last couple of weeks,” I said, hoping it sounded casually interested and not too stalkery.

“Yeah, I, um…noticed you…as well. I mean, of course I did. You know, cuz you’re on a stage and…I mean everybody notices…not that I wouldn’t notice if you weren’t…I mean…”

I laughed. She smiled. She had a nice smile.

“I’m Fiona, by the way,” I said, putting out my fist for her to bump it with hers.

“Dahlia,” she said, and put out her entire hand as if trying to grab mine. Then, quickly, she balled her hand into a fist and bumped mine. It was weird. Like…she was going to shake my hand. Like they did in old movies.

I took the opportunity to check her right hand for a ring, but she didn’t have one. I mean, she had one on her left ring finger, but not on the right, so I figured it was clear sailing.

“Look,” I said, “it’s none of my business and feel free to tell me to get lost but…well, I mean, you come here every week, you play along with the first round and then you get frustrated and leave.”

“Oh, right.”

“So, I was just wondering…but, like I said, it’s none of my business, so…”

“Can I ask you a question?” said Dahlia, seemingly out of nowhere.

“Er, okay.”

“Do you make up all the questions yourself?”

“Actually, yes. I do.”

“And the names for the categories?”


She smiled again. I had no idea why she was smiling, but I was glad she was. Like I said, it was a nice smile.

“You’re clearly very intelligent,” she said after a moment’s silence. “So maybe you will be able to understand why I come here.”


“I’m checking to see which track I’m on.”

“Which track?”

She nodded. “Which universe. Which plane of existence. Which dimension, if you like.”


“Fiona, I’m not from your dimension. I’m from a dimension which my colleagues and I have designated 302AX-Gamma. I’m a pan-dimensional traveler.”

I don’t know if any of you have ever had the experience of seeing a girl you like, going over to talk to her, finding her very cute and charming, and then having her tell you that she’s from another dimension…if so, I hope you reacted better than I did. I mumbled something about being needed in the kitchen got up and all but ran…okay, be fair, I did run away from her.

I kept looking over to her during Trivia, but she was going out of her way not to look at me. Crazy or not, I had hurt her feelings. She stayed for the first question, then left. I read the rest of the questions with very little enthusiasm…until the final round when she came back. She sat at her table, looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back.

After the game, I went to her table to talk.

“I’m really sorry about before,” I said.

“No, I get it,” she said, kindlier than I probably deserved. “It was a lot to drop on you. I would probably have thought I was crazy, too.”

“I never said I thought you were crazy.”

I mean, yes, I said that to you a few paragraphs ago, but that doesn’t count.

“You literally ran away from me. You didn’t have to say it.”

“Good point. So…a pan-dimensional traveler?”

“Yes. I’m a scientist working with a team of researchers on inter dimensional travel. I volunteered to be the test subject for this.” Here, Dahlia reached into her backpack and took out what looked like a silver bracelet with red and green lights all around it. She handed it to me, and I turned it over in my hands. The metal was malleable, more like fabric than steel, and was shaped like a mobius strip. The lights were flashing in what looked to me like random order.

“That’s how I got here from my dimension,” said Dahlia. “The problem is it got damaged during the trip so I can’t go back. I just keep fiddling with it and activating it in the hopes of getting back to my home dimension. That’s why I come here every week. To see which dimension I’m in.”

“Wait,” I said, looking up from the bracelet. “You can tell what dimension you’re in because of Trivia Time?”

“Of course, I can. This dimension is similar to mine, but not identical. There are some subtle—and not-so-subtle—differences.”

“Like what?”

“Well, in my universe, he’s called Harry Potter.”


“Uh huh. And George Washington was the first president. Not John Adams.”

“So, he didn’t die in Valley Forge?”

“No. He led us to victory and became the first president. John Adams was his vice president. Oh, and, where I come from? Poe’s poem is about a raven.”

“So…quoth the raven…?”

Dahlia nodded. “Nevermore.”

“That…actually sounds better.”

“And we still shake hands when we meet people in my dimension.”

Here she held out her hand. I had seen people do this in movies, so I put out my hand. She took my hand in hers, shook it once and then held it…it was a nice feeling.

I neglected most of my duties that night because I was spending most of my time with Dahlia, talking about the differences between our dimensions. Really crazy stuff, too. Like how Kennedy actually did die in her world and there being only fifty states and one of them was Alaska. I still have a hard time imagining Alaska as being part of the United States.

I mean, it’s attached to Canada, right? But it’s part of our country? That’s weird.

“So, wait,” I said instead as we were getting ready to start closing. “If you’re from another dimension…does that mean there’s another Dahlia from this dimension?”

“Probably. I can’t say for sure. It’s possible that my counterpart in your world died young or lives in another city or never was born at all. But,” she added with a smile, “I do know that there is another Fiona in my dimension.”

“Wait, really? Do…do we know each other?”

“You might say that,” she said with another smile, and I noticed her fiddling with the ring on her left hand.

“Um….by any chance, is one of the differences between our dimensions that people wear wedding rings on the left hand instead of the right?”

“As a matter of fact, it is.”

“Then…are we…?”

She didn’t answer. But she kept smiling and she took my hand in hers. It had occurred to me that coming to Trivia Night was not the most efficient way of finding out what dimension she was in. Now I understood why she came here instead of just looking things up on Wokapedia.

“I hope you find your way back to…to her,” I said.

And I think she did. At least, I never saw her at Trivia Night again.

About a month later, I got the job at Fedrigotti’s. I left Nevermore for absolutely the last time and now I’m making better money, doing work I care about and, for the first time ever, the possibility of my dream becoming a reality is within my sight.

And everywhere I go, I keep my eyes peeled. For my Dahlia. Wherever she is—whoever she is in this version of reality. I mean, she might not have the green flared jeans, the pink leather jacket or the round-rimmed glasses in this universe. Her hair might not be strawberry blonde and hang down past her waist. Heck, her name might not even be Dahlia in this dimension.

But I’ll know her when I see her. I’m sure of it.

Sure as the sun sets in the East.

Templeton Moss lives and (when he has to) works in Louisville, Kentucky but considers his hometown to be Disneyland. When not writing, he can generally be found napping and/or watching cartoons. He also plays the ukulele and is known far and wide as an okay guy who doesn’t suck.

Copyright © 2024 by Templeton Moss
Published by Orion's Beau
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