An Italian tailor has a crush on the daughter of his late patron, so he builds a time machine to impress her. The resulting story, Eugene Mirabelli's "The Only Known Jump Across Time," is lovely and lyrical and just a bit of a tease. Set in 1928, Mirabelli's time-travel romance sort of uses the idea of jumping into the future as a metaphor for escaping class-based romantic constraints. And it's free online, for a while. "The Only Known Jump" originally appeared in The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction's August 2003 issue, and F&SF is posting it online as part of their monthly free fiction program. The story has a nice blend of paying tribute to 1920s science (Albert Einstein is just developing his theories about space-time, and the time machine resembles a Van De Graaf generator) and a lush, quasi-poetic look at a budding relationship in the 1920s. The thing that makes it click, for me, is the sexual undercurrent in all of this — the time machine resembles a huge penis, and it's the catalyst that forces tailor Enzo Capellino and spinster Lydia Chase to acknowledge their mutual attraction:
Enzo threw open the lattice door and started out to meet her just as Lydia started in, the two clutching each other as the first lightning bolt unfurled and snapped overhead like a colossal whip. The hair on Enzo's chest burst into flame, scorching Lydia's breasts. The world overflowed with light as every nail and rivet, every garden tool, the cast iron garden chair and even the garden itself surged toward them, all the while flaring apart, coming undone. "Yes!" Lydia thought — or maybe she actually cried aloud — "Yes! We're at the front edge of now and these are the raveled threads of space-time."
It's almost too cute, and yet it works. My only reservation is that you may find the actual nature of the time travel to be a bit of a cheat. [FSF]