"This seat taken?"
"Suit yourself." The stranger slid onto the stool next to him, in an empty bar. Carl couldn't help noticing that the man's shoulders were dry. "Stop raining out there?"
"I hadn't noticed it raining before. How long have you been in here?"
"Not sure. No clocks in a bar, after all."
"Why do you think that is?"
Carl shrugged. "They want you to stay, keep drinking, spending your money. Man looks at a clock, remembers somewhere else he's supposed to be, someone he's supposed to meet, something he forgot to do, and he leaves. No clock, he stays, he drinks. Same deal in the casinos in Vegas."
"I've never been. Too late now, of course."
"Why is that?"
The stranger just chuckled, then looked up and down the bar. "Anybody working?"
"Francis went to the back to look for something. He'll be out in a minute."
"You order something fancy, did you?"
"Never." He held up his beer.
The stranger waited for a moment, then shook his head. "Well, I'm not standing on ceremony." He leaned over the rail, grabbed a clean glass, and pulled himself a beer from the tap. After taking a sip, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of strange-looking cash, dropping a single bill on the bar.
Carl stared at it for a moment, then reached out, took it between two fingers, held it up to the light. "Um."
"I don't think he'll take that."
"What do you mean?" The stranger sipped his beer again. "There's no 'EPay-Only' sign."
"Right, well, I've never heard of that, but your money's no good. Look at it." He stretched it out between two hands. "First of all, the date says '2076'."
"So? Just because it hasn't been recycled yet doesn't mean it's no good."
Carl stared at him. "Can I see the rest of that roll? I promise I won't steal it. I'm a regular. Anyway, you're between me and the door."
The stranger pulled out the wad, took off the clip, laid it on the bar. The oldest bill was 2062, a twenty. Green, red, with yellow highlights. The signature was illegible; the picture was Reagan.
Carl took out his wallet, looked inside, was oddly relieved to find his own familiar money. He puled out a twenty: green, 2007, Andrew Jackson. Signed by Henry M. Paulson. He laid them side-by-side.
The stranger whistled. "Brother, how long have you been in this bar?"
Carl stood up, leaving his twenty where it lay. He looked at the door; he turned back to the stranger. He wondered aloud, like he was sounding out a math problem, "How much time passed between when Francis went into the back and when you came in?"
The stranger shrugged, volunteered: "How would I know?"
"I'm saying, how would I know? No clocks. And I'm not wearing a watch."
"It couldn't have been that long. You would've starved to death." He tapped his finger on the 2007 twenty. "Hell, you would have died of old age."
"We should check on Francis."
"Fuck Francis, he had to have been in on it." Carl headed for the front door.
"Wait." The stranger stood up, brought him his twenty. "You'll need this. You can't spend it, but it'll be worth real money, to a collector."
"Thanks." They shook hands. Carl put a sweaty palm against the front door, took a deep breath, and pushed.