Some time ago I read a short story that started with "time police" arriving to arrest the protagonist, who grabs one of the police's devices and hits the button. This triggers a series of time jumps as they chase him, and he finds that he has already prepared for this.

One part I recall was that he time-jumps into a rubber dingy with several cans of shark repellant. When sharks appear he panics and uses several cans, but then realizes they work for some time so he can pour them out one at a time. It turns out he has exactly enough cans to last until he drifts to land, even accounting for the ones he dumped out in panic.

I seem to recall this was in a collection, not a magazine, but it might have been a book-like magazine like Analog. I read it in the 80s, but it was definitely an older story, although with the shark repellant it couldn't have been from before the mid-60's?


1 Answer 1


This is A Thief In Time by Robert Sheckley, published in Galaxy magazine in July 1954 and also in his 1955 short story collection Citizen In Space. I could give you a point by point match, but all that you really need is this quote:


Taken from Viglin's Sporting Goods Store, Sector One:
4 Megacharge Hand Pistols — 10,000 Credits
3 Lifebelts, Inflatable — 100 Credits
5 Cans, Ollen's Shark Repellent — 400 Credits

Taken from Alfghan's Specialty Shop, Sector One:
2 Microflex Sets, World Literature — 1,000 Credits
5 Teeny- Tom Symphonic Tape Runs — 2,650 Credits

Taken from Loorie's Produce Store, Sector Two:
4 Dozen Potatoes, White Turtle Brand — 5 Credits
9 Packages, Carrot Seeds (Fancy) — 6 Credits

Taken trom Manori's Notions Store, Sector Two:
5 Dozen Mirrors, Silver-backed (hand size) — 95 Credits

Total Value — 14,256 Credits

Here's part of the joy of identifying a time travel story: The use of shark repellent does not, as one discovers from reading the story, actually date the story.

  • What's interesting is that I also clearly remember a line to the effect of "someone finally made one that worked", but from everything I've read, real attempts at a repellant didn't start until the 60s, which is why I figured it was later. Other notes of interest: he has a "hi-fi" in his room, a term I didn't think existed for at least a decade. Nov 29, 2017 at 13:58
  • @MauryMarkowitz: 1943 is when the Navy started distributing cakes of shark-repellent to their sailors. They used it through 1973. I believe they found about 70% efficacy.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 29, 2017 at 19:07
  • Well there you go. Nov 30, 2017 at 12:10

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