The story features a husband and wife, presumably long married, on a train going back to their hometown, possibly for a funeral. They start discussing how they met at a dance when the man was there as the date of the woman's cousin. They begin contemplating 'what if' scenarios like if she had not gone there that night, or he had married the cousin. Somehow a box is in their compartment and when they open it they are shown the answer to their 'what if' that shows they do end up married in the end but after a long and far more painful path for both of them.

I don't recall either the name of the story nor the title of the book it was in. It may have been a reader text book.

Can anyone recall this or find it?

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you read What If- by Isaac Asimov.

It was originally published in Fantastic magazine in 1952. It was later republished in 1969 in Nightfall and Other Stories.

Your description is very close. The pair weren't going to a funeral, and they originally met on a bus, but otherwise pretty much correct. Mr. If shows them an alternative to how their lives would have proceeded if they hadn't met on the bus. They still end up together, though some years later and each with a divorce behind them.

  • 1
    Interesting. In a way the story evolution is similar to many old movies. Have to look out for that Asimov book.
    – Trunk
    Dec 23, 2022 at 17:12

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