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The Old Radio -- 1 of 2. Probably YA? 4,200
The Second part is also posted today, below this one.

“Hey! Hi Grandpa. Can we go to the circus? It’s over in Mudville. Can we, huh, can we?” Twelve-year-old Jeffery had arrived only five minutes before and was bored already. He had seen a billboard on the way to the house. Right after being flown into a nearby town and picked up at the airport.

As he talked, the boy hopped around his grandfather’s kitchen, looking at and examining stray objects, rarely standing still for more than a few seconds at a time.

“What’s this thing? My Mama don’t have one? What’s it do, huh?"

Norman Evens had talked the parents into letting the kid stay with him during school vacation -- sort of a last resort before hyperactivity medication.


They thought that living in a very small town with a quiet-natured old man would help to calm him down. If it didn’t, they’d have to settle for mood-altering drugs.

“I use it to reload cartridges for my hunting weapons, Jeff. I’ll show you later, okay?” the seventy-five-year-old man told him. “Come on and bring your bags. I’ll show you to your room.”

They were in one of a row of ancient-looking brick houses on one of the two streets that made up Crapsville, Ohio. With a population of only two-hundred people, most of them old farts , the kid couldn’t get into too much trouble. At least that was the idea.

They went upstairs where Jeff was shown a large room with a metal-pole bed and heavy dresser, along with other old-fashioned wooden furniture. A steady breeze fluttered the curtains on two open windows. There was also a massive oak table and an easychair in one corner between the windows, along with lamps scattered around to provide light. The room looked like something out of the nineteenth century: massive, comfortable and quiet.

A large polished console radio sat as a centerpiece next to the huge stuffed chair. The radio looked like it weighed a ton and a half. It was made of shiny cherry-wood with a half-dozen huge dials. One wall had built-in bookcases filled with dog-eared dusty volumes. Many of them were dime novels and pulp magazines from the old man's childhood.

“This is your room, Jeff. Unpack your things and come on down. I’ll have dinner on the table by then.”

“Where’s your computer, Grandpa? I gotta check my e-mail?”

“Computer? Didn't your mother tell you? I don’t have any of them things. In fact I doubt if there are all that many around here.”

“Aw, I need a computer. Can we get one? Pa can bring mine from home.”

“Not hardly, since it’s over a thousand miles away. I’ll get one for you later. Mrs. Peters down the street told me she has one her son, John, used before he went away to college. We’ll see about it tomorrow.”

It only took a few minutes before Jeff stomped downstairs for dinner. Norman was still checking the roast and could hear the boy running around the house, checking it all out. Doors slammed as he looked in each closet and cabinet, then ran out the back door to check the backyard out.

About twenty minutes later, he came back in, tired and deflated.

“There ain’t nothin’ out there, Grandpa. Just a lot of cornfields and a couple-dozen houses. I didn’t even see any kids around. And all you got is that little television set. What you do for fun, anyways?”

“Mostly I read books and a small black-and-white set is all I need. It tells me what’s happening in the world -- at least all I want to know about.” He had the table set and was cutting a pork roast, a mouth-watering aroma filling the small dining room. “Sit down and eat.”

“I saw all those guns in your room. Can we go out shooting, huh? My papa don’t have none. He don’t like guns. I forgot my cellphone, can I use yours? Bobby wants me to call him every night.”

“Nope, don’t have none of those telephone things. Don’t need ‘um. There’s a pay phone down at the store, good enough for us when we need one. We’ll see about shooting after dinner and after you wash the dishes.”

“Auuw, Ma always does the dishes, I don’t know how.”

“I’ll teach you. It’s easy. You’ll learn a lot of fun stuff like that this summer. And there are kids around, you just didn’t see them is all. In fact, they were probably watching you when you were outside. See, in these small towns the kids are shy with strangers. They'll have to discuss you for awhile. You'll see them when they’re good and ready.”

After dinner and dishes were washed and put away, Norman retrieved a single-shot .410 shotgun from behind his bedroom door and the two went out to the backyard. The old man was a kind of gun nut and had a small range with a pile of dirt for a backstop between a bean field and his house.

Norman spent an hour explaining about the gun to his young charge, making certain the boy knew the importance of safety, how to hold the weapon and how to work the mechanism.

Only then did he allow the impatient kid to fire it at a bullet-riddled tin bucket downrange. Jeff had never shot one before. He delighted in the loud report and seeing the tin bucket jump. After missing the first few shots, the boy found he had to stand quietly and aim carefully. Jumping around and shooting quickly only made him miss the target. It was his first real instruction in patience. That was with the light shotgun. When Grandpa brought out a .22cal rifle, much more patience was required to get that smaller bullet into the target.

When darkness fell, the tired youngster went up to his room.

The atmosphere up there seemed strange, different from the plastic society he was used to. In fact the only things plastic were the knobs on the old radio -- and even then, he wasn’t sure.

He'd thought all radios were tiny things, or like the bigger one on his kitchen counter back home. This thing was almost as large as a small car. After looking out both windows, seeing a cornfield from one and a scattering of houses, most with lit windows, from the other, he turned to the books.

They were all old and dusty, with subjects like Tom Sawyer, Tarzan and the Apes and that sort of thing, like his teacher made him read at school. There were boring history books and a shelf of science fiction magazines. He pulled one out, “Amazing Stories” from July 1953, with a picture of a spaceship on the front.

Although Jeff was tired, he wasn’t really sleepy. He could go downstairs and look at the small black-and-white television but didn’t feel like it. The place already seemed to be terminally grim and he had the whole darned summer to be bored there.

Well, his young mind decided, he would find something to do. He would meet the local kids tomorrow, he thought. Even if he had to knock on doors.

Maybe he'd read awhile and go to bed? he thought. And the chair was really soft and comfortable, better than the hard plastic one in his room at home.

The radio caught his attention again. He sat up straight, both elbows on one arm of the chair, to face it. All those dials and things looked interesting. Jeffery wondered if he could get distant stations, like Chicago or Hollywood.

“I’ll bet I can get my local station on this thing, or even China,” he told himself. "Let's see if it even works. At least I can listen to music.”

It took a bit of fumbling around to even turn it on. What confused him was that even though the dials lit up, nothing came out. He didn’t know that vacuum tubes had to warm up first. Jeffery was about to give up, when there was a blast of noise as a song by Benny Goodman came out. He jerked back in his chair at the sound.

Fumbling with the dials, the boy finally found the volume knob. By that time the station had also been changed by his fumbling fingers, bringing only static. The largest dial had a needle as a pointer, like some kind of electronic equipment -- the fancy stuff you see in catalogs.

Jeff turned the dial, trying to get modern music but couldn’t find any, no matter how much he searched. Only that old crap, bands and slow stuff. He ended up at a station that had some sort of play or story on it. Something about a bank robbery and then the FBI chasing some guys.

It had different voices for each character as they spoke to each other. The sounds of a car chase. The lighted dial seemed to mesmerize the boy as he found he could picture the scene clearly in his mind. Jeff listened closely as the robbers talked to each other and then he heard the cops talking about how they were going to head the bad guys off at some railroad tracks.

But the robbers got to the tracks first, one of them crying because he was shot in the leg and it hurt. It was so convincing that Jeffery could almost feel the bullet in his own leg. They saw the cops coming and tried to get across ahead of the train.

Jeff could picture the scene as he heard a train approaching. It sounded realistic as the sound became steadily louder. The crooks talked excitedly while trying to cross the tracks ahead of the train. He was even a little afraid, eyes on the lighted dial, pulling for them to make it across before the train hit them.

Meanwhile, the FBI hurried to catch up. “They’re not going to make it. Oh My God, watch out,” a cop yelled on the radio, even as there was a horrendous screeching of brakes and a loud crash. Jeff was on the edge of his chair, hands tightly clutching knees, as the story unfolded, his mind picturing the chase and the car complete with evildoers being smashed by a huge railroad train.

“Ewwww, bet that hurt.” Jeff relaxed, heart still beating fast, when it was over. “That was something. Almost like on television.” He sat listening to stories on the radio, one after another, for hours. The boy found it was better if he turned out the lights and found himself sinking into the lighted dial of the radio as the stories unfolded.

****

“I like that old radio, Grandpa but why can’t I get any music on it?” Jeff asked the next morning. “All I could find is real old stuff. None that I like.”

“It’s an old radio. All it gets is old music,” Norman told him. “That’s why I keep it around. It knows that if it plays new programs or songs I’ll get rid of it. The same with the television. The only new programs it has are the news and weather. Don't ever tell me machines aren't smart.”

“That’s silly, Grandpa. Radios and television don’t know that kind of stuff.”

“You’ll see. Now, since we shot up all those shotgun shells, we have to fill them up again. Come on, I’ll show you how. I make a little extra money doing it for other people. You help me and I’ll pay you part of what we earn.”

Norman showed the boy to a room in the basement. It was filled with more guns, reloading and other shooting equipment. It also had a bookcase full of gun books and a couple of work benches with funny-looking tools on them.

Norman had enjoyed working with guns since he was a kid like Jeff. He was a retired Electrical Engineer but had been a gun-nut all his life.

The kid couldn't help but be enthused by the room -- any young boy would be. Some of the reloading equipment looked like they were out of a science fiction movie.

They spent the morning there, Norman showing him how to measure powder and crimp cartridges -- also showing the boy the differences between kinds and even brands of powder. There were also ballistic tables associated with each type of gunpowder, what they looked like and why one was better for a specific use than another.

Jeff had never known it could be so complicated. All he saw in the movies and on television was a gun that went "bang." He had never imagined, or even thought about, how they actually worked or how different ones acted.

It was interesting to learn how different Billy the Kid’s gun was compared to Clint Eastwood’s. Learning about firearms was all so new and interesting to the young boy.

He also learned that patience was necessary, since everything had to be done slowly and carefully. If he put the wrong gunpowder in, or too much, the gun might explode. It was very hard for the boy but he found he was capable of standing still for entire minutes at a time.

Soon after lunch, Norman heard a knock on the front door. It was Sammy, one of the neighbor boys.

“You got a kid in here?” Sammy came right to the point. “He wanna’ play?” Sammy wore a baseball glove on his belt.

“I’ll see, Sammy. I think I saw one in here this morning.” He turned around and called, “Jeff, someone here to see you.”

Jeff’s face lit up when he saw the other kid. Maybe the place wouldn’t be as boring as he thought? Where there were kids, there must be kid stuff. Things like a GameBoy, computers, music and modern stuff like that.

“Hi. My name’s Jeff. What’s up, man?” He looked around and saw his grandfather headed back to the living room. “Let’s get out of here. This place is like a prison.”

“Yeah, I’m Sammy. These old guys are boring. The bunch are over behind the store, waiting for us.”

“You got a cellphone, Sammy? I gotta make a call,” Jeff asked as they walked down the dirt road. He noticed the few cars all looked real old -- shiny but old.

“What’s that?” Sammy answered as they were coming up to a where a dozen kids were playing baseball. “Never heard of it.”

“A telephone, a little one with no wires or nothing. You just push buttons like a regular phone. What you mean you never heard of one?”

“None around here. Sounds like science fiction to me. All the town’s got is the one at the store.”

Confused, Jeff had to let the subject drop as they approached the other children for a round of introductions. He did see a few good-looking girls in the bunch. Jeffery was just coming to the age where he noticed the difference. They played ball for a couple of hours. After that, they rested, sitting on a row of benches behind the lone village store.

Jeff had some money and offered to pay for sodas if someone else went and got them. He brought out a five-dollar bill and gave it to a boy named Billy, who took off running with two of the girls, his sisters, for the general store. It was the only business in town, including one hand-pump for gasoline. Jeffery was surprised at all the change he got back. The sodas only cost a nickel a bottle. A soda cost a dollar at stores in his hometown.


“You guys have any computers? Grandpa said someone had one I might buy?”

“Oh, sure. Mrs. Peters has one. She’s the only one. Wan'na see it? She likes to show people.”

The whole "Bunch," as they called themselves, trooped over to Mrs. Peter’s house, about a block away. As they approached, a loud barking came from behind the house. It was the Peter's dog, a large brown mutt. Barking and growling, it ran at them, skidding to a stop at the last moment, to sniff at a nervous Jeff.

The others laughed, watching the dog. It seemed to accept him, since it began licking his hand.

"Give him the works," one of the girls laughingly ordered. The dog was soon covered by petting hands, rubbing it on every square inch of its back, flanks and head. Yipping happily, it retreated as they stomped up the steps to the Peters home. One girl knocked on the door and a middle-aged woman answered. She had a bandanna on her hair and wore a flowered house-dress.

“Yeah, what you kids want? I got my shows on.”

“We want to show Jeff, here, your computer. That okay?”

“Sure, come on in, I’ll get it.” In her bare feet, she walked toward a doorway.

Jeff noticed she had some kind of soap opera on television, that one a large black-and-white set.


“Here you are, kids. Don’t break it now. It’s the only one in town.” She was carrying a large and complex abacus -- not a computer at all.

“That’s not a computer. It’s just some sticks, strings and little balls.” Jeff didn’t know what to think. What was wrong with the place, like it was too strange for him? Was he in the Twilight Zone, or maybe a game show of some kind? He looked around carefully, searching for a hidden television camera.

“Sure it is. Show him, Janet.” The boy grinned. “She’s the best with it.”

One of the cutest girls, one with long blonde hair, came over and took the device. Giving the other boy a haughty glance, she laid it on a table. Then, she took obvious pride in showing Jeff how the little balls could slide around and, changing the position of other little balls, add numbers.

Jeff paid little attention, nodding his head once in a while. His mind was whirling around in circles. It was all so strange. No need to even ask about the GameBoy, he figured.

They returned to the baseball game and then, after sundown, played hide-and-seek for awhile, using the entire town to hide in. At least it gave Jeff a familiarity with the little place. Around eight pm he finally went back home to his grandfather’s house.

Jeff had noticed that no adults seemed to pay any attention to or were guarding them. Even the younger children could be seen playing in their front yards with no supervision in sight. In the city where he lived there were always parents around where kids played.

After supper, Jeff went in to watch television with his grandpa. He was surprised to see none of his favorite reality shows and not a whole lot of sex or violence, either. Sure, there was some but most of the programs were the kind of cowboy shows where the hero shot the gun out of the bad guy’s hands.

There were other types, like one called the "Jack Benny Show," and a guy named Ed Sullivan had a music program but no Rock&Roll at all. Even the news shows didn’t have any gory pictures. They told about an earthquake but didn’t show any dead people, only busted up buildings.

Tired, the child went back up to his room to read and listen to the radio before going to bed. He noticed the room across from his had its door open a crack. The night before, it had been locked.

Pushing it open, Jeffery found another room just like his except for no radio. It did have a large Zenith television though. He didn’t turn it on but it looked like a color one, even said so on the front. There were men's clothes in the drawers. Jeff only noted those things. They didn’t really interest him very much. Maybe he would ask later, about using the other television? he thought. Since it wasn’t his room or television, he left it alone for the moment.

He still had the radio set to the same story station as the night before. It was about midnight when he noticed an announcer mention a date. It was about a sale the next day ... in 1954.

Jeff couldn’t believe his ears. A sudden thought entered his mind. Heart beating at a faster pace, Jeff quietly snuck downstairs to look for a calendar. He found one on a kitchen wall. It also said 1954, and looked brand-new.

Going back up to his room, he found he couldn’t sleep. He must be in a time machine or something, he thought, but it explained a lot. Everything from the black-and-white television to no one having computers, or even knowing what they were. Even the old cars.

The next morning, when Norman got up and went into the kitchen to make the morning coffee, he saw Jeff already sitting at the kitchen table, waiting. The boy didn’t look happy.

“Grandpa, what’s going on here? What are we doing in 1954?” The boy sounded angry.

Norman went about his business, not saying anything while starting a gas burner holding a coffee pot. He sat down across the table from Jeff and sighed.

“I knew you would find out sooner or later. That’s why I didn’t bother hiding the calendars,” Grandpa Norman explained. “You see, a year or so before I retired I invented a sort of time machine. I was tired of the rat race. The way crime was increasing, more wars, just the way things were moving so fast. For over thirty years I managed to keep up in my field of electrical engineering but had been so busy I'd ignored most other matters.

"When I retired, those hundreds of other changes hit me at once. I found that by being a workaholic I'd gotten behind socially. The world had changed so fast I ... well I didn’t understand it anymore.

"There were those simple things, like sports heroes being convicted of rape and on trial for murder. Would you believe, they used to be heroic -- people to look up to as examples.

Singers had been the same, kids wanting to be just like them. Now children hope to emulate dope dealers instead. Money is king, unless you're a politician. To them, it means nothing. You need more, print another billion or so. If I'd done that playing Monopoly I'd have been thrown out of the game.

"Even my smoking was seen as deadly. My doctor told me I had to eat differently, some chemicals I couldn’t even name were killing me, she said.” His coffee was perking away on the stove, so Norman went over and poured a cup while Jeff sat still, looking stunned.

The boy thought the conversation must be out of one of those "Amazing Stories" magazines he had been reading upstairs.

Norman sat back down, to continue, “Nothing but murder, disaster, war and other crap on television. I hadn’t watched the 'tube' more than a few hours in twenty years and the change made me sick -- sicker than my smoking ever could. According to the news media, the world was going to hell. It wasn’t safe to walk down a street at high noon.

"I had been working in a government town, a secret place out west. I never realized how much I was protected there. After a few months of trying to adjust to the new world, I built myself one of my machines. Sure, the government has the secret plans and I'd sworn to keep them a secret but nobody told me I couldn’t build myself one if I didn’t tell anyone or try to sell it.

"Well, anyway, I built one in this little town. First I bought this house in the twenty-first century, then I paid for it again back in 1945, right after the war when it was considerably cheaper, and have lived here ever since.

"The only thing I have to watch out for is not to meet myself back in this period. It might cause a time paradox. It's not much of a problem, since I don’t remember meeting myself in the past and I know another me is in New York State right now, in real time, working its ass off. The other me, that is.”

Jeff held his face in his hands, elbows flat on the table while trying to digest that speech. It was almost unbelievable but, peeking through his hands, he could see the calendar on the wall.

Norman got up and poured the boy a cup of coffee, adding a splash of whiskey from one of the cupboards.

“Here, boy, drink this. It’s not illegal for you to drink alcohol at home in this time period.”

Jeff slowly sipped the hot mixture. “Can I see it, Grandpa. The time machine?” he asked.

“Sure, after breakfast. We can go on a trip together, back in time. I’ll show you how.” Norman got up to fix breakfast for them both. He wouldn’t answer any questions until after they ate and the dishes were washed -- by Jeff, of course.

End of part One of Two. The Second part is also posted today.
Charlie

The Old Radio -- 2 of 2. Probably YA? 3,000

The first part is also posted today, above this one.

No Synopsis, since the first part is also posted today. To get caught up, read it first.

They went down to the gun room, where Norman showed the boy a switch up near the ceiling on one wall. It looked like a large nail to hang something on. When it was pushed upward and to the left Jeff heard a click and a section of wall unlocked. It was a secret door.

“Be careful, Jeffery. I’ll explain how these things work later, when you learn enough to understand what I’m talking about -- if you ever do. Nothing wrong with not knowing. I’m not trying to talk you into a career in electronics. Hell, most people working in that field wouldn’t understand, either.” While he was talking he flipped some of a row of switches on a large square metal box, causing lights to flash red and amber and a humming to start.

“We have to wait about ten minutes for it to warm up. I couldn’t find some of the right components so I had to improvise with vacuum tubes and duct tape,” he explained, grinning. "The government has patents on some circuits and controls their sales."

His Grandpa opened an orange-colored cardboard closet against one wall and started pulling out what looked like Halloween costumes. They appeared to be made out of fur and dried grass.

“Take off all your clothes and put these on,” Norman told him, handing Jeff an armful of fur and grass. Norman did the same and they soon looked like cavemen. His Grandpa then sat down at a table and opened a kind of logbook. There was an electric clock on the wall and a calculator on the table.

Jeff stood and watched as Norman wrote the current time and date down and made a few complex calculations before writing the results down in his book.

“We have to be very careful doing this," he said. "The worse thing we could do is run into ourselves back there. At least that’s the theory and I certainly don’t want to test it.

“Before I set the machine I have to know just how many and which hours and days I’ve visited before and keep track of them on our new trip. I try to keep at least a month between visits. Wait here a minute and watch those lights. We can go when they all turn green.” He left for the gun room and came back with a high powered rifle, the light .410 shotgun Jeff had fired before and what looked like hand grenades.

“We’re going hunting, my boy.” Norman waited until the lights were green, made a final entry in his book and pulled a lever. A blank wall seemed to get misty.

When the cloud cleared, Jeff looked out onto what seemed like a doorway to a swamp.

“It only looks swampy but isn’t too bad. Your step will be springy and squishy from all the dead vegetation,” he told Jeff, handing him the shotgun and a box of ammunition. “Lets go and see what we can get for supper.”

They stepped out onto the ground. Like Norman had said, it was springy to the step but didn’t even get his shoes wet. Jeff was scared though, thinking of huge dinosaurs -- and why the grenades?

“Uh, where, I mean when are we, Grandpa?” he asked, looking around at mostly huge palm trees. The sun seemed hotter than where ... when they'd left.

“You saw the book. One thing you have to learn is always, I mean always, know when you are. This time, you can look when we get back.” He shouldered his rifle, seemingly unconcerned about wild animals. “We won’t stay long, I want to introduce you to Squak. You’ll like him. He's a nice guy. Oh and don’t be frightened. I haven't met anything dangerous in this time period yet. Of course, you never know.

“One other thing. Keep track of where we go, if you get lost here you’re in deep trouble. Nobody can come searching for us. There won't even be a human civilization for millions of years.”

Norman led as they walked toward the sun until they reached a large stream. Jeff made a point of noticing a large rock near that location. They then followed the water, going downstream.

“There, Jeff. Get it! See it just to the right of those bushes?”

Jeff looked close and saw a funny-looking animal, something like a pig. Remembering his shooting lesson, he aimed the shotgun and squeezed its trigger. With a roar, the gun fired, flipping the pig backwards into red-colored bushes.

“You got it, boy. Good shot.” Norman pulled out a folding bag and opened it while Jeff went out and retrieved the animal, a sort of cross between a pig and a lizard.

Jeff couldn't help being a little nervous, looking down at the bloody animal -- one leg still twitching. He found it hard to believe that he had actually done that, killed an innocent creature.

Norman cut one of the back legs and a haunch off and put it in his bag. Then he wrapped the rest in plastic and flung it over a shoulder. “Too much for us. We’ll give this to Squak. He must have heard the shot.

Right after they started walking again, there was a loud “Roar” in the distance.

“There he is. I figured he was around somewhere. I was here a month or so ago and he was here then. They don’t move around very much. It's some sort of territorial thing. They pee all around a few square miles and stay there the rest of their lives. The thundering became closer and seemed to shake the ground, Jeff frightened in direct proportion to the loudness of the roar.

A few minutes later, which seemed to Jeff like hours, the bushes at the other end of a clearing stirred, then shook. A lizard about three-feet high emerged. Inflating its cheeks to an amazing size, it’s “Roar” nearly knocked them off their feet. In reflex, Jeff raised his shotgun.

“No. Don’t you dare shoot it. That’s my friend, Squak. I found him, the only one alive in a nest and raised him at home as a pet. When he became too large to hide from the neighbors, I brought him to this period. I don’t think he has any natural enemies here.

Squak came over to sniff and nibble on Jeff’s leg. When he began to growl, Norman reached down and petted him.

“Here you are, Squak,” Grandpa said, turning to Jeff. “You better pet him so he knows you're a friend.”

“I read something in one of your books about not killing anything; like killing a bug would change people to lizards.” Jeff watched the animal eat, tearing large chunks from the carcass.

“Bull. I suppose it might be possible but not likely. For one thing, the earth is huge. So large that a few animals wouldn’t be missed. Such matters would tend to average out over the years. If, for instance someone killed Adolf Hitler as a boy, there would have only been someone else to take his place. The same basic things would happen. If you killed a fly that mutated and was meant to start a new specie, before long, with all the flies around, another like it would be born.” He laughed.

“Besides, if we killed that animal it was because we killed that animal. It was already done before you killed it. Not killing it would mean that you never killed it in the first place. You can’t change history -- because you didn’t change history. If you did change history it would be because you already did before, which would mean you didn’t change it after all.”

Now Jeff was really confused. Oh, well. At least he had shot his first dinner. Norman tested him by having him lead them back to the time portal.

***

During the following weeks, Jeff spent a lot of his time playing with the other kids. He also made several trips back in time. Norman was friendly with a tribe of Neanderthals and Jeff spent time with them, learning their customs. He was a busy boy, with his Grandpa’s house no longer boring.

Jeff spent evenings reading and listening to the large radio. He read gun books and helped repair and reload ammunition, which had to be exact. You couldn’t put too much or the wrong kind of powder in a cartridge and if you seated the bullet too shallow or too deep in the cartridge case, it wouldn’t fit right in the chamber.

Jeff learned many skills that summer, without really realizing it. Later, when his history class studied cavemen, he was not only an expert but could show them real artifacts. A spear and jewelry were sent, by the school, to experts who verified them. The same with fourteenth century American Indian artifacts. Jeff was too busy to watch much television and he never did remember to ask Norman who used the bedroom across from his own.

***

His folks wouldn’t let him go back after that summer. Jeff tried but received no explanation. Years later, he found that Norman wasn’t really his grandfather. He was only a family friend who'd agreed to help them out.

Although Jeffery was still hyper, he now knew ways to direct his energy and had learned the skills of patience and work ethics. If you weren't cautious in caveman or American indian times you'd wind up dead. In effect, he had grown up that summer. A twelve-year-old boy going in, he came out an adult, complete with adult ethics.

***

“Congressman, I have a Mr. Atkinson on line four. He says he’s a lawyer, representing a deceased relative. Do you have time to speak with him.”

“I have a few minutes, Phyllis, thanks.” Jeffery picked up a telephone and punched the ‘four’ button. “Yessir, can I help you?”

The caller turned out to be a lawyer representing a man named Norman Jackson. He was calling all the way from California to tell Jeff about the man’s death. Also of his will, bequeathing his home to Jeffrey. It took the Congressman a few minutes to recognize the name -- it had been so long in the past that the summer visit had become almost a dream.

“Yessir, Mr. Atkinson. Would you please send the keys and title to my office. You have the address? Yes. Yes. Thanks.” Jeff was enthusiastic. The house was now his. He wondered, was the secret room still there?

Since Congress was in session, it took a couple of months before Jeff could leave to check the house out. Although being a workaholic himself, he had never completely forgotten Norman -- who could have? Jeff had thought about going to visit over the intervening years but never gotten around to it. And how could he visit someone living in the seventies by then? Currently, Jeff was living in the 2000s.

At first, he had to finish school. By the time he did that, he was working full time. Jeff never did marry, becoming involved with politics and moving around too much. Presently, he was across the country and still very busy.

He could see Norman’s point, though. Like the old man, he was becoming tired of the rush, the crime and not only going through wars but having to vote for or against them. The activity and its complexity was getting to him and he was only in his forties. As soon as he reasonably could, Jeff caught a flight for California and the old house.

***

Jeff parked a rental car in a wild patch of weeds that used to be a front yard. The house was boarded up and decaying, badly needing paint. The front porch squeaked with every step as he made his way to the door, which was padlocked.

He noticed that the lock was dirty and hard to open with his key. It finally gave and he had to shove to get the door open, it had been closed so long. Enough light filtered in around plywood coating the windows and through the open front door for him to see. Jeff had enough sense to have called the electric company before he left Washington. He had to pay a few-hundred dollars vie the Internet but the electricity and water were on.

“Hey, Buddy, what you doing in here?” he heard behind him. “This here is private property.”

Jeff turned, to see a man silhouetted against the open door. As the man entered, he recognized, despite a thinning hairline, his old friend Sammy Edwards.

“You know me, Sammy. It’s Jeff. I stayed here one summer.”

"I dunno any Jeff, not from 'round here."

"It was only one summer, when I was twelve. Remember when you tried to slide into third-base, which was an ironing board and skinned your knee on a protruding bolt?"

“Lemme’ see. Yeah. Hiya, Jeff. How’s things going wit'ya?”

They talked over old times for awhile, until Sammy had to go back home to his wife, Janet, now referred to as the "Ball and Chain."

“See you later, Sammy. I’d like to check the place out in peace. I’ll probably restore it. It holds a lot of memories for me.”

Jeff found most of the downstairs furniture missing. The upper level was the same. Whether stripped or stolen made no difference. At least in this small town there wasn’t any real damage; no crack vials, bullet holes or empty whiskey bottles. There were only a few kids' names written on walls and cigarette butts stomped out on the floor -- that kind of thing.

The radio was still there but with the insides taken out and scattered over the bedroom floor. It looked like a curious kid wanted to study it or something. Jeff thought he would pay someone to restore it and take it home with him. Maybe it would still play the old stories? He grinned.

The guns and equipment had been taken out long before but the secret opening hadn’t been breached. Entering the time-travel room, he found the equipment all intact, though dusty. When he turned it on, the proper lights worked, red and amber.

The wall clock was wrong, so he had to use his watch to set the time as he sat in a dusty chair in front of the logbook. Dust slid off the cover when he opened the book. It must not have been used in many years, he thought.

The pages seemed familiar to Jeff. Thinking back, he realized it included the dates of his and Norman's visits. A handwritten note lying on top of that sheet said, "October 15, 1954 okay. Careful."

Setting the dials for that date, Jeff waited until the machine warmed and the lights green. He found the procedure came back to him easily. Picking up his suitcase, Jeff pulled the lever, finding the exit was the gun room, though now filled with familiar equipment and much cleaner than a few minutes before.

Somewhat anxious, Jeff ran up the cellar steps, not knowing exactly what to expect. What he received was an earthshaking "Roar" as the lizard, Squak, almost knocked him down. It was smaller than before and tried to bite his leg as he, in turn, fought to hold the nimble creature off.

“Down, Squak. You know me. It’s your pal. Come on. Don’t bite, boy.” he shouted, to continuing roars and flashing claws.

“He don’t know you. You haven’t been introduced yet. Down, Squak, nice Squakie.” A man in his forties, approximately Jeff's present age, grabbed the lizard. Of course it was Norman, in the flesh but looking one hell of a lot younger than Jeffery remembered him. “I knew you were coming today but forgot all about this guy. He’ll make a nice guard when he gets to his full fifteen-feet.”

The two shook hands and hugged while Squak again started his sniffing and nibbling routine, getting reacquainted or acquainted -- whichever way you want to look at it.

“You expected me? I thought maybe you would but then you were dead too, so I didn’t know for sure.”

“Oh, sure. I was going to and probably did will you this house in your time and also in mine plus some years. I’m not in any hurry to die.

"So this is what you look like? Of course it’s the first time I’ve seen you. I left myself a note from some time or other. Last week, I found it on the kitchen table when I got up. It said to expect you. You, as a kid, won’t get here until school’s out for the season. Your parents already sent me the particulars on your flight.”

The three of them went into the kitchen for that compulsory and ever present cup of coffee laced with alcohol, where Norman continued. “I fixed you up another room upstairs, It’s yours for whenever you visit. It’s the one....”

“I know which one ... Grandpa. It’s the one across from the one I’ll have in a few months, The one with the large new color television.” Now he knew who had that other room, he did, or does -- the older Jeffery.

“It doesn’t have any television in it.” It was Norman's time to be puzzled. When they went upstairs, they found the Zenith television set wasn't there.

“That’s strange. I must not have bought it yet," Jeffery stated. "After all, time travel can be just a little perplexing."

A loud “Roar” came from the living room downstairs, as if to accentuate the statement.

The End. The First section was also posted today.
Charlie