Ms. Johnson walked into her house in shame as I turned to her. I felt the heat enter my head. I ruined it. If I told Cole, they’d call me a “lunatic,” which would close all doors. “Sorry Trevor,” I said. “We will talk about that later.”
Trevor shook his head. “Do you want to watch cartoons, Leo?”
“Yeah sure boy,” I said, nervous that she had stopped calling me ‘uncle’. I relaxed a bit more when he asked me on my radio. I even took it out of my coat pocket and let her mess with it. Nor could he get any station.
As I watched Trevor watch TV, fear washed over me. Could this family ever believe that you came from 2010 looking for help? If it was difficult to convince me of there, Cole would never be convinced. The house swallowed me. I expected Cole to come out screaming, begging for blood, ready to tear me in two. I’d used my stupid mind-reading trick. It would take me even further away from meeting my deadline. These tiny marked pills helped me now, but soon my heart would fail. Talking to Trevor could have killed my cause; I should have talked to Cole.
Elmer Fudd chased after Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck waved his black feathers inside my head. I dreamed that my body was corrugated plastic filled with saline. I felt the ice flow down my arms, chest and then freeze my head. My bone-reinforced limbs were strong, but my torso bulged to the point of exploding. A nurse shook my neck as if shaking an IV bag over a hospital bed. I woke up wet, cold, the meaning of the dream eerily clear. I touched the bulge on my jacket: a shiny needle syringe and a saline bag. When had I become the type of person to wear that outfit?
I traveled to 1961 to steal from the umbilical and I saw myself being born. I’d trade it for the greatest wonder of seeing my son Jacob just once. I wanted to keep him, teach him to stand, walk and ride. He wanted to be in the congested DMV offices when Jacob became a man. How long would it take Susan to make my heart grow? How many innocents would suffer? I remembered the wide eyes of that policeman, haunting. My head was throbbing. Too late in life I found a soul mate in Susan, a friend.
“What?” A torrent of light blinded me. I felt Trevor’s little fingers tugging on my nose. “What do you want, Trevor?” Said. I heard Sylvia banging on pots and pans, and Peterson’s lawnmower cutting a meter.
“The sister is hurt,” Trevor said.
“Sister injured?” I didn’t know whether to believe him. Had the timeline changed? “Okay, I’m coming.” I was anemic, tired, and followed Trevor’s insistent tugging through the front door.
“Trevor, don’t bother Uncle Leo,” Sylvia yelled, “he’s sick.”
“I’m not mom,” Trevor lied. We stumbled into the afternoon sun.
“Where is Angie?” I said, stopping near the garage.
Trevor’s hands shook. “It’s a big problem,” he said. “She is in the field.”
A baptism of memories flooded my brain. “Trevor,” I said, “I know everything.” I grabbed her little hand. “You are not afraid that Angie will be hurt. You are afraid that your parents will punish her.” I smiled at his surprised eyes.
“Leo, are you reading my mind? Sister says I’m ‘gullible.’
I wrapped the quilt around me. “Let me tell you about the events, Trevor,” I told him. “Then I will predict what will happen. I am telling you the future so that you will believe in my mission.”
Trevor nodded, but he threw me out onto the field. The gravel stung my bare feet, but the dew-soaked grass chilled my toes. “Where is she now?” Said. The rolling yellow field seemed empty. I narrowed my eyes and loosened my neck.
“Sister is there,” Trevor pointed out. I followed his insistent finger to a small point in the field. “Of course,” I said. “You, Angie and her boyfriend built a fort. Angie got on and left you outside, just as some hippies were attacking you swinging paint cans. You ran away and the hippies spilled red and blue paint all over Angie’s clothes. Then they came out. screaming like Indians And now, Trevor, Angie doesn’t want to come for fear of being spanked.
“She’s not afraid of being spanked,” Trevor said. “She stayed over at Rhonda’s tonight and she knows Mom won’t let her go now.”
I smiled. “Well, tell Angie to pack for Rhonda, because your parents will know it wasn’t her fault.”
“So sister won’t get in trouble?”
“That’s what I said.” I was brusque. He had lived the day; I knew.
“I’ll tell you,” Trevor said. “If you’re sure you can go to Rhonda’s.”
“I’m sure,” I said with a smile. I finally made my way.
Trevor and his blue-faced sister rushed to my side, both grinning. A screech came from the living room. “You’re red and blue, disgusting! Take off your clothes Angie, you’re grounded, there’s no Rhonda tonight! Trevor; go, just go!”
Trevor collapsed in the front yard. “You were wrong Uncle Leo.”
“Sorry boy,” I said, grimacing. I didn’t bother to explain the unpredictable aspects of time travel; that he had done something here to change Sylvia’s reaction to the hippie attack. When Trevor said “don’t worry about it, Uncle Leo” it just made me feel worse. Finally I said, “Trevor, I was wrong. This is complicated.” The sun irritated my face. The hope of witnessing the birth of my son diminished. He had to talk to Cole.
Could you convince Cole? The facial birthmark that matched little Trevor’s had already been called “a funny coincidence.” And the technology? The radio Susan gave me as a backup device didn’t even spit static. He knew the results of Cole’s sprint, who would win the World Series, the Super Bowl, a few stocks to buy, who would be president after the next election. All of that was future proof. I needed results now. There was one thing, if he could remember it correctly. Uncle Hank hadn’t been around much to Trevor’s birthday party. Yes, I would make up for it tonight.
When I was little Trevor, I loved being around Cole. He hated the church. Sometimes on Sunday night I was lucky and Mom would drop me off with Cole, who smelled like clean shower and Old Spice. We would watch Wild Kingdom, and then instead of sitting on a bench listening to a sermon that I couldn’t understand, I could see the Wonderful World of Disney. Cole sat down in his chair. I knelt on the wooden floor near the television. Tinker Bell would emerge from a tiny point to almost as large as the screen, then spin around and spread flashes of fiery fairy lights across a castle to bless its wonderful gates.
I could see why Sylvia was Cole’s pride. His brown eyes reflected solemn church pews. I heard that her wet lips spoke the truth from the depths of her wealth and that she thought her body was a temple, and I knew that these things were not fantasy. She discerned me. His smooth face had chiseled features; its softness had rigid supports.
“It takes a strong woman to be a sweet woman,” Cole always said.
Sylvia was as tall as Cole, but she always looked at him. Most of the people who had heard of Cole said they first saw him as a little man, but they had been corrected that quickly. Cole chose his battles carefully, but face his face one more time and he would make you see that he didn’t like being condescending. I adored Cole. I remember dressing once for Easter. He was wearing black pants and a nice white and light blue sailor shirt and a cheery sailor hat. But he didn’t want to go to the Easter service. He wanted to rebuild the Harley in Daddy’s garage, us in our ripped jeans and crewnecks, spitting on the gravel as we inspected some patched engine parts.
Cole was a reasonable man, but I don’t think things like time travel and double me fell into his realm of possibility. It would take a good argument to convince him, but he was like the great wall in front of me; knock it down, and all resistance would crumble. Still, Cole was a hard-nosed, mechanical-minded, no-nonsense racer here and now, not really the ‘Trekkie’ my Aunt Tanya was turning into in this era on the other side of town.
I saw my shot out of nowhere one day while watching Star Trek. Little Trevor, excited for the show, said, “Uncle Leo can predict the future sometimes!”
Cole folded his Paradise News in half and looked at me. “He can, right?”
I expected Trevor to talk a little more about our conversations, but he rested his chin in his small hands and turned his attention back to the starship Enterprise. Cole’s gaze didn’t budge, though, so I assumed Trevor had already counted him the beans. He seemed to want a confrontation. I guess Cole and I approached equally unsuspecting for a conversation about the unknown. He worked with gear ratios, pistons, happy with the smell of leaded gasoline and the feel of cold, unforgiving metal. I liked science fiction, night radio, and rock and roll.
“What about that, Leo,” Cole said, “are you psychic?”
I shuddered. “Something like that, Cole,” I said. “What you want to know?”
Cole smiled. “How are things going to end in Vietnam?” He said.
Cole’s face reddened. “That’s easy for you to say now,” he said.
“I answered your question.”
“It’s okay, Leo,” Cole admitted.
“Ask him what you did at Bob’s Market,” Trevor said.
“Bob’s Market?” Cole narrowed his eyes at me.
“Yes,” Trevor said. “He told me everything he knew about DC comics, the hostess’s blackberry pies, Snicker bars and everything in Bob’s Market.”
“It’s okay, Leo.” Cole settled into his chair with a smile. “Speak up, make me a believer, if you can.”
“Oh I can,” I said, my heart pounding. “But will you accept it?”
He smiled. “I’ve always been reasonable, Leo,” he said.
That’s how it went.