A Couple of Years in the Early Life of a Time Traveller
Author's note: Any time a character named Boz appears in any of my stories, it's me making a cameo appearance in an autobiographical way. This was written as atonement for how I treated a person who was a true friend to me, when I was a non sequitur eight-year-old.
A Boy's Cold War
nobody knows me
what goes on inside my head
how can I tell you?
'But aren't we at war with the Russians?'
'No, Benny,' said Miss Frampton. 'The Bay of Pigs invasion was last year. All over and done with. We're not at war.'
'I mean, like, what happened a few days ago, Kennedy bombed Cuba, coz they're building some sort of bases there, and then the Russians bombed Berlin, and then President Kennedy said yesterday we're declar'n war on Russia, and -'
'Benjamin Scully, nothing's going on in Cuba, Berlin hasn't been bombed. Where are you getting this stuff? Sit down!'
'Yes Miss Frampton.'
Benny slowly sat down while looking around at his friends, who only stared at him blankly.
At recess it was all skipping rope, hopscotch and games of tag, laughing and playing like nothing major had happened. He sort of remembered that yesterday they were huddled in groups wondering what was going to happen. Only sort of. He also remembered playing tag with Bobby and Alex.
Bobby wanted to play again, so Benny followed him to the middle of the playground.
'What were you talking about in there anyway?' he asked.
'Forget it,' replied Benny.
For the time being, Bobby was Benny's best friend. That wouldn't be for long though, Benny knew. Bobby lived in the compound for missionaries on furlough, and at the end of the term, he would be on his way back to Africa. Maybe there would be another one - from somewhere else.
They played on the jungle-gym until Miss Frampton blew her whistle and the whole third grade room two class ran and stood in double file, boys in one line, girls in the other. Then, off they marched to the classroom.
Arithmetic was next. Not Benny's favourite, but at least there was nothing about it that brought up funny memories of things that didn't happen.
Then, lunch hour. Everyone lived close enough to go home for lunch. That was only a ten minute walk. He caught up with Rebecca half-way. Debbie was home already, as kindergarten kids got a longer lunch
Rebecca was in first grade, and didn't do current events. Benny asked her anyway.
'Did anyone talk about the war with Russia?'
'You know - President Kennedy declaring war and all that.'
'He declared war?'
'Dad was talking about all evening! Don't you remember?'
'We played Monopoly.'
'Yeah, we did…'
He clearly remembered playing Monopoly. Dad couldn't have been talking about that, playing his piece, and being the banker, and winning like he always does. He wouldn't have enough concentration. He had even made his usual references to the fact of some of the squares on the Monopoly board being places in their own town.
The talk about war was a bit faint in his memory. He couldn't remember anything specific that he said, except he was sure school would be closed.
And here, they'd gone to school and it was lunch already.
Mom had the radio on, but it was all general boring stuff.
The rest of the day went as a normal Friday should. Next day, it was Saturday - no school!
Sunday they went to church, which was right next to the missionary houses where Bobby lived. Bobby was there as well, and they sat together.
Reverend Hayden prayed his usual long prayer for everything under the sun. He seemed to pray extra long for the President, and for the Russians, and for Cuba.
Does he know something? Benny wondered.
Other than that, it was a normal Sunday.
Monday went as normal Mondays go until that evening. The family had sat down to watch The Lucy Show. Instead of Lucy, there was John F Kennedy:
Good evening my fellow citizens.
Benny had a weird sense of knowing (he hadn't learned the word deja vous yet).
This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet Military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.
Benny was stunned. No one noticed how so, as they were also stunned - except Rebecca.
'Benny?' she whispered. 'Is that…'
Benny nodded slightly, eyes still glued to Mr. Kennedy.
…It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union...
Miss Frampton gave Benny a strange look when he arrived for class the next day. So did some of Benny's classmates.
Miss Frampton was called away for a meeting with some of the other teachers in the principal's office. The art teacher was left in charge, but she hadn't prepared anything as it wasnt the day art was normally scheduled. They just drew pictures. Benny could think of nothing to draw but spirally lines.
Instead of the usual hopscotch and tag at recess, the kids were grouped in their small circles of friends. Bobby was Benny's only real friend, though he could tell the others were glancing at him from their groups.
Bobby had a few questions, but Benny stayed, for the most part, quiet. This didn't feel like an 'I told you so' moment. It was too scary.
Later that day was their first drill. This was not a fire drill. Instead of 'brrrng, brrrng, brrrng…' the alarm went 'brrrng-brrrng, brrrng-brrrng...' That meant they were get their jackets, get in two lines in front of the door and walk quietly behind the teacher, not outside, but to the basement. There, they went to one of the big rooms and sat on the floor with the tail of their jackets tucked under their bottoms, and the collars pulled over their heads.
There was a drill like that every day for the next several days.
Bobby raised his hand. Miss Frampton called on him and he stood up.
'Miss Frampton, if that was a bomb drill, why didn't we just go outside like we did that time they said there might be a bomb in the school?'
'It's a different kind of bomb,' she replied. 'It's the kind that can destroy a whole city. It's the same kind we used to win World War Two. If it so much as lands in this state, the radiation could still kill us if we stood outside, but going down into the basement can help protect us.'
Benny was suddenly sitting bolt upright in bed. He may have screamed, but the relief of waking up quelled it. But he was still sobbing.
He had to see if she was okay. He got up and dashed to the girls' room. There was Rebecca, sleeping soundly in her bed, and Debbie in the other.
'Benny, what's the matter? Why are you out of bed?' It was Dad.
'I saw her burning up,' he sobbed, running into his arms.
'You were having a bad dream.'
'It wasn't like a dream - it - it was like remembering what happened - like today -'
Dad led him back to his room, tucked him in and sat on the side of the bed.
'So what happened?'
'It was like we were play'n hide-and-seek, like we were today, in the empty lot. Rebecca was "it", and I was hiding under that old refrigerator. I could see her coming around looking for us, and suddenly, everything went all white! It got hot as anything, and then I could see her skin melting off, and then her eye balls inside her skull looking at me and - and…' Benny couldn't hold it back and began wailing in his father's arms.
'What's going in?' it was Mom.
'Benny has just had a realistic dream about a direct nuclear hit.'
The next day they had another drill.
As they walked down the corridor towards the stairs, Benny said only loud enough for the kids next to him to hear, 'This might be the real thing.'
'Huh?' said Jimmy.
'No way!' said Alex. 'It's only a drill.'
'Quiet back there!' shouted Miss Frampton.
They quieted down.
After a while, Benny half whispered, 'Like, everyone says President Nixon is play'n it too tough. Gonna upset the Soviets.'
'Who?' said Jimmy, again too loud.
'Quiet!' shouted Miss Frampton.
'Benny says Nixon is President,' reported Alex.
'Kennedy is the President,' said Miss Frampton. 'Nixon lost fair and square. Now I don't want to hear another word out of you!'
They walked the rest of the way quietly as Benny wondered why he remembered hearing talk about Nixon. Then his mind went back to his thought that this might be the real thing.
They arrived at their assigned room in the basement, and took their seats on the floor.
If this is the real thing, then this is the safest place to be.
They sat there, as visions of Rebecca's melting face went through Benny's mind. Then the all-clear bell sounded.
Everyone got to their feet. Everyone except Benny.
'Miss Frampton, Benny won't get up!' said Jimmy.
'Benjamin Scully! What's got into you today?' Miss Frampton demanded.
Benny just sat with his face frozen in a terrified look.
'Well? Are you just going to sit here all day?'
Benny nodded, his face still frozen. Tears started rolling down his cheeks.
'Very well, have it your way. I will have to send a note to your parents.' She led the rest of the class out, as Benny sat all alone with his jacket still pulled over his head.
Several people came and went, checking up on him, including the principal, who concluded he was in too much mental turmoil to be forced.
Finally, a new staff member came and sat down next to him.
'Hi Benny, I'm Miss Kerry, the school councillor.'
Benny was silent.
After a while, Miss Kerry asked, 'Did you somehow know about all this before it started happening?'
'Did it seem like America had attacked Cuba, and then the Soviet Union bombed Berlin in retaliation?'
Again, Benny nodded.
'You were handling it very well. Why are you suddenly afraid?'
'C-cause I know what it's like.'
'What what's like?'
'One of them bombs.'
'Do you think you saw one of those bombs go off?'
'Can you tell me about it?'
Benny described the memory of the game of hide-and-seek, and seeing his sister melt.
'Oh! That must have been absolutely horrible! But I bet the fact you were under the old overturned fridge must have protected you from the blast long enough to see your sister's body deteriorate.'
Benny stared at Miss Kerry. 'Y-you mean it really happened?'
'Yes, but in a different timeline. It's safe now - for the time being.'
'How do you know its safe?'
'Because John F Kennedy is the President now, not Richard Nixon.'
She put one hand on Benny's shoulder and took his hand with her other. 'Why don't we go over to my office. It's right here in the basement so it'll be safe. Then we can talk.'
Benny got to his feet and followed her to her small room.
She got out some plain paper and some crayons. 'Benjamin, can you draw me a picture of time?'
'It doesn't have to make sense. Just draw me what comes into your head when you think about time, as in the past, present and future.'
Benny was hesitant.
'Its okay. Just take your time. In fact, Why don't you shut your eyes a moment and immagine time, and then just let your hands go.'
After a while, Benny took a blue crayon and began drawing a line following a spiral course across the page. Then he took a red one, and drew another, flowing in the same pattern as the blue, then the same with a yellow, and a green… The result was a haphazard and yet organised flow of lines in a generally spiral motion.
Miss Kerry looked at the picture a while. Then, she took a round silver object out of her purse. It looked like it was made of diamonds smashed together, but it was round and flat, with a hole in the middle like a very small phonograph record.
'Sit still a moment, close one eye, and look through the hole in middle of this pendant. But only look. Don't try to do anything with it.'
She held the pendant to Benny's eye, and moved it slowly in and out a couple of times, and took it away.
Benny knew this was the real thing - what he had tried to draw on the paper. But he knew he could never explain to anyone what he saw.
Miss Kerry put the pendant back into her purse. 'When you get older, you'll learn more about this. But for now, let me assure you that there are people who know how to go backward and forward in time and are trying to make things okay again.'
'Wow!' was all Benny could say.
'You are one of very few who can remember things that would have happened had someone not jumped back and changed it. In fact, most people - certainly anyone you know - would never believe you if you tried to tell them. So it's better if we keep this as our secret. Maybe someday you'll be one of those people.'
Benny was good at keeping secrets, especially when he knew that everyone would only think he was crazy if he told. As for Miss Kerry, she suddenly had a reputation among the staff as a miracle worker.
child from distant climes:
in things that most find mundane
he sees novelty
Boz's story: This is my first time going to school with other kids.
In Thailand, my mother taught me at home with the Calvert Course. That was for first grade. I'd watch all the Thai kids going off to school, and think, what would it be like to go to school?
Then we got on a ship and sailed to London, and went up to Scotland, and later crossed over to Belfast. There, I saw my cousins go to school, and come home again. All the while, my mother was still trying to teach me second grade.
Then, my mother took me with her on an aeroplane to America. My father is staying in Belfast for a while. He'll join us later.
Here, my grandma and my aunt and uncle have found us a place for missionaries. Now I'm going to school just like other kids do.
The people at the school decided I should stay in second grade, so here I am.
The teacher introduces Gladys to me, and says she lives at the missionary houses, and says she can walk with me to school so I won't get lost.
The teacher is named Miss Sink. I think the name is something more but I can't pronounce it. The other kids just say 'Miss Sink'.
She writes sums on the blackboard, and we have to copy them on to paper. She has us fold the paper a few times first to make creases, so we can write the sums in straight columns by each fold.
She walks around to check up on everyone. When she gets to me, I have hardly anything written down yet. She's shocked. I start writing, but mostly I'm looking around at everyone in the class.
She comes around again. I've only got two done. She tells me everyone else is almost finished.
Recess time. I play by myself on the climbing frame. They call it the jungle-gym. And then I play on the swings.
I know that when the teacher blows her whistle, it's time to run and get in line in front of her. There's one line for boys, one for girls.
I hear the whistle, so I get in line. We walk to the classroom. I try to find my seat, but someone's sitting there already. I fumble around and someone says I'm in the wrong class.
I have to go off looking for my classroom. The principal finds me and takes me to the right place.
Lunch time my mother comes for me. Miss Sink introduces her to Gladys. We walk home together for lunch. My mother asks Gladys what country her family works, and she says they're from Ecuador. I ask her how old she is. She's seven, same age as me.
* * *
Benny walked slowly home from his second day of fourth grade. The week hadn't gone too badly.
Of course, the first few days never do. Teachers don't show their true colours until about the third or fourth day. The kids haven't started being nasty yet. Being back to school is almost a novelty to some of them, as they're catching up with old friends.
But it would get old quick. His best friend had gone back to Africa. In fact, his only friend.
He knew there were more families with kids at the missionary houses, but so far, no candidates for 'best friend'. There was one family of four, a fifth grader, his two brothers, twins, in third grade, and their youngest brother in first. They were a bit too cliquish for him. When he rode by on his bike, he could tell the twins were right terrors in the playground at the missionary houses, especially with their older brother nearby to lend support.
But Benny didn't mind being alone. Knowing a few things about life that he couldn't tell anyone about - except Miss Kerry - made him a bit dreamy.
He arrived home, finally catching up with Rebecca and her best friend Kate. They were classmates again, in Miss Schlenk's second grade class.
Benny remembered Miss Schlenk. It took him most of the year to get her name right, and stop calling her 'Miss Sink'.
* * *
Boz's story: Now that I know my way to school, Gladys doesn't want me around anymore. At the houses, she chases me off when I go near her. At school, she ignores me.
The girls have a thing they do at recess. They get in two rows facing each other, clap their hands and sing a dity, Here comes Sally, down the alley, here comes Sally, all night long, while two on one end sort of dance - or do something else weird - from one end to the other between the two rows. Then they hold hands across the middle space and sing a different verse that I don't hear properly.
Sometimes a couple of the boys, like the two Billys, make fun by prancing through after them. I do it too.
The two Billys - Miss Sink calls them Billy S. and Billy N. - are the naughtiest two in the class. Miss Sink is always writing one or the other of their names on the board, under the heading '3:30'. That means they have to stay after school, which finishes at 3:30.
Every time I ask a kid in our class how old they are, they say they're seven. Even though I'm doing second grade over again, I'm still the same age as them.
Rebecca is also seven years old, and so is her best friend, Kate. I think Rebecca looks pretty. She has long blond hair and wears glasses, and looks sort of like that Charmin Chatty doll in the TV advert. I try to play with Rebecca and Kate during recess. They look at me funny, especially Kate. Rebecca starts to let me play though.
Of course, I play with the other kids too. When we play tag, we decide who's 'it' by getting in a circle, putting one foot in the middle while someone points from one foot to the next saying, 'Doggie doggie dia-mond, step right out.' The one who gets 'out' takes his foot away, and they do it again. The last one left is 'it'.
Jake and Jamie are twins. They're in third grade, and they're not very nice to me. Neither is their big brother Edward.
I'm playing army with some of the younger kids at the houses, and they trap us in a sort of an outside stairwell leading to a basement door. The twins are holding us hostage, and their brother is sitting on his bicycle nearby.
After a while, they let us go. I'm the last one, and while I'm getting out, Edward blocks my way with his bicycle.
They start telling me they have a knife, and they're going to cut my throat.
I'm trying very hard not to cry. One of the bigger girls walks past, sees me, and tells them, 'You better let him go.'
Edward says, 'Oh, okay,' and lets me go. I run home, whimpering 'thank you' to to the girl who saved my life.
I tell my mother, between sobs, that the twins and their brother had cornered me and were about to kill me. She sits down with me and explains that they wouldn't kill me because they know, like everyone else, that killing someone like that would lead to a capital sentence.
That's a load off my mind.
She goes off to have a chat with their mother.
I see Rebecca and Kate go off together when it's time to go home. They go out the front door in the other direction from where I go, but when they get to the corner, they turn and go the same direction as me.
I follow them.
After a while, Kate glances back, and says to Rebecca, 'Be careful. B O Z is behind us.'
She thinks I can't spell my name.
They slow down and let me catch up.
'Why were you following us?' says Kate.
I don't say anything.
'Where do you live?' I ask Rebecca.
'That house there,' says Rebecca, pointing straight ahead.
'And I live down that way, past your house, nearer the sea,' says Kate. She knows I live at the missionary houses. She's also friends with Gladys.
We reach Rebecca's house.
'Can I come in?' I ask.
'Sure,' says Rebecca.
'No, don't let him,' says Kate. 'Come Boz. I'll take you home. I know where you live.'
I go into the house with Rebecca. Kate sighs and goes off to her house.
We get inside. There's a big boy there sitting in a couch.
'That's Benny. Benny, this is Boz. And that over there is Debbie.' There's a smaller girl coming out of the kitchen.
There's a woman inside the kitchen. 'That's my mom in the kitchen. Mom!' she calls. 'I brought someone home!'
She comes out and greets me.
Benny is a bigger kid. He says he's in fourth grade. He shows me his room and we play with some of his toys.
After a while, his mother says I'd better go home before my parents worry about me. Benny walks me home.
We pass a house next to the church.
'Reverend Hayden lives here,' says Benny. We stop by to visit.
I start going home the way that goes past Rebecca's house. After a while, Rebecca and Kim even wait for me in front of the school when I'm slower coming out.
I don't stop in at their house on the way home because my mother wants me to go home right away after school. Sometimes I can go to their house afterwards.
One time I stop in to visit Reverend Hayden. I end up watching Magilla Gorilla on their TV.
After a while my mother and Grandma knock on the door. They've been looking for me everywhere.
I'm still slow at doing my arithmetic. I always look around at what's going on. Billy S's reading group is sitting in a circle in the front, and I'm listening as they take turns reading their Dick and Jane.
Kate goes, 'Pssst! Boz! Get busy!'
I get busy for a while.
Then it's Mike's reading group's turn. That's the one I'm in.
My mother had me reading Dick and Jane in Thailand. That's where I started calling them Mother and Father, like Dick and Jane do, instead of Mummy and Daddy.
In the afternoon, we copy words off the blackboard and put them in alphabetical order. That's even worse!
At the missionary houses, Jake and Jamie are nicer to me since my mother had a talk with theirs.
Sometimes we play together.
Starting a game of tag with Rebecca and Kate, I can see Kate practising the 'doggie doggie diamond' in her head before doing it out loud, to make sure I'm 'it'.
They jump up laughing, saying 'Boz is it!' I have a hard time tagging them.
On another day Miss Sink has us all out on the playground, running races. I run one race with Billy N. He's a lot faster than me, so I'm way behind. I come to the finish line and I can hear Kate and Rebecca laughing their heads off.
They still wait for me at 3:30.
Exit Mr Kennedy
all who lived through it
remember their whereabouts
when they heard the news
Boz's story: I get back to the houses from school, and walk past some of the other missionary kids.
Linda says, 'Boz, come here!'
I join the group. 'Tell your parents to turn on the news. President Kennedy has been shot!' she tells me.
'The President?' I didn't know the name of the President before.
The kids are talking about it. One boy comes, and Linda asks him if he's heard. He says his mom is crying.
I go home and tell my mother. She turns on the radio, and starts telling me other things as they're happening, like Lyndon Johnson is going to be the President, because he was the Vice President.
A few days later she tells me that somebody shot the one who shot the president, because he thought it was a horrible thing to do.
* * *
Benny had just come out of the boys room in the school basement, when Miss Kerry suddenly appeared out of thin air.
Benny almost fell over backwards.
'H-how did you do that!?' he almost shouted.
'I did a time jump from the future, because I have something very important to tell you. Let's go into this room a moment.'
'Why not your office?'
'Because I'm in there.'
'I'll explain it to you in here.'
'Okay, I'll tell you what. It is good to be careful in any case; you go ahead and stick your head in the door, and tell the person you see there, "I'm going to have a talk with you from the future." She'll know exactly what you're talking about.'
So, he did, and there was Miss Kerry sitting there, smiling at him. She answered, 'It's okay.'
And there was Miss Kerry also standing in the corridor.
'You'll need to change what you were about to do,' said the Miss Kerry from the future when they went into the other room. 'You were going to give your report on current events, and land yourself in a lot of trouble.'
'How do you know?'
'I've come from the future where you're in trouble. First off, who killed the president?'
'Hidell, I think, or - no, it was Oswald. He sort of looks like him, so I get them mixed up.'
'I want you to promise me something: don't ever mention the name Alek Hidell to anyone.'
'He's very dangerous. He's a time traveller. If it becomes known that he and Oswald aren't the same person, and he traces it to you, he could come after you. And he'd go for you when you were five.'
'Which one shot President Kennedy?' asked Benny.
'We're pretty sure it was Hidell. He chose Oswald because they look alike, and because Oswald was just the type of person he needed for the job.'
'If he killed the President, shouldn't everyone know that?'
'There are people working on that, but he's very clever. He always stays one step ahead of us. Right now, we can't make the truth public without doing even more harm. Also, it would be hard to explain some of it when most people don't understand time travel. That's another reason you'll have problems.
'Now, as far as everyone is concerned,' Miss Kerry went on, 'Oswald is suspected of shooting the President; they caught him in the movie theatre; they held him in the police jail, and while they were taking him out of there, Jack Ruby shot him (Hidell also had a hand in that, but for right now, that's our secret). Oswald never gave his testimony because he died before they could get him to court.'
'Wow! Most of the stuff I got is about his testimony,' reflected Benny.
'Yes. In the future I just came from, they think you're a bit crazy. Some teachers remember how you were during the Cuban Missile Crises, and some blame me for it. Now, a few think it's odd that you know some of the names of people involved - names that a boy like you wouldn't know about, like Alek James Hidell. Things do get quite difficult for you, with meetings with your parents, counseling sessions with people who don't understand you; there's even talk about having you see a psychiatrist.'
'But it gets worse; a story even gets printed in the newspaper. Nobody takes it seriously, but there are names of people, and things done that - though nobody believes, coming from you - they did kill Oswald to keep quiet. That's where it would get dangerous for you. Let's just say, some people can't take a joke.'
Benny was very quiet.
'Here, go ask the other me for some paper, and I'll help you rewrite your report.'
'But - I'm only supposed to be going to the bathroom. Mrs. Cliffard will have me stay after school for taking too long!'
'Don't worry. I'll get you back in time.'
The new version of Benny's report was ready, and now they stood at the end of the corridor.
Miss Kerry took out the little disk she had shown him a year earlier and put it to her eye. There seemed to be some sort of flash, Benny couldn't tell what.
'OK, now you're just in time to go back to your classroom without them missing you. But first, take this note to my office and give it to the other me.'
He did. Again, it was weird to see two Miss Kerrys.
The Miss Kerry from the future walked him to the other end where the stairs were.
Benny felt something weird as they passed the room they had been in.
'Did you feel that?' asked Miss Kerry.
'Yeah! What was it?'
'That's what it feels like when there are two of yourself close to each other. That's you and me in there when we started our chat.'
'Wow! Can I go and say "hi" to myself?'
'You'd better not. If you get too close to yourself you'll merge into your other self. That would complicate things. You'd better go on now. I have to get back to my time.'
She watched him long enough to make sure he went up the stairs, and jumped back to the future.
The rest of the day went without any unpleasant incidents, except Benny noticed that his watch was thirty-five minutes fast.
Friendship and Beyond
non sequitur child
all life is an experiment
lessons come after
Benny still couldn't find anyone that he could regard as a true friend.
After experiencing time travel and being aware of disconnected timelines, everything his friends were interested in seemed shallow. Nothing they talked about could hold his interest.
Also, most of them found him too dreamy for their liking.
His sister was concerned that he seemed to have no friends
Things could have been worse, he reminded himself. He could have given the original version of his current events report. Then, they would have all thought he was nuts.
Boz, who came over occasionally, was different. He was a 'little kid', of course, but he had an imagination. He loved to pretend. Benny enjoyed having him around.
* * *
Boz's story: It's going to be my birthday. My mother's planning a party, and she's given me a handful of invitations to give to my friends.
I give invitations to Rebecca and Kate, also to some others. Back at the houses I give one each to Jake and Jamie. I have one for Edward too, but he doesn't want one. I give some to other kids at the houses, including Brandon, next door, who's in kindergarten.
Rebecca thinks I should give an invitation to her brother Benny as well.
'You're his best friend, you know,' she says.
My mother and I decide he should get Edward's invitation.
I take the invitation to Benny and Rebecca's house. Rebecca is there but Benny isn't home yet.
'He might be on his way now. If you go that way, you might meet him.'
I set off down the street. Sure enough, there he is.
I go up to him and join him.
'Am I your best friend?' I ask.
'You're my only friend,' he says.
'Here,' I hand him the invitation. 'I want you to come to my birthday.'
'Thank you Boz!'
My mother had written on the invitations, 'no presents', but Kate brings one anyway. It's a model old fashion car set that I have to put together.
My mother has little trays of sweets at each place with their names on them. There's also a fancy rubber eraser toy for each one.
Benny finds his place and says, 'Oh good! I'm next to the birthday boy!'
Everyone enjoys the party. My mother organises a few games, including 'hide the persimmon'. She gives prizes to the winners.
I get a bike as my birthday present. I've never ridden a two wheeler before. Benny says he'll come over and teach me to ride it.
Jake and Jamie weren't well, so they couldn't come to my party.
After its all over I take them their little trays of sweets
As promised, Benny comes over and we take my bike out. We start at the tennis courts.
The bike has a fixed sprocket, so it doesn't coast like bigger bikes I've seen. In fact it will go backwards if you pedal backwards.
Benny demonstrates it for me, saying, 'Oh no! I'm going backwards!'
The brake is a pedal in front that you push on with your foot.
Benny holds the bike and runs along as I pedal. Soon, he's able to let go, and I can ride it myself.
We play on our bikes often, usually going around the block. There are a lot of walkways on the compound, so it's great for riding and pretending we're going places.
* * *
Benny enjoyed being a 'big brother' to a kid like Boz. He could see so much of himself in him - apart from remembering other timelines.
They were together almost every day, riding their bikes, playing 'army', other role playing games. This was fulfilling his need for a friend who understood him.
He wondered how Boz would respond if he explained time travel to him.
* * *
Boz's story: We're standing in line outside the door, with the other second grade classes, each standing in their double lines. One of the teachers is giving the morning announcements.
I wonder what Ralph would do if I poke him in the back.
I do it. He turns around and pushes me. I push him back. Then he pushes me so hard I fall over.
'Behave yourselves, you two!' shouts Miss Sink.
I've been doing stuff like that a lot lately. I'm one of the boys, I am!
I play with Jake and Jamie a lot these days. Sometimes we're mean to the other kids - the 'little kids' who need to be kept in their place.
They also don't like kids who don't live here coming to the houses to play.
I'm at Benny and Rebecca's house and we're playing in the front yard. Kate is there too, and Benny and Rebecca's sister Debbie.
We're piling up on top of eachother with Benny on the bottom, to see if we can all get on.
We tumble off. Rebecca lands in the grass. I land on Rebecca. She tries to get up, but I'm still on on her back. She starts screaming, but I still don't get off - just sort of seeing what happens.
Benny pulls me off, and Rebecca runs into the house. She's crying. Benny follows her inside.
I haven't seen her cry before.
Benny comes out and tells me it's time for me to go home.
Kate waits for me on the way to school, as usual.
On the way to Rebecca's, she asks, 'Why didn't you get off Rebecca?' She's scolding me all the way.
I don't say anything.
Rebecca comes out.
'I'm sorry,' I say.
'It's all right
I ask my mother, 'Will I go to Heaven when I die?'
She answers, 'Did you receive faith in Jesus?'
'Yes,' I say hesitantly.
'Then you'll go to heaven.'
I don't want to tell her why I've been having doubts - about the bad things I've been doing.
My dad is finally arriving from Ireland, and my mother has to go to New York to meet him at the airport.
Jake and Jamie's mom has offered to look after me for the night, so I spend the night at their house.
They have lots of toys. There's a slot racing car set, but it doesn't work. But I have fun with them.
The next day, my dad arrives. It's a happy reunion.
My Uncle and Aunt and my cousins from Honduras will be coming to stay at the houses next month. I've never met them, but they saw me when I was a baby.
I have more friends now than I used to. I think I'll stop being friends with Benny now.
* * *
Benny rang the bell at the apartment where Boz lived. He hadn't been around for almost a week. Rebecca said he had started going home by the more direct route and he hadn't been playing much with her and Kate lately.
'Hello, Benny,' said Boz's mother when she opened the door. 'Boz is down at the playground.'
Benny thanked her and went off in that direction.
A few of the kids were out at the playground. There was Boz near the middle.
Boz looked like he didn't hear him and ran to the far end of the playground, playing with the little kid that lived next door to him, and Jake and Jamie's little brother.
Benny moved to the other side, but somehow the three had wandered to the other end.
Benny gave up and went home, not feeling well in his stomach.
On another day, Benny met Boz in the company of the twins.
'Hey! You don't belong here!' shouted one of the twins.
'Yeah!' said Boz. 'Get out!'
Benny walked slowly away.
He's just a little kid anyway, thought Benny to himself. I need to find friends my own age.
However, he couldn't bring himself to truly believe that.
* * *
Boz's story: My cousins are living here now. They've got an apartment in the other building.
They're great to play with. Gloria is just a little bit older than me, and is in third grade. Reuben is a year older, in fourth, but he's not in Benny's class. Vivian is the oldest and then Johnny is the youngest. He's not in school yet. He only speaks Spanish. Sometimes the older ones speak Spanish to each other .
That's weird! Me and my parents never speak Thai to each other.
I spend most of my time playing with them now.
Somebody gave us a pair of rollerskates for me.
Vivian and my mother are helping me to learn to skate, walking on either side of me, holding my hands.
My mother has to go in, so Vivian is still there.
Oh no! There's Benny. He's riding his bike nearby. He stops to watch.
Vivian says, 'You're starting to do better now. Can you do it by yourself a while? I need to go inside.'
'I'll help you,' says Benny.
'No!' I shout.
'C'mon Boz, why don't you let him help you?' says Vivian.
'Yeah!' says Benny. 'We used to be such good friends. Now he treats me like his enemy!'
'Is that true Boz?' asks Vivian.
I don't say anything.
I won't be his friend because I decided not to be.
Benny rides away slowly.
It's Saturday. Again I'm trying to rollerskate, this time by myself. A strange man is coming slowly towards me. He looks just a little bit familiar.
He says, 'Are you Boz?'
'Yes. Who are you?'
'My name's Ben.'
'How do you know me?' I ask.
'Oh, we've met before. You probably don't recognise me.'
I slip and almost fall, but he catches me. Then he walks beside me holding my hand. He's strong so he holds me up when I'm slipping, but relaxes to let me balance myself most of the time.
'I have lots of friends in this town. What about you?' he says.
'I have a few,' I say.
'Friends are a precious thing. You'll always be glad you have them. And it's a very sad thing to lose them.'
We're quiet for a while.
Then he says, 'I've lost friends, some many years ago, and it still makes me sad to think about it.'
We walk some more. I wonder if he knows about Benny?
'Did you know,' he asks, 'it's easier to hurt a friend than to hurt an enemy?'
'That's because of what made them your friend to begin with. You made them happy in a special way, and it's like that lifts them up. But if you suddenly turn around and hurt them, it's like they fall down from their high place.
'Like any breakable object, if it's precious to you, you'll be careful not to let it drop. Friends are precious.'
I don't know what to say. I'm sure he's talking about Benny.
'You've heard the rhyme, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never harm me."'
'That's not true at all. Sticks and stones might break your enemies' bones. They'll eventually heal. But names can hurt your friends even worse. It keeps on hurting deep on the inside long after the bones have healed.'
'Your friend Benny likes you very much as a friend. It would be very sad if, when you leave here, you hadn't made up with him. It would be sad for him, and I think you'll look back on it some day and it would be sad for you too.'
He's let go of my hand, but I'm skating by myself.
'There, I've taught you to skate.'
I think he taught me something else too.
* * *
Benny was at home, alone. Dad was at work, Rebecca was at Kate's, and Mom had taken Debbie to see the doctor.
He didn't feel like doing anything right now. A part of him had thought it would have been wonderful to be the one to teach Boz to skate, just like he taught him to ride a bike. The other part of him told him, Forget it! You'll never teach anyone anything worthwhile.
But there was something else about today. He had had that tingly feeling again, like when passing the room where himself was still talking to Miss Kerry from the future.
Since then, Miss Kerry had told him that if he ever got that feeling again, he needed to get away from there.
But he had looked, and there was a man, walking with Boz on his skates. The man had looked up and seen Benny, and had shaken his finger in the same way as Dad did when motioning for him to stop doing something. He'd never seen him before, yet he looked very familiar - a combination of his dad and Uncle Barry on his mother's side.
Why did he get that weird magnetic feeling from him? Me from the future? He thought. No way! Why would he be walking with Boz - that ungrateful brat!
The phone rang.
'Hello?' he answered.
'Hi. Is this Benny?' came a sort of familiar, adult male voice.
'I'm calling in regards to a friend of yours.'
'You taught him to ride a bike, and you were wishing you could teach him to rollerskate as well.'
'I've fulfilled that wish for you. You've taught him to rollerskate, and he's now doing quite well.'
'Now, I'd like it if you would fulfill one of my wishes in return.'
'That's right. You saw me earlier today with Boz. And you were a wise boy to stay clear of me when you felt my presence. Otherwise things could have got very muddled. Miss Kerry taught us well.'
'So you're - me?'
'Yes, and I want you to do me - and yourself - a big big favour.'
'When Boz comes to visit you today, treat him like a friend, that he's supposed to be. Forgive him for how he has been to you. He's just a little boy who needs to learn some important lessons about life. You will have taught him something far more important than rollerskating or riding a bike.'
* * *
Boz's story: I ring the doorbell. Benny opens it.
He just comes out and we start walking. We haven't said anything.
I never cry in front of people except my mother, or if it's really terrible. It's like showing that I'm a baby or something.
But I feel like crying now.
'I'm sorry,' I say finally. And I'm crying.
He just puts his arms around me and hugs me. He's crying too.
* * *
After a few more good times together, as often on wheels as not, Boz's family departed for the West Coast.
Both lived more happily ever after than they did in their original timeline.
Boz at 8 years old