This story deals with a gay teenage romantic theme with occasional melodramatic and sexual situations. The usual restrictions apply: please read no further if this type of story isn't to your tastes, or if you're under legal age. This story may not be reprinted anywhere without permission. The contents are ©2008 by John Francis; all rights reserved. Comments to the author are welcomed at

Chapter 8

The next morning passed quickly. Back at school, Twitly seemed a little more under control, and Eddie actually raised his hand a couple of times during a discussion of European geography, pleasing the teacher to no end.

Travis was much less moody today. He was almost talkative at lunch, explaining the finer points of one of the stickball games a group of boys was playing in an open field, about twenty yards away from our table.

“I get it,” I said, as we wolfed down the hard-roll ham sandwich Mrs. Colt had made for lunch earlier that morning. “Sorta like baseball, but no bat and no gloves.”

“Gloves?” Travis asked, a little confused. “You mean like what a lady wear? Ain’t suitable for no proper boy games. Besides, that’d make ya look like a sissy.”

I frowned. “Yeah, we wouldn’t want that,” I muttered.

“Don’t forget,” Travis said, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “We got some wrasslin’ to do tonight.”

I grinned. But before I could answer, I heard a female voice in the distance.

“Jason! You, there... Jason!”

I looked up as Faith strolled up, looking like she’d stepped out of Gone with the Wind in an eye-catching white and blue lace dress, casually resting a parasol on her shoulder.

“I was wondering if you’d be so kind as to call on me at home after school today,” she said breathlessly. “If I’m not being too forward,” she added quickly.

I looked at Travis helplessly. “I, uh...”

“My mother is planning a recital this Saturday for the St. Louis Women’s Club,” she said, “and I’d be very much obliged if perhaps you could accompany me on harpsichord.”

“Uh,” I said, trying not to stammer, “I’ve never exactly played a harpsichord. I mean, I know the piano, and I’ve played a Hammond organ quite a few times. Plus a little guitar.” I omitted the Korg Synthesizer and the Kurzweil samplers I had back in my bedroom in Seattle, which were the keyboards I played the most.

“That’s fine,” she said. “Our harpsichord has fewer keys than a grand piano, but it sounds lovely.”

“I dunno, Faith,” I said, warily glancing around for any sign of her angry boyfriend. “I gotta work at McBillin’s store in town after school, and...”

“It’d be just for a few minutes,” she insisted. “And our house is only a half mile away from Mr. McBillin’s, just down Walnut Street, not far from South Broadway. You simply must come. Why, I’ve told my dear mother all about you, and father says you’re a fine, upstanding young man. They’d love to hear you sing in our parlor.”

I sighed and glanced at Travis, who shrugged his shoulders. “Alright, I guess,” I said, resignedly. “But only for fifteen minutes. We’re still doing a lot of reorganizing at the store.”

She beamed. “Oh, this will be grand!” she said. “See you after school, then. Two twenty-one Walnut Street. It’s the big white house with the fir trees out front.”

Travis and I watched her as she hurried away to a group of giggling friends, her frilly skirt skimming lightly over the fallen leaves on the schoolyard.

“If’n you ain’t careful,” Travis said, as we walked over to the nearby water pump, “you might just find yourself a sweetheart.”

“Give me a break,” I muttered. “Chicks aren’t exactly my thing.”

He gave me a quizzical look as I stopped to scoop up some water in my hands.

“I mean, I’m not particularly interested in girls,” I said, trying not to gurgle. “They’re kind of an alien race, y’know?”

He shook his head and laughed. It was the first time I’d ever heard him laugh, and I was a little taken aback.

“I swear, Jason, I don’t know what you’re sayin’ half the time,” Travis said, brushing his long blond bangs out of his eyes. “But I think I’m startin’ ta catch yer meanin’. It’s like yer speakin’ another language sometimes.”

“Well,” I said with an exaggerated drawl, “mebbe I kin sorta translate it to the way ya’ll talk in Missorah.

He laughed again. “Now that I can understand.”

§ § § § §

After school, I made my way down the dirt road that led into the city and took a right on Walnut Street. Four blocks later, I found myself in front of a sprawling white Victorian mansion, fronted by a lush green lawn with a tree-lined path that led to three enormous stone columns. A girl on a front-porch swing jumped up and waved at me as I walked through the open gates and down the grassy path.

“I do declare — you did come, after all!” Faith exclaimed, fanning herself. “I was beginning to worry.”

A tall, thin black man in a distinguished-looking suit opened the front doors behind her and bowed.

“A gentleman caller, Miss Faith?” asked the man, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, Willie,” she said, a little breathlessly. “This is Mr. Jason Thomas from Canada. We go to Jefferson High School together.” She took my arm and led me to the doorway.

The man tipped his hat to me. “Welcome to the Shaw residence, Mas’ Jason,” he said in a deep voice.

I stepped into the foyer and gaped at the ornate stairway, which arched to the right and curved upwards to the second floor. I ran my hands across hand-carved marble angels that lined the stairway railings, then looked up at a large crystal chandelier filled with candles. It looked like something out of an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.

“Wow,” I said, a little stunned by the opulence of the room. After having lived on the Colt’s modest farm for the previous week, this was quite a culture shock — like going from a modest motel to a 5-star hotel suite.

“And here is the parlor,” Faith said, leading me over to a door on the left.

The room was elegant, with a white harpsichord dominating the room. The air had a strong scent of fresh flowers, and the walls were lined from floor to ceiling with hardwood shelves and books, with a colorful Oriental rug on the floor. Light streamed in from the windows at the back, which revealed a much larger back yard behind the house.

The harpsichord stood in a position of prominence near the center of the room. I was struck by its odd appearance, since its keys were reversed from normal keyboards — black for the main keys, and white for the sharp and flat keys. I sat down on the bench and struck a few tentative chords. The instrument had an interesting sound: staccato and precise, but with an abrupt kind of feel lacking the usual full tone and ring-out I was accustomed to hearing with a piano, or even a sampled keyboard, almost like a plucked guitar string. But I had to admit it sounded amazingly clear and clean, and the room’s acoustics were great.

“How do you play this thing without foot pedals?” I asked, feeling underneath with my right toes and finding only a bare floor.

“I don’t really know,” Faith said, sidling up beside me on the bench. “My only instrument is my voice.” She watched as I ran some scales, doodled a few little exercises, then finished with a two-octave run and a showy flourish.

“You play wonderfully,” she gushed. “Do you know anything by Rossini? Wagner? Or certainly Verdi. I do so adore Verdi.”

“Uh, no,” I said, idly playing a little bluesy riff. The keyboard action was stiff, not nearly as smooth as the high-tech electronic synths I had at home, and required more pressure than I was used to. I also found it strange that whether I hit the keys hard or soft, the notes had the exact same loudness, which threw me a little. “I’m into more contemporary stuff. Those guys wrote a bunch of operas, right? Classical?”

I had dozed through some of my music-appreciation classes last year, but I had heard a few of my mom’s Pavarotti and “Three Tenors” CDs, and some of them weren’t bad, even if their vibrato was a little intense for my tastes.

“Well,” she said with a little annoyance, “perhaps you didn’t get exposed to the arts very much north of the border in Fort Vancouver. We’re much more cosmopolitan here in St. Louis. My mother gets the latest music from London and Paris.” She shuffled through some sheet music on the top of the harpsichord. “Try this,” she said, arranging a sheet on the stand above the keyboard.

“Rigoletto,” I said, reading the top of the page. The charts were a little unfamiliar, and I tentatively played a few notes, transposing some chords in my head.

“Here,” she said, indicating the intro to a measure a few pages in. “Play the beginning of Act 3, starting with this section.”

I played the opening chords and Faith stood up and began to sing, her voice ringing out, enunciating every syllable.

“La donna è mobile
Qual piuma al vento,
Muta d’accento — e di pensiero.
Sempre un amabile,
Leggiadro viso,
In pianto o in riso... è menzognero.”

I was pleasantly surprised: she was actually pretty good. OK, maybe not exactly Madonna good, but it was clear that Faith had genuine talent. After another minute, we came to the end of the movement, and I added on a little flourish, and we both laughed.

“Hey, that was great,” I said. “It’s... well, different from the kind of music we listen to back home. But your technique is really good.”

“You really think so?” she said shyly, sitting back beside me on the bench. “Mother makes me take lessons twice a week, and I sing at church sometimes. She wants to have a recital this weekend, and frankly... I’m a little nervous. All those people and everything.”

I grinned. “I once got to meet Billy Joel backstage when I was 10,” I said. “I asked him if he still got nervous getting up in front of a lot of people and singing. He told me it got better the more often he did it, but he said a little fear is a good thing. It gives you a kick in the ass to make you sing better.”

Her face momentarily reddened and she turned away, looking a little uncomfortable.

“Sorry,” I said, remembering my manners. “I mean, a kick in the posterior.”

Faith laughed, her voice musical, her face brightening. “I’ve never heard of Mr. Joel,” she said.

“Great pianist and songwriter from where I come from,” I said, playing the intro of one of my favorite songs.

“Sing me a song, piano man...
Sing me a song tonight.
‘Cause we’re all in the mood for a melody
and you’ve got us feelin’ alright.”

She moved closer to me. I could smell her perfume, feel the softness of her taffeta and lace dress brush my arm. I momentarily faltered and stumbled over a couple of bad notes.

“Sorry,” I muttered. “Still getting over this keyboard. It’s, uh... kinda stiff.”

“Do you have any ideas on what we could perform together this Saturday?” she asked.

“Look, Faith, I really have to work at McBillin’s store this weekend...” I began.

“It’s only for fifteen minutes,” she said quickly. “We’re having a luncheon here at the house for mother’s Ladies Auxiliary. There must be something we could sing together, just for a few minutes. You know — a duet.”

A duet. I flashed back to the rehearsals for the production of High School Musical back home in Seattle just two months earlier, where I had to understudy the lead role of Troy. I’d lost out to Brian Weingarten, only because he was a senior — the asshole. OK, he was also taller and better looking than me, so I admit he worked better as the romantic lead, but I still bristled at having to play Ryan’s part instead, since I could sing rings around Weingarten.

“Gimme a second,” I said, reaching for my ballpoint in my pocket. “You got a piece of paper handy?”

She pulled a blank piece of foolscap from a table to the left, then smoothed it out on the table. The pen worked this time, and I quickly scribbled down the words.

“Here’s the lyrics,” I said. “I’ll circle your parts and put a bracket on the ones both of us sing together. I’ll take the high harmonies on the duets, and you take the lead.”

“But how will I know the melody without notation?” she asked, momentarily dismayed.

“I’ll teach you how to fake it,” I said, quickly jotting down the rest of the lyrics. Luckily, I knew every word and every note of the musical backwards and forwards, having survived at least a dozen rehearsals and three performances at our school auditorium, along with watching the DVD about a hundred times.

“Here’s the main part of the melody,” I said, tapping out the main notes on the harpsichord with my left hand, while handing her the lyric sheet with the other. “The chorus has a couple of twists, but just follow my lead. And go with a little less vibrato, a little more in your lower range — this is more casual than opera.”

“More casual?” she asked, a little unsure.

“It’s what we call pop music.” I started the intro, then began to sing.

“Living in my own world
Didn’t understand...
That anything can happen
When you take a chance.”

I nodded to Faith, and she sang her part.

“I never believed in
what I couldn’t see
I never opened my heart
to all the possibilities...”

And we began to sing together.

“I know that something has changed
Never felt this way
And right here tonight

“This could be the start of something new
It feels so right to be here with you... oh...
And now ... looking in your eyes
I feel in my heart
The start of something new.”

As we sang, our voices blended together, filling the room with a warm resonance, accompanied by the harpsichord. Faith made a perfect Gabriella, and she grew more confident as the song built to a climax.

“I never knew that it could happen ‘till it happened to me...
  oh, yeah...
I didn’t know it before
But now it’s easy to see... oh...”

“Key change here!” I warned, then continued.

“It’s a start of something new
It feels so right to be here with you
And now looking in your eyes
I feel in my heart

“That it’s the start of something new
It feels so right to be here with you.
And now looking in your eyes
I feel in my heart
The start of something new.”

“Faith?” called a voice from behind us. We turned to see a tall blond woman, very elegantly dressed.

I stood up immediately, almost toppling off the harpsichord bench.

“Mother,” said Faith, dropping the lyric sheet in surprise. “I didn’t know you’d be home early.”

The woman eyed me warily as she approached us. “I’m Mrs. Shaw,” she said, extending her hand.

I did my best to channel Clark Gable from Gone with the Wind. “Hello, ma’am,” I said, making an attempt at a disarming smile as I felt her soft grip. “Very good to meet you. I’m Jason Thomas. I, uh... go to school with Faith.”

“This is the new boy you told us about?” the woman asked, turning away from me. “The singer?”

“Yes, mother,” Faith said, giving me a little squeeze. “Isn’t Jason wonderful? I thought perhaps we could sing a duet together on Saturday for your tea party.”

Mrs. Shaw sniffed. “I thought you would be performing Verdi.”

“This is, uh... something new,” I explained. “In fact, that’s the name of the song.”

“Is it?” she said drily. “Never heard of it. Well, I suppose it will have to do.” She looked at me from head to toe, as if she was examining a peculiar specimen at a zoo. “My husband told me you were staying with the Colt family.”

“Just temporarily,” I said. “I was supposed to stay with my Aunt Olivia, but...”

“Yes,” she interrupted. “So very unfortunate. Anyway, nice to meet you. Faith, I’ll be home for dinner by 6 o’clock. Make sure that Willie Mae takes the turkey out of the oven by 5:30. You know how she likes to overcook things. And see to it that she watches the rice this time.”

“Nice to meet you, Jeffrey,” she called over her shoulder.

“It’s Jason,” I muttered. I glanced down at my watch. “Shit,” I muttered under my breath. “It’s almost 4:30. I gotta get to work.”

“Can we do this again tomorrow?” Faith called after me, as I sprinted back to the foyer.

“We’ll see,” I answered, almost slipping on the foyer’s polished floor, just as the servant opened the front door for me. “Maybe we can find a piano at school and do some more rehearsals there during lunch.”

She caught up with me in the doorway and held me by my left elbow. “I’m ever so grateful that you’d sing with me, Jason,” she said softly. “I hope we can be very good friends.”

“Yeah,” I said, looking down the path towards the street, trying desperately to remember if McBillin’s store was to the left or the right. “That’d be great.”

Before I could move, she kissed my cheek. “See you tomorrow in school,” she whispered. “I’ll be thinking of you until then.”

I glanced back at the black man at the door, who gave me a knowing smile. I shrugged, then hurried on my way down the sidewalk and out to the street. Suddenly, I was conscious of a strange feeling. Was I getting an erection? Jesus. I’d been kissed by girls at least a dozen times before, even made out with a couple, but this was a first for me. I surreptitiously moved my book bag to my front, hoping to hide the obvious bulge.

“This is great,” I muttered to myself as I scurried down the sidewalk. “I’m trapped 150 years in the past, before even my great-grandparents were born, and now I’m turning straight.” The whole thing was too bizarre to even laugh at.

As I made my way down the dusty road, I finally glimpsed a few familiar buildings on Walnut Street and finally pushed through the front doors of the store.

“Where ya been, boy?” cried McBillin, surrounded by customers waving dollar bills in the air. “It’s been like this all bloody day!”

There must’ve been at least forty customers crowded in the aisles, all of them talking at once, trying to push up to the counter.

“Hang on, folks,” I called, fastening on an apron. “We’ll take care of you all, one at a time.”

“Pandemonium!” McBillin said, counting out change to two customers on the left. “I never seen such a madhouse!”

“Who’s next?” I called, and two old women started arguing amongst themselves. “You, then,” I said, gesturing to a younger woman right next to them, who had just two items.

“We need an express lane,” I muttered, mentally adding up her receipt. “That’ll be sixty-five cents.”

“It’s been like this all day,” Mrs. McBillin lamented as she bustled past me to replace some items in the center aisle.

I grinned at the older man. “Looks like you just might owe me a bonus after all.”

He scowled, then ran a weary hand through his hair. “Let’s see if we’re both alive at the end of the day, and we’ll talk about it.”

§ § § § §

I had made it halfway through the living room when the floor gave out a loud creak. The Colt’s living-room clock told me it was half-past nine. The house was completely silent. Luckily for me, everybody seemed to be asleep.

I lit a candle in the kitchen and made a quick sandwich using a slightly-stale crust of bread left over from breakfast and the last of the ham from yesterday. Good thing the ham kept overnight, I thought, wondering how anybody in 1864 could keep kitchen food from spoiling without a refrigerator.

“Who’s there?” called a gruff voice.

I turned to see Mr. Colt in his nightshirt, carrying a lantern. “Late again. That ain’t proper behavior for anybody livin’ under my roof. It’s damn near ten o’clock.”

“Sorry, Mr. Colt,” I said, wiping off my mouth. “We were swamped with customers at McBillin’s. Normally, he closes at seven, but he...”

“Shut up!” he snarled, slapping me hard across the face.

I was so stunned, I dropped the uneaten half of my sandwich and fell backwards against the counter.

“Ya ain’t showin’ me the proper respect,” Colt said, his voice slightly slurred.

I got back up to my feet, shook my head to clear it, then reached in my pocket. “If it’s respect you want, take this,” I said.

He peered at the bills. “Five dollars,” he said, momentarily distracted.

“McBillin’s already gave me a raise,” I said, fighting to keep the quaver out of my voice. “That’s this week’s $3 for my room and board, plus a little extra to help out with the meals.”

Colt eyed me warily. My jaw still ached a little, but I didn’t seem to be bleeding. I looked him right in the eye.

“From now on, you’re going to have to let me stay out until at least 9PM,” I said, my voice strong and steady. “I told McBillin I’d only work three weekday afternoons at the store so I can still get my homework done. Plus a full day on Saturday.”

I waited for him to respond. He looked momentarily confused, clearly caught off-guard.

“Do we have a deal?” I asked.

Colt glared at me, then shoved the bills in his pocket. “Yer lucky I’m too damned tired to give ya a good thrashin’,” he said, stumbling drunkenly as he walked away. “You best mend your ways, boy.”

That was a close one, I muttered, wearily plodding through the dirt path between the farmhouse and the barn. I felt utterly exhausted by the events of the day. I was halfway up the ladder to the hayloft when I heard a voice from above.

“Jason? That you?”

I pulled up to the ledge and grinned. “Hey, Travis. Sorry I’m late.”

I set down my books on the floor, then lit the kerosene lamp. Travis stepped aside, but I caught him and turned him slowly into the light. There was a large purple welt on the right side of his face, along with the beginnings of a black eye.

“Shit!” I muttered. “Colt did this to you?”

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” he said quietly.

He stood there, his eyes brimming with tears. Travis was already shirtless, and I was immediately aroused.

“Come ‘ere,” I said.

We embraced, and I kissed him long and hard as we tumbled into the bed.

§ § § § §

Afterwards, we lay alongside each other, our breathing slowly settling down into a rhythm that matched the steady chirps from the crickets outside the barn.

I felt sleepy, dreamy, and utterly satisfied. If anything, the sex this time had been faster, more intense, almost animalistic, our hands and mouths exploring every inch of our bodies. It left me completely exhausted, warming me a feeling of satisfaction that that almost made me forget how cold it was in the barn.

“Jason?” he whispered.

“Mmmmmm?” I murmured, snuggling closer to him. I pulled my leg over his and draped my arm across his muscular chest.

“I gotta get back to the farmhouse. Colt’ll be...”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said with a yawn. “He’ll tan your hide if you don’t get back. Why does he care where you sleep, as long as you go to school and do your chores?”

Travis didn’t answer, but instead rolled off the makeshift bed and began pulling on his overalls.

“Colt damned nearly kicked my ass a few minutes ago, when I came in late,” I continued, still feeling the bruise on my lower lip. I put my hands behind my head and leaned back, admiring Travis’ powerful back. His skin looked yellow-gold in the warm lantern light, and I felt something stir.

“You sure you don’t wanna... you know?” I said, slyly. “Again?”

Travis stopped as he pulled on his boots, then turned to me and smiled shyly. “I think I’m startin’ to get feelin’s for ya, Jason.”

I blanched. J.D. back home had always admonished me never to tell anybody I loved them. “Always observe the three-month boyfriend rule,” he had warned. “Don’t ever use the ‘L’ word until you get a chance to really know somebody. And even then, be careful, or they’ll just tear your heart up like it was made of paper.”

Back home, I had made the mistake of blurting out to Luke that I loved him on that last night we were together at his house. It happened in the throes of passion, about five minutes after I lost my virginity to him. One glance at the shocked look on his face told me I’d made a mistake, but Luke had kissed me and told me how great I was. It was only the next day at school that I’d realized it’d all been a sham — 47 hours and twenty minutes of great sex, two movies, and five meals together. And then... nothing.

Travis sat down on the quilt next to me and gently touched my chest. I put my hand on his and gave him a little squeeze.

“Hey,” I said, “this doesn’t have to be a serious thing. I don’t really belong here. I’m gonna have to go back home eventually.”

Travis leaned down over me, his shaggy blond bangs grazing my nose. “But we’re together now,” he said in a half-whisper. “I ain’t never felt like this about anybody before. ‘Cept maybe for Billy.”

He turned away, but I could see a tear trickle out of his left eye.

“Listen, Travis,” I said. “You don’t really know a thing about me.” I reached for my pants and pulled them up, now feeling a little chilly lying naked on the bed.

He sniffled, then managed a grin. “I know enough about ya. You care about me, and that’s more ’n most people do.”

I sat up and shook my head. “That’s not what I mean. Listen, Travis, as long as we’re... well, together, there’s something I gotta tell you. It’s important.”

“What,” he snorted. “You’re from Canada, you’re fifteen like me, and you talk funny.”

I shook my head, then hesitated. I wanted to say this as directly as I could.

Finally, I let out a long sigh. “There’s more to it. I’m not exactly who you think I am.”

He gave me a quizzical look. “Don’t tell me you’re no damned Yankee.”

I laughed. “No. Nothing that terrible. It’s like this: I’m not really from Canada. I’m actually from Seattle — Seattle, Washington. But my name really is Jason Thomas. And I did come to stay in St. Louis with my aunt Olivia for a few weeks. Only I lied about a couple of other things. Well, maybe not quite ‘lie.’ It’s more like an exaggeration.”

Travis leaned against the wooden railing and nodded. “Alright. Like what?”

I made a vague gesture, then shook my head. “It’s... complicated.”

Travis’ eyes narrowed. “You think I ain’t smart enough to understand?”

“No, no,” I said, reassuringly. “It’s just... alright, I’ll just say it.” I took a deep breath and took a step closer. “I’m not from 1864. I’m from almost 150 years in the future, from the year 2007. In fact, I wasn’t even born until 1992. My parents weren’t born until the 1950s — almost a hundred years from now.”

There was a long silence. Finally, Travis began to grin. “You’re crazy as a loon.”

“Think so?” I reached for the shelf filled with my handful of worldly possessions. “You ever see something like this?” I handed him the knife. “It’s got thirty-two different tools — stainless steel with a fifty-year guarantee. Cost me almost forty bucks. They can’t make something like this in 1864.”

Travis carefully examined the knife, figuring out how to snap out a couple of the blades. “‘Made in Switzerland’,” he read. “So? I seen a cuckoo clock made in Switzerland, over at my grandmomma’s house.”

“How about these?” I said, handing him over the sunglasses. “They’re made of polarized plastic. That won’t even be invented for about sixty years. In fact, I don’t even think they have plastic in 1864.”

He slipped the sunglasses on. “Looks real dark.” He turned to the lantern. “Hey, I can see the flame inside that lamp.” Travis took the glasses off and tossed them gently to the bed. “So what? That don’t prove nothin’.”

Frustrated, I looked around for more proof, then remembered my wristwatch. “Look at this,” I said, pushing my left arm under his nose. “This is an electronic watch. You don’t ever have to wind it. Nothing like this exists in 1864.”

He shrugged. “So, it’s a little clock. I seen clocks before.”

“Alright,” I said, going for the pièce de résistance. “Then explain this.” I clicked a couple of buttons on the iPod and it lit up, filling the hayloft with a shaft of cool blue light.

Travis’ mouth dropped open.

“Read what it says on the front panel,” I said, scrolling through a couple of menus.

He peered at the display, his eyes narrowing. “Legal notices. Copyright 1983-2007 Apple Inc. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPod...”

“It’s pronounced “EYE-pod,” I corrected.

“Alright, EYE-pod, and EYE-tunes are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.” He looked up at me. “So?”

“Don’t you get it? That’s a 2007 copyright date.”

He sniffed. “Just ‘cause it says 2007 don’t mean nothin’.”

“LOOK at this thing,” I said, a little loudly, my hands shaking a little as I pressed a couple of buttons and showed him the various readouts on the display. “This can’t possibly exist in 1864! They’re not going to have MP3 players for at least 130 years!”

“What’s an ‘empty-three’?” he asked, clearly skeptical.

“It’s a music file... it’s like a music box. You’ve seen those, right?”

He nodded.

“Alright,” I said, pressing the sleep button to extinguish the display. “Now imagine a music box that holds not just one song, but 3000 different songs — all in a little box you can hold in your hand like this. Millions of people have these, back where I come from. Actually, when I come from.”

He looked suspicious. “If that’s a music box, then play somethin’.”

“I can’t.” I held out the broken earbuds. “The plug’s toasted. Normally, the iPod plays into these little tiny speakers. You stick them in your ears, and then you can walk around and listen to music.”

Travis begin to laugh. “That’s the most dangfool thing I ever heard,” he said. “Why would anybody wanna listen to music all alone?”

I was indignant. “Don’t you see this kind of technology isn’t possible in 1864?” I said, exasperatedly. It’s a glass display, it’s got a lithium ion battery, it lights up... Don’t you get it? It’s from the future. How else can you explain it?”

“I gotta go,” he said, turning to step down on the ladder.

“Wait,” I said. “Read the back panel.”

He took the iPod out of my hand and held it up to the lantern and squinted. “These letters are real small.”

“Look at what it says.”

After a pause, Travis said, “‘iPod, sixteen gee-bee. Copyright Apple Inc. 2006.’” He rolled his eyes. “What kinda company name is ‘Apple,’ anyway? This thing ain’t got nothin’ to do with fruit.”

“You think I’m lying to you?” I said.

“Ain’t no proper name for a company, is all.” He turned away again and grabbed hold of the ladder.

“Apple is a great company!” I yelled. “Look, Travis, can you just fucking listen to me for a second?”

I grabbed his shoulder and spun him around, then took a step towards him, my face less than a foot from his.

“Listen to me,” I said quietly, fighting to control myself. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for days, but I didn’t think you’d believe me.”

“You sure got that right,” he said, starting down the ladder towards the barn floor.

“Why the hell would I lie?” I yelled over the ledge. “I’m from the future! I live in Seattle, and I got stuck in St. Louis, 140 years in the past!”

“How’d that happen?” he asked, halfway down the ladder.

“I have no idea!” I yelled. “I was in a cave in St. Louis, in June of 2007. The floor collapsed, I hit my head, and the next thing I knew, I woke up here. I’ve been going through this nightmare for a week! What’s so hard to believe about that?”

Travis hopped down to the dirt and straw floor below, sending up a small cloud of dust, then started to laugh again. “You’re just plumb crazy, is what I believe.”

My face turned bright red. “After everything we just did, that’s all you have to say about me?” I cried. “You practically said you loved me five minutes ago! Now, you think I’m nuts!”

Travis started to respond, then a muffled voice from outside the barn door called out. “Travis? You better git your fanny to bed, boy! You got chores to do in the mornin’.”

“I gotta...”

“I know, I know,” I said, waving him off. “Just get the hell out of here,” I snapped.

He thought for a minute. “I remember my brother Billy used ta play jokes on me all the time,” he said, starting to laugh again. “One time he had me convinced there was a live raccoon livin’ under our bed — scared the everlovin’ beejeezus outta me when I was little.”

“I’m not trying to scare you, you asshole,” I snarled. “I’m just trying to be real here!”

“TRAVIS!” hollered Mr. Colt from outside the barn.

“Go!” I hissed, waving him away. I flopped back on the bed, then heard the barn door creak open and then slam shut.

Fucking jerk, I thought, as I heard Travis’ footsteps retreat into the night. Won’t even listen to logic!

“This isn’t over,” I muttered to myself as I pulled off my pants. “I’m gonna prove to him I’m from 2007. Even if it kills me.”

I leaned up, extinguished the kerosene lantern, then fell back into bed and pulled the covers up to my chin, surrounded only by the darkness and the cold barn air.

Even if it kills me.


excerpt from “Piano Man”
words & music by Billy Joel
©1973 Joel Songs (BMI)
All rights reserved.

excerpt from “Start of Something New”
words & music by Matthew Gerard & Robbie Nevil
©2006 Walt Disney Music (ASCAP)
All rights reserved.



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