The Magic Bag
It was a very gray and drizzly Sunday afternoon. Those are of course, the types of days that nobody likes. The sun is not out, the air is chilly. I haven’t had lunch and my stomach is growling. A very important football game will be on in an hour and I want to watch it. Unfortunately, Beth wants to stop for lunch at a sit-down eatery, preferably not a fast food place, she hates those. Even when we just drive by one of the yellow arch-ways she will turn up her nose, roll her lips back away from her gums and show her teeth while barking like a dog. Each time I told her though, that she more resembled a horse than a cute little dog. She would hit me on the shoulder and pull my right ear, and then whinny like sick little horse and round and round we went. Being silly, helped pass the day.
After forty some years of being together, it’s difficult to sustain that slobbery delirium of youthful abandon. Levity and silliness help, also the excitement of adventure, greases and turns the wheels, when nothing else does. We were on the way to see a dealer and importer of mysterious artifacts, relics and antiquities of dubious lineage. Otherwise known as an antique dealer.
My grandfather had given us a large leather bag, he said he had picked up at a little shop, somewhere. He wasn’t too keen on the memory of where or when he purchased it. He thought maybe it was while he was in Asia, but he wasn’t sure. So, we were on our way to a little antique shop near the Brookside shopping Center. The area had been an open-air mall when I was a kid.
Beth had been riding in the back seat, on the passenger side of our Chevy Tahoe. In the front seat was the bag grandpa had given us. “Boy,” he said. He had always called me boy, never by my given name. “Someday this bag will be worth lots of money. Just hang on to this bag and when you get older, well, look it over really, carefully. Don’t ever sell it. I’ll repeat that. Don’t EVER, sell it. When I found it, they said, it was a lucky bag. I never had much use for it, but maybe it will bring good luck to you.” A custom, hand-made leather bag, it was also an antique piece of luggage. I had seen others similar, but never another one of this size. A logo emblazoned on the front, below the braided handle appeared to be a red dragon with a long flowing tail. The dragon was familiar. Scottish dragon in British folklore, maybe, I wasn’t sure about that. Lettering below the dragon was Asian, maybe Chinese.
We had been driving for a little while and I had been watching a fight between two kids, at the back of a school bus, I assumed was either on its way to Sunday school or a special event. They could have been brother and sister, I guess. They were really going at each other. She was pulling his hair and kicking him, while he was punching and slapping her. Regardless, siblings or not I couldn’t let that happen. I was honking my horn with abandon, trying desperately to capture the attention of the bus driver. I guess it worked. The bus slid to an abrupt stop. I was certainly not expecting the driver to jam on the brakes and cause us to run into that big ugly back bumper, nor create a crater in the emergency exit door. My air-bag failed to work and I cracked my ribcage on the steering wheel. Beth’s seat didn’t have an air bag. It’s an old vehicle. Not everyone can have new stuff.
What happened next, is a definite mystery. As our vehicles collided at forty miles per hour, my eyes quickly sought out the rear-view mirror. Beth was in mid-flite, up and over the front seat, head first, to who knows where. Beth had disappeared. I was frantic. My wife, of forty-two years vanished in front of me and I was not, comprehending. “Damn it! Why wasn’t she in the front seat, and you…you, stupid bag, should have been in the back. Why? I wiped away my tears on my shirt sleeve, of course. Beth hated that. “Your sleeve is not a handkerchief,” she would say. Ah! More tears. Everything in my vision was going dark, my head was spinning faster with each second that ticked away. I realized I was in one of my panic attack episodes. My throat, seemed to be burning with the flames of oxygen deprivation, but I was also breathing in a vapor of some sort. The cloudy vapor wasn’t dissipating very fast. A slimy film soon coated my throat. It relieved the red-hot pain of what I had thought was from oxygen loss. “Roll down the windows.” I thought to myself. Fresh air was a relief, to my throat and lungs, but did nothing for my mind. Nothing was helping me comprehend what the hell had just happened! Beth was gone, gone! I leaned over the back seat to make sure she wasn’t on the floor. She wasn’t. This morning she had put on a pair of funny yellow and green, high top, tennis shoes that had red roosters printed on them. For some reason, if she were lost or something happened to her mind. I almost couldn’t finish my thought. Tears were running down my cheeks and my legs were quivering. I sighed heavily, as I thought of my next worry. Heaven forbid, if her beautiful face was unrecognizable. Oh Lord, heaven help me. Think, Think. Perhaps she could be identified by her shoes. Not too many women in Kansas City would have that exact pair of shoes. Lately, she had been collecting roosters. Could happen, I guess. Seriously, I didn’t know anyone else that would wear a pair of rooster shoes.
I searched. All around the vehicle. The police were called. They didn’t believe my story, quite frankly. They tested me for a DUI. I passed the test of course. I am not a drinker. Unfortunately, the police weren’t buying my story of Beth just disappearing. An investigation was launched. Was I guilty of murder? Where was her body? Both of our families were on high alert. Her family of course, thought I had done something to her. Maybe buried her in my backyard. The police dug up my entire back yard. She was never found. I was a pariah. More so than I had ever been. My sister, twelve years my junior, was sure I had murdered Beth.
In my mind it was time to re-evaluate. Where did Beth go? What was happening to her? How was I going to keep my sanity? How would I survive in this world without my true better half? There were no easy answers. No! There WERE no answers. I was at a loss.
My last remaining dog, and I muddled through the days and snuggled close at night. There were no parties, no wild merriments or even any half way decent times to be had. Time passed. People changed their feelings for me. Nobody cared, any longer, what became of me. Yes, well, what, did become of me?
Retrospect is easy to assemble and even rearrange the negatives to positives. It is the now, that hurts. Realistically, contemplatively, even figuratively, nothing hurts quite like the pain of loneliness. Being alone and loneliness are not even close to being, the same. Getting through to the next day, is too far a stretch. Even getting to the next hour is an enormous burden for loneliness. Time does not exist in large increments. “Dear God, get me through the next lonely hour.” But then it becomes “please just help me get through the next minute or the next five seconds.” The clock keeps ticking. I hear it pounding like a heartbeat. Where is the heartbeat that I crave? Certainly, not my own. Beth, where are you? Time, as it applies to loneliness, is a circle. There is no exit. So very difficult to overcome. Time is my enemy. I have no use for it anymore. No use for me. Maybe my time has arrived. I find it almost too difficult any longer to go on. There is no point to it. I sat on the edge of the bed, pulled my dog close to me and cried. I began to think. Wondering if there was anything I might have missed. My throat hurt from crying and coughing. My dog was on the bed, next to me. He had been quite the momma’s boy, for the last year. He comforted me, like dogs will. Kissing my hands and face. Whining and trying to help, but he was being a nuisance. His continual whining was beginning to really irritate me. I held him close and kissed him on the nose. He is a sweet dog. I always thought I could read his body language and his eyes. Sometimes I would be correct, but not always. I wanted sleep to come and relieve me of this burden of loneliness and guilt. Why didn’t I find her and where did she disappear to? I could not find an answer. Finally, we drifted off to sleep. I dreamed of a western movie for some unknown, stupid reason. Cowboys, wagons and pig farmers. Ha! What a night. Tossing the sheets off and then, of course, getting cold again. My dog was warm and snuggly, but not enough to keep me from shivering.
I searched around in the dark for my quilt blanket that Beth had made for me. Yellow wagon wheels and purple flowers. It was quite ornate. I couldn’t find it on the bed. I rolled to the edge to peek at the floor, maybe it was there. I must have kicked it off. I looked over the side of the bed. I began laughing. My dog was on the blanket and it was on the floor. I guess that quilt was more comfort than I was. The dog wouldn’t move from the blanket. “Aww c’mon boy, I said, “I’m not in the mood for games.” He ran off pulling the blanket across the floor, behind him. “Ahh, damn it”, I groaned. “Not in the mood, geez.” Okay, I thought, “keep it you little rascal.”
I reached under the bed to pull out another one of Beth’s nice quilt/blanket combinations. My arm went way up under the bed as my hand felt around in the dark. Alright where is that stupid blanket, I thought to myself? My hand struck a soft object and I latched on to it. It didn’t feel quite like a blanket or a quilt. It pulled free of the bedrail and splatted up against the near wall. I cringed. “Damn it,” I said, “that is not going to keep me warm.” It was the leather bag that my grandpa had given me and was in the car when Beth went missing.
Yeah…missing. I had amended my way of thinking. Beth hadn’t disappeared, she just went missing. “I can’t deal with this thing right now”. I stuffed it back under the bed and pulled the top sheet up over me, hoping that would be good enough to keep me warm, until morning. It finally arrived, the morning. Singing birds, traffic noise and a warm gentle breeze flowing through the window screen and the smell that has filled the air every summer when my neighbor mows his yard, wild onions. He claims it’s garlic, but I don’t know. It smells so yummy, like Beth’s spaghetti used to smell. “Hmm, maybe it is garlic.” I mumbled. I would have tasted them to make sure, but I was always thinking his dog probably peed on it, or worse.
I rolled over to the edge of the bed and put my feet down. “Ouch!” I growled. My heel had scraped up against the zipper on that stupid leather bag. I kicked at it, trying to push it back under the bed. “Shit, Damn thing.” My dog growled at me. “Oh, well sorry boy. I think I can cuss a little more now that momma’s not here.” Beth had taught our dog to growl whenever I used the wrong kind of language for the household. I chuckled. “How ridiculous is that?”
The bag wouldn’t kick back under the bed and worse yet, sometime in the night my dog had chewed the leather handle in half. “Well, what the hell maybe I’ll just throw this piece of crap out in the trash. What do you think of that, boy?” He growled at me again, this time he showed his teeth. “Oh man,” I said to him, “getting a little cranky, are we?” He grabbed the small edge of the bag and began pulling it across the floor. “That’s alright. You can have the thing. I’m done with it.” The ornery little rascal then proceeded to drop it on my bare feet. “Why you furball, you better run before I catch you and rub that fat little belly of yours, until it turns red.” I wasn’t very mad at him. This was a game we played some mornings. Usually he dropped a shoe or a sock on me and then he would run off to his food bowl, and wait there, until I spooned out his canned food. As it happened his little game caused me to have another panic attack. I had picked up the bag and flung it across the floor, thinking it would land in front of him. But he doubled back on me and ran directly under the stupid bag. Instead of just landing on him, it landed upside down. The bag opened in mid air and flipped so the zipper was on the bottom. I didn’t think too much about it, but it fell on top of the dog. I heard him yelp. I crossed the floor to get it off him before he freaked out. “Okay, baby. Relax I’ll get it off you in a second. Holy catfish bait!” I yelled. My dog was gone. I padded over to the door in my bare feet. Nope. It was closed. “What the hell? You, sneaky little rascal, where did you go?” I searched all over the place. Nope he was not in the house. “Wow, this is really getting crazy. “What the hell is with that bag? Beth flew over it in the car and was gone. The dog is gone after having it dropped on him.” I was thinking out loud. Hoping my dog would hear me talking. Nope. He was gone too. “I don’t get it.” I picked up the bag and threw it on the floor. Yapping and barking greeted me. My dog was back. “Geez, oh criminy.” I was standing there, bare foot, and wearing only saggy under wear. Scratching my head in amazement, I picked up the dog. “A big kiss for you little buddy. I wish you could tell me what happened.” After checking the dog over, for problems he might have had on his trip to, well, wherever he was taken by that crazy old piece of luggage, I leaned over to set him down on the floor and his little legs and feet began churning like he was already set on high speed. He wiggled so hard I had to put him down before I dropped the little guy. He ran to the bag and commenced to barking and growling and acting like he wanted to bite the thing. So, of course I had to go look at why he was so unhappy. I picked up the large, cracked and wrinkly leather bag and sat down on the bed. Zipper was open, of course, so I proceeded to open the little monster up. I call it a monster, because clearly there was something inherently wrong with the thing. My dog vanished, Beth had gone missing and both times this bag my grandpa had given me was involved. This very moment was going to be the deciding factor in whether this bag survived, or I make it vanish too. I was somewhat frightened. What if I went missing too? Where would I go? Where did Beth go? How did my dog get to return? Would I be able to return? Was this a bag from Hell? Many questions were swirling around in my mind, as I stuck my hand inside the ancient piece of luggage and pulled back out. No change. So, I opened the bag up wide. Both hands went in, feeling around for anything different or peculiar. The far edge of the bag was different. A pocket, that’s what it felt like, a pocket. “Gack! What manner of strangeness is that?” I thought I had said that in my mind, but my dog told me otherwise, by giving me the tilted head questioning look. “Oh, hey boy,” I said to my pup, “that felt like human flesh.” My hand had brushed against what felt like another human hand. “Eeeyah…how can that be? Did you see somebody in there, little buddy?” The dog began whining and crying, with an occasional bark. “Well, I tell you what my friend, if something or someone is in that bag, he’s awful small and if I catch him, I will pull him out, by his hair if I have to. So, I put my hand back in that dark bag. Nothing, hmmm! Nothing at all…except that pocket on the end again. Okay…alright. Let us just find out what is in the pocket then.” I reached in fingering the flap, on the pocket. The flap felt fairly typical. Nothing very scary about that. I’ll just lift it up a smidge. Couldn’t hurt anything, I mumbled to myself. I Rubbed my index finger up under the bottom lip of the flap. Hand sewn. That’s what it felt like. The stitching was too uneven to be machine sewn. It was perforated, the holes were too big for the thread, if indeed it was thread at all. No, it felt like sinew or animal ligaments and tendons that were frequently used as stitching in leather. I raised the flap, quickly. ”What is in there?” I was getting more flustered by the minute. “I’m so tired of this crap. I’m just going to open this puppy up and turn it inside out. Then we will see what we see.”
Well, I tried to turn it inside out. It was just too stiff. “Alright,” I said to the bag and my dog, I haven’t lost control yet. Still plenty of time to figure this out. I went down the stairs to the kitchen. It was time to cool off my frustrations. Lemonade, a huge mug. I took the yellow packet out of the cabinet, over the sink. When I pulled the packets out, a previously opened packet of orange drink dropped out of the cabinet above me, spewing orange dust all over my head and powdering the air with fine orange dust being highlighted by the sun coming through the window. Puh! Pbltt! Wiping the orange dust off my face and seeing the fine particles floating in the air like a misty fog, made me think of the fog I saw when Beth vanished. “Why would there be a fog coming off that bag? I drank the lemonade and put the glass in the sink. Beth always liked it that way. “Dirty dishes in the sink, please.” She used to say. “Okay, okay, so I still miss her. She is the best part of me.” I said to my dog, “Trump.” Strange name, I know, but he is a strange dog. So, I guess the name fits. Took a long time for Beth and me to train him, but once we did, well, I hope he lives forever, he’s great. Back up the stairs we went. I intended to do battle with that strange bag. I guess maybe battle is a strong word and possibly a strange choice of words, but this situation had become, well, intolerable. I was getting stranger by the day. I knew Beth wasn’t dead. My dog also knew she wasn’t. He talks to me in dog language. They use their eyes and body language. They can vocalize or make sounds, and they are understandable to some folks. Every sound they make has a meaning. Unfortunately, most humans don’t take the time to study their speech patterns or anything else to any great degree. It is known by science that dogs can amass a vocabulary of up to three hundred words and their meanings. I’m not sure that most humans have that large a vocabulary. I’ve had dogs that knew what I was going to do, before I did. Explain that one to me. I firmly believe, some dogs are not only psychic but also empaths. They know how to smooth our ruffled emotions. I think they are the only animal that thinks it can heal and cure its master’s emotional ailments just by leaning, hugging on you or putting his head in your lap. So, like I said. Up the stairs we went, to de-mystify that ornery, cantankerous leather bag. If my suspicions hold true, it is not only a mystical and mysterious piece of luggage, but it is also, magical. My brain has been on overload and working non-stop, even while asleep, to figure out, the bag. I felt skin and flesh, on what I thought at the time was a hand or some fingers. I have been known to delve into the mystical and unknown side of things, through out my life. Nothing about this bag will surprise me. Grandpa made it clear years ago, to never sell the bag. He might have known of its more outlandish properties. I may have been just too young and foolish for him to tell the whole story. He was a lot like me. Searched through his life for an answer that worked for him and grandma. They stayed together for seventy plus years and both passed away in their nineties. My father is in his nineties now and that thought has given me a realization that will require a specific answer to a rather personal question. Why didn’t his father tell him about this crazy bag? If this bag is what I think it is…well my goodness, anyone that controls it can have a magnificent boon in the lives.
So, when on the way up the stairs, I had asked my boy Trump…what do you think the secret to this bag is…hmmm? He came close and rubbed my leg with his side as we walked up the stairs. I took that as a sign of agreement and faith in me that I would find the answer and bring “momma” home. I kind of think he has it a little backwards. If what I think will happen…happens. Well, he and I will be taking a short, but also a long trip, soon. Yes, I know, that looked like a typo, but it isn’t. The trip will be the same. The trip will be short. The trip will also cover a lot of time. Not the amount of time used for taking the trip, but, uh, well I guess I just have-to come out and say it. There is no other way. This bag, I think is a magical bag. Oh, man…here goes. The bag is a time machine.
I am going to have to address this now. There is no alternative to this question. “When did grandpa know about this?” I mean, come on, wouldn’t he have used this knowledge to better his place in the world? Possibly, he got this bag while he was in the Navy. Yeah well, maybe and maybe not. He didn’t seem too sure about anything It was almost like he was hiding the details. Why lie to his grandson? If he had gotten the bag in the service, then I’d have to speculate that to be in the early nineteen twenties. “Holy crap there, grandpa!” I had to let off some steam and pretty much just spewed that out as what is called an excited utterance. “Not that anybody but my dog cares. I am here alone. I think, although, I’m reasonably sure, somehow there is a person inside that bag.” So, now after a great amount of time, pondering the nature of the relationship between my grandpa and this magic bag of, well..uh..tricks? I still don’t have the foggiest notion of where my wife is. I am going to have to take the bag by the horns, so to speak. I would have said “handle” but there is not much left of that, after my dog chewed it in half. Here is another big question to ponder. If this thing is an actual time machine, why isn’t
my family rich beyond all compare? Ethics? Limitations or rules? Greed? My grandpa? Greedy? Wow, what a big stretch that would be. He was a very hard-working man and earned every dime he ever had. Hmm, I think. I never noticed that he had much extra. His kids always toed the line and worked hard. Why would he make all of us be those types of people when we could be wealthy and have everything we would ever need? Surely a time machine owner could finagle a few million dollars out of the magic of the bag? He did own a lot of property, now that I think about it. Many houses rehabbed and re-sold. That’s just good business sense though. Grandpa…what was with you? Does it make any difference when the bag is used? Night or day? Different days of the week? No work on Sunday? What? The so called “magic bag” had been laying at my feet the entire time that I paced on the hardwood floor, of my living room. There had been no movement, no fine smoke or dust in the air. Nothing! Nothing was somewhat of an understatement. Absolutely freaking lifeless and devoid of any indication that it knows anything about magic. Might as well label it, “The Bag of Heartache.” That in its entirety, is all it had given me. Nothing but heartache and loneliness. I studied the bag. Stood, rooted to the same spot for thirty minutes. Never moved a muscle, uttered any sound or took my eyes from it. I have a notion. A thought of gamesmanship. If this bag is truly sentient, or perhaps a vortex or portal to other dimension, then it won’t have the ability to remain immobile forever. There needs to be a working part, a moveable feature, somewhere. So, I watched.
Two days. Two miserable motionless and boring days What a waste of time that was. No eating or sleeping for the first twelve hours. Not even a bathroom break. Aaah! But then, I wised up. I didn’t have to sit there like a statue. I have a very powerful cell phone, with its own bag of tricks. Set it up to record the instant it sees the tiniest, smallest puff of air moving anywhere near that freaking bag. If you can’t tell, my use of language is deteriorating, because of extreme irritation with this situation. I’m thinking but not achieving results. I have tried nearly everything my mind has been able to conceive. You are right. Not everything. I am saving the last resort and awful possibility that I might have to step into that bag. That has been the obvious solution, this entire time. Am I afraid? Ha ha. You are ab-so-freaking-lutely correct. I am terrified, petrified and mortified. I don’t want to vanish into thin air to who knows where? I know! What about Beth? My wife and best friend? Is she really and truly, the best friend? Would I and should I do anything to rescue her from misery? Well yes, I guess I should, and will, uh..tomorrow morning. After I rest up a little.
The morning came. watched the recordings. A strange wisp of smoke appeared over the bag. You won’t believe it. I’m telling you, you will not, in no way begin to believe what happened. Trump and I went to bed. My cell phone recording the bag. That wisp of smoke materialized and turned itself in to…well…here it is…a genie. I would tell you no lies here. It was a female genie just like the television show from the nineteen sixties. I felt like a cartoon character with my eyes bugging out of my head and my body was frozen stiff. That just isn’t possible. Holy Catfish Bait, Grandpa! Why did you hide this through all those decades? I danced around my living room like a crazy lunatic. I found the answer.
A Freaking Genie! I’ll be rich! Oh no, wait. I have-to rescue Beth first. That is the important option here. No, I don’t have-to, I certainly wanted to, and I will.
I spent the evening trying to coax the Genie out. It was not working. Finally, Trump and I crawled on our bellies, across the floor until we were next to the Magic Bag. Beth had trained Trump, our dog, to whine and cry on cue. He was cute and would even roll over on his back as he cried. I gave him the cue, thinking maybe since she had already dealt with him, she might come out, if she thought he was hurt. Sure enough. She did. He is such a ham and a lover. How could she resist? A puff of smoke, and a lilac fragrance, preceded her. I was so elated, I cried, along with Trump, who was doing his job, rather well. But I genuinely cried, real tears. I could now rescue Beth, with the help of the Genie.The genie helped with preparing my supplies, since she knew when and where Beth went. Yes of course I asked, the obvious question. Why didn’t the genie just bring her back to this time period. The answer? Rules, a code. No genie can act on their own without the decision of a master. Presently she had no master and the fact that Beth had been sent back in time was just a fluke. The same with Trump. Their accidental intrusion into the Genie’s space, caused her to panic and react. So, it seems that the genie and I have at least two things in common. Panic attacks and wanting to get Beth back. So now, we had to decide how to make me her master. I was not looking forward to that, as I don’t want to be anyone’s master. My family, during the early years of the country, owned zero slaves. I didn’t intend to start now.
I questioned her at length. I wasn’t sure what to do. There were no answers forthcoming. I was desperate to get on to saving my wife from such hardship. Was there an answer? We decided to sleep on it. I went to bed, the genie climbed into the luggage and vanished. Trump, originally jumped in bed with me, but as the night progressed, I saw him slide off the bed and into the luggage. Well, he always did prefer to snuggle with the ladies. I had hopes of being, accurate, to the time period. My clothes, of course would be just as strange as Beth’s. I did the best I could. I had jeans, a denim vest and a denim shirt, my old work boots would have to do. I took two cowboy hats for us. A six-pack of bottled water, I was sure she would like that. I also packed a knapsack of clothes for her to change into, for I figured she would like to look more like a native of the time. We had some old timey clothes that we had worn to play a part in the local “Old Time Days-A Celebration”. A reenactment of the same time period. I hoped she would arrive at her childhood home in Eudora. If not, I wasn’t sure what my next move would be. Unlike Beth, I was prepared. I took all the antique money that I had saved as a collection. Old silver coins from the time period and a few old ten-dollar gold pieces. I arrived a few hours early of the time that Beth was due to arrive. I was able to anticipate my needs, before I left. I was also somewhat of a gun and civil war collector. I had been amassing items for years, by going to gun and period trade shows. My clothes were old and reflected the clothes of the time, but my weapon wasn’t.
A Ruger forty- five caliber long colt and holster were much newer recreations of the early six guns that locals carried. Too though, I wasn’t extremely knowledgeable of the time period, but somewhat sure I was making the right choice. So, I waited, for Beth to arrive at her former childhood home. The property was there, but a far cry from the nice updated home her family lived in. Instead of her family’s two-story farm house, a Conestoga wagon was in place where a house would be built many years later. The family living there had a last name of Gabriel. They would rise to power as the biggest land owner of record, many generations later.
Travel, holy angels of mercy! Nothing prepared me for that surprise. Horses, horses everywhere, were being ridden. I don’t know why I expected anything else. I had watched plenty of cowboy movies and Gunsmoke television shows. They made it look like riding a horse was no effort and a day at the beach. Rather enjoyable was my take on riding those smelly beasts, but that was when I was a teenager and rode for pleasure. A horse is a horse. So, I thought. Twenty first century horses were refined individuals compared to the unruly, cantankerous, and mostly uneducated wild beasts. Then we could decide what to do. I very rarely have trouble making decisions. Sometimes they are lightning fast, but they are not always good choices. Nowadays I wait for Beth to help make important choices. She has a brain that considers all the angles involved in deciding. I guess that approach is a good way, but I have always jumped right in the water and started paddling. Whether I am paddling the correct direction is another decision that sometimes I can get wrong.
I knew from talking with my new friend, the genie, exactly when and where Beth would arrive in town. I mulled it over in my mind and decided maybe Beth could use a little excitement. Plus, who hasn’t wanted to live in a different time period for small amount of time? Nothing drastic, mind you. Possibly a few days to maybe a week. Of course, that depends on Beth’s frame of mind when she exits her time warp. She might need a small amount of vacation from the everyday rat race of the twenty-first century.
I am a big man, so I needed a big horse. I bought a horse. A large roan mare named Bertha. She was not a young filly, for sure. She had birthed three foals herself. She had also worked pulling a wagon. Bertha was tall. Seventeen and a half hands. I had not bought a horse for Beth yet and she was due to arrive any day. When Beth showed up, she was wearing some strange clothes for the time period. The same clothes she had worn when she was in a car accident in Kansas City, in the year 2018. Jeans with holes in the legs. Torn out places, the style of the day. A beautiful purple blouse with yellow daisies on the front. Green and yellow high-top tennis shoes, with red roosters printed on the sides. Dazed and confused from the accident and then thrown in to a time warp of some kind. A confusing start in a strange land. Life was about to become very interesting, for Beth. 1854, Eudora Kansas, Beth’s original hometown, almost exactly 100 years to the day of her birth on April 17th, 1954. She has no idea of why she is there. But how, it happened, she has a fair idea. Memory of a car accident and briefly launching head first into the air when she tumbled head first into that stupid bag on the front seat, time as she knew it, or rather as she knows it, has changed. One thing will for sure be a difficulty for her, aromas and odors. Beth was used to the cleanliness of 2018 will have major adjustments to make in 1854. First off, there were no deodorants and when people work, they sweat, and then body odors permeate the air. No toothpaste or brushes. And the worst possible problem for her to adjust to is the lack of modern plumbing. Beth despises the outhouse and all the trappings. But those are the normal living conditions, for the time period where she landed. Oh, and toilet paper was three years away from being invented in 1857 by a man named Gayetty.
1854, a good year for some and not so good for others. Often, in the early years of a town, the well for the city’s water supply would be in the center of their small town. Eudora was no different, a well was in the town square. Now, that same town square has a beautiful statue of the chief of the Shawnee Indian tribe, Pascal Fish, which is the name he used most. But sometimes he also used the name of Black Fish. He was of course fluent in the English and French languages.
He traded his land holdings to the German settlers shortly before his tribe was banished and sent along the “Trail of Tears”. Included was the desire that the town be named after his daughter, Eudora.
Eudora, a little town near the Wakarusa and Kansas rivers. The rivers themselves, could not be seen from Town and were both a goodly hike north of the town. Dreadful tall prairie grass could be seen for miles in any direction. Local students had cleared off some twenty acres nearby and worked the field. They worked hard on that field with two mules. The school teacher had received them as an enticement to take the job. Those mules had cost the school one hundred and twenty dollars. They could be considered an extravagance, but the town had a wealthy mayor. His father was a very wealthy banker in a small town that was some twenty miles west of Eudora. That little town of Lawrence was a unionist town and would later become famous for being burned to the ground by confederate guerilla raiders with William Quantrill. Jesse and Frank James were known to have participated in that raid of eighteen sixty-three.
The most important person in Eudora, also owned a scrap yard at the edge of town. He had a huge scrap pile that stood nearly fifteen feet tall and forty feet across. Sometimes, he would sit in a little tarpaper shack at the edge of his corn field and put the nails and other small hardware items in old used small wooden barrels and sometimes empty powder kegs, that he had collected
over the years. Eventually he moved out south, to be with his daughter Edna Sue. She married a former trapper, farrier and Italian immigrant. They had immigrated from Germany and had lived on this farm ever since they claimed it as a homestead, like I said, they grew pigs. Pigs, mud, more mud mixed with piggy poop and a slop trough. Boy does it stink. Heaven help you, if you fall in that mud and muck.
I had been waiting a goodly portion of the morning. The time had come. A few more minutes and Beth would come walking into my sight. That was the plan anyway. I was sitting on the big horse and used saddle I bought from the local undertaker. He collected a debt owed, the only way he could by confiscating a dead man’s personal property. In this case, the dead man happened to be well to do gentleman of some importance, by the standards of the old west. Well, not totally out in the west. No, I was in Eudora Kansas. Where some of the immigrants were direct from Europe at the invitation of the United States Government and barely spoke enough English to get by. There were a few that spoke fluently in four languages, German of course and then French and English. Those unique men were originally trappers and had made many friends among the native peoples. The other language was usually a Native tongue of Shawnee or Kansa tribes, both local at the time. The federal government would later see fit to remove them from their ancestral lands to be sequestered on a reservation in the dry and rugged land of Oklahoma, some of the poorest land available. Many would eventually starve or die by exposure in the winter months. Certainly, a wonderful thing of our fearless leaders to do to those natives, that were considered the peaceful tribes. But history, is what it is. There is no changing actual history. The memory lingers on, sometimes for thousands of years and is handed down through generations of the oppressed. The offending Oppressor naturally would prefer it not be that way. I was astride the massive snorting beast, one leg on either side of its heaving chest. The horse was winded from trotting along with me on its back. My new good friend, oh, let’s call her Jean-e. (How’s that for dancing around legalities) was hiding in the leather bag with our dog, Trump. They couldn’t have
gotten out if they wanted. The bag was zipped up and tied down behind the saddle and on the back of the big horse. Jean-e had taken the dog into her secret house in the leather bag and I can only assume that they were transmogrified and weightless. I can hardly contain my excitement. Beth is due here any second and I am shivering with nervous perspiration and the sun was hiding behind some rather bulbously large clouds that looked like they could drench us, rather soon. She was, I had to assume off in the distance, possibly somewhere near a quarter of a mile. A couple of turns and twist in the road. My breathing has picked up and my heart feels as if it’s about to push through my back, near my left shoulder blade, “Oh no, Lord God, please don’t let me have a heart attack now, not when I am this close to getting my honey back.” Standing up in the stirrups, I begin waving to a horse and rider I see in the distance, a beautiful palomino horse, with a long flowing, white mane. The horse turns slightly to the side as it follows the muddy road. I gasp, such beauty, gorgeously cascading hair, down the back. Such a wonderful sight. Beautifully brushed, enchantingly flowing fabulous waves, unlike any I have ever seen. Such beauty in Kansas of all places. If that horse were in the twenty-first century it would win accolades for its beauty. “Who is that person, though? Not my Beth! What’s going on here?” Ahhh, she must be coming along a little late.” I mumbled. The closer the palomino got, the more that person looked familiar. “Oh, Good Lord, what is this? What are you doing here?” I spouted with mock anger. A stupid grin and totally ridiculous bravado, the person on the horse responds by nudging the horse on the shoulder, with a knee. The horse’s bow was deep, magnificent and obviously well practiced. The rider, responding to my question, bows with the horse and removes the white, ten-gallon Stetson hat, with a flourish. “Why son, I thought you would be thrilled to see me.” I was flummoxed. All I could do was shake my head, blow hot air loudly out my nose and grunt in a voice that was both happy and unhappy. Hard to do. “What am I going to do, dad?
“What are you talking about, son?”“Aww, c’mon dad, you are old, not stupid. You know what the hell I’m talking about. Where’s Beth?” Dad smiles, sheepishly. “Ohh, is that what you meant? Don’t tell me. You didn’t know I was coming?” Dad says with a grin. Leaning back on his horse, while removing his hat and wiping his forehead sweat off with the sleeve of his right arm. All done in one continuous, cowboy style move. All the while, his left hand is holding the reins of his horse in skilled fashion.
“Okay. Out with it, dad.” He gently sways back and forth, moving from side to side in the saddle. I couldn’t tell if he was thinking or his butt was getting tired. An insipid grin, and a chuckle, was all I got from him. “Come on, dad.” He starts chuckling, softly. “BOY,” he says loudly.
“Stop, right there!” I squirm in my saddle, it has been years since I rode a horse. “You are not grandpa, so don’t call me boy. That was his thing. You need to stop playing games here and tell me what the hell is going on. Where
is my wife? I’ve been worried sick, and I want my wife back.”
“Alright, son, quit whining.”
“Look dad, you are ninety-one years old. You have no business playing cowboy here in freaking 1850’s Kansas.”
“I know.” Dad said with a hearty giggle. “Isn’t this great?”
“Damn it all to hell, dad, you’re not getting what I am saying.”
“Oh, sure I am, son. I get it in spades. You know like a trump card?” He breaks up, cackling and guffawing, nearly falling off his horse. “So, where is that dog of yours? Trump?” He slaps his leg and continues riotously laughing. “Uh…well, he isn’t here, right now.”
“Har, har, hardy har. I know exactly where he is. Don’t harass me, son. Let that poor dog out to enjoy the freedom of nineteenth century air.” Dad pounds his chest. “It’s so much more breathable and clean smelling.” “yeah, alright. I will let him out, but you have-to bring Beth here. I mean business here dad. I want her here, pronto.” I said. Untying the bag, requires that I reach way back behind me and pull the draw string on each side of the saddle. Dad looks me over good, as I am doing that, which, brings out another round of laughter. “Bwahahaha…, I see you’ve got on that old holster I gave you a few years ago. What’s the pistol? Your old Ruger long colt? I can’t see it all, your gun kind of disappears in that big old holster. You know that holster is made for a longer barreled gun, right?”
“Yes, I do know that, dad.” I said, sighing heavily with the impatience that only a son knows. “But look here.” I say as I pull out my pistol. “I’ve had this for years and, (I spin it around on my index finger, which by the way, is very difficult) didn’t have the time to research and buy and genuine antique, 1850’s cap and ball gun.”
“Awww, son, look. You are worried about Beth. I get that. But I’ve already taken care of that problem.”
“Wait a minute here, dad, what are you rambling on about? You’ve taken care of my problem? When did that happen?” All the time he and I are talking, dad pulls out his official, time period correct, six-shooting revolver, twirls it a few times, cracks open the action, twirls the cylinder a few quick times and stuffs it hard, back into his own holster. “You know son this is the exact gun that that Wyatt Earp carried when he worked in Dodge city as a deputy. A Colt .45 with a seven and a half- inch barrel. What do you think of that?”
“Aw dad, c’mon now! We’ve more important things to talk about. Right here and now. I want answers, damn it!” Dad, turns his head to the left, rolls it in an arch so his eyes are looking at the clouds, exhaling a loud sigh as his head then comes back down to the right and looks me straight in the eyes and with a stern voice. He questions me. “Didn’t I tell you I took care of it already?” I respond with my own big sigh of frustration and with a small voice of resignation to dad’s dominance, I utter a whispered, “yes”. Trump, my dog has been sniffing around the horse’s legs, while we talked. He is very observative, when movement begins, he’s on high alert and always ready to move forward, to the next exciting activity. “Okay then,” dad says with a giant smile. “That’s settled. Let’s head home.” Dad mounted his horse, with the ease of an old cowboy. Stiff and sore, yes but obviously an activity that his muscles were used to. I remained on the ground, not moving an inch. My resolve was steadfast. His eyes and line of sight burned a whole through the air with a laser’s heat. “I thought we were clear on this subject son. Get on your horse.”
“No! You still haven’t”…my voice drifts off under dad’s glare, “I told you, BOY, get on your horse…please!” I was grabbing the saddle horn and ready to put my foot in the stirrup when Trump lets out a howl and a cry like a full-blooded beagle and defuses the situation. His howls generally mean one thing, a new situation has arrived. I look behind dad, as a wisp of smoke turns into a genie that I haven’t seen before. “Mister Jack,” his own genie’s interruption helps with calming dad down. “Yes?”
“Please, Mister Jack,” She repeated. “Please, try and understand his feelings at this moment. Just explain the situation to him.” All gruff and grumbly dad growls like a Pirate. Oh hell, arrrgh! “All I was trying to do was surprise him and give him the second-best moment of his life.” I began feeling one of my panic attacks coming on, so I leaned against the horse, for stability. “Dad, just tell me where and how Beth is. I guarantee everything will be, splendamonius, as you like saying. With that, my Jean-E puts a calming hand on my elbow. “Oh,” I said, “I didn’t realize you were here.” A little giggle from her, a nod from dad had given me the impression she had been here for a while.
“Okay”. Dad said. “Just me get down off this horse here, and then we can sit in the grass, for a spell. After all, I am ninety-one years old and all this business today has worn me out. So, we sat for a couple of hours. Between dad and the two genie’s I finally learned most of the story. Trump had climbed up in my lap and gone to sleep after providing dad and the two genies with kisses. It started out with grandpa buying a house to rehab, early on in his young married life. The leather bag had been found in the attic of the same house. There were four of them, found by my grandmother. She was helping tear out old
plaster walls in the attic of their new project house. Grandpa noticed that it looked like there was a fake wall that closed off an area and didn’t appear to have any doors or windows. So, little, tiny, five-foot tall grandma, had torn the wall out, with crowbar and sledge hammer. The grandparents had found four fancy, but old leather bags with red dragons on the front. The bags had all been zippered up. When inspected, it was discovered that two of the genies had died. The other two were very weak. No date had been determined as to when they had been sealed in the wall. The grandparents were more like friends to these beautiful creatures, than masters, as was the custom with genies when let out of their confinements. Jean-E and Jeania were given the option of freedom or remaining friends and caretakers of the entire family, as needed. They chose to remain with the family. No genie had ever forsaken their responsibilities, as outlined by their spiritual contracts. There are after all, more things under the sun than will ever be known by man. So, it is with beings, whose lives are mostly unknown to humans. Genies are spirit and flesh beings, much like humans. They are, however, totally different and like angels, they are subservient to God. The genies were deeply appreciative for their lives and their special responsibilities to our family. Not just one master for each genie, but a duo of kind friends in my grandparents. They were free, and yet gave their lives to their new family. Many years in the future, my grandparents had given my dad and myself each a “Magic Bag,” as they would become known in my lifetime. The task at hand, now, on a day that is split in two, literally by one hundred and sixty-four years, is to find Beth and bring her home to safety. No one has told me yet, where to find her. I had to ask dad again. Considering the long hard day and his agitated state, I hated to broach the subject with him again.
“Dad?” I said aloud.
He had fallen asleep. It was mid afternoon and he always gets a nap in around that time. I sighed, and looked at the genies. “Well? Do you two have any ideas?” They gave the same answer in unison. “Yes.” They were so cute together, I had to smile. “Okay”, I said in a sing song manner.It seems that dad and Jeania had rescued Beth from an 1854 homeless situation, as she walked down the middle of Eudora. So, what to do with her to keep her safe until I could be the one to take her home. Quite wealthy by mid nineteenth century standards, dad decided to buy a covered wagon and team of oxen, with a skilled teenage driver. Beth and her new wagon signed up with a wagon train, headed for of all places, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Jeania and dad had outfitted her with provisions and appropriate clothing. He also paid the wagon master extra to keep an eye on her. Dad had thought of everything, except in my opinion, how difficult a trip would be for a city woman, from 2018. It is possible that dad knew we were ready for a big adventure and arranged it, so could we meet the test? Beth’s wagon train had a six-hour head start. The decision had been made. Jean-E and I would take horses and catch up to the wagon train and with her along we had added safety and less risk. We would have a long enjoyable adventure. Sure, it would be fraught with peril and very likely the most difficult trip we have ever taken, but think of the fun, we are going to have…oh my.
So, we are off on the adventure of a lifetime. Who knows, what famous people we might meet.
On to the trail….