Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Nine)

We took the 4th of July off and relaxed, a lot of it poolside, reading and napping. Working would have come across as odd, and the one thing we didn’t want to do just then was to attract attention.

On Saturday (the 5th) we went to 20th Century Photo and set up our work area. Renn wanted to dismantle the craft and examine the components as well as he could. In 2021 he could have examined the micro-circuitry precisely, but not in 1947. I did have a magnifying glass among my assembled tools, but that would only go so far. (And some of the parts did appear to me as printed circuits, though they were different, more circular than rectangular for starters, and I can’t really be sure of even that much.)

We called it a day at about three o’clock, and even took in a show that evening. For me is was a nice little piece of recent history (I didn’t learn much from it), but for Renn it was a ancient history in real life, and he was entranced.

During the show, however, there was a mention of going to church the next morning, which was a Sunday. Renn leaned into me and whispered, “I’d like to go to one of those. Do you think we can?”

I was ready to say, “Of course,” but then I stopped and remembered that he needed me to be the guardian of my world. “Probably,” I whispered back, “We’ll talk about it upstairs.”

He smiled a sort of dual acknowledgement and re-focused on the comedian and the crowd.

The next morning we went to the St. Joan of Arc Catholic church and sat through a Latin mass. I don’t recall sitting through a Latin mass before that one, and I had to admit there was a certain of beauty to it. Renn thought so too, but that was just a side-thought to him. What enamored him were the people.

He turned to me at one point and whispered, “The reaching of the soul toward its creator… it has the same beauty in all times.”

I left him immersed in the experience until we were back in the car, where I noticed him taking a purposeful deep breath. Nonetheless, I explained a bit about other churches – Protestants, Pentecostals and so on – but he wasn’t particularly interested, and so I stopped. Then he turned to me and smiled, as if to comfort me.

I’m sorry, Paul, I’m not trying to be rude, but we have less inertia to our thinking than you do. I’ve already finished with the church experience, but you feel a need to continue on the subject.”

I knew instantly that he was right. I also saw that I could have picked up on it from his purposeful deep breath… that I did pick it up from his purposeful breathing but bypassed the observation. Instead, I was compelled to produce more detail.

Renn, I can sense that you’re right, and I can see how it happened to me, but you called this inertia… what, exactly is driving that inertia?”

Your thoughts seem more tied to stories than ours. Your thinking attaches to underlying stories… stories you feel a need to complete.”

I uttered a thank you then fell silent for the rest of the return trip, then made some notes when we were back in our rooms.

* * * * *

It was when Renn returned in late June that people on Robert and Jim’s planet began to be concerned. The same person popped into the temporary Earth of 1947, then popped in again. Apparently they couldn’t discern much more than that, but what they did know concerned them.

They – and I don’t know precisely who these individuals were, save that they weren’t Robert or Jim – put out a message asking for any information on the subject, but even when they sent it, they knew that it would reach only one or two worlds within time to do anything about it.

And so, with neither Jim or Robert within range, these few volunteers debated what to do about it. There was no indication that anyone was actually tampering with an innocent and primitive planet (ours), but such planets were vulnerable to abuse, which could have repercussions on the permanent version of that planet.

* * * * *

We rested that afternoon (Sunday wasn’t much of a work day in 1947), but Renn made a point of telling me that while he was doing all right in our environment, he was also interested in getting back home.

And so we spent Sunday evening sketching out our plan for the week. We’d work on the craft all day Monday and Tuesday, and perhaps Wednesday morning. Then I’d put Renn on a plane to LA, where he’d find a bad-neighborhood police station and expire.

I couldn’t help thinking that Wednesday evening I’d be abandoned in 1947 for the third time on this trip: Once entering, once when Renn left the first time, and now with Renn leaving again. There was always an element of energization following these abandonments – I’d be alone in a distant world with both assets and foreknowledge, all possibilities open to me – but when one of these very special friends left me, I also felt loss. Further, this loss felt like it would be deeper than the last.

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Paul Rosenberg