(Continued from part twelve)
“That was really you, wasn’t it?”
Walter looked shell-shocked. He had completed his mission, but he stumbled back to me in a daze. I guided him to one of the couches in the living room and we sat next to each other. I leaned in to him and spoke quietly, keeping our conversation a secret from everyone but the two of us.
“He went home?” I’d get to his question in a moment, but taking him away from it seemed a more immediate necessity.
“He walked away.”
“Good, that’s enough.”
I paused a few seconds for his head to clear.
“Yes, Walter, that was me. In the note I asked him to go home and that I’d find him later and explain things to him. I hadn’t planned on this and I’m not sure exactly how I’ll handle it, but I’m not ready to see him now. I’m in the early stages of this mission.”
He seemed to be doing better now, perhaps about a third of the way back to normal. As so we sat, saying nothing for some time.
“I think I should go home now,” he said.
“Yeah, I probably should too,” I said in response, smiling at him.
He smiled back, which I took as a good sign. We were comrades.
“Did you drive here?” I asked.
“No, the Ruzickas gave me a ride.”
“Then how about we share a cab back? We can talk more along the way.”
Walter agreed, and within twenty minutes we were in the back of a taxi, headed to his house, which was close to Hosanna Tabernacle.
I was surprised at how well Walter handled the reality of time travel; better than I might have expected. The key to that, of course, was his belief in an all-powerful God who acted, at least from time to time, in human affairs.
That’s not to say that Walter was unaffected by it. In fact he was. But he wasn’t disrupted by it.
* * * * *
Micah and Dorthea had called their doctor and requested that he show up the following morning because there would be a need for death certificates. Then they had their daughter call their family’s funeral home (it was owned by a cousin) and set up the wake. All these people thought of Dorthea and Micah as eccentric, but they also respected them and would go along with the occasional odd request, as they did this time.
Both passed in their sleep, and by noon their bodies were on their way to the funeral home and calls were be made to friends and family. The wake would be that night and the funeral the following morning. I had agreed to attend the wake but not the funeral. My attendance at the wake, I felt, was necessary for those who mourned.
* * * * *
Lara and Jens, as I was to learn later, spent three days with a variety of engineers at Cape Canaveral (called Cape Kennedy then), rummaging through blueprints, tinkering with old equipment and learning how these people felt about the whole venture.
To these very advanced people – and even Robert thought of them as advanced – chemically-propelled rocket ships were in their distant past, as were the people who built them. They thought of those people as heroic and praiseworthy, but far removed. About the same, I suppose, as we might think of the first humans to build stone bridges… they were crucial to us, obviously at the forefront of development in their time, but distant.
My entry to 1978 gave Jens and Lara an opportunity to connect with their long-lost past, and they were grateful for it. I couldn’t help feeling an eagerness for another venture after this one, simply because I wanted to spend time with beings such as they.
And here again I found myself in new territory: Who else has had the opportunity to interact with beings far more advanced than themselves? The friends of Jesus, of course, but that was one small group a long time ago. Who else?
* * * * *
I slept uneasily that night, thoughts of my young self him running through my mind: What precisely he was doing this month, what types of thoughts he had been thinking, what drew him to that window, what he’ll be thinking about now, and so on… until I finally achieved sleep at about 3:00 AM.
I didn’t wake up till after 10:00. I showered, puttered around my suite for a bit, then went downstairs for a walk. It was cold but not bitter and the sidewalks were clear, and so I walked down Wabash to the newsstand on at Randolph and picked up a few newspapers. Then I stopped at Kroch and Brentano’s, walking out with a couple of magazines, two pads of paper and a few pens. Both places had been mere memories in 2018 and I enjoyed seeing them again.
Instead of heading back up to my suite at the Palmer House I continued around the corner to Miller’s Pub at their old location, another long-lost memory for me. I had a long, slow lunch, reading the Wall Street Journal and three different Chicago papers. Then I headed back to the hotel, relaxed for a bit and took a nap.
By late afternoon I was back up, dressing myself and getting ready to head out to the wake. Then there was a knock at my door. My first guess was that it was housekeeping, but I opened the door to find Robert smiling at me.
We both laughed. “More like shocked,” I said, welcoming him inside.
“I really can’t stay,” he said.
I have important things underway and I’d like to get back to them, but I did want to stop in to see you.”
I barely knew how to respond, but eked out, “Okay… how long can you stay?”
“Only an hour or two, if possible. A little more if you transport me to someplace where I can make a fitting exit.”
“Wow,” was all I could reply. Then I followed it with, “Okay, let me think for a minute.”
He sat and I ran the logistics. The funeral home was west on Foster Avenue, and I knew there was a police station toward the east end of Foster. More than that, there was a nice Mexican restaurant, El Tipico, just a block from the police station.
And so, the plan was that we’d take a cab to the restaurant, stop for a meal, and then I’d take another cab to the wake while Robert would walk around the block and come up to the police station from behind.