The Bubble

bungalow

Image: hookedonhouses.com

Friday, October 21, 2016

I might have lived alone in that 1920s bungalow that I inherited from my Grandpa for the rest of my life if I hadn’t discovered the Bubble. That’s what I call it because that’s what it looks like, a big soap-bubble suspended between the trunks of two Elm trees behind the house.

It’s mostly wooded back there, and the Bubble is almost completely transparent, so unless you’re right on top of it, you’d never see the thing.

I was walking around the property, Grandpa still owned it all when he died so I had plenty of privacy, and I only saw it at the last second (guess I was daydreaming) before I walked right into it.

I got dizzy for a few moments and then I walked out the other side. I looked back at it and my first thought was to wonder why it hadn’t popped.

My second thought was that the two Elms seemed a little smaller. Then I looked around. There was the bungalow but all of the trees seemed a little smaller. The bungalow looked worn. Needed a paint job, but I’d had it painted last spring. Come to think of it, it looked more like summer now, but I knew it was near the end of October.

Then I almost had a heart attack. The back door opened. It was the old man himself, only he looked like he was in his 50s, around my age. He’d died ten years ago at the age of 97. What the…?

I had no idea what was going on so I hid behind one of the Elms. Would he notice the Bubble?

No. He got to work on a little flower garden. I remember he used to take great pride in his gardening. Even tried to teach me when I was a…

I don’t believe it.

He came bounding out the back, letting the screen door slam behind him. “Hey, Grandpa. You want to play a game?”

“In a little bit, Eddie. Just let me finish putting these last two plants in.”

I pretended to pout. It was me. It really was me when I was eleven years old. I used to visit the old man every June after I got out of school for the summer.

“Why don’t you help me, Eddie. The work’ll go faster.”

I, I mean he, the boy, knelt down and listened to Grandpa’s instructions. I didn’t really like gardening, but I loved the old man, so I’d do just about anything he asked.

This was the summer he gave me a pocket knife. I still have it, I still carry it with me everywhere. It’s probably one of the most valuable things I own, not because of what it cost, but because he gave it to me.

Finally, they were done and Grandpa kept his promise to me to go inside and play a game. I had to get out of there. Desperate, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I walked into the Bubble.

Dizziness again, but when I came out the other side, this time facing the bungalow, the trees looked the right size, the bungalow looked freshly painted and the right color, and I didn’t see anyone around.

I walked back to the bungalow. It took about a minute or so, then looked around the kitchen. Yes, there’s my breakfast dishes still soaking in the sink where I left them. I’m back home and in the right time.

I hoped the Bubble wasn’t in 1970-whatever, 76 I think, for my Grandpa and me to find.

I really don’t know what the thing is or why it showed up now. I don’t remember seeing it before, in the ten or so years since I’ve lived here, or when I used to visit the old man when I was a kid.

I thought about the old man and realized I was really missing him, missing being a kid. He was always good to me. My parents died, I knew that was hard on him, losing his only son. I was already in college. I visited the old man a lot after that. We both needed each other. It’s pretty lonely without him.

He left me the bungalow, the wooded acreage behind it, and enough money for an early retirement. He could have lived anywhere he wanted, certainly in a bigger place, but it was all he ever really needed.

I never married. Oh, I had women, but I couldn’t make a commitment for some reason. Like Dad, I had no brothers or sisters. I loved my parents very much, but the person I was closest to in my life was Grandpa.

The Bubble let me see him again. Maybe it was God’s way of helping me miss him less, or maybe making me miss him more.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I spent all day Saturday thinking about Grandpa and the Bubble. I walked out to those two old Elms, slowly and with my eyes wide open this time. It was still there. I wanted to touch it, try to tell what it was made of and why it was holding together, but I was afraid I’d end up back 40 years ago again.

Sunday, I got up the nerve to go through once more.

I walked up to it. It was hard to see, maybe harder than it was two days ago. I don’t know. My eyes aren’t what they used to be.

I reached out and put my hand through the surface and it started to fade. I could still feel it so it hadn’t vanished off my arm, but I think it was some place or some when else.

I slowly walked through. Same dizziness for a second. Then I became oriented again.

The trees were way smaller, still lush growth, but I knew I’d gone back more than forty years this time. The bungalow looked great. It looked like late spring, but I had no idea when.

Then I noticed the clothes line, like the kind Mom used in our backyard when I was really young.

There were clothes pinned to it. I took a chance and walked over. The clothes pins weren’t hinged so you could open and close them, they were solid wood. The clothing style could have been from the 40s or 50s. Well before my time.

The windows were open and I thought I heard someone, not talking, more like humming a song. It was a woman’s voice.

Grandma?

Her voice was getting closer. I had just enough time to run around to the side of the bungalow before she came out.

Grandma, but oh man, she was really good-looking. I felt kind of guilty admiring my own Grandma’s figure. She couldn’t have been older than 30 or 35. I tried to do the math, but I wasn’t sure of how old she was when she died. I was just a baby.

Oh crap, where’s Dad? How old would he be right now, whenever now is?

Grandma was taking the clothes off the line and putting them in a basket.

Then I heard a car pulling up out front. If whoever it is gets out and looks on the side of the bungalow, I’m dead.

I heard the front door open, one pair of heavy footfalls walking, and a lighter pair running into and then through the place to the back.

My Dad comes bursting out the back. “Mama, look what Papa got me at the store!” He proudly displays a comic book. It’s hard for me to get a look at it and not let myself be seen, but it looks like a “Superman” comic book, a really old one. Too bad Dad didn’t keep it. Must be worth a small fortune back in the present.

Grandma bends over to have a look. My Dad looks about 9 or 10. “My, that’s really nice. Did you thank Papa?”

“Sure I did, Mama.” Then he turns around to see Grandpa on the back steps. “Thanks, Papa.” Dad runs over and gives Grandpa a hug.

“Now you two run along inside. Jimmy, set the table. I’ll be in with the laundry in a minute.”

Jimmy, that is Dad, runs back inside. He probably detours to his room to put his comic book away, and then back to the small dining room to set the table.

A radio comes on and I recognize what used to be called “Big Band music” drifting out the open windows.

Presently, Grandma takes the laundry basket in, now full of the family’s dried clothing, and shuts the door behind her.

I wait a few minutes, then take my chance at getting back to the Bubble. I’m sneaking from tree to tree like a thief. The sun’s going to set soon and I have no idea what spending hours in the past is going to do with my return trip to the present.

Finally, I make it to the Bubble. Am I the only one who can see this thing? I step through before something else happens and I’m back on the Sunday morning I left. It’s as if I haven’t been gone any time at all.

After lunch, I go to the spare bedroom in the back of the bungalow. Not a lot of room for storage, but I’ve never been much of a pack rat (except for a few things like my pocket knife).

It takes me a while, but I find the right photo album. Yep. There he is. Dad at nine years old. He’s holding a big fish. Grandpa used to take him fishing when he was a kid. The date written in faded ink in the margin says June 10, 1944. I must have shown up a month or so before that.

What am I going to do?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Just a few days before Halloween. I’ve noticed that I can barely see the Bubble now. It’s more like I remember where it is. I can tell it’s still there for sure by putting my hand inside and watching it fade. I don’t think it’ll be here forever.

I keep having these dreams about the Bubble, about being a kid, about my Dad and Mom. I think I’m supposed to do something, but I don’t know what.

I think time is running out.

It’s freezing out this morning. A cold wind coming down from the mountains. I bundle up and visit the Bubble again, where it’s supposed to be anyway. I put my hand inside. Yep, still there. I decide to give it one more try. I have to, even if I don’t know why.

Good thing I bundled up. I know when I am. It’s Friday morning here, too. It’s November 28, 1986. It’s the day my parents died.

I recognize their car parked out front. I’m hiding around the side of the bungalow, the same side where I hid from Grandma. I peek around the front of the bungalow. My Dad’s just finished packing up the car. They’re getting ready to go home after having spent Thanksgiving with Grandpa.

I didn’t come this year because I decided to spend Thanksgiving with…what’s her name? Delores. We were dating. I thought it was serious (It wasn’t…we broke up before Christmas, but then again, I was grief-stricken so I didn’t care). She invited me to her parents for Thanksgiving. If she hadn’t, I’d have been here and died with my Mom and Dad.

If only they’d waited one more day. They wouldn’t have run into that storm, wouldn’t have hit that patch of ice, wouldn’t have rolled the car, wouldn’t have died. If only they…

I hope I have time to pull this off before my folks come back out. They’re probably saying goodbye to Grandpa right now. I can do it. I can save their lives.

I do my best running crouch up to the car. My pocket knife. It’s forty years old, but Grandpa taught me how to take care of it, when to get the blade sharpened. You could shave with that blade.

Slicing the sidewalls of a tire is harder than I thought. The first one just opened up the side and air rushed out, but the second one (they only had one spare so I sliced two tires to make sure they weren’t going anywhere) made an audible popping sound.

“What the heck?” I can hear my Dad’s muffled voice through the front door. He’s coming.

I run past the side of the bungalow making all kinds of noise. If I can get back to the Bubble in time, it won’t matter if they see me. They wouldn’t recognize me (probably) even if they saw my face.

Grandpa’s at the back door. “Hey you! What are you doing?”

I can hear my Dad out front yelling. “Damn it! He slashed two of my tires!”

Grandpa must be in his 70s but he’s still in pretty good shape. I can hear him running after me. “You fella! You stop!” He’s in pretty good shape for a man in his 70s, but relatively speaking, I’m twenty years younger.

I can’t see the Bubble at all now so I run for the space between the two Elms and pray it’s still there.

I hear what sounds like something hitting the ground behind me and Grandpa crying out. I chance a look back and see he’s on the ground. Must have tripped. He’s moving so he’s probably okay. Can’t see Mom or Dad. Must be out front.

If I can get through the Bubble before Grandpa gets up and sees me…

…I run through. This time I’m facing away from the bungalow, so I turn around. Looks exactly like when I left.

I hear a loud popping sound and for a second, it’s like a million fireflies are all dancing between the two Elms. Then nothing but the sound of wind.

I put my hand between the Elms where the Bubble was. I can still see my hand. I walk between the Elms. No dizziness and everything looks the same.

The Bubble’s gone.

The phone is ringing as I go back inside. I still have an old landline although the phone is cordless. I look at the caller ID and then answer.

“Hi Mom. Is Dad on the line, too?” Mom always makes the call and then tells Dad to get on the extension.

“Ed, is that your folks?” My wife Delores walks in from the living room.

“Just a second Mom.” I put my hand over the phone. “Yeah.”

“We should call the kids after you’re off the phone with them.”

I nod “yes” then get back to talking with the folks. I don’t know if I’ll remember two histories forever or if the old one will fade. Maybe I’ll get to the point where it doesn’t seem strange to be married, have a son and a daughter, and my first grandbaby on the way.

I’m currently reading an anthology called The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF edited by Mike Ashley. It’s pretty good and of course, because I’m reading time travel short stories, I decided to write another one using the familiar theme of changing the past to save the present.

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