Uncle Buster? Are you in there? Hello?

I couldn’t see. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t move.

But I could hear.

Molly was speaking to me. Where was I? Where had I had I been. I wanted to ask her but I couldn’t speak.

Uncle Buster. Give me some sort of sign, that you can hear me. Move a finger. Twitch your nose. Something. Here’s my hand. See if you can squeeze it.

Oh, I thought… I must be in a hospital bed. Where else could I be? Something bad must have happened. Molly’s hand… I couldn’t feel it but I knew I had to squeeze, somehow and let her know I could hear her. But which hand? I know, I thought, I’ll concentrate on squeezing both. 

I focused… I tried to will my hands to clench. I was suddenly aware of a beeping sound. Then, just as I was aware of it, the tempo increased.

Beep… Beep… Beep… Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep B’beep-B’beep…

Why is his heart beating so fast? Nurse? 

Squeeze… squeeze….

Wait. I felt him squeeze my hand. Uncle Buster? Can you hear me?

Squeeze.

He did it again! Call the doctor. Mom! Dad! He squeezed my hand!

Buster… It’s your brother. It’s Skip. We’re right here. Come on back to us. Come on back, Buster.

I felt warm. I felt the blood rushing to my head. This was new. ‘Feeling something more than darkness.

Uncle Buster. Squeeze my hand again.

Squeeze.

Yes! He can hear me! You’re going to be okay, Uncle Buster. Doctor Frances is here. He’s going to help you.

Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep B’beep-B’beep…

Stand back, young lady. Nurse, hold this tube aside while I look at his eyes. Hmmmm. no reaction to light in his left… and the right…. wait. there’s something.

I saw a bright light. It was so bright it was painful. I fell into it.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Doctor! What’s hap…..

It was so quiet. I felt my mind clear and everything seemed clear and in focus. I remember now, I thought. I remember what happened;

The doors were finally repaired and I decided to travel to one of my favorite spots in time; My town, thirty years ago. The old diner. My favorite burgers. The old electronic shop. The park before they paved Joni Mitchell’s paradise and put up parking lot. My favorite bench. The local newspaper before the internet put it out of business.

I was so happy to be there. 

I filled my belly with good food and my body with the sunshine of a perfect day.

Upon returning to the place where I left the door waiting, I found him waiting for me. 

“I knew I would find you here,” he said. His lab coat was soiled with grease and his goggles were wet from the sweat of his balding head. He sneered at me.

“I thought you were living your life out on an island somewhere,” I said.

“Oh, is that what you did to me?” Manny asked. “I have yet to experience you banishing me. Is that what you did? Banished me to an island? You always threatened it, but I thought you were joking. You finally did it, eh?”

My childhood nemesis and adult foe stood between me and the doorway home. He was not the man I had banished to an island somewhere in time. He was Manny from an earlier time. 

“Cat’s out of the bag,” I said. “If it’s any consolation, the weather is supposed to be terrific in that section of the world.”

We stared at each other for a minute but it felt like hours.

“Step aside,” I said. “I’m leaving for home.”

“You’re not going anywhere, Brightbuckle.” He pulled a metal device from his pocket. It was about the size of a deck of cards. It had a two inch screen that pulsed in a greenish hue. His thumb was poised over a flat, blue button. Sneering, he turned to the door and pointed the device at the center.

I chose this moment to leap. I knocked him aside and dove through the door. I was halfway through the door, glancing back when I saw him press the blue button. I felt the world around me explode.

“Brightbucklke,” he screamed. Then I heard his laugh echo in the darkness.

“The last thing I remember seeing was my dog, Darwin. I was on the basement floor looking at the blinking lights around the door and he was licking my face,” I said. My mouth was dry and my voice was little more than a whisper.  “Then the world slipped away. I must have passed out.”

“Darwin was howling when we got home from the movies,” said Molly.

“That’s some dog you have there, Buster,” said Skip. “He didn’t leave your side.”

I thought about Manny. This dangerous man was back. “Molly… It was Manny Snivelle. I saw him before I returned.”

“You were having a nightmare, Uncle Buster.” She touched the back of my hand and shook her head reassuringly. “Just a nightmare. You were talking in your sleep. It must have been a nightmare. Over and over you kept telling Manny to step aside. Step aside.”

“But I went through the door and saw him in the past. Right here in town.”

“No. The doors are still broken, Uncle Buster. You had a bad virus and you passed out.”

“I was sick?” I thought about it. Yes. I was sick. I remember. “It was a nightmare?”

“Yes,” said Skip. “You always had vivid dreams when we were kids. ‘Kept me up many a night babbling about this monster or that. Some things never change.”

A nightmare.

“We were so worried about you,” said Mary. My brother’s wife was a nice lady. We got along.

“We should let him rest,” said Skip. “Come on, girls. Let’s let my brother collect his thoughts.”

Skip gave my shoulder a friendly punch and the girls kissed my cheek. I waved to them as they left the room. Just me and the beeping machine.

Beep beep beep beep

I took a deep breath.

RIIIIIIIIIIIING!

The phone by the bed.

I picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Brightbuckle. How was your trip home?”

“Manny…”

“Hospital food is nasty business, isn’t it?”

Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep B’beep-B’beep…

  

Advertisements