It’s been a busy week. First, there was Christmas, then my wife, Karyl, and I visited our family in Brenham, Texas. Then on Monday, I time-traveled to New York City aiming to confront Nikola Tesla for stealing my first time machine. Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back in August, I built a time machine, and set it for 1911, New York City, so I could interview Tesla after he had completed the alternating current generator at Niagara Falls. Instead of 1911, the machine took me to 1885. I met Tesla and accidentally brought him back with me. I’d added a theft monitor that would cause the machine to send itself into the Pacific Ocean if it didn’t get reset every day. After Nikola stole the machine, it must’ve landed in the ocean back in 1885 so it’s rusted to nothing by now. I couldn’t afford the assembled version of the machine ($169.00 plus tax!) so I purchased the DIY kit for $25. I’d glanced at the user manual, but only recalled four of the rules of time travel from page 19:
Ensure all documents have been left outside of the machine.
Do not try to assassinate Hitler. All the assassinations failed.
Don’t bring home animals. Dinosaurs don’t make good pets.
Avoid historical events (crowded with other time travelers).
I’d failed to heed rule number one—the material parts list and assembly instructions were in the glove compartment when Nikola shot back to 1885. I tried to contact Acme Time Machine, Inc., to buy another kit, but the company had vanished like used bits on the internet.
A couple of weeks ago I told Bob, our live-in gremlin, about my stolen time machine and why I couldn’t build another. Bob grabbed my notebook and wrote from memory all six pages of the DIY instructions and materials list. He had watched me build the machine, but back then he kept himself invisible. On the instruction pages he even included a note I’d written:
“Jch: Milk yogurt Brookshire’s before 5.”
Before you ask: Yes—no matter how it sounds, I put my initials in front of notes to myself because...never mind…I just do it.
Bob claims to have a photographic memory. Maybe so. The materials list from Acme was printed in Arial font and the note to myself looked exactly like my own handwriting.
* * *
I better stop and tell you how I met Bob. It was on Friday, September 15, 2017. There were a series of events led to his discovery. His type of gremlin (Gremovestuffinvisibiliae) can stay invisible for twenty hours a day but Bob had got stuck in my office late in his cycle. He hid behind my desk as I closed the office door. After three hours at the computer, I decided to move my desk for cleaning.
“Whoa! Who are you?”
“I’m Boblemunittlemab, a Mogwai. You’re Johnny, a giant.”
“What are you doing in my office?”
“Hiding you moron.”
This isn’t going too well.
He continued, “The agency sent me to study giants. I’m taking Vallltterimastiv’s place. He was killed by a horse in 1863. I left immediately.”
“You left in 1863? How old are you? And where were you that it would take more than a hundred years to get here? Why Texas?”
He closed his eyes and winced.
“Your language is hard enough without asking me several questions at once. To us, that is considered, uh, very…hum…”
I waited while he struggled to find the right word,
He continued, “Rude. Okay. Let me try.”
“Please don’t interrupt! Okay. Yes, I left in 1863. How old am I? Well, I was born on January 1, 1207. It was a rainy Monday, hence my name. Most of the time since 1863 I was in England studying the language which is getting harder by 700 words a year. I spent another year getting to here. Why Texas? Well, at the time we thought Texas was where the largest of the giants lived. From now on one question at a time! Your language, like your thinking, is hopelessly cluttered.”
I figured if the one-foot tall fellow thought he was born in 1207 it was okay by me. We talked for about an hour. (Or for my girl readers, “We got to know one another.”) Then he asked, “Why do you spend so much time looking at the TV?”
“What? I hardly ever watch TV.”
“The one in your office.”
“Oh, that’s a computer. I’m either finding out something or using it to remember something.”
“What does “remember” mean?”
“Recall—bring to mind.”
“I don’t understand. Why do you need help with that?”
The conversation drifted along. The upshot was that he claimed that gremlins don’t forget things. Ever. They don’t read or write either because…uh, I don’t know. They just don’t. What he had put in my notebook was lines on paper that he remembered and that’s all.
* * *
Back to building another time machine: I tried to retrace my purchases: Greenville Hardware, Atwoods, and Tractor Supply for the hardware, but I’d bought some of the parts from the internet and I didn’t know who I’d bought them from.
Editor: If When Mrs. Harmon, my seventh grade English teacher, writes a letter objecting to ending a sentence with a preposition (“from”), tell her that “…I couldn’t trace from whom I bought them” just sounds stupid weird awkward…uh…never mind. Just thank her for noticing. It’ll make her day.
Why was it important to get the parts from the same suppliers? When I built the first time machine I didn’t use the specified Military spec parts (too expensive—still are) so I used commercial grade. I got to New York City, but I’d I landed in 1885—26 years too early. I still couldn’t afford the mil-standard parts, but using the same components as before, I should’ve been able to set the time for 1912 to land in 1886 and confront Tesla for stealing the first machine. I wish it had been that simple.
Well, that’s all the space I have. Last week was indeed a long one. I’m going to avoid time travel for a week to rest up. Next time I’ll tell the rest of the story.
Johnny Hayre worked at E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 until he retired in 2013. He and wife Karyl have lived in Greenville since 2002 and are now “empty-nesters.” They have three living children and seven grandchildren, who are each beautiful, intelligent and all the usual parent-grandparent praises. Email him at GHB.JohnnyHayre@gmail.com.