The Present is not Forever

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
James Olson thinks his life is the pits, and is about to give up, when he meets an old friend who teaches him an important lesson.

Submitted: May 16, 2008

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Submitted: May 16, 2008

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The Present is not Forever
By Eric Andersen

James Olson stomped home from school under gray, gloomy skies. The weather matched his attitude as it had been another hellish day at school. Once again teachers had screamed at him for not doing all his homework. Even though he tried to explain that he had lost his study sheet, his teachers did not see that as a valid reason. They gave him, as usual, two detentions, which meant he would have to miss his sister’s birthday party. He knew his parents would freak out on him, as he had promised a week earlier to go, and the note from the district about his falling grades would not help matters. But the worst thing was that his so-called friends had laughed at him during the P.E. basketball game. James had no illusions that he was a future NBA player, but his inability to make any of his shots had even shaken his confidence. The fact that his friends had officially dubbed him the “bricklayer” didn’t help matters much. And finally, he knew his mother was playing on some trying some new recipe for supper. The leftovers from the last recipe she had tried still lingered in the fridge as even their Australian Shepherd, MJ, had refused to eat them.
As he approached his back door, he heard a voice.
“James! Over here, James!”
James looked over his shoulder and saw a grey middle aged man running from his yard onto the sidewalk. It was his next-door neighbor, Mr. Kinkle.
“Hey, Mr. Kinkle. What are you doing out of your house? I haven’t seen you in a couple months.”
“I have completed my invention!” Mr. Kinkle said excitedly. “It’s finally done!”
It was well known among the neighborhood that Mr. Kinkle was an aspiring scientist who often spent weeks in his garage working on his latest invention. A former high school science teacher, Mr. Kinkle was the type ofman who wouldn’t notice he was wearing mismatched socks but could recite the periodic table from memory. And James had always gotten along with him despite his often odd behavior.
“What invention are you talking about?” James asked. “Is that why you haven’t been out of your house in nearly a year?”
“Yes, James.” Mr. Kinkle said happily, “but it’s been worth it. “Come here into my garage. I’ll show you.”
James walked with Mr. Kinkle, wondering what he would see they opened the garage door. Probably some nuclear powered toaster, he thought.
What greeted James in garage was definitely not a toaster. There stood an empty hot tub with what looked like a miniature PC connected to it. It had lots of green pipes filled with a blue liquid flowing through it. Steam escaped and hissed from the pipes and the smell of burning rubber filled the garage.
“Is it a nuclear hot tub?”
“No, James. You’re not even close.” Mr. Kinkle said patiently. “Pretty soon this will be the entertainment of the future: time traveling!”
“Whoa, wait a minute!” James exclaimed. “You built a time machine!?”
“Well, it’s actually called a space time cybertron, but I guess you can call it that.” Mr. Kinkle told him. “Actually, I was planning on taking it out for a test drive. Want to come?”
“Could I?” James asked eagerly. “I’d LOVE to go! But what would my parents say?”
“Don’t worry. This is the beauty of this thing. You return whenever you need to. So, do you want to come?”
“Sure!” James cheered, excited to be the first time traveler in history. “Let’s go!”
“OK,” Mr. Kinkle told him. “Just climb in the passenger’s seat, and we’ll be on our way.”
James did so, and Mr. Kinkle climbed in beside him. Mr. Kinkle checked all the features and pressed the big, red button. Suddenly, red lightning came out of the computer and Mr. Kinkle cursed.
“Oh no! It looks like the time destinator module shorted out.” Mr. Kinkle shakily told him. “Now there’s no way we’ll know where we’re going! I knew I shouldn’t have made the wiring out of paper clips and bubble gum!”
James was about to respond when a shock that no one had ever felt before hit him like a thunderbolt. He jerked forward and lost consciousness in a flash.
After what seemed to be an eternity, James awoke, his head painfully throbbing. He looked around and saw the city he had grown up in but again it was not. Things were different. New buildings had replaced old. Vacant fields were now gone. It was an odd sensation to be in a familiar yet strangle place.
Mr. Kinkle lay on the ground unconscious. James walked over to the scientist’s body and shook him hard. Mr. Kinkle awoke instantly, shouting “Mercury is a nonmetal!” in surprise. He saw James, and wiped his brow.
“Phew!” Mr. Kinkle sighed. “It’s only you. I thought it was a ghost.”
“Where are we?” James asked curiously.
“Take a good look around,” Mr. Kinkle told him. “This is the future of your town.  About thirty years forward, in fact.”
“Why hasn’t much changed in thirty years? I had expected people to discover new things and make new inventions. Why isn’t that true?
“I don’t know, James. I was expecting the same things as you, but it seems that we were mistaken. But of course, it’s still only thirty years. If we had gone one hundred more years into the future, we would see a lot of improvements. Would you like to look around?”
“I guess so, Mr. Kinkle,” James responded sadly.
James and Mr. Kinkle started walking, and noticed street sign stuck at an angle. James started to read it, and thought for a moment.
“McDoogle Boulevard? This used to be Maple Avenue. Boy, that name sounds familiar. It couldn’t be… no, It’s probably someone else. Anyway, let’s keep walking.”
The two walked in silence, taking in their surroundings. Suddenly they noticed a sign on a new, gleaming building. They looked up, and read it.
“Trevor McDoogle General Hospital? It IS him! He’s a kid in my school. But why is his name on a hospital?”
James and Mr. Kinkle walked over to the sign and read the smaller type. James read it aloud…. “This hospital was dedicated to Trevor McDoogle on June 5, 2038. McDoogle, a wealthy businessman, donated 100 million dollars to cancer cure funds so that a cure was reached.
James almost fainted in surprise when he saw what Trevor had done. He remembered Trevor as one of the geekiest kids in school with coke-bottle glasses, high-water pants, curly hair, but a friendly, outgoing personality. James had always felt sorry for him when he saw the bullies picking on him in the hallways in school, and had often thought that he was glad he wasn’t Trevor McDoogle. But seeing this screen raised doubts in James’ mind.
Mr. Kinkle tapped James on the shoulder.
“Are you ready to go? We need to be getting back home soon before someone sees us.”
“Just a minute,” James said. “I just need a moment to clear my head.”
So geeky Trevor McDoogle had made a difference. A person whose only friends were his parents had gotten past all his struggles to achieve things that people would never have thought possible.
“I guess what we see in the present doesn’t really tell us what will happen in the future, huh?” said James though more to himself than to Mr. Kinkle. All those problems at school which seemed so big just minutes ago now seemed pretty small. The future was full of possibilities and should not be limited by how well today’s basketball game went.
“Okay Mr. Kinkle. Let’s go home” said James with a small grin. “I can hardly wait to see what I will do with the rest of my life!”


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