Jules Vern imagined a wildly elaborate machine. Physicists theorize with numbers. Engineers tinker with plans. They each may have taken a different approach to the same quest but they all shared the same result. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. The problem was that they were looking in the wrong place. But I know where to find what they all seek.
Ultimately it becomes every baby boomer’s duty to help supervise or even conduct routine and not so routine maintenance at their parent’s home. It’s an inevitable task but one I don’t mind bearing. I’m tall so changing light bulbs is a breeze. No ladder required. But it was a plumbing dilemma that lead me to the discovery.
The crawlspace at the far end of my mother’s house isn’t really a crawlspace. It’s more like a walk space, even for me. The lot slopes and the area under this particular part is high enough for even me to walk around under the floor without bending over. My mission on this day was to do a recon along the outer boundaries. Reports had been received that enemy forces were using water to erode the flooring in the latrine. Equipped with a cap I used as a helmet to protect me from stray water fire, goggles to secure clear vision and a Ray-O-Vac searchlight, I slipped through the enemy portal and into the dank darkness below.
The enemy was along the far end, just beyond a mound of dirt and about one click northeast of the heating unit. A direct route was out of the question. Too much out in the open. I decided to use a flanking maneuver along the perimeter wall. It seemed the safest approach as my grey t-shirt would provide camouflage against the cinder block walls. I made it safely to the reported hot spot. The intel was confirmed. The enemy bombardment had progressed to the point of saturated flooring but not to the point of mold formation. Recon complete. Time to retreat to the mess hall for sweet tea and a report to the commander.
On the way out, I came across an old box and looked inside. And what do you think I found? What Jules Verne and all those other folks in white lab coats have writing and theorizing about. I found a time machine.
It was brown and about a foot long. It had a raised platform in the back of about three inches which tapered down to a one inch rise near the front. A series of grommets along each side were placed across from each other as if to hold a means of fastening this device to an individual time traveler. Interesting. I lifted the device and carried it out into the sunlight.
I brushed off the layers of dirt and grime that had built up over years of neglect and darkness. Before me, in my hand, was a shoe. But not just any shoe. My shoe. My 9th grade shoe. My 9th grade platform shoe from 1973. This time machine was working its magic.
In my mind I traveled back to a time of disco music, hair over my ears, Sedgefield blue jeans my mom bought at Gingles (33 inch waist, 36 inch inseam), nylon shirts with scenes on them and flair bottom pants.
Those pants were held up by a two inch white belt with double buckles and holes that went all the way around it. White knee socks hid beneath the denim. On cold days, a brown plaid CPO jacket kept me warm as our gang stood outside on the slope at the junior high at lunch. I stood downhill just a bit from the group so that we could all be at face level. When we went inside at the ringing of the bell, the sound of “Clackers” could be heard throughout the halls. Clackers were sinister toys. If you don’t know what they are, just picture this description.
“Hey kids! Want to have some fun! Take this piece of string with a big round ceramic-like ball on each end. Hold the string in the middle and then jerk it up and down and see how many times you can make the balls crash into each other before they miss and bang against your forearm! Bruises? Don’t worry, they go away in a few days! It’s all part of the fun!”
The really worrisome part about all that is our parents rushed out to get them for us, just because we asked!
But then we also had “Coke Snuff” that came in a little round metal can about the size of a quarter. A quick rotation of the lid brought the opening into alignment. A small tap of the can against the webbing between the thumb and first finger would deposit a small dab of the desired tobacco which was then swiftly snorted into the nostril of the user. It was harmless but you were a bad dude if you used it.
I walked up the hill, time machine in hand, still imagining Donna Summers. I told mom what needed to be done to fix the bathroom. Nothing I can’t do to fix it. But the 70’s were still on my brain.
I held the shoe and looked at mom. “Do you know where the other one is?” Of course, she didn’t. She doesn’t go under the house unless she absolutely has to.
So I just looked back at the shoe and smiled.
Far out, man!
Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com , and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition of The Saline Courier.