Golden Opportunity: A Christmas Story, Part II
By Algie Ray Smith


Posted on December 15, 2014 11:55 AM



This is the second and final part of Algie Ray Smith's Christmas story for 2014. If you missed the first part, it's on The LoJo in Guest Articles at http://www.theloganjournal.com/Stories.aspx?Article=guests269 

Ghent leaned over and put a quick kiss on Sandreen’s red cheek. “And after that dance,” he grinned, “you were mine. My! those were magical days back then. The 50’s held all kinds of Golden Moments.”

She reached over and took his hand. “Oh, you were quite a charmer in the fifties. I think I fell for you over that first banana shake.”

He sat silent for a moment. “Say….do you ever wonder, I mean…what if you could go back….to those early days, I mean. Would you do anything differently?”

It was her turn to pause before she said, “I might. Would you?”

“Yes. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I made a discovery in the basement.”

“Oh, you would, huh? Choose another girl probably….”

“Oh, no. No. I have the best girl in the whole wide world. But, you know, we might not have made the right decision back then when we decided that that two children were enough…look at them now, growing older…one in London, England….the other in southern California.”

“Is that it?” She could tell that Ghent had something squarely on his mind

“It might have been swell to have a bunch of boys. We could have named them after UK basketball players: Rex Chapman, Jeff Sheppard, Mike Casey, Travis Ford…..”

“No, we couldn’t. Those guys wouldn’t have come along yet.”

“Then how about baseball players: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gerig, Jackie Robinson…….”

“Jackie Robinson? Jackie Robinson is an African-American.”

“Maybe we adopted that one. Wonder what our neighbors would have said 50 years ago if we had adopted an African-American kid? But what would you change….. if you could?”

“Oh, nothing. Really, if we had all those boys I’d have to stay home and take care of them.” She snapped her fingers. “Wait. Wait a second, Hennie. Did I hear correctly? Did you say something about making a discovery in the basement?”

“Yes. Maybe right now would be a good time to see your take on it.” He stood up. “Come on. I want to show you something…..in the basement.”

The old couple made their way to the basement….carefully. The steps down were beginning to sag a bit. “Be sure to hold on to the railing,” Sandreen warned. She flipped a switch and the darkness at the bottom of the steps was replaced with brilliance.

Once in the basement, Ghent made his way to a door in the opposite wall. “This door, you remember, opens and closes…..on nothing. Only a wall behind it.”

“Yes, Dear, we decided that originally it was an outside door, but when the house was bricked, the door was bricked over. Probably had steps leading down for coal delivery. There had been a furnace down here….the realtor told us that.”

“Right. So when we open it, there’s only a brick wall on the other side.”

“Correct. I’ve seen it with my own eyes; but what do you want to show me?”

 He looked at the watch on his wrist. “One more minute, please. I’m waiting for three o’clock.”

 Sandreen shrugged her shoulders and waited. She was accustomed to her husband’s little idiosyncrasies.

 “!0…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…. VIOLA!” With a sweep of his hand, he jerked the door open.

Sandreen GASPED! Beyond the door was NOT a brick wall. It was their yard outside. And across the yard was a sidewalk, and a street. But the cars traveling up and down the street all looked antique. And there was music. Somewhere a church organ was playing bells…..Not jingle bells. Bells sounding out “It came upon a midnight clear……”

“That music’s from the Methodist Temple, Dear.”

“Oh? I remember they once played bells in the afternoon.” She pulled back her shoulders……

Still, she couldn’t quite catch her breath. He went to her and took her in his arms. “Do you know what this is….what this means?”

She breathed in…deeply. She shook her head. “You’ve had a door put back in. But how? Why?”

“No. I haven’t. It’s something else…A Golden Opportunity.”

“Opportunity? It’s more like The Twilight…..Zone?”

“Maybe. But I believe it’s a Time Tunnel……It goes back to the 50’s. 1954 to be exact.”

“How? What? I don’t…..”

“Shhhh! Sit in this old throwaway recliner here. I’ll explain everything.”

She sat. She couldn’t take her eyes off the scene beyond the door As she watched the scene outside, a Modern Dry Cleaners Truck drove by. Followed by a Simp’s Taxi. It was all kind of…..scary.

“I discovered this quite by accident back in October. It was Halloween. I was drawn to the basement…for some reason. The door seemed to beckon me, so I opened it. And what a sight! The sidewalk was filled with kids going about, yelling “Trick or Treat.” I immediately slammed the door. I was certain I was losing my mind.

“The next time I tried opening it, it was a brick wall; but by trial and error…it took me nearly a month…I discovered that the outside scene only appeared at 3 p.m. sharp….and then just for exactly 15 minutes.”

“I don’t….” She managed to interrupt.

“Wait. Wait. You’ll see. I didn’t dare go out. I still didn’t know what to make of it. I wanted to see if that was OUR front yard out there. I saw Junior’s old soccer ball over in a corner; so I took it and rolled it out the door; then I hurried upstairs and outside. The ball wasn’t there. Neither was the door. When I went back to the basemen, there was a brick wall again. After that, I began to experiment.

“Once, when I threw out Junior’s old football, a pudgy little guy leaped off his bike and grabbed it. He looked around as if to see if anyone was watching, then he took off on his bike…..with the football. You can look around down here. Both balls are gone from the shelf where they’d been for years.

“Then I discovered…deducted one more thing really before I decided that I had found a time tunnel. One afternoon when I opened the door…at 3 p.m., mind you, there were sheets of newspaper blowing across the yard. As I watched, the wind blew them within inches of the door. Of course, I grabbed them. Hold on. I’ll show you. I have the papers right here.”

He crossed to an antique table and produced several sheets of newsprint. He handed them to her; and when she looked at them, she saw that it was the News Democrat for 1954.

“This could be,” She faltered….”a trick. A trick you’re playing on me. How you’re doing it I don’t know. You used to play tricks on me all the time. Remember when you pretended to be Stick Buddy at WRUS and called me up. You asked me a question which I answered; then you said I’d won a prize. I was so excited I rushed out the door….fell…and sprained my wrist.”

“Yes., you were more disappointed than hurt…especially when you learned that you didn’t win anything…..But,..no. Look at the headlines. This is a real paper…60 years old; but it’s not faded…not yellowed. Only a bit wrinkled.”

Sandy looked at the front page. She read the headlines aloud. “Mrs. Ray M. Neely Is State Master Homemaker… Mr. and Mrs. A. D. Kirkpatrick Celebrate 65 Years of Marriage…Mrs. Lilburn Gorrell To Head Heart Fund..Logan Department Store Replaces Berkman Name”

She turned to another page and continued reading. “Lewisburg Girl, 11 year-old Betty Sue Campbell Wins Spelling Bee…Browder Woodward Hurt in Accident, Suffers Skull Fracture.”

She flipped the page, her hands trembling. “Lois Jean Wren Weds William Merrill Samson….Mrs. L. E. Johnson and Mrs. Henry Bennison Open Ann Jean Flower Shop.”

She turned the page over. “Panthers Drop First Game In Regional Tournament to Glasgow 71-50. Leon Douglas scores 19 points.”

She let the papers flutter to the floor. “These can’t be real. “

“Oh, they’re real!”

“I know they’re real. I remember that basketball game. Daddy was a big Panther fan. He took me to the tournament. That’s not what I mean. Where did you find these old pages in such great shape? At the library?”

“I’m telling you. They were blowing across the yard. Papers this old are on microfilm at the Logan County Library. They don’t have the real thing.”

Sandy shook her head. “Still, I think it’s a trick. This whole door to the past thing is an elaborate joke. Another one of your tricks. How you did this, I don’t know. This is more elaborate than putting salt in the sugar bowl. Baking soda in the flour bin. Or even shoe polishing the commode lid in the bathroom.”

“It’s not a trick! I’ve been outside…once. I almost didn’t come back in. You see, when I was outside, I was young again…I was a lad of 14. It must have been a Saturday because I had a strange urge to go to the Dixie Picture Show. The Lone Ranger was playing that day. But before the urge took over, I headed back. Then the door closed.”

“I….simply…can’t…can’t believe you.”

“Well, believe it or not. The door’s getting weaker. I can tell. See the dim blue border? It once was bright. I don’t think the door’s gonna last more than a day or two more.”

She looked up at the door. She saw only a brick wall again. “Come on. Tell me. How did you do it? Do you have a hidden computer? Are you projecting an image?”

He sighed. He slowly made his way upstairs. She followed him. “It’s real,” he mumbled.

“Yeah! Right!” she laughed.

Christmas Day. They slept late. He got up at noon and made his way to the kitchen where he plugged in the coffee pot. She followed him a few minutes later. He was moody, so she didn’t dare provoke him.

They didn’t hurry to the Christmas tree to see what Santa had left. They had stopped exchanging gifts five years back. There was no need. Christmas had become a bore. He wouldn’t know what kind of present to get her. She wouldn’t know what he needed. He didn’t need anything. They certainly weren’t the young couple in de Maupassant’s story Gift of the Magi.

“What do you want for lunch?” She asked.

“I’ll open some soup. I’m going out for a walk now. Want to come?”

“No. It’s too cold out.”

When he returned an hour or so later, Sandy was seated in her recliner. She was working a crossword puzzle. She had books and books of them. He looked at her and sighed, then he picked up the novel he had almost finished. It was The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey. It was all about Hennie’s favorite characters: elves, unicorns, wizards, and fairies.

They sat in silence. She was busy with her puzzle. He pretended to read. Every now and then he looked at his watch. A bit before 3 o’clock he stood. “Gonna get a drink in the kitchen.”

 “Un-huh.” She didn’t bother to look up.

Suddenly, Sandy felt a chill cause her to shrug her shoulders. The temperature in the room was dropping. “Hennie,” she sang out, “have you been messing with the thermostat again.”

No answer. “Hummph,” she said aloud. “I know he has.”

Placing her puzzle holder carefully on the floor, she stood and started for the kitchen. She felt a blast of cold air. She saw its source. The door to the basement was standing open.

“Hennie, are you down there?” she called. No answer. “Are you down there fixing up another trick for me?”

No answer. “I’ll come down and see for myself.”

She flipped on the basement light and went down the steps. The air became colder. The door in the wall was open.

She hurried to the door. Beyond it the day was cloudy. A light snow was falling. She peered out. A boy in a mackinaw jacket, a funny cap with a purple funnel tail was standing on the sidewalk. He was molding a snowball with his bare hands.

All of a sudden he threw the snowball at her, hitting her square on her chest. She reached up and brushed the snow away. It was real!

“Come on out, Sandy,” the boy cried. “See how dim the light is around the door. I don’t think it will open ever again.”

“Hennie? Is that you?”

He beckoned to her and laughed. “Of course, I’m me. Come on. I won’t know you now, but I will in a few years. Gotta go. Mom and my whole family are waiting for me. Come on, ………”

He shook his head as if he wondered to whom he had been speaking.

As Sandy watched, an older gentleman hurried by. He wore a long topcoat, rubber galoshes, and a hat. She hadn’t seen a man wear a hat in years. Seems everyone wore baseball caps.

She looked at the edge of the door again. The blue had almost faded away. Was this real? She looked at her watch. 3:10. Should she go? She had five minutes to decide.

 

Merry Christmas from the Smiths

 




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