Wednesday, January 09, 2008


It was indeed summer. Warm and humid, just like an Indiana summer. It looked like they could be in Indiana. The trees, the grass and the weeds looked the same. And there was corn growing in fields.

The town was pretty close. They could see houses and shacks up ahead. As they approached, they could hear horses. But there were no trains or railroad tracks. Nor steam engine sounds, like those coming from a mill or factory.

The houses looked older. Many were small, some were made from brick. Some were made of solid beams with plaster between the beams, a few were log houses. There were hogs, chickens and vegetable gardens in some of the front yards.

Closer to the center of the town were a couple of livery stables and some old blacksmith shops. The livery stables had old buggies out front and the blacksmiths forges were wood-fired with hand-pumped bellows.

One of the livery stables had a sign. “Chillicothe Livery.”

And the style of dress looked older, like old pictures of the earliest settlers around Lincoln. And out of school books and library books.

People they passed were speaking English. A few of them cast long, suspicious looks at the boys.

“These folks look at us more peculiar than folks back in Lincoln. And we ain’t even swiped nothin’ or pulled any pranks on them,” Johnny said.

“Where you figure we’re at,” Isaac asked.

“Don’t know,” said Nathaniel, “But from the looks of things, we’re back in time. We are wearin’ different clothes, even. Maybe that’s why some of ‘um are looking at us funny.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

The town looked to be about the size of Lincoln. The general store had a sign that said “Chillicothe General Store”, so they figured the name of the town must be “Chillicothe.”

Across the street from the general store was the courthouse square. Some fellows were marching in military formation on the courthouse lawn. A guy in a uniform that looked like it was from the Revolutionary War was leading the small band of men.
The boys stopped to watch the men marching.

“They’re gettin’ up an Ohio regiment to go to Mexico. Them fellers are drillin’ to get ready to go,” said a man coming out of the general store.

The boys turned toward him.

“You fellers look a little young to sign up. But you might make it as drummer boys or powder monkeys,” the man offered.

“No, we’re just here in town for a little while,” Isaac replied.

The man pulled a cigar from his breast pocket, bit off the end, and lit it with a match.

“Well, this one will probably be over for you are growed enough. Old Fuss and Feather’s will have them Mezcans whupped in a month or two,” the man said. He then turned and walked up the street.

The boys looked at each other quizzically. Nathaniel was first to speak.

“That man must have been talking about the war with Mexico. If we went back in time, that would make the most sense. It could be 1846. We could ask somebody.”

“No, I wouldn’t do nothin’ to draw more attention to ourselves. If these folks here us say something about being from the future time, they would lock us up thinking we are crazy,’ Isaac said.

“Isaac’s right,” added Johnny.

Nathaniel nodded in agreement. They walked up the street a little ways and came to a pump.

“I’m thirsty, how about you guys,” said Isaac.

Nathaniel went to the pump handle and began to pump. Isaac and Johnny knelt next to the trough and washed their faces and hands in the trough water. When the water began to flow, Isaac, then Johnny, cupped their hands in the flow of the cold, clear water and drank.

“I haven’t seen you boys around here before,” said a man in waist coat and a top hat.
Isaac stuttered a bit but Nathaniel came to the rescue.

“We’re just passing through,” Nathaniel said.

“Aren’t you fellows kind of young to be traveling without your Ma and Pa,” the man inquired.

“We’re orphans,” Nathaniel replied.

Crack! A wave of thunder cracked across the sky, followed by a cold blast of wind.
“I’ll be damned” said the man, “we just had thunder and cold air come through a little while ago. In the middle of the summer. Can you believe that?”

“It’s the Door,” yelled Nathaniel, “Something must be happening.”

They sprinted down the road out of town. Johnny was the fastest of the boys and ran out ahead, followed closely by Isaac and Nathaniel. They pumped their arms and drove hard down the road.

They passed the blacksmiths and livery stables on the way out of town, and the motley collection of houses. A few people paused to look at them, but no one tried to follow.

Ahead they could see the Door. It was dimming and flashing, and changing size. As they got closer, they could see it starting to close. And they could see Tom on the other side, waiving and yelling at them to come through the Door.

Johnny leapt into the shrinking opening. Isaac, close behind, dived into the Door the instant it closed.

Johnny landed at Tom’s feet and rolled a couple of times. He quickly jumped to his feet.

Isaac’s torso fell to the ground. Johnny and Tom looked in horror at the lifeless eyes and the body that was severed just below the chest. And thought of Nathaniel, lost and alone on the other side of the Diamond Lake Door.


Chestnut Daniel followed the railroad tracks west towards Goshen. He walked the rails until well after dark. West of Millersburg he came upon a stopped freight train. He found an open boxcar door and climbed up inside. The car was empty and he set out his bedroll.

A few minutes later the boxcar jerked and creaked as it started to move. It was heading west at a slow pace. Chestnut Daniel lay down upon his bedroll and fell asleep to the sway and roll of the moving train. He slept through the night and well into next morning.

Crack! He was startled in his sleep by a cannonade of thunder. He was standing at a pump. He yelled something and he and his friends were running through the small town. Running, running, at his fastest clip behind Johnny and Isaac.

Lungs afire, leg muscles straining. Eyes burned in on a hole in the world.
Johnny dived into the hole. Then Isaac.

“Isaac,” he screamed. The hole closed and Isaac was sliced in half just below the chest. Nathaniel tripped over the lifeless torso and limbs. He rolled a couple of times and stood over his friend’s remains.

Just as quickly as he had run up the road, his mind was back in the box car. He was trembling and awash in sweat. A thousand memories flooded over him. He knew where he was from and how he got into the Mexican War.

And just as a door had opened and closed many years ago, a window was now open and Chestnut Daniel could see his life come into full view. He could not go back, but at least he could see across the missing and muddled years, and look forward from his own time and his own place.


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