from The Further Adventures Of Danko Whitfield, Semi-Retired Time Traveller
The bus stopped right at the front gate.
I stepped off, put down my bag and took it all in. The green and white farmhouse, the red barn, tractor and other equipment, fields as far as I could see.
Looked pretty much like it did when I was here two weeks ago.
Only that was 53 years from now.
It might look the same but this was not the same place. Much would be different. Fifty-three years is a long time.
Someone was standing in the doorway, looking. I picked up my suitcase and walked toward the front steps. A young man stepped out.
“Do I know you?” he asked right off.
He looked at me as if he sensed something.
“You’ve come through time,” he said.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“You’re a Whitfield,” he said.
“Which one? No, wait!” he held his hand up as if to stop me. He thought a moment, looking me over.
“Are you my brother Hudson’s boy?”
“Yes, Uncle,” I replied.
He laughed and slapped his knee.
“Well, Danko, what the heck are you doing here? I just saw you not three weeks ago. You’re a cute little tyke,” he held his hand, palm down, about three feet off the ground.
We both laughed.
“I’ve come to see you, Uncle. I need your help with something.”
“Sure, sure. Whatever I can do. Come on in and make yourself at home,” he led me by the arm and we walked into the house.
“You must be hungry,” he said. “No, sir, I just had a meal in town,” I answered. “Well, then let me fix you some lemonade or maybe a stiff drink after riding a bus all day,” said Manuel. “Two days,” I corrected.
“Where the heck were you coming from?’ he asked. “Kansas City,” I said. “Kansas City?!! What the heck were you doing there? You couldn’t get any closer?” asked Manuel. I shook my head no. “Damn!” he said.
My Uncle Manuel was now about half my age. When I last saw him two weeks ago, he was closer to twice my age.
He showed me to the guest room. I unpacked and washed up and then joined him on the back porch.
“Here we are, Danko.” Manuel placed a tray with a pitcher of lemonade, a bottle of vodka, a bowl of ice and two tall glasses on the old wooden table. I nodded my approval of the combination and he opened the vodka and poured a healthy shot into each glass. He added two ice cubes to each one and poured the lemonade.
“Sip it. It goes down easily,” Manuel said, “Cheers.”
I told him I had come to this time to learn a bit about farm work. “I can only stay a week, so I’ll just get a taste of it, to give me an idea of the average worker’s day.” I didn’t tell him that I’d be doing this same thing in a future time too nor anything else about my research including and especially ‘why‘ I needed to know this. Of course, he must have been curious but he knew not to ask. I couldn’t come back here and tell him what his life would be like in fifty years, that he would be retiring and turning the farm over to me and his son, not yet born. It wouldn’t be right.
“I’m glad I can be of help,” the young Manuel said after I’d finished my explanation. “It can be my first project to file with the Guild. I was just accepted as a member.” “Yes,” I said, “I just read that in the paper. Congratulations.” In the Time Travellers Guild, not only is your official resume built on the timejumps you make but also on the help you give to other time travellers.
The sun had set and Manuel had lit a candle. We finished our second round of vodka & lemonade and went into the house.
Family members would be coming in soon.
“My father might not approve of your project,” the young Manuel told me as he set the table for supper.
“He’s pretty conservative about the use of time travel. Not like his father. Or your father,” Manuel said. He went on to explain that my grandfather felt that time travel should be used sparingly and only in cases of the utmost importance. This school of thought has always been part of the time travellers’ community though a small part.
“He won’t hold it against you. Much,” said Manuel. We both laughed. “He respects people with differing opinions but he will not be shy about expressing his own,” Manuel said with a smile.
“Thanks for the heads up, Uncle,” I said as I followed Manuel into the kitchen so he could check on the venison in the oven.
As the family arrived home from the fields or from town, each was surprised to see me, of course, but greeted me warmly.
Grandmother came home first from a trip into town and was absolutely thrilled when Manuel told her who I was. “I’m so pleased to be able to see what a fine man you become,” she said.
Then Chester came in from the fields. Young, handsome, big smile. This was my uncle but he was only 19 now. “Howdy, Nephew,” Chester said in his booming voice, then turned to my grandmother, “They sure grow up fast, don’t they Ma?” There were giggles all around.
A car pulled in and my uncles’ wives got out with bags of groceries. I was introduced to Jean, Manuel’s wife and Helen, Chester’s wife and then they headed into the kitchen to prepare supper.
Finally, Grandfather came in through the back door. He had made his usual rounds of the fields at the end of the day and secured the barn. I could hear him joking with my aunts in the kitchen as he passed through.
My grandfather was now just a few years older than me. Manuel introduced us. Grandfather shook my hand with both of his. “Welcome home, Danko,” he paused and I could see his emotions were on the verge of taking over. “Your parents just brought you here a few weeks ago, you were just a boy. They were so happy,” he held back the tears. I knew then that he knew, from his own time travels, of my parents’ fate. It appeared the others did not know. I gave Grandfather a hug.
We sat down to a wonderful meal of venison from the nearby woods and vegetables from the farm. Afterward, the men went out to the back porch for a tobacco break and the ladies shared tea in the living room.
I had told my reason for coming here through time over supper. Now Grandfather was lighting his pipe and telling me that Manuel will be a good teacher.
But that didn’t necessarily mean he approved of my reason for being here. Just as his son had told me he would, Grandfather launched into his argument about the appropriate use of time travel.
Manuel and I listened dutifully and respectfully.
At one point, Grandfather talked about the younger generations using time travel “willy nilly” and looked at me and Manuel and shook his head and said, “You young people…I don’t know.”
I had listened quietly as I had decided not to argue with my grandfather but now, to lighten up the conversation, I started to take exception to being referred to as young by smiling and saying, “I’m 44, sir, not so young anymore!” But Grandfather turned to me and said in response, “If you’d come here the natural way, you’d be five years old right now!”
Well, I couldn’t argue with that. So I just smiled politely as Manuel tried to hide a snicker. The conversation moved on to my training and the things Grandfather and Manuel would be showing me.
Then we discussed whether to let it be known that the source of the town’s name was in town. Chester suggested I continue to be Mitchell Whitfield and we just keep the whole thing quiet. But I want to stop by the Time Travellers Guild and once I do, the word will get out.
“If there’s no getting around it, then we must hit it head on,” said Grandfather. “We will have an announcement, a ceremony, and a reception. Let the town celebrate its history. People could use a special occasion right now.“
I nodded in agreement. Grandfather would make the arrangements in the morning. We joined the ladies inside and Grandfather filled them in about the festivities. Then he telephoned a friend at the Dankoville Morning News.
The next day, on the front page, the banner headline said simply:
Danko In Dankoville!
I couldn’t buy a drink in that town for the rest of the week.