One Day — More Or Less

One Day—More or Less
Nor­ma Huss

May you live in inter­est­ing times,” is an evoca­tive state­ment, but not, as assumed by some, based on a Chi­nese curse. It could be a curse, or an oppor­tu­ni­ty. For me, my time, the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, is often a bit too inter­est­ing.

Like today. Prob­lems at work. An unex­pect­ed lec­ture that dis­rupt­ed class time. Hec­tic traf­fic snarl com­ing home. And that tele­phone call. Too much. I need a break. Maybe skip my karate class and take a nap.

No. That’s cop-out.

I’ve had the fam­i­ly stone for a week and not yet tak­en it out of the cof­fer. Of course I’d heard about it from my grand­pa, my aunt, but some­how, nev­er expect­ed it would ever come to me. I real­ly should take it for a tri­al spin. One day seems about right.

To live one day in the past. An entire day, an entire year if I so desired—with only a few sec­onds pass­ing in this year while I’m seat­ed in my chair with my hands cupped around the smooth hunk of rock. Yes, I can do it. A year with no war. Let’s say, two years after the end of World War II—things should be back to nor­mal by then.

The stone is black, about the size of a goose egg, or a turkey egg, I sup­pose, but not so round. Some­what like a teardrop. I sit inside my locked room, hold­ing the stone in my cupped hands, fin­gers over­lapped, keep­ing the stone com­plete­ly enclosed. I close my eyes and envi­sion a new time and space. I whis­per the words.

A his­to­ry teacher named Anna,” (for that is my name and occupation—a require­ment for this process), “in the Unit­ed States, third week of Sep­tem­ber.” (School should be com­fort­ably under way by then). “Wednes­day. Just as school starts for the day. The year—1947.

Go.”

                                                             ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~

My name is Anna Dem­ing. My school is Mount Bak­er, Junior Senior High School. The two-sto­ry brick build­ing holds all the class­es, and even the gym and audi­to­ri­um. Fall cool­ness hadn’t yet arrived. Pan­sies sur­round the con­crete moun­tain in front of the build­ing. The white paint depict­ing the snow is a bit dingy. I enter the front door and head for my first class.

Shirley nudges my shoul­der. “Rose, he’s in our first peri­od his­to­ry class today.”Oh, yes, Anna ROSE Dem­ing. But wait! Some­thing is wrong here. “What?”

Wake up, Rose. Didn’t you get enough sleep last night? I bet you’ve got your his­to­ry project half done already. Or, were you just awake pin­ing for your true love? Mike. I mean, dream boat. Roger is in our class, so Mike will be too.”

How long do you think he’ll stay around?” Oh, no. I lis­ten to myself utter those words and I absolute­ly know. I’m not the teacher. Kill me now, I’m a stu­dent. High school stu­dent, with all the teen-age angst and emo­tions of a run-away train. I def­i­nite­ly said teacher!

He’s not going to take you.”

I know that, I real­ly do. But, he’s… “We exchanged address­es.”

The F.B.I. will pick him up and take him back to his ship.”

I shud­der. It’s unthink­able. “And they’ll put him in jail. Take him back home and put him in a Russ­ian jail.”

But not today. It’s ide­al. He’s in my favorite class, Euro­pean his­to­ry. I am com­plete­ly wigged out. I set­tle in my seat and look around. Mike is in a vacant seat in the back. Real­ly, I should say some­thing to him.

The bell hasn’t rung yet, so I float back, pick up a book from the shelf behind him.

Hey, Mike,” I say. “How’s tricks?”

Hel­lo, Rose,” he says. “What is tricks?

His accent is just dar­ling. I grin. “Oh, noth­ing, real­ly, just some­thing to say. What’s hap­pen­ing? How are you?” I whis­per, “It real­ly means I like to talk to you. About any­thing”

OMG! A whole day of this. How will I ever sur­vive?

Before he can answer, the bell rings and I scur­ry back to my seat. Miss Hen­ry doesn’t start with the les­son she has list­ed on the black board. Instead, she says, “Class, we have a new stu­dent today. His name is Mike, but, Mike, you didn’t tell me your last name.”

We all turn to look toward the back, and I can tell. He doesn’t com­plete­ly under­stand her. I also know that she’s out to catch him. They all are, I bet. Don’t tell her, I think. But Roger says, “He’s only vis­it­ing me this week, so you don’t need to sign him up as a stu­dent.”

As much as I love this class, Miss Hen­ry makes me almost hate her. She keeps ask­ing Mike ques­tions, and talk­ing about which coun­tries our fam­i­lies come from.

He gets a lit­tle excit­ed, try­ing to answer. She won’t let Roger say any­thing, but final­ly, she says, “Mike, wel­come to our class for today. Now, stu­dents, open your books.”

Every­body calms down. But I know some­thing else for absolute­ly sure. Mike won’t ask me to the mix­er Fri­day night. He won’t be here. Mike will dis­ap­pear tonight.

Why didn’t I just suit up and head for an evening of break­ing boards with my flat hand and kick­ing chins?

My best chance to see any more of Mike is at lunch. I look for him as I cruise the line, but I don’t see him. Instead, Roger pulls me over to stand in front of him. “Hey, eat with me today, Rose,” he says. I shrug and start to walk away, but he mur­murs, “Sav­ing Mike.”

I look at him, per­plexed, but he nods, ever so slight­ly. I slip in line.

He doesn’t say much more until we are seat­ed with our plate of the day: Mac­a­roni and cheese, plus car­rot sticks, a cook­ie, and a glass of milk. We’re at a table away from any teach­ers. After we sit down, he looks around again before he says,“Do you have your dri­vers’ license?”

I nod and he tells me the sto­ry. “Some girl in the office run­ning the mimeo­graph for her teacher heard the prin­ci­pal call­ing the F.B.I. Mike has to get away right away, but they are watch­ing us when­ev­er we get togeth­er.”

Yeah, that’s right. Roger pass­es me his car keys, and gives me the scoop. I’ll dri­ve Mike away while the teach­ers are fig­ur­ing he can’t get away with­out Roger. Mike will tell me where he needs to go after we’re away from the school.

Head toward Belling­ham,” he says.

For sure, I wouldn’t head the oth­er way. Noth­ing that way but the moun­tain.

Where the heck am I? Belling­ham? A moun­tain. Wait, the school name: Mount Bak­er. Where is that? Ah, yes, west coast. North. Wash­ing­ton. The state, not the U. S. capi­tol.

Ten, maybe fif­teen min­utes until class­es start. I don’t take my sweater, or even my purse as I wan­der out­side with a lot of the kids. I see Mike. He’s wan­der­ing too, close to Roger’s car. I stroll by him, stop.

Hey, Mike,” I say. No teach­ers are close. I grin like I’m just toss­ing off some non­sense, but I say, real­ly qui­et­ly, “I have Roger’s key. He says the door is unlocked.” I’m not sure he under­stands me, so I ask. He nods. “Get close. Wait until I’m near the oth­er door before you get in the car, dig?”

He grins too. “I dig.”

So we do it. It works. I pull out slow so I’m not revving up the engine. But how long will it be before they get the F.B.I. after us? Or, maybe just the State Patrol?

After ten min­utes, Mike tells me were to head. “Peace Arch,” he says.

Peace Arch, at Blaine?”

Yes, Peace Arch.”

You want to go to Cana­da?” I can’t dri­ve into Cana­da. Or can I?

No, I meet man. Peace Arch Park.”

I didn’t think I was sign­ing onto an inter­na­tion­al tour. Why did I end up on what has to be the most unusu­al day for this girl who is not a school teacher. If I ever get back home, I’ll have to ask a few more ques­tions about the fam­i­ly stone. Mean­while, I’m a cap­tive audi­ence while Anna Rose dri­ves for a while, then parks at a love­ly place, gar­dens with a huge white arch. I see the words on one side, “Chil­dren of a com­mon moth­er.”

I see man here.” Mike pulls a fold­ed paper of paper out of his pock­et. “He wear sign.”

Like that?” I ask, point­ing to a strange curv­ing sym­bol of some kind. “Red, like that?”

Da. I give paper.”

I won­der why, but Mike doesn’t know enough words to explain.

No with you.”

I’m not sure what that means, either, but I say, “I’ll look for him over there. Okay?”

Mike walks away and I won­der if I’ll ever see him again. But I look around for some­one with that curi­ous sym­bol. Or a sign. There are at least a bus load of peo­ple at the park. I know you can wan­der around on both sides of the bor­der with Cana­da, but you have to leave by the same door you used when you came into the park.

That makes me feel a lot bet­ter. Mike won’t leave the Unit­ed States. He’ll just see some­one and give them what­ev­er he has.

I see Mike talk­ing to a man, so I walk over that way. But I think he is sup­posed to be alone, so I just pass by and walk to the oth­er side of the Peach Arch. I still hear them.

This is not the right thing,” the man says. “Where’s the mon­ey pack.”

What is ‘mon­ey pack’ you say.”

Don’t play dumb with me. If Rolf gave you my name, he gave you the mon­ey pack. That’s the deal.”

I sneak a peak. Mike shakes his head. But I see some­thing else. The man has a knife. He’s hold­ing it in front of Mike’s face. He says, “I can kill silent­ly and walk away. Give me the mon­ey pack.”

I charge around the cor­ner. “Hey, hi, there,” I say.

The guy slash­es at Mike, then at me. I want to scream, make some­body stop him. But, there’s no one around. The bus full of peo­ple is gone. It’s just me and Mike and a man with a knife. I say, “Oh, we were just going, weren’t we Mike? Bye now.”

He grabs my wrist.

Wrong move, buster. I know the moves to dis­arm an alley cat. I flip my arm, kick him in the groin, then give his knife arm a chop that crunch­es bones. He yells, and I grab Mike’s hand and we run for the door to the U.S. side. We run to the car, get in and lock the doors.

What you do?” Mike asks me.

I’m shak­ing and cry­ing. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” And I don’t. Just, sud­den­ly, I seemed to know what to do, just did it.

Rolf say a man help me. He wrong.”

Come on, Rose. Get with it. Start think­ing.

Bad men,” I say. And I start think­ing. That Rolf—if there was a mon­ey pack, he kept it. He set up Mike, sent him into a trap.“Do you still have that paper?” I ask.

Mike nods.

Almost time for school to be over. If we go back, the F.B.I. will arrest Mike, and… And what?

This is going to sound strange, but I think the best thing you could do is go to the F.B.I. first. Tell them your sto­ry. Help them catch the bad men.”

They send me back to Rus­sia.”

It’s only anoth­er coun­try. I’ll find you. If you want to be found, I mean.”

Mike is ner­vous like a cat. Maybe he wants to run, to dis­ap­pear. We talk, and after a while, I head back for the school. The F.B.I. won’t be in Belling­ham, they’ll be back at school. Mike isn’t com­plete­ly sure it’s for the best, but he says I’m Won­der Woman like in the com­ic books. So I must be right.

I hope my bus hasn’t left yet.

                                                            ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~

I open my eyes. The stone is still clasped in my hands. One day. One day is gone? Just a few sec­onds on my watch.

A day?

Let’s see, a his­to­ry teacher named Anna was a stu­dent named Anna Rose. My day end­ed in the mid­dle of the after­noon. A school day! Definitely—the day start­ed at school and end­ed when the bus­es arrived to take the stu­dents home. But I need to research the fam­i­ly records for every­thing on this blast­ed stone and how to be pre­cise in my direc­tions. Or, if I can be pre­cise.

Before I head out for my karate class (bet­ter not miss that) I check the inter­net. Look up names of his­to­ry teach­ers. Anna Rose Dem­ing. I find her. Anna Dem­ing, Pro­fes­sor of Euro­pean his­to­ry, spe­cial­iz­ing in Rus­sia.

If I hadn’t been there with my karate moves, would she and Mike have sur­vived?

I won­der, did she find Mike?

It isn’t until after the karate class that I think of anoth­er ques­tion. What if the guy with the knife had killed Mike. And, killed Rose? Or, how long would my dead body have sat in my locked room?

Yep, got­ta ask more ques­tions about the fam­i­ly stone.