I yelled back to Mom that I was leaving and I’d be home about supper time and I closed the door. I have no idea if she heard me. Taylor and I bounded down the steps and to the car where Danny and Jamie were waiting. We made our perfunctory greetings and then Danny gave Taylor the directions to the building on Summit Avenue. When I opened the gate for Taylor, Jamie asked about the ‘Beware of Dog’ sign. Danny just replied that it was no more important than the sign on the gate last night.
“Was there a sign on the gate last night?”
“Yes, dear,” Danny answered, and we walked in. I led us to the basement door and unlocked it, removing my key before entering.
When we got to the break room, I said, “Welcome to the Chicago Hub! Who wants a Coke?” I counted three hands, so I got four cans of Coke from the fridge as Danny got four bags of peanuts. Once the stuff was passed around and we were seated, I asked, “Who has the first question?”
There was a slight pause and then Jamie and Taylor both spoke up… then waited a second, and then both spoke up again. I smiled and said, “Let’s go alphabetically; Jamie, you’re first.”
“Yeah… who owns this place? I mean, how did you find this place? Are we breaking the law by being here?”
“Geez, Jamie, take a breath!” I said. “The company Danny and I work for owns the building, so we’re not going to get in trouble for being here. As for how we found this place… well that’s a longer story.”
Danny and I went through how we found the portals a year ago and how now we work for the building’s owner as delivery boys. (We didn’t explain that we were the owners yet, it might get too confusing.) I looked from Jamie to Taylor; it seemed like they were catching on.
“OK, what about the control room?” Taylor asked, “How were we able to get to Paris in only a matter of minutes?”
“Well,” Danny started, “We talked last night about wormholes, right?”
“To recap, a wormhole lets you travel great distances in a much shorter period of time than traveling without one. This building contains the wormholes, or portals, that we have installed around the world, and we control them in the Control Room. The Control Room has wormholes to Hubs in major cities around the world. Think of a wheel. The Hub of the wheel is at the center and it has Spokes going out to other locations. All of the Hubs are connected to the Control Room. So yesterday, we came to this room, our break room in the Chicago Hub, from an access point near Navy Pier. From the Chicago Hub we went to the Control Room, and then to the Paris Hub.
“If you remember, we actually set the time for the Paris Hub before we entered it. What we didn’t tell you last night is that we also set the date. The prom was on June 2nd here in Chicago, but by the time we decided to go to Paris, the Paris local time was seven hours later. So it would have been 5:30 in the morning in Paris on June 3rd, since we were here at 10:30 last night. So we set the time to 20:00 – that’s 8:00 PM – and we set the date to June 2nd. When we came back, we set the date for June 2nd, but we set the time for 22:00 – 10:00 PM – half an hour before we left for Paris. Then we went back to Navy Pier and got on the tour boat, so when earlier us got there at 22:15, our tickets had, in fact, been used. Are you confused yet?”
“Good grief! How do you guys keep track of all that? I think I’d be a failure my first time out,” Jamie said. Taylor agreed.
“Can we go anywhere at any time?” Taylor asked.
“We can go anywhere we have hubs, and from the hubs we can go to any city that is on a spoke off the hub.” Then I lied, “But times are a bit more restricted. We were all born in 2000, so we can only go back to 2000. And we can’t go any further into the future than where we are right now. The system recognizes us and it won’t let us travel out of our current lifespans.”
“Well what about us?” Jamie asked. “Could we go further since the system doesn’t know us?”
“Sorry, Jamie,” Danny answered. “The system only allows Jerry and me to operate it. I think it’s a DNA thing or something like that. It was never really explained to us by our bosses.”
“That sucks,” they said in unison.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t travel somewhere. Where should we go?” I asked.
“Could we go to Hawaii?” Taylor asked.
“Sure,” Danny answered. “Should we go home and get our swim suits first?”
“I’m driving,” Taylor yelled, “Let’s go!”
= = =
Within forty-five minutes we were on the beach at Waikiki. The weather was sunny and in the 80s and the water was perfect! We swam and goofed around in the water for a while, and then, while we were watching a beach volleyball game, we were asked to join in. What a great time that was! Taylor and I were on one side and Jamie and Danny were on the other. I got to spike the ball on Danny once, but he got me twice to make up for it. After the game, we rested and just walked along the beach watching the surfers.
None of us had ever tried surfing, so we took a lesson from a couple of surfer dudes. These guys were super-chill and unbelievably patient. They even took some pictures so we could prove we were really surfing! We all got up at least once, and nobody drowned, so it was a successful venture.
We paid the guys, Ralph and Tommy, for their time, which amounted to a couple of pizzas and some Cokes. The guys actually ordered ham and pineapple on their pizzas! I’d never admit it to the guys back home, but a Hawaiian Pizza is pretty decent!
After we ate, we thanked Ralph and Tommy again, and then took a leisurely walk along the beach. Jamie asked what time it was and was surprised to find out that it was only 17:00… until we said that was 17:00 Hawaii time, or 22:00 Chicago time. When they heard that, our dates freaked out.
“My parents will kill me!” Taylor said.
“Mine too,” echoed Jamie.
Then they got pissed when they saw Danny and me laughing.
“What the fark, guys! We’re gonna be grounded for at least a month for coming home after curfew, not to mention missing supper and not even calling! I bet my mom is freaking our!”
“No kidding, Taylor! I bet my parents have called the police already! We’re really screwed… and not in the good way!”
“Don’t worry!” Danny said. “We’ll be on time for supper. All we have to do is set it up in the Control Room. Like they said in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – DON’T PANIC!”
Then Taylor and Jamie calmed down… until they remembered that Danny and I were laughing about it. After that, they got pissed at us, which was OK… it gave us a chance to kiss and make up… or was that make out?
Well anyway, we got back to the Honolulu Hub from the Waikiki Spoke and then we got to the Control Room and set the time for the Chicago Hub to 17:00 on June 2nd. When we got back, our dates said they were more tired than they thought they’d be and they just wanted to go home and sleep for a week.
“That’s too bad,” Danny said, “Tomorrow we’re going to Dublin.”
= = =
For the next two weeks or so, the four of us traveled anywhere Taylor and Jamie wanted to go. As well, we brought them along on our deliveries so they could see first-hand what we did. I think they were getting spoiled. Hehe. Our routines had changed so much that we even gave them a key to the Chicago Hub – they didn’t realize it fit all the hubs, and we didn’t volunteer the information. We figured it was safe enough since they didn’t have a key to the Control Room door. And even if they did, Danny wasn’t lying; the controls worked with our DNA, and we really didn’t know how to add theirs.
A while later, I think it was late August, we were sitting in the break room and talking about the upcoming school year. We were all psyched about being seniors and going into our last year of high school, but we were nervous as well. After we graduated we’d be at the bottom of the totem pole again; we’d be freshmen. The fact that it would be in college didn’t really matter. It started getting a bit depressing.
Then Taylor spoke up… “Come on, guys! We’ve been busting our asses for eleven years now. Don’t go standing in front of the firing squad now that we’re so close to the end.”
Then I spoke up, “Look, Taylor, we know it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s the beginning of forever. It’s just that, well I don’t know about you and the others, but I kinda feel sad about losing the friendships that we made in school, even though I know our friends will just be a text away. Once we move on, it won’t be the same.”
“Face it, Jerry,” Taylor responded, “If we can’t keep our friendships with all the communications tools we have at our disposal, our friendships must not have been that solid in the first place… or they could have been pretending to be our friends. In either case, it still amounts to the same things – if you’re not the right nationality, or religion, or sexual orientation, or color, then you don’t matter in some people’s book.”
“What I don’t get,” injected Jamie, “is how so much still matters about the color of someone’s skin. I thought it went away when Obama was in office, but now that his eight years are over, the hatred has returned. I don’t really remember the Bush years, so I can’t speak to them.”
“Jamie, our four members are a Junior United Nations,” Danny said. “I’m Sicilian, you’re Mexican, Taylor is Nigerian and Jerry is Irish. If we can get along, why can’t others? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Danny,” I broke in, “I think it’s because we were never taught to hate. When we were kids, we used to fight all the time, but our parents knew we were just growing up and they told us to stop it or we’d get a time out.”
“Yeah,” Danny replied, “and when we got the time outs, we had to sit in the same corner and not talk. That was brutal! It was so boring sitting there that we started whispering and before long we were giggling.”
“Maybe more parents should have given time outs,” Taylor offered. “But look, we have until next June before we have anything to worry about.
“I’m not so sure,” Jamie said. “I read a blog last week that said so far this year there have been 26 school shootings in the United States, and it’s only August! And it’s happening all over the place. Hell, Chicago has shootings every day!”
“Well that’s a cheerful thought,” I said. “I guess the Lock Down exercises they have do matter.”
“Can we change the subject, Jerry? This is getting to be depressing.” That was Taylor.
“OK,” I said, “Should the toilet paper hang over or under the roll, and why? Discuss it amongst yourselves.”
= = =
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, finally came, and the next day we were back at school. It didn’t take long to get back in the swing of things. Every day at 15:30 we waited for a text to tell us if we were gonna be working or not, and if we weren’t, we’d go to the break room to do our homework. It was at one of the homework sessions that Taylor and Jamie met the Older Danny and Jerry for the first time.
We were sitting at the break room table, supposedly studying, but actually we were playing with Chuck. (Remember Chuck?) Taylor and I were playing fetch with him with a rubber ball. Chuck never seemed to get tired.
Well anyway, as we were throwing Chuck’s ball and waiting for him to retrieve it, we heard a rattle coming from the Control Room door. Chuck dropped his ball and ran to the door and waited for it to open.
The four of us were standing next to each other, but soon enough, Jamie and Taylor backed up a step or two. When the Older Us stepped into the room, Jamie said, “I thought that you and Jerry didn’t have any siblings.”
“Older Danny answered. “We don’t, Jamie. I’m Danny and this guy next to me is Jerry.”
Jamie and Taylor were dumbfounded. “H-h-how can you be Danny and Jerry? They’re right here with us!”
I had to break in before our older selves really messed with their heads. “It’s OK. These guys are us, but a few years older. It’s nothing to worry about. Calm down.”
“Yeah, we know… it’s confusing,” I said. “But remember when we saw ourselves at Navy Pier on Prom Night? This is the same thing, but we were only a few hours older on Navy Pier; Older Danny and Jerry are a few years older. Got it?”
“I think I understand,” Jamie said. Shortly after, Taylor agreed too.
“So Jerry,” I said, “What brings you guys here this time?”
“It’s Jamie and Taylor,” Older Jerry said. “You’ve been making them work for free while you guys have been getting paid. Danny and I just wanted to make it legal. They started traveling with you on the 3rd of June in 2017. So you guys owe them $100 a week and $50 per delivery since then.”
Older Danny walked over to the table and set down two stacks of papers, one for Taylor and the other for Jamie. Along with the papers were two credit cards and two debit cards.
“Jerry, you and Danny can explain the rules to them. But Jerry and I wanted to tell them that if they come to work for Express Worldwide, Inc., the company will also pay their tuition, fees and expenses for whichever college they choose to attend. All they have to do is keep a ‘B’ average. We have to get going, but we’ll give you a week to decide.”
“Wait a minute!” Jamie called out. “If we accept the offer, what will we owe you… or the company?”
“Not a dime,” Older Danny said. “If you’re going to give the company your time, the company wants to make it worth your while.”
“Can I discuss this with my parents?” Taylor asked.
“Of course. That’s one of the reasons why you have a week to make the decision.”
“Do we both have to agree?” asked Jamie.
“No. This is two separate deals; one for each of you. If one doesn’t want to take the deal, the other one still can.”
“Is this for any college?” Taylor asked.
“Any college at all. All you have to do is get accepted. If there are no more questions, we’ll be back next week to get your answers.”
= = =
Once Older Jerry and Danny went back to the Control Room, the break room was so quiet you could hear the proverbial pin drop. Finally, after almost ten minutes, Jamie spoke. “Did that really happen or are we on mushrooms?”
“That was real, hon,” Danny replied.
“You mean they’ll pay for everything? Tuition, room and board, books, lab fees and more?”
“Yes, babe,” I said. “All of that and more.”
“This is such a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders! I thought I’d have to spend three years at a two-year program in a city junior college while I worked and saved and borrowed to get enough to go to U.I.C. for my degree.”
“That’s what Jerry and I thought when the offer was made to us.”
“Yeah,” I said, “and we can even show you how to study for eight hours for a test that’s scheduled for thirty minutes from now.”
“I think I’m gonna like working here, Jamie. How about you?”
I looked over and saw Danny wiping a tear from Jamie’s cheek.
= = =
Needless to say, both Jamie and Taylor accepted the job offer. Taylor even submitted an application to Harvard and Princeton. We’re waiting for a reply.
Everything was going great after that… until late in October when Jamie went to Danny with a problem. “Word just came down that my 87-year-old grandmother just died. I don’t want to change anything, I just want to go back a week or so and visit with her one last time. Since I still can’t operate the Control Room time pads, Danny, will you go back with me?” Of course Danny said he would. They were gone about five minutes, but Danny said they visited with Jamie’s grandmother for close to four hours. Both of them had red eyes when they got back.
We added Grief Therapy to the Portals’ capabilities.
= = =
Halloween was coming up and Jane Byrne High School was having a party on the October 28th. It was a Saturday. The four of us showed up, but we only stayed about an hour. We were also invited to London to a dance that François Chevalier was working at. We told François that we needed four VIP passes and he said they’d be waiting at the gate when we got there. London is six hours later than Chicago, so we set the Control Room to get us there at 21:00.
The party was only a few blocks from the London Hub so we got there about 21:15. Picking up the tickets was no problem, and soon we were in the hall, shoulder to shoulder with the other 2,000 guests. We half walked and half danced to the stage entrance and asked one of the security guys if this was the right way to get to François. He checked our passes and directed us to another security guy, who took us to the VIP area backstage. When we got there, we were met by François’ brother Louis.
“Danny! Jerry! It is so good to see you again! And who are your lovely guests?”
“Louis, that is Danny’s friend, Jamie. And this is my friend, Taylor. They are new messengers with our company. I think you’ll be seeing more of them.”
“Jamie and Taylor, welcome to our program. But please, come with me to the Green Room. It is slightly quieter and they have some refreshments back there as well.”
We followed Louis and in a few steps we were in the Green Room and it was much quieter.
“We have soft drinks in the refrigerator and alcohol at the bar. Please help yourselves. Excuse me a moment while I text François and let him know you have arrived. I’m sure he will put on a long record and turn the music over to his understudy so he can join us.”
We grabbed a Coke and stood near the window, overlooking the stage and François and his magical music control station. Taylor took my hand as we stood there and rocked to the beat of the Trance music that was invading our room. The bass beat was thumping and vibrating from our heads to our feet. We looked at the the undulating crowd. It looked like a field of heads bouncing in the wind. Taylor looked towards me, and as I turned my head slightly, we kissed.
When Louis returned he cleared his throat and asked, “How has work and school been going so far this semester?”
“Work is going so well that we had to hire two more messengers. Some days are quiet, but most of them are busy enough to allow us to earn a good living. As for school, we worked with our guidance counselors and our classes are challenging,but not overly so. Of course, when we start university next year, we’ll be happy that we were challenged this year and last. How has the DJ business been going?”
“Well, I’m just a roadie, so I get a sore back when we’re setting up,and it heals just in time to tear everything down and move to the next job.”
I looked over to Taylor and Jamie and said, “Don’t let him fool you. Louis is an expert at programming light shows. Sure, he installs them, but then he tests them and if they don’t meet his standards, he reprograms them until he’s satisfied. The man is a genius!”
Just then, François approached and greeted us. “Danny and Jerry! It is so good to see you again! Who are your attractive friends?”
“François,” Danny said, “here is my friend Jamie, and there is Jerry’s friend Taylor. Thank you so much for inviting us!”
“Danny, you and Jerry never refuse my invitations and you arrive at the time you say you will. You are perfectly behaved and you enjoy the music. I wish all my friends were like you two. And Jamie and Taylor, I am honored to meet you both.”
“François, Taylor and I are very pleased to meet you and Louis. Danny and Jerry have told us so much about the good times that they have every time you get together.”
“Well I hope the four of you will come back often.”
Just then François put his headphones on and asked what the problem was. He listened to the response and then his expression changed.
“My friends, I think we are being raided by the police. Something about the facility is not properly licensed. You must leave now. Louis will escort you to the exit. I must apologize for this incident. Louis, please take them and hurry.”
When he finished speaking, he just turned and ran back to the stage. Louis took us to the basement and then through a door that led to a long hallway. It must have been connected to another building; it was much too long for one building. He closed and bolted the door behind us, and we followed him through the hallway. When we got to the end, we climbed the stairs up two flights and we found ourselves at street level. Louis asked us if we could find our way from here. Danny took out his phone and checked the GPS.
“Yes, Louis, thank you. Out transfer point is only a block from here. Thank you for your help. I’ll text you when we’re safe.”
We said goodbye and Louis went back down the stairs to the tunnel. Jamie and Taylor had a lot of questions, but they seemed to realize that we had to get out of where we were before they could ask any.
Danny was right. Within a block, we found a spoke that took us to the London Hub and soon we were in the Control Room. A few swift keystrokes later and we were in the Chicago Hub.
“OK, what was that all about?” Taylor asked.
I answered. “François and Louis don’t know anything about the London Hub, but they do know that we got here without passports. Even if we had passports, they wouldn’t have valid entry stamps. If the police stopped us, even to ask about something in the building, our accents would give us away as Americans and they’d ask for our passports. We’d be screwed.”
“So you’re saying that we would have been arrested and no one would know where we were?”
“Well, they’d call the US Embassy, and the Embassy would call our parents. But, It probably wouldn’t get that far. All we’d have to do is call a number in the US and leave a message. Then Older Danny and Jerry would get our passports, fly from New York to London two days before we left the message. Once they arrived, they’d get the passports stamped and drop them wherever the message we left said to.”
“Well just how often do Older Danny and Jerry stop by?”
“Every couple of months or so.”
“WHAT?!?” We’d be in jail for months?”
“No. We have a Portal. Remember? It can get them to us before we get arrested. It’s not a big problem.”
“So we might have been arrested tonight, right?”
“Maybe… Maybe not. This time it was maybe not.”
“I have no idea why I love you. I must be mentally ill.”
To be continued…
Copyright © 2018 Binneyan Smith