• 21 July - Monday afternoon - Tulsa
At 41st Street we walked uphill to my street, then headed toward my house, halfway down the block. There were no sidewalks, so we walked in the street. Heck, there hadn't been curbs until a few years ago when they put in the sewer and paved the street. (In 2015 I had looked at a satellite image of this area. At some point it'd been redeveloped. Saint John's Episcopal Church was still there, but all the houses between South Atlanta Avenue and Lewis Street had been bulldozed and the lots broken up into twice as many smaller lots.)
A car turned on to the street, sped up, then slowed down beside us. The girl driving rolled down the window, took a cigarette out of her mouth and glared at me. "Hey, Lisa. Where'd you find those losers? Is there a circus in town? A dyke circus?" She laughed, stuck the cigarette back in her mouth and burned rubber down the street.
I watched Mary drive away. Her house was across the street from mine. I turned and walked back to the church and sat on the steps going up the hill on its west side. Risa and Resu sat on either side of me, waiting for me to speak.
"Well, that answers two questions," I said. "There's only one of me in this time, and my life sucks just as much in this version of reality as it did in the original version." I put my head in my hands and mumbled, "No way in hell am I living through all this crap again."
"So, you want to run away?" asked Risa.
"We totally understand if you do," added Resu.
I nodded. "Thanks, guys."
I thought for a moment. "Yeah, let's get out of here. But first I need to pick up a few things from my house."
— ∴ —
We walked slowly down the street, passing the Jaycee White House, then on to my house with its huge oak tree in the front yard. I looked in the garage. No cars. My brother would be at school and my mother was out, probably shopping.
Turning to Resu and Risa I said, "You two stay here, in the driveway. This is only going to take me a few minutes, but on the off chance that someone comes, figure out a way to delay them. Say you're selling magazines or something. I'll listen for noise and bolt if I hear anything. I'll leave through the storm porch door at the back of the other end of the house, so after about fifteen minutes, just walk down the street in that direction and I'll meet you. The house doesn't have windows on that side."
Standing on tip-toe, I reached over the patio wall and pulled the latch string to open the gate. Shutting the gate behind me, I walked across the patio to the breezeway door. As I had hoped, it was not locked. I slowly opened the door, stepped up into the house, and stood still, listening. No sound.
I went through the dutch door into the den and kitchen area. The house smelled of stale cigarette smoke and a bit of mold from the windowless laundry room off the kitchen. I quietly walked through the kitchen and the rarely used dining room, and finally into the back hallway, off which the bedrooms opened. Mine was the first one on the right, across from the bathroom.
In my room I took a quick glance around. DayGlo posters on the walls, silkscreened prints of Risa and Resu over my art desk, large Sony transistor radio by the bed, portable manual typewriter on the antique cast iron typing table, Heathkit stereo system, Garrard turntable, shelf full of vinyl records, guitar in the corner. Pretty much as I remembered it. But I had no time for nostalgia now.
I opened the large lower drawer in the desk and pulled out a file folder. A quick glance inside showed that it had what I was looking for: birth certificate, Social Security card, school transcripts. My beaded hippy purse was on the desk next to the manual portable typewriter. After checking that my billfold with driver's license and my lucky lump of melted aluminum were in the purse, I added the important documents and my stash of emergency cash, then tossed the purse on the bed.
Going to the closet at the foot of the bed, I took the blue day pack from the top shelf. I pulled an assortment of blouses and a flannel shirt off of hangers and stuffed them in the pack. Then I went to the dresser and added underwear, socks, T-shirts and the pair of jeans I'd made into bell bottoms, and topped the pack off with the jacket hanging on the back of the door. Finally, I slung the purse over my head and shoulder, grabbed the camera bag from beside the desk and went back into the hallway.
I briefly thought about leaving a note, but decided that would take too much time. I'd figure out what to do about that later, once I knew what we were going to do next. So I just walked around the corner from my bedroom into the living room, past the console stereo record player with its tube amplifier and on to the door that opened on the storm porch that ran behind my and my brother's bedrooms. We lately had hung a bird feeder there, but in the days before weather radar, that porch had had a useful purpose. I well remembered the time I had sighted a tornado while standing there, listening to the sirens howl.
I quickly walked the length of the porch, then along the end of the house, watching for Resu and Risa to appear on the street. Once I saw them, I trotted out to join them. I handed the pack to Resu and the camera bag to Risa, then we continued down the hill to 45th street, and back out to Lewis.
"Just a little more walking, guys. There's a small shopping center on the other side of the bypass. We'll find a place for you to sit down for a while there while I buy some personal items at the five and dime."
"I'm really tired," said Resu.
"It's not far, just a couple of blocks," I said. "My elementary school was right next to it. I walked there and back when I was six years old."
"Okay," sighed Resu. "Lead on."
"We're going to have to rest before we do much else," said Risa, obviously concerned about Resu.
"I know. Today has been a big shock for all of us, and reaction is setting in. There are several motels along Skelly Drive, the access road that runs along the bypass. I'll look in the phone book and figure out which one to go to, then we can take a taxi if necessary. I have money and ID now. Even if someone cares that I'm gone, they won't think of looking for me so close by."
This is 1970, after all. Touch-tone phones are still a new thing. Computer networks don't exist. No one's going to find us unless we do something stupid.
— ∴ —
I'd used room service for food last night. Then we had all slept surprisingly well. I guess time travel is a bit of shock to the body and mind.
"What now?" asked Resu, sitting on the edge of the bed, next to Risa.
"That's a very good question," I said, plopping down in the room's only comfortable chair. "We have to get out of Tulsa. I cannot possibly interact with people here without them thinking I'm crazy, and we have no way to explain the existence of you two, or how it is I know you so well."
"I can see that," said Risa, looking at Resu, who nodded in response and put an arm around her.
"I think we have two choices," I said. "We can disappear. Give up my identity, go some random place and figure out how to make a living. That's more difficult for someone without a provable identity, but hardly impossible. Or, I could contact my slightly weird relatives in Missouri and ask if we can visit for the rest of the summer."
Risa and Resu glanced at each other, then looked at me. "How weird are these relatives that the three of us could just drop in on them out of the blue without them thinking that you're crazy?"
"They're pretty weird for this time and place. The parents are teachers, middle school and high school. They have a large house; I've stayed with them several times during past summers, and talked with them a bit about schooling. Ivan Illich and A.S. Neill. If Sean and Nan were younger, I think they'd move some place less conservative and teach in a free school. Something like Summerhill. The free school movement is a big thing in some parts of the United States right now.
"They'd at least let us visit for a while, which would give us time to think. Unless you believe we need to totally disappear immediately to evade pursuit?"
Resu shook her head. "I don't think it's that urgent. It took them years to track us down to your place in Lansing. And even then, they didn't seem very serious about catching us. I mean, an ogre knocking on the door?"
"It is a bit strange," said Risa. "Almost like they wanted to scare us into doing something rash. Which you did, Resu."
"I wonder..." Resu closed her eyes.
"No!" yelled Risa, slapping her.
"Ow!" Resu grabbed Risa's hand. "I wasn't going to do anything, I was just wondering if I'm still able to do anything."
"What do you mean?" asked Risa.
"I've heard there are closed spaces, where the rules of magic have been altered so that one can enter, but not leave, and can do only limited magics while there. What if we, or I anyway, was tricked into going to one?"
"Is that real?" said Risa, looking frightened.
"I'm not sure. That kind of stuff isn't something you normally learn at our age. Magic is pretty fickle to begin with, and we haven't had much chance to use it. In fact, I was quite surprised I was able to move us here."
"Could they have helped you do something you couldn't actually have done by yourself? You know, supplied the power required to carry out your thought."
"Your dad and my mom are royally pissed at us," said Resu. "Either one of them has enough power to have done that with a snap of their fingers."
"Whoa," I said. "Your parents, or one of them, would strand you in limbo just because they're upset with you?"
"Have you read much mythology?" asked Resu. "Gods aren't known for being nice to one another. They probably figure if they trap me and Risa on some boring backwater planet for a few centuries that we'll become more tractable. Hah!"
"Uh, you do have a point."
"However," said Risa, "that's not something we can figure out right now without dangerous experiments. And you are not going to try anything behind my back, Resu!"
"No, I won't. But we can hardly make a long term decision before we know whether we are still on the run, or simply trapped here in this timeline. So, yes, if you think your relatives will have us for a while, let's do that as the next step."
"Okay. Let's have some breakfast, then I'll call my relatives and check on bus schedules. We'll probably have to stay here another night, but I don't want you two to even go to the motel restaurant. There's no point in taking unnecessary risks."
"Fine by me," said Resu, "I'm still a little tired. Could you pick up whatever papers and magazines you can, so Risa and I can familiarize ourselves with the time period?"
"Good idea. Won't hurt to refresh my own memory. There's a 7-Eleven store next to the hotel. I'll go buy some food and reading material. I'm putting the Do Not Disturb sign on the door; don't open it for anyone but me!"
— ∴ —
"Risa, I'm sorry for getting us into this mess, but I had to protect you. Do you really think we're trapped here?"
"We're effectively trapped here until we know more. We can't just drag Lisa around with us," sighed Risa. "We've already totally screwed up her life."
"I don't think she's actually all that upset about it," said Resu. "How about you?"
"Well, it doesn't solve the long-term problem, but at least we're together."
"Yes. And I will protect you."
"True. But we need to be careful. If we were lured or shunted here on purpose, there's likely to be someone keeping an eye on us in case we try to escape or retaliate."
"Ah, but it's also possible there may be allies here as well, if this timeline has been used for such purposes before. Our parents and their faction tend to be a bit lazy, you know."
"Also true. But how to tell the allies from the spies?"
— ∴ —
During breakfast we talked about our situation.
"Lisa? Don't worry about that chaos theory stuff. It doesn't apply to this situation at all. This is not your past; it's a branch timeline. The future here is not your future, or at least not the one you've already lived through. You can't affect that. It's done, up to the point of our disappearance."
"Oh? I don't suppose my disappearance will have much of an effect. I was practically a hermit. Just one of many unexplained disappearances. Though the smashed window might give the police a puzzle. But how does that work? If this isn't the past, then it's one of many?"
"I'm no metaphysics expert, and the Tree of Worlds is itself a thing of magic. All I know is that any forced change to a timeline causes a branch, or in our case more likely a new leaf on an existing branch. From now on, what we do affects only that leaf, nothing else."
"Really? So I could try to stop global warming, or prevent a certain someone from becoming President?"
"On this leaf only, yes. However, I'd suggest something realistic," said Resu.
"What do you mean?"
"Haven't you always tried to stop global warming?"
"True. Since high school I'd been sort of an environmental activist, on a personal level. Helped start the first recycling center in the town where I went to college. Always used my own bags when shopping. Gave up my driver's license in 1981.
"So, yeah, I guess you're right. I should just continue being the change I want to see. Doesn't seem to have done much good, though."
"And as far as butterflies go," said Risa, "that you're here as you are now, and Resu and I are visible and known to at least some other people, already makes this timeline different from yours. And..."
"And what?" I asked."
"Well, it's not certain," said Resu, "but we've been thinking that this timeline, this leaf anyway, might exist as a place to shunt people like us to so we're out of the way, and maybe under observation. If so, there might be some minor differences from the Earth of 1970 that you remember, depending on what was done to create this leaf."
"If you're trying to reassure me, that doesn't help. I'll just stay confused and try not to think about this leaf and branch stuff."
"Sorry. What do we do next?"
"Ah, that brings us to something I've been thinking about. I think that you two need a change of appearance so you don't stand out so much in this time period. I'm surprised that no one hassled us on in the restaurant where we ate lunch yesterday."
"Uh, well, we didn't want to be hassled," said Resu.
"You used magic? I thought you two weren't using any!"
"I suppose it's magic," said Risa. "But you do it, too, when you want to be left alone."
"That's subtext; posture, expression, lack of eye contact, slow movements. Everybody does that. Or in some cases, the opposite."
"Are you sure about that, Lisa?" said Resu. "I remember you telling us that in middle school you had perfected the talent of sitting in a classroom for an entire year and never being called upon by the teacher or talked to by other students."
"Well, true, but there's always a couple of people like that in any group. And it doesn't work on people who actually know you or have a reason to talk to you."
"Exactly. Low-level avoidance glamour. Couldn't have described it better myself," said Resu.
"Whatever," I said, refusing to be drawn into another one of their circular discussions that only increased my confusion. "This is what I have in mind." I showed them the sketch I had doodled while we talked.
"It's not a huge change for you, Risa. Mainly loosing the Manic Panic hair, which really stands out in 1970, as it hasn't been invented yet. Then add a peasant blouse so it doesn't look like you'd really rather be walking around naked."
"Okay, but I am not wearing shoes!"
"Whatever. We'll pick up some sandals for you at some point. Resu, you can keep the combat boots, but the gothic lolita look has to go. I think an American tomboy ensemble suits your personality better."
"Okay with me," said Resu, "so long as I can keep my boots."
I picked up the bag from my shopping yesterday and began pulling things out. "With this and what I picked up in my bedroom, I think we have everything we need to do a costume change, except for your hair color, Risa."
"Hair color is not problem," she said, and it changed from pink to pale blond.
"Hey, I though you weren't doing magic!" I said.
"Lisa, we are magic. You designed us; I'm simply tweaking the design. No big deal."
"Okay. We probably should use more common names for you, too, at least in public. Any ideas or preferences?"
"How about Anna?" said Risa. "I'm probably more like Pippi Longstocking than Anne of Green Gables, but Anna is enough like Risa that it will be an easy change."
"And I'll go with Maggie," said Resu, "for secret reasons."
"Secret, hah! Not secret from me," whispered Anna.
"Shut up, runt!" said Maggie, smiling.
"Anna and Maggie it is, then," I said. "I thought about saying we're sisters, to explain why we're so close. But it'd be too easy for people around here to find out that I don't have two sisters. So I think you had best be cousins from California. I actually do have cousins in California, and it's too far away to be able to easily check. Everyone in this part of the country thinks that California is full of weirdos, too."
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art copyright © by Lisa Lees.