• 23 July - Wednesday evening - Smalton
After washing up, I went to the kitchen, where Mrs. O'Malley was looking through supplies and thinking about what to fix for dinner. "Hi, Aunt Sarah. Can I help?"
"Oh, Lisa. Of course you can. I'm just thinking about what to fix. And please call me Sarah if that feels more natural to you."
"It does, but if I'm to fit in as the teenager I appear to be, I should try to stick with Aunt Sarah."
"I suppose that makes sense. Any suggestions for dinner? It's a bit different cooking regular meals for seven. In past summers when you've been staying with us it hasn't been a big change, but usually the only time I've cooked for more than that has been holidays. I can't cook a turkey or a ham every day of the week."
"Certainly not. My suggestion would be to add side dishes. A casserole of some kind, with salad, rolls, one or two kinds of veggies, maybe some kind of potatoes. We often based our meal around rice, but rice isn't so easy to cook in this time period, is it?"
"One has to pay attention to it, yes, and it's not something we often have. Patrick and Sean like to have some meat."
"Ah, of course. Anna, Maggie and I basically didn't eat meat, just tuna or salmon with rice from time-to-time. So you could still fix whatever kind and size of meat dish you usually do, and the three of us won't at all mind not having any of it. There's no reason we all have to eat exactly the same things. On the other hand, if you have a slow cooker, we wouldn't mind eating chili or stew."
"Okay, that makes sense. What I probably would have fixed today is a meatloaf, mashed potatoes, rolls and a vegetable. So we could add a tuna casserole and a second vegetable, boil a few more potatoes to mash, and increase the number of rolls. That won't be difficult, with you to help!"
They set to work, Aunt Sarah on the meatloaf, Lisa on the tuna casserole, with a pot of potatoes boiling on the side.
"I saw you go for a walk with Sean," said Aunt Sarah.
"Yes. It was a bit awkward at first, but I think we made progress on being good friends again."
"You were a bit more than friends last summer, you know."
"Evidently. That's the awkward part. To Sean I seem to basically be the same person, in that I look the same and react the same way to things, but I don't have the same memories. What Sean and I ended up saying is that it's like I have amnesia and a bunch of weird dreams that almost no one would believe and are best not talked about."
"You were holding hands when you came out of the woodlot."
I blushed a little. "I was just wearing flats, so Sean had to help me on the steep parts. Once we were up the hill, he didn't want to keep holding my hand. I'm afraid I started crying, and then we talked, a lot. I really don't know what's going to happen."
"What do you want to happen?"
"I don't know. Everything seems so complicated right now. I don't want to hurt anyone, but I don't want to be hurt, either."
Aunt Sarah looked at me and smiled. "That's exactly what you said last summer when I asked you that question the first time I saw you and Sean holding hands. You seem more mature than you were a year ago, but you do basically react the same way."
"I guess so. Maybe I do just have amnesia and strange dreams?"
"Anna and Maggie are a bit too solid to be dreams, I'm afraid. What are they up to, by the way?"
"Anna is in the park on the swings with Nan. Maggie says they're talking about this and that and intend to stay there for a while."
"That's good, that Nan isn't alone. She's been spending far too much time by herself this past year. She doesn't fit in well with her age group."
"Nan suggest that Maggie ask Sean to do something energetic, so Sean is now teaching Maggie to play basketball and shoot hoops. That should work up a sweat for both of them."
"Also good. Nan isn't into anything more physical than croquet, and Sean doesn't have many friends. I'm happy to hear that you're all getting along so well, now."
— ∴ —
During dinner Sean suggested that I would like to look through the family photo albums, which everyone agreed would be a fun thing to do. So after dinner was cleared away we gathered in the living room.
Nan went to the bookcase that held an assortment of albums in various sizes. "If I remember right, the first summer you stayed with us was 1964, wasn't it?"
"Yes, the summer between grade school and middle school. I was very upset that I was not allowed to return to the private school I'd been going to for the past four years and was being forced to attend a huge public school. The change from thirty people in a grade to one thousand people in a grade was a disaster for me.
"My home situation had gone from bad to worse. My neighborhood friends had become strangers. I was failing to cope with the whole boy/girl thing that was suddenly priority one for everyone else. I spent all my time outside school lying on my bed, reading, or writing in my journal."
"I recall that it was pretty awkward for us at first, too," said Sean. "You were painfully shy. It took a whole week before you'd agree to do things with me and Nan for more than a few minutes at a time."
"But then we became the awesome threesome!" said Nan. "Remember the treehouse we built? I'm sure we have pictures of that." She flipped rapidly through one of the albums. "Found it!"
I took the album from Nan and looked at the pages of photos. There was twelve-year-old me as I always wished I had been. I looked closely at one photo of us having a picnic lunch. "That's Uffa! In the yellow bag I made from part of a hand puppet."
"Yep, your weird little rubber alligator that you insisted on taking everywhere. Whatever happened to it?"
"as time went on it disintegrated into a blob of rubber and glue and I disposed of it. But not until I was in graduate school, so I suppose it's still in Tulsa. I still have Roo, though. I mean, I did in 2017."
"Oh, the little kangaroo," said Nan. "I'm sure I'll always keep my Tigger."
"You guys are weird," said Sean.
"We guys are girls," said Nan.
"Whatever. Here's the album from last summer. There are a couple of pages of photos from our trip to Uncle Kevin's place in Ann Arbor."
Sean placed the open album on the coffee table. I bent forward and looked at the photos. The me in them looked pretty much as I look now.
"That's Uncle Kevin," said Nan, pointing at a man who looked to be about Uncle Patrick's and my father's age.
I picked up the album and looked closely at the photos which had Kevin and Brigid in them. "I honestly cannot remember ever seeing those people, or the place where these photos were taken," I said, setting the album back on the table. "Uncle Patrick, can you tell me a little more about Kevin?"
Patrick thought for a moment. "I can't tell you a lot. I met Kevin at Camp Crowder here in Missouri. It was a secondary training camp the Signal Corps opened up when Fort Monmouth in New Jersey became overloaded. Your father was there. Both he and Kevin were officers, so I didn't spend that much time with them.
"After the war, there was a group of people with whom your father stayed in touch, which included Kevin and myself. I believe that both Kevin and your father were involved in signals intelligence during the war, if you know what that means."
"I'm reasonably familiar with the history of the NSA and the CIA, yes, and that they each had army signals intelligence as precursors. Now that you mention it, I remember my father telling tall tales about sitting at a desk with a gun in his hand, saying to a ranking officer that no one without clearance could enter the room and it didn't matter what insignia they had on their uniform.
"My father told a lot of stories like that, especially when he'd been drinking, that I didn't really believe. If they were true, then certainly he was mixed up with intelligence. It would explain some of the gaps in what I know about his life in the late forties, and possibly explain why my parents waited almost ten years to have children, which was rather unusual at the time."
"You could ask him, Lisa." said Aunt Sarah.
I stared at her for a moment until I realized what she was saying. "Holy crap! I guess my parents are both alive. No, no way in hell am I talking with either of them. I never had a good relationship with my father. If this is 1970, then it's only been a year since a judge gave my mother the option of going to jail or going to AA. If all that happened in this timeline?"
"It did. That's one of the reasons you've been spending your summers here. You don't know this, but I've been talking with your mother about you perhaps spending the next year here, with us."
"Wow. I guess that didn't happen, for some reason. Oh, right, it'd be just me and Nan. It never would have come up."
"I don't understand what you're saying, Lisa."
"Never mind, it's irrelevant now. Sean said that Kevin is involved with NICOPP?"
"Yes, both he and Brigid," said Uncle Patrick. "I've heard Kevin mention his involvement with Project Blue Book while he was in the army. I think a large part of the reason he left the army is that they weren't taking the out of place phenomena thing seriously. That was before the UFO crashes, of course."
"I'm a little uncertain about whether I want to meet Kevin and Brigid," I said. Looking at Anna and Maggie, I continued, "It seems awfully weird for a person with that background to suddenly show up in my life if what you two suspect about this timeline is true."
"We are out of place phenomena," said Anna. "Those UFO crashes happened a few years ago, so we're not the whole reason this timeline is different in that way. But the existence of NICOPP and the fact that we're OPP could explain why a couple of people of whom who were previously unaware are now positioned to be significant to you."
"Yes," said Maggie. "That you have met these people in this timeline means they will probably notice the change in you."
I grimaced as I looked at the photo album. "Maybe we really should just disappear, before we involve the O'Malleys in some kind of weird scene."
"Too late!" cried Nan, cheerfully.
"You're not running away on your own, Lisa. We already talked about that. I won't let you," said Sean.
"Sean and Nan were going to Ann Arbor this weekend to stay with Kevin and Brigid for a week, look around the University and talk about Sean boarding with them this coming year. We'd talked about you going along. That's part of why it was so surprising for you to show up here with your two friends."
"I see. So I need to figure out what we're going to do, and soon."
"Well, we're not going to put you out on the street, Lisa." said Patrick. "You're family. You could think about going along with Sean and Nan. That house in Ann Arbor certainly has room for all of you. We've all stayed there together before."
"Patrick, you and I need to talk about a few things," said Aunt Sarah. "Can you kids amuse yourselves until time for bed? Is there anything on TV?"
"Oh!" said Nan, looking at TV Guide. "This may be a creepy coincidence, but The Day the Earth Stood Still is on at 8:00."
"Awesome!" said Sean.
"Klaatu barada nikto!" I said. "You'll find this highly amusing, Anna and Maggie."
"Okay?" they said in unison.
"Popcorn?" said Sean.
"On it," said Nan.
"I'll help," offered Anna.
"Do you know anything about making popcorn?" asked Nan.
"Not a thing. I'm not even sure what it is."
"Okay, I'll teach you." They headed to the kitchen.
"There's a pitcher of lemonade in the fridge," said Aunt Sarah. "I'll trust you all to clean up, and you to lock up, Sean. Good-night, everyone."
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