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by Curt Yengst
Description: Just before William Sheppard is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, he presents his nephew Billy Maxwell with an old pocket watch. Billy discovers that the watch possesses incredible powers. It allows whoever carries it to travel through time! Could the watch be the reason for Uncle Will's erratic behavior? What about Uncle Will's case worker, the enigmatic Dr. Janus? Does his interest in Uncle Will involve more than mere psychiatry? Join Billy on a roller-coaster ride through the obscure corners of history as he comes face to face with heroes and villains, the famous and the infamous. Find out if Billy and Uncle Will can protect the present by saving the past.
eBook Publisher: Mundania Press LLC/Mundania Press LLC, 2006 2006
eBookwise Release Date: June 2006
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [248 KB]
Reading time: 169-236 min.
Billy Maxwell was furious. He stomped down the stairs of his family's house into the foyer. Had the latch on the screen door been working properly, he likely would have torn it from its hinges as he shoved it open. Instead, it just flopped out of his way. The flimsy door snapped closed behind him as he crossed the front porch and sat with a deliberate thump on the top step.
The house, situated on one of the quiet back roads of the farm town of Cannon Falls, Minnesota, had been in Billy's family for generations. It was a sprawling, two story, farmhouse with a wrap-around porch. Behind it stood an old carriage house that was used as a garage--for more modern carriages. Here and there were vestiges of the property's original use. A rusted plow sat behind the garage, and an old hand operated water pump stood in the middle of the neatly landscaped front yard. It presently served as a centerpiece for a small flowerbed. Much of the original property had been sold to real estate developers decades ago, leaving the house with about an acre of property that bordered a small patch of woods behind it.
The slamming of the screen door aroused the attention of Mrs. Maxwell who stood at the end of the driveway, speaking to a short, dark haired, slender man in a gray business suit. She gave Billy a reprimanding scowl. Shortly, she finished her conversation with the man in the suit, who then climbed into a gray sedan parked at the curb and drove off down the road. She approached Billy.
"Billy, you can slam doors and pout all you like. We've discussed it with everyone involved and it's really what's best for Uncle Will."
"Yeah, whatever," Billy retorted, shifting his eyes. "I can't believe you're doing this."
This was the family's decision to send Uncle Will to the county hospital for "tests." He had always been eccentric to a certain extent; but in recent years, he seemed to make less and less sense to most of the family. On a number of occasions, he would disappear into his basement workshop for hours and emerge wearing different clothing, and even uniforms of various kinds. On other occasions, he would enter the workshop only to be seen moments later in the yard, acting suspiciously. Sometimes he would appear outside in the coldest weather without a coat. He had even been observed, more than a few times, walking along the road, miles from home, having told no one where he was. Once or twice, the police had gotten involved. Through it all, Uncle Will remained uncharacteristically tight-lipped about his activities.
The last straw came when Billy's parents decided to sell the house and its remaining property and move closer to the Minneapolis area. Uncle Will became quite irate and threatened to do whatever it took to prevent the sale of the house. When pressed on the issue, he consistently refused to give any valid reasons. He simply said he needed more time; but for what he wouldn't say. At present, he was refusing to leave the house, even briefly, for any reason. His sister and the others feared that he was slipping, perhaps experiencing a mental breakdown at the possibility of leaving the only home he'd ever had, or some other mental illness. It was unclear to most people whether he lived with his sister's family or his sister's family lived with him. The family resorted to professional intervention. They finally convinced him to admit himself to the hospital for tests.
"Billy," his mother said, "we've been over it a thousand times. Do you think it's easy watching my own brother slowly lose touch with reality? He talks about people nobody knows and places he could not possibly have been, and..."
"So what, Mom!" Billy interrupted. "It's not like he's dangerous or anything like that. Maybe he's just getting forgetful in his old age."
"Billy, he's only a few years older than I am. Besides, you're making it sound like we're dragging him away in a straight jacket. It's just for some tests. He'll be back in a few days. I only care about his well being. We all do."
"Oh yeah?" Billy rose to his feet. "I think this whole family has lost touch with reality!"
With that he stormed down the steps, across the yard, and finally along the road.
"Billy, you get back here right now!" His mother's order went unanswered.
With that, Mr. Maxwell appeared at the front door. Steve Maxwell was a tall, thin, plain looking man in his early fifties. He was a cabinet-maker by trade. He absent-mindedly picked at a tiny splinter in the palm of his right hand. While his expression appeared passive, almost sleepy, his eyes hinted at slight annoyance. Steve was the kind of person with a very long fuse.
"Carolyn, don't say I didn't tell you. He wasn't going to jump for joy over this."
"What am I supposed to do, Steve?"
Carolyn Maxwell leaned her petite frame against the doorpost. Steve nudged the screen door open and placed his hand on her shoulder, brushing aside her dark brown hair.
"Just let him walk it off. Once he comes back, I'll talk to him. He's going to take it hard for a while. As close as he is to Will, it's not surprising."
Indeed, from the time he was a baby, Billy had always been close to his uncle; he was named after him. Uncle Will lived in part of the downstairs portion of the house. He also used a large part of the basement as a sort of workshop. The family never entered his workshop unless admitted by him, which was a very rare occasion. There he tinkered with innumerable gadgets, which littered the entire room. He spent nearly all his time there, which often intrigued the family; since, although he always had plenty of money, he appeared to have no visible source of income. When asked, he would simply claim to be a dealer of antiques. Some of his wares were even displayed throughout the rest of the house. But, most of his collection consisted of what Carolyn referred to as "all that junk."
He would often entertain his favorite nephew with stories of how he came into possession of such treasures, how he traveled to some far-flung locale or another. Carolyn was always quick to pull Billy aside and tell him that they were probably fakes, purchased through a mail order catalog, or even fabricated by Uncle Will himself. * * * *
Billy was not unlike the average fifteen-year-old. He participated in sports and music, thought about cars, and of course, girls. He wore his dark brown hair longer and his clothes sloppier than his parents preferred. But, at the same time, he got good grades, helped around the house, and was active in his church's youth group. He also respected his elders, usually, especially his Uncle Will. It was going to be tough getting used to him not being around. As he approached the street corner a half a mile from his house, he heard a voice to his left, calling his name. He turned to see his best friend Nik, riding his mountain bike. Nikolai Brenitski was the son of Russian immigrants who had come to America following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the hard financial times that followed. Although Nik's English was excellent, he spoke with a noticeable accent. The two had met years ago at youth group.
"Hey, Billy, what's wrong? You look like somebody died!"
"It's my Uncle Will."
"Your Uncle Will died?"
"No, No! He's fine. It's just that my parents are trying to have him committed."
"I'm not sure I understand," Nik raised an eyebrow. "Committed to what?"
"A mental hospital," Billy explained. "They want to put him in a mental hospital. They say he's become irrational and delusional and stuff like that."
Nik's expression turned grave.
"Is he really, how do you say, losing his marble?"
"Marbles. He probably lost them years ago. But who cares?! So he tells a few far out stories once in a while and gets dates mixed up. That's no reason to put him away." Billy tried to change the subject, "Where were you headed anyway?"
"I was going to your house," Nik said as he dismounted his bike.
"Good. I sort of shot my mouth off before I left there. My parents will probably be less likely to yell at me about it if you're around."
The two walked back toward Billy's house. When they arrived, they saw Steve sitting on the front porch in a lawn chair holding a coffee mug. He smiled knowingly at Billy, who hung his head and looked away.
"Billy," his father called, "come here for a second, please. I need to tell you something."
"Here it comes," Billy muttered to Nik. "Wait for me back by the garage, okay?"
"Good luck," Nike replied jokingly.
Billy ascended the front steps and stood, leaning against the post.
"Look Billy," his father began coolly, "I don't appreciate the way you stormed out of here before, but that's not what I want to talk to you about. It's your Uncle Will..."
"I thought Mom said it was all settled," Billy interrupted.
"Please let me finish," Steve said, raising his hand. "Your mother and I talked about this while you were gone. You seem concerned that Uncle Will's affairs will somehow be mishandled, like we're going to pack him off to a nursing home or something like that."
"'Funny farm' is more like it."
"Well, we assure you that's not going to happen. Now, I have an idea I want to run past you. We'll have to discuss it with Uncle Will as a family, but I think he'll go along."
"Okay." Billy's mood began to lighten. He could usually tell when his father was about to make his day. "What's the plan?"
"We're going to put you in charge of Uncle Will's part of the house while he's in the hospital. Anyone who wants access to that part of the house has to go through you. What do you say?"
Billy thought about it for a moment. It wasn't entirely what he wanted. He really wanted Uncle Will to stay home and not have to deal with this, but this was certainly the lesser of two evils.
"All right," Billy nodded, "we'll see what Uncle Will says."
Billy strode down the front steps and around to the garage where Nik was waiting. Nik looked up expectantly.
"How did it go?"
"Pretty good," Billy replied. "Let's go down to the school to shoot some hoops and I'll tell you all about it."
Billy took a basketball from the shelf just inside the garage door, and the pair headed down the driveway to the road.