It was a normal autumn Saturday morning: the air was crisp, the leaves had started to turn different colors, and Beezer Gubbins was excited because he didn’t have to go to school. As he lay there in the darkness, which was partially illuminated by long slivers of light that eked their way in around the window shade, he thought of what he would do that day: ride his bike, shoot some basketball hoops, play fetch with Flivver, catch frogs, climb Cabriole Hill and roll d—
“Get up, Beezer!” Almandra burst into the room, jumped on his bed, snuggled up next to him and shook him playfully. “What are we gonna do today?”
Beezer loved his little sister. Some children found their younger siblings to be a bit irritating, but he enjoyed Almandra’s enthusiasm. “Well, I thought we could ride our bikes to the park and play basketball and catch frogs…”
“You’ve never even touched one, Alma. How do you know they’re ‘ewwww’?”
“Because they look ewwww.”
“All right, we won’t go to the pond.”
“Yay!” she shrieked, wiggling her arms and legs with delight.
“Breakfast!” called Mrs. Gubbins. Almandra leaped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. Beezer stood and raised the shade. Sunlight bathed him with its splendor. Through his squinting eyes he looked at the yard, the sky and the trees. A warm feeling came over him and he smiled. The warmth soon turned into excitement, tickling his stomach as though a hummingbird were flying around in there. He couldn’t help thinking that this would be no ordinary day.
The breakfast table was loaded with toast, orange juice, scrambled eggs, pancakes and milk. Mr. Gubbins was stirring his coffee and helping Almandra pour her juice. Mrs. Gubbins was just sitting down as Beezer arrived, last as usual.
“Good morning, Mom. Good morning, Dad.”
Mr. Gubbins looked up from his coffee. “Good morning, Beez.”
“Good morning, dear,” said Mrs. Gubbins, giving him a hug and a kiss.
“I’m going to the park today with Beez,” beamed Almandra.
“You two have a good time,” said Mrs. Gubbins.
“Did I ever tell you how I used to go there as a child?” inquired Mr. Gubbins.
“Yes, Dad – about a hundred times.”
“And did I tell you how Mayor Falderal...”
"...would chase you away because it was his property?”
Beezer and Almandra giggled. Mrs. Gubbins smiled lovingly and said, “Logan, I’m sure the kids would like to hear some other stories about your childhood.”
“Good idea, Tara. I used to have a newspaper route in the neighborhood. I delivered the Tribune to about 50 houses. It was a jolly good way to earn some money. Except that I had to place Mayor Falderal’s paper in his mailbox – he grumped when I tossed it on his lawn. He never tipped me either, the old miser.”
“Is that how he was able to buy the mansion he lives in now?” inquired Beezer.
Mr. Gubbins laughed. “It takes more than a little penny pinching to afford that place. The town paid him a lot of money for his old property because they wanted to build a park there. So, as unfriendly as he is, he helped make our lovely park possible.”
Beezer pondered this as he chewed his pancakes. Had Mean Mayor Falderal, who once barked at him for peering into his limousine, actually done something good?
Eventually the hunger in Beezer’s stomach was replaced with butterflies. He felt that something exciting would happen, but he didn’t know what.
“I’m going to play golf today,” said Mr. Gubbins, finishing off his coffee. Beezer remembered the time he had accompanied his father to Wright Meadows golf course. He had caught numerous frogs and a few tadpoles, bringing them home to play with the frogs and watch the tadpoles turn into frogs and eventually let them go in Cabriole Pond.
Almandra and Beezer went to their rooms to get dressed while Flivver sat in the hallway and waited excitedly for them to finish. Beezer was first to emerge. “C’mon boy!” he exclaimed, running to the front door with his canine friend close behind.
Almandra heard the commotion and hurried up. “Wait for me!” she yelled as she flung her door open and ran after them, her shoes untied and her shirt untucked.
“Wait for your sister,” requested Mrs. Gubbins as she finished clearing the dishes off the table.
“Have fun you two,” Mr. Gubbins offered. Then he hugged and kissed Mrs. Gubbins. “Love ya.”
“I know,” she replied.
The garage was still full of the night’s cool air as Beezer and Almandra got on their bikes. Beezer grabbed the basketball and a Frisbee, and put them in the basket between the handlebars. He pedaled away, followed by Almandra and Flivver. Past the houses they rode, staying on the sidewalk except to cross the occasional street. Mr. Tooter was mowing his lawn. Mrs. Yunker was walking little Comella in her stroller. Mr. Wampus was setting up his sprinkler. Mr. and Mrs. Hirple were going somewhere in their car. The sun was bright and the sky was blue, making it a glorious day to be outdoors. In about seven minutes they arrived at Falderal Park. They dropped their bikes and ran for the swings.
“Bet I can go higher than you can!” enthused Almandra.
“We’ll see,” Beezer retorted confidently. Higher and higher they swung themselves, the ground disappearing at the top of each forward arc. Almandra got almost parallel to the ground, but Beezer managed to propel himself a little higher. They slowed down a bit and then let go of the chains, flying through the air and landing on their hands and feet. Then it was off to the jungle gym, the monkey bars and the slide.
Flivver had watched them long enough. He scooped up the Frisbee and ran toward his humans, stopping just out of reach. They laughed and shrieked and ran after him. He let them catch him so they could take the Frisbee out of his mouth and throw it to him. With incredible speed he was able to get underneath it and catch it almost every time, bringing it back repeatedly for another throw.
A gust of wind came up just as Beezer was throwing and it carried the Frisbee over Flivver’s head into the pond. They all ran to the water’s edge and stared at it, floating about 12 feet away.
“How’re we gonna get it?” asked Almandra. Beezer looked around for a long stick but didn’t see one. Neither he nor his sister wanted to get their shoes wet, and Flivver didn’t like to swim. Then Beezer got an idea: he took his shoes and socks off and waded in. The water was rather cool and the bottom felt soft and squishy. He was a little apprehensive because he couldn’t see what creatures might be lurking in the depths, but he wasn’t scared because he had been here many times before and had found no snakes or snapping turtles -- only frogs and fish.
The water got a little deeper with each step he took, reaching halfway up his thighs when the toy was within his grasp. Then, just as he was about to grab it, he stepped on something small and hard. A rock? No, too smooth. Curious, he slid his first and second toes around it, made a “fist” with his foot, and lifted it, reaching his hand under the water to take it. As he brought it to the surface he could see that it was a gold pocket watch.
“Look! A watch!” he exclaimed.
“Wow!” replied Almandra.
He snatched the Frisbee, turned and waded out of the water as fast as he could.
“Let me see!” urged his little sister. Beezer held it out and the two of them stared in wonder at it. Upon closer look they saw that it was running. The second hand was moving, and the time – 10:42 – seemed to be correct, although they didn’t know for sure because neither one wore a watch of their own.
“Must be water-proof,” Beezer presumed. He flipped it over to see the back. It had a bunch of tiny writing that he couldn’t make out except for the very bottom, which displayed the number 1327.
“Could that be the year?” asked Almandra.
“I don’t know,” he answered, shrugging and putting the watch in his pocket. “You want to play basketball?”
“Time to get up!”
Beezer stretched and yawned and opened his eyes to see his mother looking down upon him, a cheery smile on her face. Monday mornings were an unpleasant change from weekends, but somehow Mom made everything all right. He sat up, took a deep breath, got out of bed and threw his clothes on quickly because he no longer had his blanket to keep him warm. As he left his room, the gold pocket watch caught his eye. “Maybe there’ll be Show and Tell today,” he thought, grabbing it from the dresser.
The fourth grade classroom gradually filled with students. Jackets came off and book bags were opened. After several minutes the bell rang. Miss Hagberry took attendance and then started teaching the first lesson of the day: social studies. The topic was Sri Lanka. Beezer didn’t much care about its customs or the lifestyle of the people or the fact that it used to be called Ceylon, but he listened anyway because what else was there to do?
About twenty minutes into the lecture he felt something warm in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out the watch. He couldn’t figure out why it felt so warm. As he looked up at Miss Hagberry to make sure she didn’t detect him not paying attention, he noticed that the clock on the wall behind her said 8:26. The watch said 8:29. He pulled the knob on the side of the watch, which caused it to come out a little bit with a barely audible click. He set the time back three minutes and pushed the knob in. Then, careful not to get into trouble, he focused his attention toward Miss Hagberry, who continued her lecture, reiterating several facts, including Sri Lanka’s former name. A half hour later the bell mercifully ended class. Everyone got up and left, but not before Miss Hagberry assigned five pages of reading for homework.
The students walked down the hallway to Mr. Snoogman’s classroom. He was an odd but good-natured fellow who taught English. Today’s lesson was adjectives. Beezer listened with interest until the watch started heating up again. Discreetly taking it out of his pocket, he looked up at Mr. Snoogman to make sure he wasn’t watching. The clock on the wall behind him said 9:20. The watch said 9:16. Beezer pulled the knob, set the time ahead four minutes, and pushed the knob in.
Focusing his attention toward the front of the room, he saw Mr. Snoogman pointing to a sentence on the blackboard. “Which word is the adverb?” he asked.
“Excuse me,” said Beezer, “but weren’t you teaching us about adjectives?”
All the boys and girls laughed. Mr. Snoogman told him, “Well, if you had been paying attention, you’d have heard me describe adverbs too.”
So much for not getting noticed.
Beezer’s best friend Kester Smatchet met up with him at recess. “Saw you playing with your watch today. Is it new?”
“No, I found it. It’s actually pretty old.”
Beezer showed Kester the back of it. “Look at the date.”
Kester brought the watch right up to his eyes in order to make out the fine print. “1327? Wow!” He turned it over to look at the face. Beezer looked too. A bubble of solid glass protected the gold hands. Roman numerals encircled the hands, except where there should have been “VI” there were two small rectangles. The bottom one contained the number 2017, which the boys agreed must indicate the year. The one above it said 292. What could that be?
Just then Rosco Hardiss came over. “Whaddaya got there?” he demanded, his double chin hanging under his jaw like a flesh beard.
“Nothing of yours,” said Beezer.
“Oh yeah? Let’s have a look.” Rosco snatched the watch out of Kester’s hand and scrutinized it. “Where’d you steal this?”
“Give it back!” Beezer yelled, knowing that his order would go unheeded. He decided to take it back by force.
“Ow!” exclaimed Rosco, throwing the watch in the air and blowing on his fingers. Beezer caught the watch, and indeed it was rather warm, though not terribly hot.
Rosco was indignant. “You did that on purpose! I’m telling!”
“No, wait,” urged Beezer, afraid that the principal would take the watch away. “See? I can hold it. Kester can hold it.” Beezer extended his hand toward Kester, who apprehensively took the watch. “Here, hold it again.”
“No!” Rosco squealed. “Just leave me alone!”
“What’s with him?” asked Kester as Rosco hurried away.
“I don’t know,” Beezer answered, taking the watch back.
THE FAMILIAR DAY
Tuesday morning came soon enough. Beezer awoke on his own. For some reason his first thought was about the watch, most likely because of the incident with Rosco. He got up, took it from atop his dresser, got back into bed, and raised the shade a bit so he could see. It looked the same as the day before, except the number 292 was now 293. Curious as to whether he could change it, he pulled the knob and turned it. Only the minute hand moved. He reset the time and pulled on the knob again. It made another click and came out even further. He turned it toward himself a bit, and the 293 became 292. Well, that solved that, although it still didn’t solve the mystery of what the number meant. Pushing the knob back in, he lay there in bed and enjoyed a few minutes of restful quiet.
Mrs. Gubbins came in to wake him as always. He pretended to be asleep. “Time to get up!” she said in a cheerful voice.
For breakfast he had a bowl of Chocolate Pops and milk. It was the same thing he had eaten the day before, but his mother didn’t seem to mind.
“Ready for another week of school?” she asked.
“Uh huh.” She seemed to have forgotten that it was Tuesday.
Mrs. Hagberry started the day as usual, with a boring social studies lesson. “Today we’re going to learn about Sri Lanka,” she announced. Beezer had been hoping she’d move on to another topic instead of continuing with the previous day’s, but no such luck. For some reason she chose to start with a review of Monday’s lecture. After stating several dreary facts she asked, “Does anyone know its old name?” He immediately raised his hand, figuring that most of the other kids would as well, but much to his surprise none of them did – not even Mozzy Schtoonk, who always seemed to remember everything.
“Very good. When did you learn that?”
“Yesterday, right here.”
There was a pause, and Beezer saw his classmates’ facial expressions turn from surprise to puzzlement.
“Yesterday was Sunday,” Mrs. Hagberry corrected.
Now Beezer looked puzzled. “It – it was?” Many of the students giggled, especially Rosco Hardiss.
“Okay, children, let’s not laugh at him,” instructed Mrs. Hagberry. “Sri Lanka was named Ceylon up until…”
Beezer couldn’t help wondering: Had he merely dreamed the previous day? Or had he forgotten almost an entire week?
His other classes also seemed to be mostly review, as he knew just about all the material. He didn’t think too much of it until gym class when, during a game of dodge ball, Rosco threw a ball at Abbozo Glitch. It seemed to him that he’d seen this before, and he just knew that the ball was going to hit Abbozo in the…
“Aaaaah!” cried poor Abbozo, holding one side of his face. Mr. Bidarko blew the whistle and went over to help the child. Somehow Beezer knew that Mr. Bidarko would send Abbozo to the nurse’s office and that Rosco would claim it was an accident – which it wasn’t. When these predictions came true he wondered: Had he somehow acquired the ability to predict the future? Or was he dreaming about events that had already happened?
Even the bus ride home seemed eerily familiar. Lorgon Ziff took Kalon Dobbler’s baseball glove and threw it three seats behind him; Antigula Giblet and Nebula Woober combed each other’s hair; Zonda Capucci read quietly; and Bleton Yentz blew a huge bubble with his gum. Beezer could have sworn he’d seen all these things before. Just then he caught a glimpse of Feluka Demurro holding her art class project. He could picture her dropping it, the figurines breaking off and strewing themselves on the floor. He hurried over just in time to catch it as it fell off her lap. Feluka looked up at him. “Here you go,” he said as he handed it to her.
“Thank you,” she replied with a smile.
Beezer sat back down and lost himself in thought. He hadn’t predicted that. He had visualized Feluka squatting down and picking up the scattered pieces, but that didn’t happen. Catching the item and handing it to her was something he hadn’t foreseen. It was the first time since he had left his room that morning that anything felt unfamiliar.
The familiarity returned at home, in everything from his homework assignment (which he breezed through) to what he ate for dinner. When he played hide-and-seek with Almandra he seemed to know exactly where she was hiding: first in the hall closet, then under their parents’ bed, behind the easy chair, and finally in the bathtub. She was very impressed (and frustrated) at how quickly he kept finding her. One time when Beezer was “it” she had Mrs. Gubbins watch him count to make sure he wasn’t peeking.
At bedtime he got out the watch and studied it. The number above the year still read “292”, and he still couldn’t figure out what it meant. He pulled the knob two clicks and turned it back and forth. As he did the number changed, going down as he turned it toward him and up as he turned it away from him. Finally he pushed in the knob. The number read “293”.
Mrs. Gubbins came in to tuck him in. He hid the watch because he was afraid that if she knew he had found it, she would make him try to find the owner.
THE UNFAMILIAR DAY
The next morning was fairly typical. Beezer sat as his desk as school started, pencil in hand. Mrs. Hagberry stood up and, instead of starting one of her boring lectures, began handing out papers. When Beezer got his he was shocked at what it was.
“A test?” he exclaimed. “Today?!”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Hagberry.
“Now Beezer, you knew perfectly well there would be a test today. I told everyone yesterday.”
He couldn’t for the life of him remember any such thing, but seeing as his classmates weren’t complaining, he figured that the announcement had been made and that he had somehow missed it. He turned his attention to the test and had a heck of a time answering questions about material that he hadn’t studied, some of which he didn’t even recognize. (Where on Earth is Madagascar?) It turned out not to be one of his best scholastic accomplishments.
On his way to Mrs. Frubble’s music class, Kester caught up with him. “Where are you going?” he asked. “Mr. Snoogman’s room is the other way.”
“We don’t have English on Tuesdays,” said Beezer.
Kester looked at him as though he had three heads. “Today is Wednesday!”
“No, today is Tuesday.”
“No, yesterday was Tuesday.”
“It’s October 20th, isn’t it?”
“Nope. October 21st,” replied Kester, holding up his wristwatch to show him the “21” in the date window.
The rest of the day was rather surreal for Beezer. “How did I miss Tuesday?” he wondered as he sat on the floor, petting Flivver. It seemed that every time he played with the watch, something weird happened. He pulled it from his pocket and inspected it. The number above the year read “294”. Suddenly he remembered the date window in Kester’s wristwatch, and he thought, “Could this be … no, there are never more than 31 days in a month. It would take a whole year to get … ah hah! It’s the day of the year!” He turned the watch over to look at the other side. There was some very tiny engraved print, too small to read. He got his mother’s magnifying glass – the one she used for threading needles – and held it up to the watch. The inscription became clear:
lest the continuity of your life be broken.
Forward and ye shall bypass many days;
backward will bring repeating and delays.
The power ye possess to travel there and here,
by altering the minute, hour, day and year.
“What does this mean?” he thought. “Is it saying that I can go forward or backward in … TIME! That’s it!” He remembered hearing part of Mrs. Hagberry’s lesson twice, missing part of Mr. Snoogman’s lecture, and the day when almost everything seemed to have happened before. Now yesterday was apparently gone. He had adjusted the watch just prior to all of these odd incidents. It occurred to him that the watch gave him a power that was both exciting and frightening. What would he do with it? Journey into the future to see what things will be like? Relive the past? Well, there was one important thing to do: go back to Monday night so he could experience the Tuesday he had missed.
Beezer was very careful not to use the watch dishonorably. It would be unfair to travel into the past and take exams that he already knew the answers to, or view future events and then come back to “predict” them.
One Sunday morning the following spring when Beezer and Almandra rode to Falderal Park with Flivver in tow, a large wooden sign had been placed at the entrance. Big black lettering declared:
CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN ON
OR AROUND JUNE 26th.
“What does this mean?” asked Almandra.
“I don’t know. Let’s ask Dad later.”
They played Frisbee and tag, climbed on the monkey bars, and got chased by Flivver. They sat by the pond and watched the frogs jump, swim, or just float in the water.
At dinner that evening they told their parents about the sign at the park.
“Radcon?” mused Mr. Gubbins. “They process hazardous waste.”
“What’s haz-er-dus waste?” inquired Almandra.
“It’s nasty, poisonous stuff that must be disposed of in a special way.”
Beezer suddenly felt all clammy. He had learned about hazardous waste in school, and the thought of having it brought anywhere near him made him very tense. “I don’t want them to bring hazardous waste here!” he exclaimed.
“Now calm down,” said Mrs. Gubbins. “Nothing has happened yet.”
“I think I remember seeing Radcon in the Tribune last month,” said Mr. Gubbins. “Something about a big contract.”
Beezer’s anxiousness intensified. “They wouldn’t take away our park, would they?”
Mr. Gubbins became very serious. “I hope not. I can’t remember what the newspaper article said. If only I hadn’t thrown it away.”
The following day Beezer went to the school library and asked Mrs. Fetlock if she had any past issues of the Tribune. “No,” she replied, to Beezer’s disappointment, “but the public library keeps about two months of back issues.”
Beezer perked up with new hope. “Thanks, Mrs. Fetlock!”
He finished his remaining classes, but thought more about where he was going after school than what his teachers were saying.
When the school bell rang he ran to his bike, threw his books in the basket and made his way to the public library. It was very quiet and a bit dark inside. He could hear his footsteps as he walked to the front desk where an elderly woman wearing glasses on a chain was sitting. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“I’d like to see the past Tribune issues.”
“Certainly, young man.” She led him to a shelving unit containing many stacks of newspapers. Each shelf had a label for each particular newspaper stack. There was the Morning Herald, the Evening Star, the Fairville Post, and others.
Beezer’s eyes lit up. “Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” replied the librarian. “If there’s anything else I can help you with, I’ll be at my desk.”
He remembered his father telling him that the Radcon article had been printed the previous month, and since it was now May, he started with the April 1st issue. He examined the title of each article for anything that mentioned Radcon. After about a dozen issues he started to grow a bit tired and worried. Then he saw it:
Falderal Awards $25 Million Contract to Radcon
Radcon Enterprises has been awarded a large contract to convert a portion of Falderal Park into a hazardous waste management facility. In an interview, Mayor Falderal commented, “I am pleased to help make this project possible.”
The mayor and Radcon executives negotiated the contract at a behind-closed-doors meeting in the mayor’s office on the afternoon of April 7, during which the…
So it was Mean Mayor Falderal’s fault. The hair on the back of Beezer’s neck stood up. He put the newspaper back where it belonged and walked quickly out the door. Once outside, he ran to his bike and started pedaling. He could feel his blood pump and the wind brush his skin as he crossed fields, sidewalks, streets and parking lots. He didn’t even notice when Velga Pickle almost ran him over with her station wagon.
When he arrived at City Hall he ran inside and said to the first person he saw, “I’d like to see Mayor Falderal.” He felt suddenly hot now that there was no wind to cool him off.
Bugo Wattle, a young clerk, pointed down the hall and said, “Up those stairs to the third floor.”
Beezer walked because his mother had always told him not to run indoors. Besides, he was tired from biking across town. When he arrived at the mayor’s office, the secretary, Coquina Fross, was typing a memo. She peered over the top of her horn-rimmed glasses.
“Can I help you?”
“I’d like to see the mayor,” Beezer demanded politely.
She smiled warmly. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Well, I’ll see if he has time for a meeting.”
She disappeared into the office behind her for a minute, then came out and said, “You’re in luck. He has a few minutes before his next appointment. Go right on in.”
A feeling of apprehension came over Beezer. The idea of telling the mayor off had seemed like a good one, but now that he was able to actually do it, he was afraid. What would Mean Mayor Falderal do to him? Would Beezer’s parents be displeased at his speaking unkindly to an adult?
As he walked slowly into the mayor’s office, he was at a loss for words. He hadn’t rehearsed anything. He knew how he felt, but he didn’t know quite how to say it.
Mayor Falderal spoke first. “What is it?”
“Mr. Mayor?” Beezer asked needlessly.
“I -- I -- Um…”
“Spit it out, son. I haven’t got all day.”
“I want to talk about the park.”
“What about it?”
“The waste management facility.”
“Oh, that. It will only be a part of the park, not all of it. We’ll leave the pond and all the playground equipment where they are.”
“That’s, uh, good. But I don’t think any part should be used for hazardous waste.”
“Well, that’s not up to you to decide. The papers have been signed, so the project will go ahead as scheduled.”
“But it might pollute our park. Why would you let that happen?”
“Life is not all fun and games. Business must go on. Things must be built, and waste must be disposed of.” He looked at his watch. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another appointment.”
The mayor turned his attention to a folder in front of him, and Beezer took that as his cue to leave. He left the office feeling disappointed and powerless.
Coquina, who had heard the entire conversation, tried to console Beezer. “Cheer up. You’ll still have a place to play.”
“But will I want to play there?”
He hardly touched his dinner.
“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Gubbins asked.
“I talked to Mayor Falderal about the park.”
His father’s eyebrows lifted. “You did?”
“Yes. I rode to City Hall and spoke to him,” he replied, petting Flivver’s head.
“Wow! That took a lot of courage and initiative on your part.”
“But it didn’t do any good.”
Mr. Gubbins tried to add some humor to the situation. “You know what they say: ‘You can’t fight City Hall.’ ”
The rest of the evening went normally, except that Beezer was preoccupied and didn’t act quite like his normal self. During their game of Dragon’s Dungeon, Almandra remarked that he seemed sad.
“I am,” he sighed. “The park – I just don’t know what will become of it.” Flivver nuzzled his nose under Beezer’s arm. He seemed to know that Beezer was sad.
Almandra tried to cheer him up. “How about I take one of my wizards off the board and give you two of my horses?”
He appreciated her effort. She was a great little sister and he was happy to have her. “No thanks. If I’m going to win, I want it to be fair and square.”
THINGS TO COME
At bedtime he thought about his conversation with Mayor Falderal. What could he have said that would have made a difference? Nothing. The mayor was intent on his plans. Beezer felt powerless. Voicing his concerns was not enough. He thought about how Mayor Falderal seemed so cold and impersonal, how his face reddened at the mere mention of pollution in the park, how he focused on business instead of play, how he looked at his watch when he…
Beezer sat up in bed. He hadn’t even thought about the gold pocket watch in weeks. He got up and retrieved it from its secret hiding place, which was the bottom of the drawer that contained his favorite baseball cap and the sweaters he never wore. He got back into bed and pulled his shade up a little to let the light from the street lamp in. How could the watch help? Maybe if he could see the park in the future, he’d know whether he needed to do anything about it. He pulled the watch knob out one click, then another. This would set the day, but he needed more time. He pulled the knob again, and it clicked a third time. Turning it, the number in the bottom rectangle changed to 2018, then 2019, 2020, 2021, and finally 2022. He pushed the knob all the way in.
He looked around. Everything seemed the same. It was fairly dark so he couldn’t see much. He would need daylight, so he pulled the knob one click, set the time back to 2:00 PM, and pushed it in.
The light blinded him. He pulled the covers over his head and lay there until his eyes adjusted to the brightness. He got out of bed and dressed himself. His clothes were too big for him. Of course – they were from five years in the future! He rolled up his pant legs to shorten them, and tied his sneakers as tightly as he could so they’d stay on his feet.
He opened his bedroom door. Just as he was about to leave he thought, “Wait. What if I’m supposed to be at school right now? What if Mom sees me? How would I explain myself?” He quietly closed his door, made his bed (Mrs. Gubbins always made his bed, so he had to hide the evidence that he was here), and climbed out the window.
Crouching, he made sure there was no one in sight, then took off like a shot toward Falderal Park. To his relief, not much had changed in the neighborhood, though there were definitely some cars he had never seen. The Furnicles had apparently added a second story, and the Bibulas had painted their house green.
As he neared the park he worried that someone who knew him would be there, but it was deserted. A large portion of it was fenced off. That would be the waste dump, he thought. He walked toward the swings and the jungle gym. They were dirty and rusty. The grass was brown, not the lush green it had always been at this time of year.
A gust of wind hit him from the direction of the fence. It smelled foul and it caused him to contort his face.
He walked down to the pond. All was quiet. There was no chirping, buzzing or croaking. He saw no frogs or fish in the pond, just some brown scum on top. There were no flowers, and the trees seemed to have drooped.
“Not gonna find anything in there,” a distant voice hollered.
He turned around to see an old man walking toward him. He was sure he recognized him but couldn’t place him.
“What happened?” he asked.
The old man motioned toward the fence. “That happened.”
Suddenly Beezer remembered who this man was. “Mr. Demurro?”
“Yep, that’s me.”
“Aren’t you the janitor at Bayamo School?”
“Was. Retired last year. Had grandchildren who went there too.” Beezer remembered saving Feluka’s art class project on the bus. “I walk by the park sometimes. Saw you and wondered why anyone would come in here.”
“I -- I -- Um…” He still stammered whenever he got nervous.
“No need to explain yourself, son. You probably used to play here.”
“No one’s played here in years. Can’t blame them. Not a fun place anymore.” He paused. “Well, I’ll be off now. You might not want to stay here too long.” With that he turned and left, kicking up some dust with his boots – the same boots he used to wear when he swept and mopped the school floors.
Beezer stood there for a moment, staring at the spot where Mr. Demurro had been standing. He was prompted to leave by another gust of tainted wind.
He sneaked up to his house, praying that his mother wouldn’t see him approaching. As he passed underneath the open family room window, his mother’s voice startled him.
“Where did you go?”
Beezer froze. How would he explain where he’d been and why he was sneaking around in the back yard? Before he could say anything, his mother spoke again.
“Oh, that’s nice. We’d like to go there someday.”
Whew! His mother was talking on the telephone. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief and stood crouched against the house. After about a minute of hearing his mother’s half of the conversation he tiptoed further.
“It’s been so difficult for the children since Flivver died.”
Beezer stopped in his tracks. His jaw dropped. He collapsed in a heap on the ground. He lay there and listened.
“Drank out of the pond. I tell you, that horrible waste dump has been a blight on this town.”
Water filled his eyes. A great sadness came over him. He thought of how Flivver would catch Frisbees and chase squirrels even though he could never catch them, how gentle and affectionate he was, how he was the most faithful companion anyone could ever want. He cried uncontrollably, but quietly so as not to let his mother hear him.
He wiped his eyes with his shirt, crawled inside his bedroom window and shut it. He turned the watch back to the year 2017 so he would go back to the safety of his bed.
Except that he didn’t find himself in bed. He was sitting at his desk in school. What had gone wrong? Wasn’t it bedtime when he had left the present day? Yes it was, but he had set the watch’s time of day to the afternoon, and he forgot to change it back, so now he was in his last class of the day.
Actually this worked out well because he would get to talk to Mayor Falderal after school again.
“What is it?” bellowed the mayor.
This time Beezer wasn’t afraid. He was angry. “You’ve got to stop the waste dump from being built!”
“And why would that be?”
“Because it’ll ruin everything!”
“Really now,” said the mayor mockingly. “How do you know this?”
Good question. How could Beezer answer that? Tell the mayor that he had traveled to the future? That he had climbed out his window and talked to Mr. Demurro and overheard a telephone conversation that hadn’t even happened yet? He decided to keep it simple. “It’ll pollute the park.”
“Nonsense. Radcon knows how to handle hazardous waste.”
“No they don’t!”
The mayor looked at his watch. “I don’t have time to argue with you. I have an important meeting to attend at the governor’s office.” He stood up, and just before he left he said, “You can walk yourself out. Come back when you have proof that what you claim is true.”
Beezer stood there, staring at the floor, frustrated. Why was this project so important to the mayor? Why didn’t he seem to care what happened to the park?
As he was about to leave, Beezer remembered something from the newspaper article. The contract was negotiated right here on April 7. If only he could go back in ti–
Beezer perked up. He pulled out the watch and set the date back to April 7. But wait. If he were to appear here during the mayor’s meeting with Radcon, they’d see him. He had to hide. He looked around and saw a large wooden cabinet. He opened the two doors. A suit and a couple of coats hung on hangers. He got inside, curled up on the floor, pulled the doors closed, and pushed the watch knob in.
“...building permit application right here, Mr. Mayor.”
“All right. You’ll also need the site surveyed.”
“Yes, we have secured the services of Sam’s Surveying Company.”
“And then there’s the other matter we discussed.”
“Of course, Mr. Mayor. Here you go.”
“Wow! Look at all those zeroes.”
Beezer peered through the space between the doors to see the mayor holding a check.
“Don’t spend it all in one place, Mr. Mayor!”
“The first thing I’m gonna do is buy a house on the beach and move there. I won’t want to be living here after the facility is built.”
“I agree, Mr. Mayor. As for the townspeople, what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Not much anyway. So what if we don’t actually have the ability to process the waste? We’ll just bury it and no one will see it.”
“It’s a good thing you were willing to bribe me,” said the mayor, “because otherwise I’d have no reason to let you pollute this town.”
“What was that?” said one of the executives.
“I don’t know,” said the mayor.
"Sounds like it came from that cabinet.”
Beezer’s eyes widened as the mayor approached. He fumbled with the watch to set the date forward to the present day. His heart pounded as the mayor reached the cabinet and blocked the light that had been shining in between the doors. His eyes strained in the dim light as he turned the knob. The doors clicked as they started to open. Light began to flood in. He was able to see that the day was set correctly, and he pushed in the knob.
It was dark again. Beezer panted as he looked between the doors to see that the room was empty. Slowly he pushed the doors open and crawled out. He stood up, turned around, closed the doors and breathed a sigh of relief.
“What are you doing, young man?”
Beezer’s heart sank.
“You won’t find anything interesting in there,” the voice said in a pleasant tone.
He turned around to see Coquina Fross standing there holding some folders in her hands.
“I -- I -- I thought I heard something in there,” he told her. It wasn’t a lie because he really did hear something in there, even though what he heard was himself.
“Hmm. Must be mice. Last month the mayor said he heard something in there. I didn’t pay him much heed because he also said he thought he saw a child in there.”
“Yes, well, thank you. I have to go now,” he said as he walked speedily past her.
“What a nice boy,” she thought as she put the folders away.
“Why aren’t you eating?” Mrs. Gubbins asked.
“I’ve got something on my mind,” said Beezer as he stirred his mashed potatoes with his fork.
“Please, tell us about it,” said Mrs. Gubbins with a concerned look on her face.
The words came quickly and uncontrollably. “They’re going to ruin the park, and no one will be able to play there, and there won’t be any frogs anymore, and Mayor Falderal is going to let it happen, and Flivver…” He looked at his pet, who was sitting beside him. Flivver thumped his tail loudly against the floor. Beezer got down on the floor and hugged him and cried.
Mr. Gubbins swallowed his mouthful of chicken pot pie. “Well, that certainly is a lot to have on one’s mind. But what makes you think all this is going to happen?”
Just like when he talked to the mayor, Beezer couldn’t reveal the watch or his trip to the future. He remembered the conversation he overheard in the mayor’s office when he traveled to the past. “I don’t think Radcon can process hazardous waste.”
“I know you’re concerned,” said Mr. Gubbins gently, “but Radcon is a big company that can handle this sort of thing.”
“But how can we be sure?”
Mr. Gubbins paused. “Good point. We don’t know. We’ll just have to take it on faith.”
“Is there any way to find out?”
“Well, since I’m a city planner, I can research this.”
Beezer stopped crying. “Really?”
“Sure. I’ll get on it first thing tomorrow morning.”
Beezer returned to the dinner table. Brussels sprouts never tasted so good.
The next several weeks were fairly normal, except Beezer went to the park as often as he could, even when it rained. He found it interesting that the thought of losing something made him appreciate it more.
One day, a few weeks after school let out for the summer, trucks and plows started arriving at the park. Their loud engines broke the silence and drowned out the birds. Their exhaust pipes belched gray smoke into the air. Workers started marking off half the park for the facility site while the plows drove onto the field. Beezer and Almandra watched the hideous spectacle for a few moments, then resumed playing. They tried to ignore the frightening sounds of monstrous machines at the other end of the park. Flivver didn’t seem to notice as he ran to and fro, caught the Frisbee, and quenched his thirst in the pond.
“Look!” exclaimed Almandra, pointing in the direction of the noise.
A white sedan was approaching the construction site.
“That’s dad’s car!” yelled Beezer. They ran to the site as Mr. Gubbins and another man in a dark blue suit got out of the car.
“Who’s in charge here?” asked the man in the dark blue suit.
A portly man stepped forward. “I’m the foreman,” he said in a gruff voice.
“This project is terminated effective immediately.”
“Huh?” quizzed the foreman.
“That’s right. According to some expert research,” said the man in the dark blue suit, motioning toward Mr. Gubbins, “your company has neither the equipment necessary to safely process hazardous waste, nor the means to install it. The company executives made misleading statements in violation of Title 3, Chapter 7, Part C of the Fairville City Code.”
Just then a black limousine pulled up. One of the rear windows slid down, and Mayor Falderal’s face appeared. “What’s going on?” he bellowed.
The man in the dark blue suit smiled. “Oh, Mr. Mayor. Just the man I’m looking for.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the Superintendent for Project Oversight. This project must be shut down due to certain violations and safety concerns.”
“Viol- safety-,” the mayor sputtered. “Nonsense! You get those men back to work!” he shouted, pointing at the foreman.
“Not so fast,” the superintendent commanded. “This is my jurisdiction, and you can bet that a full investigation will be conducted. Now, according to public records, you authorized this project.”
The mayor’s face went red. His body shook with rage as he searched for something to say. “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life! I’ll have your job for this! Do you hear me?” Then he faced forward and commanded his driver, “Take me out of here, Jarvey.” The limousine pulled away as the mayor’s window slid back up.
“You heard this gentleman!” shouted the foreman to his workers. “Let’s pack up and go.”
Mr. Gubbins walked over to Beezer and Almandra as the workers loaded their gear back onto the trucks. “You were right,” he said, placing his hands on Beezer’s shoulders. “Radcon can’t do what it claims it can do. All it does is put hazardous waste into a big hole, where it can leech into underground water sources.”
“You mean they’re not going to build anything here?” asked Beezer hopefully.
Beezer hugged his father. It was the best news he had heard in a long time.
“All right, Logan,” said the superintendent firmly but with obvious joy in his voice. “We have to get back to the office. There’s paperwork to do and authorities to notify.”
The sun was already bright and warm when Almandra woke Beezer up. “Get up!” she implored. “I can’t wait to go to the park! Let’s eat breakfast and go!”
He rubbed his eyes, got out of bed and went to the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Mrs. Gubbins sang as she hugged him.
“Good morning, Mom. Good morning, Dad.”
Mr. Gubbins looked up from his coffee as usual. “Good morning, Beez. Would you mind getting the newspaper?”
“Sure, Dad.” He went out the front door. The sun warmed him, and also shone in his eyes, so he covered his face with one hand and picked up the newspaper with the other. After going back inside he took the rubber band off the newspaper and unrolled it. On the front page was a picture of Mayor Falderal and a big headline that read:
“Mom! Dad!” he shouted as he ran into the kitchen. He held up the newspaper. “Look!”
Mr. Gubbins smiled. “Yes, they told me at work yesterday. I knew it would make front-page news. That’s why I asked you to get the newspaper.”
After breakfast Beezer and Almandra went to their rooms to get dressed. “The sun is going to be strong today,” Mrs. Gubbins said loudly enough for both of them to hear. “Better wear hats.”
Beezer opened one of the drawers of his dresser and got his favorite baseball cap. As he was putting it on, he noticed the watch. Normally he didn’t carry it with him when he went places, but for some reason he was inclined to take it with him today. He put it in his pocket, then whisked down the hallway with Flivver in hot pursuit. “C’mon, Alma!” he hollered.
“Wait for me!” she shrieked as she ran out behind him.
When they arrived at the park, the sun’s rays were starting to get hot, but there was a breeze that helped keep them cool. They played on the monkey bars, the slide and the jungle gym. Flivver, anxious to play, picked up the Frisbee and brought it to them. Beezer and Almandra took turns throwing it for Flivver to retrieve. He ran and jumped and caught the toy over and over. After a while he started to tire. When Beezer threw the Frisbee to him for about the twentieth time, Flivver watched it sail over his head instead of jumping up to catch it. It landed quietly in the pond on top of some lily pads.
It was not the first time this had happened. Beezer took off his shoes and socks and waded in. He grabbed the Frisbee and threw it to Almandra.
Just then he felt something warm in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out the watch. It felt very warm. Then warmer. Then hot. Then…
“Ouch!” he exclaimed, dropping it in the water.
He felt around with his toes for a few moments but couldn’t find it.
“C’mon, Beez!” beckoned his little sister.
He got out and sat by the edge of the pond. As he put his socks and shoes on, he pondered the mystery of the watch. Maybe he hadn’t found it; perhaps it had found him. It helped him save the park, and now that its purpose had been served, it returned to its home. There it would remain until someone else needed it.
Ben Schwalb has written more than 20 books. Most of them are humorous non-fiction works whose topics include aging, raising children, brewing beer, dating, cats, relationships, cooking, divorce, money, health, religion, wine, horses, astronomy, government work, computers, and dogs. He also enjoys writing about his travels, and he has a humor blog. This is his first children’s book.
The author has other interests. His main passion is brewing beer at home. As of this writing he has brewed about 5000 gallons since 1994. He shares the fruits of his labor with friends wherever he goes, and hosts happy hours in his 12-tap home bar. His numerous homebrewing awards include best-of-show at two national level competitions.
His other passion is wrestling. He started in 1977 at the age of 15. He was captain of his high school wrestling team and won two tournaments, including the regional championship at 134 pounds. He wrestled for two seasons in college and for more than 20 years afterward. Additionally, he coached at the high school level for 15 years.
Ben lives in central Maryland.