I dumped two sacks of groceries on the kitchen counter and scrambled through my purse for my buzzing phone.
“Ms. McBriar? Herb Branson here.”
I stuttered “Yes?” as I searched my memory for the name. A client? No one that I was currently working with, certainly. “Um, what can I do for you?”
My confusion must have been obvious, because he launched into an explanation.
“I run the Branson RV Sales and Museum over in Illinois. You brought your vintage camper here for display last fall?”
“Oh, yes! Sorry—it threw me for a minute. Is there a problem?” I felt a nudge of dread. I hoped he wasn’t calling with an offer to buy the trailer, because I wasn’t about to part with it. And not just for sentimental reasons.
He laughed. “No—no problem. It’s been a very popular exhibit. Lots of older people have commented that it takes them back in time.”
You have no idea, I thought.
“Texas!” I said, realizing as I said it that I sounded like I had never been out of Iowa.
“You wouldn’t have to do anything. We would haul it down there and bring it back at the end of the rally.”
I panicked. “Oh, I think—“ I knew what I thought but didn’t want to share it with good old Herb.
“Say, I’ve got a customer here I need to talk to. Think about it, why don’t you, and call me back tomorrow sometime?”
I took a deep breath. “Okay, that would be fine. I have your number.”
“Great! That will give you a chance to think of any questions you might have. Talk to you tomorrow.”
After I hung up, I leaned against the counter, thinking. This would not work. If someone else towed that trailer to Texas, what if they decided to sleep in it? The problem with that was they would likely wake up in 1937 or some other time period. Because my beautiful vintage camper—that I had purchased from my friend Ben Walker and carefully restored, that I and my daughter Dinah had taken several memorable trips in—that camper time-traveled.
After a particularly scary trip the previous summer, I decided that time travel carried too many risks for me, and that the camper needed to be put out of commission. For several reasons, destroying it was not the answer. So my family and Ben and Minnie Walker and I hit on the scheme of loaning it to a museum. We reasoned that if I didn’t sell it, no one else would be at risk of its special talents.
I stood up straight as I felt dampness at the back of my waist and remembered that I hadn’t yet put the ice cream away—or any of the other groceries. And I needed to get some supper started for Kurt and our daughter Dinah. Dinah had a softball game scheduled right after supper.
I spent the next hour throwing together a pasta salad and warming some rolls from the local bakery. All the while I mulled over Herb Branson’s request. By far the simplest solution was to say no, but I felt like I needed to come up with a reasonable excuse.
Kurt got home first and gingerly hugged me while looking askance at the paring knife in my hand. We were just getting used to living in the same house again after separation for a couple of years, counseling, and more than one setback. As a result of the counseling, Kurt had quit the job he hated and started his own software business.
“You aren’t planning on using that on me are you?”
“Not today. Not so far anyway. How was your day?” I asked, while I washed my hands.
“Great! I have a new client—someone I met at that conference last month. And yours?”
“Fine.” I turned around to face him. “I just got off the phone, though, with Herb Branson.”
“Who’s Herb Branson? A boyfriend I don’t know about? I—“ He was cut off as the door slammed and footsteps stomped up the half flight of steps to the kitchen.
Our 16-year-old daughter, Dinah, dropped her backpack on the counter and whipped her mop of hair back from her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, because obviously something was. Her face was flushed and her mouth set in a grim line.
“Tish what?” Kurt asked. Tish had been her best friend since grade school.
She put her fists on her hips and looked at us like we were some kind of stupid. “She quit softball.” Dinah switched to a sing-songy voice meant to imitate her friend. “She’s afraid she’ll hurt her hands and won’t be able to play the piano.”
“Well,” her dad said, “That’s called setting priorities. But why didn’t she think of that before the season started?”
“Exactly! That’s what I asked her! Now I won’t have anyone to talk to at practice or on road trips.”
I know both Kurt and I were thinking that perhaps at practice she could concentrate on practice, but knew that suggestion wouldn’t be well received. We shrugged at each other as she stomped out of the kitchen and headed up to her room. This too shall pass.
“Supper’s in about five minutes!” I called after her.
“Yeah.” A grudging reply.
“I’d better go wash up,” Kurt said.
As I passed the bowl of pasta to Kurt, he said, “So who’s this guy that called?”
“Herb Branson,” I said, not sure if I wanted to include Dinah in this discussion.
But she perked up immediately. “From the RV place? What did he want? Did something happen to the camper?”
Now why could she remember that guy’s name when neither of us could?
“Yes. Nothing’s happened to it. But some friend of his wants to borrow it for his display in Texas this summer. He’s a dealer too.”
Kurt put down his fork. “How would they get it there?”
“That’s my concern. He said they would ‘haul it down there’ but I didn’t ask if he meant on a flat bed or something. If they plan to tow it, I wouldn’t want them to sleep in it.”
“They would get a surprise for sure,” Dinah agreed.
“Maybe we should offer to take it,” Kurt said. “Make a little family vacation out of it.”
I was astonished. Kurt had no positive feelings about that camper and was only too glad to get rid of it.
He continued. “My new client is a biker—rides with a group of video-gamers on weekends, and last year they took a trip on Route 66. I was just thinking it sounded like a fun idea.”
“On motorcycles?” Dinah said. “Cool.”
He shook his head. “I mean, making the same trip by car. Where in Texas does he want to take the trailer?”
“Amarillo, I think he said.”
“That’s right on 66.”
“Are you serious?” I still couldn’t believe what he was saying.
“You mean about taking it down there? Sure. We would sleep in motels, of course, not in the camper,” Kurt said. “That way you wouldn’t have to worry about what someone else is doing with it.”
“We could add some new stuff back in and then sleep in it,” Dinah said.
We were by no means sure how the trailer time traveled, but it seemed to be connected to the age of the most recent remodel.
“I think I like the motel idea better,” I said. “Let’s not tempt fate any more with that thing.”
“I agree,” Kurt said. “When does it need to be down there?”
“I didn’t think to ask—I was so taken back by the request and panicked at the thought of someone else traveling in it. I’m supposed to call him back tomorrow so I’ll get the particulars—and how long he needs it be there. Because there’s also the issue of getting it back.”
Kurt thought a moment. “Hmmm. I could go back to get it.” He grinned. “I am my own boss, you know.”