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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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An Interdimensional Love Story:  Part I


When Garrett said he had something special planned for Valentine’s Day, Violet was surprised and a little wary. Her husband of 23 years was a renowned physicist who rarely remembered birthdays, anniversaries, or other occasions that smacked of sentimentality. Garrett claimed these things had little relationship to the laws of the universe and only muddled his thinking.

Hearing his call, Violet turned off the iron and tiptoed carefully into her husband’s cluttered workshop—or rather, the half of the garage he had appropriated for his projects. A tangle of wires snaked down from the ceiling like an overgrown jungle, oddly shaped chunks of steel from a disassembled tractor littered the floor like rocks on a moonscape, and scraps of paper with undecipherable formulas hung crookedly from pins on a corkboard. A row of framed patents leaned against the back of Garret’s workbench like proud sentinels guarding his domain.

“Garrett?” Violet called out tentatively, gracefully maneuvering over and around the paraphernalia. Sometimes she wondered about the gravitational force that had pulled her, an aspiring ballerina, into his orbit. Back in college, Garrett had been invited to lecture her class on the physics of dance. While the other girls tittered at his descriptions of angular momentum, static balance, and net torque, she found herself mesmerized by his passion, the guileless faith he placed in the science. Before long, they were dating, and the trajectory of her life took a more “practical course.”

A head of disheveled red hair emerged from behind a sizeable phone-like booth—what he called his interdimensional time device (ITD)—and she could see on a nearby desk the grilled cheese sandwich she had left several hours earlier, the cheese now coagulated on the plate. He did not look like a man ready to take his wife out on the town. A five-o’clock shadow covered the lower surface of his face, and his hands were still smeared with grease. Seeing his wife, Garrett wiped his hands on his overalls and pulled her toward him. His body emitted a musty gym-clothes smell, but she did not pull away. After all, it was Valentine’s Day, and Garrett did not often show physical affection. But when she saw his eyes twinkle mischievously, Violet suspected it had little to do with her and was merely a sign that her husband had made another breakthrough.

“I have a surprise for you!” he said, turning her towards the ITD. “It’s ready!”

“Ready?”  Something fluttered in her stomach, and she eyed the booth suspiciously.

“You can be the first, the first human passenger!”  He said this with a lilt as if presenting her with a precious piece of jewelry.

“What? You want me to get in that thing? Today?”  She could feel him gently pushing her towards it from behind, but she dug in her heels. “I thought…aren’t we going out for…wait, are you serious?”

“Violet,” he said, jumping on a box and proudly hugging the ITD, “we will make history. No, you will make history! On this very day! February 14th, 1970!”  He brushed a hand through his untamed hair, then waved it through the air manically, and she saw in that brief, wild gesture that she had married a madman.

“No, no, no, Garrett, I won’t be your guinea pig!”  She turned to leave, to return to the safety of her house chores, but he grabbed her elbow.

“But it works, Violet! The salamander. Bunky. They both came back.”  He pointed to their old cocker spaniel, sitting up yogi-style on a mat in the corner.

“Bunky came back, all right,” Violet responded. “With a turban on his head. Now he just meditates all day. And will only eat sweet potatoes, tofu, and string beans sprinkled with a dusting of coriander.”

“Yes, yes, Bunky’s become a vegetarian. Isn’t that amazing? He may have met the Dalai Lama and become a spiritual guide. But he can’t tell us for sure, can he? I need a human traveler who can explain what they saw and did in a different dimension. I need you, my love!”

It wasn’t often that Garrett called her “my love,” so she hesitated long enough for him to steer her back towards the machine. She thought about all the places she had dreamed of visiting since their marriage, places that never materialized for one work-related reason or another. “Where can you send me,” she asked cautiously. “Do I have a choice?”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “I think so, although sometimes the best trips have an element of surprise, no?”  Garrett was a scientist and didn’t want to promise something that had not been thoroughly tested.

Violet thought about it briefly, then decided to play it safe and pick a city on her bucket list. “What about Paris?“ she asked. “I’ve always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. They say you can climb to the top and look down upon the city like an eagle, soaring beneath the clouds.”

“Hmm,” Garrett replied, scratching his scraggly chin. I’m not sure we can be so specific.”  He played with some dials, then rubbed his hands together. “I set it for France and added metadata like ‘tower,’ ‘climb,’ and ‘soar.’  That should get you close.” He also set the timeframe for the past 20 years, but as he turned away from the control panel, a slip of the fingers added another “0” to the end.

“Garrett,” she said as he fitted her into the ITD and hooked her up. “Why don’t you come with me?”  But he had already shut the door and was busy turning buttons and flipping switches. Several lights illuminated the garage, and smoke enveloped the machine. The ITD started to shake, so she sat on the tiny bicycle seat he had placed in a corner and closed her eyes. She felt herself falling into a black hole. Hopefully, she thought, I’ll return in time to finish the ironing and prepare dinner. 

Click to continue to Part 2

Part 1 image credits:
Woman in garage – Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash,
Digital bars – Photo by Ari He on Unsplash,
Composite image – Chuck Bins

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About the Contributor
Janet Stiegler
Janet Stiegler, Contributing Writer

Born and raised on Long Island, New York, I attended college at SUNY Albany, where I focused on foreign languages and studied abroad twice (Germany and the then Soviet Union). I met my husband, Paul, in Albany’s Russian program, and we eventually made our way to the Washington D.C. area to work as analysts for the CIA. Over 32 years, we held a series of analytic, managerial, and senior staff jobs while raising two children in Vienna, Virginia. Both attended Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) and are now well launched into their careers.

The CIA drummed into me the need to write clearly and succinctly since our audience—U.S. policymakers, diplomats, and other decision makers—had busy schedules. Bottom Line Up Front followed by well-supported evidence and credible sourcing. However, it did not leave much room for creativity, which has made writing for Cape Fear Voices (CFV) so gratifying. My writing circle inspires me, and CFV provides a safe place to test literary ideas. One of my ambitions is to write a creative nonfiction story about my maternal grandfather, who immigrated to this country before WWII.

Since moving to Brunswick Forest seven years ago, I’ve also pursued several educational passions--tutoring at the Cape Fear Literacy Council, supporting Cape Fear River Watch’s youth education programs, and helping host online OLLI classes. Three years ago, I joined the Women’s Impact Network, whose philanthropic outreach seeks to benefit our local community. My husband and I have also done a fair amount of international (Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Nova Scotia) and domestic (Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Florida) travel. And last spring, as most travel ground to a halt, we adopted a year-old rescue—Brianna—a proven antidote to the COVID blues.

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