Authors: Maxwell Puggle
Copyright © 2011 by Maxwell Puggle
19 Hill Ave.
Easthampton, MA 01027
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.
20% of Exocubic Media's annual profits from this publication will be donated equally to The American Museum of Natural History and to 350.org (an organization that lobbies to protect the Clean Air Act and provides education on climate change issues).
Printed Books also available. Visit Samantha Smart at www.samanthasmarttimetraveler.com or look for her on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Tumblr.
A Publish Green Edition
Saturday was usually a day that Samantha looked forward to; though there wasn’t any school (which she secretly loved), there
a lot of free time, and on most Saturdays she would go to the park or the museum, or ride her scooter around the neighborhood. Sometimes she’d run into her friend Marvin who would take her back to his house and show her cool things that he could do with his computer. Sometimes, she’d take her dog, Polly, for a walk.
Saturday, however, was a bit of a disaster. It was pouring rain, a chilly October rain, and Samantha was trapped in her house with her mother, Cindy and her brother Todd. Samantha’s mother was young, as mothers go, and single, and was always getting ready to go on some date or another with some boring guy. Todd, who was fifteen, mostly sat around as he was now, playing some stupid video game or another. Samantha watched dully as her mom applied an appalling color of lipstick to her thirty-five-year-old lips.
“Where are you going, Mom?” she asked without much real interest.
“I’m going out,” her mother replied. “On a date.”
“Who’s the victim this time?” Samantha inquired sarcastically.
,” her mom carefully enunciated, “is Brian. And
far from being a ‘victim’, he is about to have the time of his life.”
“I’ll bet,” interjected Todd with a chuckle, not missing a step in his virtual commando world.
“Have a little respect for your mother, Todd!,” Mom yelled from the bathroom, “And I don’t want your loser friends over here while you’re watching Samantha, understand?”
“Aww, come on Mom, I was just kidding... ” Todd began to protest. An argument of course ensued, as even though Samantha was almost twelve years old her mother still considered her to be in need of a babysitter, which usually meant Todd. Samantha hated being around Todd and especially his friends, who probably would wind up coming over even if their mom said they couldn’t. The argument faded into a dull hum as Samantha closed her eyes and focused on the pattering sound of rain on their living room windows, wishing she were somewhere else. Polly was laying on the big, low window sill staring out into the gloom of Brooklyn and looking as much a prisoner as Samantha felt.
The argument was settled, and Todd was given twenty dollars which was supposed to buy Chinese food for both of them, though it would more likely be spent on pizza that he and his friends would inhale, leaving her hungry. At least then she could threaten to tell on him and maybe get to go out for a little bit–but of course, it was pouring rain. Where would she go? The park would be a mess. Mud and small oceans of water–a landscape Polly might enjoy, though the aftermath of wet, muddy paw-prints on her mother’s rugs and furniture would surely be nightmarish. Scooter-riding did not sound appealing in this weather either. The museum was her last hope–she could get there mostly by train and could smuggle Polly, (who was a small, obedient Boston terrier) in her backpack as she often did.
Corey and Kevin arrived only twenty minutes after their mother had left, in clear violation of her expressed wishes. On cue they dialed the number to Smiley’s, the local pizza place, and ordered a large pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms for delivery. Samantha knew that between the three of them, her brother and his two buddies would blow through it in a matter of minutes. She stared at them as they sat entranced by their video game, which was called
and secretly hoped they would burn their mouths trying to eat too fast.
By the time the pizza actually arrived, Samantha was dressed in her rubber boots and windbreaker and was coaxing Polly into her backpack. Todd paid the delivery man and, as expected, the boys finished the pie within five minutes, all of them painfully scorching the roofs of their mouths. This gave Samantha some small satisfaction, though she grudgingly admitted to herself that she was still hungry, while they were already relaxing into the early stages of digestion. It didn’t matter–she hated mushrooms. So did Polly.
It was about one o’clock in the afternoon, and Samantha figured they could make it to the museum in less than an hour. She slipped out the door amidst brief protests from Todd and had had to promise that she would call home in two hours, and in any event definitely be back before five, when their socialite mother was expected to return. Closing the heavy iron front door of the brownstone behind her, she turned right and walked the block and a half on Twelfth Street down to Seventh Avenue, then turned right again and quickly covered the three blocks to the subway station. She zipped down the stairs and swiped her Metro-Card
pushing through the turnstile and descending to the platform. There was a man with a guitar who was singing something about ‘Isis’, whom Samantha knew to be an Egyptian goddess of some sort, though the Isis in the song seemed to be a different person altogether.
Technically, Samantha was not supposed to go into Manhattan by herself at all. Her mother constantly reminded her of how dangerous a place it was, though she had mostly only met very nice people on the numerous times she had explored its bustling squares and sky-scrapered thoroughfares. She went to school just off of Fourteenth Street, and her mother typically took this train, the F train, with her every weekday morning. Samantha would get off at Fourteenth Street while her mother would switch to an uptown train to go to work at the Museum of Natural History.
It was her mother’s workplace that was currently Samantha’s destination. She thought about the museum as the wall tiles that spelled “Carroll Street” flew by the subway windows. She had started spending time there several years ago, mostly after school waiting for her mom to get done with work. In that time she had befriended Professor Smythe (“of the Knightsbridge Smythes,” he liked to say), who was from London and held many degrees in ‘forensic science’. What this meant was that he got paid to solve fascinating mysteries, using hi-tech tools and deductive reasoning worthy of Sherlock Holmes (who was one of Samantha’s heroes). He had a laboratory in one of the museum’s basements and was usually preoccupied with carbon-dating prehistoric arrowheads or doing a ‘spectral analysis’ on a thread from a three thousand-year-old mummy’s bandages to find out what sort of things they were soaked in before being wrapped around the body of the deceased. Samantha found all of this to be positively captivating, and had decided early on that when she grew up she wanted to be a forensic scientist.
At this point, though, she was still in training. Just last year she finally came to understand that a spectral analysis was basically a test wherein every little molecule of something was analyzed and labeled as one thing or another, so that when it was done you would know exactly
what it was made of. She had tried to do one herself, using Polly as a subject, but did not have the equipment to narrow things down too specifically beyond “dog molecules,” or at best “dog hair molecules.”
They switched trains at Fourteenth Street, getting on a C train for the rest of their journey. This ride went pretty quick as always, and before long they were rolling into the small Seventy-second Street station and walking up the wet stairs to the street. Unfortunately, the closer Eighty-first Street station had been closed for a few weeks due to some sort of construction or another, but Samantha didn’t mind the walk and neither did Polly. Though it was still raining pretty hard, Samantha sensed that Polly was, in fact, getting a little antsy and perhaps needed to do a little ‘dog business,’ so she crossed the street into Central Park and let her out of the backpack to sniff around.
This was a (usually) lovely part of the park which was called Strawberry Fields
though no strawberries grew in it anywhere that Samantha could see. She thought about this a little and then remembered that her mother (who was occasionally good for some sort of wisdom) had told her the place was named after a man who had written a song by the same name, and who had played in a very popular rock band. Try as she might, she couldn’t remember the man’s name, or the band’s name, but was pretty sure that the man had lived close to here at some time. In any case, it was a pleasant place, even in the rain.
Polly finished her bathroom stop and Samantha got her back into the backpack. They trekked the remaining four blocks and up the many steps to the museum’s front doors, then on into the thankfully warm, dry lobby. Immediately they were spotted by Luann, Samantha’s mom’s co-worker at the ticket sales booth.
“Samantha! What are you doing here? Your mother isn’t working today– ”
“I know,” Samantha cut her off. “I’m visiting Professor Smythe–Mom, uh... asked me to give him something. She’s, um, shopping at Zabar’s down on Columbus.”
“Oh!” Luann processed the information with the speed of a fifty-year-old computer and then smiled a pretty, corn-fed midwestern smile and replied, “Well, that’s great! He’s, uh, he’s down in his office or somewhere near it as usual. Let me know if you can’t find him.”
“Thanks Luann,” said Samantha, already heading for the stairs. Luann was a very pretty woman, Samantha thought, but was rather easy to fool, especially on what looked to be a fairly busy Saturday at the museum. She felt guilty for lying for a moment, then decided it was all for the greater good. Besides, Professor Smythe would be glad to see her. She smiled and thought about him as she wove through the museum’s stairwells and hallways. He was a rather small man, about fifty-eight or sixty years old, with what some might call a stereotypical absent-minded personality. In fact, however, Samantha found him to be one of the more focused people she had ever met; people only found him to be scattered because very few of them ever really knew what he was talking about. Samantha thought he was cute–not cute like Jordan Anderson from Heatwavvve (her favorite boy-band)–but just a gentle, funny old man whose British accent made him even more charming.
She rounded the last corner before his office door and ran smack into the man she was looking for.
“Unnnhh!” they both grunted as they collided.
“Oooh–I’m sorry, Professor!,” the younger victim offered.
“Samantha!” The Professor looked even more startled than she did. “Tortuous teenagers!”
“What... ?” Samantha answered, not clear on what he meant.
“Oh, that’s right, you’re–er–not quite a teenager, are you? Oh, but you will be, in time, in time... ” The Professor looked somewhat exasperated.
“Professor,” Samantha said slowly, “what are you talking about?” Perhaps the man had gone totally loony.
“Samantha,” he said, calming and looking straight at her, “what I am talking about is
“Time?” she replied hesitantly.
“Yes,” he said, looking quickly behind him and trying to shuffle her into his office. “We’ve got some real problems, Samantha, real problems here. They’re all my fault, of course, all my fault. Nattering Nincompoops!”
“Problems?” she asked, letting herself be herded.
“Yes, child,” The Professor whispered as they went through the door. She felt frightened for a moment as he hustled her into his office, like something illegal was going on or that someone was watching them. Then they were in the office and the door was closed.
“You see, Samantha–oh! Hello Polly!” Polly had ventured from the backpack and trotted over to the bowl of food The Professor always kept in a corner of his office for her. Professor Smythe then sat in his desk chair and made a conscious effort to relax.
“Have a seat, Samantha,” (she sat down), “You see, I seem to have made a bit of a–a mess. With... time. Yes, time. You see? I–I didn’t mean to, of course, and I’m still
trying to figure out what I did wrong–hmmm. Yes, time. A terrible mess. All my fault.”
“You made a mess with... time,” Samantha reality-checked. The Professor was mumbling on, barely understandable.
“Yes. Yes! Rather absurd, isn’t it? Quirky thing, time–change one little detail and watch out–the whole shebang starts coming unraveled! Forget to turn off a light, turn left at an intersection instead of right, order a
instead of a
. One bloody slice of cheese,” he stared, wild-eyed at Samantha. “That’s all it takes, Samantha!”