Chapter Description: When you use people like commodities, don't be surprised when you are treated like one
Accepting defeat, Bart shoved his hands in pockets as he walked away from the country church. He had hoped to find a lead on his old partner, Ned. He had poked his head in the chapel at the end of services, hoping that one of the congregation knew something about Ned. No one knew anything when he asked about a stranger in town. With a heavy sigh, he climbed back into the dark sedan that had replaced his old faithful Chevy and pulled out onto the rough country road.
He drove over the hill to the site of the car crash where he pulled the sedan over and got out. He stood there for a moment as he examined the burned earth where his faithful Chevy had met it final fiery end. He remembered how he had woken up in a small country hospital with a doctor and the local police ready to take a report. His first impulse was to ask about Ned; but the sight of the uniform made him shut his mouth quickly. He acted confused when he was told that he had been in a car crash. He pleaded memory loss in order to make sure the conversation with the authorities was brief. He didn’t want to have to explain too much to these strangers. After he was released he went back to the city where he told his girlfriend, Charlene all about what had transpired that evening. Finally, after several weeks and hearing nothing from his old friend, he felt compelled to find out what happened and returned to the area. Sure, Ned wasn’t always the sharpest tool, but he was dependable sidekick in their less than legal ventures. He had always been a good asset in tight situations, even going back to when they were in junior high together. He felt kinda a guilty that Ned had disappeared, but those were the breaks he shrugged.
He was more concerned with being in the doghouse with Charlene. She was high maintenance and kept him on his toes. He had promised to take her on a cruise with the money from this deal and she was not happy about being let down.
Bart walked around, studying the large scorch mark that stood out in contrast to the tan dried vegetation that covered the rest of the field. Stopping, he took a couple of steps back to consider the sight in front of him. As he did, he felt the back of his foot kick something. He stopped and looked down. There, nestled in a tangle of dried vegetation, a bit of color caught his eye. He bent down and narrowed his eyes. Carefully, he pulled away the vegetation with his fingers to reveal one of the test tubes from that night. Looking around to see if he was alone, he slowly grasped the test tube between his thumb and forefinger. He straightened and brought the test tube up to his face to regard it. It did have a crack in it but it didn’t seem to go all the way through. It still contained fluid. Bart’s face lit up. Maybe this wasn’t a total loss after all, he thought.
As he walked through the door of the apartment he shared with Charlene, he called out triumphantly.
“Baby! We’re gonna be rich!”
“What are you talking about? Is this another one of your outrageous schemes? Because the last one just sputtered and sank!” Charlene called back from the bathroom vanity where she was applying the umpteenth layer of mascara to her false eyelashes. She pulled the mascara wand away from her face as she turned to look into the living room. “This better be good, Bart! I am not about to spend my best years living in a dump like this!”
“Honey, I got it all here!” Bart pulled up the test tube and waggled it in front of her.
“What? That thing?” Charlene slid her mascara wand back into the tube and came out of the bathroom over to Bart.
“This is gonna take us all the way, Sweetness! We are gonna to be sipping champagne by the pool by the end of the week!” Bart reached over to encircle his arms around Charlene who batted them away.
“Let me see that!” She pulled it from Bart’s hand. She studied it and looked at the leftover adhesive where a label once was attached. “It looks like plain water. What is it?”
“It’s the ticket to our dreams!” Bart expounded as Charlene took a few steps away, shaking her head.
“Here! Catch your ticket!” Charlene casually tossed the test tube back to Bart as she went back to primp in the mirror.
“Hey!” Bart dove and caught the test tube in midair. As he hand closed on it, top popped off and the liquid sloshed over Bart’s hand and onto the floor.
“Damn it Charlene. You got it all over my hand!” Bart scowled as he transferred the test tube to the other hand, while he shook the other dry.
“Oh, don’t make such a fuss. It’s probably just water.” Charlene shrugged as she continued back to the mirror.
Bart glowered at Charlene’s retreating back. He turned back to examine the test tube. It seemed that the fluid had evaporated upon contact with the air.
“You gotta be …” Bart angrily swore as he flung the empty test tube out the open kitchen window. He whirled about when he heard the tube explode on the concrete and pulled out a bottle out of the kitchen cabinet.
He was mumbling and slamming cabinet doors before pulling out a glass and pouring a quick drink. He swallowed the drink and felt it burn down his throat. He felt a flash of heat as he stood there. He poured himself another drink which he quickly downed. He pulled off his jacket and slung it over a nearby chair before refilling his glass again.
“So what are we going to do tonight?” Charlene called from the bathroom as she snapped a clunky sized earring on her earlobe.
“Hey, what do ya have the heat on?” Bart said as he wiped the sweat from the side of his face.
“Heat? I’ve got the windows open, it such a nice day.” Charlene leaned out the door to peer at Bart who was staggering toward her. “Hey, what’s the matter with you?”
Bart reached a hand toward her before passing out.
It was the early afternoon of the next day when Charlene was staring at the small body wrapped into towels in her and Bart’s bed. She had been up all night tending to Bart; her carefully applied make up smeared and her hair disheveled. She had first believed that Bart had come down with some case of flu. She put a glass of water with a bottle of aspirin on the nightstand for him. Feeling her compassionate duties completed, she turned on the television to watch some night time soap opera. As the hours had crept by, Charlene noticed Bart’s body begin to youthen and shrink. She had watched the process from the other side of the room, strangely fascinated. A few hours ago, the process finally stopped. Bart appeared to be a fourteen month old infant. Charlene remembered that because of the kids that she used to begrudgingly babysit when she was a teen. She was afraid to touch him. She had gone to the kitchen and pulled out the yellow latex gloves under the sink and put them on. She nervously peeled back the sweat stained sheet from Bart’s body. She grabbed a couple of towels on the bed that she rolled him over on. He did not wake up as he bonelessly flopped over.
“Great, Bart! Some stupid fix you got yourself in now!” Charlene grumbled as she looked at the small unconscious face. “Like I need a kid around here! You promised that you were going to take me out this dump! I am not going to end up like my mother tied down with kids!”
Charlene stomped over to chair in the living room. Flinging herself into it, she mumbled about kids and the life she pictured for herself, what she wanted. Hell! What she demanded from life! Her vision of a perfect life did not contain screaming smelly kids. She considered just packing her bags and leaving this whole situation. No, she couldn’t do that. For as lousy a provider Bart was, he was still her guy. She couldn’t just abandon him. He was too little to take care of himself. She sat and pondered on what to do with him, and then a smile broke over her face.
“Bart, I think you’re going to be sending me on that cruise after all!” Charlene crowed as she walked over to turn on the computer. In a few moments, the screen was filled with ads from people looking to adopt.
By that evening, Charlene was quite pleased with herself. She had only approached the couples who appeared affluent on their ads, offering a blue eyed white baby boy. The response was incredible, a brief bidding war occurred between the desperate couples with a victor quickly being declared. Charlene gingerly wrapped up the sleeping feverish Bart in the comforter from the bed. She had already packed up her belongings and placed them in his sedan. She was not planning on coming back. She had made arrangements to meet a couple in a park near the county line. They were to bring $60,000 in cash in a brief case and in exchange, she would hand over Bart. It was the perfect deal, everyone was happy.
As Charlene pulled into the park, she could see the outline of another car sitting there backlit by a nearby streetlight. A man dressed in an expensive looking suit was standing there holding a brief case. Charlene threw the car into park a few yards away. She leaned over the front seat to check on the still bundle lying in the back. She gave the blanket a quick pat as she bounced in her seat in her eagerness to put her hands on her highly anticipated new riches. Charlene got out of the car, closing the door as she looked quickly around the area before approaching the man.
“Hello. Are you the person I’m supposed to meet?” Charlene coyly asked as she approached the man
“You’re the lady from the computer?” The man asked, his face studying Charlene as he looked at her up and down.
“Yes. I am. Did you bring the money?” Charlene asked, trying to quell her urge to rip the briefcase from the man’s hands.
“I have it. I need to see the child, first. You understand.”
“Sure. He’s in the backseat, asleep.” Charlene shrugged and pointed over her shoulder.
“I need to see him before I give you the money.” The man held up a hand at Charlene.
“Uh. Okay.” Charlene answered suspiciously and then led the imposing man back to her car. She pointed through the car window at the top of Bart’s head appearing amongst the mass of fabric.
“It’s locked.” The man’s emotionless voice cut through the air as he tried the door.
“Yeah, it is. And it is going to stay that way until I get the money. You give me the briefcase, I’ll hit the unlock button.” Charlene replied with irritation as she held up the electronic car key in her hand.
Immediately, the man handed the briefcase over to Charlene who placed it on the hood of the car and opened it. She was delighted to see a sea of presidents inside the case. She closed the lid and pressed the unlock button with a satisfied smile. There was a large click sound as the car locks popped open. The man reached in and pulled the comforter down to see a child’s face. He gathered Bart up into his arms and took a few steps away from the car. As he did, he brought his wrist up to his face.
“Child is secure. Move in!” he barked.
Suddenly three cars drove up and pinned Charlene’s car in. Flashlights were blazing in the dark and the sound of guns being pulled from holsters cut through the night. Charlene staggered with surprise as she found herself surrounded.
“Federal Officers! Freeze!”
Bart swam in and out of consciousness for the next forty eight hours. He had weirdest dreams during that time. He felt himself be picked up and cared for as if he was a small child. The smells were the first thing to pierce his haze. It was the smell of industrial strength bleached sheets, disinfectant and a strong perfumed smell that triggered old feelings from long ago. He moved his head slightly and he could feel his cheek rub against the coolness of a tight cotton sheet under it. He could hear small beeping noises of machines and the sounds of people nearby. With the sounds and the smells, he realized that he must be in a hospital. He surmised that he must have gotten sick and wound up in the hospital. Charlene would never take care of him, so she must have brought him here. He began to lazily blink open his eyes. He opened and closed them, waiting on them to focus. The first thing he saw when his vision finally cleared was a benignly smiling terry cloth doll looking at him.
Stories of Age/Time Transformation