Has Anyone Seen My Brain? (initial three chapters)

Copyright 2016 by Dan Nimak

All rights reserved.

 

Chapter 1

Shivering in the dark hundreds of years from home, we were a trio of twelve-year-olds and a dog, invisible to the world and almost to each other. We could barely see the house in front of us. A candle from inside illuminated a small window. The night hid everything else, except the faint outline of a nearby barn.

I looked to my right at Addi. To my left stood Jaden. I reminded myself of our invisibility, and that helped calm me. I began to creep toward the wooden house, and my two best friends matched my slow and cautious steps. I hoped it was Addi’s dog Blue that rubbed against my lower leg.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” Jaden asked in a shaky voice.

Addi answered as we reached the window and the three of us tried to see the inside portion of our destination. “I don’t know.”

My eyes adjusted to the candlelight, and I saw her. “Is that one of the cousins?”

No one answered.

The girl inside wore a long nightgown and carried her own candle. Even with the additional light, it remained too dark to see any detailed features. From her size, however, I would have guessed her to be about ten or eleven years old.

She stood in the middle of the room for what seemed to be an eternity. I had to remind myself to breathe. And then, she walked toward the window. She looked directly at me as she approached and did not take her eyes off of mine when she reached us. Her face was literally an inch away from me, with only a small pane of glass separating us. I stopped breathing.

“There’s no way she can see us,” Jaden whispered. “She’s just looking outside.”

The girl looked at Jaden.

“Brain…” Addi slowly and softly said my name, and the girl from inside quickly changed her focus to Addi. She raised her candle, and Blue barked at her pale face. She looked down at Blue, blew out her candle and ran toward the door.

Only a few feet from our window, the door opened and the girl dashed out. On cue from a chilling nightmare, a dense fog slid in to block our view. I could only distinguish a white nightgown flowing in the direction of the barn.

I had no intention of following her and assumed Addi and Jaden felt the same way. Unfortunately, Blue did not. Addi’s dog pulled hard, and before any of us could react, he had broken free – seen just for a second, running madly toward the barn with an un-held leash trailing closely behind.

Like a missile, Addi darted off after Blue, repeatedly hollering his name. Jaden yelled for both Addi and Blue. He looked at me with frightened eyes, and then he ran.

More afraid to run than to stand alone, my feet clung to the ground…until a noise from the other side of the window changed my mind. I followed my friends into the darkness.

I sprinted with arms outstretched, hoping not to run into anything. It didn’t matter because I couldn’t even see the ends of my fingers unless I moved my hands closer to my face. My run turned into a jog, and then a fast walk.

I stumbled into the barn and hollered for Jaden, Addi and Blue. Only Jaden answered, and we grasped each other. He shook uncontrollably.

“Brain, we’ve got to find them.”

“We will,” I assured him, knowing that we couldn’t go home without Blue, and we wouldn’t even think about leaving without Addi. “Even if we have to wait for the light, in the morning –”

A laugh, a scream, and then a crashing sound. The noises sounded close, but it was impossible to tell in the blackness of the night.

Arm in arm, Jaden and I walked away from the barn as we shouted Addi’s name. He continued to shake. We took one step at a time toward the area where we had heard the sounds. An eerie, unnatural laugh resonated from behind us, and Jaden no longer shivered alone.

We walked faster. I continued to shout for Addi, hoping that the trailing laughter kept its distance. Jaden tripped over something, and I helped him up. The crunch of breaking twigs came from our left. Someone, or something, was breathing. It sounded more like an animal than a human. I blindly reached down to search for a weapon and found three stones.

“Addi?” Jaden whispered. “Blue?”

There was no reply, and I threw a rock.

Jaden bent down, presumably to find some stones, pebbles – anything his hands could grab – and we blindly bombarded the region with a frantic assault. We managed to stay together, back to back, as a free hand occasionally located its friend while we wildly threw hard objects in all directions.

Several minutes crept by. The noises had departed. No screams, no barks, no crashing sounds, no unexplained breathing, and thankfully – no laughter. We had no idea where we were, and we had no plan. Jaden and I stood side by side. We said nothing. And who in their right mind would want to create attention to themselves in the predawn darkness of Salem Village in the late seventeenth century anyway?

 

*  *   *

 

I was five years old when I first discovered my gift. I was at a boring family reunion where my cheeks were pinched way too often by old ladies who argued whether I looked more like my mom or my dad. There must have been close to a hundred people at the family gathering, most of them complete strangers to me. Great aunts, great uncles, children and grandkids of all of these uncles and aunts and three dogs participated in the big occasion. I liked the dogs.

I met four older second cousins. I was thrilled they let me play ball with them, until they started making fun of me. They laughed at me and called me names. I wanted to cry but knew that would have made it worse. They surrounded me and continued to laugh and point at me. It was horrible. I wanted to disappear, to just go away.

I closed my eyes.

And I vanished.

At the time, I didn’t know I had literally become invisible. But all of a sudden, my cousins stopped laughing. They screamed and charged right through me on their way to tell the adults their unbelievable story.

I followed them. I shouted at my cousins and then at my mom and dad. No one paid any attention to me. I got very scared, and I ran.

I raced up a hill and hid behind a tree. I didn’t think about the silliness of trying to hide while already unseen, but I was only five and had no prior experience with invisibility. I peeked around the tree and observed the activities below. A crowd had gathered. Everyone called my name, including my parents. I stepped a few feet away from the tree and yelled at my mom. In tears, I screamed at my dad. Why couldn’t they hear me? Why couldn’t they see me?

I sat by the tree and watched my family look for me. The dogs tried to cheer me up. I guess to a five-year-old, it made perfect sense that dogs could see me when no one else could.

“Has anyone seen my Brain?”

I would never forget the fear in those five words.

“Has anyone seen my Brain?” my mom screamed again, and I answered.

“Mom!” I hollered back. “I’m here.” She paid no attention to me.

“Has anyone seen my Brain?”

I ran toward her. Halfway down the hill I knew she could see me because she began running toward me.

It was the best hug ever.

 

I never had any brothers or sisters, not necessarily a bad thing since their names probably would have been Kidney and Liver. And though I asked Mom and Dad repeatedly why they named me what they did, I never received a decent answer.

“We wanted something different.”

“Mom thought it sounded intelligent.”

“Dad lost a bet.”

At least my two best friends didn’t care what my name was, although the first time I met Jaden, he did say, “That’s a funny name for a –”

The look he received from me ended his thought, and he never mentioned the word “funny” when talking about my name again.

I was six when Jaden and his parents moved into the house next door, and Addi’s family bought the house across the street from us a year later. The three of us soon became inseparable.

Jaden provided the comedy for our team. He never took anything seriously, and whenever I got too serious about things, he provided a playful slap. Ever since our initial meeting, he always told me I didn’t look like a “Brain,” and I took that as a compliment. Jaden preferred to announce his favorite colors by his unmatched shoelaces: one orange, the other green. And like me, Jaden had no brothers or sisters.

Addi was the true brains of our three-person club. I never knew anyone could be so smart. She always had a book in her hands. I didn’t know if her intelligence was because she read a lot, or if smart people just liked to read. The truth probably involved a combination of the two. Addi had a younger brother, whose main purpose in life involved annoying anyone or anything he came into contact with. But I loved her dog.

The dog wasn’t purebred, but it looked a lot like a beagle. It was brown, black and white. So, of course, his name had to be Blue. Seriously, some people shouldn’t be allowed to name anything – though I’d rather be a color than an organ.

We called ourselves The Blue Team. Addi’s dog matched the colors of the three of us, so we thought the catchy name applied. And besides, Blue was a lot more than just our mascot.

 

At first, I didn’t tell Addi and Jaden that I could make myself invisible. I was too scared to tell anyone. I believed if I even thought the word “disappear,” I would be gone. Afraid to go to sleep at night, I stayed up and worried I might not exist by morning. What if I accidentally dreamed a specific thought that would make me vanish? I imagined my mom coming into my room in the morning to wake me, and my bed would be empty.

Whenever I did sleep, the terrifying dreams came. For several years, the nightmares dominated my life…until the day that I finally made a decision. I had two choices. I could live forever in fear, worried about the possibility of disappearing again. Or, I could find some courage and put it to the test. And if I did happen to have a special talent, I could either learn to control it – or let it control me.

I was nine years old, and I took control.

By the time I was ten, I could make myself disappear, and reappear, any time I desired. That was when I showed Addi and Jaden. They couldn’t believe it. And they couldn’t hear my laughter either – as they felt in the air for me, hidden mirrors, anything that would explain my magic trick. When I finally convinced them it was real and they weren’t dreaming, I made them swear they would never tell another living person. Not even my parents.

I couldn’t count how many times Jaden begged me to “go blank,” the name he gave my vanishing act. But after a few months of going blank every day, I was getting kind of bored with it.

“Please,” Jaden would plead, “go blank again.” He often grabbed me in the hopes that he would become invisible too. It never worked, but he was obsessed with it. He would have gladly given twenty years of his life just to go blank once.

Addi, however, wasn’t as interested in seeing repeat performances as she was in figuring it all out. I knew she was smart, but I doubted she was that smart.

I was wrong.

Though she never figured out how I could go blank – evidently that was just a fluke gift I had – she did find out how she and Jaden could go blank with me. Blue was the key. And not only did she discover the secret of Blue, but soon we were going blank in different places…and times.

The past two years had been incredible. Invisibly traveling with Jaden, Addi and Blue all over the world, both in the current time and the past. It was better than incredible, at least until the trip we took to Salem during the time of the witch trials. Jaden had warned us about it. We should have listened.

 

It was one of my ancestors, not Addi’s, who had been accused of being a witch; but, it was Addi who became passionate about the topic and time period. Books always contained useful information, which Addi of course had already taken full advantage of. “But,” she asked, “why not go back and see what happened in person?”

“Because they hung people,” Jaden replied.

“We’d be safe. They won’t kill people they can’t see or hear.”

“I don’t really care to see people die.”

“We don’t have to watch that,” said Addi. “I want to go back before then, when it supposedly first started.”

“With the two cousins?” I asked, remembering something from history class.

“Yes, Abigail and Betty were their names. Abigail was eleven, and Betty was nine. There were other girls who claimed that witches had cast spells on them, but it’s the cousins I’m interested in. I think the whole thing might have started from one of their experiments in fortune telling.”

“I don’t remember that in my history book,” I said.

“That’s why you read more than just what you have to.” Addi never said things such as this in a judgmental way. I don’t think she understood why everyone didn’t enjoy reading as much as she did. “Anyway,” she continued, “they used a mirror and the white of an egg to make a primitive crystal ball called a venus glass. In one of their visions, a coffin appeared. They thought they were cursed and soon began to have fits. Apparently they went off the deep end, and some people said it was because of witchcraft. It really went downhill from there.”

“That’s why you shouldn’t play with your food,” said Jaden.

“Thanks for your enlightenment,” Addi said, over my laughter.

“So if we go back in time and find these girls – then what?” I asked.

I could always tell when Addi was deep in thought. Her face muscles tightened, and she squinted her eyes. She had definitely entered her thinking mode. “After her parents died, Abigail moved in with Betty’s family,” Addi explained. “I think I’d like to find the house they lived in together, maybe right before the witch trials started, and just follow them around and see what we learn. Most historians think the girls faked their witchcraft afflictions, but I don’t think anyone can say for certain…unless they were actually there.”

I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea.

Jaden cursed. He was surer than I was. “Are you serious, Addi?” he screamed. “This sounds pointless, boring and maybe even a little dangerous. And who really cares? I think it’s a stupid idea.”

An uncomfortable silence followed as Addi’s face froze. I thought she might cry, and I was mad. Addi never complained whenever Jaden wanted to go to a baseball game from the past, when I knew she really didn’t want to. I could have taken him by myself, along with Blue, but Addi always cheerfully went with us.

“I’ll go with you, Addi.”

“Thanks, Brain,” she said, “but we don’t have to go.” Addi looked at Jaden and apologized.

I became even angrier. Addi shouldn’t be the one apologizing, and my look at Jaden must have conveyed that thought.

Jaden took a deep breath, exhaled and then offered an apology similar to how Addi’s younger brother said he was sorry.

Addi accepted anyway, and we began to make plans for a very fateful trip.

 

Chapter 2

 

I opened my eyes halfway. I thought I had been too afraid to fall asleep, but evidently not. Jaden sat next to me. His eyes were fully shut, and the large tree we leaned against served as our makeshift bed. The fog had disappeared. The sun had not risen, but its initial rays were ready to announce a new day in Salem Village. A few houses and barns were within eyesight, but everything was quiet.

“Jaden,” I said his name right before I heard the bark perfectly timed with the dawning of the sun.

“That’s Blue!” Jaden screamed. I didn’t know if he spoke or woke first, but I didn’t care. He was right. That was Blue.

We jumped up and immediately began to shout for our favorite dog. Jaden excitedly pointed to a cellar not too far away. Once again, we ran. But at least we ran in daylight.

 

It was strange how a single memory could take over my brain at times, how some specific event could create an instantaneous flashback to another time and place, even if it was totally out of context with my current situation.

The word in my third grade spelling class was bittersweet, and I could not understand how something could be good and bad at the same time. Spelling it took no great effort, but I never really grasped its meaning. It was a stupid thing to remember, which I assumed had no real significance. But I also knew that I couldn’t name any other spelling words from third grade.

When Jaden opened the cellar door, the word from third grade had never made more sense to anyone in the world than it did to me at that moment. I didn’t know it was possible to experience such a shocking range of emotions.

Enough light filtered in the opened door for us to see the bottom of the steps. Blue sat beside Addi’s slumping body, and his barks were replaced by tail wags as soon as he saw us.

“Is she dead?”

I knew those words from Jaden would be another fixed memory in my life, a haunting thought that would never escape me.

A large gash displayed itself prominently on Addi’s forehead, and she had some smaller scrapes on her arms. She was in a slightly contorted position, mainly lying on her side. Somehow, she still held her bag.

“Jaden!” I grabbed him with both hands. “The bag…it’s moving!”

One of Addi’s hands, the one with the bag, lay across her chest. Her hand and the bag slowly moved up and down, up and down.

Addi was breathing.

 

*  *   *

 

Moose Park had been the home base for The Blue Team ever since Blue arrived with Addi five years ago. It was just three blocks away, and we went there almost every day. It had to be the most dog-friendly place in the world. In addition to the huge expanse of grass and trees encompassing its grounds, three separate ponds – all with rubber ducks included – provided additional enjoyment for dogs and kids alike. Several large sandboxes were also scattered throughout. The swing sets even included seats made for dogs. And upon departure time, shower stalls offered a quick cleanup after a busy afternoon of play. The Blue Team could certainly be included on the list of those grateful to Moose’s owner. Or maybe the person who transformed the park into a doggie paradise was named Mr. Moose. One never knew about names.

Moose Park used to be called Summerstreet Park, named after one of its intersecting streets. As Summerstreet, it was a sad park. There were no ponds, only dead grass and a small playground area that had fallen apart. But a dog lover gave a large donation to totally reconstruct Summerstreet Park. I was eight years old during the winter renovations. Jaden, Addi and I couldn’t wait until it became Moose Park. I remember, however, that Jaden’s parents weren’t very happy about it – at least not at first. They had met at Summerstreet Park, and though it didn’t mean much to me at age eight, I guess they were kind of sentimental about the original park.

 

Addi, Jaden and I were more than sentimental about Moose Park. And Blue always bounced enthusiastically whenever he heard the word “Moose.” Blue was definitely the most crucial member of our team. If we ever lost him, we were done for. That would be the end of anyone going blank other than me, and I would no longer be able to go blank in different places or times. We took real good care of Blue.

I had no idea what made Addi think of it. But I had to give her credit for asking me to grab Blue one evening a couple of years ago at Moose Park as I went blank. Blue disappeared with me, and for the first time in his life Jaden wished he was a dog. “Why does it work with Blue, but not me?” he whimpered.

“Most dogs are smarter than most people,” Addi matter-of-factly replied.

It didn’t work with other dogs, which kind of surprised me, but Addi had never been happier. Just for fun, I tried going blank with a couple of cats. That didn’t work either, which was probably just as well. I couldn’t imagine the destruction an invisible cat would cause.

What did work, however, was another of Addi’s suggestions. Jaden hung tightly on to me as I held Blue, and Jaden became the only person in the world happier than Addi. We quickly discovered anyone in contact with me – as long as I was in contact with Blue – would disappear with Blue and me whenever I went blank. Jaden and I could go blank together with Blue, and Addi could join the party too if she touched me. We were invisible to the world, though we still saw each other.

Contact with me and Blue. That was all it took. It was so stupid, so simple, so incredible to believe and impossible to figure out. But I had decided that lots of things were impossible to believe, and I quit worrying about it. I simply accepted it and enjoyed it, as did Addi and Jaden.

So when the really ridiculous things occurred, we acted like it was no big deal, sort of.

 

“Why don’t you think of a different place while you’re thinking about going blank?” Addi asked one day as we sat on our Moose Park swings.

I closed my eyes and thought of Joe’s Corner Grocery, about half a mile from Moose Park. When I opened my eyes, Joe’s Corner Grocery stood directly in front of us – though no one could see or hear me, Addi, Jaden or Blue.

We laughed as we ran back toward the park, but Addi stopped us halfway there. “Go unblank,” she said, “and see where we end up.”

I did, and we rejoined the visible world at our favorite swings in Moose Park.

“We could have some fun with this,” said Jaden.

But before we did, Addi had one more suggestion. “Brain, think about a different…time.”

I thought of something simple…and it worked. We went blank to Joe’s Corner Grocery, but the date on the news screen inside the store indicated it was seven days earlier. I went unblank, and we immediately returned to Moose Park at the exact time and date we had left. Jaden smiled and got the look in his eyes.

Addi and I knew whenever he displayed that particular expression, it could only mean one thing. Baseball was Jaden’s first love. He loved to play it, but he lived and died with his favorite team – the Boston Red Sox. I had no idea why. We didn’t live anywhere near Boston, and he had never seen them play in person. But the Red Sox were in his blood and had been for as long as I had known him.

Of course, Jaden immediately wanted to go back about a hundred and fifty years, but Addi and I held him off until we had a little more practice – both in going blank to different places and back in time.

We traveled back in time a few more weeks, a few months, a few years. It was beyond ridiculous, but we never failed. We snuck in, if being invisible counts as sneaking in, to a few current Red Sox games. And we happily discovered small items that could fit in our hands, such as a borrowed hot dog, immediately vanished upon contact. I always shared my snacks with Blue at the games. But not too much…I certainly didn’t want him getting sick. I loved that dog.

Finally, we decided we were ready for Jaden’s big day. We saw Cy Young and Honus Wagner, though they didn’t see us. It was 1903, and Addi, Jaden, Blue and I watched the Boston Americans – later known as the Boston Red Sox – play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series ever. Jaden had to explain who the Royal Rooters were and tell us about the Tessie song, and we joined in the taunting of the Pirates with voices at maximum output. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, no one heard us.

“Best twenty-five cents I never spent,” Jaden said, referring to the ticket price of the game we didn’t pay for.

Addi, naturally, took us to historical events…live historical events…lots of live, historical events. And it really surprised me how much I enjoyed them. I learned that observing something in person was much more exciting than listening to Addi read about it. I didn’t know history could be so much fun. And Addi learned a little lesson herself: not everything she read in her books was true.

Those were definitely not human bodies we saw in Roswell on a hot summer day in 1947. And just recently we visited Dallas on that fateful November day in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. It was horrifying to watch. I would never be able to forget it, and keeping secrets became more and more difficult. But how could we explain…who would we tell…about the second gunman.

 

*  *   *

 

Addi woke up as soon as we reached her in the cellar. She assured us she was fine. She stood up, walked and talked without any difficulty. And then, three friends held each other and tried not to cry. After a minute or two, I picked up Blue, and we left Salem Village.

We sat in the seats without swinging, the set of swings located in the back of Moose Park. That was our meeting place, the place secluded from the rest of the park, the place we always began and ended our special trips.

“So is this going to be our story?” Jaden asked. “Addi jumped off a swing, landed wrong, fell and hit her head on the ground.”

“Is that the best we can come up with?” asked Addi.

“We can always tell our parents the truth.”

“Darn swing.”

I gazed with sympathy at Addi’s head wound. Even so, I smiled at her; and, she knew why. Addi was okay. Except for a medium-sized headache, she was okay.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jaden asked again.

Addi nodded her head, so I decided it was fine to ask the question I was dying to ask. “Do you remember what happened?”

Addi nodded again and began to describe her dark night in Salem Village. “I guess someone left the cellar door open.”

“I hate it when that happens,” said Jaden.

I was glad Addi felt good enough to chuckle at Jaden’s comment. “I had just found Blue, or actually, he found me,” she told us. “Then I felt someone touch me, and she laughed. I screamed, jumped backwards and fell. I think the fall must have knocked me out, because the next thing I remember was this girl staring at me. She had a candle and was sitting beside me petting Blue.”

“Was it the same girl in the window?” I asked.

“I think so. I was really groggy and afraid too, but I did ask if her name was Abigail. As soon as I said that, I think she was as scared as I was. She gave me a real funny look and then moved her candle up and down my body. She asked me, ‘From whence do you come?’ I said something real smart, like ‘Huh?’ Then she seemed to compose herself some and asked me, ‘From what century?’”

Shivers ran up and down my back and arms. “Did you tell her?” I asked.

“No, I just told her that I wanted to find my friends and go home. She said she tried to scare you two away, and she kept asking me if we had come for her – to take her away, to punish her. I assured her that we weren’t there to hurt her, and I think I convinced her. She told me she would find you in the morning but made me promise not to go anywhere. She definitely stressed how dangerous it would be if we were seen by others.”

“Speaking of,” said Jaden, “did you think about asking her how she could see us?”

“No, I’m sorry. I was a little flustered at the time. She climbed up the steps, told me to be very quiet and shut the cellar door. After a while, I fell asleep.” Addi looked at Jaden and then me. She wiped her eyes before a tear could fall. “I’m so sorry. We should have listened to Jaden.”

“It’s okay.” Jaden smiled as he squeezed Addi’s shoulder. “You can always listen to me later.”

I couldn’t resist. “What’d you say, Jaden?”

 

*  *   *

 

Most of our time traveling adventures had taken place during the past two summers. On occasion, we would enjoy a weekend excursion during the school year – especially at first. Actually, during those initial days of going blank together, we would sometimes disappear on school nights too. We might do our homework before our trip, or we could just wait until later to finish it. When you time traveled, there was always time for later.

And that led to our first problem: sleep. Specifically, not enough of it. Whenever we went blank to a different place or time, no current time elapsed. We could be gone for several hours at a ballgame or something, and when we returned, no time had passed at Moose Park. It was as if we had never left. We’d be ready for bed, but it would be the middle of the day.

“My mom is going to become pretty suspicious if I keep taking a three-hour nap every day,” Addi said. “But I think I have an answer.”

“Let’s hear it,” Jaden said through a yawn on a warm afternoon at Moose Park.

“Whenever we need to catch up on some sleep, we transport back to the day before – and we invisibly take a nap in our own beds.”

I tried to act brainy. “Won’t we run into ourselves and fracture that whole space-time continuum thing?”

“I don’t think so.”

So much for my attempt at talking smart with Addi.

“Is Blue willing to play along?” Jaden asked. He questioned Addi in a comical way, but it did make me wonder what would happen to us if something went wrong with Blue during a time of going blank.

“Blue is all for it. He always sleeps with me,” Addi answered. “And he is never the first to get up.”

We implemented the plan, learned to pace ourselves, took a few invisible naps and moreover – we didn’t run into ourselves and destroy the entire universe.

 

Addi and Jaden often asked me where I wanted to go. They didn’t believe me when I told them I was happy with the baseball and history trips. They kept insisting though, that I pick something. So I did.

“Let’s see if we can travel to the future.”

I envisioned seeing what I did for my living, what I did for fun, where I lived and traveled, who I married and how many kids we had. Jaden thought about baseball – and how much money he would make by knowing the outcome of games before they ever began. And Addi just smiled when it was her turn to share. I planned to ask her about that someday.

They let me go first. Addi and Jaden placed their arms around my shoulders. I held Blue and closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes…and we all saw…

Moose Park.

Failure.

We were so disappointed. Our dreams of where we would visit in the future were short-lived. The Blue Team made several attempts, but the future remained a mystery.

So we settled for going blank primarily to the past, though a recent current-time trip was enjoyable – in a criminal misdemeanor sort of way.

It was just a few weeks ago when the look in Jaden’s eye could mean something other than baseball.

“Has the Red Sox game started?” I asked.

“No.”

“Then,” Addi said, “it must be Riley.”

Jaden’s smile confirmed his new second love, though his baseball affections had been reciprocated more than Riley’s. At least the Red Sox sent him a team poster once.

“What are you thinking about Riley, or do we really want to know?” I asked.

“I’m just thinking about Riley, Mike and going blank.”

“Uh-oh,” Addi said. “I don’t see this ending well.”

Mike played on the same baseball team as Jaden. Mike was also Riley’s boyfriend, though the relationship was brand new. Mike had recently hit his first homerun. Someone retrieved the ball for him, and he gave it to Riley – after he autographed it. He also inscribed “I love you” on the ball. Yeah, pretty nauseating.

“Can we go blank, Brain?” Jaden asked.

Against my better judgment, I agreed. I grabbed Blue and asked Addi if she wanted to join us.

“I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

 

“He’s crazy,” I said to Addi, as we watched Jaden sneak in the back door of Riley’s house.

Addi laughed. “He’s looking around like someone may see him. Has he forgotten he’s invisible?”

“He does need to make sure that no one sees the door open and shut, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s home.”

Addi and I watched Blue attempt to make friends with another dog while we waited for Jaden. Blue never met a stranger, animal or human, invisible or not. After a few minutes, the back door moved, and Jaden came out with his prize.

“So that’s it?” asked Addi. “You’re stealing a baseball?”

“No,” Jaden answered. “I’m returning it.”

We ran to Mike’s house. Addi and I had trouble keeping up with our friend on a mission. Jaden arrived first but was nice enough to wait for us. Or more likely, he wanted an audience to witness the thousand glass projectiles flying madly through the air as he returned Mike’s cherished souvenir through his bedroom window.

 

Chapter 3

 

 

We didn’t go blank once during the two weeks following our Salem misadventure. The Blue Team was happy, just sitting and talking at Moose Park, watching Blue splash through the water chasing fake ducks.

Only ten days of summer remained, which meant Jaden’s birthday was fast approaching. He would be the first of our team to become a teenager. Addi’s thirteenth birthday came about five weeks after that, and I was the baby – exactly eight weeks younger than Jaden. We weren’t sure about Blue’s age. He was a rescue dog, and his veterinarian thought Blue was only about two or three years old when Addi’s family adopted him six years ago. So he probably wasn’t that old, but getting old enough to make us think about the dreaded inevitable: Without Blue, our going blank party would end. But at the same time, we all would have gladly traded going blank to keep Blue forever.

“Are you inviting Riley to your birthday party?” Addi didn’t mind giving Jaden a hard time about his second love. The baseball scheme had backfired, badly. Rumor had it that Riley blamed the airmailed baseball on a jealous friend. Mike got Riley a case with a lock to display the keepsake and then wrapped the case with alternating layers of bubble wrap and candy. Riley loved it, and the love of the young couple was secure for at least another week. It upset Jaden, but he admired Mike’s style.

“Yeah,” answered Jaden. “I’m inviting both Riley and Mike.”

“Do you guys want to make one more trip before school starts?” I kind of hated to ask, but I thought Jaden might appreciate my changing the subject away from Riley. I also thought it might be nice to do something fun, and simple, before we got back into the grind of homework and tests.

“Maybe,” replied Addi, “if we’re careful about what we do.”

“Remind me again,” said Jaden, “whose idea was it to go to Salem?”

“I know. I’m sorry. But I meant that we might not should jump into time traveling so soon. Maybe just go somewhere for fun.”

“A Red Sox –”

“No!” It wasn’t Addi who shut Jaden up, and I was surprised to hear my own shout. I certainly enjoyed baseball more than Addi, but even I had seen enough Red Sox games for the summer.

“Okay then, what do you want to do?” Jaden asked.

I thought for a moment, and my brain came up with the most fantastic idea ever. “What if we use our going blank…” I paused for dramatic effect, before adding, “To help others?”

Jaden delivered a screwball look while Addi smiled at me. Blue had returned from his swim and assumed we wanted to cool off, as he vigorously shook the water from his body in the midst of us.

“Does it involve witches?” Jaden asked.

“No.” I reached down to pet Blue. He rolled over, ever so hopeful for a tummy rub. “But it does involve dogs.”

“I’m in,” Addi happily stated.

“Details?” Jaden asked.

I began my proposition. “Why don’t we try to do something good for other people, especially kids and dogs? You both know how much time we’ve spent and how much fun we’ve had at Moose Park. And I know you remember how bad it was when it was Summerstreet.” My two friends gave me peculiar looks, and I spoke in a more emphatic tone. “My point is…let’s try to share our enjoyment with others, many others.”

“What are you saying?” Addi asked.

“We change the date Summerstreet converts to Moose Park. Let’s move it up as many years as possible, so people and pets even before we’re born can enjoy it.”

Complete silence followed.

I thought my idea was a good one, maybe even fantastic. “Well?” I begged for a reply.

Addi finally spoke. “It might be possible.”

“How?” asked Jaden. “And what if we mess something up?”

“We have to consider that,” said Addi. “Should we try? And can we really change the past, even if we want to?”

“If we’re trying to make things better, what’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“I guess it’s okay, as long as we test it out with something small,” she said.

“Such as one little park out of the entire universe?”

Addi’s face transitioned to thinking mode for a few seconds before she answered. “Why not?”

We formulated our plan. It was so simple. There was no way anything could go wrong.

 

Addi knew how to obtain copies of official city records from many years past – so we could discover the time Summerstreet Park was scheduled to be developed, and who the decision makers were during that time.

What would happen, for example, if architectural sketches and actual photos of Moose Park mysteriously appeared on the desks of long-dead city officials? Of course, such items would be delivered well before their deaths – perhaps several months before the time the decision was made to begin the construction of Summerstreet Park.

So simple.

We went blank and left six envelopes for six different people. Before we visibly returned to our time, we decided to walk to Moose Park, at least where Moose Park would soon be. Addi and Jaden argued about the precise spot where our favorite swings were going to appear, which was silly because we would automatically reappear at the exact location from where we disappeared. But it would be fun to stay in one place and move only in time, as the scenery around us magically changed.

One thing was certain. It would be a good change. The scenery of the site before Moose Park, or even Summerstreet Park, existed was pitiful. Scenery wasn’t the correct word. Junkyard described it more accurately.

“It’s a great idea, Brain,” Addi told me.

“You and Jaden helped with the research.”

We were all pleased with ourselves. It felt good to help others. We sat down and held hands. Blue rested happily in my lap, and we returned to our time.

 

Addi screamed, and she squeezed my right hand so tightly that I grimaced in pain. But worse than that was my left hand, the reason for Addi’s shrieks. Blue, also obviously distraught, barked unceasingly at my left hand – not because of any specific ailment or injury. The problem was that it no longer held another hand.

“Jaden! Where’s Jaden?” she screamed again.

I couldn’t answer her question, but I had one of my own. “Addi,” I somberly asked, “where’s the park?”

The junkyard was gone, but Moose Park had not replaced it. Nor had Summerstreet Park. Addi and I sat in the middle of a parking lot with Blue. At the end of the lot, where a special pond with floating ducks should have been, was Joe’s Corner Grocery.