A Penny on the Train Tracks

Chapter 3

It took everything I had to keep from laughing at the sight of this kids face when his head snapped over to my direction. 'I think the kid needs to change his shorts now.' Was the only thought I had going through my head as his buddy who had been walking over to my bike, instead turned and ran as fast as his feet could carry him back up and over the bridge.

"Looks like your friend there changed his mind," I said as I pointed in the direction of the now settling dust cloud. "Now, do you plan to put the bike where you found it, or do I need to take it from you?"

"No sir, I mean, um, here Mike." He said as he stepped off the bike and walked it over to Mikey.

Just as he was about to turn and leave, I walked up to him and grabbed his shoulder causing him to cringe as if he was expecting that beating now.

"Would you mind explaining to me just what it is you get out of picking on little kids? Don't you have better things to do with your time?" I said as tears were obviously starting to form in his eyes. "You know, like pulling the wings off of flies or something?"

"Look I'm sorry. I wasn't really gonna take his bike, I swear. I was just messin' with him." He whined, obviously not as tough as he was just a couple of minutes ago.

"What's your name kid?"

"Tommy, Tommy Russo sir. I live a few houses down from Mikey." He answered, actually surprising me at how polite he had instantly become.

God, I never really talked to him when I was younger. Just got picked on by him. He's actually human. I thought to myself as I watched a tear finally trickle down the boy's face.

"Tommy, you can calm down, I don't plan to hit you. I would really appreciate it if you would find something else to occupy your time though. Mikey and his friends don't bother you and your Buddy there. You know that tough guy who is probably hiding in his house right about now." I said as I looked back in the direction he ran off, just shaking my head as I muttered "Real tough guy…"

"Brian's Cool. He's my friend."

"Brian left you here to get the hell beat out of you by an adult. Not exactly what I would call a friend, by anyone's definition." I watched Tommy's eyebrows raise a bit as the realization of what I had just said obviously set in.

He stood there for a second, then turned his gaze to Mikey. "Mike, I'm sorry. He's right. You really don't bother us ever really, and I guess I have been showing off just because Brian does all the time. I won't anymore, I promise." He said as he held out his hand for Mikey to shake. "Friends?"

Mikey looked at me, then back at Tommy. Obviously confused at his former tormentor's sudden change into a real human. "Friends" He answered and took his hand.

Now there is something I never thought I would see. I thought to myself as an actual smile formed on both boys faces. All those years of being his target, and it turns out he was just trying to look "Cool" for his friend.

"Mike, can Tommy ride back with us, he lives right down the street from me?"

"Hey, your name is Mike too?" Tommy asked.

"Yeah, I'm Mike, he's Mikey. That makes it a little less confusing." I answered, in a little bit of shock from Mikey's question. As a kid, I hated Tommy because of how he treated me and my friends. Now that the ice has been broken, I actually become friends with him? I thought as I silently hoped I wasn't damaging the future that I left to come here.

"Cool," he said "It's okay though. My bike is up on the bridge still. We were up there when we noticed Mikey's bike and walked down. I can ride it home, it's no big deal."

"Well, I was planning on taking Mikey down to Dairy Dream for an ice cream. Since you did apologize for being kinda mean, you are welcome to join us." I said bringing yet another smile to Mikey's face. "Besides, it will give your friend some time to think about the situation he left you in, let him stew in it for a while."

"No, that's okay. Thanks though. I don't have any money on me or anything." He said as he looked at his shoes and kicked at the grass a little to avoid eye contact I bet.

"Go get your bike, I wasn't gonna make you pay," I said with a chuckle. "Kids these days…" I said as I looked over at Mikey who was now walking his bike over to me.

"You sure?" Tommy asked. "I don't want to be any trouble."

I just reached over and ruffled his hair. "You've already been that. You promise to stop harassing kids for no good reason and I won't consider it a bother. Deal?"

He looked back up at me with a smile on his face and said "Deal. I promise I'll be a lot nicer to Mikey from now on."

"Okay then, go get your bike. We're wasting daylight here."

As I went over to pick up my bike, I looked at Mikey and said almost at a whisper "Who would have guessed that 'Neighborhood Bully #2' was actually a nice kid?"

"Were you really gonna beat him up?" He asked as he jumped on his bike.

"Nah, I hate fighting just like you do but, as I got older I learned that you need to be willing to fight for what's yours or else you can plan to have nothing." I jumped on my bike and saw Tommy riding his toward us now.

"Besides, most people who act tough and push people around have their reasons. Tommy obviously needed to look tough probably because deep down, he really isn't." Then I lowered my voice and added: "It's not cool to be nice to people."

"Wow Tommy, that new Mongoose is yours? I've seen it in front of your house but I thought it was Brian's cause I only see him riding it. Cool…" Mikey said as he looked the bike up and down.

"Yeah, I got it for my birthday last month. I'd let you ride it but Brian took it over a jump yesterday and messed up the pedals." He said as he grabbed the pedal and shook it to show it was all but ready to fall apart.

Mikey jumped off his bike and knelt down to get a closer look at the damage. "Why don't you fix it?" He asked innocently while taking inventory of the damage. "The retainer ring must have got loose and let the whole thing come apart. You'll ruin the bearings riding it all loose like that."

"It's not broken?" Tommy asked with an amazed look on his face. "My dad told me he wouldn't even look at it cause the bike is only a month old and I already broke it. If I told him I let Brian take it he'd probably whip me."

"I can fix it." Mikey stood up and said. "I take mine apart to grease the bearings before I put it away before winter. When we get home if you want we can bring your bike in and I'll grease them and put it back together for you."

"Really? I mean I really don't deserve help since I've been so mean to you all this time."

Mikey looked at me and smiled then said: "Sometimes people have their reasons, besides you said you were sorry."

"How bad is it Mikey?" I asked knowing he did know his stuff when it came to bikes since he does all his own work to his and always has.

"Well, it looked like none of the bearings fell out but they might if he tries to ride it too much." Then he added "They probably didn't have it tight enough when he bought it cause it looks fine. We should probably walk just in case though."

"Well then, looks like we're walking it," I said as I dismounted mine and started to lead the way down the embankment back to the road.

"Mike, do you know what kind of bike that is?" Mikey asked still excited probably because he was going to get to fix it. "It's a Mongoose Supergoose! They just came out. They have the new Odyssey cranks and brakes. It's a competition bike…" Mikey rattled on about everything he knew about the bike as I watched Tommy stare at him in awe.

"Wow, how do you know so much about bikes?" Tommy asked Mikey.

"Well, My Aunt taught me how to take care of mine when she bought it, and we build bikes out of spare parts when we go to my cousin's house. We have 4 whole bikes that we can ride out there now, and they used to be junk." Then he went on adding "I read about your bike last month in a magazine. BMX said that they were making it with all GT parts and the new cranks and brakes. Then I saw yours not long afterward and thought it was awesome looking. But never dared ask to look at it."

Tommy slowed his walking pace a bit and looked down at his bike. "Well, you don't ever need to be afraid to ask to look at it or ride it if you want to anymore. I don't know much about fixing bikes and stuff but I know I'll never let Brian on it again. I never thought there was anything special about it, I just liked the way it looked."

"Tommy." I decided to break into the conversation. "If you take good care of that bike, it will probably be worth good money someday." Knowing full well that they are nearly impossible to find in my time.

"Well, I've never really fixed any of my bikes before. I'm just afraid I'd mess something up trying."

"I thought so too, but they are really easy to take apart and put back together if you have too. That's why we started building them at my cousins. Well, that and because my mom doesn't want to bring our bikes from home all the time when we visit there. My uncle told me about all the parts in their shed so we emptied it out and had enough to make 4 working bikes out of it." Mikey started to laugh and added, "I think he just wanted us to clean out the shed."

The three of us chatted on the way to the truck about each of our bikes. I had to explain to Tommy what a Mountain bike was built for and even made up a story about them being "Custom" because they really hadn't been made at all yet. Once we got to the truck, Tommy stopped and stared while I lifted Mikey and then my bikes into the bed.

"Mike, what kind of truck is this?"

"Chevy, why?" I asked knowing that I was about to be bombarded with at least another hundred questions.

"It's cool. I've never seen one of these before." He stated as I took his bike from him and put it in the back with the others.

"You probably won't either. There aren't many of them around." I said as I opened the passenger side door. "You two are gonna have to flip a coin to see who gets the window, and who gets the stick," I said as I waved them on.

Both boys looked inside then Tommy shrugged his shoulders and jumped in with Mikey right on behind him. Once I jumped in, I realized that I would probably have even more explaining to do about some of its contents. Tommy was the first to notice the radio when we pulled out into the street.

"What kind of radio is that?" Tommy asked pointing to the CD player.

"Oh um… It's digital. They are really new." I lied as I turned it on and tuned in a radio station so I wouldn't have to explain what CD's were. They'll learn soon enough. I thought to myself.

"Mike, what is that thing hanging from the mirror?" Mikey asked while pointing at my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure I have had for years."

"That? That's Donatello. He's a comic strip character" I said knowing that's where they came from but not knowing in what year.

"Cool," Both boys said as they poked at him and made comments about his looks and weapon.

A few minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of the ice cream stand. This was a great idea. I thought as all three of us jumped out of the truck with big grins on our faces.

Once we got to the window, I had a hard time getting the boy's attention because they were deep into another conversation about Tommy's bike problems so I went ahead and began our order.

"Two large vanilla cones with cherry dip, and whatever this one would like," I said as I turned Tommy toward the window.

"Oh, hehe, um… can I have the same but with chocolate dip, please?" He asked being exceptionally polite, making the girl at the window smile.

Mikey was about to order his when I stopped him and told him I already had.

"Oh, did you get…"

"Yup" I cut him off and grinned.

"Even with…"

"Yup" I cut him off again knowing I ordered right. I never ordered anything different from here when I was a kid.

He just giggled and put his arm around my waist. "Thanks, this is really cool." He said and gave me a little squeeze.

Once the cones came out, we walked around the side of the building where the picnic tables were only to find them full.

"Don't worry men, we have our own seat," I said as I led them back to the truck and opened the tailgate. "Have a seat before someone grabs it too," I said with a smile as both boys jumped up and got comfortable.

"This is cool. My mom does this with the station wagon when we come here too. We never have to worry about not having a place to sit." Mikey said as he started tackling his ice cream.

"My folks never come here. I've been here once before but it was just a group of us on our bikes and we just sat on those." Tommy added.

Mikey, who now had a pink mustache looked at him then back at his cone and said "My mom brings us to get out of the house when my dad comes home drunk. He used to get all mad and start hitting us and stuff but, now he just comes home and goes to bed when he's like that."

We all slowed our eating, me because I remembered those nights. Tommy put his arm around Mikey's shoulder and said "Your dad sounds like mine. He's always coming home messed up, and then he usually passes out on the couch. He isn't around much so it's not that bad." He stopped to lick some stray ice cream off of his hand then continued "He never really hits us though, only when I mess up in school and stuff. Then he gets real mad and even scares my mom."

"My dad is okay with my little brother and sister normally. When he's drunk he either picks a fight with my mom or me and I don't think he scares my mom much anymore. He started to beat her up once and she beat him up instead. Now he backs away if she gets mad and either goes back to the bar or to bed."

"Do you get drunk?" Mikey asked me with a look on his face that clearly said 'Deep in thought'.

"No. I mean I do once in a while but I swore to myself years ago that I wouldn't become 'My' father. I guess you two can understand that though." Then I added after another lick from the cone "Besides, there's a major difference between having a drink once in a while and just spending most of your time getting plastered. That's not the life I want."

Tommy took a bite out of his cone and answered, "Yeah, I never wanna be like that."

"Me neither" Mikey added now with a pink beard to go with the mustache.

We just sat and ate our cones, watching the cars drive by. Both boys mentioning any pick-up trucks that went by and how much larger than mine they were. 'I guess it does kind of stand out here, doesn't it?' I thought to myself, noticing that the boys were finished with their cones and I was down to only one bite.

"Well, before it starts getting dark, why don't we get to the house so you two can get that bike fixed," I said than popped the last of the cone in my mouth.

"OK," Mikey said and hopped off of the tailgate with his new friend right behind him. "We can have a sandwich too; I know there's enough for the three of us."

"You mean that wasn't dinner?" Tommy asked.

"Bonehead, That was breakfast," Mikey added as he poked him in the side and ran for the passenger side door.

"No boys, that was a snack to keep you from chewing on the dashboard on the way home." I said earning myself a couple of "Ha, ha, ha, very funny." looks.

"Mikey, do we need to stop off and get chips or soda to go with the tuna?" I asked as we pulled out into the street.

"Nah, we have all that stuff, unless you want something other than Pepsi. That's all Ma ever buys."

"Well, if you two don't mind Pepsi, I'd at least like to pick up one more bottle so there's some for your mother when she gets home," I said knowing that these guys would probably polish it off.

"OK," both boys chimed.

After a quick stop back at Gilley's, we pulled up in front of the house and unloaded both of their bikes and walked them into the yard.

I just looked around and absently stated: "God it's been a long time since I've been here." As I looked around the yard.

"Have you been away?" Tommy asked causing Mikey to freeze as if our cover had been blown.

"You could say that," I said and then quickly changed the subject while giving Mikey a quick wink to let him know our story was safe. "Why don't you two run those bikes down into the basement and then we can all go upstairs and wash this ice cream off. Then while you two go to work on the bikes, I'll make the sandwiches and fix us some plates."

"Okay Cool," Mikey said as he opened the entryway to the basement and both boys walked their bikes down.

Once everything was ready in the basement, the three of us went up the stairs to the apartment. Mikey opened the door and was greeted by a big black cat.

"Muffin?" I said as I reached down and picked her up. "Wow, I forgot how big you were," I said as I turned her over and tickled her belly. One of her favorite things to have done to her.

"I think she remembers you, Mike," Mikey said with a grin as Muffin stretched out as far as she could in my arms making sure I wouldn't miss any spots.

"She's cool, can I pet her?" Tommy asked.

"Sure, just remember she's heavy," I said as she grabbed my arm while I was passing her off to Tommy with her big paws "and demanding too," I added with a grin.

She didn't seem to appreciate the trade too much until she realized that Tommy had some ice cream on his face that demanded her attention.

"Okay, she owns you now," I said as Muffin started tackling his face with her tongue.

"Mike, do you remember where everything is?" Mikey asked while we both watched Tommy get mauled by the over-sized washcloth with feet.

"Yeah, I'll remember as I go, why don't you pry Muffin off of Tommy and wash that ice cream off, then we'll eat once you two are done."

After the wrestling match, the boys washed up and ran back down to get to work while I got to work on the sandwiches under the watchful eye of a now dejected cat. I found my way around the kitchen as if it were just yesterday that I was last here. Once finished, I poured myself a soda and sat in the kitchen to wait for the boys to return.

I took a long drink from my cup and let my mind wander remembering things that happened in this house. 'How many nights after my father had the stroke I sat in this very chair as my mother cried her heart out, not knowing how she was going to raise three children alone. My past, still in the future. Why am I here?' Popped into my head. 'What is it I'm supposed to do? How am I supposed to know that what I'm doing is right?'

The house was completely silent so I had ample warning when the boys came storming back up the stairs.

"How'd it go down there?" I asked in their general direction.

"All done. I had to give him a new set of bearings though cause they were messed up. But it's just like new now." Mikey said with a huge smile on his face.

"Yeah, he showed me what was wrong. I guess it was loose when we bought it." Tommy added.

"Well, the sandwiches and stuff are on the table. Why don't you two get washed up then we can eat." I said as they began the stampede for the bathroom. "Oh, Mikey. When we're done eating it may be a good idea to check in with your mother."

"Okay," He said as I listened to water running, giggling, laughing and then what I thought may have been a towel snap, followed by a "Hey!" from Mikey.

Wow, they are really getting along. This isn't a different time. Must be one of those parallel universes or something. I thought to myself with a chuckle.

The three of us sat down and wiped out the sandwiches I made along with the entire bag of chips and as I suspected, polished off the soda. Yup, good thing I thought to replace it.

"Tommy, could you give me a hand cleaning this mess up while Mikey gives his mother a call?" I asked to get the wheels in motion again.

"Sure." He answered and started grabbing the plates and napkins.

Mikey got up and went into the living room to make his call while Tommy and I finished up in the kitchen.

"Mike" I heard from the other room.


"Ma wants to talk to you."

I went in and got the receiver from him. Remember, Mrs. Avery not Ma this time. I thought as I put the phone to my ear.

"Hi, Mrs. Avery."

"Mike, just call me Julie okay?"

"Hehehe, Okay Julie. What can I do for you?"

"Nothing really, I just wanted to make sure Mike hasn't driven you nuts yet."

"Oh god no, he's been really fun. He gave me the grand tour of the neighborhood so I treated him and one of his friends to an ice cream up the street. Then we all came back here and ate. It's anyone's guess what he's got planned next."

"Which friend does he have over?"

You're not going to believe this one. I thought before answering "His friend Tommy."

"Tommy… You mean the kid that lives right up the street?"

"From what I gather, that's him," I said containing the chuckle that was building up.

"Wow, I'd love to know when they started to get along. Tommy does nothing but harass Mike and his friends every chance he gets."

"Stranger things have happened I guess. At any rate, everything is fine here and since it should be starting to get dark soon, I guess we will hang around here." After thinking a little I added, "I'll stick around until you get home so Mikey isn't alone."

"Thanks, but his grandmother lives right downstairs. If you need to head home he'll be fine. You've been stuck with him for most of the day already."

"Don't worry about it; I've had just as much fun as he has today. I guess he's been kind of stuck with me."

"I'm sure he didn't mind. Hehehe. Well, I can tell everything is fine there. If you need anything just have Michael give me a call." Then she added, "I'll be heading home in a couple of hours."

After exchanging goodbyes, I hung up the phone and wandered into the now deserted kitchen. 'Uh, oh; where did those two wander off too?' I wondered to myself.

"Mikey, Tommy?" I shouted out to try to raise their attention.

Hmmm… No answer. Must have wandered back outside. I thought until a muffled snicker came from Mikey's bedroom. Hiding? Alright, I can play this game too. I thought to myself as I pretended to not hear them and sat down at the table.

"Well, this was fun today," I said loud enough for the two little clowns to hear me but to appear to be talking to myself. "I should probably head home, it is getting late."

"No…" Whined Mikey. Giving away their location. "It's not that late. I thought you were gonna stay 'til Ma got home at least."

"I am, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention, dufus," I said with a wink. "But it is getting dark out so I guess we are in for the night. Any ideas what to do until your mom gets home?"

Tommy stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor "I guess I should head home. My mom will get mad if I'm out too late."

"You can call her if you want, we could watch some TV or something," Mikey said as he looked over at me, probably for backup with his decision.

"It's really not a problem if you want to stay a little later," I said causing a smile to form on both boys faces.

"Cool, I'll call now. If she asks, will you walk with me to my house? I think that's why she doesn't want me out after dark because I'm not with an adult." He said, already walking toward the living room to make his call.

"Sure, I'll talk to her if she wants. Tell her we will probably be heading out at about 10. If that isn't too late." Then I added, "And I will walk you home, that's not a problem."

"Thanks Mike," Tommy said as he left the room.

"Mike, are you gonna sleep here tonight?" Mikey asked.

"Oh, I'm sure your father would love to hear that some strange guy he doesn't know is sleeping over while he's at work. I don't think that would be a good idea." I said, knowing he would flip out, and probably cause a fight in the house.

"Yeah, I guess," Mikey said, sounding a bit deflated. "I wish I could tell him who you are. That might change the way he looks at it."

"You really think it would?" I said knowing the answer already.

"No, I guess not." After a moment he looked right at me with a 'deep in thought' expression. "Mike?"


"Does he still… I mean do you and Dad still fight and stuff?"

"No Kiddo," I said as I pulled him into my lap, resting my chin on his head as he pulled me into a tight hug. "That ended quite a few years ago."

"He stopped drinking?"

"In a way, yes," I said while thinking, No kid, he stopped breathing. But I kept my sorted comments to myself.

Mikey looked as if he was just about to say something when he was cut off by Tommy coming back into the room with a rather disappointed look on his face.

"I have to go home," Tommy said as he walked over and plopped into the chair next to us. "My dad's home and he's in a bad mood."

"Do you have to leave now?" Mikey asked.

"Yeah, but we can hang out tomorrow if you want."

"Cool, tell your dad that your bike is fixed. That may get him in a better mood." Mikey said trying to brighten the mood a bit.

"Doubt he'll care. He was out with a bunch of his friends, probably drinking all day again." He said as he stood back up. "Only way to get him out of his 'Bad Mood' is to stay out of his face."

"My dad is like that too but he usually looks for a fight when he's like that," Mike said. "Wait, before you leave…" Mikey said as he ran into the living room, returning with a pen and a pad of paper. "I'll give you our phone number. You can call if you need anything, OK?"

Mikey scribbled his name and number on the paper then tore it off and handed it to Tommy.

"Thanks," He said as he stuffed it into his pocket and grabbed the paper and began to write. "Here's mine, if you need me you can call too." He said as he put his arm around his new friend's shoulders.

"Mike, thanks for the ice cream and for not beating me up today," Tommy said with a half-smile on his face about me not beating him up.

"Not a problem. I'll beat you up some other time, Deal?" I said, squinting my eyes at him hoping to get a laugh.

"Yeah, deal." He said with a chuckle. "Hey. Thanks for fixing my bike." He said as he looked down at Mikey. "I wish I had been nicer to you before, I feel like a total shit head."

"Forget about it, we're friends now," Mikey said with a smile that clearly reinforced his statement. "See you tomorrow?"

"Yeah, you gonna be here too Mike?" Tommy asked me.

"Maybe, never sure what each day brings" I answered, silently wondering just 'where' I would wake up tomorrow.

"Cool, I'll call before I come over. Bye guys." Tommy said as he turned for the door. Just before opening it he stopped and turned toward us. "Mikey, is it okay if I leave my bike in your basement tonight? It would be a lot easier than pulling it out to go four houses down and have to lug it down into mine."

"Sure, it's safe here. If I get up early enough I'll oil the chain and tighten your brake grips like we talked about."

"Okay, thanks, I owe ya one," Tommy said as he waved bye and closed the door behind him.

"So, my little shadow. What plans do we have for the next couple of hours?" I asked as Mikey took his spot back in my lap.

"Dunno," Mikey said regaining his death grip around my chest. "I wish you weren't, I mean I wish I wasn't… You know… I wish we weren't the same person."

"Why's that?"

"Cause I want you to stay. I don't know any guys that would just be friends with a little kid." He said while drifting into thought again "You're a cool friend, but I'm scared that you are gonna just disappear or something."

"Well," I said as I digested what he said. "I don't know how long I'm here for but, I do know one thing for sure."

"What's that?" He tilted his head upward a bit and asked.

"As long as I'm here, we aren't the same person." He answered by tightening his hug. "You may be who I used to be, but we are two separate people right here and now so I guess it's okay for us to be friends and try to forget that we are connected, even if it is by a few years of time."

"I guess so," Mikey said, probably not completely satisfied with my answer but re-assured that I really was his friend, even if for just today.



"Do you like kids? I mean normally."

That's an odd question. I thought to myself. "Sure I do. Why do you ask?"

"Cause I wanna be like that when I get older. I don't want to be angry all the time like my dad."

"Well, I think you will be happy with the kind of adult you will become." I thought about it some more and added: "Actually, I'm sure you will."

"Cool." Was his only answer.

"Hey, instead of sitting here all night, why don't you jump in and take a shower and change into something to sleep in, then we can go in and watch some TV or something until your mom gets home."

"You want me to get ready for bed? It's not even 8 yet." He said, probably thinking I was going to become a typical adult and start bossing him around.

"I just thought that since we're in for the night, it would be nice for you to get cleaned up and comfortable, then we can go in and see what was on TV. You don't need to go to bed."

"Oh, okay. I thought you were gonna send me to bed." He said as he stood up. "What about you?" He asked.

"What about me?"

"You're all sweaty and dirty too. Are you gonna take a shower?"

I do need one. I thought as I looked myself over. "I probably should, just so I won't stink you out of the room. I don't have a change of clothes though, so I may have to do some shopping tomorrow."

"I don't think I have anything that will fit you," Mikey said with a giggle as he pulled his shirt off and threw it over to me. "See if that fits ya..." and in a fit of laughter he turned and ran for his room, getting hit in the back with the balled up shirt as I threw it at him.

"Rug-Rat!" I shouted to him, knowing it is a pet name his mom uses when talking about him or his younger brother and sister when they got into mischief.

"Takes one to know one!" He yelled back as he dug through his dresser drawers for clean clothes to change into.

Mikey came out of his room with a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt draped over his shoulder and flashed me a smile. "I'll be right out." He said, probably waiting for me to take another playful shot at him.

Once he closed the bathroom door, I got up and poured myself another glass of soda. I may need to do some shopping tomorrow… still ringing in my head as I took a long sip from my glass. What if I'm not here tomorrow? I silently wondered as I noticed a light voice coming from the bathroom.

I tiptoed over to the bathroom door and listened in. "He's singing I think," I said to myself, but directed at the cat who was doing figure eights around my feet. "Yup, definitely singing…" I said as I recognized the song and hummed along…

By the dark of the moon, I planted

But there came an early snow

There's been a hoot-owl howling by my window now

For six nights in a row

She's coming for me, I know

And on Wildfire we're both gonna go

We'll be riding Wildfire…

I decided to stop eavesdropping and sat back down at the table. "Wildfire," I said to Muffin who decided to make use of an available lap and demand some attention. I remember horseback riding as a kid. Brandy, the horse my Aunt bought used to stop and listen to that song whenever he heard it. I guess my Aunt played it to him one too many times, or he really understood the words… I drifted back from my thoughts as I heard the shower stop.

"Didn't miss anything I hope," I yelled over to the still closed door.

"I was supposed to wash?" Mikey yelled back.

"Wiseguy," I said with a chuckle as the cat decided to jump down and wander off into the pantry. "Nice spending time with you," I said to her as she stretched and yawned obviously upset by her nap being cut short from my yelling.


"Nothing, I was talking to the cat," I said as she disappeared from view.

The bathroom door opened and out came a much cleaner version of the kid that went in.

"Feel better?"

"Yeah, I'll grab you a clean towel and washcloth so you can get yourself cleaned up." He said as he went into the laundry room.

"Thanks, I'll make it quick," I said as he set everything on the bathroom sink.

"Okay, I'll go see what's on TV." Then before closing the room, he asked "Mike, do you wanna make some popcorn? There's some Jiffy-Pop in the pantry."

"Sure, I'll try not to burn it," I said getting a giggle from him.

"You burn it too?" He asked.

"Yup, never did get the hang of that stuff."

"Great, Now I know I will never have good popcorn, like forever…" and with that, he closed the door while waving his hands around in mock disgust.

Never have good popcorn. I thought. Bah, microwave popcorn is gonna save you from that…

While in the shower, the events of the whole day just replayed in my head. I thought about all the things I may have changed already and wondered if I should have just kept to myself. "What if I really am messing up his future… my past?" I muttered to myself. "What am I going to be going home to?" "When am I going home?"

After washing, I just stood in the shower and let the water run over me. It was relaxing and I guess I was a bit more tired than I thought. The sound of the phone ringing snapped me out of my peaceful daze so I turned off the water and began toweling off.

"Mike" I heard from the other side of the door.

"Sup Bud? Everything alright?"

"Yeah, that was Ma on the phone. She said she is gonna be later than she thought getting home."

"Oh okay, is anything wrong?"

"No. My Aunt Sarah is there and they are all sitting up talking. Matt and Angie fell asleep already so she just wanted to let you know that she will probably be late."

"Well, with the kids asleep, they will probably be chatting well into the night. That's fine; your mom deserves a night out." I said while still fumbling with the towel.

"Ma says if you want to wash your clothes, that I could grab something from the front hall closet for you to wear for now. I told her that you made me take a shower and that you did too, but your clothes were dirty and she said there is stuff in there that you might fit into."

"That was nice of her. Good idea too cause there is dirt and ice cream gunk all over these." I said as I plopped my shirt back on the floor.

"Cool, I got something for you to change into already." He said.

I wrapped the towel around my waist and had to giggle at what I saw. Two legs, a pile of sweatpants and tee-shirts, two arms and the top of a head.

"Did you empty out the closet?" I asked with a chuckle.

"Well, this is old stuff no-one wears anymore and I don't know what will fit you." He said as he plopped the pile onto the clothes hamper.

"Well, looks like these should be okay," I said as I picked out a pair of sweats that matched Mikey's and a plain blue tee-shirt.

"Okay, I'll put this stuff back. Do you want me to throw your stuff in the washer?" He asked.

"Let me put this stuff away for you, I remember where they go. If you can get this into the washer for me that would be great." Then I added "I forget how to run that old washer… Oh, and please don't wash my wallet." I said with a grin thinking back to when my "Adopted Nephew" tried to help when he was younger and did laundry. Took days to dry out my wallet and press out its contents.

"Okay, I'll empty your pockets out onto the dryer." He said with a smile as he grabbed up the pile and turned for the door.

I got dressed and returned the pile of old clothes to the box in the closet. God, he almost emptied the whole box. I thought as I fumbled for the doorknob.

"Okay, where's the popcorn?" I asked as we met back up in the kitchen.

"On the stove, I took the top off already."

While I was shaking the foil covered container Mikey sat and watched.

"Penny for your thoughts," I said bringing him back from his daydream.

"Mike, do you remember all this happening when you were me?"

"You mean our meeting and everything?" I asked, having thought something similar to what I believed he was thinking.

"Yeah, I mean, hasn't this all happened before? For you I mean."

"No, and I do think I remember today too. I remember going to Dale's house, finding out he was gone for the day, stopping at the schoolyard and stuff. I came home and met up with Ma and we all went to Nana's house." I said, remembering being disappointed that Dale wasn't home on the first real day we could hang out over the school break.

"So, you don't remember meeting you, or all the stuff we did today?"

"Nope, and I have been wondering what's going to happen now. I mean just by being here I could be changing my own past a little." I said, hoping my comment wasn't too far over his head.

"I never thought of that. Is that bad?" He asked.

"I don't think so. Well, I hope not. Don't worry about it. Like Leo said, there is probably a reason for all of this."

"Um, Mike…" Mikey said with a giggle.


"I smell smoke; I think the popcorn is done." He said pointing at the container that had stopped steaming and started smoking.

"I swear, I'll never get how this stuff is supposed to work. It's not done popping but it's already burning… I give up." I said with a laugh as I put the container down and let it cool off.

"I have a knife to cut it open," Mikey said handing me a small steak knife.

"Well, looks like it's just the bottom. Wanna grab a bowl and we'll see what we can salvage?"

"Okay." He replied and he bounced into the pantry, returning with a bowl.

"Looks like we have popcorn," I said finding that it was just the bottom that had scorched. I'll throw this out later." I said sliding the aluminum popcorn 'blast furnace' off to the side.

We each poured ourselves a glass of soda and went into the living room. Mikey sat down on the couch while I turned on the set.

"Hmmm… Not much on. Looks like Monday Night Football or M*A*S*H" I said as we both wrinkled our noses at the selections. "I actually like M*A*S*H now, but remember that you don't care for it."

"You can leave it there then. I just never thought it was funny." He said shrugging his shoulders.

"Adult humor, I guess you have to grow into it," I said grabbing a handful of popcorn and plopping down on the couch next to Mikey.

We watched in silence for a while until I noticed Mikey yawning once the bowl was empty.



"Will you be here in the morning?"

"Probably not. When your mom gets home I will probably go find a hotel room or something. It wouldn't be right for me to just stay here."

"I meant, here like, tomorrow…" He said obviously struggling with how to word what he was thinking.

"You mean will I still be here, in this time with you?"

"Yeah, that's what I meant." He said lying across the couch and putting his head in my lap.

"Well, I guess unless I was meant to come back here to make you and Tommy become friends, I'll be here," I said having no real answer. "Tired?"

"Yeah, a little. You wanna lie down too?"

"Sounds good, sit up so I can put my feet up."

I put my feet up and Mikey resumed his position using my arm as a pillow.

"Cool," Mikey said with another yawn. "WKRP is coming on." He said as he shuffled himself right up against me to get comfortable.

"Yeah, haven't seen this show in a long time," I said as I hugged him close and patted his chest.

"This is comfortable, I hope you are gonna be here for a while. I've never been this comfortable with an adult before." Mikey said as he readjusted his head on my arm.

"Yeah, it is nice cause we sort of know each other already too," I said to the back of his head.

Half way through the program, I noticed Mikey's breathing become shallow and steady. 'So much for conversation,' I thought knowing he was down for the count. 'Night Mikey, I really do hope I'm here for you tomorrow.' I thought as I stopped paying attention to the television and watched a younger me slip deep into sleep. I slid his glasses off and put them on the end table with my free hand, then curled up and listened to the sound of his breathing and let my eyes close…

* * * * * * * * * * * *

To Be Continued...