The Request Part (1 of 4)

My hero, Cole Rogers, just shy of five foot seven inches, could snap a person’s neck in an instant. On a softer note, he was my dad. His sure smile, always accompanied with a nod, won me over a thousand times. A hundred years ago he’d have been a jockey in love with thoroughbreds and places like ‘Saratoga’ or ‘Oak Lawn.’ But he arose from the crude oil pit of the sixties on his Harley, a ‘ghost rider’ whose flames lit up my sky. In love with metal parts, hoses, gasoline tanks, oiled tracks and chains, he embodied the spirit of Paradise Speedway.

I remember as a kid watching my dad, at one hundred forty pounds, throttle ‘Rock’ Rogers, his three hundred pound cousin, at our 1968 family reunion at Paradise Lake. I remembered his superhuman virtues, skinny tight muscled arms, and short legs pumping him to touchdown.

At Paradise Speedway he shattered the Memorial Day lap times repeatedly, even on his last day in 1974.

I grew to know Cole through others’ lenses, eight-millimeter film clippings of him competing in heats, skiing in a choppy lake, chopping dirt BLM trails up climbing hills on his Harley. Long ago, when he called me his ‘Little Trevor,’ or ‘LT,’ I stood in the length of his shadow for protection.

Would you sell your soul to return to your childhood? I did. Stepping on the shoulders of giants, I returned to August 1969, leaving my pregnant Susan to worry for me in October 2010. I had a life/death request to make of someone there; I didn’t know who, whether my dad Cole, mother Sylvia, or myself.

Susan introduced me to the time gate. Her degrees in biology, physics and psychology gained her access. I traveled to the night before my eighth birthday, when I got Puddles. I’d just botched up my trip to 1961. I half expected to see that eight fingered cop again, waiting for vengeance. But to catch me in that meadow, he’d have to of climbed that mountain 8 x 365 days; fatiguing.

I crawled through brush to a landing, and then let the steep trail whisk me two miles to a log truck road near Paradise, Oregon. I ate the dusty gravel. Susan had pushed me through the gate with just a few heart pills, a syringe, and a little black box with a knob on it. Susan had mentioned something about a sub-station as she handed it to me, rushing me through the time gate, so I knew it was a radio. She’d said, “Use this as a last resort, Trevor. If you can’t get to the gate…” and as her voice faded all I could make out is if I couldn’t make it to the gate I was to activate the sub-station. I played with it, couldn’t get it to work. It didn’t even light up or buzz static. I didn’t mess with it long. I’d had no rest since the 1961 debacle.

Susan would be fearfully scanning the August 1969 obituaries. If she checked Paradise Hospital’s records, she’d see a Forest Service worker returning to Paradise from fire-watch had brought me into the emergency room at 4:17 pm and registered me under the name on my forged ID, ‘Leo Benson.’ I suppose the records might also show a nurse who knew Leo Benson’s sister Sylvia Rogers, contacted her with the news her brother was at Paradise Hospital, and Sylvia Rogers came at once.

I’d chosen ‘Leo Benson’ as my cover name. Leo was my uncle, so I knew enough about his life I could answer the difficult questions. Besides, some said I could be his twin. The sight of my parents shocked me, especially since the last time I’d seen them they were dead. My dad, Cole had these piercing raven eyes that made me feel guilty. If he knew why I’d come to 1969, he’d have snapped my neck.

My parents, Cole and Sylvia Rogers, believed I was really my uncle Leo. They invited me to stay and offered me a room. I chose the living room sofa, and slept into the next day, sounds of clanging pots and pans and Sylvia’s voice, and the smell of white cake. It was my birthday in 1969! My eight year old self, little Trevor ran around me, arms spread as if he were a plane. And dad, Cole, bought me Puddles! I watched little Trevor slap and kiss that tiny dog and tease it with snacks saying, “Roll over, Puddles. Roll over.” He shielded that tiny dog from getting squashed by my size elevens. I was ‘Uncle Leo on the couch,’ sick, weak. Even now the house was old, though a brighter yellow, red shutters. The willow tree’s branches wiggled in the wind next to the white Mercury in the gravel drive. And the field, tall grass if you needed to hide. The new swing that rocked and creaked in the yard would one day be old, remembered, abandoned.

Cole exterminated a rat that night. I heard him shaking the tin lid of the garbage can as he threw the vermin out with the trash. I kind of thought he wanted to toss me out. I heard Sylvia putting little Trevor to bed.

“Mom, it hurts.”

“What hurts?”

“My chest hurts.”

“You shouldn’t eat so fast; you’ve got heartburn.”

“It hurts really bad.”

The voices faded. My eyes rolled into my head. Sylvia kissed Trevor, listened to him. “…and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” She whistled as she trotted into the kitchen. I shivered in my quilt.

I heard Trevor chanting again; then he wailed. As little Trevor forty years ago, I’d enveloped myself in blankets, plugging my ears in case I heard a voice call me to ‘come here.’ If I’d known what worse disturbances the next forty years held for me. Puddles scratched and clawed that garage door. I was surprised Cole didn’t get up and let him in. I knew Trevor was listening, probably with his warm flashlight by now, reading comics and planning how to rescue Puddles. Cole grew bigger in my eyes when he bought me Puddles. But still this house bled sorrow. For Cole they’d place the stone. For Sylvia they’d cut in the last numbers. ‘1974.’” But Cole, Sylvia, Puddles; once again breathed.’ And, once again, the rough threads of that sofa scratched my skin.

Mom’s ‘Old Revival’ radio show didn’t awaken me at 6 am like I expected, but Little Trevor woke me with Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, and Daffy Duck. As little Trevor I’d jumped onto the cold floor of this house each Saturday morning and crouched, wool blanket in hand, by the warm tubes of the TV. I’d clung to Puddles, but I could never cling tight enough; within the year Puddles would lay beneath the grass.

But now little Trevor held Puddles and laughed. He didn’t care the TV had only black and white, and it buzzed and crackled. He thumbed through TV Weekly with a pencil, marking off a cartoon here he’d like to watch, another cartoon there. The year that TV’s tubes went bad, little Trevor would imagine from just sounds and a feint picture all sorts of scenes that probably weren’t even on the TV.

“Angie, cartoons are on!”

“Go watch em yourself, Trevor. I’ll be in.”

“No you won’t. Come on, get up.”

I was a die-hard.

“Did I wake you up, Uncle Leo?”

I’d been messing with that little black emergency radio, trying to get a station. “No, kiddo,” I lied, “you didn’t wake me.” I supposed if I weren’t able to reach the time-gate at eleven fifty six Friday night in Munter Meadow, which lay a half hour drive on motorcycle from here, then I was to tune in to a certain sub-station on this radio to set up a new meeting point. I couldn’t get any kind of station on it, but I supposed it might only light up around the time of the gate opening.

I put the radio in my coat and watched Trevor cling to the wiggling Puddles. “I’m just a little thirsty,” I said. I had a vision of a two-liter bottle of Pepsi for my parched tongue. I shed the blanket and walked into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator.

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