He had gotten out the wicker-straw suitcase and had it open on the bed. In it, he had already placed the Brownie camera his grandmother had given him as a birthday present some time ago. Now he was looking through the closet for the most important stuff.
The invitation said he needed a soldier’s uniform this time. And he had a lot of soldier’s uniforms–some from the present, some from the past (whatever that meant) and some from the apparent future. That was a bit of a problem–which one could he take this time that he had not taken before? And which of those might be very eye-catching?
Through the metal blinds he could see that the sun was getting lower in the sky. Why did he always wait until the last minute to pack?
The soldier’s uniform he picked had an Army Air Forces patch on the shoulder of the jacket. He laid it carefully in the suitcase. There was a hat, an officer’s hat with the eagle on it. And the hat had that “25 mission” crush in its middle. He put it in the suitcase on top of the jacket. There were brown shoes, too, which he placed under the jacket.
On the bedside table, there was a copy of the Stars and Stripes of London–the U.S. forces newspaper–dated February 5, 1944. He hadn’t read it all, but he’d read the important news about the mission launched from East Anglia two days earlier. There was also a copy of the Vidette-Messenger of Valparaiso, Indiana, dated Thursday, January 31, 1946. He hadn’t finished reading it either. But he’d get caught up on the trip.
He closed the suitcase, put on his coat and his hat, and rushed out of the flat and down the stairs. He hurried along the street and made it the short block to the bus station just as the clock struck the hour and a big green and white bus pulled out. It turned the corner and disappeared down the hill.
“Oh, beans and rice!” he exclaimed, “I’ve missed the bus!” The clerk behind the counter said, “No need to worry, pal. There’s another bus to Chicago in about two hours.”
He sighed and dropped the suitcase to the floor. He sat down on top of the suitcase and put his head between his hands.
“I wasn’t going to Chicago,” he said, “I was going to the Carnival.”
September 18, 2007 Tuesday at 2:47 am