The future is 1976. 

It hovers just out of reach, only five months away, barely visible on the August horizon but reaching back  along the timeline and wrapping strong gilded fingers around his arm. Whatever it was like now, in 1976  it would be better.  

He sat on the crumbling edge of the excavated foundation, each foot perched on a jutting piece of  rough-hewn limestone, looking over the junk-filled crater where someone’s house once stood. Maple  trees rose around it, fanning scattered patches of shade on the lawn he had just mown and into the  foundation.  

He had found fossilized shells in the limestone. It had a history.  

For some time now, the label “bicentennial” had been appearing on products, billboards, beer cans, and  everywhere on television. It was all about the future. The country’s first 200 years were over, and it  meant that a new era would be swept in – he felt it calling to him. 

Yesterday they found the skull of Ms. KNM ER 3733 in Kenya. She was homo ergaster, “working man”.  They could have given her a nicer sounding name. Man has been working for 1,750,000 years. In  America for 199 of them. But the future was for both KNM and for him. He knew it.  

The streets were empty this afternoon. Too hot to be out unless you had to be. Some of his friends were  already out de-tasseling corn (they got good money, but you had to be older to do it). His bike leaned up  against the side of the house, the seat superheating in the sun. His sister was inside, in her room. The  neighborhood was quiet except for the choral droning of air conditioners from the houses around. 

He noticed things. It made his parents wonder about what was going on in his head sometimes – he  could see that. At his tenth birthday, his grandfather looked happy and welcomed him to the double digits. His smile was enormous, always laughing or about to laugh at something. Nothing had happened  in this double-digit year, but that was about to change forever.  

The world was so far away from where he sat now. The dinosaurs were found in far away Montana and  in China. In 1976 he would have to go there himself. They were not coming to him. In 1976 the plans and  ideas and dreams he kept secret from everyone would start to show themselves. He was meant for a  much larger world.  

He sometimes liked to disappear into the dry-run creek behind the property.  

Standing astride the running creek, one foot on a clump of fallen branches and leaves, the other on  stone, the mighty current swept rapidly beneath him. He was powerful, master of the river. 

The autumn sun was falling behind him, casting long shadows and signaling the end of his river reign.  But the scent of dried leaves and waning grass lawns intoxicated him, kept him planted in position. The  Colossus of Rhodes, Guardian of the Wild, Tamer of Streams.  

t was a dry-run creek that ran behind their house and spilled eventually into the Cedar River about a  mile later. In the summer and winter, it was just a bed of dried mud and a dirty collection area for the  wind-blown fragments of life in southwest Waverly – tin cans, old copies of the Independent Democrat,  milk cartons, and the myriad multicolored leaves from the trees that lined the creek banks. Spring rains  brought it to life, sending a modest flow of brown water along its curving path. Winter melts gave it  strength from the remains of heavy snows. 

In most other ways, he was an outcast. He lived in the crazy-painted house. He had only a few friends  and spent most recesses walking alone, sunk deep in his own imagination, around the play areas. The  dry-run creek, the looming woodpile, the overgrown weeds and grasses behind his home were a  sanctuary. On the other side, the “foundation” was a quarry of fossils and archeological discovery. Here  he found rapture in hours of uninterrupted distance from the encroaching real world beyond.  

n one hand, he held a long craggy branch that he used to maintain the flow of the water beneath him.  He pushed the cartons and leaves through and over the obstacles which supported his feet. His role was  necessary. It was ordained. He alone upheld the delicate balance and he could not abandon his perch – not yet.  

The Tamer of Streams had no story. His was a static picture, a moment caught in time, of a small boy  facing wild flowing run-off water. No more than a trickle to the outside looking eye. To him it was a new  world, one where he had a place. A world that needed him only to be there, to stay in place, to dominate  the river until the sun went down. 

Soon he would be called to supper.  

He could see himself from the outside. He could watch himself. 

He saw himself on the playground at recess, walking in wide circles and watching everyone else  carefully. They played kick-ball, sat on the swings and see-saw. They were within their own bubble. He  was on the outside.  

It all pointed to his displacement. He was here. He existed now. But it was not his place. The future, that  must be where his life would have sense. He would have followers. People would watch him and admire  what he was doing and what he was saying.  

He would get picked early for kick-ball in the future. The foot making contact with the bicentennial  kickball would fly into left field, above the heads everyone who had moved in when they saw he was  “up”. A homerun. It happened once, and it was glorious. They flocked around him. They were shocked.  They were overjoyed. Until he was up again. It only happened once.  

When the car pulled up to the side of the road, he looked over to see who it was. No one ever stopped  here. 

“This Second Street, son?”

“Yeah,” he called out, standing up. 

The man was sweating a lot in a lot of rumpled clothes. He leaned against the dusty maroon Buick and  wiped his forehead. He had some papers in one hand.  

“I have to find the Drysdale house. Know ‘em?” 

He said nothing. 

“I’m a salesman – see? Insurance. Got an appointment.” 

“I’m not supposed to talk to you,” he said stepping back. He looked around to see if anyone were  coming to talk to the stranger. Anyone instead of him.

“Oh yeah. Ok. Sorry, son.” The sweaty man headed back to the driver’s side and took out a map. It was a  state map. He could see the contours. 
If he were bad, he would not have given up on talking to me, right? The Drysdales lived around the  corner on 7th. He could point it out maybe. That wouldn’t hurt. The house was close to where old man  McRoberts lived. They say he never changed his socks in his whole life. In 1976, people will no longer  need maps, he thought. We will just know. Maybe we won’t need socks. 

The windows at home were curtained closed against the heat. No faces coming through. He estimated  the front door to be about 30 seconds to run there. The sweaty man did not look as fast as he was.  


He looked up, puzzling. With one finger, he showed the man the direction of 7th Avenue. The man  looked over, turned back and smiled. He nodded once without saying a word and started off down to  7th, leaving the maroon Buick parked here.  

He had a stiff kind of walk. 

The hood of the car was very hot. This man had come from somewhere far from here. He came up from  the past. Maybe all the way from Cedar Rapids. His grandfather worked there. He wore similar clothes.  The car’s interior was littered with papers and wrappers and soda cups. A 100,000 Dollar Bar melted  between the seats. 

The glove compartment was open, where the man had pulled something out. More papers. In 1976 I will  have papers too. My papers. People will ask to see my papers. I will show some of them, not all of them.  Bicentennial papers would be more important, not like school papers. There wouldn’t be any lines.  

He imagined all of the papers which made up an adult. They used them for everything. He read a few of  his dad’s but lost interest. “Foreclosure” and “Past Due”. He looked them up. People wanted a lot of  money from his dad. In the future, it will be the other way around. The end of this year was so close.

“200 years of feelin’ free,” ran one of the jingles. People have not been free all this time, he thought. But  soon.  

The sweating man had already reached the door by the time he noticed.  

“Thanks for the help, son,” he said. “What’s your name?” 


“Like the president, eh?” 

“Like the tree.” 

“Anyway, your folks raised you good, Lindon. It’s good to help a guy out,” he said, throwing his bundle  into the back seat. “Don’t matter if it all comes to nothing – you did me a good turn. I’ll remember that.”  He paused. 

“My name’s Weathering. You tell your pa that Mr. Weathering thinks you’re a-ok Lindon.” He winked, kindly, and eased back into the car.  

Squinting over the dashboard, Lindon Harcourt was not recognizing anything.  

His family had stayed behind in Hudson, where his aunt was putting them up for the visit. It was only a  half an hour’s drive but he told them he wanted to see it – thankfully the rest of them didn’t. Ok. He  would find it ok. He had the address. No matter what happened over the past 38 years, the street  should still be there. 

When 1976 was still the future, they had sold the house and moved away. Lindon spent his middle years  in St. Louis, then in Winston Salem, then later he moved to Paris study and to stay. He was senior  partner in a law firm now – although no one on these abandoned streets was there to be impressed  with it.  

Rochelet Harcourt and Bosque. It was a good firm, commercial cases mostly, dealing with US companies  in France. He had lived in Paris for most of the past 22 years. He had joined the larger world and had his  small part in it.  

He parked on the side of the road in front of the old maple tree. The tree was still growing out of the  sloping embankment, next to concrete stairs, just as he remembered it. He looked at the house – where  he had been alone with his imagination for so many hours and so many days. It was not the same. 

Washed over in battleship grey, the front porch was gone. There were windows and a screen door on  the south side, opening on to a deck that his father had built. It used to wrap around the house to the  southwest and open up onto a sprawling and unkempt backyard. In back, rows of a commune-style  garden used to make up a lattice all the way back to the woodpile on the far end of the property, behind  which was the dry run.

But then, maybe that was only what he thought it was. 

The window and screen door were gone. No deck. Walking around the side, aware that the owner might  just come out and shoot him for trespassing, he saw that trees were growing 20 or 30 feet from the  house. The creek seemed to have disappeared altogether when the back was leveled off all the way over  to 7th Avenue. It had only been for overflow, he thought. It probably ran through pipes under the  landscaping now.  

What was this place? 

The street out front was wide and convex, no curbs or drains. It was a scene from a movie. Across the  way, where he remembered playing as a boy there was an open lot where there were houses. There  must have been. 

What struck him the most was the outstretched space. It all seemed flat and accidentally planted.  Houses without a plan. No order, no neat rows connected by sidewalks. There were trees in various  places, but as if by mistake. A captured tree that a strayed from the woods? Pegged to someone’s front lawn. The people across the street never had names. They had a younger kid. Blue boy, we called him. 

A deep sadness filled him. He knew things would have changed. But, as he looked on the scene now, he  realized that they probably had not changed all that much. His house was altered, sure. But the  neighborhood was probably as he left it in 1975. Mnemonic filters had shielded him all these years from  its starkness, its ugliness.  

And had I stayed… He shuddered. 

He had gone away to fulfill his vision of the future. Lindon was quite well known on Ile de la Cite and in  legal circles now. He had written papers. He was a bit of a strange entity to most of the city, a  transplanted American lawyer. But the strangeness was not new to him. It had started on this street, he  mused. 

The investigation into the accidental death of Ted Drysdale had been short. He had apparently been  playing with a gun – not his father’s but Lindon’s. Lindon brought it over one afternoon to show him and  did not know it was loaded. The shot had been deafening. And Ted Drysdale was on the ground. 

Jim Beeker had been in his garage when it happened. He came immediately running over in his white t shirt and cowboy boots. He saw the boys. He saw the gun. He burst into the Drysdale’s front door and  called 911. Within an hour it was over.  

Nothing happened to Lindon. He was allowed to go and had wandered down to the softball field across  218 and sat in the wooden bleachers. His mother found him there in the early evening. A girls’ team had  been playing. 

When the Sheriff’s hand touched his shoulder, he had been standing in front of the Drysdale house,  completely still. Immobile. 

Lindon looked around. The Sheriff was young, maybe 30. He nodded. Lindon Harcourt had called ahead  and told Sheriff Vandenberg to meet him there. He said he wanted to talk about the past.  

Mr. Weathering told him he was a-ok.  

But maybe it was only how he remembered it, when the future was 1976.

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