by Jeff Baker
When I was ten years old we moved into the big old house just outside of town where my Aunt and Uncle had lived. It was a blast for a little kid; Made of big timbers, fireplace in the living room, big second story and an attic. This was all in 1971 and I wasn’t even going to have to change schools that fall, but in the summer I could explore all over the air-conditioned indoors and the fenced-in yard. (My Mom had been strict with me about not going up to the lake unless I was with them. We could barely see the lake from the house.) Anyway, the big fun of that summer was exploring the attic. My Aunt and Uncle had left some of their stuff up there, mostly in big trunks. I found a trunk full of old newspapers and spent an afternoon reading old comics pages from thirty years earlier in the light from the big window, and another day trying on old hats and an army uniform. But it was on the third day that I found the thingie.
I wasn’t sure what it was. It was twisted and hard, like the leather strap from Granddad’s old camera case but this was older. It looked a little like a doctor’s face mask like on TV, but made out of hardened leather. I smelled it. It smelled old. I took a deep sniff and closed my eyes. I smelled cooking: turkey, roast beef, some kind of pepper. I opened my eyes, expecting to see dinner. Nope. I sniffed again. It smelled like the inside of a trunk. Anyway, it was getting close to the time they showed a couple of cartoons that I liked on TV, so I went downstairs and put Granddad’s old hat from the army on my dresser and tossed the thingie under my bed.
That night, I dreamed.
I was walking down a hallway and it was cold. I was looking for someone. I looked down at myself; I was wearing some long tight stockings on my legs and a fluffy shirt and a hat that felt more like a wrapped-up bag. I was drawn by a smell, the smells I’d smelled earlier in the attic. I followed the smell and wandered into a kitchen made of stone with women in costume, long dresses all of a single material. A big pot hung over a stove like a witches cauldron. To one side was a table with sliced turkey on a big plate, a bigger helping of turkey than I had ever seen. The smell was delightful. I looked around, not wanting to get caught even in a dream and reached and grabbed a turkey wing, a small one. I tasted it and somebody yelled. I ran from the room clutching the turkey, toward a room with flickering light. I ducked behind two men dressed for an old movie and they didn’t see me for a moment, and I ate more turkey behind the men’s robes.
I caught their words: “Had gin court.” “Monmouth coming back to Windsor.”
That was when someone yelled again and I ran into the room with flickering lights. For an instant, I caught a glimpse of candles and a line of fireplaces by a long table with chairs and banners hanging from the ceiling. I heard music, played on what sounded like toy flutes.
Then I woke up.
I was in bed clutching the leather thingie in one hand, a half-eaten turkey wing in the other.
The wing was still warm.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This one came from a dream, maybe based on my youthful reading of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit. It started to balloon, so I cut it a bit and may work on the rest later.—-j.s.b. Sept. 2021