A serial fiction story for your enjoyment
written by James Rada, Jr.
6: The Decision to Cross
Surprisingly, Thomas Hamilton found it easier to accept that he was stuck in the 1950s than to accept that his boss’s daughter, Jessica Weikert, was going to marry George Kirkpatrick, the son of a store owner in Thurmont. Thomas had met the man. Not that George was mean or boring, but he wasn’t a farmer, and Jessica wanted to farm. It was in her blood, just like it was in Thomas’s. George wanted to take over his father’s store, not John Weikert’s farm.
Thomas kept working on the farm through the harvest. It was easy and hard working beside Jessica at the same time. Easy because he enjoyed talking with her, laughing and thinking about life while they shared the labor. However, it was hard knowing she left the fields to see George in the evening. Did he make her laugh? Did George know how much Jessica was tied to the land?
Thomas felt those conflicting feelings helped him decide. Since it appeared he had no way to return to 2021 and no farm in Rocky Ridge, he had no reason to remain in Thurmont. He had no life here any longer. His farm was somewhere in his future. His parents were children at this time. He was alone.
Thomas often went running after work. He wasn’t sure why since he was usually pretty tired, but the run worked different muscles in his body and got his endorphins flowing. It allowed him to familiarize himself with the new, or rather old, Rocky Ridge. He often ran by his old farm, feeling nostalgic about it.
One day, he was running near Loys Station when he saw fog on the other side of the covered bridge. He stopped and stared at the bridge. It was the exact opposite of what had happened to him two months ago, except he was standing on the clear side and looking at the fog on the other side of Owens Creek.
Thomas walked along the road until he could see through the bridge. He saw an old man standing in the middle of the bridge, a stupid thing to do in the fog. If a car came along, it would hit him before the driver could see him.
Somehow, though, Thomas didn’t think a car would come along. This was the same old man he had seen on the day he walked across the bridge and back in time.
“This is my way back, isn’t it?” Thomas asked.
“Back, yes, but not forward,” the old man said.
“What do you mean?” Thomas wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his arm.
“You fought to get Paula back after she dumped you with a text, but if you cross this bridge, you’re letting Jessica go without a second thought.” Paula Clark had been his girlfriend. They had been dating for a year when she dumped him with a text message and didn’t return his calls.
“So? Engagements are broken.”
Thomas stepped closer to the man, who looked familiar. “Who are you?”
“Someone who made the right decisions and still got hurt. Sometimes, you have to gamble. You may not win, but if you try to understand the game, your chances are better.”
“I understand the game. If I cross this bridge, I will be home.”
The old man shook his head. “You’ll be in 2021, but you won’t be home.”
“Who are you? Are you the one making this happen?” Thomas paused. “Are you an angel?”
The old man laughed. “Does this look like heaven?”
“No. It’s Rocky Ridge.”
“Then I’m not an angel.”
“No, you’re a cryptic smartass.”
The man laughed again. “I’ve been called worse. So, are you going to cross?”
Thomas looked around. He saw the nearby farms, but he knew he was looking for something farther away. He wasn’t looking toward his old family farm where he had scared his very young grandmother when he walked in two months ago. He was looking toward the Weikert Farm where Jessica Weikert was probably out in the fields checking on crops before she got ready for a date.
“Why won’t you explain things to me?” Thomas asked.
“You’re an adult. You need to make your own decisions.”
“You said the first time we met that if I walked across the bridge, I would find the love of my life.”
“I only wound up going back in time, apparently.”
“So, where’s the love of my life?”
The old man gave him a look as if to say, Are you that stupid?
“Jessica?” Thomas asked. “An engaged woman who can’t wait for me to leave her farm is the love of my life? How do you know that?”
“Does it matter?”
The old man shook his head. No, I think it only matters how you feel.”
Thomas hesitated. “Okay, so I like her. I like her a lot.”
“More than a girl who broke up with you via text?” the old man asked.
“Then I think you know whether you should cross this bridge right now.”
“What will people think if I just disappear?”
He wasn’t sure whether he meant the people here in 1951 or those in 2022.
“I don’t know,” the old man admitted. “I can’t tell the future, and it’s still the same day here that you left.”
Movement caught Thomas’s eye. He turned and saw Jessica walking along the road towards him, but she wasn’t looking at Thomas. She was staring at the fog bank across the creek.
Could Thomas break her engagement to George? Could he really be in love with Jessica, or was he just fooling himself like he had with Paula? Jessica didn’t seem to be in love with him. Yes, she had held his hand the one time, and they had grown close enough to call each other a friend. That was a lot different from her being in love with him, though.
The love of his life. Could it be?
Thomas turned to the old man. “I want to stay and see what happens.”
The old man smiled and nodded. “I knew you weren’t an idiot.”