Love at Ninety-eight – Part 2
Timothy had been poring over maps and car advertisements for an hour. “Finding roads for driving is harder than I thought it’d be” he muttered. “There have to be some left somewhere.” Then he found Northview, it looked like a little town that was probably now dead, but an interstate highway had been right beside it. The interstate system had been closed twenty years ago in 2054, but, he thought there was a good chance there might be some drivable roads near it. “OK, problem one solved. Now to find a car.”
For that task, he needed more coffee. “Coffee, please,” he said to nothing in particular. Then he got up and headed to the food prep area of his small apartment. The coffee was sitting on the Materialization Pad, better known as the Mat Pad. He still had trouble getting used to this technology. And the smell of brewing coffee was totally missing. But, it was clean and fast and reasonable tasty, so he didn’t complain. His son had even programmed the Mat Pad to deliver the coffee with just the right amount of cream and sugar. Timothy just shook his head with his What-would-they-do-if-the-power-went-off look. “This generation really is helpless,” he said.
He took his coffee to the sofa pondering where he would find an actual gasoline (or even diesel, for that matter) car. They hadn’t been made for over thirty years. And, it had to work. He closed his eyes and just envisioned him and Rebecca driving down the road with the windows open (the top down would be better, but that was probably too much to ask for) and the CD blaring Just Can’t Get Enough by the Black-Eyed Peas].
He had searched everywhere on the internet he could think of. No luck. He remembered the story of how his Great-great-grandfather had kept a car on big blocks so that the tires wouldn’t wear out. And then it wasn’t used for so long that the grandchildren forgot about it when he died and it wasn’t found for a few years. He wondered if he might find a forgotten car in someone’s garage. That didn’t seem too likely.
A museum or movie lot seemed the best bet but he wasn’t near any, so that was a lost cause. Wait, people are always asking random questions and the computers everywhere just answer them. “Where can I find a gasoline-powered convertible?” he asked the same unknown computer that got his coffee and made phone calls.
“That will take a moment,” came the voice. “I have located three. One is in a junk yard near Torson; a second is in the Smithsonian’s early 21st-century section; the third is in a parking deck in Northview.”
“Northview!” said Timothy. “Can you tell if it works?” he asked.
“Of course I can.” The voice had an attitude. The voice seemed to have an attitude more often lately. “Yes, it appears to be in working order.”
“How can I get to Northview?” asked Timothy.
“Would your son approve?” said the voice.
“That isn’t your business. Just tell me how I can get there.” Timothy was sick of his son and this computer trying to control his life.
“There is a functional transport station about a mile from the vehicle,” said the voice.
“Does the transporter work in both directions?”
“Yes. You know this is not a good idea, right,” said the voice.
Timothy ignored the voice. “What is in Northview,” asked Timothy.
“Nothing, it has been abandoned for twenty years.”
Timothy had seen so many cities and towns abandoned as the population was moved to more energy efficient housing and work areas. The luxury of living wherever you wanted and driving miles and miles to work had just become more than the environment could handle. But, he had to admit, the reorganization of population centers had been done exceptionally well. People still had privacy and space and a great deal of variety in their housing options. Most people were quite satisfied with the new arrangements. And he was, too. Most of the time. But right now he wanted to go for a ride in a real car and listen to CD with his girl. Well, I guess if you are in your 90s you can’t be called a girl, but that is how he felt when the was with Rebecca.
He got out his Transporter Matrix and plotted a route to Northview. Rebecca could only transport to two places, so he had to figure out which jumps they would need. It ended up being pretty easy.
“Call Rebecca,” he said.
“You know this is still a bad idea,” said the voice.
“Just call Rebecca,” Timothy said with an edge in his voice. “And do not call my son!”
“Hi Rebecca! Are you free tomorrow?” he asked.
“Hi Timothy. Yes, what’s going on?” she asked.
“Pack a lunch and meet me at the Better Foods for Us on Locust. We’re going on an adventure!” Timothy felt like an 18-year-old!
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” said Rebecca.
“Have you been talking to my computer? Of course I’m sure! Let’s meet at 9 tomorrow morning. Does that work for you?” he asked.
“That works for me. What’re we doing?” Rebecca asked.
“It’s a surprise, but bring some lunch for us and wear walking shoes. See you tomorrow.” Timothy was floating on air. He felt a freedom he hadn’t felt for a long while. He gathered his favorite CDs from high school. Then he packed a cooler with some bottled water and his and Rebecca’s favorite sodas. He also packed a few other things he thought he might need. He wasn’t nervous like a first date, but he felt light as a breeze. It was going to be a great day.
The next morning he met Rebecca at the transporter station at the store. Rebecca had the lunch packed and had a million questions – none of which Timothy would answer. “Just trust me on this,” he said with a smile. “It’ll be fun and we’ll be home by dark.”
It took five jumps, but they finally stepped out of the transporter near a library in the abandoned town of Northview. It was always eerie to see these abandoned towns. Nothing was damaged, except through some weather damage. Doors and windows were closed but not locked. Nothing was on the streets. The traffic lights that were solar powered still worked as did the school crossing lights. It was a little unnerving. “Umm, is this the fun part?” asked Rebecca.
Timothy smiled. “Nope! We have about a mile to walk and then I hope we’ll find the surprise.”
“You hope! That doesn’t sound good!” Rebecca was becoming a little concerned. Maybe running off with a 98-year-old when you are 97 is not such a good idea. She was happy that she made sure that her phone was fully charged and had a long range. “How far are we from home?” she asked. She hoped that panic was not in her voice; she felt it rising in her stomach.
Timothy took her hand and said, “About fifty miles. You know I would never do anything to put you in danger. If the surprise isn’t there, we will walk back to that little park over there and eat our lunch and then head home. The worst case scenario two-mile mile walk with lunch in a park.”
She looked where he pointed and there was a small path to a gazebo with a picnic table under it. Her panic subsided a bit.
Timothy pulled out his maps and studied them. “How’re you at reading maps?” he asked.
“OK, I think. I haven’t done it for ages, but I think it’s like riding a bicycle.” She took the map he handed her.
“We are here,” he said pointing to a building marked “Northview City Library” on the map. “And we are headed here.”
The spot he was pointing to was labeled Municipal Parking Deck. “What the heck are we going to do at a parking deck?” she asked.
His eyes were looking brighter than she had ever seen them. “We’re going to steal a car!”
“What? A car?” Rebecca was dumbfounded.
“Quick, let’s start before we lose our nerve!” said Timothy.
They started walking along the route he had marked. It was eerie walking past all of the closed businesses and coffee shops and stores. “I remember Irinio’s! That was my Mom’s favorite dress shop,” said Rebecca.
“I was salivating over the bagel shop we passed a few minutes ago. This place really brings back memories, doesn’t it?” said Timothy.
They walked a bit further and right where it was supposed to be they found the Municipal Parking Deck. Timothy checked another piece of paper. “OK, it looks like we go up one level and then head toward that corner,” he said pointing to the left.
They were both surprised that they saw perhaps thirty cars on the two levels. They were the new hydrogen technology engines that ran on water – at least if you were in your 90s it was new technology. They walked to the far left parking row and in the back corner Timothy saw it. A bright red, well, maybe a dirty and dusty red, gas powered convertible! “There!” said Timothy triumphantly.
Rebecca was stunned! “How did you ever find that? It’s wonderful!”
Now was when Timothy was hoping that everything fell into place. He took off the pack he was carrying and put it on the ground. He hoped he had what they would need. Since he had no idea what they would need, it was hard to decide what to bring. “I hope it isn’t locked,” he said. He tentatively reached out to the handle and pulled it. No alarms rang (probably meant the battery was dead) and the door opened after a firm tug or two. The two of them just stood there looking inside the car.
It was pristine. Well, if you ignored the dust and grit of 30 years, it was pristine – no torn seats, no cracked dashboard, no broken pedals. It was beautiful! “Can we sit in it?” asked Rebecca.
“I didn’t walk all this way to just look at it!” Timothy said with a grin. He walked around and opened the passenger door for her and she sat down. They both ignored the puff of dust that rose as she settled into the seat. He looked over and did not see any keys. He didn’t expect to, but he could always hope. He walked around to the driver’s side and sat in the driver’s seat. The two of them just sat there for a moment.
“So, what now? Is this were we’ll have our picnic?” asked Rebecca.
“I hope not,” said Timothy. He started rummaging around the various nook and crannies of the car. It really would be nice if the owner had left the keys in it, but he didn’t find any. He got out and put his pack on the car and pulled out a screwdriver and a few other tools. He tried the screwdriver in the ignition, but nothing happened. Then he leaned under the dash and started moving and removing things.
“What are you doing!” said a surprised Rebecca. “How do you know this stuff?”
“You didn’t meet me until I was in my 70s. I did a lot of stuff before that,” he said with a grin. “I just don’t talk about it too much!” He turned the screwdriver in the ignition again. Nothing. “OK, one last trick up my sleeve.” He pulled a long cable with a plug on one end and some clips on the other. He raised the hood, clipped the clips on the battery and looked around for a plug. He was desperately hoping that there would be some plugs for electric cars even though that was pretty old technology Bingo! He saw one plug two spaces over. He plugged it in and reached under the dash. “Say a prayer!” he said.
He touched two wires together and it sounded like a sick cat. He separated the wires and looked up with a huge grin on his face. “Victory – maybe. Now we sit for a bit and let the battery charge and then we’ll try again!”
“I remember that line from high school,” said Rebecca with a grin. They both chuckled.
“I was thinking of a snack, actually.” He pulled out two sodas.
“Good idea.” She pulled out some chips. “How long do we wait?”
“This is really a long shot,” said Timothy. “The car has been sitting for at least twenty years, so nothing may work. But even if it doesn’t we’ll have a story to tell. I think if we let it charge for half an hour we might be able to get the starter to turn over. Then, if there is any gas left in the tank, we might be able to drive out of the parking deck and down a street. But, a long country drive isn’t in our future.”
They sipped and munched and told each other stories from their younger days. He said his ability to start cars without keys may have gotten him into trouble once or twice. They both talked about sitting in cars with a date and enjoying the stars and the company. Sitting in a real car made those memories so much richer.
“Let’s try again,” he said. He reached under the dash and touched some wires todether. The engine whimpered to life. Timothy touched the gas pedal and the whimper turned into a cough and a choke and a sputter and then it died. Their faces went from anticipation to expectation to concern to more concern to disappointment. “Never fear. As old as this car is, that was a great sign.”
“Your face didn’t look like it was a great sign,” said Rebecca with a smile.
“Well, at least it made some noise and the gas line seems to still be connected and somewhat functional. Hold your mouth right, I’m going to try again,” said Timothy as he disappeared under the dash one more time.
Describing it as roaring to life would not be accurate. But it did moan and groan into a asthmatic life. Timothy looked as if he had just created gold from lead! “We can’t waste any time, who knows how long this will last!” He jumped out and got their packs and put them in the back seat, unplugged the car, and jumped back in the driver’s seat. Then he stopped. He got out, went around to Rebecca’s door and opened it. “You’re driving this baby outta here!”
The typically restrained and proper Rebecca’s face exploded into a smile as she bounded out of the car. “Hold on to your hat,” she said as she plopped into the driver’s seat. She did look to make sure that Timothy was in the car before she threw the car into reverse and headed out of the parking space. She roared out (well, after thirty years, it felt like roaring), put it in drive and with glee on her face headed out of the parking deck. She cleared the entrance, drove 30 yards and the car sputtered to a stop. She looked crestfallen.
“No problem! Hang on,” said Timothy as he hopped out of the car, raised the hood, jiggled this, shook that, tapped three other things, put the hood down and went to the driver’s side and reached under the dash. The engine muttered and grumbled to life. He was very aware of Rebecca’s legs. He ran to the other side and jumped in the car.
Rebecca headed down the road. Both of them were holding their breath. Finally she said, “I think it is actually going to go. Where should I go?”
Timothy pulled out a map. “Turn right at the next street and then go about a mile.” He had plotted a short course that looked like it would take them to the edge of town and have them facing some mountains in the distance.
To both of their surprise, the car kept going until they got to the spot that Timothy had chosen. “Do we dare take the time to eat lunch here or do we need to keep this thing moving?” Rebecca asked.
“If my calculations are right, we are just over a mile from the transport station. What if we eat lunch, leave the car here and then come here whenever we want to get away from the city?” Timothy had been thinking about this for a while.
“You mean we can’t drive anymore?” Rebecca looked like a kid whose lollipop was just taken away.
“Well, we could, but the car is at least thirty years old and hasn’t been run for twenty years. I think something is likely to break and leave us stranded if we really drive it. I think I’d be satisfied with this.” He was grinning as he pulled out a solar powered personal fan and set it on the dash and then got his music player out and put on his favorite songs from the 1990’s. “We have the wind in our hair, we can play our music as loud and we want, and we can even smooch!” He looked incredibly proud of himself. Rebecca laughed at his exuberance.
“This is perfect!” she said. Soon lunch was spread on the dash, music was blaring, and breezes were plentiful. Some smooching even occurred before they headed back to the transporter station.