Jeff Wilde is waking up from the best and worst five weeks of his life. He remembers his boyfriend breaking up with him. He remembers going camping. He even recalls hitting his head and waking up in 1927, decades before he was born, but now he’s woken up in the 21st century again. His boyfriend claims they never broke up and that Jeff has been in a coma for five weeks. As Jeff eases back into the 21st century life he thought he’d lost, he needs answers. Did he really travel to 1927 or was it all a dream? Did he really save a little girl’s life in 1927? Could that little girl have been his grandmother? Did he change history, and, if he did, was it for the better?
A hard object hit Jeff in the leg.
“Wake up!” The voice was male and held a nasal drawl. “I know yer alive. I see ya breathing.”
His head felt like the top was coming off. Jeff moaned and opened his eyes. The barrel of an antique bolt-action rifle was pointed at his head. He frowned. “Hey. Think you could point that thing in some other direction. I’m not armed.” Patting his pockets revealed no weapon except a pocket knife. “At least I don’t have a gun.” He held up the pocket knife.
“Don’t move.” The gun didn’t waver as the man grabbed the knife. “Who are ya, and whatcha doing on my land?”
Jeff tried to answer, but no name came to his mind. He blinked and searched his mind. “I don’t know.” He hesitated and looked up at the man with a frown. “I can’t seem to remember who or where I am. Who are you?”
The man wore a pair of tan trousers held up by a pair of suspenders. An off-white shirt with puffy sleeves and a pair of brown boots completed his wardrobe. He looked to be about the same age as Jeff’s thirty-five years. His sun-bleached hair, topped by a straw hat, touched his shoulders. Hard brown eyes squinted out from under bushy eyebrows, and a stubble of light brown covered his face like he’s forgotten to shave that morning. He moved the rifle away from Jeff’s face. “I’m Cletus Strader, and yer on my land.”
Jeff held his hands out to show they were empty. “Can I sit up, please?”
Cletus moved the gun to hover over Jeff’s chest. “Move real slow like.”
He pulled himself up to sitting position and rubbed the back of his head. “I seem to have hit my head on something. I have a knot there, and it’s painful.” He pulled his hand down and looked at it. Rusty-colored, dried blood was flaked on his fingers. “Maybe that’s why I can’t remember anything.” As he stood, a twinge of pain shot through his ankle, and he nearly fell. “I appear to have twisted my ankle also.”
Cletus rested his gun in the crook of his elbow, grabbed Jeff, and helped him stand by putting his other arm around his waist.
Jeff discovered he was about three inches shorter than Cletus. He liked the feel of his arm around him. Whoa! This was a stranger. Not safe to reveal his feelings. The man could be anti-gay. That was strange thought. What did it mean?
“Ya sure are dressed funny. I’d a thought ya was too old for short pants. And what’s that writing on your shirt? It says ‘Chiefs’ and has an arrowhead on it. It ain’t got no buttons. Kind of looks like it should be underwear, but I ain’t never seed no red underwear.”
Jeff tested his weight on the ankle and looked down at his clothing. “I don’t know. I’m not dressed like you, that’s for sure. You said I’m on your land; where’s that?”
“Outside of Zebra, Missouri.”
“Never heard of Zebra, Missouri. At least I don’t think I have.” His heart was racing. Who was he? Where was he? Who was this man? His head ached from trying to remember.
“Ya sure ya ain’t one of them Govermit men that’s trying to take our land?
“Why is the Government trying to take your land?” The confusion was worsening.
“They want to dam up the Osage River and make a big lake here. Say it’s gonna supply electricity for half the state. Don’t know what we need electricity fer. We gets along jest fine without it.”
“Osage River? That kind of rings a bell.” Jeff looked beyond Cletus and saw a half-plowed field and a mule hitched to a plow at the edge of the woods. He again patted his sides. Now that he was standing, he could feel things better. He pulled a wallet, cellphone, and car keys out of his pockets. “Maybe these will tell us something.”
“Gimme that.” Cletus grabbed the wallet.
Jeff limped over to a fallen tree and sat on it.
Cletus opened the wallet and pulled out money, some credit cards, and Jeff’s driver’s license. “This here money don’t look like nothin’ I’ve ever seed before. It says ‘In God We Trust’. Looks counterfeit to me. The colors look a little funny.” He looked from the license to Jeff. “This here’s yer picture. It says it’s a driver’s license for the state of Missouri. Don’t know many people drive automobiles.” His eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open. “This says ya was borned in 1981, and this here license was issued in 2015.” He shook his head. “That can’t be. This here is only 1927.”
“Does it say who I am?”
“Says your name is Jeffery Wilde.” Cletus tilted his head to one side. “Does that sound familiar?”
Jeff shook his head and pursed his lips. “No. Can’t say it does.” Anxiety was churning in his stomach. This seemed like a bad dream. His stomach heaved, and he turned and vomited. He wiped his mouth with the tail of his shirt. His mouth tasted of stale beer. That was something at least. He knew what beer tasted like, even the second time around.
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