Time to Learn
Adam Sims arrived in Stockton Kansas, December 6, 1941, riding in the bed of a 1938 Ford pickup truck. He was fiercely cold and when the driver of the pickup stopped and got out, he threw back the corners of the two heavy blankets that covered him and looked around.
“This is it son. Stockton Kansas in the dead of winter. I’ll be damned if I know why anyone would want to be in Stockton this time of year, but here you sit.” The farmer looked around and pointed at one of the buildings that occupied the four corners of the dirt road intersection. They were the only buildings that could be seen in the light from the pickup’s dim headlights.
“That’ll be Martha Purdy’s store,” he removed his right glove and retrieved a pocket watch as Adam dropped to the ground next to him. “It’s a quarter to five now, she keeps a pot-bellied stove banked up with coals just inside the door. Go inside and keep warm, she’ll be down stairs about six. Just tell her Jim Wood said it was okay. If you got two bits, she makes a mighty fine breakfast. Worst damn coffee I ever tasted, but breakfast is real good.” The farmer offered his bare hand to Adam, who removed his right glove and accepted the man’s hand. “You take care of yourself, son.”
“I really appreciate the ride, sir. Can I give you a little for gas?” he said.
Wood looked in the cab at his two teenage sons who were sound asleep, one leaning against the passenger door, the other leaning against his brother’s shoulder. “Nah, we had to come this way anyway. You buy that breakfast,” he said as he climbed into the truck. Before he closed the door, he looked back at Adam and chuckling said, “But son, look out for that coffee.”
Adam reached into the truck bed and lifted out an old carpet bag. As the pickup pulled away and silence settled over the intersection he heard two owls calling in the distance and subconsciously strained to see them in the darkness. He reached into his pocket and activated his hand held personal computer. He spoke in a normal voice, “Inquire… James Wood, Smith Center Kansas, Two sons, Ernest and Thomas … Project Log… I Arrived 19.25 hours prior to pick up. Subjects are currently sleeping. Re-interview Stockton subjects in one year to ascertain shift in rural sociologic perspective.”
There was a soft beep from the device and he read the contents of the small screen. “James David Wood born May 6, 1903 Philipsburg KS, Died Wichita, KS September 3, 1987. Earnest Lee Wood born February 14, 1925 Smith Center KS, Died April 6, 1945, Okinawa, Japan. Thomas Gary Wood, born November 4, 1923 Smith Center KS, Died June 6, 1944 Normandy France, Utah Beach.”
Adam sighed heavily then walked to Martha’s store and as expected, the door was unlocked. Setting his bag next to the stove, he removed and rolled up his coat laying it against the bag. As the warmth entered his body, he lay down using the bag and coat as his pillow and quickly drifted into a light sleep.
“I shot the last fella I found sleepin’ on my floor,” said the bodiless voice.
Adam sat bolt upright, “I’m sorry ma’am, I rode into town with Jim Wood and he said it would be okay. I didn’t touch anything, honest. He said I might be able to get some breakfast and the best coffee around.”
She laughed loudly and said, “Yes indeed I am known for my coffee. Come on into the kitchen and I’ll get a fire started.”
It all, oddly, reminded him of his own home. The breakfast was great, the coffee was bad and he enjoyed this December 6th 1941 morning more than any of the thirty others he had spent in small towns across North America.
Martha watched Adam’s dark shape leave her store at just a little before midnight. She watched from her bedroom window and for some reason needed to watch him leave. He said his ride would be picking him up at exactly midnight. This was about the strangest young man she had ever met. She fixed his breakfast and had completely enjoyed his company. But, about ten that morning he went out in the cold and walked down the road talking to himself. After about half an hour, he walked into Atherton’s Gas Station, across the road. Two hours later he spent another half hour talking to himself as he walked up and down the road. He did the same thing at Rader’s feed store and at the church. She finally couldn’t stand it anymore and asked him what the hell he was doing.
“Well Martha, this world is at a very critical point in history. Most of the world is already involved in a war and the U.S. is about to enter as well. I am studying and documenting current understanding of world events and opinion. Others are studying those same understandings and opinions at various points after the U.S. is fully involved. We hope this information can be used to identify key indicators and shifts in public opinions that lead up to these conflicts.”
“Do you work for the government and that damned Roosevelt?”
“Roosevelt?… No.” he had said and then smiling, “But the government, yes.”
“Well, it sounds like a mighty big waste of money to me,” she told him.
As Adam reached the intersection, he walked to the exact center of the crossroads. He stopped, turned in Martha’s direction and seemed to look directly at her. There was a flash of blue-white light so bright it hurt her eyes and she was surprised when no sound followed. She dressed and rushed into the cold night searching for Adam. She found nothing, but somehow that was not a surprise.