Professor Benjamin R. Lewis, the Third took off his second shoe and dumped the contents into the little blue dish at airport security. Half a stick of gum, one small gold key, several tufts of cream colored cat hair, and a shoe lace emptied out as he shook it over the dish.
“Uncle Ben, the lace should go into the holes on your shoes, you know, to keep them on.” Thomas was worried that his uncle had really cracked this time.
“I am perfectly aware of how laces on shoes are supposed to work. I broke that lace last week. I bought the new lace, but haven’t had time to install it yet. I put it in the shoe for safe-keeping dear Thomas!” His uncle said with a wink and a messing of Thomas’ hair.
“Sir, is this your bag?” A security woman was walking their way with one of Benjamin’s bags.
“Yes, mam. That is indeed one of mine.” Benjamin replied.
“Are you aware that there are several small animal skeletons, three viles of what I can only assume is blood, and two of some yellow liquid?” She asked him in a serious tone.
“Yes, my specimens for my quantum lab in California. Those are the skeletons of possibly the only things that have ever traveled through a man-made wormhole. Of course, they didn’t survive, poor things, however we now have more questions than we did before – and that’s the name of the game!” He smiled at the security officer.
“I’m sorry sir, we’re going to have to confiscate the liquids at least. We can’t have unidentified viles of liquid like this on an airplane. I hope you understand.” She reached into the bag to get the viles.
“Actually, I have a certificate for those from my associate at N.A.S.A.” He reached into a pocket of the fishing vest he always wore. Coming up empty he tried another pocket. He smiled nervously at the officer and unzipped yet another pocket, and came up empty again.
Thomas stood quietly in his stocking feet with his white tray watching as his uncle reached inside the vest to another pocket, took everything out of that pocket and filled the little blue dish to over flowing. Random pills in baggies, a clothes pin, a half eaten granola bar and the stick of a long past eaten sucker.
The security officer sighed impatiently as he looked through more pockets and emptied more obscure items into the blue dish, which just fell off now because there was so much stuff piled into it.
“A HA! There we go!” He unfolded a crumpled sheet of paper, removed a cream colored fur ball and handed it to the woman.
Holding it by the very edge as if it were going to bite her, the officer looked it over. She got a sour look on her face. “Alright, thank you Professor Lewis. Have a safe trip.”
Thomas followed Benjamin as he walked through the security archway and the officer handed the bag to him.
“Many thanks mam. I understand the need for tight security measures what with the rat robot terrorists and the ESP machines people are carrying around with them these days.” Benjamin looked over his shoulder suspiciously and then smiled back at the woman as he and Thomas left the security screening area of the airport and made their way to the gate.
* * *
“Where are we meeting Lem? Are there any other tortoises like Lem? Are all tortoises like Lem? How much has he told you about how it’s done?” Breathless and fully aboard the aircraft, Thomas finally stopped and stared at me expectantly for the answers to twenty full minutes of questions.
Adjusting my spectacles and straightening my vest I sat down in my seat next to him. I buckled my seat belt properly and placed the novel I intended to read on my lap. Feeling situated I turned to him and started to explain how I had come to know my dear friend, Lem.
* * *
About a year ago, while traveling to do some research in Los Angeles, I was out for a walk and came across a small tortoise; although I didn’t really come across him. He appeared on the sidewalk a few yards in front of me as I was walking up Hyperion Avenue. ( 34N 6′ 6.1884″, 118W 16′ 23.7″ or Lat: 34.101719, Long: -118.273250) And by appeared I do mean, magically. He sort of faded in, and then looked over at me. He straightened his legs up and stuck out his neck; If a tortoise can express worry or shock he certainly did so upon realizing I saw him ‘appear,’ in my path. Upon seeing that I had indeed seen him he slowly shrunk back into his shell.
He waited there patiently for me to get to him, watching me the whole while. When I got to where he was, we were looking at each other intently and he said, “Fine, Hello. I’m sorry to have disturbed your walk, blah blah blah. I thought I was coming out a little to the left in those bushes there.” He looked a few feet off the sidewalk to a small cluster of bushes. Had he appeared in that cluster I would have never witnessed his materialization. I looked from the bushes, back at the tortoise in utter shock.
“You… YOU SPEAK?” I whispered as loudly as I dared down to the small reptile at my feet.
“Yes, I speak.” Can a tortoise look annoyed? “Most of us can. And most of us can Point Field Synchronize as well.” The tortoise sighed and looked up at me, expecting more questions I supposed.
The fact that he could speak and was fully capable of having an intelligent conversation sparked the most peculiar instinct in me and I crouched down and extended my hand to him, feeling awkward yet compelled to properly introduce myself.
“My name is Benjamin R. Lewis, the Third, how do you do?”
“My name is Lem. I do fine most days, thank you.” He just stood there, as I made the realization that he could not shake my hand and I felt quite foolish. Blushing I straightened up and smoothed my pants.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I don’t suppose you would explain to me how a tortoise can magically appear on a sidewalk in Los Angeles would you?” I adjusted my glasses. “I am a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota. I’m here in L.A. doing some research for my quantum lab. I would be highly interested in how it is you were able to do that.” I waited anxiously for his answer hoping he would let me in on the secret.