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Marbles Lost and Found
Marbles Lost and Found
When the waiter retuned with the check, Floyd Radnor looked up. A glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and an eggs Benedict. The total was 17 dollars and 53 cents. Some more money used out of Floyd's small savings. It was worth it though, for Floyd’s favorite breakfast in the whole world.
"Whatever," he sighed and left the waiter an extra large tip for good luck.
Floyd strolled out of the dining room, turned left down a small corridor, passed the piano, and emerged by the gift shop and chess table. The gift shop door bore a sign that read 'CLOSED'. He looked at his watch. Eight forty-two. The shop didn't open until nine…nearly twenty minutes. He could afford to wait that long, even if he didn’t know if he’d afford to get a present for his sister, Ivy.
Floyd had always thought of the Red Lion Inn as a sanctuary, a place of peace. At least it was for him. The old wooden building that was—how many? 200 or 300 years old—just seemed like the perfect balance of peace and excitement. It was like an old friend to him; well loved from his many childhood visits to his grandmother in Great Barrington after his family had moved up to Calgary when Floyd was eight.
Now Floyd's parents had moved back to Great Barrington and Floyd's friend Alan Volson lived there too. He was just doing the normal drill that he did four or five times every year. He would fly in to Boston, rent a car, and drive over to Stockbridge. He would stay at the Red Lion Inn, and then drive over to visit his parents and his friend.
Right now, the Inn was also a transition zone for Floyd. He could never stand Canada's cold weather, so he had moved out as soon as he could…to California. Floyd lived in Los Angeles, and needed some metamorphic change from being a band singer to a kind, loving son now that his parents were getting older. Floyd's band was called Juggernaut and their mission was to bring Rock and Roll music back into the 21st century. So far, they hadn't been very successful.
Floyd looked at his watch. Eight forty-six. He fished around in his pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. Floyd loved to do card magic and had been practicing since he was a boy. Now he could do fancy cuts and flourishes, crafty controls and forces. Just a deck of cards had so much potential. For his professional-looking magic he had even been in a Bicycle Playing Cards commercial.
After Floyd had practiced one of his newest tricks, the Cannibal Kings, several times, and played solitaire, once again he looked at his watch. Nine o-one. The shop should be open now. He looked to the door and saw an old man replacing the 'CLOSED' sign with an 'OPEN' one. Floyd pocketed the deck of cards, and walked inside the gift shop.
As he entered, he saw a large table in the center of the room and two parallel doors leading into the back room, which contained toys and games. The table before him was topped with books and nic-nacs. Behind the register, in one corner of the room, was the old man who Floyd had seen putting up the sign. He was wearing a name tag that read Brian Stearn.
"Hello," he said in a gravely voice. "Can I help you find anything?"
"No thanks." Floyd scouted around the table, but found nothing. He was poised to leave, when the old man spoke again.
"If you ask somebody, you can take the elevator," suggested Brian, with a twinkle in his eye. "I think you'll find it quite fun. Something interesting might happen.''
"Okay, thanks," mumbled Floyd, not really paying attention. He ambled out of the back door towards the parking lot. The sunlight glittered on the fresh white snow. The cold breeze took off his last veil of sleepiness…but it cut through his thin coat and, as always, he wished he had brought warmer clothes for the Berkshire winter. He was halfway to his car, when he realized that he must have left his key in his room.
Floyd hurried back into the Inn, the cold air rushing behind him. He was about to dash up the stairs, when he remembered the old man’s half-heard comment about the elevator. Childhood memories of the thrill of riding the antique elevator filled his mind.
He stepped back into the shop. "I'd like to take the elevator to the fourth floor please," he requested. He looked at his watch. Nine o-nine.
"Alright," Brian smiled and replaced the 'CLOSED' sign once again. The two of them sauntered over to the elevator in the lobby.
The elevator was old and made of aged yellow metal. The staircase spiraled around it. Floyd stepped in and looked up. He could see the elevator shaft and a massive pulley with a thick metal cable through the thatched metalwork above. As they ascended, Brian handed Floyd a blue marble.
"Take good care of this, lad," he whispered.
Floyd didn't know exactly what to do with the marble, so he just held it in his hand. As he leaned casually against the wall, he heard an odd click. The elevator suddenly sped upward, hurtling towards the top of the shaft. He closed his eyes and waited for a crash, but none came. He looked around him. Strangely, he was back on the first floor and a blue light was glowing in the elevator. Brian was gone. Floyd looked for the source of the light and he found three sockets in the wall, one of which was holding his blue marble. The marble was emitting the light. How odd. He removed it and walked out of the elevator, sure that there had been some mistake.
"Um, excuse me sir?" Floyd was addressing the man at the front desk.
"Yes?" The man looked up. He had graying hair and a goatee.
"Is there a man named Brian Stearn here?"
''Yes, I'm Brian Stearn."
"What? You were old - no offense, by the way. But how-"
"Listen," breathed Brian. "What I'm about to tell you, no mortal has ever heard before. You are in the past."
"The blue marble delivered you here. Find the green marble. It will take you back to your time."
Brian ignored him. "May I help you, Miss?" he asked. With a start, Floyd realized that it was Ivy, his sister. She looked like she was about ten years old. That meant that he would be thirteen…god, he was nine years in the past? Floyd was really confused.
He walked back towards the gift shop. To his surprise, he saw himself playing Chinese checkers with Ivy and Alan. His mom and dad were talking with—good lord—that must be his grandmother, who had died six years ago. This really must be 2005. He felt awkward when he was thirteen, with braces and acne all over his face.
He glanced into the dining room, and saw a few recognizable waiters and several unfamiliar ones. He looked outside. There was no snow. The sun beat down on the Red Lion Inn. Some joggers ran by, looking tired and sweaty.
"Um, excuse me, mister?" a voice said beside Floyd. It was Alan. "I think a marble from our Chinese checkers game is by your foot."
Floyd looked down. Next to his foot was a green marble. It shimmered. At once he knew that it must be the marble to get him back to his time.
"Do you want to see a magic trick?" This seemed like a non sequitur to Alan, but he nodded uncertainly.
Floyd picked up the marble and did a French Drop to make it look as if it had disappeared.
"Neat," said Alan. "Can I have my marble back now?"
"Once something's gone, it's gone," replied Floyd, "But I will give you this."
He pocketed the marble and brought out a 2013 Nevada quarter. Alan's eyes widened in excitement. No wonder. Alan collected quarters and this was a quarter from the future.
"Wow, thanks," said Alan. "That really is magic." He shot back over to young Floyd and Ivy.
Floyd walked back over to the lobby, where Brian was standing. "Got it," he said.
“Good," Brian replied. The two walked over to the elevator and got in. As it was lifted up, Floyd put the blue marble into the first socket and the green marble into the second. Suddenly, the elevator dropped.
“Tower of Terror," Floyd thought and squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them, he was alone at the top of the shaft. Both marbles were glowing.
“Nice to be back,” Floyd thought as he walked down the corridor to his room. When he got there, he opened the door. To his surprise, there was a family playing Scrabble inside.
"What are you guys doing in my room?" Floyd spluttered.
"What d’you mean your room?" retorted a man who looked like the dad.
"This is my room."
"It's our room. Go downstairs to the front desk and check, if you like."
That's exactly what Floyd did. But when he told the man there that there was a family of lunatics in his room, the man replied, "That's the Valenti family. They've been staying here for four days now."
"What? There must be some mistake. I'm Floyd Radnor, and I'm in room 418."
"Let's see. There's no Floyd Radnor here at the moment. There's a Kathy Radnor."
"No, no. There's something wrong."
"I know," the man whispered. "I'm David Stearn, Brian's son. You're in the future. Find the red marble.”
So that's what had happened! Floyd had accidentally gone too far in the future. He looked into the dining room and stared. Sitting at a table was a man who looked like an older Floyd. It had to be him in the future. Beside him were a beautiful woman and a little boy. They were eating a chocolate cake. A big red banner above them read 'Red Lion Inn 250 years!! 1773-2023'. So he was nine years in the future.
"Here's a piece of cake for you, Zachary," the woman said. "And here's one for daddy."
So were they his wife and son? Floyd was confused. Then he recognized the woman. She was Kathy Montella, a girlfriend of his from high school.
Suddenly Zachary, the boy, shouted.
"Oh, look," Kathy exclaimed, "Zack got the prize!" She was holding a glowing red marble. Just then, Zachary knocked it out of her hand. The marble rolled towards Floyd. It stopped right next to a quarter. Floyd scooped up the marble and the coin before his future family could notice him.
"Oh, well," he heard the older Floyd say. "You can have my paper crown."
Floyd walked back over to David, holding up the marble.
"Got it?" David asked. Floyd nodded. The two of them stepped into the elevator. As it began its journey upwards, Floyd inserted the three marbles into the three sockets. There was a blinding flash of light. Floyd looked around. He was back at the bottom. The marbles and the sockets had disappeared. As Floyd got out of the elevator, he looked at his watch. Nine o-nine. No time had actually passed. In his palm was a 2019 Massachusetts quarter. He would have to remember to give it to Alan.
Then he saw Brian, the normal elderly Brian, waiting for him nearby. Floyd walked over to him. He handed something to Floyd. At first, he thought it was another marble. The he realized that it was his key.
"Thanks. Now tell me what really just happened," Floyd demanded.
"You're a magician, right?" asked Brian.
The old man winked at him. "Magicians never reveal their secrets," he said. "I would prefer not to reveal mine."