Traveler: Storyteller Tales: Happy Hill

            Glen sat in the sandbox and pouted.  The swings and other playground equipment were full of kids, and though the late September wind was turning too cold to swing, Glen found that when he was in the box the other kids left him alone.  He was not necessarily anti-social, but he was not pro-social either.  Not yet being four years old, he honestly did not know what he was, except that he was careful about strangers for some reason, and all of the kids at that place were strangers as far as he could tell.  He never saw any of them before his first day, a day he spent in tears, and he never did see any of them later in life either.  They did not even live in his town.  His Mom called this place Murray Hill – “Happy Hill in Murray Hill” she told him when she tried to convince him that nursery school was a wonderful thing.  Glen was not so sure it was so wonderful.  It certainly did not feel wonderful.

            Glen liked to pick up the sand and let it run through his fingers.  It was like the sands of time, he told himself.  To be sure, he did not yet have much of a concept of time other then the time he got dumped at the school and the time he got picked up; and he certainly could not tell time, but in his mind the sand was like time all the same.  The time winds were blowing strong, he told himself, and with that he looked across the road.  Over the fence and through the trees there was a huge building complex.  Glen would rather be home, away from that building altogether, but as long as he was there he felt it was important to keep an eye on the place, and at three-and-some-years-old, he did not have the presence of mind to ask why.

            Glen turned his eyes from the building when a car pulled up on the gravel drive.  A man got out and Teacher Nancy went to him as her assistant, Mrs. Waterhouse, corralled the children into the building.  Mrs. Waterhouse knew better than to bother with Glen.  She let him stay in the sand so as to avoid a fuss.

            “Nancy.”  The man called the teacher by name as he gave her a kiss on the cheek.

            “David.  Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”  Teacher Nancy asked and the man nodded.

            “But you forgot this.  I thought you might want it.”

            “Oh, blessed coffee,” the teacher said and she took a big sip before giving the man a hug.  She took a second sip before speaking again.  “So you never finished what you were saying.  What is it you are working on these days.”

            “All hush-hush stuff you know,”  He smiled to tease her with the secret.

            “What can the phone company be into that is so hush-hush?”  She was not buying it.

            “No, really.  The Labs has gotten some stuff from the government picked up in some crash out West a few years back.  We are supposed to figure out what it is and what it does.  Pickard has coined the phrase, reverse engineering.  I suppose that sound about right.”

            “Russian?”  In 1957 it was the first and most obvious assumption; but the man shook his head.

            “I don’t think so.  No one will say, but the stuff is indescribable, detailed, sophisticated.  I don’t know.  If it is Russian we might just as well surrender right now.”

            “But if it isn’t Russian, whose is it?”  Teacher Nancy asked.  She looked more curious than doubting, but Mister David just shrugged again before he pointed at Glen

            “Mrs. Waterhouse missed one,” he said.

            “Oh, that’s Glen.”  Teacher Nancy smiled and the two of them came near and squatted down to be friendly.  “Sometimes Glen spends all morning in the sandbox, don’t you Glen?”  Glen could only shrug.

            “Why is that?”  Mister David asked.  Glen pointed at the building complex in the distance.  “What is he pointing at?”  Mister David squinted.  Teacher Nancy could only shrug.  Apparently Glen pointed before when asked the same question, but no one yet figured it out.

            “Are you going there?”  Glen asked, still pointing.  It surprised his teacher who heard very few words escape Glen’s lips, but the man responded, even if it took him a minute to understand that Glen was pointing at the distant building.

            “You mean Bell Labs?  You mean the building there?  Yes I work there.”

            “It is bad, wrong, broken, sick.”  Glen used every word he could think of to explain, but it was hard for him since he, himself was not clear on what he was sensing.

            “Huh!”  Teacher Nancy could not help commenting.  “You are full of words today, aren’t you, young man?”

            “Hush.”  Mister David hushed her.  “Why is it sick?”

            Glen shook his head.  He did not have an actual answer for the question.  “It has bad things.  It is wrong.  Very wrong.  No!  No!”  He really could not explain it.

            Mister David smiled and began to think that the boy really had nothing to say.  Teacher Nancy smiled as well.  “Now, how do you know it is bad?”  Mister David asked again but this time he spoke with some disbelief in his voice.

            “They are not people things.  They are Reichgo.”  Glen said the word though he had no idea what a Reichgo was.  “I can smell them.”  He concluded, and he reached out for David’s hand and smelled the hand when David gave it to the boy.  “I smell them.”  The boy said, and with one brief blue-eyed look into David’s face, he stood, wiped the sand off his hands, and whatever else might be clinging to his hands, and ran inside.  Suddenly, there was too much going on inside his wee little head, and Glen needed some space.  He needed to be alone, but there were grown-ups speaking inside his head and he could not escape them.

            “Huh!”  David looked briefly at his own hand with a very curious expression.  “Spooky kid.”

            “I have never heard Glen say that much since the first day.”  Teacher Nancy’s eyes followed the boy to be sure he got back inside.

            David shrugged it off and let his smile return as he kissed the teacher again on the cheek.  “See you at supper,” he said, and he rose and got back in his car and headed out.

            Teacher Nancy watched and sipped on her coffee the whole time, but when David’s Hudson pulled around the corner, she shrugged it off, too, and went back to the children.

            Mister David came back three days later, near noon, when school was done for the day and Glen was waiting to be picked up.  “David?”  In that name, Teacher Nancy expressed all of her curiosity at seeing him in the middle of the day.  David hardly glanced at the teacher.  He came straight to where Glen was quietly standing.  Glen did not move.  He did not dare.  He saw the expression on Mister David’s face.

            “Tell me about the Reichgo.”  He demanded.  His voice was soft and calm, but to a boy who was not yet four it sounded like a grown-up demand.  Glen’s face curled up like he might cry, but he managed to point into the sky even as two things happened.  First there was what could only be called an explosion near the back of that distant building.  David looked sharply in that direction and mumbled something equally sharp about Rupert and Pickard.  Teacher Nancy also looked, but then the second thing that happened, Glen’s mother came and she hustled Glen into the car.  Apparently, she had also noticed the fire and she knew it would not be long before the whole area was blocked off by police cars and fire trucks.

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