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I guess I'm like everybody else. When I do something that's pretty terrific, I expect to get some credit for it. A little praise, a pat on the back, a bit of wild, thunderous applause -- maybe even a chorus of "Bravo! Fantastic! Way to go!"
And that's just what I was expecting when I hauled that huge crate into our clubhouse and told my best friend, Max Zilinski, that it contained a time machine I had picked up at a garage sale down the street. For $2.50.
But Max did not applaud. He snorted.
"Who're you trying to kid, Steve?" he said, barely glancing up from the electronics book he was reading. "There's no such thing as time travel. Or time machines."
I wiped the sweat off my forehead with the back of my sleeve and slouched against the crate. "When have I ever lied to you?" I asked, trying to look hurt and sincere at the same time.
"An interesting question," said Max, carefully laying his book aside on the rumpled cot and holding up his fingers to count on. "Now, let me see. I can recall the Rotten Toboggan Affair..."
Uh-oh, here we go. Max has all these code names for the various little misunderstandings we've had. The Rotten Toboggan Affair referred to that day last winter when I talked him into going down Quarter-Mile Hill on a beat-up old toboggan. "You're crazy," Max had said. "This hill is too steep and this toboggan is a mess. Look at it. It's even rotting out undemeath."
It took a lot of doing, but I finally convinced him that the toboggan was as good as new and as sound as a rock. A coupleof minutes later, as we were tearing down the hill at about eighty miles an hour, the toboggan began to come apart. Little pieces began breaking off, and we lost control, hit a tree stump, somersaulted through the air, and smashed into a snowbank. Max remembers things like that.
"...and the Taste-Tempting Tip..."
Was it my fault that liver-and-kidney-flavored Puppy Chewies taste worse, not better, than they look?
"...and let's not forget Operation Lousy Letter!"
See what happens when you try to help a friend? I mean, could I have known that Max, who is always trying to work up the nerve to talk to Dawn Sharington, would get upset when I broke the ice by writing her a love letter and signing his name to it?
"Okay, okay," I said, holding up my hands in surrender. "Let's not quibble over a few minor mistakes. After all, what do you care if Dawn knows you think she's the best-looking girl west of the Mississippi?
Max made a choking sound.
"Besides, you should thank me. You wanted
Dawn to notice you, and now she does. Whenever she sees you, she starts giggling like crazy."
"Aggggggggh," groaned Max, clutching his head with both hands.
"Look, Max," I said cheerfully, "forget about the letter. We've got something a lot more important to deal with. I mean, haven't we been wondering for the last two weeks what we were going to do all summer? Well, now we've got the answer."
I patted the time-machine crate meaningfully and read the black, lettering stamped on the side: MAINLY, ONE GENUINE, COMPLETELY AUTOMATED, EASILY ASSEMBLED, ONE-OF-A-KIND TIME MACHINE! FULLY GUARANTEED!
"Sure, sure," grumbled Max. "And you got it at a garage sale for two fifty. You don't expect me to believe that, do you?"
"If you'll just listen a minute," I said, "I can explain the whole thing. Okay?"
Max grunted, but he was still suffering over Dawn. This sales pitch was going to have to be good
"Okay. You know Mr. Cooper, right? The man who lives just around the corner in that great big old house? Well, he found this crate in his attic last night, and he's sure it was left there by the famous Professor Flybender."
Max's logical mind slowly clicked into gear. "Oh, yeah? If this professor guy is so famous, how come I've lived here in Flat Rock for five years and never heard of him? And why would he leave things in Mr. Cooper's attic?"
"Good points. I asked Mr. Cooper the same things. It turns out that Flybender used to live there and was some sort of crazy inventor. You know, setting off explosions in his basement and racing around on his roof during thunderstorms. About eight years ago, he announced that he was off to find the lost continent of Atlantis, and nobody has seen him since. Eventually, the house was sold to pay off the professor's debts, and Mr. Cooper bought it."
"Okay, Sherlock, then why didn't Mr. Cooper find this marvelous invention before now?" Max smugly pushed his glasses back up on his nose.
"Because, Watson, there was so much junk in the attic when Mr. Cooper bought the house he never had time to go through it all. But this morning he was looking for stuff to put on sale, and that's when he spotted the crate. He dragged it down and put it out with a bunch of chipped dishes and old clothes."
"I still say you've been had," Max insisted stubbornly. "If Mr. Cooper actually believed this was a time machine, do you really think he would have sold it to you?"
"Of course not," I scoffed. I was ready for that one, too. "But just because Mr. Cooper is too shortsighted to recognize a great discovery like this doesn't mean we have to be, too. After all, you're the one who's always telling me that scientific geniuses are misunderstood in their own times."Max and Me and the Time Machine. Copyright � by Gery Greer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.