By James Gengler and Mark Brandon Allen
Just like any other author I often replace childhood memories with stuff that I just make up. Here’s a light-hearted story about childhood, riffing off of an idea that my brother James suggested about some remarkable home made candy.
When I was a young intern at Maryville Mercy Center, an extended care mental health facility, just outside of Indianapolis, one of my patients was a ninety-seven year old man who drifted in and out of lucidity. At a private session before he passed away I recorded this recollection of his which seemed to have overtones of reality in remarkable clarity mixed with the dementia of his Alzheimer syndrome. Listening to this old audio tape now still perplexes me because there are some verifiable details that lend credence to the old man’s story although it’s quite obvious that some of his remembrances are quite delusional.
We were in a small office off of the lower east wing of the hospital on a quiet Saturday morning when I asked Mister Scovar to try to remember things that happened in his youth, anything pleasant or interesting that he might remember about his home in Hammond Indiana. He suddenly brightened and sat forward in his wheelchair. “The Tesla bars…” he said. “Yes…yes, I remember the Tesla bars.”
“Tell me about the Tesla bars,” I said. Pressing the record button on the reel-to-reel tape recorder, I nodded my head and motioned for the old man to continue.
“Back in spring a’ninety-three,” he began, “when I was thirteen, I was playin’ pick-up games of townball, pretendin’ to be Al Spalding or Deacon White of Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts. I was even followin’ the round the world exploits of Georgie Train ‘n Sammy Wall every day in the home delivered Tribune newspaper. Even had the excitement of going to Chicago for a’day to the White City Columbian Exposition with my pa.I remember the fairgrounds was all lit up by the wonders a’Nicky Tesla’s alternatin’ letric current ‘n my pa ‘n me watched Tommy Baldwin make one a’his famous high flyin’ parachute jump from’a tethered dirigible. Ate Cracker Jack’s caramelized popin’ corn ‘n drank a’cold bottle a’Pasture’s milk – pa said Pasteurized milk could be kept fresh in an ice chest for better’n two weeks, but it tasted just like cow’s milk to me. Got to ride Ferris’ big wheel too.
Anyways, that wasn’t goin’ to happen ever again cause my pa went to his saintly reward the week after Easter, leavin’ me and my ma alone in our big old place on Superior Street.
Most of the older guys who I played townball with went to workin’ on farms away from Hammond to help their family’s make it durin’ the big national depression. The Tribune said the depression was goin’ on because the railroads went bust. But I really don’t know much about that, though there wasn’t much work around.
The Tesla Bars appeared in James Ward Kirk’s Indiana Science Fiction 2012