Monday, August 2, 2010

Chapter One

There was a small marble shaped void hovering about six feet over Bartram Colby's driveway. It was on the right side of the drive, close to the fence, about halfway to the garage, and would have gone unnoticed if Bartram's back hadn't been aching. The wire-laced fence that divided the Colby property from the McKinney back yard sat on the edge of Bartram's driveway. It extended from the gate on the side of his house, along the walk next to his garage, up another twenty feet of lawn behind the garage to the back yard property limit. The entire back yard was fenced off in a rectangular shape, 70 feet long by 60 feet wide.

Bartram Colby was a reluctant retiree. He had spent 30 years as a devoted employee of General Motors and when the auto industry started having troubles, Bartram was given the choice to retire or be laid off. ("Recession? Hell, it's a full blown depression!" he bitched. "I'm not even fifty, and they want me to sit back in a rocking chair!") Retirement was the lesser of the two evils, so that is what he opted. He figured that while he collected his pension, he could find another job to fill his time. Unfortunately, the only place hiring was Wal-Marts, and there was 10,000 applicants for every opening. Finally, to fill his days, Bartram became fastidious about his back yard, keeping the lawn trimmed and free of weeds, edging the drive and walk, handclipping around the shrubs and fence. It was an excellent time killer for residents of Warren, Michigan.

On the last Sunday of May in 2011, Bartram had been scooching on his knees up his driveway, handclippers working away feverously at the blades of grass that dared to grow longer than three inches. He had started at the street and had worked his way into the back yard when his back stiffened from stooping. He stood up to stretch and allieviate the soreness. He closed his eyes tight as he arched backwards, shoulder blades nearyly touching. When he opened his eyes he saw it. He did not know what to make of it. It was a distortion in the air, sphere shaped, about an inch in diameter. He stepped up to the void to examine it closer. At first he thought it was a bubble of smoke because he could see through it to McKinney's garage. Yet it wasn't really smoke. It was a darkness.

Bartram circled around the void, careful not to get too close. He had an instinctual fear of it. He was not outright scared, he only felt as if he could be harmed if he touched it. Like fearing a caged wild beast. The potential danger is there, but not imminent. As he looked at it, he looked through it. The through view was right and wrong. As he faced towards the back side of McKinney's house, he knew that something was askew. He moved his head back and forth, detailing his neighbor's bedroom window, something was different between the true view and the view through the void. As he panned accross the window, he saw it. The curtains, as seen through the void, were slightly open. When he moved his head and stared straight at the window, he saw that the curtains were closed tight. Bartram nearly fell over backward at this discovery. His earlier fear heightened. The clippers fell from his hand and he made a wide arc around the void and ran to his side door. He hurried inside, went to his sliding back door and stared in the direction of the void. Try as he might, he could not detect the presence of the void from this distance.

He spent the next hour standing at the glass door trying to pinpoint where he seen the dark bubble. He finally gave up and went into the living room and turned on the television. Sitting in his Lazyboy Bartram stared at the tv not paying any attention to what he was watching. His mind kept its focus on the small void floating in his driveway. He tried to convince himself that what he had seen was not real, that it was a trick of his mind. He tried to believe he hadn't really seen the neighbor's curtains slightly ajar. Finally, he worked up the courage to go back for another look.

He stopped at his sliding back door and once again tried to find the floating void. He could see his handclippers laying on the drive. He tried to focus his view six feet above. Nothing. Perhaps it was gone. He slid the door open and walked over to the grass shears. He stooped down, more to be certain to clear the void than for retrieving the handclippers. He picked up the tool and stepped back before standing erect. He looked at the spot where he had last seen the shadow bubble. It was there but now it was almost black. The void was between him and the McKinney garage and he could not see the garage through it. As he circled it again towards the back of McKinney's house, it remained black until it was in direct line between him their bedroom. Through the void he saw that the curtains were wide open and their overhead light was on. When he stared directly at their window he saw the curtains still drawn shut. Through the void; curtains agape, lights on.

Bartram moved his eye closer to the floating dark sphere. He could see the entire back of McKinney's house. It was nighttime and the only room lit up was the bedroom. He backed up and was once again under the summer sun along with his neighbor's home. He took the grass scissors and hesitantly brought them up to the void. He gently touched the tip to the floating dark spot. The scissors gave him a small shock, more startling than painful, like a cell phone suddenly vibrating while you're holding it. He dropped the grassclippers again.

He took a moment to calm himself and gazed through the void again. He stared at the lit window waiting for movement. He wondered if he would see Jeanette McKinney in this warped view of her nighttime window. Nothing happened for around forty-five minutes and then Barton saw a shadow on the wall and the light went out. McKinney's house through the void was now dark.

Bartram backed off the floating bauble and directly studied the McKinney's house. He found Jeanette McKinney staring at him through her kitchen window. Washing dishes, he surmised. Then he realized how he must appear to her; standing in his driveway, stock still for almost an hour with his eyes focused on her bedroom window. How could he explain himself? He raised his hand and waved, smiling sheepishly. Jeanette returned the wave but did not include the smile. Bartram hurried back inside his home. He had quite a bit to ponder.

Chapter Two

Jeanette McKinney was a lonely widow in her early fifties. After her youngest had left home, she lost that extra zeal she always had had. She was the mother of four. Three were living; one was dead along with her husband in a car accident several years earlier. Even when she recieved the news that her husband, Robert, and her oldest daughter, Trina, were killed by a drunk driver, she managed to keep going and put on a brave face. She had to. She still had three children at home. It was a horrible time, but she managed to keep the kids interested in their own lives, and not overly dwell on the loss of their father and older sister.

Trina was a month away from her high school graduation in 2005, when she asked her dad for a ride up to the dress shop. The shop had just called and her Prom dress was ready to be picked up. They never made it there. While stopping for a yellow light, a drunk driver behind them sped up to trying to make the light before it turned red. He rear ended them, pushing their vehicle into the intersection where a semi-truck smashed into the side of their car. Robert died instantly. Trina was comatose four of the longest days in Jeanette's memory before she passed on.

Robert McKinney Jr., or Bobby as the family affectionately called him, had always been a bookworm. The death of older sister and father was disheartening, but did not disrupt his education. He graduated top of his class the following year and won a scholarship to Michigan State.

In 2007, James Arthur McKinney, a good student but not scholarship material, graduated and went directly into the army. His father had served during the Viet Nam conflict, and went to college afterwards on the government dime. Jimmy wanted to follow in dad's footsteps. Jeanette was proud of her soldier son, and was happy that so far he had only been stationed stateside and Germany. She worried about the possibility of his going to war, yet was determined to stand by Jimmy even if he opted to go Iraq or Afghanastan. Which, as it went, seemed very possible because Jimmy would talk about the "honor" of giving your life for you country, and if he was sent to war, he would relish the opportunity. Thank God he hadn't volunteered for a war zone yet.

The last to leave the nest was Sandra, Robert's choice for the name because of his secret desire to bed Sandra Bullock. When Sandy was born, Jeanette knew why he wanted her to have the named Sandra, but never let on. Jeanette knew that Sandra Bullock would never take away her husband, so she let him keep his pipe dream and went along naming their fourth child Sandra. Sandy had joined the work force while she was 15 years old. She had always had a knack with computers and designing web pages. She had designed web pages for all her friends and shortly after her 15th birthday, she was given her first commission by a local super market. Then her web designs went to being in total demand. Because of the work she took on, she rarely had free time all through her high school years. By the time she graduated in 2010, she was making close to $100,000 a year. Sun Microsystems recruited her while she was in high school, flew her out west the week after her graduation, and started her in their managementorial program. Her starting salary was $250,000 a year. That was over double what Jeanette collected from Robert's Life Insurance policy to raise three children on for five years.

Bobby had earned a degree in economics while simutaneously courting, and finally, marrying Marilyn Marzak. They newlyweds moved to the other side of the state where Bobby took a job teaching at a community college while working on his Masters degree. They were barely married a month when Bobby called Jeanette to inform her she was to become a grandmother. Jeanette suddenly understood the rush into marriage. The day before Christmas in 2009, Jeanette indeed became a grandmother. Robert McKinney II was born. Jeanette couldn't understand why the baby was referred to as the second when he was actually the third Robert McKinney. Bobby tried to explain that the baby was the second Robert named after his father. Bobby was the first but called junior and his son would be the second. Jeanette pretended to understand, but she really did not. The real important thing was that she had a grandson. This turned out to be bittersweet. Because Bobby's job was in Muskegon, it was very seldom that she could see her grandson. In fact, she had to travel to Muskegon to visit the baby, because his parents could not find coinciding times that they both had free to travel to Warren. Jeanette thought that if Marilyn was from Warren and not Muskegon, they would be in the neighborhood every weekend. It was an unkind thought, but Jeanette never voiced it.

On the last Sunday of May, 2011, Jeanette McKinney had spent the day phoning friends and watching soap operas on tv. Her breakfast was toast and coffee, she had a sandwich and a fruit salad for lunch, and her dinner was a small portion of spaghetti and half a can of french-style green beans. She finished watching the 6 o'clock news and decided it was time to do the dishes. She always waited until after her last meal before doing all the day's dishes. She hated washing one dish, so she suffered seeing dirty dishes until she was certain no more would be added. Jeanette had a dishwasher but hadn't used it since Sandy moved out. It was easier to wash the few plates and glasses by hand.

She put the stopper in the drain of the left sink, squirted a splash of detergent, and adjusted the water to be hot but tolerable. As she waited the sink to fill, she looked out the window in front of her. Her neighbor, Bartram Colby, was standing in his drive staring at the back of her house. She put her face closer to the window to angle her vision in hopes of seeing what he was looking at. She couldn't see a thing. She followed his line of sight as far as possible and realized that he was gaping at her bedroom window. Her sink was full and she turned off the water. Jeanette then walked down the hall to her bedroom.

Her drapes were closed tight. Bartram could not be looking into her room. She went back to the kitchen sink and looked out the window over at Bartram again. He was transfixed to the spot. What was he staring at? She repositioned the spout over the right sink and turned on luke warm water. Her hands went into the soapy water and pulled up a plate. She used a sponge to wipe the dish down, then rinse, and place the dish in the drying rack. The whole time her eyes stayed on her neighbor. Is he alright? I hope he's not having some kind of seizure.

She had just completed doing the dishes when Bartram suddenly looked her way. Their eyes met and he waved. Her hand returned the wave out of reflex. She watched as he then bolted towards his house. What in the hell was that all about?

Jeanette dried her hands and went back into the living room. She watched tv until she started getting tired. She got up from her chair, turned off the tv, clicked off the lamp and went into her bedroom. When she turned on the overhead light, she once again thought of Bartram staring at this window. She went over to the curtains and peaked out. She saw nothing outside. She went over to her bed and pulled from under her pillow her night gown. When she had donned her sleeping attire, she shut off the light and went to bed. She did not notice that she had left her bedroom curtains slightly open.

Chapter Three

The morning after discovering the void, Bartram was awoken by the ringing of his telephone. He checked the time: 9:00 am. He sat up and looked at the readout on the caller ID and did not recognize the number. He allowed the machine to answer, "Sorry, we missed your call..." When the machine beeped to record a message, Bartram listened as the caller proclaimed, "Bright Side Construction is in your area today and we are offering you this special deal..." One recording talking to another recording. Bartram disconnected the call.

He got out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. Splashing water on his face, he recalled the object floating in his drive. He wondered if it was still there. He quickly went through his morning rituals. Ten minutes later he was dressed and headed outside.

He located the void without problem. Before attempting to gaze through it, he looked over at McKinney's bedroom taking note that the curtains were parted slightly. They were now in same position as the first time he peered through the floating bauble. But not parted wide as at the end of the day. He brought his eye close to the void with the McKinney bedroom once again in the background. It was daytime on the other side, yet not the same time of day. The shadows on the house did not match up. Plus, the bedroom curtains were wide open through the void's view. Bartram thought this over. He recognized that he was looking through some sort of time distortion. Yet he was not certain if what he saw was the past or the future. He studied the McKinney drapes trying to decide if they were exactly ajar as when he first looked through the void. With only his memory to rely on, he could not ascertain minute details. He wished he had paid stricter attention.

Still, the idea of a time distortion excited him. Then it dawned on him, he could rotate around the void a little more and look at his own home. Why hadn't he tried this last night? He quickly turned to view the back of his house. As he swirled an image in his driveway blurred by. He turned back to focus on his drive. Someone was leaning their back against his side door. It was one of the McKinney boys. He was breathing hard and had a frightened look on his face. Bartram watched spellbound as the boy composed himself regaining his breath. The young man stood up, looked up and down the driveway, then swiftly darted over to the fence and jumped over. Bartram spun around the void watching the boy sprint across the back yard and inside his house through the McKinney patio door.

What the hell was that about? What was the boy doing at his house? Boy? Hell, he ain't no boy. The McKinney kid was in his twenties. Which one was it? Bobby or Jimmy? He should know; he watched the boys grow up next door. Let's see, Jimmy was in the military, wasn't he? This must be Bobby, the older of the two. He wasn't sporting the proper hairstyle to be in the service.

Bartram tried to recall the last time he set eyes on any of the McKinney kids. It has been a few years. The last one to leave the nest was the girl. He was relieved when she had moved out, taking that loud crap music with her. Too often he would be bombarded by her crappers spewing out insults to authority and women. If they hadn't known each other for so many years, he would have called the police to complain. Instead, he talked to the mother and she promised to have the daughter not play the music so loud. That worked for about a week and then the deafening bass beat of the music would start up again. He talked to the mom several times with the same results. Finally, he bought ear plugs, and although they did not completely rid the obscene sounds, they did make it tolerable. Trouble was, he missed many a phone call because of the plugs. Well, that was all in the past. His relations with the neighbor wasn't the same after. There was no animosity, kids will be kids, but their once friendly attitude had been reduced to simple cordiality.

Bartram looked directly over at the McKinney household. He wondered if Jeanette's son was visiting. He walked down his driveway to the front of his house. Looking next door he saw no additional vehicles, only Jeanette's old Volkswagen in the drive. About a year back Bartram had asked her why she quit using her garage. She told him that ever since she started living alone in the house, she wanted any possible burglars to know that someone was home; having her car visible somehow gave her a sense of security. Bartram deduced that Jeanette was home and her son was not there.

Returning to the void, Bartram peered through it at the McKinney house again. There was no human presence to observe. He began studying the shadows to decipher what time of day he was seeing. The current time was 9:17 a.m. and the shadows on McKinney's property suggested that the sun was directly overhead, around noon. But noon of what day? Bartram tried to think of way to tell the date the void was privy to. He knew it was roughly the same time of year and not winter. Yet it could be a day or a week from now or perhaps even year from now. A year ago? How about looking at vegetation? That may work. The McKinney's have rose bushes along their garage. Bartram swiveled around the floating view port to look at the neighbor's garage. Through the void the ground, where the rose bush currently bloomed, was covered by lawn. No roses. How can that be? Even if Jeanette were to pull out the rose bush tonight, it would still take a while for grass to grow over the area and blend in with the rest of the lawn. Bartram tried to remember how long ago the bushes were planted. He kind of recalled Robert, Jeanette's late husband, being the one who planted them. That was at least ten years ago or more. Bartram thought that his ex-wife may have given Robert the cuttings to start the bushes. Yeah, that's right, his ex use to be pretty friendly to Robert, along with every other man she came across.

Bartram had not thought about Julia in years. They only had known each other for two months when they married back in 1993. The marriage lasted twenty months; half of which was waiting for the divorce to be finalized. Bartram got a little lucky in the settlement. He got to keep the house, which still had twenty years of mortgage left, but unfortunately Julia was awarded the bank accounts, which could have paid off the house and still leave enough for trip to Paris. He knew Julia would blow the money within a couple years, and he was certain she did. He still had the house, which he managed to pay off early, and all the furnishings. His home has been free and clear for three years. He also had built back a considerable savings in the bank. Good thing, too, now that he is retired.

He thought back to the summer of 94 when Julia would put on her bikini and do yard work. She loved to strut her stuff. All the neighbors noticed her. The men liked what they saw. The women scoffed at her. Julia loved all the attention, both good and bad. She loved being the center of attraction. Bartram wondered what she looked like today. Would she still be performing her seductress act? Or did she lose her audience when age finally caught up with her? He was glad she was no longer in his life. That period was one emotional roller coaster that he never wanted to ride again.

Chapter Six

Jeanette peaked out her kitchen window. Bartram was still there, staring at the back of her house. Her bedroom window to be precise. It was one o'clock. He had been there for over three hours. She wanted to know what he was up to.

She had never had a real conversation with Bartram. The last time they had said more than hello to each other was at Trina and Robert's funeral. That conversation was awkward. It was mostly she that spoke, grievingly retelling of the accident that claimed two of her family's lives. She recalled Bart stating that he hoped that they put the drunk driver away for life. She had agreed, but the man responsible for destroying her family had ended up receiving a two year sentence and was back on the streets before Bobby had graduated high school.

She thought back years earlier to when she and Robert would socialize with Bart and Julie. Even back then Bart and Jeanette did not really talk. He would talk mostly to Robert, and she would engage Julie in conversation. She couldn't recall Bart speaking to her on anything other than the weather or commenting on the local restaurants' meals. Any personal information she knew about Bart was learned from her husband or from Julie. She was friendly with all her other neighbors. Well, the female neighbors, she corrected herself. She suddenly felt bad for not being more neighborly to Bart and the other men in her subdivision. Jeanette laughed at the idea of approaching the husbands for friendly conversation. The wives would think she was on the make and she would end up with no one talking with her. She may get an unwanted late night visit by one of the husbands who misinterpreted her friendliness. She knew she would keep her status quo as is. But Bart wasn't married and what would be the harm in her approaching him for a talk?

Jeanette went in her bedroom and stood facing her closed curtains. She took a deep breath and opened the curtains wide. She saw Bart jump back at her sudden appearance. She feigned surprise, then smiled and waved. He returned her wave and Jeanette slid open the window.

"Whatcha doin', Bart?" she asked loudly, maintaining her friendly smile.

"Uh..." Bartram unable to think fast for an answer.

"Sorry if I startled you."

"Oh, that's okay," he said as he regained his composure. "I must have been daydreaming."

Jeanette decided she would not let on she knew he had spent many hours staring at her window. She would pretend as if everything was normal. That she hadn't a clue to Bart's recent voyeurism. She would let him off the spot and change the subject. "Bart, do you like home made lasagna?"

"I guess so. I can't remember if I ever had it made from scratch."

"Well, I was thinking of making it and if I follow the recipe, there will be too much for one person. Would you like to share dinner with me?"

She could tell Bart was surprised by her invitation. She hadn't thought it out, but it seemed like a good idea as she spoke it. Having Bart over for dinner would be the neighborly thing to do and she might be able to find out what was causing his behavior the past two days. A brief thought about her safety was discarded as fast as it arrived. She never felt any discomfort with his company before. Why should she feel it now? Yes, having Bart over would be a good thing on many levels. She could satisfy her curiosity, be a good neighbor, and forgo another night of solitude.

Bartram finally replied, "Dinner would be nice. What time do you want me over?"

"How does six sound?"

"Sounds good. I'll be there." And with those words said, Bart gave a smile and walked back to his house. She watched him disappear from her sight. She had wanted to talk with him more, but she would have to wait until six o'clock. In the meantime she had better start making lasagna. She hoped she had all the ingredients.

Chapter Four

Jeanette said into the phone, "He's out there again right now."

"What exactly is he doing?"

"He's staring at the back of the house."

"Well, Ma, what do you want me to do about it?"

"I don't know, Bobby. I just wish you weren't so far away."

"Is he scaring you?"

"Not really. At first I thought he was having a stroke or something. Then he saw me and waved."

"When? Just now?"

"No. Yesterday. Today, I haven't let on that I see him."

"You're talking like he scares you."

"It's like when you're in your car stopped at a light and a motorcycle pulls up next to you. You know he isn't going to do anything, but you double-check your door locks."

"Do you want me to come down there and talk to him?"

"No. I can talk to him myself if I want to. I've lived next door to him since you were in diapers."

"I never thought one way or the other about him. He was just the guy next door."

"Your father and I were once pretty friendly with him and his wife. We use to play cards, and go out to bingo. You were pretty young. I don't know if you remember."

"Yeah, that's right. I forgot that he use to be married. I was only six or seven when she left him. Is that why he turned into a hermit?"

"I wouldn't call Bart a hermit. And she didn't leave him. We never talked about this before, but she was cheating on him and he caught her. Bart was the one who kicked her out. Do you remember the police coming over there?"

"Not really. What happened?"

"Well, when Julia's boyfriend... I don't know who he was... wouldn't let her move in with her, she came back to Bart. Bart wouldn't let her in the house. So she threw a gnome statue through the front window. Bart called the cops and they were here in no time flat. They took her away and that was the last I ever saw of her. I still remember like it was yesterday, the two of them screaming at each other across the broken window, him inside, her out, when the police pulled up. I don't condone the way she acted, but I still felt sorry for her when they put her in handcuffs and took her away."

"Wow, I'm surprised I don't remember that."

"You kids were all in bed. I know Trina woke up. We talked about it the next day. She was worried that your father and I might break up too."

"You and dad? Was there a problem?"

"Just normal married stuff. Nothing we couldn't work out."

"That's good. Hey, I remember that statue. The Snow White dwarf that sat on the corner of their front porch."

"That's right. Red shirt and green overalls. A green hat, too. Ugly little thing."

"Aw, Ma, you think their ugly? Now, what am I suppose to get you for your birthday?"

"You give me a garden gnome for my birthday and I'll take you out of the will."

Mother and son enjoy a laugh together. Jeanette promises to keep Bobby apprised of any new developments before hanging up.

Chapter Five

Bartram had lost track of time. He had been staring through the void for a couple hours. The only activity he had seen was the shadows on the house stretching along in an elliptical pattern. He wished he could rewind the void to witness the neighbor's boy again. He tried to re-imagine what he had seen earlier to put detail to the memory. It was such a quick incident, and it had taken him by surprise, that he could not exactly recall what the young man had been wearing, let alone any other detail. Now, over two hours later, Bartram could not be 100% positive if it was Jeanette's son that he had seen. Or if he had seen anything at all. Could his mind be playing tricks on him? Did this bauble from another time exist?

Bartram stepped back and attempted to study the void without peering through it. It definitely was there. Or was it? Could his mind be creating an illusion? He would need to show this to someone. He needed confirmation that it was not the creative center of his brain working overtime. He thought about calling his sister and asking her to come over. He tried to picture what would happen with Amy. If she did not see the void, she would insist on his seeking psychiatric help. To avoid this, he would have to trick her into finding the void by herself. Then what would happen? If she discovered this peek hole through time, she would announce it to the world. Amy was quite public with any major events in their lives. It was easy to visualize Amy calling tv stations and newspaper reporters. Bartram wanted to keep the void as private as possible. No, Amy would not do.

He briefly considered sharing his discovery with Jeanette. But if it's her son that is involved in a possible burglarizing of his home, she might not confide in Bartram in what she see would through the void. Was it her son that he saw earlier? Did he see Jeanette's son leaving his house as if he committed a crime? He wish he knew for certain if it was her boy he saw. God, he wished he had paid closer attention to his neighbors. When he attended Robert and Trina's funerals, he had a hard time recognizing the girl. It was not because she had been disfigured in the accident, she was not, but it was because he never had really looked at her before.

Bartram was terrible at remembering people. Many times he would talk to someone at the supermarket, or other public places, and he would have no idea how he knew them. His circle of friends was small, and he knew them well. It was the casual people of his life, he would recognize but not recall their name or how he knew them. Talking to a familiar person in line at the Post Office, Bartram would not have a clue if they were a neighbor from down the block, or a bowler from a rival team, or someone who worked at his old plant, or a friend of one his friends. One time at the beach he had carried on a conversation with a woman he had dated, and the whole time thought she was the cashier from a local party store.

Bartram divided the women in his life as AM and PM: After Marriage and Pre Marriage. With his PM dating, Bartram was always looking for a partner to share the rest of his life. With his AM dating, Bartram was only looking for a partner to share the rest of the night. It was never declared in the divorce document, but with the settlement to Julia, Bartram relinquished any and all interest in romance.

As Bartram's mind wandered, the curtains that had been closed suddenly spread open. Jeanette held the curtains apart and was looking right at him. Through the void the curtains remained shut.

Chapter Seven

Bartram stood in his kitchen looking out the sliding doors. No matter how hard he tried, he could not see the void. He knew precisely where it hovered. He had to fight the urge to go and peer through it again. He wondered if Jeanette knew how many hours he had already spent transfixed by the floating bauble. She couldn't know about the void itself, it was too small to be seen from any distance of matter. She could only have seen him standing stock still staring at her house. To be more precise, her bedroom window. God, she would think him to be a peeping tom. She couldn't know the length he had spent there. If she did, she wouldn't have invited him over for dinner.

Why did she invite him for dinner? Something was odd about that. Why, after all these years, did she become so friendly? The same time the void appeared! These two new events in his life could not be a coincidence. They had to be connected somehow, yet he could not imagine what the connection could be. He suddenly regretted agreeing to dine with her. If he had not discovered that mysterious hole in time, he would have been pleased by Jeanette's invitation. Because of his discovery, he regarded his neighbor suspiciously. Yet, what could be her ulterior motive? Sharing a meal was innocent. He concluded that he would be gracious but guarded in conversation, not to volunteer any information about his backyard phenomenon.

His eyes, he knew, were fixed on the exact spot the void floated, yet not a glimmer of its existence was visible. If he can't see it from his kitchen, Jeanette would be unable to see it from her house. The only way she could have ever seen it would be if she stood right next to the fence perpendicular to its location. And even then she would have had to look up. She was quite a bit shorter than Bartram and would have to stand on crate to see what he saw. He doubted if anyone other than he himself had experienced the strange small portal.