* It wasn't raining today, but after Church, I got a knock on my door. I get up from my nap to go answer it. I open the door. A young woman in dusty 19th Century frontier-style dress stands on my doorstep.
ME: Hello. What can I do for you? (I do a double take.) Oh my gosh! You're Marie, aren't you?
MARIE: Hello, Mom. May I call you that? Rulon told me that's what he called you.
ME: Rulon? He and the boys got back okay?
MARIE: Yes. They...
ME (cutting in): Come in, come in. Can I get you something to drink? Are you hungry?
MARIE (shakes her skirts and brushes off her bodice before she enters the house): Thank you. I reckon I could stand a drink of water.
ME: Sit down. Make yourself at home. (I go get a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator and give it to Marie.)
(MARIE looks at the bottle, turning it over in her hands.)
ME: Give a twist, and the top comes off.
(MARIE turns the bottle on it's side and twists it.)
ME (stifling laughter): I'm sorry, I mean twist that blue thing on the top. It's a lid that twists off and on again.
MARIE (mastering the task): There it goes. (Takes a drink.) That tastes grand. How did you keep it cold in that white box?
ME: That's called a refrigerator. It's kind of a machine that works like a spring house. (I sit down.) Tell me about the boys. How much did they say about our visit? It sounds like they remembered that they came.
MARIE: Rulon remembered the most. He recounted how they rode under the rainbow and ended up in your time. Carl and Clay were a bit hazy on details, but their tales were fantastical and I wasn't sure if they were telling the truth or making fun of me. When I saw a rainbow today, I decided to see if I could come visit. It took a bit of doing, but I finally figured out how to walk under the bow.
ME: And here you are!
MARIE: Yes, here I am. (Her voice is shaking a bit.)
ME: Was it unpleasant?
MARIE: No, not particularly so. Everything just happened so fast, I feel a bit weak. I've been walking for at least an hour to get here.
ME: Well, you just take your rest. I'll get you a bite to eat. (I decide cereal is the fastest thing, and prepare a bowl of Special-K and milk, which I give her, along with a spoon. Wastrel that I am, I give her a paper bowl and plastic spoon.)
MARIE: Thank you, Mom. It is all right to call you that?
MARIE (dipping her spoon tentatively into the cold cereal): I've never seen the like of this food, Mom.
ME: It's the modern version of cooked mush. Somebody learned to roll wheat and oats flat and crisp them up. (I shrug my shoulders.) I think this cereal is mostly rice, but I'm not sure.
(MARIE takes a bite, investigating the cereal. She crunches up the food.) It's strange, but nice. (She holds up her spoon.) There's no weight at all to this white spoon. What's it made of?
ME: Plastic. It's a new material, something like the celluloid that's made into collars in your time, but plastic is different. Many things in our time are made with plastic of one kind or another.
(MARIE finished her bowl of cereal and hands it back to me. She watches in wonder as I throw it away. Then she fixes her gaze on me.) I understand you're thinking about writing my story into a book.
ME (taken aback): Um, I discussed it a bit with a friend of mine. I haven't entirely decided yet.
MARIE: I hope you will. I'm ready to get on with my life.
ME: You are?
MARIE: Yes. I'm in danger of becoming a spinster. Please help me.
ME: Well, sure. I guess I can do that. If I decide to write your story, will you help me with the details?
MARIE: The details?
ME: Yes. Jessie Bingham helped me out on my last book.
MARIE: Jessie? You know Jessie? Of course you know Jessie. You made her up, too. Is she still back in Shenandoah County?
ME: I believe she's on her way to Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory.
MARIE: Where's that?
ME: South of here, I mean south of where you live. It's northeast of here.
MARIE: Just exactly where is "here?"
ME: The State of Arizona. It was created from the western half of New Mexico Territory, in case you don't know.
MARIE: I didn't know that. What's Jessie up to?
ME: She and her family had to leave the Valley. Things got pretty messy after the Unpleasantness ended.
MARIE: But she's all right?
ME (smiling): Yes, I would say so. She's going to marry. . . . Oh! Maybe I shouldn't tell you. I should let that news come from the parties involved.
MARIE (making a pouty face): Don't be mean, Mom. Tell me?
ME: I'm afraid I can't. I'll try to work it into your book.
MARIE (sighs): You're not teasing, are you?
ME: No. I think I owe your ma some comfort.
MARIE: That's a strange thing to say. What comfort will Jessie's news bring Ma? (Her face changes as an idea comes upon her.) Ma carries a burden of grief from losing so many of her sons. Is James yet alive? Is he fixin' to marry Jessie? (She jumps up and pulls me to my feet, then grasps my forearms and bounces up and down.) Oh! That must be the thing! They were sweethearts before we left. It pained him to leave her behind. Tell me it's so!
ME (weakly trying to resist her pressure): I shouldn't say.
MARIE: Oh, please! Is James happy at last? Is he marryin' Jessie?
ME: He's happy. It's a hard-won happiness, but he's happy.
MARIE: But is he marryin' Jessie? Will she be my sister?
ME: You're hard to resist, my dear. She will be your sister.
MARIE: I knew it! I just knew James would find her again. Tell me all about it!
ME (shaking my head): I can't say more. All will be revealed in time. (I look out the window.) It's getting late. Do you intend to go back home now?
MARIE (sighs): I reckon I'd better do that, or Ma will worry. You will write my story, won't you? I promise not to tell Ma about James and Jessie if you do.
ME: I think I can't pass up that promise. I'll start on it tomorrow.
MARIE (kissing me on the cheek): Thank you. Thank you Mom. I hope to see you again.
ME (with a lump in my throat): Yes, I hope you will do that. (I watch as she goes through my open door, down the steps, and into a mist that envelopes her. When the breeze clears it away, she has vanished.)
*This is a work of fiction. I don't really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they pass under the rainbow from time to time to visit me in my own place and era. To order my novels, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms, visit my website at marshaward.com.