Standing back, cudgeling his bald spot, and then massaging his brow for rampant inspiration, Dr. Goff at last exhaled in triumph.
“I have it, by George. A genius of an idea, which will please both villagers, to be rid of you, and you, to be rid of them.”
“What, what, Doctor?”
“Why, sir, you are to come down to London under cover of night and I will let you through the side door of my museum with your blasphemous toy of Satan .
“To what purpose?”
“Purpose? Why, sir, I have found the path, the smooth surface, the road you spoke of at some future time!”
“The road, the path, the surface?”
“The museum floors, marble, smooth, lovely, wondrous, ohmigod, for all your needs!”
“Don’t be thick. Each night, as many nights as you wish, to your heart’s content, you can ride that wheeled demon round and round, past the Rembrandts and Turners and Fra Angelicos, through the Grecian statues and Roman busts, careful of porcelains, minding the crystals, but pumping away like Lucifer all night till dawn!”
“Oh, dear God,” murmured Wetherby, “why didn’t I think?”
“If you had you would’ve been too shy to ask!”
“The only place in the world with roads like future roads, paths like tomorrow’s paths, boulevards without cobbles, pure as Aphrodite’s cheeks! Smooth as Apollo’s rump!”
And here Wetherby unlocked his eyes to let fall tears, pent up for months and long hilltop years.
“Don’t cry,” said Dr. Goff.
“I must, with joy, or burst. Do you mean it?”
“My good man, here’s my hand!”
They shook and the shaking let free at least one drop of rain from the good doctor’s cheek, also.
“The excitement will kill me,” said Wetherby, wiping the backs of his fists across his eyes.
“No better way to die! Tomorrow night?”
“But what will people say as I lead my machine through the streets to your museum?”
“If anyone sees, say you’re a gypsy who’s stolen treasure from a distant year. Well, well, Elijah Wetherby, I’m off.”
“Be careful downhill.”
Half out the door, Dr. Goff tripped on a cobble and almost fell as a farmer said:
“Did you see the lunatic?”
“Will you take him to a madhouse?”
“Yes. Asylum.” Dr. Goff adjusted his cuffs. “Crazed. Worthless. You will see him no more!”
“Good!” said all as he passed.
“Grand,” said Goff and picked his way down the stone path, listening.
And uphill was there not a final, joyful, wheel-circling cry from that distant yard?
Dr. Goff snorted.
“Think on it,” he said, half aloud, “no more horses, no more manure! Think!”
And, thinking, fell on the cobbles, lurching toward London and the future.
AT THE END OF THE NINTH YEAR
“Well,” said Sheila, chewing on her breakfast toast and examining her complexion, distorted in the side of the coffee urn, “here it is the last day of the last month of the ninth year.”
Her husband, Thomas, glanced over the rampart of The Wall Street Journa4 saw nothing to fasten his regard, and sank back in place. “What?”
“I said,” said Sheila, “the ninth year’s finished and you have a completely new wife. Or, to put it properly, the old wife’s gone. So I don’t think we’re married anymore.”
Thomas floored the Journal on his as-yet-untouched scrambled eggs, tilted his head this way and that, and said:
“No, that was another time, another body, another me.” She buttered more toast and munched on it philosophically.
“Hold on!” He took a stiff jolt of coffee. “Explain.”
“Well, dear Thomas, don’t you remember reading as children and later, that every nine years, I think it was nine, the body, churning like a gene-chromosome factory, did your entire person over, fingernails, spleen, ankles to elbows, belly, bum, and earlobes, molecule by molecule-“
“Oh, get to it,” he grumbled. “The point, wife, the point!”
“The point, dear Tom,” she replied, finishing her toast, “is that with this breakfast I have replenished my soul and psyche, completed the reworking of my entire flesh, blood, and bones. This person seated across from you is not the woman you married-“
“I have often said that!”