“Ah, yes, Mobius,” friends murmured.
What they really meant was, “Ah, no. Good night.”
Harrison Cooper was not a mad scientist, but he was irretrievably boring. Knowing this, he had retreated to finish the Mobius Machine. Now, this strange morning, with cold rain streaming from his eyes, he stood staring at the damned contraption, bewildered that he was not dancing about with Creation’s joy.
He was interrupted by the ringing of the laboratory doorbell and opened the door to find one of those rare people, a real Western Union delivery boy on a real bike. He signed for the telegram and was about to shut the door when he saw the lad staring fixedly at the Mobius Machine.
“What,” exclaimed the boy, eyes wide, “is that?”
Harrison Cooper stood aside and let the boy wander in a great circle around his Machine, his eyes dancing up, over, and around the immense circling figure eight of shining copper, brass, and silver.
“Sure!” cried the boy at last, beaming. “A Time Machine!”
“When do you leave?” said the boy. “Where will you go to meet which person where? Alexander? Caesar? Napoleon! Hitler?!”
The boy exploded his list. “Lincoln-“
“More like it.”
“General Grant! Roosevelt! Benjamin Franklin?”
“Aren’t you lucky?”
“Am I?” Stunned, Harrison Cooper found himself nodding. “Yes, by God, and suddenly-“
Suddenly he knew why he had wept at dawn. He grabbed the young lad’s hand. “Much thanks. You’re a catalyst-“
“A Rorschach test-making me draw my own list-now gently, swiftly-out! No offense.”
The door slammed. He ran for his library phone, punched numbers, waited, scanning the thousand books on the shelves.
“Yes, yes, he murmured, his eyes flicking over the gorgeous sun-bright titles. “Some of you. Two, three, maybe four. Hello! Sam? Samuel! Can you get here in five minutes, make it three? Dire emergency. Come!”
He slammed the phone, swiveled to reach out and touch.
“Shakespeare,” he murmured. “Willy-William, will it be-you?”
The laboratory door opened and Sam/Samuel stuck his head in and froze.
For there, seated in the midst of his great Mobius figure eight, leather jacket and boots shined, picnic lunch packed, was Harrison Cooper, arms flexed, elbows out, fingers alert to the computer controls.
“Where’s your Lindbergh cap and goggles?” asked Samuel.
Harrison Cooper dug them out, put them on, smirking. “Raise the Titanic; then sink it!” Samuel strode to the lovely machine to confront its rather outre’ occupant. “Well, Cooper, what?” he cried.
“I woke this morning in tears.”
“Sure. I read the phone book aloud last night. That did it!”
“No. You read me these!”
Cooper handed the books over.
“Sure! We gabbed till three, drunk as owls on English Lit!”
“To give me tears for answers!”
“To their loss. To the fact that they died unknown, unrecognized; to the grim fact that some were only truly recognized, republished, raved over from 1920 on!”
“Cut the cackle and move the buns,” said Samuel. “Did you call to sermonize or ask advice?”
Harrison Cooper leaped from his machine and elbowed Samuel into the library.
“You must map my trip for me!”
“I go a-journeying, far-traveling, the Grand Literary Tour. A Salvation Army of one!”
“To save lives?”
“No, souls! What good is life if the soul’s dead? Sit! Tell me all the authors we raved on by night to weep me at dawn. Here’s brandy. Drink! Remember?”
“List them, then! The New England Melancholic first. Sad, recluse from land, should have drowned at sea, a lost soul of sixty! Now, what other sad geniuses did we maunder over-“
“God!” Samuel cried. “You’re going to tour them? Oh, Harrison, Harry, I love you!”
“Shut up! Remember how you write jokes? Laugh and think backwards! So let us cry and leap up our tear ducts to the source. Weep for Whales to find minnows!”
“Last night I think I quoted-“
“And then we spoke-“
Samuel gulped his brandy. Fire burned his eyes.
“Write this down!”
They wrote and ran.
“What will you do when you get there, Librarian Doctor?”
Harrison Cooper, seated back in the shadow of the great hovering Mobius ribbon, laughed and nodded. “Yes! Harrison Cooper, L.M.D. Literary Meadow Doctor. Curer of fine old lions off their feed, in dire need of tender love, small applause, the wine of words, all in my heart, all on my tongue. Say ‘Ah!’ So long. Good-bye!”