No Other Choice
by Elliot Richard Dorfman
part 1 of 2
Ron Glass, who had just turned 34 years old, sat back in his armchair and smiled. From his retro-styled entertainment system came the music of a recording made back in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Freda, his yellow crowned Amazon parrot happily began to mimic the vintage sounds.
“I should have been born in an earlier era when you could savor the simpler things in life,” he thought.
This was the first full day of a two-month summer break from teaching art at a local high school in Johnstown, New York.
From Ron’s outward appearance, you would have never guessed how angry he was. Elaine, his wife of nine years, had recently divorced him after running off with some young lawyer that she had met in her law office during the winter.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” he repeated to himself over and over. The bitch had faked him out before the marriage by acting demure and agreeable. Unfortunately, once she hooked him, the woman became aggressively wrapped up in her legal career.
Ron didn’t mind her working. It gave them more financial security in a world where prices seemed continually to increase. But soon she didn’t have any time to cook, shop, or help take care of the house. Probably the biggest disappointment of his marriage was Elaine’s refusing to have children. To sum it up, their whole relationship had been a fiasco.
Ron checked himself out in the hall mirror. A smooth, clean-cut face with bright green eyes and a mop of sandy colored hair smiled back at him. “Not too bad,” he thought, “I still look youthful.”
He chuckled. Elaine was already getting wrinkles. In another ten years she’d look like a dried-out prune.
The phone rang and broke his thoughts. It was his best friend Zack, also a teacher at his school, inviting him over for a barbecue dinner.
That evening was enjoyable. The food was great, and afterwards, he and Zack did a lot of kibitzing. Perhaps they drank a little too much beer, but who cared: there was no school to teach for eight more weeks!
When Betty, Zack’s wife, put their two boys to sleep, Zack suddenly became moody and began rambling on about how he was starting to feel tied down. Unfortunately, his wife heard him as she was returning outside. An argument ensued, which was the cue for Ron to leave.
Ron hadn’t brought his car because he wanted to get some exercise. It was a straight walk on Pleasant Avenue for eight blocks. Halfway home, he heard a strange humming directly above him. Looking up, a large metallic, oval object hovered in the sky. Scared, Ron began running, but the flying craft easily maintained his speed. He had almost reached his house, when there was a tremendous flash and everything went dark for him.
It was dawn when Ron regained consciousness. He found himself lying near a large oak tree that bordered a curb. He did not remember the UFO encounter. The top of his head hurt. Touching it, he felt his hair was singed. Lightning must have hit him. He was lucky to be alive.
As the sun rose higher in the east, Ron got up and looked around him with astonishment. There was an empty field a few feet away from him where his house should have been standing. He felt disoriented. What was going on? This was not the Maple Avenue he knew.
Walking north, Ron approached an Edwardian house that looked amazingly new. A pretty young woman opened one of the large front doors on the porch. She was wearing a yellow blouse and long beige skirt that touched the floor. Her braided chestnut brown hair framed a beautiful expressive face with big hazel eyes. She called out to him in a pleasant voice, “You seem to be lost. Can I be of help?”
Was this really happening? Or was he dreaming it? Too much for his weakened condition to comprehend, he fainted.
Ron awoke lying on a large green sofa. The room he was in looked like something from another time. The furniture was in Empire style. To his right was an ornate rosewood grand piano, flanked by a brass based Tiffany floor lamp. From the high ceiling hung a large crystal chandelier. He felt like he was in a museum. Sunlight streamed through the lace curtains of two large, open windows opposite him.
The pretty young woman he had seen outside got up from a chair next to him and wiped his forehead with a damp cloth. Her tone was cheerful. “ Hello. I think you’ll be alright now. My name is Grace Danbury.”
“Hi. I’m Ronald Glass.”
“From the burn on your head, I assume you were struck by lightning during last night’s storm. After you fainted, I brought you into my parlor. The cook and maid assisted me. You have been unconscious all morning. I was quite concerned and tried calling the doctor, but he was not at home.”
Ron slowly rose. “That’s all right, I’m fine.”
Grace gave a sigh of relief. “You must be hungry, Mr. Glass. Will you join me for lunch?”
“Afterwards, we can sit in the garden for a bit. I have been a little lonely since my parents and younger brother left to visit some relatives in Albany for the week. I didn’t feel like going so I remained at home with the servants. Some people might think it improper behavior for a young woman to stay alone, but I feel that’s very silly.”
He was ushered into a large, airy dining room. A beautiful gold and blue stencil pattern adorned the walls. They sat at a large rectangular walnut table. The food was served by a middle-aged maid who hardly made a sound.
Ron did not expect such palatable delights: cold fruit soap, salad, fresh rolls with creamy butter, broiled trout, mashed potatoes, fresh fruit, and a light angel cake with tea. Famished, he ate without restraint, not noticing the amused expression in Grace’s face.
“I see you enjoyed your meal.”
“Gee, I hope I didn’t make myself a glutton, but I haven’t tasted food this delicious since I don’t know when.”
The young woman seemed happy with his compliment. “Thank you. I gave the cook some time off and prepared the entire meal myself.”
“Well you certainly did a super job.” He remembered how his ex-wife couldn’t even boil an egg correctly.
Suddenly there was a pause, and Grace became serious. “I hope I am not being to inquisitive, but may I ask what your profession is?”
“An art teacher,”
“And have you just come back from some foreign place?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well,” said Grace, blushing, “besides your somewhat strange manner of behavior and speech, I have never seen such clothes as you wear.”
It was just at this moment Ron noticed a wind-up phonograph located in a corner near the French doors. Distracted, he got up and walked over to it.
“Wow, look at this antique phonograph!”.
Grace was angry. “I’ll have you know this Victrola is the latest model that is being sold. It is kept in here because we sometimes like to listen to music while dining. My family prides itself on being modern and abreast of the times. This domain is the first house in the area to have electric lights and indoor plumbing, including a bath and toilet.”
Her remarks seemed to validate his growing suspicion. “Can you please give me today’s complete date?”
“Of course, it is June 28, 1910. Don’t they have calendars from where you come?”
Ron turned pale and took a big breath. Did I go through some kind of time warp in last night’s storm? he thought. Well, there’s no sense in panicking. I have no choice but to deal with it until I can find a way back. At least it’s an era I admire.
Grace rushed over to him. “Are you alright? You need some fresh air. Let’s go outside and sit in the back. You won’t be disturbed by any noises from the carriages on the road. Papa plans to get one of those new automobiles this fall. He is positive that it will replace horse transportation in the future.”
Ron was led into a beautiful English styled garden. They sat on a bench near a large maple tree that was close to a clear pond. It was a beautiful spot. To his far right, he noticed two large barns. He could hear the hens cackling and some mooing of cows. Her family must have owned quite a spread. It was probably cheap enough to buy at that time. Hired help probably did most of the chores.
“I hate to be forward,” Grace said, “but are you visiting someone in this area?”
“No,” Ron responded.
“Then how come you don’t have a suitcase or carpetbag?”
“I travel light,”
“Oh, you’re sort of a vagabond. How exciting! Do you have a profession?”
“Yes, I teach art.” He was getting a little anxious over her probing. “Say, how about stopping this third degree? You’re making me feel uncomfortable.”
“Third degree? Oh well, excuse me. I do get carried away sometimes. You must be a skillful painter if you teach art. Since you don’t seem to have any definite plans, would you be willing to paint a small portrait of me for a decent sum? I have all the equipment because painting is one of my hobbies. Please, don’t refuse me.”
Grace was right. He had no plans, at least not in this strange world. He accepted and was given a spacious guest room on the second floor with a large window facing the back. Because his clothes had become dirty and ripped, she gave him some of her father’s summer clothes. They weren’t what he was used to, but they fit.
He began with a preliminary sketch of Grace in the garden that afternoon. Since it rained on and off for the next three days, Ron painted Grace’s portrait in the den. Not knowing how long his unusual situation would last, he worked steadily for many hours. Grace patiently posed without ever complaining. Ron let her do most of the talking. He didn’t want to slip and mention things from the 21st century that would totally perplex her.
The two seemed to have a lot in common, despite the fact Ron was from a distant era. In the evenings, they listened to her father’s records, played duets on the piano, and enjoyed reading out loud poems by such favorites as Shelley, Emerson and Whitman. Ron’s favorite poet, Robert Frost, was just starting to publish his first books in Great Britain. Since Frost was not yet known in America, Ron refrained from bringing him up.
By now, it was getting difficult not to take Grace in his arms and embrace her. Then on the fourth night of his stay, she appeared in his bedroom after all the servants had gone to sleep. Clothed in a loose fitting nightgown and robe, she sat down on his bed. “Do you think I am attractive?” she asked him temptingly.
Copyright © 2007 by Elliot Richard Dorfman