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CLIFFORDVILLE REVISITED
By Klaus D. Haisch

Main Characters:

1) MR. BILL FEATHERSMITH. People who create things are called "Smiths." A blacksmith works with iron, making sturdy things. A goldsmith works with gold, making precious things. So, is a feathersmith someone who makes things of no substance (like a feather)?

2) MISS DEVLIN. A devil in disguise; actually Bill Feathersmith's Guardian Angel (though he doesn't know it). She died in 1888, at the age of 30, and appears this age throughout.

3) HECATE. Pronounced "hay-CAH-tay." The three-fold moon goddess, also goddess of justice and revenge.

4) MR. GIBBONS. A gibbon is an ape, and he has that skinny, ape-like face. A banker in 1910.

5) JOANNA. Mr. Gibbons' eligible daughter.

6) MR. DIETRICH. "Dietrich" is an old German word for "skeleton key." He is the key to Mr. Feathersmith's attempt to re-live his life. Former boss of young Bill Feathersmith, and owner of the "Dietrich Tool & Die Company" since 1923.

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Our story opens in 1963, and Guardian Angel 3rd class Julie is standing on a dark stage, covered with dry-ice machine fog, with a bright spotlight on her (don't ask what color, this is all in black & white).

Voice from above: "You are in trouble, Guardian Angel 3rd class. You have failed in your assignment. You were to save the soul of Bill Feathersmith."

Julie: "Yes, your Lordship."

Voice: "You were born in 1858, and died in 1888 at the age of 30. Your life was not good enough to get you into heaven; you were promiscuous and had not done any good deeds. However, you weren't bad enough to be sent to the Other Place. We made you a Guardian Angel 3rd class, temporarily. If you had done your assignment, you would have been granted full membership into heaven."

Julie: "My assignment was Bill Feathersmith, born in 1888, the same year and day I died."

Voice: "You have not saved his soul."

Julie: "I did all I could. I tried to put moral thoughts in his head. Bother him like a conscience. There is only so much I can do, when he can't see or hear me."

Voice: "You must pull out all the stops. From now on, you may appear visible to him. You may talk to him. But save his soul, or he will go to the Other Place, and you will always be the lowest in the kingdom of heaven. I am sending you back to Earth now."

Julie: "Just tell me, before you do that... why didn't I get full membership into heaven? Was it because I'm not Catholic?"

Voice: "You know better than that. ALL religions have truth in them. It matters not to Me whether someone is Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam... all seek the truth. There is truth in your Wiccan beliefs, too. Now go."

Julie is back on Earth. She goes to a Wiccan place, outdoors, and looks up at the full moon. Julie prays, "Oh, Hecate, three-fold goddess, help me in my hour of need."

Voice of Hecate: "I hear you, my daughter."

Julie: "I need your help. I ask a favor from you, but I have no gift or sacrifice for you."

Voice of Hecate: "Have you forgotten 'The Charge of the Goddess'? 'Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth'."

Julie: "I ask that you help me save the soul of Bill Feathersmith."

Voice of Hecate: "Very well, I'll help you in this noble task. But, since he would not listen to us, we will disguise ourselves. You shall not appear to him as a Guardian Angel, but rather as the Devil--call yourself 'Miss Devlin.' Feathersmith is distrustful of women, so I will appear to him as a man-- a lowly man he would not have reason to suspect nor fear, a janitor."

Julie: "Oh goddess, is it possible to go back in time, and let him re-live his life?"

Voice of Hecate: "Time travel is not possible for humans. A life lived is complete. But we can give him the illusion of time travel."

[like the Twilight Zone episode: "A Nice Place to Visit" (episode # 1.28) 4/15/1960 where Larry Blyden was in hell-- but all the "people" there were just illusions for his benefit]

And now, our story picks up where the Twilight Zone episode begins....

---

Mr. Dietrich is keeping his 2 o'clock appointment with Bill Feathersmith, in Feathersmith's office.

Feathersmith (referring to the early 1920s): "I remember vividly one afternoon, when you called me into your office..." (Feathersmith seems to relish the idea that now he is calling HIM into HIS office) "...and you said, 'Bill Feathersmith-- I like your style, boy. I want you in with me'. Do you remember that?"

Dietrich: "I shall never cease to regret it."

Bill Feathersmith has bought up Dietrich's $3,000,000 loan, which is "payable on demand."

Feathersmith: "It reads 'payable on demand'. So, Mr. Dietrich, on demand it 'TIS! Not tomorrow, not this evening around supper-time, NOW, Mr. Dietrich."

That evening, goddess Hecate takes the form of a custodian (since she is the three-fold goddess, she assumes the title "custodian of the top 3 floors"). Also, she pronounces her name "HECK-ett" so as not to tip off Feathersmith. The body she had possessed is one of the janitor, a reformed alcoholic.

Feathersmith is babbling. He smashes a bottle with his mighty left arm. Feathersmith demands, "Who are you, anyway?" (rather odd that he never noticed the custodian before-- he's been there for 34 years.)

Hecate: "HECK-ett, sir. Custodian of the top 3 floors."

Feathersmith: "You have a drink, Heck-ett."

Hecate (remembering her host body is a recovered alcoholic): "Thank you, no, sir. But I appreciate that." She gets Feathersmith to talk. Hecate tells him how (s)he received a gold watch for services.

Feathersmith sarcastically remarks, "Your aggressive self-assurance unnerves me, Heck-ett."

All the while she's thinking-- oh, you'll get yours, buddy! This is her first view of Feathersmith, and he comes across as a real bully. She just smiles at this scenario.

Feathersmith tells Hecate how he grew up in Cliffordville, Indiana. "You ever hear of it, Heck-ett?"

Well, here she continues her act.

Hecate: "That's a coincidence, sir. I was born in Cliffordville." And she will appear there during his illusionary "time travel" sequence, too. She is setting him up for it.

Feathersmith says they are both very much alike. Then sarcastically continues, "We both put on our pants on one leg at a time, and there the similarity ends."

She wonders, why is she helping this sarcastic jerk? Hecate moves her eyes back and forth, kind of reeling from Feathersmith's insensitivity. Then she just looks at him, almost feeling sorry for him.

Feathersmith: "Alexander the Great Feathersmith. I've got everything there is to get... and I'm still hungry."

Hecate thinks, how well she knew Alexander the Great! Born 356 B.C., he conquered the entire known world at that time, and died a lonely man in 323 B.C., he was only 33 years old. And all his worldly goods do him no good in Hades. Alexander the Great had prayed to Hecate, too--but only asked for help in conquests, never for help to save his soul. This poor Feathersmith was a lot him, a modern-day Alexander.

Hecate (remembering like it was yesterday): "He cried because he had no more worlds to conquer." She said that aloud, thinking to herself. She didn't realize Feathersmith heard her. Hecate looks at Feathersmith with deep, piercing eyes: "I guess he was kind of like you, Mr. Feathersmith." She has almost blown her cover.

But Feathersmith responds to this insightful remark by opening up, for the first time. He talks to Hecate like a real person, not as a sarcastic boss to a flunky. Feathersmith says he wishes he could go back, and start all over again.

Hecate's work is done. She has set the stage, it is now up to Julie, Guardian Angel 3rd class to pick up the ball and run with it.

Hecate looks at him with piercing eyes. Feathersmith recovers his sarcasm, and tells Heck-ett, "Don't forget to wind your gold watch."

Well, Feathersmith was a real human there, for a moment.

As he walks away, Hecate looks down, with deep sorrow in her eyes.

Scene: Miss Devlin's office on the 13th floor (due to superstitions, most buildings don't have a 13th floor-- the numbering goes from the 12th floor straight to the 14th). Room 1350. Julie is admiring herself in a mirror. What a body! She is just as beautiful as she remembered herself, when she died at age 30--but that was back in 1888! She is still the same gorgeous showgirl she was back in the Follies of the 1880s. She hasn't had a physical body, nor seen herself in a mirror, for 75 years-- a long time for any woman not to look into a mirror and admire herself. Okay, Mr. Feathersmith would say "phooey" to Guardian Angels, so she is disguised as the Devil: Miss Devlin. Her hat has a ring of horns on it, but in the front there are 2 holes-- the horns protruding are from her head. Very hokey, she thinks, but she has to reach Feathersmith on his level, and he saw paintings of demons with horns in prayerbooks in his childhood, and it somehow stuck with him, at least in his subconscious.

Miss Devlin says, "There's no reason we shouldn't be comfortable," and takes off her coat, while striking the sexiest pose she can. She is stupefying.

Some time later, Feathersmith has been reminiscing.

Miss Devlin: "Go on, Mr. Feathersmith, you were saying..."

Feathersmith jerks his head up and goes, "Hmm?" as if he had almost dozed off (as old men will do). He remembers, "There was a girl there...name of Gibbons." (odd that he called her by her last name, and not "Joanna.") "... beautiful girl."

Miss Devlin asks if he enjoyed this (the beautiful girl).

Feathersmith says loudly: "I didn't have time to enjoy anything!" It seems he got his gratification from work rather than romance. "I worked. I went up-- up! You understand that?"

Miss Devlin (very gleefully): "And now you're up-- you're ALL the way up."

Feathersmith is bored and rootless. He is ready to hear her offer. Miss Devlin seductively starts unbuttoning her vest... first the button above her bellybutton, then going up to the 2 buttons across her bosom. Feathersmith is sunk. She has him hook, line and sinker.

Miss Devlin had been sitting in the chair behind her desk, and Bill Feathersmith in a chair in front. Miss Devlin slowly walks to the front of her desk, and sits on it. Her midi-skirt shows off her pretty knees, which are just about 2 feet away from Feathersmith's face. This is a deliberate distracting technique. She recaps how Feathersmith had more fun in getting his riches, than in having them. So she makes a suggestion: she can send him back in time to start all over. Miss Devlin is playing the game, pretending to be the Devil that Feathersmith will strike a bargain with.

Meanwhile, Bill Feathersmith has avoided looking at her pretty legs, instead concentrating on her face. He has fallen into the trap of thinking he is bargaining with the Devil. No doubt remembering stories of other people who dealed with the Devil and were tricked ("The Devil and Daniel Webster," for instance), Feathersmith thinks he is clever enough to beat the Devil at his own game. (Arrogance, thy name is Feathersmith!) He rises, and says, "Miss Devlin, you are not dealing with a fool now," and gets in her face-- literally. His nose is only several inches from hers at this point. She is smirking, as his self-assurance is making him fall right into her trap. He gets in the chair behind the desk, and adds that in addition to being sent back in time to the Cliffordville of old, he wants...

1) to look exactly as he did back then, 2) his memory of everything that's occurred in the last 50 years, 3) the town exactly as it was, 4) it to happen right away. Bill Feathersmith offers to sell his soul.

Okay, here is where it gets tricky. Julie is actually trying to SAVE his soul. So, how is she going to word this?

Julie looks him right in the eyes, and says something she's wanted to say to him for decades: "We got a hold of your soul some time ago."

A grim look comes over Feathersmith's face.

She pulls out his file. Oh, for decades Julie has wanted to be more than a subconscious voice, a nagging little conscience. Now, she is physical-- she can actually be seen and heard by Feathersmith, she can talk to him. She reads to him how his chicanery ruined several hundred peoples' lives, and drove 4 to suicide. Feathersmith looks grim, as if he never realized how his wheeling and dealing, which he considered a game, could destroy people. Julie reads, "Subconscious thoughts and dreams," and sneers. (Well, that got her in trouble, too, with her life. But that's another story.) She reads about "indirect murders"-- other people he drove to ruin, poverty, hopelessness and ultimate death. He now realizes the bad things he did. Now, her plan is to make him suffer the same way, so he will truly see the error of his ways.

Feathersmith demands, if she already has his soul, what does she want for payment?

Julie responds that she wants money, since this is the language he understands. Of course, this doesn't make any sense-- what would the Devil want with money? For that matter, why should the Devil interfere at all in Feathersmith's life, since he has lost his soul AND caused so much pain and suffering for others? The Devil would just sit back and enjoy it. Julie the Guardian Angel tries to get Feathersmith to concentrate so much on the money she will charge as a fee (which will be a huge sum), that he doesn't stop to think that none of this makes any sense. He is worth $36,891,412... she wants $36,890,000... leaving him with $1,412.

"You robber!" Feathersmith snaps at her.

Bingo.

He swallowed the bait-- hook, line and sinker. He is so concerned about his money, he doesn't realize that the Devil trying to take his money from him is absurd. She has lolled his senses. Maybe he should have yelled, "You loller!" instead. Feathersmith is so arrogant, he thinks he has outsmarted the Devil. (Which many have tried, but no one, not even Faust, ever succeeded in doing. But then again, he is Feathersmith, and they are not.) With his knowledge, he knows of 1,400 acres of land with oil; the oil wasn't brought in until 1937. His greed, thinking he can get in on the ground floor for every money-making invention and stock, overrides his thinking. He signs.

Then Julie says, "I think I might be able to sweeten the pot a bit for you." Of course, nobody throws in extras into a deal AFTER it has been signed. Least of all the Devil. But then, Julie forget this part, and wants to add it now. Oh well, Feathersmith won't question this-- the Devil throwing in a freebie after the deal has been made. Julie wants to fix him up with the attractive banker's daughter.

Feathersmith says he wants to court her himself, with no outside help.

She says, "I wish for you everything you deserve." Meaning, he is going to suffer poverty, despair, ruin, hopelessness. Maybe then, he will realize that what he has been doing in life is not a just a game.

Now, the goddess Hecate is taking over. Feathersmith is on a plane flying to Cliffordville, Indiana. She clouds his mind to think he is suddenly on an old train, arriving in Cliffordville of 1910. He looks in the mirror and sees himself young again (this is all a "glamour," an illusion-- he is still 75). When he hears the stop is Cliffordville, Feathersmith has a look on his face, a sense of wonder, of a man going back to the town (or country) of his youth. Just like an immigrant who goes back to "the old country" for a visit, after being away for decades. For right now, he is in pure bliss. He is in a small town. Everything he sees is an illusion. The townspeople are real, but he will not be talking to them anyway. The small handful of people in the town he will actually meet are all Guardian Angels in disguise. He sees 4 yellow flags on a balcony. The goddess Hecate has arranged it so that she will be the first person he talks to. She is still disguised as the custodian, but now looking very young. To get in character, the eternal goddess is pretending to be taking a nap (in the middle of the day!), while sitting in a chair on the sidewalk.

Feathersmith comes over and rouses her, asking about the yellow flags.

Hecate explains they are because of an outbreak of typhoid (nice historical touch, she thinks to herself).

Once again, this makes Feathersmith think he is smarter and superior to everyone else, since HE knows about inoculations. Still being sarcastic (as he was the first time he talked to Heck-ett), Feathersmith tells her, "Go back to sleep, Rip (van Winkle)-- I'll wake you when I need you." He walks away, and then turns around. He recognizes the person he just talked to, and says, "It's old man Heck-ett."

Hecate hears that and thinks, "Old man, my eye! YOU're the old man." And again she wonders why she is helping this arrogant jerk. Oh yes, because Guardian Angel Julie implored her for her help.

Feathersmith says sarcastically, "You've got a great future."

Hecate thinks, "Right back at you." As Feathersmith walks away, Hecate disappears. She will come back when this play is ending.

Feathersmith walks along the street, and bumps into Dietrich-- almost literally. The Guardian Angel playing Dietrich did it perfectly. Since he never met Feathersmith before, he showed no sign of recognition when they chatted. Feathersmith would have sworn he just talked to his former boss Dietrich, a young man of 27 years of age, in 1910.

The next Guardian Angel, playing Mr. Gibbons, didn't fare so well. Yes, he had a long, thin, almost ape-like face, like the real Mr. Gibbons (which, ironically, is the name of an ape). However, this Angel had not done this sort of thing (take on human form) in a long time. He got distracted by the simple pleasure of eating, a joy he had not had in over 100 years, and had trouble remembering his lines. He had the bad habit of repeating everything Feathersmith said.

Feathersmith got irritated and said: "Mr. Gibbons, is there an echo in here, or would it help if I hired an interpreter?"

Guardian Angel Julie (invisible to both of them), pokes Gibbons, and whispers in his ear, "Put down the food, and pay attention! Remember your lines!"

Gibbons suddenly snaps to attention. Gibbons recites some lines from memory. Then invisible Julie holds up an invisible cue card above his head, and Gibbons reads (without missing a beat) "Fourteen hundred extravagantly lovely acres. Singing birds and constant sunshine."

>whew< thinks Julie.

They got Feathersmith hooked. He genuinely believes he is reliving his past-- only this time, he will get rich quick. But then, Gibbons falters.

"Oh no," thinks invisible Guardian Angel Julie, "Gibbons is having trouble remembering his lines again!"

Gibbons stumbles, clears his throat, "Well, uh, as a matter of fact, Mr. Feathersmith... uh, as a matter of fact..."

Angel Julie thinks, "Why didn't I get a Guardian Angel who had trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute?" She snaps her fingers (though Feathersmith can't hear this), and another invisible cue card appears above Gibbons, who starts to read: "That land was purchased from the estate..."

"Well," Julie thinks, "it sounds like he is just reading it off, but Feathersmith is too excited about reliving his past to notice a detail like that." >whew< again!

Now that that was out of the way, Gibbons was free to "ad lib" as far as striking the price with Feathersmith. Angel Gibbons had his orders: It must be $1 an acre, which would take almost all the money Feathersmith has, $1,412.

The deal being struck, "a buck an acre," Feathersmith goes to the next item on his agenda.

Feathersmith: "You have a daughter, Mr. Gibbons. Joanna is her name."

That was Angel Julie's cue to visit with Joanna. Invisible Julie leaned over Gibbons, who was watching Mr. Feathersmith pour himself a drink. Julie whispered in Gibbons' ear: "And don't touch the booze!"

Angel Julie became visible again, in the parlor of the Gibbons' house. She was not meeting with another angel this time, but the real Joanna Gibbons. She was born in 1890, just 2 years after Feathersmith. Joanna was 73 years old now, but Julie had put a "glamour" on her. As Joanna looked at herself in the mirror, she saw herself as a 20-year-old girl again. Joanna was very attractive, with a lovely face and very nice figure. Even at age 73 Joanna still had a nice face and figure, the glamour just covered the wrinkles.

Joanna was almost trembling. "I can't believe I'm going to see Bill Feathersmith again. I haven't seen him in almost 40 years."

Julie sat down on the sofa, and Joanna sat next to her. They had a real woman-to-woman talk.

Joanna spoke slowly, "I first saw Bill in 1910. It was love at first sight for me. I just fell in love with him, he was so doggone cute." Joanna spoke even more slowly, picking her words, as the memories flooded back. "He didn't love me. I hoped he could fall in love with me. But he never did. Not really. He wouldn't marry me. But I never gave up hope. I had a love affair with him. That would have been considered very scandalous back then, so we were very discreet about it. When Bill was drafted for World War I, in 1917, we made love before he was sent to Europe. I had a son. I wanted to tell him, but I never did..." Joanna breaks down sobbing.

Julie holds her hand. "There, there." Julie patiently waits for Joanna to continue. "Let it all out," Julie says softly.

"But," Joanna continues, "I found out he's not the marrying kind. I found out, if he knew I'd had a baby, he'd leave me. So I left our son with my aunt Bertha in Maine. When Bill returned home from the War, I was so happy to see him--so happy he wasn't injured, or crippled--I fell in love with him all over again. In 1919, I got pregnant again. This time I had a baby girl. Again, Bill was only interested in work, not in having a family. I told Bill that someone else was the father..."

Here Joanna breaks down crying, and can't talk anymore for a minute.

"The last time I saw Bill was 1925. He never married. And I never loved another man. I raised our 2 children on my own, and Aunt Bertha helped. The children are grown now, and have kids of their own." Joanna pauses to wipe her tears. "Now, I'm 73 years old. I don't have a chance to re-live my life, but if I could live my remaining years with Bill, I'd be the happiest woman on Earth."

"You will," says Angel Julie with confidence. "You will. You'll meet him this afternoon. Now, let's wipe those tears off, and get your face washed up. You've got to look your best for Mr. Bill Feathersmith, who will come a-courting later today."

It was an eerie scene. Angel Julie was with Joanna, they were the only two in the old, deserted, boarded-up house that was once the Gibbons' residence. Angel Julie concentrated and, by drawing on the memories of Joanna's mind, Julie created the illusion that the old house looked just as it did back in 1910. Even the piano worked now. The boards on the windows and doors disappeared, and sunlight flooded the parlor for the first time in a decade. Joanna's parents had passed away years ago. It would be painful, in a bittersweet way, to see angels portraying her parents, looking just as they did in 1910. The Guardian Angel playing Mr. Gibbons appeared. (Thank goodness he didn't have many lines to say, thought Angel Julie.) The angel playing Mrs. Gibbons appeared, she would say nothing. Joanna was so overcome, she could not say one single word. Angel Julie hoped Joanna would regain her composure enough to actually be able to talk, when Feathersmith was due to arrive.

About an hour later, Bill Feathersmith was shown into the parlor by Mr. Gibbons, who introduced his daughter to Feathersmith. After all, this being 1910, a single girl could not talk to a stranger, without a proper introduction. Joanna's heart raced as she looked at Bill, looking as handsome as she remembered him. Bill's heart raced a bit, too, though he didn't let on. Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons, Joanna and Bill all sat down. Julie said a prayer, hoping they wouldn't just sit there in uncomfortable silence. Julie hoped that Joanna would be able to talk a little, even if only to say a few words.

Then, all at once, Joanna opened her mouth...

Joanna: "So, I told daddy when he told me that you were downstairs, I said 'It's about time we had a sophisticated man in this town,' didn't I say that, daddy? Oh, have another bon-bon, Mr. Feathersmith..." etc, etc, etc.

Julie couldn't believe it! An hour ago, Joanna was speechless. Now, out of sheer nervousness, she had turned into a chatterbox! And she wouldn't let Feathersmith get a word in edgewise. In addition, with Joanna's nervous eating habit, she had accidentally given herself a "chocolate moustache" which really detracted from her good looks.

Joanna talked of how she was the best swimmer in her class. Women swimming in 1910 was considered a bit scandalous, even though the "swimsuits" they wore were baggy things which covered them from neck to ankle. However, she did have a slim, athletic body like a swimmer, which Feathersmith admired. But her non-stop chatterbox talking was ruining everything.

Invisible Julie had to intercede! Just as Joanna says, "Have another bon-bon" to Feathersmith, invisible Julie put her hand on Gibbons' shoulder blade. He had been leaning back in his chair; Julie pushed him forward until he almost fell out of his chair. ("Gibbons is so dense!" Julie thought to herself.) Then Joanna made some broad hand-gestures to him, pointing towards the piano. FINALLY, Mr. Gibbons remembered his cue.

Mr. Gibbons: "Uh, oh, uh, uh," >clears throat< "Why, why don't you sing for us, Joanna?" Invisible Julie leaned over, she could smell booze on his breath. He won't get his wings, socking away the liquor on his first chance, in human form!

Joanna sang this brand-new love song for Bill Feathersmith...

"Ev'ry Little Movement has a meaning all its own.
Ev'ry thought and feeling by some posture can be shown.
And ev'ry love-thought that comes a-stealing
O'er your being must be revealing
All its sweetness in some appealing little gesture all, all its own."

Joanna meant every word. But her voice was a bit shrill, and the song didn't have its desired effect on Feathersmith. Angel Julie wished she had cast an audio "glamour" on Joanna's voice, but as it was, Julie was a bit tired from casting all the visible illusions.

Feathersmith snapped back to being all business. He left, and later he would meet with Gibbons-- in a bar, but Angel Julie stayed with Joanna to comfort her. She'd tend to Gibbons later.

Late next afternoon, Feathersmith meets with Gibbons and Dietrich. Feathersmith forks over $1,403 for 1,403 acres. Gibbons decides to celebrate by ordering beer all around, in huge glasses. Feathersmith had sent a telegram to a geologist. He arrived on the 4 o'clock train (obviously a.m.), and spent the day at the widow Turner's land, doing preliminary soil tests. Julie had clouded Feathersmith's mind-- soil tests on 1,400 acres of land would take weeks. It is not something that could be done in a matter of hours. Feathersmith was oblivious to the facts, his mind was working on greed alone. At this point, Feathersmith was not capable of thinking logically, he can only think of the money he will make since the land has oil. It doesn't matter. The oil is 6,000 feet down, and the technology to build that kind of drill won't exist until 1937. The oil might as well be on the moon... at least for the next 27 years!

The next day, Feathersmith goes to a machine shop, and talks to Clark and Cronk. Still feeling very superior, Feathersmith thinks he will marvel these rubes with his knowledge of future inventions. He thinks he's going to turn their "two-bit tool shed into a factory." He tells them he wants them to build... "A self-starter."

But instead of being dazzled by his brilliance, and saying, "Wow! A self-starter, howcome we never thought of that?" they just stare at him blankly, and Clark says, "You wanna enlarge on that, Mr. Feathersmith?"

When asked what goes into it, Feathersmith says, "It's a storage battery. A motor. It's a gilhooky that starts the motor." He tells them to just build it. When asked for blueprints, the ever-arrogant Feathersmith yells, "I am not a crummy draftsman, or a two-bit blueprint man." He then rattles off a list of future inventions (radio, airplanes, etc.) He has never had any respect for the inventors who come up with these ideas, nor the engineers who design and build them. He calls himself a financier, as if he is so superior to everyone else. Even here, his mind has failed him. How could he give them financial backing to build anything, when he spent $1,403 of the $1,412 he had to start with? Not to mention the cost of the geological survey. Feathersmith only had one thing all his life: Money. Now, he doesn't even have that!

Feathersmith was broke. He was alone. He had no friends. Everywhere he went, people laughed at him. They thought he was crazy. He was hungry. Tired, exhausted. He was homeless. Even with the saloon offering "free lunch, beer for a nickel," they told him he couldn't eat there unless he bought a beer. He'd ask someone for a nickel. They kicked him out. Nobody would even buy him a beer. He went to begging. A baker gave him some week-old bread. When Feathersmith saw a home-baked pie cooling on a window ledge, and asked the lady who cooked it for a slice, she grabbed a broom at waved it at him, telling him to go away, calling him a "bum."

For the first time in his life, he knew what it meant to be broke, hungry, homeless. He felt sorry for himself. In a strange way, he finally felt sorry for the people whose lives he had ruined. It was no longer a game. This was real. He realized NOW what a terrible thing it was, that his business chicanery had driven so many to poverty and despair. And suicide. As each new bleak day dawned, Feathersmith's only thought was how to make it through each day. He lived, trying to eke by one day at a time. Life, which he had enjoyed with zest as a rich man, was now a daily nightmare.

Feathersmith always cared about his appearance. Now, he hadn't had a bath in days. He only had the clothes on his back, which he slept in--and he was sleeping in alleys. His clothes were starting to look ragged. They reflected his emotional decay.

One night, at his lowest point, Feathersmith thought of committing suicide. He realized that, ironically, he didn't have enough money to buy a gun. Or even a rope to hang himself. He collapsed on the sidewalk on a deserted street. He also came to the shocking realization that even though he looked 22, he was still 75 years old. His body couldn't take the strain of what he'd been through.

It was close to midnight. Since he hadn't eaten in days, his blood sugar level was rock bottom. His heart was racing so, that is pulse was dangerously fast. He sat on the sidewalk, half unconscious. He knew that if he fell asleep, he would not wake up. They'd find him the next morning-- a dead, old derelict in the street's gutter.

Just then, Angel Julie appeared. She still put on the act that she was the Devil, not his Guardian Angel. Recalling his boast a week earlier, that he worked to go up, up the corporate ladder, Julie couldn't resist now telling him that he looked drooping. Now she gave him a lecture. Julie: "You, Mr. Feathersmith, are a wheeler and a dealer. A financier. A pusher. A 'brain'. A manipulator. A raider. Because you are a taker instead of a builder. A conniver instead of a designer. A user instead of a bringer." (Well, thought Julie, she'd been wanting to say that to him for decades. That was the voice of his conscience. Of course, the Devil would say, "Bravo! Keep up the good work." But Feathersmith couldn't think clearly at all at this point. Julie still hadn't blown her cover as his Guardian Angel.)

Feathersmith sees what a rat he's been all his life. "I'm sorry I hurt all those people. So sorry. I only ask that God will forgive me."

Julie looks him in the eyes. Suddenly, in those once cold, lifeless, guileful eyes-- twinkles appeared again. Feathersmith had regained his soul.

Feathersmith pleads, "Please send me back-- where I was." "Very well," says Julie, "but when you return to pick up your life, it will be predicated on what happened this last week." (She was thinking of how he had signed over his entire fortune of $36,890,000-- she had the power of attorney, and he was NOT getting the money back, not one ill-gotten penny of it!)

Feathersmith says, "Bless you, Miss Devlin." (Hey, Julie thinks--that's NOT something he would say to the Devil: "Bless you"! It must be, now that Feathersmith has regained his soul, suddenly he can see through her disguise. Oh well, no matter...)

Julie says there is a $40 surcharge to send him back. Since Feathersmith has no money, he must sell his deed to the 1,403 acres. At the stroke of midnight, Hecate the moon goddess materialized. She appeared as the custodian. She'd finish this game, and then give some of Feathersmith's sarcasm back to him later.

Feathersmith was so out of it now, he didn't even question why "Heck-ett" would be driving a coach at midnight, nor why someone who falls asleep while doing a janitor job should carry $40 (a large sum of money in 1910) around with him.

Feathersmith walks back to Angel Julie, and gives her the $40.

Then another figure walks up to them. It is Joanna. She now looks her true age: 73 years old. She smiles when she sees Bill. Joanna and Bill embrace. After a minute, Joanna says, "You've lost some of your hair. But you're still handsome."

Bill says, "You're as lovely as ever." He pauses, tries to find the words. "I... I lost you once. I don't want to lose you again. I have nothing now. No money or anything. But will you marry me?"

Joanna's heart races, "Of course I'll marry you! I love you!"

The next day, they are back in the metropolis. At a quarter to 5:00 p.m., Feathersmith the janitor walks into the boss' office, to clean up. Now, it is time for Hecate to have some fun.

Hecate: "Well, here we are-- each with our own particular function," she says sarcastically, as Feathersmith cleans up and dusts.

Feathersmith takes out his gold watch, and says, "They gave this to me today, for my 75th birthday."

Hecate holds up a gold chain, and says, "Well now, if you really apply yourself, for your 100th birthday I'll give you this golden fob!" Hecate chuckles.

Feathersmith was unfazed. Sarcasm didn't hurt him now. And he no longer felt like dishing any out. He was a new man. He said gently, "This may seem surprising, but I just got engaged. Me-- engaged at 75. I'm taking my fiancée to a movie tonight."

Hecate's eyes narrowed, and she planted a hypnotic suggestion into Feathersmith's mind. "Go take her to see 'Jason and the Argonauts'. And pay special attention towards the end of the movie-- where the woman prays to the goddess Hecate in her temple."

Hecate dismisses Feathersmith. As soon as Feathersmith closes the door behind him, Hecate laughs, and takes on her true earthly appearance: a beautiful woman in a radiant light. "Ha!" she laughs. "For over 2,000 years, Pallas Athena has been telling me the same old story, how she took on human form to help Ulysses in his Odyssey. How 'Athena with the twinkling eyes' helped humans. Oh, will I have a story to tell HER the next time!"

Just then, Angel Julie materializes in the office. She looks at Hecate, who has the most beautiful face she had ever seen. When Julie looks at her face directly, Hecate seems a woman of 30. But when Hecate turns her head slightly, from the left side her face has the appearance of a young virgin, and from the right side she seems like she is very old, though still beautiful.

"So," Hecate says, "is everything all settled?"

"Oh yes," gushes Angel Julie, "thanks to you! We saved his soul." Julie takes out some paperwork. "Just this matter of distributing his wealth."

Hecate: "That was $36,890,000 you have to distribute."

Julie: "Well, only $33,890,000-- I tore up that $3,000,000 note on the Dietrich Tool & Die Company. I couldn't see driving that nice 80-year-old man into bankruptcy."

Hecate: "And the rest?"

Julie: "Well, I figure I'll give $1 million to each of the 4 widows of the men Feathersmith drove to suicide. Maybe set up college funds for the children of people who suffered because of the 'old' Feathersmith."

Hecate: "Very commendable."

Julie: "The rest of the money will go to charities and churches. And Wiccan groups. I know one in particular that wants to build a shrine to Hecate."

Hecate smiles and gently bows her head.

Julie: "I won't need money where I'm going." Then she looks up and adds humbly, "I hope..."

Just then, a bright light seems to shine down from heaven, and they hear a voice, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Hecate: "Congratulations, you did it." They embrace. "Well, I must go now."

Just as Hecate dematerializes, Julie calls after her, "Say 'hi' to Aphrodite for me." And a moment later, Julie vanishes and goes to heaven.

Just outside the office, the secretaries are gossiping with each other, as the 5:00 bell rings. They are talking about how Feathersmith lost his entire fortune in a week. The same secretary who mimicked Feathersmith a week ago (doing an impression of him saying, "Have a cigar, Mr. Dietrich"), was saying that Feathersmith must have lost his mind as well as his money. It's one thing to be totally bankrupt--but to then take a job as a janitor, in the building he once owned! But that penance (a condition for coming back here) was something Feathersmith did gladly.

After the movie, he and his fiancée Joanna went to her place. She had a big surprise for him. Joanna introduced Bill to his 46-year-old son, and his 44-year-old daughter. The family resemblance was remarkable. In addition, there were 4 grandchildren in their 20s. And 6 great-grandkids, from newborn to age 8.

Bill sat on a sofa, and all the great-grandkids surrounded him. "Kids everywhere!" Bill beamed. "Life begins at 75," Bill said proudly, as Joanna sat next to him on the sofa. Money was all he had cared about before. Now, Bill swore to himself, if he and Joanna live to be 100, family is all that matters.

Bill Feathersmith-- the happiest person on Earth, this side of the Twilight Zone.

THE END.

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Would you like to tell Klaus how much you enjoyed his version of this story? He's an Albert fan, too. Drop him a line at Kdhaisch@aol.com.

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