by Klaus D. Haisch


Time: 1963
Place: a large building in New York City

At 2:00 o'clock that afternoon, Mr. Bill Feathersmith had called in the $3-million note on the "Dietrich Tool & Die Company."

It was now 10 p.m., and a somber, sullen Feathersmith was sitting alone in his office on the top floor, having a few drinks, and reminiscing. Just then, a humble janitor walks into the room, to clean up.

"Oh, sorry, Mr. Feathersmith," he excuses himself. "I didn't know you were here."

"Well, I am here," snaps Feathersmith. "Who are you?"

"Hecate, custodian of the top 3 floors."

Normally, Feathersmith wouldn't talk to the janitor. In fact, Hecate had been there for 34 years and Feathersmith never even noticed him before. But Feathersmith was feeling melancholy and wanted someone to talk to.

"You have a drink, Hecate, custodian of the top 3 floors," he offers.

"Thank you, no, sir," says Hecate timidly. "I'm a reformed alcoholic. I haven't touched the stuff in 20 years."

Feathersmith just goes "hmm." Then he bites the end off a big cigar, and slowly lights it, enjoying the full flavor as he takes the first few, big puffs. He starts talking slowly, "I was born in the Old West, in 1888. I was one of the sons of that famous outlaw Jonny Cobb, by his favorite wife, Polly Standall."

Feathersmith looks out the window, and continues, "The earliest memory I have is my 3rd birthday, my daddy Jonny Cobb got me a small pony. We were out on his ranch. But just then, a posse rode up. They started shooting, and daddy shot back. They arrested him, and said they were gonna hang him."

He turns to look at Hecate, "The next thing I know, my stepmom is packing up. Daddy'd told her, 'The Wild West is no place to raise a kid,' and she was to take me to Indiana and raise me right.

"We got on the Transcontinental Railroad, and went all the way to Cliffordville, Indiana." He pauses to reflect, "On a train. Trains have always meant a lot to me."

Feathersmith picks up the pace of the narrative, "Well now, it turns out they never did hang ole Jonny Cobb. He spent about 6 months in jail, but they had to release him for lack of evidence. Some say folks were too scared to testify against him. But I never saw him again.

"I still remember my stepmom so well-- a tall, blonde, buxom lady who always wore red, name of Shirleena Salmi.

She was Finnish, and we moved to a small, Finnish neighborhood in Cliffordville. The Christian folk in Cliffordville said she was never legally married to Jonny Cobb, him being a bigamist and already having 2 wives, Polly & Carrie Standall. She remarried.

"I remember, when I turned 6, Shirleena walked me to school. It was around the end of August that year. But I could hardly speak English, only Finnish. The principal told her, 'Bring him back when he can speak English.' I still remember Shirleena, she yelled at the principal, and called him a stupid old coot, and said that was why kids went to school in the first place: to learn English-- reading, writing and arithmetic.

"The first grade teacher, Miss Helen Foley, now she was a wonderful woman. She promised she'd come over to our house every day after school, and tutor me in English, and she did. When the 2nd semester started in January, I started going to school--and was one of the top pupils. And I've strived to get to the top and stay there ever since."

Feathersmith takes a drink, and looks at Hecate. "How about you, Hecate? You ever hear of Jonny Cobb, and that owlhoot that used to ride with him named Moon?"

Hecate, who had been listening patiently and interestedly the whole time, says with a bit of pride, "Why, that's a real coincidence, Mr. Feathersmith. You see, my daddy was Moon. And he, too, moved to Cliffordville, with me and my mom. I was only 2 at the time and, like you, I never knew my dad, either. Moon was just his nickname, but we went by the last name Hecate, which means moon. I didn't even know he was my dad. I just heard tell that I was a relation of Mr. Moon, who used to ride around in the Old West with Jonny Cobb himself. I finally met my dad in 1932 and we reconciled. He tried to make it up to me, that he had been gone for most of my life, leading an outlaw life. We finally developed a good father/son relationship. He died 24 years ago."

Feathersmith squints at Hecate, "How come I don't remember seeing you back in Cliffordville, Hecate?"

Hecate says softly, "Well, I guess cause you lived in the Finnish section of town. And I'm a couple of years younger than you; when I went to first grade, you were already in the 3rd grade. But I remember you."

Feathersmith goes "hmm" again. "So, here we are, Hecate. The sons of Jonny Cobb and Moon, living in the big city." He looks at Hecate's assortment of mops and brooms and dustpans. "Each with his own particular function." He gets up, puts on his hat, and starts to walk out the door. "Well, good night, Hecate, custodian of the top 3 floors. Maybe we'll reminisce again someday."

As he walks out the door, Hecate figures it'll be another 34 years before Feathersmith ever talks to him again.


Feathersmith takes the elevator down. It stops on the 13th floor, and he walks over to room 1350. He confronts the woman inside, who identifies herself as Miss Devlin.

Feathersmith is feeling very nostalgic and melancholy tonight, and repeats to her everything he'd told Hecate.

Miss Devlin asks him, "How'd you like to relive your entire life? Start all over again?"

Feathersmith says, "That would be wonderful. I am 75 years old. All I've got to look forward to is another 10-15 years, while I keep getting older. All the thrills and joys of living life, struggling to get ahead, are behind me. But what are we talking about? How do you propose to have me relive my life?"

Miss Devlin waves her hand, and a filing cabinet materializes out of nothing.

Mr. Feathersmith says, "You... you're the Devil."

Miss Devlin laughs softly, "The Devil, you say." She pulls out a manilla folder which has everything Feathersmith ever did in his life recorded in it.

"I suppose," says Feathersmith, "the usual price is the soul."

"That's a part of the transaction. Your soul, which is teetering on the edge of being lost anyway, and some money."

"And in return?" asks Feathersmith.

"And in return," says Miss Devlin, with a fiendish grin on her face, "you get 7 fabulous wishes. I think I know what your first wish is going to be."

"To be sent back to 1910, of course."

"And how would you like to get there?"

“On a train, of course-- like I arrived there the first time, when I was 3."

"All very easily arranged," she says, as she pulls a huge contract out of thin air.

"Now," says Feathersmith, "what is this about 7 wishes?"

"Oh, that's a bonus, Mr. Feathersmith. And strictly for your benefit. Your first wish will to be go back into time. If, for some reason, things don't turn out 100% to your liking, you can call on me, and be instantly brought back here to 1963."

"And why would things not turn out to my liking?" he snaps at her.

"Why, no reason in the world, Mr. Feathersmith. In fact, as I was going to say, it is far more likely you will want to stay back there permanently. And so, every month, you get to make one additional wish."

"Additional wishes, eh?"

"For example, suppose after a month you wanted to see your father, Jonny Cobb. I could arrange that. Or, suppose after a month, you wanted to marry Joanna Gibbons..."

"You think I need to wish to make Joanna marry me?" he snaps at her. "I get what I go after!"

"Of that I have no doubt, Mr. Feathersmith," she says with a smile on her face. "It's all spelled out in this contract. 7 wishes. Each one guaranteed that if things don't turn out 100% to your liking, you can return here and try again. And, should you stay in the past, you can make additional wishes anytime within one month..."

"Never mind all that."

"I suggest," Miss Devlin says, "that you read the contract carefully, and even have your attorney look it over." A shudder runs through her body. "I had to say that-- I am obliged, by the Armistice Agreement, which dates back 6,000 years, that we have with The Man Upstairs-- to say you should read it over. So you look before you leap, so to speak."

"I can make up my own mind, Miss Devlin."

"That's what I like about you, Mr. Feathersmith, your self-assurance."

"Now, you said that along with my soul, this is also a cash transaction?"

"Yes, indeed, Mr. Feathersmith. You will go back in time to 1910, and start all over again, and with $1,412 in your pocket."

"Ha," scoffs Feathersmith. "That's about a thousand bucks more than I had in 1910, when I was 22. I'll really shoot to the top this time."

"So," says Miss Devlin, "just make your first wish."

"Okay, Miss Devlin, try THIS...
1) You send me back in time, send me back to the Cliffordville of 1910, but I want to look exactly as I did then.
2) I want to have a memory of everything that's occurred in the last 53 years, I don't want that memory impaired one bit.
3) I want that town exactly as it was, with the same people that I remember.
4) I want it to happen right away.
"THAT is my wish!"

"Splendid, Mr. Feathersmith. Now, all you have to do is sign this Power of Attorney, which is attached to the Contract, and in exchange for this useless thing called the soul >ugh<, and the bulk of your money which you will have a wonderful time earning again, you will get 7 fabulous wishes, each one guaranteed to be exactly what you wished for."

Mr. Feathersmith signs. Miss Devlin reaches up, and out of nothing a large, burning stamp appears. She plunges the stamp onto the Contract, it makes a large imprint of the Devil's pitchfork, and sulfurous smoke streams out of the imprint.

"Mr. Feathersmith," she says with an impish grin, "do you want to add anything to your first wish? If you like, I can arrange it so that Joanna falls madly in love with you, without the ritual courtship. I could even change her from the nice girl she is into an uninhibited woman who'll love you like the Devil every night."

Feathersmith grins, "You are bad."

"Why, thank you."

"But no, thanks. I want to work for everything. That's the fun of it-- that's the kick."

"I wish for you everything you have coming to you."

"Bless you, Miss Devlin."

"Watch it," she scowls. Her voice gets seductively tender again, "Now, you will arrive in Cliffordville, in the year 1910. On a train. And this time, with $1,412 in your wallet, knowledge of all the inventions and stocks of the future, and your whole life to live over."

"I'm off," says Feathersmith, as he walks out the door.


Mr. Feathersmith arrives in Cliffordville, 1910. However, things go awry. The "beautiful banker's daughter" Joanna he'd remembered is a chatterbox with a voice as irritating as fingernails running across a chalkboard. He buys the Widow Turner's land--1,403 acres with oil underneath it-- but forgets that the oil is 6,000 feet below ground and won't be accessible until 1937, when a new self-starter drill is invented. On top of all that, even though he'd wished "to look exactly as I did then," he forget to stipulate that he wanted to be 22 years old again.

Broke, lonely, frustrated, old, and almost dying of a heart attack from all the failures, he calls on Miss Devlin to end wish # 1, and he is instantly teleported back to 1963.

Feathersmith confronts Miss Devlin. Feathersmith is angry, but she remains calm; in fact, the madder Feathersmith gets, the calmer she gets.

"As I said," Miss Devlin says rationally, "you get 7 wishes. All this is easily rectified."

"Okay, Miss Devlin," he sputters, "for my 2nd wish I want to try again, but with these 2 addendums-- THIS time I want the body of a 22-year-old, AND I want Joanna to be shy and quiet."

"Anything else you want to change? You don't have to wish to relive your life, you know."

"No," says Feathersmith, "other than those 2 new addendums, I want to try reliving my life again, just like I did the first time."

She smiles, "Wishes always require a bit of fine-tuning." (Oh, she's thinking to herself, she's going to have a lot of fun with him.)

Wish # 2

Mr. Feathersmith arrives in Cliffordville, the modern 1963 jet plane has again become a 1910 train. He takes a deep breath.

"Ah," says Feathersmith, "I feel like a young man." He puts his right pointer finger to his mighty left wrist, and checks his pulse, timing it with the gold watch on his fob. "Strong and regular, 70 beats per minute," he smiles. "And I bet my blood pressure is 120/80, ha ha." Then he thinks, "If they even have blood pressure devices back here in 1910. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

This time, Feathersmith does things in a different order. He decides to pay a social visit on banker Gibbons and meet his daughter first, then discuss business.

Feathersmith goes to the bank, and Gibbons is eating lunch, saying, "I never let business interfere with pleasure."

Feathersmith is gracious, "Go ahead, please-- finish your lunch, don't let me interrupt you." Feathersmith goes on to say he is new in town, and wants to deposit $1,400 in the bank. On seeing that Mr. Feathersmith is a young, handsome, and apparently rich man, Gibbons winds up inviting him over to meet his family-- maybe he'd be just right for Joanna.

Later that day, in the parlor of the Gibbons family, Feathersmith meets Joanna. She is so shy and quiet. Bill and Joanna hit it off. Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons are delighted-- their 21-year-old daughter has finally met a nice young man, it's about time she got married.

The next day, Mr. Feathersmith's head is filled with thoughts of Joanna, and starting life over. He meets with Mr. Gibbons, and a Mr. Sebastian Dietrich, and before he knows it he is paying them $1,403 for the deed to the Widow Turner's land.

Later that day, Mr. Feathersmith comes a-courting for Joanna. He shows up at the Gibbons home, with 2 bouquets of flowers. When Mrs. Gibbons opens the door, Bill smiles graciously and says, "This bouquet is for you." He hands it to her, and adds, "and the other one is for your lovely daughter. May I see her?"

Joanna comes out and sits on the bench on the porch, and Bill sits next to her. Mrs. Gibbons acts as a chaperone, even though it is the middle of afternoon-- but she sits on the other end of the porch, so the "love birds" can talk in private. Bill Feathersmith is all smiles, and full of love and devotion. "Joanna," he says, "this might sound odd, since you've only known me since yesterday, but I've been looking for you all my life."

He sees that Joanna is sad. In fact, a tear comes down her face.

"Joanna, darling," he says, as a look of concern comes over his face. "What's wrong? How can I help? Whatever it is, we can work it out together. Us." (how he loved saying the words "together" and referring to himself and Joanna as "us.")

"Oh, Bill," Joanna starts to sob. "You're such a nice man, and gosh only knows why you are so kind and wonderful to me. But I don't deserve your love."

"Honey-- buttercup. Don't talk like that."

"It's true," Joanna says. "I... I... don't know how to say this. I just found out that my daddy and that Mr. Dietrich swindled you. They got you to pay your entire life-savings for that worthless swamp land, the Widow Turner's land. I... I should have said something to you, I should have warned you... but, I don't know why, I'm so shy and quiet all of a sudden, around you."

Bill Feathersmith's eyes get big.

Joanna continues, "I should have spoken up, I know that in my heart, but I just couldn't say anything, as if there were a magic spell, keeping my mouth shut. But, I know the oil on that land is 6,000 feet down-- and I have this terrible feeling it might as well be on the moon. Nobody will be able to get it out for a million years."

"Not that long," Bill says with a gulp. "I forgot again, it'll be 27 years-- 1937 to be exact."

Bill gets up and yells, "Miss Dev-LIN!!"

Joanna asks, "Bill, darling, why are you yelling?"

Mr. Feathersmith yells again, "Miss Dev-LIN!!!"

There is a puff of smoke. Feathersmith is instantly back in the office on the 13th floor, in the year 1963. "You tricked me!" he yells.

"Come, come now, Mr. Feathersmith," Miss Devlin says, softly, but with a devilish smile on her face. "I did exactly what you wished. You wished," (snickers) "and I quote... 'Okay, Miss Devlin, for my 2nd wish I want to try again, but THIS time I want the body of a 22-year-old, AND I want Joanna to be shy and quiet.' ... those were your precise words. And I did what you asked. I let you try the same thing again-- and, you were destined to make the same mistake again."

Feathersmith does a slow burn, he grinds his teeth, gives Miss Devlin a dirty look (if looks could kill, she'd be dead), and it seems there was smoke coming out of his ears-- actually that was left over from the puff of smoke that brought him back to 1963.

Miss Devlin slowly takes off her jacket, and sits on the desk, and crosses her legs. Feathersmith prefers to remain standing.

"And now," Miss Devlin starts slowly, "about your 3rd wish." She hands Feathersmith a cigar. Instead of lighting it, he just bites down on the end, and spits the end out, it lands on the floor.

"I assume," she says with a smile on her lips and a twinkle in her eyes, "that you do not wish it to go like the first 2 wishes."

"I do not!" Feathersmith spits out the words. "The first time, I was so thrilled at being back in 1910 that I forgot about the oil being unreachable. The 2nd time, I was forced to repeat that mistake."

"So what about the 3rd time? Do you still want Joanna to be shy and quiet? Do you..."

"No!" Feathersmith says forcefully. "Forget what I said before. I don't want to repeat the mistake of buying the Widow Turner's land, and I don't want Joanna to be shy and quiet. Forget everything I said before."

"Check," says Miss Devlin, but this time she keeps her chuckling internally, she does not show it on the outside.

"Send me back again, but without the conditions that I stated before."

"Is that your wish?" she asks.

"It TIS!"

"Then," says Miss Devlin, "all you need to do is say it."

"I wish," says Mr. Feathersmith loudly, "to be sent back to the Cliffordville of 1910, without the conditions of the previous 2 wishes. And I want it now-- THAT is my 3rd wish."

"Ta-ta. You are now back in Cliffordville in the year 1910. Take 3." As soon as Mr. Feathersmith disappears in a puff of smoke, Miss Devlin starts laughing hysterically. "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!" She admires herself in the mirror and says, "This time he won't even last a day. He'll be calling me to undo this wish within a few hours."

Wish # 3

Mr. Feathersmith arrives in the Cliffordville of 1910, on the train. He gets off the train, and marches straight over to the bank.

He barges right past a reception who says that Mr. Gibbons is on his lunch break. Getting right down to business, he barks his orders at Gibbons.

"Mr. Gibbons, I have $1,400 to invest and I want you to buy some stocks for me."

"Oh, indeed, indeed, Mr., uh..."

"Mr. Feathersmith. Now, let's get started."

"Oh, uh," Gibbons hems and haws, "if you have some money to invest, I have some wonderful real estate that you would be interested in. Singing birds and constant sunshine..."

"Go stick your head in a barrel of sand, Mr. Gibbons," Feathersmith barks, "I am not buying the Widow Turner's land this time." Gibbons is shocked, and Feathersmith continues to bark orders like a drill Sergeant. "As I said, I want you to buy some stocks for me and you can charge your usual commission. First, I want to buy $700 worth of stock in this aluminum company..."

"Aluminum?" asks Mr. Gibbons.

"Yeah, aluminum," answers Mr. Feathersmith. "Ever hear of aluminum? I happen to know about the production of aluminum by electrochemistry, the method was discovered by Charles Martin Hall in 1886. His discovery allowed the economical production of aluminum, which had previously been considered a semiprecious metal, on an industrial scale. He went on to become the co-founder of Alcoa Aluminum, in Pittsburgh. He's going to become a millionaire."

"Well, Mr. Feathersmith," Mr. Gibbons says with friendly advice, "there isn't much use for aluminum..."

"ARE YOU ALL THERE?! Aluminum cans for soda pop, it's used to make lightweight parts in cars and airplanes, it's got a million uses."

"Well," says Gibbons, "I see you are a man who has his mind set on buying into this, uh, Alcoa Aluminum company." He looks the stock price up in a book. "The price is 5 cents a share."

"And it's going to be worth 1,000 times that in a few years," says Feathersmith.

Gibbons only grins.

"Well now," Feathersmith continues, "another bright young man is William E. Boeing. I want to invest my other $700 in the Boeing airplane company."

"Aeroplanes, Mr. Feathersmith?"

"Yeah, airplanes."

Gibbons looks up the stock price in his book. "Shares in the Boeing company are only selling for 3 cents apiece. Really, Mr. Feathersmith, as a banker I must warn you against investing heavily in these penny stocks. Blue chip stocks, that's where you should be investing."

"Are you kidding? Don't you know that in 1911, Boeing is going to..." he sees Gibbons giving him a really blank stare. "Nah, nah you don't know anything about that, do you? Or that Boeing stock is gonna be worth over 30 bucks a share. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

Mr. Gibbons does the paperwork, then says, "Normally, I charge a 3.75% commission. On $1,400 that comes to $52.50 but since you are buying so many shares at one time, let's call it 50 dollars even."

"50 bucks, you say." Feathersmith hands the money over to Gibbons.

As Mr. Gibbons counts the money, he says, "You seem to put all your eggs into the penny stock basket."

"I wouldn't let that bother you, Mr. Gibbons-- I have an exclusive contract with the hen. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha." Mr. Feathersmith gets up and pours himself a drink. "You don't mind?" Gibbons indicates he should help himself. "You have a daughter, Mr. Gibbons. Joanna is her name. She used to stay with her aunt Bertha in Maine-- I'd like to meet her. How about arranging an introduction?"

Mr. Gibbons was put off by Feathersmith's gruff manner, but Feathersmith is a persuasive man. Gibbons tells him to come over to his house around 5 p.m., and he'll make the introduction.

Mr. Feathersmith spends the next few hours walking around the town, smiling at things, getting mad at the mud they had for streets (don't they pave things around here?), and, of course, kicking the rocking chair to wake up the napping Hecate.

5 o'clock, and right on time, Feathersmith is at the Gibbons' home. "Alright," Feathersmith says as he breezes in through the door, after Mrs. Gibbons invited him in, "where is this little doll? Where is Joanna?"

"Joanna isn't here," Mr. Gibbons tells him. "But, by good fortune, her Aunt Bertha is visiting us, from Maine. She's the one you were asking about, isn't that right?"

Aunt Bertha was a nice, attractive woman about age 55. Mr. Feathersmith and Bertha look at each other awkwardly for a few moments, without saying anything. Then Bertha says, "Would you excuse me for a minute, Mr. Feathersmith?" She walks into the next room, taking Mr. Gibbons in tow.

In the next room, Bertha says, "I know you've been trying to fix me up with men, ever since my husband died 5 years ago. But I don't date men that old. Mr. Feathersmith must be 75 years old."

In the other room, Mr. Feathersmith is perplexed by what is going on. Where is Joanna? Why did Gibbons introduce him to her aunt? He walks over to the mirror to comb his hair and adjust his tie, and realizes he is looking into a mirror for the first time since he got here. He's 75 years old.

Oh my, what did he tell Miss Devlin?

"I wish, to be sent back to the Cliffordville of 1910, without the conditions of the previous 2 wishes. THAT is my 3rd wish." Without the condition of the previous 2 wishes?! In his first wish, he said he wanted to look 22 again. In his 2nd wish, he said he wanted to be 22 again. But now, he had negated his wishes-- he was back to square one. He was so determined not to repeat his mistake of buying the Widow Turner's land, that he forgot to stipulate being young again as a part of his wish.

"Miss Dev-LIN!!" he yells, "Miss Dev-LIN!!! You no-good, low-down, conniving...!" (poof)


Once again, back in 1963, in the Miss Devlin Travel Agency, room 1350. This time, it takes about a half dozen shots of Kentucky bourbon to settle Mr. Feathersmith down. But, Mr. Feathersmith hasn't been a hard-nosed businessman for over 50 years, just to quit. He tells Miss Devlin that he will beat her at this game yet. "This time, I will remember to spell out all the conditions of the wish."

"Most admirable, Mr. Feathersmith," Miss Devlin says, smiling a bit coyly.

"But I don't like buying a few bucks of penny stocks at a time. Since it's really my soul you're after, how about sending me back with all my money?"

"I can't do that," Miss Devlin says, "because of the '4 hot dog' rule."

"What in Sam Hill is that?!"

"Inflation, my dear Mr. Feathersmith, inflation. Every 40-50 years, inflation makes prices and wages go up 5-fold. In 1910, minimum wage was around 20 cents an hour, and a hot dog cost 5 cents; an hour's wages bought 4 hot dogs. Now, in 1963, minimum wage is about $1.00 an hour, a hot dog is 25 cents; an hour's wages buys 4 hot dogs. In the year 2000, minimum wage will be $5.00 an hour, a hot dog will be $1.25; an hour's wages will buy 4 hot dogs.

"So, even though you are now worth $36,891,412.14 -- if I send you back to 1910, you will only be allowed to take 1/5th of that amount: $7,378,282.43 -- but that would have the same buying power."

"Okay," Mr. Feathersmith says, "Try this --
1) You send me back in time, send me back to Cliffordville, but I want to look exactly as I did then-- with this addendum, I want to be 22 years old again, not just look it.
2) I want to have a memory of everything that's occurred in the last 53 years, I don't want that memory impaired one bit.
3) I want that town exactly as it was, with the same people that I remember-- with this addendum, that I don't want you to make Joanna Gibbons 'shy and quiet'.
4) I want it to happen right away.
5) Instead of sending me back with the 14-hundred odd bucks, I want you to send me back with the 7-million odd bucks. How's that ?"

"Oh, Mr. Feathersmith," Miss Devlin says, "you should have been an attorney. Oh, you've got me this time. Your wish is airtight, and you've thought of everything. All you need to do is say the magic words, and you can live your life all over again."

Mr. Feathersmith swells his chest with pride, and states loudly and confidently, "THAT is my wish!"

"Ta-ta," Miss Devlin smiles, "you are now back in Cliffordville in the year 1910. Take 4." Mr. Feathersmith disappears in a puff of smoke.

Miss Devlin admires herself in the mirror and says, "Thought of everything, my aunt Petunia. Oh, these foolish mortals, trying to pit their puny wits against the Devil. Is he ever in for a lot of unpleasant surprises. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."

Wish # 4

Mr. Feathersmith was on the train, again. He looks out the window, and sees a sign that reads: "You are now entering Daleville. Founded by Dale Clifford, 1887." Yet when the train pulls into the station, the sign there reads "Cliffordville, population 779." The folks never could agree on the name of the town.

So far, so good. He checks his features in the mirror. He is young, 22 years old. And he feels like a young man. While he is admiring himself in the mirror,

2 young ladies walk by him in the aisle. As they get off the train, they are giggling, and one of them says, "Did you see that man? He's so doggone cute!" Feathersmith overhears them, and he smiles.

He checks his wallet, and there is the usual $1,412 cash. In a large carpetbag (why did Miss Devlin have to put the money in that?) was the rest of the money -- $7,378,282 minus the $1,412 = $7,376,870. It suddenly hit him that he was carrying over $7-million in cash. That was a gigantic amount of money. And, even though most of the bills were $100 denominations, that meant he had over 70,000 bills crammed into his overstuffed carpetbag.

Even though he had made the trip back to 1910 several times now, the trips were never identical. Just the fact that he stopped to look in the mirror, and then check to see his bag was securely fastened, things were different. He was now the last person to get off the train. A minor detail, perhaps, but since the conductor asked, "Are you getting off at Cliffordville, sir, or going on to the next stop?" Feathersmith hurried to get off the train.

In his haste, walking down the steps, he accidentally drops his overstuffed bag, and the top bursts open, spilling several $100 bills on the ground, and showing that the bag is stuffed with more of the same. The conductor bends over to help him pick up the bills, but Feathersmith quickly grabs the bills himself, closes the bag and hurries off.

However, a couple of unsavory characters-- the kind that look like they would slit your throat for a dime, let alone millions of dollars-- saw the whole thing, and start to tail Mr. Feathersmith.

Feathersmith starts thinking, real fast. "What am I doing with all this money in Cliffordville? I can't invest it here. I've got to get to Chicago, where I can put this money in a bank, and then convert it to stocks."

He is now about 2 blocks away from the train depot, and realizes he should have stayed on the train, heading to Indianapolis. He runs after the train, but it speeds away. On seeing he is still being followed by 2 blackguards, he walks back to the train station, goes to the window, and asks, "When's the next train leaving for Chicago?"

The clerk tells him, "You can't go to Chicago directly from here, you have to take the train to Indianapolis, and transfer there."

"Okay," says a panicky Feathersmith.

"The next train to Chicago is in 3 days."

"3 days?! There should be trains going from Indy to Chicago every 2 hours."

The clerk only gives him a puzzled look.

Remembering something from a previous visit, Feathersmith quickly races over to the small machine shop run by Clark & Cronk.

Clark, the smaller of the two, balding and bespectacled, greets Feathersmith as he runs into their shop. Feathersmith is really more interested in hiring the protection of Cronk, the big guy.

Clark: "What can I do for you, mister?"

Feathersmith grabs his breath, and tells him, "You can get Cronk out here. There's a couple of guys chasing me."

Clark looks puzzled, "Uh, how's that, mister?"

Feathersmith: "Do I need to hire an interpreter? I said, get Cronk out here!"

Clark: "He's busy."

Feathersmith: "What do ya mean, he's busy?! What's there to do in this 2-bit toolshed that's more important than talking to me?! Tell that rube to get out here..."

On hearing all the yelling, Cronk, about 6'1", 270 pounds and wearing overalls, walks out and asks loudly and firmly, "What's all the commotion about?"

Clark: "I don't know. I thought he was a customer, wanted to have us build something for him..."

Feathersmith: "Now look-- I am not a crummy draftsman, or a 2-bit blueprint man.

I'm a promoter, a financier. All I want from you rubes is to act as my bodyguards while I go to a big city to deposit some money."

They give him a blank stare.

Cronk: "Maybe you ought to hire some Pinkerton detectives."

Feathersmith: "You foggy-headed carriage builders, there's no time for that! I need you now. How much money you make in this broken-down joint? 20 cents an hour?"

Cronk: "That's none of your business."

Clark: "We're not in the bodyguard line of work. I'm sorry."

Feathersmith takes out a couple of $100 bills from his wallet, waves one under each of their noses. "There! How sorry are you now?"

Having secured their services, they all go over to a local diner, and have lunch and beers. Feathersmith notices Gibbons and Dietrich at another table, and ignores them. The service in the diner is very slow. Feathersmith doesn't understand why it takes over half an hour to get their sandwiches when there are only 20 customers; Clark and Cronk don't see what his big hurry is, and tell him to have another beer. The food finally arrives.

While they're eating their sandwiches, Feathersmith tells them, "I need a lift to the big city."

Clark: "Anderson's 7 miles southwest of here. Muncie's about 11 miles northeast."

"No, no, you rubes," says Feathersmith, "I'm talking about Chicago. You got a car, I saw it outside your shop."

Cronk: "We can get you to Chicago by tomorrow."

Feathersmith: "Tomorrow?!"

Clark: "First we gotta drive up to Sycamore. It's about 45-46 miles to Sycamore. Take about 2-1/2 hours."

Feathersmith: "Two and a half hours?!"

Clark: "It ain't as the crow flies. We gotta take Route (pronounced: rout) 35 north, then turn west at Gas City."

Feathersmith (mumbling): "That's driving about 20 miles per hour."

Cronk: "From Sycamore, it's about another 160-165 miles to Chicago. Take about 7-8 hours, easy."

Feathersmith: "So it'll take over 10 hours, total?"

Clark: "Well, that's just drivin'."

Cronk: "We gotta stop and eat along the way. It's 2 o'clock already. I figure we'll stay the night in Sycamore, and then finish driving to Chicago the next day. Can't drive at night."

Feathersmith adds sarcastically, "Oh, of course not. Ever hear of headlights?"

They give him a blank stare.


The long, bumpy ride on the mostly unpaved roads is a strain for Feathersmith's patience, especially since they are driving along at mostly 18-20 mph speeds. Their company and conversation don't help Feathersmith's disposition much, either. Clark is driving, Cronk is in the front seat next to him, and Feathersmith is in back. The car has no roof.

Clark: "I've heard that next year they'll have the 1st running of this thing called 'The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race'."

Cronk: "500 miles?! How long will this race take, 25 hours?"

Clark: "No, they're bragging they can run the race in about 7 hours; imagine-- the race cars will be going over 70 miles per hour."

Cronk (excited): "Jumpin' Jehosaphat, I gotta see that!"

Feathersmith: "That's nothing, the 1963 winner of the Indy 500 was Parnelli Jones, and he had an average speed of over 143 miles per hour."

Clark and Cronk give him a blank stare.


About 4 miles southeast of Sycamore, where highway 35 (running west at that point, it merges with highway 22) is intersected by country road 13 running north and south, there used to be a dirt country road that ran diagonally to Sycamore, as a shortcut. This created a 5-way intersection that was the small town of Five Points. (By the year 2000, there would be 10 other towns in Indiana with the name "Five Points.")

It's about 6 o'clock now, they decide to spend the night in Five Points. They pull into the only gas station in town, with a big sign that reads: "Fickett Gas Station & Diner."

While they are getting gas, there is a little 7-year-old girl running around. The gas station attendant, a lady about age 60 says, "That's my granddaughter, Emmy Sarver." The men notice a small cage by the diner. The lady goes on, "Emmy's always putting wild things in that cage, like chipmunks. I keep telling her: it's not right to put wild things in a cage-- but she never pays me no never-mind."

Right now, Emma is running after an 8-year-old boy, who is running away from her as fast as he can. Emma yells after him, "You're my cousin Ame! You gotta marry me someday! They say ya gotta marry your cousin in these here parts!"

The lady laughs, "Poor Ame. He's from Springfield. I feel sorry for the man Emmy Sarver ever traps. 10 gallons of gas, that'll be $1.19."

Feathersmith: "Yeah, she'll probably marry some country boy, from the local parish." He sees a church across the street, with a sign in front of it: St. Steven's Parish. "Yep, I feel sorry for this poor Steven's 'country boy' Parish guy."


The next morning, Feathersmith was up before the sun, and woke up Clark & Cronk. He wanted to leave as soon as the sun was up, so they could get to Chicago before the banks closed.

They leave at 5 a.m., and by only stopping to buy gas, and eating sandwiches in the car (on the go), they get to a Chicago bank by 2 p.m.

Marching into the bank, carrying the carpetbag with over $7-million in it, with Clark and Cronk on either side of him as bodyguards, Feathersmith demands to see the president of the bank immediately.

"And bring some armed guards," Feathersmith brags, "because I'm gonna make the biggest deposit you ever saw in your life. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

They are shown into a big, private room. Feathersmith sits at a table. The bank president opens the carpetbag, and inspects the money. Feathersmith lights a cigar. "Now," he starts, "I'm only putting this money in your crummy bank for safe keeping. I intend to buy stocks with the money. Of course, I expect you to pay me the highest interest rate for the privilege of holding my money in a savings account, the prime interest rate reserved for your biggest and most prestigious customers..."

But the bank president wasn't listening. He whispers something to the 2 armed guards. Then he walks over to Feathersmith, seated at a big table.

"Mister," the bank president starts out, "you're either really, really smart or really, really stupid. I'm gonna take a stab in the dark, and say you're really, really stupid."

Feathersmith gulps.

The president goes on, "This money is printed on genuine government paper, alright, and the engraving is as fine as anything the U.S. mint ever printed. But it's all obviously counterfeit."

Feathersmith breaks out in a sweat. He quickly takes out his wallet to look at his money. As for the $1,412 he'd had in his wallet (and he still has about $1,190 left, after hiring Clark & Cronk, and paying for gas and meals), the bills are all labeled "series 1910."

But all the money in the carpetbag-- all $7,376,870 worth-- was made up of bills labeled "series 1963."

Feathersmith racks his brain-- HOW had he worded condition #5 of his wish? “I want you to send me back with the 7-million odd bucks." Oh my gosh, that's right-- he had all that money in 1963, and he wanted to be sent back with it. He did not specify, "I want to have the money in contemporary 1910 currency."

The president continues, "And signed by some Treasurer of the United States, and some Secretary of the Treasury, that we never heard of." Then he adds sarcastically, "Why didn't you just sign your own name, 'William J. Feathersmith' on the bills?"

The cigar falls out of Feathersmith's mouth, and onto the floor.

Cronk: "What was that name? Feather-HEAD?!"

Feathersmith: "Miss Dev-LIN!!!" (poof)

Wish # 5

The Trans-Mississippi Debentures

Miss Devlin: "May I make a suggestion? Why don't you just wish to re-live your life exactly the way you lived it the first time?"

Mr. Feathersmith: "You don't seem to understand, Miss Devlin. The first time, I didn't have time to enjoy anything. I worked-- worked! I dug, I scratched, I pushed, I drove. This time, I want to be able to enjoy it-- as I acquire, build, consolidate my financial empire."

Miss Devlin: "You made your first real fortune on the Trans-Mississippi Debentures."

Feathersmith: "Oh, yeah, that's right. That $26-million deal to have the power company run electrical cables across many of the states and territories west of the Mississippi."

Miss Devlin: "That was a deal only you, Mr. Feathersmith, future financial tycoon, could put together. Not even the U.S. government could do that!"

Feathersmith: "I remember-- Oklahoma had just become a state on November 6, 1907. And New Mexico wasn't even a state yet, neither was Arizona-- they wouldn't become states until 1912."

Miss Devlin: "And, since they weren't states, the U.S. government couldn't issue the Debentures and guarantee them. It had to be done through a private corporation."

"Oh, yes," says Mr. Feathersmith, smiling as he reminisces, "I remember it like it was yesterday. The power company had contractors put in bids-- it would cost $25-million to put up hundreds of miles of power lines, and build power stations every 100 miles. But I managed to raise $26-million in capital."

"And," adds Miss Devlin, "since Debentures are, and here let me quote from the dictionary: 'unsecured bonds issued by a civil corporation or government agency, and backed only by the credit standing of the issuer,' you had an extra $1-million which you could pocket, and you didn't have to account for."

Feathersmith beams, "That's right! No government agency could do the job, because it involved the Arizona and New Mexico territories, which weren't states yet. And besides, the federal government couldn't afford to budget the $25-million for the project."

Miss Devlin: "Ah, yes, back in 1910, it was still like the Old West out there, west of the Mississippi."

Feathersmith: "Don't I know it! It was wild territory out there. You had colorful characters like Jonny Cobb back around 1870, and he was still around in 1910. I was born in 1888, you know. I almost wish I could go back to 1870 and be a cowboy..."

Miss Devlin leans forward and smiles.

Mr. Feathersmith's face shows resolve, "I said almost wish, Miss Devlin. I am a financier. I enjoy the big city, and big profits."

Miss Devlin: "So, just make your wish, and it's yours."

"Not so fast, Miss Devlin," Feathersmith says firmly, as he thinks of all the options. "I remember putting together the Trans-Mississippi Debentures deal in February of 1911-- but I don't want things to go awry like they did in my previous wishes. I don't just want to have made the deal again, but I want a guarantee that it will work for me like it did the first time, and that I don't get caught. And that my $1-million in profits is mine to keep, just like the first time."

"Very well, Mr. Feathersmith," Miss Devlin smiles. You drive a hard bargain."

"Okay, Miss Devlin, here is my wish...
1) You send me back in time, send me back to Cliffordville, to June 1911 this time, 4 months after I closed the deal, but I want to look exactly as I did then-- with this addendum, I want to be 23 years old again, not just look it.
2) I want to have a memory of everything that's occurred in the last 52 years, I don't want that memory impaired one bit.
3) I want that town exactly as it was, with the same people that I remember-- with this addendum, that I don't want you to make Joanna Gibbons 'shy and quiet'.
4) I want it to happen right away.
5) I want to have just put together the Trans-Mississippi Debentures deal in February 1911-- and I want a guarantee that it will work just like it did the first time, and that I don't get caught and sent to prison, and that my $1-million in profits is mine to keep, just like the first time."
"THAT is my wish!"

Miss Devlin says, "Oh, you've got me this time." :-) (poof)


Friday, June 16, 1911. Mr. Feathersmith gets the message from his personal secretary that the big boss, Mr. Sebastian Dietrich, wants to see him in his office. Feathersmith goes all the way to the top floor-- the 3rd floor of the building.

"Come in," says Mr. Dietrich, sitting behind his big desk, "pull up a chair and sit down." Feathersmith does, and Mr. Dietrich continues, "Bill Feathersmith, I like your style, boy. I want you in with me."

Feathersmith smiles. Oh, how he remembers hearing those exact words, over 50 years ago.

Mr. Dietrich goes on, "In fact, I want you to be my business partner. The Trans-Mississippi Debentures have paid off well for our investment firm. I want to transfer you to our main office, in Chicago. Whereas most of the people in this town make about 20 cents an hour, $8 a week, which is about $400 a year-- I am offering you a partnership, which guarantees you," he looks Feathersmith in the eyes, "a $3,000 a year position. How's that for a generous salary?"

Feathersmith says facetiously, "THAT much, huh?"

It is not the reaction Dietrich expected. In fact, instead of being overjoyed, Feathersmith takes out a big cigar, bites off the end, and spits the end onto the floor. Dietrich frowns. Ignoring Feathersmith's bad manners, Dietrich continues, "Of course, there's still a lot of work to do on the Trans-Mississippi Debentures. One of my accountants pointed out that you raised $1-million more than was actually needed, so naturally that money will be refunded to the investors."

"Oh, naturally," says Feathersmith, as he blows out a big puff of smoke. He knows that the $1-million is tied up with a trust fund, and legal mumbo-jumbo, and the courts will eventually rule that it was a legal (though highly unethical) "finder's fee" for setting up the deal. But he knows he can't stay with Dietrich.

"Mr. Dietrich," Feathersmith says as he gets up, "Why don't you quit this job and buy yourself a Tool & Die company?"

"A what?" Dietrich is surprised.

"A nice company, that you can call 'The Dietrich Tool & Die Company'. You can run it from 1923 until 1963, when I buy you out. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

"Now, see here, Bill Feathersmith, I don't know what you're talking about..."

"Good-bye, Mr. Dietrich. I am quitting your company."

Dietrich is shocked. "You're quitting? Now, that you've just gotten a big promotion?"

"I am quitting, now," reiterates Feathersmith. "Not tomorrow, not this evening around suppertime. Now. I am going into business for myself. But I'm sure our paths will cross again in the future-- in fact, I can guarantee it. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

And he walks out the door.

Late that night, around 10 o'clock, Mr. Feathersmith is sitting in his room, in the most expensive hotel in town. They call it the "penthouse suite," way up on the 2nd floor. Most of this day had gone pretty much like he remembered, except that now he'd quit Dietrich's company. Last time, he had stayed on with Dietrich for a few more years. Last time, on the day he got offered the partnership, Feathersmith had stayed at work late, till about 10 p.m., admiring his new 3rd floor office, next to Dietrich's office, and had a few drinks. He had been in the building Dietrich owned, which even had an armed night watchman.

Now, the situation was a bit different.

He is having a few drinks in his hotel room, when suddenly the door opens. In walks an evil-looking, bearded man, in his late 50s, and even though it is June he is wearing a coat.

Feathersmith snaps, "I didn't ask for room service... who the hell are you?"

"You don't know who I am? I am Mr. Homer Slattery."

"So what? Get the hell out of my room..."

"Dang you, Mr. Feathersmith! I fell for your crooked scheme. While banks were only paying 2% interest, your Trans-Mississippi Debentures promised investors 8%." Homer Slattery stands menacingly next to the seated Feathersmith. Slattery continues, "You passed out these brochures." (he hands him the brochure, which reads)...

Watch your $10,000 investment grow to $50,000 in only 21 years.

start with... $10,000

year... your investment is worth
1 ... 10,800
2 ... 11,664
3 ... 12,597
4 ... 13,605
5 ... 14,693
6 ... 15,869
7 ... 17,138
8 ... 18,509
9 ... 19,990
10 ... 21,589
11 ... 23,316
12 ... 25,182
13 ... 27,169
14 ... 29,372
15 ... 31,722
16 ... 34,259
17 ... 37,000
18 ... 39,960
19 ... 43,157
20 ... 46,610
21 ... 50,338

"So?" asks Feathersmith, rather uninterestedly.

Slattery tells him, "And I fell for it. I sold my house, put up all the money I had, and went deep into debt by borrowing money, but I raised the $10,000. You promised it would be like a U.S. Savings Bond, and we could cash it in at any time."

Feathersmith snaps, "Now, look, that was a good investment, how was I to know..."

Homer Slattery interrupts, "How were you to know that the small print said, 'since this is an unsecured bond, backed only by the credit standing of the issuer, the conditions are not guaranteed'? You would know-- YOU wrote up the contract!"

"Get to the point," says Feathersmith impatiently. If he weren't feeling a bit tipsy right now, he'd smack the guy with his mighty left arm.

"You divided the Debentures into 2 groups-- just like preferred stock and common stock. It guarantees that the preferred investors would be paid in full. But since there would be no profits for 10 years, due to the enormous start-up costs of building the power generators and putting up the power lines, the common investors would not get one penny for 10 years! And we might have to settle for only getting 1% interest. And-- this is what ruined us-- we couldn't cash in our shares of the Debenture. I lost everything, I went bankrupt. Tell me, Mr. Feathersmith, how much did you invest in the preferred shares?"

Feathersmith rises out of his chair, and is about to give this guy the heave-ho, when suddenly Slattery reaches under his coat, and pulls out 12 sticks of dynamite, all taped together.

Mr. Feathersmith sweats, and tries to reason with him. Slowly and softly he says, "Now look. I can make it right with you. If you want your $10,000 back..."

Homer Slattery continues, "I found out you put $1-million dollars into it. So 21 years from now, by 1932, you will have $5-million dollars! While hundreds of investors like me are bankrupt."

Mr. Feathersmith reaches for his wallet, "Now, look, if it's money you want..." and pulls out a handful of $100 bills. (Feathersmith always thinks you can solve any problem with money.)

Homer Slattery goes on, "You promised us the sky. Instead, you robbed us of everything. You read in the newspapers that there were 4 suicides because of your crooked deal."

By this point, Feathersmith figures Slattery is all talk, and that if he were going to blow them up with dynamite, he would have done it by now. Feathersmith sits back in his chair.

Slattery goes on, "Did you notice that one of those who committed suicide was Arthur Faber, my partner of 30 years?"

Feathersmith was suddenly reminded of the legend of Jonny Cobb. He'd read the story of how Baker had shot the partner of Junior Frisbee, and Junior Frisbee was all blustery about it. That's who this guy reminded him of--Junior Frisbee. It made Feathersmith smile.

Slattery says, "You know what I'm going to do about it now?"

Feathersmith says sarcastically, "Write a letter to Washington about me? A letter written with a fine, delicate hand, because that's all they understand in Washington?"

"Enough talk!" Homer Slattery yells, as he lights the fuse of the dynamite. "I don't want your money-- my life is over, and I'm taking you with me! Now's the time when you have to pay the Piper!"

There are sparks, and the quick-burning fuse goes from being 10 inches long, down to 1/2 inch, in a matter of seconds...

Feathersmith gasps, "Miss Devlin!!!"


Wish 6

Go up to the moon, Mr. Moon, and Hecate

Room 1350, 1963.

Miss Devlin: "May I make a suggestion? Why do you want to go to the primitive past to re-live your life? Back to Cliffordville in 1910. >ugh< Why not wish to be young again now? I could make you 22 years old again, now in 1963."

Feathersmith: "But all the opportunities were back then. Cliffordville-- well, that was a real town, a real place, when a man could go up to the moon, if he had a mind to, and the legs to carry him, and fingers to stretch out and grasp. Not like now... no, not like now at all."

Miss Devlin: "Why, in 1910, that was only 7 years after the Wright Brothers built the first plane. Now, we have supersonic jets. They've launched space satellites since 1957. And speaking of the moon, in 1969-- 6 short years from now-- America will send men to the moon. Think of those opportunities. You could get in on the ground floor-- the basement-- of computers. And by the year 2000, you could wind up like Bill Gates of Microsoft, or Larry Ellison of Oracle-- why, they are BILLIONaires, Mr. Feathersmith."

Mr. Feathersmith: "Nah, nah. I'm an old-fashioned guy. The Good Old Days, now those were times when a man could start at the bottom and go up, up, all the way to the top. Not like now. I don't want to try something completely new and foreign to me. I want to go back to the familiar."

Miss Devlin: "How'd you like to start over again in 1910, with millions of dollars in cash..."

Mr. Feathersmith: "Oh, no, you don't. That's how I got in trouble before. Because money of today would be considered counterfeit money back then, just as 1910 currency would be considered counterfeit back in the time of the Civil War.

"But you, Miss Devlin, have inadvertently given me an idea. Gold! Now, THAT'S a standard that this country has always had: Civil War days, 1910, 1963. You can't counterfeit gold!"

Miss Devlin: "Oh, drat my tongue. By feeling sorry for you, I've given you a clue to stumble onto a way to beat me at this time-travel game."

Mr. Feathersmith: "Yes, indeed, Miss Devlin. NOW I've got you! Gold it TIS!"

Feathersmith smiles triumphantly, his chest swells, and he barks out his commands.

"Okay, Miss Devlin, try THIS...
1) You send me back in time, send me back to Cliffordville, in June 1910, but I want to look exactly as I did then-- with this addendum, I want to be 22 years old again, not just look it.
2) I want to have a memory of everything that's occurred in the last 53 years, I don't want that memory impaired one bit.
3) I want that town exactly as it was, with the same people that I remember-- with this addendum, that I don't want you to make Joanna Gibbons 'shy and quiet'.
4) I want it to happen right away.
5) And I wish to have gold-- worth $36,891,412 in 1910 dollars -- in my possession. NOT 6,000 feet underground in some goldmine, but in my possession.
THAT is my wish!"

Miss Devlin: "Oh, you've outsmarted me this time, Mr. Feathersmith. Congratulations. Only you could be smart enough to beat the Devil at his own game." (poof)

Bill Feathersmith is back in 1910, but he is not a passenger on a train this time. He is driving a big truck-- some oversized, 60-foot-long moving van. The van is empty for right now. Feathersmith has the driver's side window rolled down, and is resting his left elbow there as he uses the steering wheel with his right hand. He doesn't know why he is in the truck, but correctly figures it must have something to do with his wish. He is driving north along a country road, going past the Widow Turner's land, on the southside of town. He sees someone by the road. It's Hecate. Hecate is sticking out his thumb to hitch a ride. Hecate has a fishing rod, about half a dozen fish he'd caught, a basket, and a newspaper with him. Feathersmith stops the truck to give him a lift. Hecate gets in, puts the fishing rod behind the passenger's side seat. Then he sets the basket on the floormat in front of him, puts the newspaper on top of it, and the fish on top of that. "Thanks, mister," says Hecate. "I could sure use a lift into town."

"So, what you up to, Hecate?" asks Feathersmith, with a smile on his face, as he starts driving again.

"Do I know you, mister?" Hecate asks.

"Feathersmith's the name," he responds. He takes a big cigar out of his pocket, bites the end off, and spits the end out the window. "We've met."

"Oh," replies Hecate, though he doesn't remember him. "I spent the day fishin', on the Widow Turner's land. Ya see, Mr. Gibbons, the president of the bank, and Mr. Sebastian Dietrich each own half of it. I sweep a broom in their offices, sometimes, and they let me go fishin' on their land."

"Your aggressive self-assurance unnerves me, Hecate," Feathersmith says, as he lights his cigar and blows a big puff of smoke. "You'd gone fishing on a weekday." Then he says, "maybe we can listen to some music." He reaches over to turn on the radio, then realizes the truck doesn't have one. "No radio in this truck?"

Hecate looks puzzled. "Trucks don't have radios, mister."

"Not this year, eh? Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

Hecate gives him a funny look.

Feathersmith continues, "Well, we can just talk, Hecate, since we're acquaintances. Did you know your name, Hecate, is the name of the moon goddess?"

Hecate smiles, "It's funny you should say that, Mr. Feathersmith. I heard tell that I'm a relation of that guy Mr. Moon, who used to ride around in the Old West with Jonny Cobb himself."

"Jonny Cobb-- now there was a colorful character. He was bold, aggressive. He got things done."

"Yes, sir," says Hecate. "Jonny Cobb was famous all over Texas and Oklahoma, and then he headed west to New Mexico and Arizona. He was a famous outlaw, and stuck to livin' in the territories, 'cause he was wanted in all the states. Jonny Cobb and his sidekick Moon."

"Jonny Cobb and Moon," Feathersmith laughs. "Jonny must have kept Moon around for kicks. And now, it's Bill Feathersmith and Hecate. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

Hecate looks at him uneasily. "Uh, it's really none of my business, but just where are you headed, Mr. Feathersmith?"

Feathersmith thinks about that. "I don't really know. I can drop you off downtown, so you can take your afternoon nap when you're supposed to be sweeping with your broom. However, I am expecting something big to happen shortly."

Hecate says, "That sounds excitin'-- something big. Does it have anything to do with gold?"

Feathersmith: "Oh yeah. Tons and tons of gold. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha."

Suddenly, the truck is weighted down with over 120,000 pounds of cargo. He had been driving along at 25 miles per hour, but suddenly the truck slowed down to 8 mph, and Feathersmith had to downshift.

Hecate exclaims, "What was that?"

"something big," replies Feathersmith. He turns around, and looks through the small window into the loading space of the van. There is gold. Gold, worth $18.92 an ounce-- $302.72 per pound. And the truck now had 121,866.45 pounds of gold, worth $36,891,412.14 to be precise.

Hecate turns around, and sees it too. "Jumping Jehosaphat, is that what you're drivin' around with, mister? Where'd you get all that gold?" (Hecate thinks it must have been back there all along.)

Feathersmith tells him, "Miss Devlin must have just zapped it up. Out of nothing, I guess."

Hecate's eyes get big. "Out of nothin'? Well then, how do you explain this headline?" He picks up his newspaper, and hands it to Feathersmith.

The headline reads: "$37 Million in Gold Bullion Stolen from Fort Knox." and right underneath: "Brazen Thief Makes off with 61 Tons of Fort Knox Gold."

Feathersmith almost drives off the road. "Oh no! Oh no!" he mutters, and then straightens out the steering wheel. "How did I word my wish? 'And I wish to have gold-- worth $36,891,412 in 1910 dollars -- in my possession.' But I never specified where the gold would come from. I just assumed she'd create it."

Hecate says, "Uh, you don't have to drive me all the way to town, mister. Uh, you can just drop me off right here-- I'll walk."

"I didn't steal the gold," avers Feathersmith, who is visibly nervous and shaken now. "I'm innocent. And besides, nobody knows I've got the gold."

Hecate looks in the rear-view mirror, "Then how do you explain those dozen sheriffs' cars behind us?"

Feathersmith is sweating, and rubs a handkerchief over his forehead. "They're not after us. You don't hear any sirens, do you?"

Just then, sirens start to wail.

Feathersmith swallows, his throat feels dry. "Well, you don't see any red lights?"

A dozen pairs of red flashing lights come on. Hecate says softly, "Looks like flashing Christmas trees back there. You better just pull over, mister."

"I'm innocent!" Feathersmith yells. "If they thought I'd robbed Fort Knox-- why, they'd be firing at us."

Gunshots ring out. "Pull over!" they hear from the sheriffs' bullhorns. "Pull over or we'll blow out your tires. You're under arrest."

Feathersmith hits the brakes.

A big, fat, potbellied sheriff waddles over to the truck, and sticks his head through the open driver's side window. The sheriff is wearing reflecto sunglasses, and it reminds Feathersmith of some bad B-movie at a Drive-In. The sheriffs spits out, "You in a HEAP o' trouble, boy-ah."

"I didn't take the gold," Feathersmith moans. "Ask Hecate--he's my witness."

"Mister," says Hecate, as another sheriff on the other side of the truck takes him out and puts handcuffs on him, "I don't even know you. I never saw you before in my life."

Handcuffed, and with 2 dozen rifles pointed at them, Feathersmith and Hecate are loaded into sheriffs cars.

Feathersmith moans to himself, "All those rotten things I did in my life-- cheated people, swindled, embezzled, wheeled and dealed. And now, I'm going to jail for the one crime I didn't commit!"

Wish # 7

Mr. Feathersmith has been in jail for a month, awaiting his hearing. He has declined a trial by jury, and will instead plead his case to a judge.

Hecate was released from jail the same day he was arrested, they never pressed any charges against him.

One good thing happened to Feathersmith during his incarceration. Joanna Gibbons, a good church goer, had taken the lessons in the Gospels to heart, specifically...

Matthew 25:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 40 ... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

... and used to visit all the prisoners on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes she would tell them about the Sunday morning sermon she heard at church, or bring them news about their families (if their families didn't visit), or maybe pass out some homemade brownies she'd baked. She would even sing for them if they requested it, which the prisoners seldom did.

However, there was one prisoner she took special interest in-- it was "love at first sight" when Joanna and Feathersmith saw each other. They fell madly in love with each other.

Joanna came to visit him every day. And now, after almost a month, Joanna wants to marry him.

Bill Feathersmith wants to propose to her; however, he is putting off asking her to marry him until after he finds out what kind of sentence the judge will give him.

Joanna is due to visit him in a few minutes.

Just then, Miss Devlin appears in his jail cell.

Miss Devlin: "Now that you're incarcerated in jail, you wouldn't call on me, so I decided to visit you."

Mr. Feathersmith shakes his head, he can't believe his bad luck that she appeared again; he was hoping that by not calling on her he might avoid her. "What hope is there for me, now?" he asks. "How can God forgive me for how I've messed up my life, and Joanna's, and all the other people I've hurt?"

Miss Devlin: "You'd done many bad things in your life, Mr. Feathersmith. IF you'd gotten on your knees and prayed, and begged God for forgiveness, he would have forgiven you. However, you've signed a Deal with the Devil, and now there is no saving your soul."

Mr. Feathersmith thinks she might be lying.

Miss Devlin: "But, that is not why I am here. As per our Contract," she pulls out the document, "you still have to make your 7th wish. There is a time limit. Every time you came back to 1963, or, as now, you stayed back in 1910 for one month, you have to make the next wish." She smiles wickedly, "consider wishes like eggs-- they have an expiration date."

Mr. Feathersmith: "What if I don't make the 7th wish?"

Miss Devlin: "Read the fine print in the Contract. I've kept my part of the bargain, even if you choose not to make all 7 wishes. I've kept my part, as long as I fulfill every wish you do make."

Mr. Feathersmith: "What if I make a wish you can't fulfill?"

Miss Devlin laughs him to scorn. "Ha, ha, ha. Mr. Feathersmith, you'd win. But Hell will freeze over before that ever happens. In fact, you could wish that Hell freezes over, and I would make it happen-- just to get your soul."

Mr. Feathersmith: "What if my wish was to send you to the moon?"

Miss Devlin: "I'd come back faster than the speed of light, and be back here in less than a second."

Mr. Feathersmith: "What if I wished to send you to the Andromeda Galaxy, 2 million light-years away? You'd be gone for a hundred years, and I'd be dead before you got back."

Miss Devlin: "Ha, ha, ha. I could go to the Andromeda Galaxy, or the furthest galaxy in the Universe, and be back in a micro-second."

They hear footsteps approaching, as the warden escorts Joanna to Feathersmith's cell.

Mr. Feathersmith tells Miss Devlin, "I want to talk to Joanna-- alone."

Miss Devlin: "Very well. But no stalling. You've got 20 minutes. At the end of that time, you either make your 7th and final wish, or forfeit your wish by refusing to make it. Either way-- I get your soul." She disappears before the warden can see her.

Joanna is admitted to his cell. The warden tells her, "You've got 30 minutes, then you'll have to leave."

As soon as the prison door is slammed shut, Bill and Joanna embrace. Then they have a long talk, putting their minds together to try to think up a solution.

When the 20 minutes are up, Miss Devlin appears. Joanna is shocked to see her materialize, but Feathersmith is used to the sight.

Miss Devlin: "Are you ready to make your 7th wish?"

Mr. Feathersmith looks at Joanna, she nods back at him, and squeezes his hand. He replies, "I am indeed," and he smiles.

Miss Devlin: "I hope it's a good one."

Mr. Feathersmith: "Oh, it's a beaut. Perfectly worded."

Miss Devlin: "Your last wish, # 6, had 124 words in it (if you count the numbers as one word each), but it did you no good. I imagine with Joanna phrasing it, it will have over 1,000 words in it."

Mr. Feathersmith: "No, this wish only has 2 words in it."

Miss Devlin: "Well, 'brevity is the soul of wit' they say. Go ahead."

Mr. Feathersmith: "Here is my wish-- GET LOST!"

Miss Devlin: "What? How can I? I know the entire Universe like the palm of my hand. >ugh< I can travel fantastic distances in the tiniest fraction of a second... >agh< I feel like a machine being short-circuited. >ooh< I... can't grant... your wish. CURSES!"

And with that, Miss Devlin disappears in a puff of sulfurous smoke, and the Contract falls to the floor. The words "NULL AND VOID" appear across the Contract, in big, bold, capital red letters. Then the Contract bursts into flames, turns to ashes, and a wind scatters the ashes.

The clouds depart, a ray of sunlight shines down on Mr. Feathersmith's face through the bars of the jail window, and the word "Forgiven" echoes down from Heaven. Birds twitter a happy tune.

Feathersmith: "But, Joanna, how can I be forgiven? All the terrible things I did in life."

Joanna: "Don't you see, my darling? You are 22 years old again. That former life is all gone, like a bad dream. Erased. You never did those things. Your life is whatever you make it. Your life-- yours to relive, the way you want. You've been given a 2nd chance at life."

In the meantime, Miss Devlin has been sent back to Hell. She is now having a conversation with Old Scratch himself.

Lucifer: "You have failed again, Miss Devlin! I would demote you, but you are already down to 'Demon apprentice 23rd Class,' and you can't go any lower! You couldn't even get Feathersmith's soul, and that should have been an easy one! He was so greedy, and eager to sell his soul."

Miss Devlin: "But, I..."

Lucifer: "You felt sorry for him. Let's face it-- you are not EVIL enough. So, I am kicking you out of Hell."

Miss Devlin: "But, who will take me?..." (poof)

The Universe can be a big, lonely place if you have nowhere to call home. Suddenly, Miss Devlin appears before the Pearly Gates.

"We will take you, Miss Devlin," a heavenly voice says.

"Oh, thank you," says Miss Devlin.

"But, due to your past, you must start at the very bottom--you will be 'Guardian Angel apprentice 23rd Class'."

"Oh, goody!" Miss Devlin beams. "From now on, I will work real hard saving souls, to 'earn my wings'."


But, even though Heaven forgave Feathersmith, the courts were another matter. Mr. Feathersmith had to appear before a judge, who neither believed his story ("I didn't rob Fort Knox-- the Devil did it"), nor that Feathersmith was insane (his lawyer tried the "innocent by reason of insanity" plea), and he sentenced him to 53 years in prison.

"53 years?" Feathersmith gulps. "I'll relive my entire life-- in prison. When 1963 comes around, I'll be an old man, again-- only this time, I'll be broke, having spent my entire life in prison, and without the woman I love."

Joanna: "I'll wait for you, Bill."

Feathersmith: "You'll... wait for me?"

Joanna: "Yes, Bill, my beloved. Even if I have to wait 53 years for you."

The one bit of good news for Bill Feathersmith was that he was being sent to the State Prison in Indianapolis, which was run by a fair warden.

The warden told Joanna: "Prison isn't so bad. Remember, we don't put men in prison to punish them, but to rehabilitate them. In fact, when I walk around the city, and see unemployed men, hungry men with no jobs, lining up for a charity meal at a soup kitchen, I often think: many's the men that would benefit from a couple of years in my prison, it would do them good.

"They'd have good, hard work to give them a sense of purpose, a sense of working for a living. And 3 square meals a day. Many is the man that's put on 20 pounds by eating our prison food. Yes, plenty of hard labor and plenty of good food-- it rehabilitates their minds, and strengthens their bodies."

July 1911

Well, Bill Feathersmith has spent a year in prison. Every day, he got up, put on his shoes, and worked a 12-hour day on the rock pile. His hands got rough and calloused. But he learned the meaning of hard, honest labor. His muscles got hard, and his back was strong.

His prison food was plain fare: meat and potatoes, bread, sometimes pasta, and fruits and vegetables (like tomatoes, green beans and corn) that other inmates grew in the prison garden, even occasional hand-churned ice cream, thanks to their cow Bessie. The meals were nourishing, and there was plenty of food; the plates were filled to overflowing, and prisoners could ask for seconds (not like most other prisons). Bill Feathersmith packed on 20 pounds-- mostly muscle, but some around his waist, too.

Bill Feathersmith no longer dreamed up schemes to cheat and swindle his fellow man. He was a hard-working inmate, paying his debt to society.

Joanna had moved to Indianapolis, a few days after Feathersmith was sent there, so she could be near her beloved Bill. She had gotten a job in Indy giving piano and voice lessons (if you can believe that)

to children. Well, she didn't earn much money, but enough to get along. :-) And, every day Joanna would visit Bill Feathersmith, for the allotted 30 minutes. They had gotten married on Christmas Day, 1910, and ever since then they were allowed conjugal visits once a week (those were 1-hour visits). ;-)

Bill Feathersmith was a model prisoner. They said, with time off for good behavior, he'd be up for parole in only 25 years.

Then, on Wednesday, July 19, 1911, the most violent criminal in the prison, Mad Dog Bert Kramer, had a gang member "on the outside" smuggle a gun and 200 bullets into prison. Mad Dog Bert took a dozen unarmed civilian workers (the kitchen and library staff) hostage. He threatened to "shoot one hostage every hour" unless the warden agreed to release him and the 4 incarcerated members of his gang.

Since Feathersmith was a fellow convict, he managed to get right up next to Mad Dog Bert. And then Feathersmith flattened him with his mighty left arm. As Bert laid on the floor, he aimed his gun at Feathersmith-- but a split second before he could fire, Feathersmith clobbered him into unconsciousness.

When the Governor of Indiana heard about Feathersmith's heroics, how he had risked his own life to save the hostages, the Governor declared that Mr. Feathersmith "was fully rehabilitated" and granted him a full pardon. He was released the same day.

As Bill Feathersmith walked out the prison doors, and shook hands with the warden and all the guards (they all wished him good luck), Joanna came running up and jumped into his arms.

Yes, they were poor as church mice. Bill Feathersmith would get a job as a plain, ordinary worker. (At least he wouldn't have to worry about having a criminal record, the Governor completely expunged his record.)

Bill: "Joanna, I don't have a penny to my name, but I feel like I'm the richest guy in the world, because I have you."

Joanna: "And I feel like the richest woman in the world, because I have your last name. >sigh< I'm MRS. Feathersmith."

The love birds walk hand-in-hand.

Bill: "And, I'm going to be a good provider for you-- and our dozen kids."

Joanna: "That's one of the many things I really love about you, Bill. You're so motivated. You're a real self-starter."

Bill: "Hmmm... I like that, a 'self-starter'. That gives me an idea for an invention. I think I'll call it the 'Feathersmith gilhooky machine'. I think maybe I'll go back to college and study engineering. Noble profession-- being a draftsman or a blueprint man. I'll be a builder, a designer, a bringer. We might even bring up the oil that's on the land your daddy and Dietrich own.

"Come on, dear, we have a lot of living to do. We have—our whole lifetimes in front of us. How wonderful."






Rewrites of Albert shows with new, improved endings:




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