by Bob Iozzia
Part 1. How It All Began
I don’t write so good, so you’re going to have to excuse me. I’m no Eisenhower in the brain department, either, but no one’s cheated me in quite some time, so I guess I’m doing okay. My wife Loretta is the brains of the outfit, that’s for sure. She’s as smart as a whip. I and you have never met, so I’ll prove it to you instead of you having to take my word for it. I told you she’s as smart as a whip, and that’s the truth. But I used to think the expression was smart as a WOP, which confused me because, although I’m not acquainted with many Italians, the ones I’m familiar with don’t seem too sharp to me. They’re nice enough and all…just not the brightest bulbs in the elevator. Guess who showed me the error of my weight? Loretta. Smart as a whip, that one. And a handsome, even-tempered woman to boot. The whole package.
Now I’ll get to the meat of the story in terms of how I and Loretta—by the way, my name is Ike Rensalier of the county of the same name but with different spelling—came to be time travelers in addition to watchdogs of history. I don’t know how many of you remember a cartoon show called Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends. Well, two of the friends were a genius dog who wore glasses and knew everything (Mr. Peabody) and his pet boy (Sherman).
Every episode, they’d travel back in time and get involved in history, thanks to their Wayback Machine. Well, Peabody retired to these parts and we became friends. One day he up and says, out of the blue with no politicking on my part, “Ike, how’d you like my Wayback Machine? I ain’t using it for nothing except a guest bathroom now and again.”
“Would I? I always fancied it, George,” I said. “This’ll be a good way for Loretta to see Europe…I’m pretty sure she won’t care what century it is.”
And so with a few lessons from Peabody under our belts, I and the Missus zipped through time and helped correct history before it had a chance to turn out all wrong. We’re kind of on hiatus now as we air out The Song Bird, as we now call the Wayback Machine, since we never could get used to the pee smell. This also gives us a chance to bone up on our history, although I gotta say that we are pretty much in the know as it stands now. We are a well greased time traveling team: Loretta really knows her stuff when it comes to Asian and European history, especially from the first century on. Me: I know my way around North America like nobody’s business. I’m also getting good at Post-Columbian Mezzo America and—don’t ask me why—sexual perverts of the Bible.
I don’t understand how any of this time travel stuff works. I just like to do it so that history (which I like) doesn’t get screwed up. But I mostly do it so that I can take my wife Loretta (who I love) somewhere interesting now and then other than the Odd Fellows Hall on “All You Can Eat Pierogies” Fridays. Of course, no matter where in history we time travel to, we always try not to miss the Odd Fellows soiree.
Well, I got to go now—see you in the funny papers (whatever that means—I heard a Police Inspector fella say that once).
Part 2. Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Dress
It’s really weird to meet famous people of history that we’ve read about in school and such. Actually seeing them in the flesh—warts, foul odors and all—is a little creepy. Loretta says it makes her nostril hairs stand on end, and that’s why she’s been sneezing a lot lately, but I think it’s a reaction to the pee smell in the Song Bird.
Anyway, the really weird and creepy thing about meeting our famous people of history is that they’re dead—but I suppose not when we’re socializing with them (because we’ve traveled back to their day). So I and Loretta are talking with dead people who aren’t dead yet or again. What does that make us, I wonder? My friend Peabody, who gave us the Song Bird when it was called the Wayback Machine, warned me not to think too hard about it because it could make a fella go crazy trying to figure out a “circular problem with linear thinking,” he said. “Sort of like the ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ philosophical debate,” he said.
“’Philosophical debate’ nothing, George,” I told him. “It’s not a debate if you believe in God. Then the answer is a no-brainer: the chicken came first, of course. Revolutionists can argue all they want, but a child (with or without feathers) can’t birth itself. It’s as simple as that,” I said.
“I really don’t want to get into this now Ike. I value our friendship,” he said. “It’s not as simple as you think or hope it is.”
As usual, I had no idea what he was talking about. In terms of brain power, I don’t know what the highest rating is, but whatever it is, add one hundred to it and that’s Peabody’s. I think Loretta is smart as a whip. She says if that’s true, then this guy must be whatever is smarter than a whip plus one hundred, and I can’t deny that she’s right. It’s as simple as that.
Not so simple was the first time travel case I and Loretta had to fix. I guess our missions aren’t supposed to be easy, otherwise ordinary folk could do them (that’s supposed to be a joke). The Song Bird took us to a hotel room in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where President Abraham Lincoln was preening in front of a full-length mirror, checking all angles of himself in a frilly blue dress. All of a sudden, I and Loretta appear in his room and he asks us if we’re there to fix his hem, because he’s got a very important speech to make and he needs to look his best.
We had to think fast, so I said, “What?” This gave Loretta the time to think of something and not give away that we are time travelers. She tells him, no, we are not there for alterations. We are with the Speech Committee and got wind of his wardrobe preference. “What’s with the dress?” I asked.
He turned to me, and with those sunken eyes, big nose and deeply lined face, it struck me that standing before me must be the ugliest man on the face of the Earth…and he’s wearing a dress. “You have a peculiar way of speaking, Sir. You’re not from around here, are you?” he asks.
‘You don’t know the half of it,’ I’m thinking, but say, “You have a very sharp ear, Mr. President. No, we are originally from California,” which causes Loretta to choke on her own spittle because California hadn’t been invented yet. She saved the day by making up that we were originally from California, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Gettysburg. Not being from the area, he didn’t catch on to Loretta’s smoke screen.
He hadn’t answered me about why he was wearing a dress so I asked again. This time he opens up, saying if he’s called Honest Abe, it’s time to live up to it. He feels comfortable in a dress, he says and thinks he might be a ‘fancy man,’ as he called it. “If it’ll make you feel any better,” I say to him, “if I was married to your wife, I’d probably be gay, too.”
“I’m not happy, Sir, in spite of Mother,” he says, staring again at himself in the mirror. I forgot that ‘gay’ didn’t mean ‘fancy’ back in Abe’s day. I’m also thinking did Abe become fancy because of his dried up wife, or did she dry up because of his fanciness? Just like Peabody’s “chicken or egg?” conundrum. Spooky.
So back to the business at hand, Loretta says to Abe that the Speech Committee thinks it best that he stick to his own gender’s manner of dress. Besides, she says, history will note and long remember what he does and says here. So, how did he want to be long remembered: in an ill-fitting dress that was the wrong color for his complexion, or in his usual Johnny Cash outfit?
“A dress,” he says, “and who is John Cash?”
“You’re not wearing no dress,” I say before ripping it from his body and tearing it to shreds.
“That tears it, Sir,” he says.
“Exactly,” I say as I and Loretta hightail it out of there in the Song Bird. It’s a shame, but what I couldn’t stop thinking about when we were back home safely in our own time was not that I met one of the greatest men in history, but that I met one of the ugliest. Someone that scary-looking could never be elected to anything today. Not even dog catcher. I’m not trying to be cruel, but instead of his nickname being Honest Abe, I think a more fitting one would have been Honest, He’s Not An Ape. No disrespect intended towards the monkey.
Well, I have to go now—I got to help Loretta give our llama a high colonic.
Bob Iozzia likes to taunt his blue-collar ‘born-again’ acquaintances by pointing out that Jesus was a non-union carpenter. E-mail him at email@example.com