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Authors: Mark Dunn

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Humorous Stories, #Science Fiction

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BOOK: The Age Altertron
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Rodney shrugged. “Sometimes we have two whole weeks between calamities,” he
“But gee, other times,” Wayne joined in, “there’s hardly even time to take a
good breath.”
“A good what?” asked Petey.
“A good inhalation,” said Rodney, thinking of a “
”-less word that means
The school bell rang. This meant that it was now time for all the children who
had been talking and chasing one another upon the front lawn to go inside and
begin their school day. Rodney and Wayne didn’t hurry, for they knew what would
be waiting for them in their classroom, and wanted a little time to prepare
what they would say. And, of course, their guess was right on the money; there
it was: a cake—a big peach-frosted cake baked by their teacher Miss Lyttle “to
thank you boys and the Professor for ending yet another town catastrophe! Have
a piece, boys. We’ll wait to begin class until after you’re done.”

In which Rodney and Wayne wake to discover that they have been sleeping like
babies because they ARE babies!

othing new happened for several days. Each morning
Rodney and Wayne woke to a bright and sunny room, with nothing whatsoever out
of place. Down to breakfast they would go to eat their cinnamon biscuits and
their cinnamon-sprinkled grapefruit (which, though it sounded strange, actually
tasted pretty good), and to gather their books for school, and then to jump
upon their bikes. Petey would be waiting, patient as usual. Mr. Craft’s aqua-colored
Buick would pass the boys on its way to the school, and Becky would roll down
her window and wave and sometimes she would shout, “Don’t you love this good,
beautiful, normal day!”

Some days the three boys were joined on their Schwinn cruisers by Rodney and
Wayne’s friend Grover. Grover was a stocky boy in the twin’s eighth-grade class
whose mother was Professor Johnson’s housekeeper and cook, Mrs. Ferrell. Grover
was always trying hard to lose weight. In fact, the Professor had built an exercise
machine for him that was like no other exercise machine in the world. It was
part rowing machine and part stationary bicycle, but also had a medicine ball
that came out of its own accord and pushed at him here and there, which Grover
had to fend off when he wasn’t looking. He never used the machine without acquiring
a bruise or two, and finally, the Professor was forced to concede that the “Grovercizer”
needed further work. It was Grover’s dream to lose weight and not have to shop
in the husky young men’s section of Lowengold’s Department Store, but he would
prefer to do it without acquiring bruises.

Grover hoped to grow up to be a champion wrestler like the wrestlers he saw
on television. His favorites were Whipper Billy Watson, Bobo Brazil, Killer
Kowalski, and Gorgeous George who preened and strutted in a silly way and made
Grover laugh. Sometimes Grover would pull one of the twins down to the ground
without warning and pin them and shout, “You’re pinned! I win! I win!” even
when the boys had not been aware that there had been a wrestling match in progress.
But Rodney and Wayne could not help liking Grover who just like Becky and them,
had only one parent, and who, just like the two boys, had never even met one
of his parents. You see, Grover’s father had died in the Battle of Guadalcanal
in World War II. He had died a war hero, and Grover kept all of his medals in
a little box next to his bed.

Rodney and Wayne spent their normal school days listening to their pretty,
young eighth-grade teacher Miss Lyttle talk about the differences between reptiles
and amphibians, and the differences between acids and bases, and the differences
between Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. And all of these noncalamitous
days were generally good days, except that they were sometimes a little boring.

And a little bothersome. The bothersome part went by the names Jackie Stovall
and Lonnie Rowe. These were two boys in Rodney and Wayne’s class who had no
friends other than each other. There was a very good reason for this: nobody
liked them. And there was a very good reason why nobody liked them: they tried
their best to make trouble for their classmates whenever possible. Lonnie liked
to put out his leg and trip anyone walking past. (Most of the students in the
class had learned to give him a wide berth.) However, Jackie’s mischief was
more cunning. He would think of things to hurt people that no one had ever thought
of before. And it was not only children who were the victims of his naughty
behavior. Sometimes he would steal the newspapers left by the paperboy in the
early morning. (This would have a double benefit to Jackie; people would have
to start their day in a sour mood without their
Pitcherville Press Morning
, and they would blame the paperboy for not delivering it.)

Sometimes Jackie replaced the milk that the milkman left on the porch with
milk bottles filled with soapy water. He was always careful to cover his tracks
and pretended never to know anything when it was time to get to the bottom of
something bad that he had caused. Once he slipped away from school and disguised
his voice and called Principal Kelsey on a pay phone to tell him that he had
better hurry home because his wife had left the faucet running in her bathtub
before she left the house and there was a cascade of water coming out of his
upstairs bathroom window. The absentminded principal was halfway home before
he realized that there was no upstairs floor to his house.

And that he did not even have a wife.
But Jackie Stovall reserved his most illustrious acts of mischief for Rodney
and Wayne, because he was envious of the boys and all the good things they had
done for the town through their work with Professor Johnson. Sometimes it would
be a little thing like replacing the boys’ bologna sandwiches with mud sandwiches.
But sometimes Jackie’s stunts were of a far more serious nature—like the time
he put itch powder in the boys’ costumes when they played Pilgrims in the school
Thanksgiving pageant. Several people in the audience had watched the twins jumping
and wriggling around on the stage and had pointed at them and laughed in a way
that Miss Lyttle (who had written the Thanksgiving pageant herself) had not
intended. One woman had said in a loud voice, “Those two Pilgrim men must have
to go to the bathroom! Take those Pilgrim men to the bathroom, Chief Wahunsunacock!”

All went well for so many days that the citizens of Pitcherville began to wonder
if the calamities had stopped altogether. “Wouldn’t that be marvelous!” exclaimed
Aunt Mildred, who was working late in her kitchen to make cinnamon fudge for
Professor Johnson. (Aunt Mildred, you see, was quite fond of the bachelor professor
and he liked her too, during those occasional moments when he could think of
something other than his work.)

Then it happened: it was early in October when the mornings had gotten a little
cooler and the leaves on the trees were just starting to show a little color
that was not green.

Rodney woke, as he usually did, without opening his eyes, and knew that this
was going to be one of
days. How did he know this? Because his
arms and legs felt funny. They felt somehow smaller than usual. How could such
a thing be? he asked himself, and do I dare to open my eyes to find out? Not
only did his arms and legs feel funny, but his pajamas felt several sizes larger
than they did when he went to bed. And where was his pillow? He reached about
his head and could not feel it.

This is terrible, Rodney thought. I have been shrunk to a miniature size! Rodney
had wondered when this might happen. Only a few weeks before, he and Wayne had
sat down and made a list of all the different bad things that had yet to happen
to the town of Pitcherville, and Rodney, remembering the problems of Alice in
Wonderland, added to the list the possibility of everyone in the town being
made very tiny. “And now it’s happened!” he said aloud, his eyes still squeezed

happened?” Rodney had never heard this voice before—it
was very high and very squeaky. And yet there was something a little familiar
about it.

“Open your eyes, fraidy cat!” said the voice, now taunting him. And this is
what Rodney did. He opened his eyes and glanced in the direction of the voice—in
the direction of his brother’s bed— and there, sitting up against the wooden
headboard that had been painted with a long wagon train, was a chubby baby of
somewhere between one year and two years of age (Rodney was not good at telling
the age of babies and toddlers since he didn’t spend much time around them).
The baby looked very much like Wayne had looked when he was very young, for
it had taken at least two years for Rodney to gain some weight and Wayne to
lose some weight and the two to look more like twins. This is the way it often
is with identical twins: one is born bigger than the other, and it takes a while
before they grow into their identical-ness.
The baby looked quite comfortable and casual sitting against

the headboard. But he did not look entirely happy. “Will you get a load of
this? I’m a baby!” he said in a not-very-happy voice. “And you’re a baby too.
And I would have woken you up sooner but you were sleeping so peacefully. You
were sleeping like a baby.”

Rodney stretched out his little arms and stretched out his little legs and
knew now for certain that he was a baby too.
“Has everybody in Pitcherville been turned into babies?” asked Rodney in his
own high and squeaky voice.
Baby Wayne shook his baby head. “I don’t think so. I heard Aunt Mildred a little
earlier singing in the bathroom. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t singing in a baby
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” said Rodney. “Usually, when a bad thing happens
to the town, it happens to
At just that moment the boys could hear the bathroom door open.
“Now we’ll find out!” said Wayne. “AUNT MILDRED! COME IN HERE!”
A moment later Aunt Mildred stepped into the room. She had a turban on her head
made out of a bath towel. There was something very different about her that
the boys could not put their finger on (besides the fact that she wore a towel
turban—something they never remembered her doing before).
“I wondered when you were going to wake up,” said Aunt Mildred cheerily. “You
were both sleeping so peacefully. You were sleeping just like babies.”
“Because we
babies. Look at us,” said Wayne. “And why aren’t
a baby?”
Aunt Mildred shrugged. She had a smile on her face that did not go away.
“Why are you smiling?” asked Wayne testily. “Are you enjoying the fact that
your great-nephews have been turned into babies?”
“I wasn’t enjoying that at all! I was merely taking momentary pleasure in the
fact that when I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, it seemed as if
I had grown at least ten years younger!”
Rodney nodded. It was making perfect sense to him now. “Aunt Mildred,” he said,
“how old would you say Wayne and I look right now?”
“Well, if I can remember back to when you actually
babies, I would
say you look as if you’re about eighteen months old.”
Rodney calculated aloud: “Wayne and I are around eighteen months old. Yesterday
Wayne and I were thirteen years old and two months. That means that we have
had a little over eleven-and-ahalf years chopped off our physical ages.”
“Oh don’t say ‘chopped,’ dear. Say ‘trimmed.’ It’s a much nicer word.” Aunt
Mildred could not help herself: she giggled. “And what an even more pleasant
surprise for
! I’m not just
years younger! I’m eleven-and-a-half
years younger! Let me see. Oh goodness! I was sixty-five and now I’m fifty-three.
And what’s more, I don’t look a day over forty-nine. Please note how soft and
supple my skin looks now!”
Aunt Mildred pinched her cheeks so hard that they turned red.
Wayne’s face now took on a pout. He looked like a baby who had just done a little
business in his diapers. “Don’t you even care that Rodney and I are now helpless
“Of course I care, dear. I care very much. But I’m not sure how helpless you
are. Let’s see if you can walk so I won’t have to carry you around. But first,
let’s get you out of these giant-sized pajamas so you won’t stumble.” Aunt Mildred
went to Rodney’s bed and helped him out of his pajamas. He tried very hard with
his little arms to be of some assistance but his tiny hands would not do what
his brain wanted them to do. After Aunt Mildred had removed the top and bottom
halves of his pajamas, Wayne started to laugh. It was very much a baby’s laugh,
like a little baby giggle, but there was definite thirteen-year-old mirth involved.
Mirth at Rodney’s expense.
“What are you laughing about, you chubby baby!” Rodney squeaked.

!” answered Wayne. “Those underpants look huge on you!”
don’t have on huge underpants yourself?” Rodney shot back.
“I guess so,” said Wayne sheepishly. “I guess we both look pretty foolish.”
“Oh you look adorable!” said Aunt Mildred as she picked Rodney up and put him
down on the floor. Then she went to Wayne’s bed and began to undress him. Once
the boys had both been set upon the floor, they attempted together to pull themselves
up into a standing position by climbing their little hands up their bedposts.
After some grunting and a great deal of effort, they got themselves to their
feet. It was a good start.
“Now come
me, boys,” said Aunt Mildred, lowering herself to a
squat. “Let me see if you are still babies or if you’ve reached the toddler
stage yet.”
Rodney took a step away from his bed and promptly fell down. Wayne took a step
away from his own bed and then another step and then another, each one coming
faster than the last, until he was hurtling uncontrollably toward Aunt Mildred,
on a collision course with her bony knees. Just short of his great aunt’s outstretched
arms, Wayne toppled headlong to the floor.
“But that’s a good sign, isn’t it?” said Aunt Mildred, helping Wayne into a
seated position and then clapping her hands gleefully together as if the boys
really were babies who required encouragement. “It means that you just have
to work at it a little and you’ll both be up and walking around in no time.”
Rodney scowled. “What are you
about, Aunt Mildred?” he said through
his tiny baby mouth. “We’re not going to stay like this! I’m sure that the Professor
is in his laboratory right this moment working on a machine to undo this. Can
you take us to his house?”
“Right now? Right this very minute? But I have to get you some breakfast! I
have to buy baby food! I have to go up into the attic and find your high chairs
and find the double baby carriage that I used to roll you around in. It will
take me all morning to get things ready for us to go to the Professor’s house.
Why don’t I just call him up on the phone and have him come over?”
Rodney and Wayne looked at one another and shrugged. It probably
work better for the Professor to come there.
“Now crawl around if you like, but be careful and don’t pull any table lamps
down on your heads.” (Aunt Mildred was always worried about things coming down
on people’s heads and giving them amnesia as was always happening to the characters
in her favorite radio soap opera
Helen Grant, Backstage Nurse.
Rodney scowled anew. “Aunt Mildred, we might look like babies to you, but we’re
actually thirteen-year-olds who are merely trapped inside the bodies of babies.”
Aunt Mildred nodded. “I must remember that it is our physical bodies that have
gotten younger and not our brains, or else you would not be able to talk to
me the way you are and would be drooling a little. Please forgive me, boys.
But I must say, though: it is such a delight to see you so young and adorable
again. I so hated it when you boys had to grow up.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Wayne, trying his best to be agreeable, but still sounding
like something the world had never before seen: a sarcastic baby.
From down the hall now came the sound of a ringing telephone. “Speak of the
Devil! That could be Russell—I mean Professor Johnson!” exclaimed Aunt Mildred,
clapping her hands together excitedly.
The now fifty-three-year-old Aunt Mildred who didn’t look a day over forty-nine
put her hand to her chest as if to slow her fastbeating heart. “I wonder what
the Professor will look like! Quite dashing, I’m sure!”
Wayne and Rodney sat on the floor and stared at each other in silence as they
listened to their aunt scampering down the hallway. Then they could hear her
talking on the phone, although she was too far away for them to tell what she
was saying.
“You just watch, Wayne,” Rodney finally said. “I’ll be running all around this
house before the end of the day. By tomorrow the both of us will be hard at
work in the Professor’s lab, helping him to make this calamity go away.”
“And how will we do
, Rodney? I can’t even make my fingers work by
themselves. Look. I’m trying to point at you but all the fingers are pointing
“Then we have to train our hands the same way we will train our legs!” Rodney
was trying to have a positive attitude but it wasn’t easy for him.
“At least I’m further along with the walking than
,” said Wayne, beaming.
Wayne was proud of the fact that he had just propelled himself across the room
upon his own two legs while Rodney was still having difficulty taking his very
first step.
Rodney looked around for something he could throw at Wayne to put him in his
place. Seeing nothing that he could even lift with his small arms, he just sat
and sighed until Aunt Mildred came back into the room. She was no longer smiling.
In fact, she seemed quite upset.
“It’s really quite terrible. I don’t even know how to say it.”
“Say it!” said Wayne. “Tell us what’s wrong.”
“Boys, that was Petey’s father, Mr. Ragsdale. Petey is gone. He wasn’t in his
bed when everyone woke up this morning.”
“But if Rodney and I woke up as babies, then Petey would have woken up as a
baby too!” said Wayne. “Has he been kidnapped?”
Rodney shook his head sadly. “I can tell you what has happened, Wayne. How many
years younger were we when we woke up this morning?”
“A little over eleven-and-a-half years was our estimate,” said Aunt Mildred
“And how old was Petey yesterday?”
“He turned eleven in July,” said Wayne.
“So Petey hasn’t been kidnapped. It’s even worse than that: he hasn’t even been
born yet!”

BOOK: The Age Altertron
8.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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