Hi, friends and readers:
I check statistics on visits to my blog every day, and I’m often amazed at the huge amount of interest shown in my posts about the late Brandon De Wilde, a young film actor who died in 1972. So many people want to know whether or not De Wilde was gay.
Me? I have no idea; I don’t know anything about De Wilde’s private life. But I did write a story titled Dr. Fungo’s Amazing Time Machine. It was included in a short fiction anthology published during 2009 by the STARbooks firm. Brandon De Wilde is one of the story’s main characters.
Since so many people are interested in De Wilde, I thought I would publish excerpts from Dr. Fungo’s Amazing Tme Machine on a daily basis, beginning today, and continuing until the entire story has been provided. I hope everyone has a great Friday, and now here’s the first excerpt from Dr. Fungo’s:
Copyright Martin Delacroix 2009
When I was twelve and my sex drive kicked into high gear, I fell in love with a film actor named Brandon De Wilde. It was 1963 and he appeared in a film titled All Fall Down, starring Warren Beatty and Eva Marie Saint. I was at a drive-in theater with my mom and sister, alone in the back seat, and when De Wilde appeared on screen I sprang a wicked boner.
Slender and blonde-haired, with a pretty nose and eyes the color of chocolate, De Wilde’s jaw was wide, his chin prominent. He was twenty when All Fall Down got filmed, but he played a boy of sixteen, and I thought he looked mucho sexy. As soon as we returned from the drive-in I hopped into bed and whacked off to visions of De Wilde, recalling the curve of his buttocks and the bulge in the crotch of his pants. I imagined him naked, holding me in his arms, and I shot a load the size of Lake Okeechobee.
The next day I wrote a letter to MGM studios, requesting an autographed photo of De Wilde, signing my name as “Sharon McIntyre,” and three weeks later an eight-by-ten glossy photo arrived. I nearly fainted when I opened the brown envelope and found De Wilde staring at me with those beautiful dark eyes. They bore a hint of sadness, as if De Wilde carried with him a private burden. His signature was barely legible; the letters were squiggly, but I didn’t care. I hid the photo inside an atlas I kept on my bedroom bookshelf and put it to use on a regular basis. I swore one day I’d travel to Hollywood and meet De Wilde in person but, sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.
He died in a motorcycle accident in 1972. He was thirty years old.
Now it’s 1979 and I’m seated in a laundromat, waiting for my clothes to dry, when I spot an ad on the last page of a comic book someone has left on a chair:
Professor Fungo’s Amazing Time Machine! It’ll take you any place, to any point in time, past or future. Meet George Washington or see what New York City will look like in the Twenty-Third Century. A bargain at any price, you can purchase one now for $39.99, plus $6.99 shipping and handling! Batteries not included.
There’s a drawing of the contraption (it’s nothing more with a black box with dials and knobs) and a cut-out order form is provided. The form must be mailed along with a check payable to “S. D. Fungo, Ph.D.” to a Davenport, Iowa address, a P. O. Box.
My friend Kit’s a nut. He collects Lost in Space memorabilia. He listens to Karen Carpenter records while reading books by Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. He attends Star Trek conventions in his Mr. Sulu outfit. His apartment is strewn with oddities: astronaut dolls in helmets and spacesuits, plastic flying saucers mounted on pedestals, and a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine. A framed Twilight Zone poster hangs on a wall.
Next month is Kit’s birthday. I’ve racked my brain trying to think of something to buy him, and Professor Fungo’s device sounds perfect. I glance around to see if anyone’s watching, then I tear the page from the comic book and stuff it into my shirt pocket.
The device arrives via U P S on a Saturday morning. I open the carton and lift the machine from its nest of Styrofoam peanuts. There’s a two-page instruction manual enclosed. The device is metal with a black matte finish. It is shaped like a bread toaster, only it’s half again as large. On the front flank are numbered dials labeled “DESTINATION DATE.” I’m to use these to select a day, month and year I will travel to. I choose B. C. or A. D. using a toggle switch. Another toggle switch is labeled “ON/OFF.” A second set of dials, labeled “DURATION OF TRIP,” allows me to determine the length of one’s stay, to the minute. On the bottom there’s a compartment accommodating six “D” batteries. On top of the device is a reflective glass plate labeled “DESTINATION LOCATION.” According to the instruction manual, I must write on the plate (in block letters) the name of whatever place I wish to visit, using a child’s coloring crayon, purple only. No other shade will work.
Once a time trip’s completed, the manual says, the “DESTINATION LOCATION” plate should be wiped clean of crayon marks. (A piece of bread rolled into a ball and used like an eraser is recommended for doing this.)
Atop the device there’s a thimble-sized light with a red lens which is not presently lit. There’s also a button, one you push. It is labeled “COMMENCE TRAVEL.”
The manual says:
Before time traveling, be sure be sure batteries are fresh, as low battery power may jeopardize your return to the present. Batteries should be replaced after three trips.
On the backside of the time machine is an access panel secured by four Phillips-head screws. Out of curiosity, I fetch a screw driver and remove the panel. Inside the device is something resembling a toilet paper tube which is wrapped in fine-gauge copper wire. There’s a plastic device the size of a matchbox, it looks like a radio with a tiny antenna. There’s also a pyramid which appears to be made of quartz, perhaps four inches in height. Several electrical wires — red, black and white — snake here and there, some appear to be connected to the dials on the front of the machine. They are also connected to the copper-bound tube. I discover that the “DESTINATION PLATE” is actually a two-way mirror; I can see my finger when I bring it to the outside surface of the plate.
I replace the panel, tightening the screws, amazed that Dr. Fungo bothered putting anything inside the device.
Kit will laugh his cute buns off. He might even take me to his bedroom for a steamy session. (Yum-m-m.) At least I may get something for my forty-seven bucks.
At the supermarket, while purchasing groceries, I buy two four-packs of copper-top, “D” batteries. I buy a box of coloring crayons, after checking to be sure a purple one’s included.
I sit at my kitchen table. It’s close to twilight and outside, crickets chirp in the trees. It’s a Friday and I’ve had several beers and I’m a bit drunk and feeling playful. Glow from an overhead fluorescent fixture reflects off the dials on Dr. Fungo’s time machine. I’ve loaded the battery compartment and I’ve got my purple crayon. I flip the “ON/OFF” switch and the light on top of the machine illuminates and a soft, humming noise emanates from inside the box.
The manual says the device must warm up for three minutes before one can put it to use.
While I’m waiting, I set my destination date as October 23, 1961 — my tenth birthday. Giggling, I use the purple crayon to write “910 Jungle Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida” on the destination plate. (It’s tough squeezing all these letters and numbers onto the plate but I manage.) I set the duration of my trip at fifteen minutes.
Drumming my fingers on the table, I watch the second hand jerk on the face of my kitchen clock. It is six-forty-two P.M and I wait two more minutes, double-checking all my settings, then I place my finger on the “COMMENCE TRAVEL” button. I draw a breath, then press it, and…
I’m still sitting in my kitchen.
I laugh out loud, thinking, Andre Zaleski, you’re an idiot. Did you really think something would happen? I smirk at the machine and shake my head. Out loud, I cry, “Oh, Dr. Fungo, you’re a total fraud,” then I rise and fetch a fresh bottle of beer from the fridge. Twisting off the cap, I take a gulp and…
Something strange happens: I lose my grip on the bottle and it falls to the floor, breaking into shards while beer splatters across the linoleum. Purple spots appear before my eyes and my limbs turn to jelly and I sink into a chair. I slump forward till my forehead rests upon the table top. My heart races and my belly flutters and I close my eyelids.
I count to five, then I open my eyes and…
I’m standing on the sidewalk before my boyhood home, a one-story ranch style dwelling. The bicycle I received on my tenth birthday, a gleaming English racer, stands in the driveway. Spanish moss hangs from the live oak in our front yard and there’s a tree house perched in its spreading limbs, one I built when I was nine.
A car passes on the brick street, a 1956 Chevrolet Belair, two-toned, cinnamon and white, with a convertible top and white-sidewall tires. It is driven by a woman with hair styled like Jackie Kennedy’s.
I look down at myself. I’m wearing the same clothes I wore in the kitchen and my pant cuffs are damp and smell of beer. It seems I’m still the same age — twenty-eight — since my hands and feet look the same and there’s hair on my forearms and my limbs are still the same size.
I check my wrist watch. It’s six-forty-five P.M. The sun’s already behind the roofs of nearby houses and the sky beyond glows orange and pink. A breeze stirs moss beards in the live oak.
I hear voices of boys calling to one another and I gaze across the street to a vacant lot where the grass has recently been mown. This was where my friends and I played our sporting contests when I was a kid. A dozen or so youths, all between the ages of eight and eleven, play baseball. Six boys are in the field, wearing ball caps and gloves that look huge on their arms. One boy plays catcher, another kid’s at bat. He takes practice swings. Tall and slender, his chestnut hair reflects fading sunlight. He wears a tight-fitting t-shirt with horizontal stripes, blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up, and canvas, high-top sneakers. He looks to be ten.
He is, of course, me.
Copyright Martin Delacroix 2009.
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There’s more to come tomorrow, friends and readers. Have a great day!