Mail Order Ain't What It Used To Be
by: Dennis R. Humphreys
When I was a child, I read all the back pages of my father's Popular Mechanics. The classified ads fascinated me with item you could purchase from gyro copters to homemade hovercrafts made from an inner tube and a lawn mower engine. I imagined myself tearing down our road a few inches over the road surface with police hot on my tail. Of course I alluded them as I swiftly glided over the lake to stop their pursuit. I turned as I soared down the lake and laughed as I waved farewell to them seeing them disembark from their patrol car and shake their fists at me. Ahh...the imagination of youth.
Now days most people don't read so the magazines that do exist, barely do. The era of reading the classifieds in the back for such interesting items sold by companies like Edmund Scientific has all but passed. The Internet had a great deal to do with it but perhaps the blame is more on the lack of imagination among our children. Finding that unique item and tagging it with a unique application was the bane to my mother but just less of a concern today.
I have twin boys, Rus and Evan. I've tried hard to maintain their imaginations and creativity at a high level. It doesn't matter they can't draw, or write at this point in their lives since they're only ten years old. You can enter any field of endeavor eventually and still be creative, It is those people who rise to the top of their avocation, whether you're a geologist, archaeologist, a lawyer or accountant. Creativity has its place no matter the endeavor. I wanted them to have that edge.
I gave them an allow and, not a large one like these child psychologists or bankers recommend as a way to teach children about money. The only things you teach them about money when there's a large allowance is how to spend it, and normally on stupid things. You don't really respect money and learn how to spend it unless it's a rarity. Look at people who have a lot of money or come into it. The spend like crazy on frivolous things. I'm more of a proponent of conservatism and to make every dollar spent worthwhile to obtaining a dream you have.
The boys have their dreams. Their mother, Ann, plays along with them and encourages them as well. Se both feel pretty much the same way and we enjoy listening to them as they plot their moves to get what they want. They both restrain from spending the small allowance I give them on candy and such knowing it's only momentary gratification. Both of them like the sciences and often spend their money sending away for things to support their interests...rocks for geology, fossils for archaeology and other things to run their 'experiments'. It keeps them enthralled for hours without the desire to watch television , unless it's the Discovery channel, or play games on Anne's or my smartphone. Their interests we helped developed are self monitoring without our need to threaten. Their minds are expanding not being shrunk by institutional zombie developers.
The one day I passed their room and heard them talking about some device they wanted to purchase from some new company they found on the Internet...Amazing Sciences Corporation, developers of the molecular annihilator. You could buy the annihilator for forty nine ninety five or you could purchase the kit for nineteen ninety five. Of course the kit fit more into the budget of my ten year old twins. They were short two dollars for the purchase and came to me to borrow it. Buying on the Internet is impossible without a credit card so I told them I would buy it on my credit card, if that's what they really wanted, and give me their money. The two dollars would come out of their next allowance. They agreed happily getting a step closer to their molecular annihilator.
I sat down with them at the computer as they directed me to the sight.
“Now you do realize there isn't any such thing as a molecular annihilator, that I know of and especially something as complex as it would be, for nineteen ninety five?” I asked the boys.
They were besides themselves. They could feel the molecular annihilator in their hands. They could visualize dematerializing all sorts of things. They could hear it operating. They just had to have it at this point, both listening to each others' hype for a week now of planning. The one thing about responsibility, one has to learn about the disappointments in life and deal with them. I smiled to myself about the advertisement knowing they would be disappointed but then their decision to buy the thing was theirs and they had to deal with the world of advertising and sales, and understand that just because someone says it's so doesn't mean it is. I realized I would probably be the one to assemble the thing for them and it actually looked pretty impressive. It would most likely take a three day adventure to put it together. It looked like some prop from a Star Wars movie or some other science fiction creation. 'Allow three weeks for delivery' it read and knew the boys would be frothing at their mouths by the end of the first week.
“OK, I'm about to push the button that says complete order. Are you sure this is what you want?” I asked, tantalizing them further rather than trying to dissuade them which I knew was impossible at this point,.
Both of them were jumping up and down in expectation.
“Yes, yes,” they said together as twins do, ”that's what we want. We always wanted as molecular annihilator.”
'Up until a week ago you guys didn't know what a molecular annihilator was...ah, you probably still don't. You're going by the advertising description,” I told them as a pushed the button 'complete order' and within seconds a window came up thanking me for the order.
“That's done guys. Now it's going to be about three weeks before it gets here so I don't want to hear, 'is it here yet' every day until it comes,” I warned them.
They were both beyond description being about as excited as I could imagine.
“So did you send for the molecular annihilator, Maury?” Ann asked as she was straightening the kitchen from dinner.
“Oh yeah. It should be here in three weeks. I already warned them not to ask every day if it was here yet so I assume they've marked it on their calendar already. I never saw them so excited about something that's obviously a fake. I don't know how a company can get away with the claims it's making. Doesn't the FTC do their job anymore?” Maury told her as he helped her with the kitchen.
Three weeks went slow for the twins. All their friends heard about it at school and in the neighborhood. They were just excited. No one had ever heard of such a thing. Of course most of them never opened anything that warranted reading. The only way the knew about things was from someone else telling them or from a television advertisement.
Three weeks later there was a box on the front porch near the door. Anne picked it up and took it inside putting it on the small harvest table in the vestibule.
The twins came running in as they had the last couple of days excited and obviously expecting the package, each day getting longer and longer in anticipation.
Busting through the front door after leaving the school bus, their cries of excitement shook the house, Ann , who was in the other room came into the hall.
“Boys, the neighbors will think I'm beating you. Calm down. I'm glad your package finally arrived. Take it to your room and maybe your father can help you with it tonight,” she told them as they grabbed the box and ran upstairs.
“The boys got their annihilator today. They were so excited. They took it up to their rooms when they got home from school and I haven't seen them since, Anne told Maury when he got in from work.
“I guess I know what I'm going to be doing tonight,” he told his wife.
“You know that package bad some weight to it. I expected it to be some light package with all plastic inside. It rattled too like it was mostly metal,” she told him.
“The thing looked substantial in the picture I saw. I have to admit the company's doing a good job of selling snake oil. It had to cost a bit to manufacture the thing even though it's a kit. I guess it was made in China,” Maury surmised. “I'm going up to change. I'll check in on them.”
The twins' dad knocked on the door. There was a hush and then the sound of the lock turning. Rus opened the door.
“Hey...I understand you guys got what your ordered,” Maury stated as he followed Rus into the bedroom.,
“It's really cool, dad. We have everything laid out to assemble,” Evan responded.
“Wow...this thing looks really complicated. I'll help you with it after dinner,” their dad promised.
“No,” they yelled in unison. “We want to do it ourselves. These instructions are really good and there are things you can do to make sure you're putting it together along the way. It's fool proof.”
“Alright then if you think you're OK. If you need help just let me know. I'm more than happy to help you.
At the dinner table conversation was different than what was expected. Nothing was mentioned about the annihilator and in fact the twins were abnormally quiet. After dinner they forwent desert and ran up to their room.
“That was unexpected. Apple pie and vanilla ice cream was always their downfall. They would rather go upstairs and work on their project,” Anne said to Maury as she stood to clear the table.
“Hey, there's nothings wrong with that. I like seeing them take an interest in something and wanting to be independent and on their own. You learn that way,” Maury told his wife.
“Well they'll certainly learn something when they put it together and discover it doesn't do what it's supposed to do.” she said putting a plate of apple pie and ice cream down in from of her husband.
“Life's full of disappointments. They have to learn sometime. It's good to be a little skeptical of things before you commit to them,” Maury replied.
“I just don't want them to get cynical. There's a fine line,” Anne told him.
All evening the boys stayed in their room. Anne went by a couple of times checking, hearing the whispering and laughter going on behind their door, then the quiet when she knocked,
“Is there anything I can get you boys?” she asked.
“:No mom. We're fine,” came the reply.
When it was time for bedtime, they didn't have to tell them. They came running downstairs to say good night to their parents dressed in their pajamas. The parents were surprised earlier to hear the bathwater running without them being told to take baths.
Settling down then to watch a couple of their favorite shows, Maury and Anne talked about how suddenly grown up the kids acted.
“This is just the first day of assembling their annihilator. Give it time, things will go back to normal,” Maury predicted. He remembered as a child having similar things happen that changed the way he acted. Something really earth shaking changed him for a few days but the feeling wore off quickly and it was back to his normal self before you knew it.
A couple of more days later, Maury assumed the annihilator was fully assembled and the twins were ready to do whatever they were going to do with it then. He hadn't seen the assembled piece but was interested to see what it actually did or if it did anything. He waited to see if either of the boys came to him complaining it didn't work like it was supposed to. He'd look at it to see how they put it together and correct anything that needed it. Then when it still didn't do anything he'd sit down and speak with them. He'd send it back and demand a full refund since it didn't do what it was supposed to according to their advertisement...disassemble the molecules of anything you aimed it at and fired...right.
“Mr. Evan Davenport! Someone reported you have some kind of gun in your locker. That is against the rules. You are not allowed to have any toy guns in this school. Please come with me into the hall. The rest of you start reading out of you Society book on page fifty three while I am gone,” Ms. Fletcher, their middle aged, unmar3ried teacher announced
Outside in the hall, the principal was waiting to have Evan unlock his locker in front of both of them. Inside the classroom Rus pulled the book out and was reading but not really so. He was worried the both of them would be in trouble for bringing the annihilator to school. What would his parents say? And if the principal confiscated the item that would be a waste of nineteen ninety five pure and simple.
“Mr. Davenport, unlock your locker,” the principal demanded. Mr. Manders was a younger than the teacher and he dressed impeccably. If he was involved you know you were in big trouble.
Evan unlocked the locker and swung the door open. Nothing was visible but he had hidden what they were looking for under a sweater he had folded and laid on the bottom of the locker. Mr. Manders pulled the sweater out revealing the shiny metallic annihilator lying on the bottom pf the locker. It laid there ominous and dangerous looking. It was somewhat gun shaped but failed to look as sinister as an actual handgun so both the principal and the teacher took a few seconds of staring before doing anything. Meanwhile, Evan jumped into action and grabbed the weapon, somehow thinking he could save it from confiscation. Ms. Fletcher sprang into action and tried grabbing the gun from Evan as he held it close to him. She tugged on it trying to make Evan release his grip but Evan hung onto it refusing to relinquish it. As she tugged at it he gripped it harder and there was a strange, almost silent hum as a translucent light emerged from the end of it. Before Mr.Manders could intervene the teacher disappeared from sight, surprising both Evan and the principal. The annihilator did its work. The principal turned on Evan and reached for the weapon to take it away not sure of what just happened but not knowing what actually happened. Evan, in fear, pulled the trigger as Manders reached the gun...and disappeared from sight. Evan stood there a few seconds confused as to what to do next. He looked up and down the hall and there was no one that witnessed anything. He decided to put the gun back and lock his locker. No one else would know what they were doing or what they found.
He walked back into his class and sat down, opened his Society text and began reading with the rest of the class, saying nothing to anyone. His brother Rus, kept trying to get his attention to find out what happened but Evan made faces at him in attempt to ignore him.
After a half hour the other kids in the glass began getting anxious wondering where Ms. Fletcher was. It was unusual for her to be gone this long without saying something first. Finally lunch came and the children got their lunches out of the lockers as they always did and sat to eat it at their desks. The normal milk person came around to deliver the milk the children ordered for lunch. It was the normal routine they always did and so they just continued. The lunch monitor that day was Mrs. Francis and she noticed Ms. Fletcher was gone before she got there which was not normal. The teachers took turns being the lunch monitor, patrolling the hall and all the classes on the floor while they ate and while the rest of the teachers went to lunch.
“Where's your teacher class?” Mrs. Francis asked. Everyone looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.. She asked others too if she saw her but no one seemed to know. She went to the principal's office and he wasn't there. Soon everyone was looking for the two of them and calling their cell numbers to locate them but to no avail. They had disappeared. A couple of the teachers suggested they ran off together but that was impossible. The principal was twenty years younger than Ms. Fletcher and frankly Ms. Fletcher wasn't a catch for anyone let alone Mr. Manders who had most of the younger unattached teachers after him.
After lunch they had recess while the search for the teacher and the principal went into high gear.
“What happened?” Rus asked his brother when they got onto the school yard.
“Come over here,” his brother indicated, away from some of their fellow students., “Ms. Fletcher tried taking the molecular annihilator away from me and it went off. She disappeared completely.
“Oh wow. What happened to Mr. Manders then>” his brother asked.
“The same thing. He started to reach for the gun and I pulled the trigger. He disappeared into thin air as well,” Evan filled his brother in on the confrontation.
“What do we do when they find out?” asked Rus.
“How can they? There's no one to tell and no one saw what happened,” Evan explained.
“The only person that could cause a problem is whoever turned us in about having the annihilator in school. They saw it, if they say something they might look into it more,” said Rus. “I wonder who it was?
“Who do you think it was...the same person that always blabs on everyone in class...Jackie Evans.,” said Evan.
“Do you know that for sure?” asked his brother
“No but I'll find out,” he said marching over to where Jackie was standing talking to another girl. “Jackie I need to talk to you.”
He took her out of earshot of any others on the playground and baited her.
“Ms. Fletcher's really pissed at you,” Evan informed her.
“Shy is she pissed at me?” the little girl asked.
“Because you told her I had a toy gun in school and when she took me to my locker to look there wasn't anything there. Why did you tell her that?” Evan inquired.
“I know what I saw and you know the rules. You must have hid it, Evan,” she accused him jabbing a finger into his chest.
Well that solved that...no denial just justification, so Evan pulled the annihilator out and aimed it at her.
“Yeah, I hid it right here under my shirt you squealer,” and with that before Rus could stop him or say anything he had pulled the trigger and Jackie Evans went by way of Ms. Fletcher and Mr. Mathers. They were all now part of the cosmos.
Rus looked wide eyed at his brother. Then he turned his attention on the school yard to see if there were any surprised looks on any of the faces there but no one even seemed to have noticed including the other little girl Jackie Evans had been talking to...she had already returned to playing with a couple of other girls. No one had seen anything so the annihilator was still a secret.
“Evan, put that thing away before we get into big trouble. Get it back into your locker when we go in and play it cool.
“Yeah, like I'm going to say anything. We're in the clear now. She's the only one that could have made anyone suspicious and she's gone<” he told his brother.
“Just keep it hidden,” he told Evan.
About a half hour back into the classroom a substitute teacher came in to watch them the rest of the day. Without a lesson plan or knowing the lesson plan Ms. Fletcher had going, she was no more than a glorified baby sitter. Most of the class read while others spent the time with their heads on their desks, sleeping.
The end of the day came and the buses were the first to leave. Evan and Rus rode home together. Evan carefully holding the annihilator. He didn't want to incur more wrath form the adults and at this point, no one would or could put two and two together to figure what happened to the three people gone. Neither brother said anything on the way home for fear of someone overhearing. Once home they both ran to their room to stash the weapon. Then they went downstairs to see their mother.
“Hey guys, how was your day?: she asked.
“Fine. The principal and our teacher disappeared today. Some people think they eloped,” Evan told her while His brother, Rus gave him an evil eyes talking about it.
“Ms. Fletcher and Mr. Mathers?” she laughed, ”I hardly believe that. Maybe one got sick and the other one drove them home.”
That was a great explanation and one no one offered as a possibility..
The next couple of hours of pre dinner conversation was all about the strange disappearance of the two adults. But now it included Jackie Evans because she never got home. She was at school earlier but then somewhere around lunch time she went missing. Now the powers to be were frantically looking for answers
The rumors took another turn...the principal ran off with the spinster teacher and took Jackie along as the flower girl. Really? What other universe do these people reside? Some people had too active an imagination and too much time on their hands.
The phone calls went on all evening after dinner. They ate and the boys ran upstairs without any homework assigned but they wanted to avoid questions from their mother or father. Eventually though boys heard him coming up the stairs as he talked with their mother. They made it look like they were busy reading.
Presently, their father walked into their room after knocking on their door.
“That's some excitement today with your teacher and the principal and that little girl...ah,” the father began.
“Jackie Evans...” Rus added.
“Yeah. That's pretty bizarre. How'd you guys do with your molecular annihilator anyway? You haven't said anything,” their dad asked. “I hope you're not disappointed.”
“Oh, it works just fine,” Evan mentioned getting another evil eye from his brother which the father noticed.
“Mind if I take a look at it?” he inquired.
Rus got up and pulled it from the top shelf of their book case. It was unnoticeable sitting on top of the books there in the shadows. He gave it to his father to look at.
“This is impressive. It looks like you got it together alright. No extra parts lying around now are there?” he asked chuckling. “What exactly does it do?”
“It makes things disappear,” Evan told him.
“Really, hold onto that thought. I have to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back,” he told them and left the room.
“Why'd he ask all that? He suspects something,” Rus asked his brother.
“I'll just blast him. I'm not going to jail for those other nimrods.” Evans responded.
“He's our father,” Russ spoke up.
“Doesn't matter. Do you want to go to jail? You're my accomplice.. Besides, think about all the stuff we could buy like the annihilator online if he or mom weren't around,” Evan reasoned speaking upfront to his brother.
“Evan! You don't mean it,” Rus countered.
“Sure I do. Look they're eventually gonna die anyway. This way they don't really die they just become part of the universe,” the brother deduced.
“That happens anyway when you die. It's the same thing,” the brother retorted. About that time the bathroom door opens and closed. Their father returned to their room and sat on the edge of Rus's bed.
“So how does this exactly work?” he asked in general.
“Just point and pull the trigger, Like if you want to make that pillow disappear just point and shoot,” Evan told him.
How do the boys believe this works? He wondered as he took aim at the pillow and pulled the trigger but to his astonishment the pillow disappeared. He was shocked. He didn't know what to say. He sat there stunned and let the gun drop to the floor.
“Boys, you didn't by any chance task this into school today did you?” he asked them as Evan picked the annihilator up wiping it off with his shirt tail.
Rus was frightened. His father's direct question pretty much summed up his suspicions. The boys couldn't lie to him, he knew when they were lying.
“I sneaked it in and Jackie Evans ratted me out to Ms. Fletcher. She in turn got Mr. Mather's down to my class. It was an accident with Ms. Fletcher but I had to use it on the other two,” Evan spoke frankly holding the weapon.
“Dear God, Evan. I have to call the authorities. They've been alerted about foul play by the school and Jackie's parents. They have to know what happened,” the father warned them as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket to call the police. As he dialed Evan aimed the annihilator at him. Before Rus could yell to stop him, he had pulled the trigger and the father disappeared like the others, from the room without a trace.
“Oh, Evan. Why did you do that?” Rus began crying.
“”Why do you think?. He was turning us in. Do you know what they do yo you in jail? Is that what you want?” Evan warned.
“What's going on up there guy?” the mother yelled, ”is everything alright? I thought I heard one of you crying.”
Ann had already started up the stairs to investigate. When she got to the open door she looked into the room.
“Evan, where's your father and your brother?” she asked puzzled.
“They went by the way of the universe.” Evan informed her.
“Excuse me?” she questioned not sure of his answer.
“Same as you, mom,” Evan added without remorse.
Evan boarded the bus in the morning when it came to pick him up for school. He knew there would be questions about his brother and his parents. The common denominator in all the disappearances was him. Even though you couldn't really be directly connected to Mr. Manders, his teacher and Jackie Evans there was enough of a connection for everyone to suspect him. But just let them show up at the front door, he would be waiting.