Saturday, July 20, 2019

Baseball card trading through time

Here is my entry to the contest at It's Like Having a Card Shop. The contest runs through the end of the month - check it out.


Those old air raid drills were wrong. Being under a desk won’t save you from a nuclear blast, not if the missile detonates right on top of you.
Bo Rosny wasn’t under his office desk at New York City’s Grace Building because he knew a missile was coming. His phone had just finished charging and he had just unplugged it from the wall. Phone and charger in hand, he was just starting to emerge from under his desk when he saw the missile bearing down outside his window. Bo barely had time to register what he was seeing when the missile crashed through the window and released its nuclear payload.

When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by atomic bombs in 1945, no remains of people were found at the points of impact. It was assumed that the bodies were completely incinerated by the force of the blasts. But perhaps the intense nuclear energies had done something else to those people instead . . .

The last thing Bo remembered was the explosion. The sound and light from the explosion were blinding and deafening. It had happened so quickly that he didn’t have time to realize that he was going to die.
However, Bo didn’t feel dead. For a long time, he didn’t feel much of anything. However, after what might have been a few minutes, or maybe a few hours, enough consciousness had drifted back into him that he was able to determine that he was lying face down on a flat surface. He was breathing normally, but his whole body felt sore. Slowly, sounds started to penetrate his consciousness – a mechanical hum close by, the sounds of city traffic far away.
For a long time opening his eyes was a struggle that he didn’t feel ready for. Eventually, however, Bo regained enough energy to develop some curiosity about his situation. It had felt like a dream, but he clearly was not in bed. Opening his eyes, Bo was surprised to see a large industrial air conditioner, the kind that you might see on top of a building. Getting up, Bo realized that was exactly where he was.
It was dark, but all around Bo skyscrapers lit up the night. After a minute Bo figured out where he was – on 42nd street, across from Bryant Park, right where he had been before Bo got blown up. However, when the missile hit him, Bo had been on the 26th floor of a building that was about 50 stories high. Now, however, Bo was only about eight or nine stories up in the air, on the shortest rooftop in the immediate vicinity.
His first thought was that the explosion had destroyed most of the Grace Building, but somehow the bottom was still intact and he had somehow landed safely on the remainder. He remembered the urban legends immediately after 9/11 that someone had survived the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers by “surfing” some debris as it tumbled to the ground. However, there was no blood or dirt on Bo, or anywhere else for that matter. Clearly there were no destroyed buildings. But where was the Grace Building, and what was that enormous explosion Bo had experienced?
Looking to his left, Bo looked down Sixth Avenue and realized what else was missing. No Bank of America Tower, no Salesforce Tower, no Bank of China Tower. Instead of blue and white glass towers reaching high into the sky, there were comparatively more modest stone and brick buildings, still massive but clearly belonging to an earlier era.
Finally, after a couple of minutes desperately trying to think of another explanation, Bo had to accept the unthinkable. Somehow, that massive explosion had, instead of incinerating him, hurtled him physically back though time.
As Bo walked across the roof of the building, a pile of windblown trash in one corner caught his eye. Walking over, Bo saw a page of newspaper among the food wrappers and leaves. Holding the paper up to the light, he could clearly read the date – June 17, 1968. It was unclear how old the newspaper was, but judging by the warm evening, it was summer. It was unlikely the page was even a year old, so Bo was able to conclude that somehow, he had been transported to the summer of 1968.
Seeing the year printed in front of him brought Bo a sense of reality that had eluded him up to this point. This was no dream, no hallucination. The bomb had transported him to 1968, and he was quite clearly stuck here. Would he even see his family again? The situation had been so strange he hadn’t even stopped to think about his wife, his children, his family, his friends. Clearly, a nuclear bomb had hit New York City. Only one or several? In 2019, who else had died? Had the world itself ended? Even if it had only been one bomb and the damage and radiation been contained, as far as Bo was concerned they may as well have been dead. And he knew they would think he had been killed as well. Bo realized that he would be in his 90s the next time 2019 rolled around. He knew he would never see his family again.
That realization hit Bo like a punch to the gut. He spent a long time on that rooftop, grieving and crying. Thought not a religious man, he prayed for the wife and children he knew he would never see again.
After a long time on the rooftop, Bo realized that the sky was starting to get lighter in the east. Bo knew that the time for self-pity had passed, and it was time to start thinking about self-preservation.
How can one survive when they are hurled out of time? Bo’s first thought was to go the police or someone else in authority and try to explain his situation. Maybe there were other time travelers like him? Surely the government would know what to do?
As soon as he had the thought, Bo realized that would never work. In 1968, anyone coming to the government with a story like his would be branded a Russian spy. Bo still had his phone and charger, which had been in his hands when the missile hit. The CIA would be convinced that it was some kind of secret KGB tech, and he would probably never see the light of day again.
No, Bo knew he would have to make his way on his own, a stranger in a strange, but very familiar, land. Fortunately, he was a history buff, even had a master’s degree in the subject. He wasn’t an expert, but he knew enough to be dangerous. For example, he knew that he was on the roof of the Stern’s department store on Sixth Avenue.
The sky was getting brighter in the east. It was getting closer to sunrise – probably around 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning. Bo didn’t know what time the store opened, or what time employees started arriving, so he knew he needed to act soon.
Looking at the door that led into the store from the roof, Bo didn’t see any wiring that would indicate an alarm. After all, who was going to try to break in from the roof? He turned the door handle to see if the door was unlocked. So far, so good. He would be able to get into the building just fine. He would just need to go downstairs and find a way out. That shouldn’t be too hard, Bo figured. How good could 1968 security technology possibly be?
Bo opened the door slowly. Hearing nothing, he cautiously stepped out, finding himself in a little hallway that led out into the store. Bo walked down the hallway and found himself in the furniture section. All around him were beds; further down Bo could see a variety of tables and chairs, and across the floor, an elevator bank.
Reasoning that there was probably a stairwell by the elevator bank, Bo started to walk across the furniture department. He was starting to feel very good about the lack of security in 1960s department stores when a sudden growling noise froze him in his tracks.
Outside a phone booth by the elevators stood the largest Doberman Pinscher Bo had ever seen. It was tall enough that it could probably pick up the phone with its teeth. Right now the dog was baring those teeth at Bo, making a low growling noise. Bo could hear a sleepy voice coming from somewhere behind the elevators. “What now boy? You think you hear something?”
Guard dogs and night watchmen! Bo cursed himself for his stupidity as he ran back to the roof door. Fortunately he hadn’t gotten very far in the room, so he had to cover significantly less ground than the dog, who also had to maneuver around the various furniture sets that filled the floor. He closed the door as quickly as he could without slamming it. Desperate for cover, Bo ran behind the air conditioning unit.
A few seconds later, the door was shoved open by an annoyed looking guard in an ill-fitting security uniform. Peering from between the slats of the AC unit, Bo saw the guard give a cursory glance around the roof, barely even emerging from the doorway to do so. “There’s nothing out here, boy,” the guard lectured the dog. “What do you think, some prowler is going to jump onto the roof? I think you’ve been getting into my dope stash. Speaking of which . . .” The guard’s voice faded off as the closed the door, leaving Bo alone again on the roof.
It was a long time before Bo stopped shaking. Once he had calmed down, and thanked God for lazy stoner night watchmen, Bo started thinking methodically about a plan.
He had to wait until the store opened, and wait even longer for it to be crowded enough for him to slip through unnoticed. He hadn’t thought about it before, but Bo realized he would have to be careful about his appearance. Fortunately, he had recently cut his long hair short for the summer, and being at work he was wearing a white button-down shirt and black slacks. A fashion expert would probably raise an eyebrow at the cut of his clothes, but the average person probably wouldn’t bat an eye.
Bo waited until the sun got a lot higher in the sky before he tried to open the door again. Immediately the sounds of a busy department store were apparent. He crept down the hallway, more slowly this time, carefully assessing the situation before venturing onto the sales floor.
This time, no one remarked as Bo walked across the furniture department to the elevators. He pressed the button for the first floor, and quickly made his way out of the building.
A few minutes later, Bo was on the street, as free as could be for someone with no home, no money, and no identity. It was time to explore the world of New York City, 1968.

A book could be written about Bo’s experiences over the next few hours, days, and weeks. However, our focus here is baseball cards so we can gloss over this part.
Bo found enough spare change around the Port Authority to have some soup at an Automat, then proceeded downtown, where a couple of pieces of fruit snatched from a stand became dinner. Hungry and tired, Bo knew he would have to get some kind of job, and soon.
Fortunately for Bo, employment regulations were less strenuous then in his time, and he was able to get a stocking job off the books at a deli in the East Village. No questions asked, paid in cash. Bo saved on cash by sneaking food in the store, and after a few weeks of living in the alley behind the deli, careful to avoid detection, Bo had enough cash to rent a room in a dilapidated building on the Lower East Side.
While working at the deli Bo made friends with some regular customers, members of the counterculture who mistook Bo’s reticence to talk about his past for evidence of draft-dodging or some other kind of misdeeds. To this crowd, that was a badge of honor, and soon Bo was able to acquire a fake social security card, fake driver’s license, and other items that helped him secure an identity in 1968. In return, it was helpful to these hippies to have a friend who was completely unknown to law enforcement. In exchange for an identity, Bo made a few discreet purchases and other low-risk errands for “friends” who might otherwise stand out.
What all this meant was that by the time the Tigers and Cardinals had clinched their pennants in mid-September, Bo Rosny had a place to live, a decent job, and at least some sense of security. For the first time since arriving in 1968, basic survival could give way to a more thorough exploration of the city. He went to the original Yankee Stadium for the first time, hung out at Times Square before it got filthy, had a nutted cheese sandwich at Chock Full O’ Nuts.
One of the first places Bo visited was Economy Candy, a candy and toy shop on Rivington Street, near Bo’s apartment. Bo’s eyes drifted among all of the interesting toys and books, but soon he found what he was looking for. There, on a counter, was a box with a few five-cent packs of Topps baseball cards. Bo counted the packs – there were six - and gave the clerk his thirty cents. As he only made ten dollars a day, those thirty cents weren’t as cheap as they sound to 2019 ears.
Bo practically sprinted home to open the packs. He hadn’t felt this kind of excitement since, well, 2019. And the cards, with their burlap fronts and yellow backs, did not disappoint.
Horace Clarke – Ted Abernathy – Paul Popovich – Bob Tiefenauer – Matty Alou – Bobby Knoop – Ray Culp – Dave Johnson – Tim McCarver – Jim Roland – Bill Hands – Mickey Mantle – Jim Campanis – Rick Monday – Mel Queen – Johnny Briggs – Dick McAuliffe – Cecil Upshaw – White Sox Rookies – Woody Held – Willie McCovey – Dick Lines – Art Shamsky – Bruce Howard – Byron Browne – Russ Gibson – Jim Brewer – Rusty Staub –Twins Rookies – Gerry Arrigo

Bo never thought he would own a real vintage Mickey Mantle base card, let alone one that was pack fresh. Of course, he never thought he would travel through time, either. The baseball card bug, which had been dormant for the past few months, had bitten Bo again – harder than ever.
Soon Bo was traveling all over the city looking for cards. Candy stores, newsstands, luncheonette five and dimes – Bo even found packs in cards in places as random as a shoe repair kiosk in the financial district and a coffee shop in Greenwich Village. Junk shops, antique stores and even stationary stores had old packs and loose cards from five, ten, even fifteen years earlier.
Bo knew he was going to need to make more than a dollar fifty an hour, so shortly after the World Series he got himself a job programming a UNIVAC computer at NYU for $10,000 a year, enough money for him to buy as many nickel packs of cards as he wanted, and even move to an apartment that was in a little safer location, as Bo knew that crime would soon be on the rise in New York City and he would be heartbroken if someone broke into his place and sold his cards.

Shortly after starting his job at NYU, Bo noticed an unusual newspaper on a table in the cafeteria where he at his lunch at work. Titled “The Rag,” it was thin and amateurish-looking, the kind of fly-by-night publication that would last for an issue or two at most. Inside was a lot of articles about drugs and free love. Bo started reading the classifieds, just for laughs, when one ad caught his eye – and Bo caught his breath.
DOES THIS LIST MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU? “SLICK WILLIE”, “GWB”, “O”, “THE DONALD”, “WHIZZBANG”. IF SO, CALL MAyfair5-6123 WHEN YOU HAVE THE “TIME”.
Nicknames for Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and – “Whizzbang?” Still if the allusions to future presidents wasn’t enough, that last line made it clear that this ad was targeted to time travelers.
Bo realized that only in a publication like this, which had virtually no chance of surviving far into the future, could an ad like this be inserted. Any more successful publication would likely be captured on microfilm or some other archive, where it could be stumbled on by some future researcher.
Bo wondered who had placed the ad. Was it an organization of time travelers, looking out for each other? Had there been other survivors of the nuclear blast that had sent Bo back in time? The mysterious “Whizzbang” clearly meant that there other travelers from some point after 2019.
Or was it the government, trying to track down time travelers? Would it be to assist them, capture them, or put them to work on a secret project?
Whatever the answer, Bo wasn’t ready to find out yet. He had been doing alright for himself in 1968, and wasn’t prepared to jeopardize his freedom on some mysterious ad. Bo cut out the ad and put in his wallet, in case there was a time when he might want or need to contact this shadowy group.

By Thanksgiving Bo had over three-quarters of the 1968 set, including most of the newly-released high numbers. He had over half of 1967 and was well on his way through the rest of the 1960s, with plenty of older cards as well. Bo had also amassed plenty of doubles, and was sad he had no one to trade with. None of the adults he knew collected cards, and he didn’t know any children. He occasionally checked classified ads to see if there was some kind of trading group he could become a part of, but he didn’t find any.
For most of these first few months in the past, Bo had mostly repressed his feelings of loss for his previous life. On Thanksgiving night, though, with the rest of the city celebrating with their families, Bo was feeling sad and was missing his wife and children more than he had in a long time.
The only items that Bo had from the future were what was on him at the time of the blast – his wallet, his keys, and the phone and charger that had been in his hands. His wallet did not have photos, all of his photos were on his phone. For the first time since coming to 1968, Bo decided he wanted to look at the pictures on his phone. Not knowing if the charger would even work with a 1968 outlet, he plugged it in and was pleasantly surprised to see that it worked – at least he wouldn’t have to worry about the phone dying permanently.
Bo pressed the home button and the first app that appeared on his screen was his email. Bo was about to close out of it and head to the photos, when he noticed, to his surprise, that the most current emails had a November 2019 date. How was this possible? Some kind of automatic correction by the phone? The most current emails were all spam, but scrolling down to June, he was shocked to see emails from after the date of the explosion – mostly friends and relatives asking if he was OK.
Bo was stunned. Somehow, his phone was connected to 2019! His first thought was to try to contact his family. However, he knew that even if he somehow got through, there would be no reason for them to believe that it was really him.
Next, Bo decided to check the web browser. If email worked, then could he go online, and find out what had happened? Google worked just fine, as did Wikipedia, and Bo quickly was able to catch up on current events.
The missile had not belonged to any one nation, it had been fired by a rogue terrorist group. Months later there was still no consensus over what group had fired it, or even from what direction it had come. The controversy, conspiracy theories and general chaos were overwhelming. Months later, the country was still in a state of shock and confusion.
The blast had obliterated most of Manhattan, and much of the surrounding five boroughs. Long Island had suffered major destruction, and radiation poisoning was likely for most of the population. Bo tried unsuccessfully to find out any information about his family, then decided he was better off not knowing.
After a few hours surfing the internet, catching up on what he had missed in 2019, his thoughts turned to baseball cards again. He checked the email address he used for baseball card trading and found several messages of concern from other bloggers. Then he went onto some other blogs, and caught himself up on several months’ worth of baseball card blog posts.

The unexpected connection with his own time made Bo antsy. As the days went on, Bo found living in 1968 less of an adventure and more of a nuisance. He decided it was time to make the call to the mysterious phone number in the ad. He had to see what might be out there for a time traveler besides sneaking around behind a false identity in 1968.
He decided he would be extra cautious, just in case it was some kind of trap. He took the subway out to an area of Brooklyn nowhere near where he lived, and made the call from a payphone at a busy, noisy intersection.
A bored-sounding man answered the phone. “AnaSoc Industries,” he said quietly. “Timepieces for wholesale and retail trade. How may I help you?”
Bo was slightly taken aback, but answered “Um, I have the answers to your puzzle in the newspaper ad.”
“Go ahead,” the man said, with no change in his voice or tone.
“Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump. I don’t know who Whizzbang is though.”
“Good enough,” the man from AnaSoc answered. This time there seemed to be a little excitement in his voice. “Come to the main reading room of the New York Public Library at 10:30 am on Saturday. You will know me by what I am reading. Good-bye.”
The man hung up before Bo had a change to answer. Despite the brevity of the phone call, Bo was relieved and excited. The relief was because the AnaSoc man wanted to meet him in a public place. For the first time, Bo realized that, whoever this mysterious person or organization was, they might be nervous about detection as well. They might be as worried about Bo being a trap for him, as he was for them.
Bo was also quite intrigued by how he was supposed to meet the guy. “You will know me by what I am reading.” Would it be a book about time travel? Or, much more excitingly, could he be reading something from years in the future?

At 10:30 on Saturday morning, Bo walked into the enormous reading room at the New York Public Library. There were dozens of tables with hundreds of seats, and even at this early hour, shortly after the library’s opening, the room was easily three-quarters full. Bo was going to have to discreetly check what every man was reading, and hope the man from AnaSoc was obvious enough.
After about fifteen minutes, at which time Bo had gotten about a quarter of a way through the room, he noticed a man in a black raincoat and a tweed cap a few tables away glancing furtively at him. As he checked another table he noticed several times the man in the cap peeking at him. Bo walked over and saw that he was reading the current issue of Life Magazine, with the title “The Nixon Era Begins.” Bo was about to walk away when he noticed that the man appeared to have another magazine tucked into that one. The man did not react as Bo walked behind him to get a clear view of what he was reading.
Like a child pretending to do his homework, the man had a comic book inside the magazine. But this was no 1960s comic book. The images were computer-generated, not drawn by hand. And the characters on the page – Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2 – would not be created for several years.
Having given Bo a few seconds to see the comic book, the man turned around and raised an eyebrow at Bo.
Not knowing how to respond, Bo said, uncertainly, “May the Force be with you?”
The man grinned, putting Bo at ease. “Let’s go outside,” he said.

The mysterious man didn’t say another word as they walked out the door, so Bo stayed silent too. He walked with him down 5th Avenue. As they crossed 40th Street walking past the library, the man started to talk.
He introduced himself as George Anselm, and he said he was the local AnaSoc administrator for this district. When Bo blankly looked at him, Anselm said, “I’d better start at the beginning. To the extent that there is a ‘beginning’.”
Anselm looked and sounded like a professor, and his enthusiasm was palpable even as he spoke quietly to avoid being overheard. “There are more people like us than you would think, Bo,” he said.
“You mean time travelers?” Bo asked.
“We prefer the term ‘Anachronisms,’” Anselm replied. “The word ‘travel’ implies freedom of movement, or at least some kind of control over the process. There have been hundreds of people throughout history like you and me, who have been pushed out of their time and into another. As far as we know, these shifts have always been backwards, almost always several decades, say 25-125 years. And to the best of our knowledge, no Anachronism has ever traveled twice, either back to their own time or to another.”
“The time shifts are usually caused by some great cataclysm,” Anselm continued. He looked at Bo solemnly. “We are in New York, and you were familiar with Donald Trump but not Whizzbang Earley. I am assume that what brought you here was the nuclear attack of 2019?” Bo nodded. “I am sorry to hear that,” Anselm said. “Did you have family in or near the city?”
“Yes,” Bo replied.
“I am sorry to hear that,” Anselm said, putting a hand on Bo’s shoulder. “I hate to have to tell you this, but in all likelihood you were the lucky one. The devastation was immense.” Bo had already figured this out. To hear it from someone else was jarring, but not surprising. Bo’s minimal reaction seemed to surprise Anselm, but he said nothing.

Anselm went on to give Bo a history of what was formally known as The Anachronists Society. While most of the mysteries of time remained beyond the capabilities of man’s science, it was clear that certain kinds of extreme forces could push a person backwards through time. Most Anachronisms had been enveloped in a massive explosion, or struck by lightning, or crushed by enormous amounts of falling debris. Why they were timeshifted instead of merely killed remained a mystery, despite the best attempts of Anachronist scientists to determine a cause.
The Anachronists Society was started 1736 by two men. Richard Wilholme was a young inventor who in the early 1770s began working for his friend Benjamin Franklin. Together the two men began to devise a flying machine of Wilholme’s invention, with Franklin providing financial support, supplies, ideas and encouragement. Wilholme, inspired by his friend’s famous lightning experiment, wanted to attempt a flight in a storm, hypothesizing that lightning could provide the boost his craft needed to get airborne. Franklin forbade him for doing so, on account of the danger. The impetuous Wilholme disregarded Franklin, and secretly took his craft for a night flight in the middle of a thunderstorm. Wilholme had ascended twenty feet when a bolt of lightning struck the crude rod Wilholme had affixed to the back of the plane. Wilholme had hoped the bolt would accelerate the plane, and it did – all the way back to the 1720s.
A highly intelligent and resourceful man, Wilholme had deduced his situation relatively quickly, and was able to integrate himself into the society of 1720s Philadelphia relatively easily. There were some strange incidents though, enough to catch the eye of Sir William Craddock, who had recently arrived from England to manage his family’s colonial holdings.
Craddock was considerably more liberal-minded than many of his contemporaries. This was fortunate when, a few years earlier, a strange man was found on his estate, his clothes and hair singed despite it being a rainy night. The man’s name was David Gorringe. He was a chemist at Oxford University who was mixing chemicals in his lab when an explosion hurtled him over a hundred years backwards into the past.
Had Gorringe landed almost anywhere else, his story would have landed him in a lunatic asylum or worse. Undoubtedly many others like him suffered just that kind of fate. The Society had rescued several of their kind from such situations over the years.  Fortunately for Gorringe, Sir William Craddock was himself an amateur scientist, as well as a believer in the occult and other subjects taboo in his society. He was excited by Gorringe’s story, and set him up with a lab in his estate at Kennington.
Craddock brought Wilholme back with him to England, where, together with Gorringe, they established the secret organization, The Anachronists Society. Over the next few years, they investigated other likely anachronists in England, and in the 1740s Wilholme sailed back to America, developing a robust chapter of the society in the Colonies.
By 1968 there were national chapters in over a dozen countries, and large chapters like that in the US had several regional districts. Anselm said an accurate estimate was very difficult, but there were several hundred Anachronisms worldwide. The secret society operated through a variety of shell companies, such as AnaSoc, and had developed careful methods of communication, both among themselves, and in recruiting new members, such as the classified ad that Bo had stumbled upon.

By now Bo and Anselm were eating at a busy luncheonette on Waverly Place. As they began eating, Bo asked the question that was bothering him during Anselm’s lecture. “All of this explains a lot,” Bo said, “except for one thing”. If no one can travel forward through time, how did you end up with a comic book from the 21st century?
“We have had centuries to experiment, and our society has been the home to some very great minds, Anachronists as well as others like Craddock whom we have grown to trust. As you can imagine, we made innumerable attempts to try to replicate our time travel experiences, with no luck. However, over the years, our channels of communication between time periods have grown remarkably robust. What started as a system of dead letter drops and circumspect newspaper ads has grown into what is effectively our own postal system. We have a very select number of locations from which we can send and receive post from the past or the future.”
“If you can send mail across the time, couldn’t you try to send a person?” Bo asked.
“Obviously that thought has occurred to our scientists as well. Experiments with frogs, rats, and other small creatures were invariably fatal, often gruesomely so. Even a dead frog shipped from one time would arrive in pieces in another. Small insects would arrive as dust. Even living plants would arrive dead, usually shriveled and disfigured. Large metal objects seem to disappear, though small ones seem to get through.
“Paper, including cardboard, seems to get through the easiest, however. For some reason we cannot explain, personal messages never reach their targets. However, publications, like the comic book in my briefcase, and other more impersonal types of publications, seem to travel through time relatively easily. I can receive a Buck Rodgers comic book from an Anachronist in 1932, mail it to another Anachronist in 2012 and receive a Star Wars comic from him in return. But I can’t send a note to President Roosevelt warning him about Pearl Harbor, even if I hide the note in a comic.
“There seems to be some force which we do not yet understand, which is maintaining what you might call the space-time continuum. You must have noticed, as we all have, that our presence in the past does not seem to alter it. It seems that we can only move objects and paper of no consequence to history. Still, even a connection as tenuous as that is a great boon to our Society.”
Later, that afternoon, at AnSoc’s nondescript offices on West 37th Street, Bo showed Anselm his phone. “We have had phones come through with Anachronists before, but we’ve never had one that actually connects to a future internet! This is extremely important news. We need to study this phone!” By now Bo knew that this Society was an ally, not an enemy, and he had nothing to lose by working with them. However, he wasn’t about to surrender his one lifeline to the future. In the end, Bo and the Society agreed that he would bring the phone every day for them to study, and he would take it home every night.

Armed with the knowledge that he might well be able to send and receive cards with the future blogosphere, Bo decided to start small with a little experiment. He knew that, as the two most popular bloggers, Night Owl and Dime Boxes would get anonymous packages from time to time and wouldn’t think it unusual to get another one. Using the Society’s secret post office in a sub-basement of Rockefeller Center, Bo mailed a small package to Night Owl with a couple of ‘50s Dodgers that were on his wantlist, plus some Ebbetts Field ticket stubs he found in a junk shop. To Dime Boxes he sent a few Cubs and 1960s oddballs, plus a goofy-looking ballplayer key chain.
A few weeks later, the two blogs posted Bo’s anonymous packages on the same day. They were both appreciative of the unsolicited packages and bewildered as to their provenance. Bo was most interested in the condition of the cards as they arrived. The cards, all of which were pack-fresh or nearly so, were considerable worn but had no creases or rips. It looked like they had aged as if they had been sitting in one spot for decades. The ticket stubs made it through fine, but Dime Boxes made no mention of the keychain. Bo assumed it hadn’t made it.
Around the same time, Tribecards was doing one of his generous giveaways. It was a daily giveaway, and Bo signed up for one of the days, using as a return address one of the secret ones used by the society. Bo was quite pleasantly surprised to receive that package the following morning, already sitting in the inbox on his desk at the AnSoc’s 37th street offices, where he was helping the team figure out the mysteries of his phone. These cards, all from the 2010s, looked similarly worn. Undoubtedly pack-fresh when they were mailed out, they also looked like they had been sitting on a shelf for a few decades, still in good shape but noticeably worn.
His experiments successful, Bo was ready to re-introduce himself to the blogging world. He wrote a long post explaining how he had been displaced due to the nuclear attack, which had destroyed his home, including his collection. He wrote that his family was safe and well, something that saddened him to write, though he hoped somehow it was true. Finally, he wrote that he had a new address, and had used some of the insurance money from his house to buy a huge stash of pre-1969 cards, with a line on many more. He announced that he had hundreds of cards to trade, and that he was looking forward to rebuilding his collection, focusing mainly but not exclusively on vintage.
Soon the trades came rolling in. Massive trades with Night Owl, Dime Boxes, Scott Crawford, Johnny’s Trading Spot and Baseball Card Breakdown, with thousands of cards changing hands. Some Time Travel Trades with Diamond Jesters, who never knew how true that moniker was. A bunch of Indians to TribeCards; Dodgers to Cards as I See Them, Red Sox to The Collector, Cardinals to Cards on Cards, Tigers to A Cracked Bat, White Sox and miscuts to JediJeff. He Remembered the Astrodome and traded some Angels in Order. Some serious ammunition for Jaybarkerfan’s trade wars. A Johnny Bench Rookie and a ’56 Aaron to It’s Like Having My Own Card Shop in exchange for some key 1970s rookies. And many, many more.

Bo now felt like he was in as good a place as he could be. He could enjoy the best of what 1968, and now 1969, could offer, while still maintaining a foothold with 2019 (now, 2020) with the baseball card blogs. Bo and the Society’s work with the phone was beginning to yield some potentially promising results for further inter-chronological communication as well.
Bo did sometimes wonder, though, about the conviction of Anselm and the others in the Society that the timeline was unchangeable. One morning in mid-January after the Jets shocked the Colts in Super Bowl III, Bo found himself thinking that the timeline must be stable. Such an unlikely event wouldn’t occur in multiple timelines, or would it? Would changes to the timeline be obvious to Anachronists, or would changes seem as natural as the timeline that the Anachronist was born into?
His reverie was interrupted when he looked down at the counter at his local five-and-ten. There, where an empty box of 1968 Topps had sat for weeks, was now a brand new box of 1969 packs. Excitedly, Bo bought the whole box and rushed over to his office on 37th Street. On his way, he mused on the design of the 1969 set. That would be a good way to test his theory on the timeline, Bo thought. If the 1969 baseball cards still looked the way they should, it would be pretty good proof that the past was immutable.
Bo got to work, walked as quickly as he could to his office, and closed the door. At the privacy of his deck, he quickly busted the packs. There were stars like Roberto Clemente, Lou Brock, and a young Joe Morgan, interspersed with other contemporary names like Roy White, Zoilo Versalles and Boog Powell. And, happily, the cards were just as Bo remembered them. There was the team name along the bottom in yellow, and the bubble within the picture which had the player’s name and position, a holdover from the 1968 design. And, most prominent of all, the set’s famous colored borders, which gave the set a psychedelic feel appropriate to the time.
Before Bo brought his phone over to the lab, he went to Night Owl’s site, to look at the blogger’s big post about the 1969 set that he had written several years before. There it was – some commentary on all the hatless photos, annoyance at the bubble in the middle of the photo, and an appreciation for the idea of having the multicolored borders, tempered by his outrage that Topps had given his beloved Dodgers RED borders. Bo chuckled at Night Owl’s fury, glad to have the blog post to read.
Then he shuffled off to the office. In the background, he could hear President Humphrey congratulating Babe Parilli on quarterbacking the Jets to their astonishing victory over the Colts, two weeks after Joe Namath’s broken leg seemingly doomed the team. Though he was a Giants fan, Bo was glad to be able to be around for such a famous feat in sports history. Yes, all was exactly as it always was, exactly as it always would be.


4 comments:

  1. It's obviously not my contest, but if it was, you would most certainly be winning a prize! The creativity, the length, it's just... wow!

    After reading this, my curiosity has been peaked (in more ways than one), so I have got to ask... how long did this take you to write?

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  2. I think we all knew you were a writer, and this proves it. Also, I'd like to have a bowl of soup from an Automat one day.

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  3. Wow...just wow! That was an amazing story and I enjoyed it immensely! Definitely worthy of a contest win!

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  4. Awesome story Bo! Thanks for entering my contest and sharing this with the blogosphere!

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