Chapter 1

Sultry: Another country heard from: We'll just have to see.

The new used refurbished double needle commercial Singer sewing machine was a little more complicated than the Baby Singer. The set up took a week. The long arm Singer came with a short Levi's table ... for both machines. Sultry and Aaron Shingle both wondered how Levi's had used them.

Many calls were made.

Eventually, Levi's admitted that the Singer machines that they had sold were part of an experimental batch that the company hoped would make bell bottom jeans ... in vogue in 1963 to 1977 ... easier to sew. They didn't. The machines weren't used ... they were new old stock. and somewhere in the huge Levi's plant the original tables were stored.

"No! We don't want the short arm tables back." The speaker on the phone was adamant. We'll find the correct tables and drop ship them to Frogmorton."

That drew a laugh from Aaron. "Send them by rail to Elkhorn City, Kentucky and we'll pick 'em up there. It'll be quicker."

Levi's hadn't sent the tables when it was testing time.

Sultry flew the Cessna 140A Patroller from Cedarville, Kentucky down to Bristol, Virginia for her triplets testing. Margaret, the director picked them up from the family flying farmer field, corner Flame and Dominion. Nice little patch of grass.

"It'll be handy," said Margaret over the phone to Sultry, "It's our backyard. Harold has his license and the neighbor is impressed. I'll take a personal day and bring you in."


"It's no trouble, Sultry. Of course, Harold will probably try and cadge a right seat familiarization flight for his logbook. He learned on a Cessna 150 and never flew a taildragger. Mr. Walcott, the neighbor, will probably want to give it a try too. For his logbook. He hasn't bought a plane yet and the rent is eating into his back pocket."

Harold was Margaret's husband and a new pilot. He had a restored German Focke-Wulf FW149d trainer.

"Oh, Sultry ... that's a beautiful aircraft," Margaret said. "Maybe ... might you..."

"Yes, Margaret."

That got Sultry another hug. "We have an interesting situation. The children are to be tested at the high school in separate classrooms."

"Separate classrooms?" Sultry said, "That's got to be expensive. What about?"

"Ms. Pringle? She has been removed upstairs, so to speak ... she's in Richmond ... she reached the height of her incompetence."

"They aren't the only ones being tested. Half the children in Special Education are being tested too. Someone in the Virginia Education Association has decided that "Special" means the lower left side of the Bell Curve. They want the lower right side of the curve in classes to match their testing. Some parents are up in arms about it."

"We will see," said Sultry. "I may have tutors ... or homeschool. You do have to admit Frogmorton is 'difficult' in the winter."

Cynthia Mae astounded her proctors.

"This will never do," the head proctor said.

"What's the matter?" Margaret asked.

"We brought the normal tests for smart five year olds. We were still passing them out when Cynthia Flintkote handed hers back ... finished. She smiled sweetly and asked, 'What else did you bring?' I was ready to admonish her when I glanced at her test ... it was answered in PEN in Cursive. I could see there wasn't a single mistake. So I said, 'Please take your seat Miss... , ' 'Flintkote, ' she said. 'Miss Flintkote. I'll find another test.'"

"And?" said Margaret, making the universal hand movements that signified "More".

"I thought I would surely stump her with the 8th grade final test. The one they take to graduate to High school."

Margaret was intrigued, "What happened?"

"That three hour test took a little over forty-five minutes." He was looking a little harried now.

"Have you met her mother?"

"We're supposed to be impartial, Mrs. Hamilton. It would color our perception if we met the parents."

"What's the most difficult test you brought?"

"That would be the CLEP. It's new. Very difficult. I took it and had a hard time passing and I have a doctorate."


"College Level Examination Program. Colleges are just beginning to use it. A student is given college credit for what he or she already knows. It generally takes several days and it's graded by a select board of professors nation-wide."

"The Flintkote triplets ... yes ... three of them ... are scheduled for a week. You really should meet their mother. Go give the test to Cindymae and come with me."

"Just let her take it?"

"Yup," Margaret said. "She won't cheat."

So ... Cynthia Mae was handed an impossible bundle of the same numbered papers, instructed to NOT put her name on them ... they would be graded using the number as an identification mark. While he was at it, he discovered where the remaining Flintkote children were and handed their proctors a CLEP for both of them.

Girding his loins, he prepared to meet Mrs. Flintkote. He expected a battleaxe.

"Sultry, Doctor Anderson. He's the Head Proctor for the Examination."

"Doctor Anderson. Sultry Wench Flintkote, high school graduate, licensed pilot, and the mother of your nemesis."

"You can't be more than 20 ... who taught the children?"

"Thank you," she blushed. "I'm thirty and I taught them ... did I do something wrong? Oh ... I admit I had help with the languages, but other than that ... I'm the guilty party."

"Languages?" Dr. Anderson asked. "What languages?"

"Umh," Sultry started ticking off on her fingers, "Hilda ... she was German, very bossy, she didn't last very long. So their German isn't great.

"Yvette, she was French, Parisian. Lovely girl. Married an Ambassador. Their French is flawless.

"Svetlana, she was a Muscovite Russian. We're pretty sure she was KGB. She disappeared after she tried to defect.

"Amaterasu, she was Japanese ... such a doll. They had her for almost a year before she had to leave. They speak fluent Japanese.

"Dariea, she was Greek, from the islands. She missed her mom. Their Greek has a few holes but Mrs. Pappas in Breaks understands them.

"Shifra, she turned out to be Mossad, I'm still trying to figure out what she taught the kids. That's what they use for secrets.

"Irina was a Polish refugee. She still lives in the States. Wisconsin, I think.

"German, French, Polish, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Hebrew ... I'm missing one..." She put her elbow in the palm of her other hand and tapped her cheek. Morning Dove ... Lakota. I guess that would be all. They only speak them ... at least I don't think they've learned to write them all. Although, I've seen picture books in their room ... maybe?

"They're working on Gaelic. Aoibheann (she pronounced it ee-ven which is correct). She's their nanny now. She's Irish."

Dr. Anderson was in shock. Sultry was the most beautiful woman he'd seen in 50 years. He shook himself..."Gene Tierney."


"You look like Gene Tierney when she was seventeen."

"My husband said that."

Margaret was opening her big fat mouth ... when Sultry said, "Margaret Hamilton ... don't you dare!"

The mouth snapped shut.

"O'kay ... now I'm intrigued. What is the problem?"

Sultry glared at Margaret. "My husband is missing."

"Five years," Margaret said.

"You've raised these children by yourself?" asked Doctor Hamilton.

"Alright, Margaret ... you started it ... finish it."

So Margaret told the story of the charitable works of Jack and Sultry Flintkote, then the difficult pregnancy, the reading program and the hope that Jack was still alive.

"Mrs. Flintkote, Sultry, if I may. Would you be so good as to take these tests that your children are taking. High school diploma?"


"No college?"

"No, sir."

"Correspondence courses?"

"No, sir."

"Just reading to the children?"

"Yes, sir." Sultry looked at Margaret, "There goes your flying lesson. You and your big mouth."

Margaret had no choice but to look abashed. "Shit. Shot myself in the foot."


"Margaret said you flew... ?"

"Yes," Sultry responded.


"A Cessna 140A Patroller."

"Mrs. Flintkote. If I might be so bold ... I need a taildragger endorsement."

"Let me go tell Surprise Me."

"Surprise Me?"

"My youngest." Sultry said, "She's the responsible one."

"The name?"

"The Nurse was writing down the names for the birth certificates when the last one surprised me. Surprised everybody. They thought I was delivering the afterbirth ... and there she was. The nurse was writing and Surprise Me became Surprise Melody Flintkote. Nobody thought it was unusual."

"There's a young man lives in Grundy with the first name of Senator..." Margaret said.

"The mountain people of Appalachia never cease to amaze me," said the Proctor.

So Surprise Me was informed that mom was going to give Mrs. Hamilton a ride in the 140A and the Proctor was going along.

"Do you need any money?" Sultry asked her youngest.

"Mom! You know I still have the first penny you gave me."

"And all the rest I suppose."

"Of course ... Rainy Day money, Mom." But she accepted the hundred dollar bill her mother gave her.

"For lunch ... for the three of you."

"Yes, mom. May I keep the change?"

Sultry just looked at her.

"Yes ma'am ... split it with them."

The flight was boring ... place to place flights usually are. Margaret was very good and the Proctor was former B-29 pilot. He didn't really need the taildragger endorsement but he'd never flown a 140.

The excitement happened after they got back to the school. Cynthia Mae just about destroyed a bully who had tried to steal the money.

Sultry kept a list of the serial number of every large bill she withdrew from the bank. When she spent one she drew a line through the number and added a note of where she spent it, what she bought and how much change she received. The change went back to the Bank every Friday just before closing.

Jack would come back and she could give an accounting of every penny.

The principal had the bill and the bully and his father swore that the bill belonged to the kid.

"You have the bill?" asked Sultry.


Sultry handed him the little book with the list of serial numbers of the bills she had had in her possession during the last five years. The bill matched one on the list.

Sultry said, "Mr. XXX. You're a liar..."

That didn't set to well with Mr. XXX and he moved to slap Sultry.

" ... and a thief and your child is a bully and a thief. It's easy to see who he takes after in your family. I'm about to let you go. If you try any thing ... I promise you'll never walk again. Do you understand?"

She received a grunt as an answer. "I'm not kidding, Try anything and I'll take out both kneecaps. You'll live but you won't enjoy the rest of your life..."

Naturally, he couldn't let it lie ... some men are like that. The lesson would last the rest of his life. He still wouldn't let it go. The lawsuit his fancy lawyer brought against Sultry cost him everything he had and the lawyer lost his license.

The hills of Appalachia are rife with men like Mr. XXX and a few were relations who wouldn't let it go. A slip of a girl had ruined a cousin.

Some of them disappeared. Fifty, a hundred years later, others were found in cars at the bottom of local impoundments ... and every night after the children were tucked in their beds, Sultry would walk through the Portal ... for five long years she held out hope.

The children were ten, away with their Uncle Aaron at Friendship, Indiana when the Powers that Be walked through the Portal with her.

"No! No! and No! You can't..." said Cassie.

The Powers disassembled. Four was tall, strong and right. He grabbed Cassie by the arm, slung her over his shoulder and the Nine walked through the Chaos Portal.

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Story tagged with:
Science Fiction / Time Travel /