On July 22nd, 1934, when I was eight years old, on a stretch of back country road in Upstate New York, I met a man who told me he was from the future.
I’d been fishing in the Saunderskill and was on my way home without a damn thing in my creel when he appeared out of thin air, hovering about three feet above the dirt.
“Ah, son of a bitch,” he said. He adjusted the knob on a small black box that he was holding and floated to the ground.
He noticed me standing there with my mouth open.
“Oh, hi there,” he said.
“Hello,” I said.
His hair was buzzed and he was wearing a bright orange flight suit. “This may seem like a strange question but can you tell me where I am?”
“Port Jackson,” I said.
“Great. What year?”
He dropped his head. “God damn it, what a bummer.” He looked at me. “Sorry for the harsh language, kid, but I’m really lost.”
“That’s okay, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. If you keep walking down this road, about five or six miles, you’ll come to Tom Rooney’s store. He’ll give you directions.”
He smiled. “Thanks, I don’t think he can help.”
“Where are you trying to get to?” I asked.
“Back home. 1979 to be exact. Where gas is short and tube tops are plentiful.”
“What are tube tops?”
“Trust me, you’re gonna love them.”
He was right, I did.
“You know where I can get any water?” he asked. “My mouth tastes like the carpet in a Kombi bus.”
“Yup, this way,” I said.
I led him off the road and into the woods. We came out onto the back end of the Schoonmaker’s property. I pointed to the well pump, he ducked through the fence and grabbed a wooden bucket hanging from the spout. He pumped the handle until the bucket was full and drank it in one long swallow.
“I never seen a man drink that much,” I said.
He exhaled. “It’s one of the side effects of time travel. It makes you incredibly thirsty. I wish they’d told me that before I signed up.”
“Signed up? Gosh, are you in the Army?” I asked.
He filled the bucket again and sat with his back resting against the pump. “No. NASA.”
I hopped onto the top rung of the fence and let my legs dangle in the air. “What’s NASA?”
“It’s an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. When I’m in a poetic mood I like to say that we explore the stars.”
“You mean…” I pointed to the sky gently fading to dusk.
He drank more water and nodded. “Yup. Someday we’re going to the moon, kid.”
I caught my breath. “Wow. No fooling. What’s it like on the moon?”
“Can’t say. There’s only been a few people to set foot on the surface and I’m not one of them. But I am the first guy to travel through time, so I got that going for me.”
“I think it’s neat,” I said.
“I was jazzed about it too,” he said. “But with any new technology there’s bound to be unforeseen issues in the testing phase.”
“God only knows. Everything was textbook until the fourth dimensional guidance system went FUBAR.”
“What’s FUBAR?” I asked.
“It’s another acronym, you’ll learn about it when you’re older.” He laughed. “What am I saying, you are older than me.”
I blew a raspberry. “No! You’re an adult. I’m just a kid.”
“It’s true. When were you born?”
“February 25th, 1926,” I said.
“See. In ’79 you’ll be fifty-three. I was born in ’51; that makes you older. Don’t try to think about it too much or it’ll make your head hurt.”
“Okay, I won’t,” I said. “Sir, can I ask you a question?”
He finished the water in the bucket and swiped at his mouth. “Sure, go ahead.”
“When I grow up, do you think I can join NASA too?”
“I don’t see why not. First you have to wait for it to be created, but then go for it.”
“I will. Then someday I’ll be one of those guys on the moon.”
“With a can-do attitude like that I don’t doubt it for a second, kid. What did you say your name was?”
I hopped off the fence and extended my hand. “Joe.”
He stood. “It’s nice to meet you, Joe. I’m Steve. Steven Logue.”
And just like that, as suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone.
The bucket that he had been holding dropped to the ground, rolled once and stopped. I stared at it dumbfounded, my hand remained outstretched still waiting for his in return. Eventually I got my rod and creel and made it home just as the last light of day left the sky.
That night before falling asleep I looked up at the stars through my bedroom window and wondered if all the things he told me about the future were true.
Although the details of that day eventually faded, it fueled my interest in science and led me to pursue a degree in engineering. I never made it to the moon, but I was there at mission control in Houston when Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins made their historic journey. I was still at NASA on August 29th, 1979 when another mission was launched, this time under the cover of secrecy.
I wasn’t part of the engineering crew on that mission, but when an emergency facilitated all hands on deck, I — along with the rest of the “seniors” on staff — was called in to help. We gathered in the director’s office, barely enough room for the eight of us. He explained the situation and the dire circumstances facing First Lieutenant Steven Logue who was lost somewhere in time. The name triggered a long-forgotten memory tucked away in the back of my mind.
I raised my hand and said I knew where he was.