Tunnel of Time

Middle Grade Fiction

Get to know a little about Gracie, Lizzie and Reba Dee Hitt

 Reba  Dee had carried things around with her as soon as she was able to walk.  She was a collector. Their daddy joked that Reba Dee, being the third  child would collect things to make sure she got something of her own. Just  about all Reba Dee’s clothes, toys and books had belonged to Gracie and  then Lizzie first. Today was no exception, but Reba Dee loved the  cotton black-and-red dress she was wearing. It was really too big for  her, but she liked wearing long dresses, and this one fell mid-calf,  perfect. The dress tied in back with a long sash of the same fabric, and  there were ruffles at the short puffed sleeves. Her black lace-up  sandals looked like bowling shoes with side cut outs. “Lizzie,  it’s not going to kill you for her backpack to touch you.” But even as  Gracie had said it, she and Reba Dee were sliding over as far as their  seat belts would allow in order to give Lizzie a little more drama Queen  room. She eyed Queen Lizzie with her denim leggings and royal purple  top. Lizzie was tugging on the stretchy elbow length sleeve of her  otherwise flowing tunic shirt. “Lizzie, what has gotten into you today?  You’re going to spoil Reba Dee’s first time on this ride, and you know  she’s been looking forward to it!” “Yeah,  about as much as you have, ya big baby.” Lizzie grinned with that  devilish grin she always had when she knew she was right. She may as  well have bonked her older sister on the head with her Drama Queen  scepter. Gracie couldn’t come up with a quick comeback,  but thank goodness she didn’t have to, because the train’s whistle blew,  and the engineer yelled from the first car, “The train is now leaving  the station.” Gracie pursed her lips and rocked her shoulders back and  forth while giving Lizzie one of those nana-nana-hay-goo looks. On the  inside, Gracie felt a mixture of relief and apprehension that the ride  was starting. Then she replayed in her mind what she’d heard, There ain’t nothing wrong with this ride he’d said, and, y’all are in for a treat.  Gracie felt her tensed legs relax as her feet flattened out on the  floor of their car. She hadn’t noticed she had been sitting with her  heels up with her legs bouncing up and down like she had to go to the  bathroom-a nervous habit she had. She wondered if Lizzie had noticed  too. The  train started slow, and then picked up a little steam as they proceeded  into the darkness of the tunnel. Every year Gracie was amazed at the  detail of the tunnel. She wasn’t sure if they added to it every year, or  if she just noticed more because she was getting older. She took the  opportunity of the darkness to carefully pinch her lip-gloss from the  pocket of her Capri jeans. She used two hands to make sure it wouldn’t  tumble to the floor. Gracie had always considered herself a little bit  of a nerd on the inside until her twelfth birthday when she received her  first makeup kit. The four-tiered makeup suitcase had been a gift from  Aunt Melanie, and had not been well received by Gracie’s parents. It had  taken her awhile to realize you don’t wear too much at a time, or else  it all gets washed off. Her daddy called it-“war paint”-and if he could  see it,-it was considered too much. Today, she had brushed just a tiny  bit of pink glimmer to her cheeks and brought along one of the  lip-glosses, aptly named Cotton Candy Pink. She was wearing her new pink  Keds and matching polo shirt. She had seen an outfit just like it in  one of the displays at the Mall. Nowadays, it seemed like one minute she  was happy being absorbed in a science book, the next she was looking at  Teen magazines and dreaming about Jason Pharrone, one of the guys in  the band-‘Tuney Loons’  They  had only been riding a short time when it slowed and then stopped. The  tunnel was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, and  it felt like a refrigerator- just like the real tunnel her parents had  taken them to last year on vacation. The air was thick and smelled like  the dirt her dad had plowed when he started their summer garden. Reba  Dee jumped when a bright light popped on, shining down onto a diorama  off to the right side of the train. It was a man Gracie and Lizzie  recognized. Gracie interjected, “Look, Reba Dee- he’s the  man Daddy talks about all the time-it’s the “early-to-bed” man. He  looked so real. His skin looked soft, not plastic and hard like a  mannequin would, and his clothes moved with him as he moved his body.  His feet stayed planted, but he twisted, turned, bent over and moved his  arms and head. He was dressed with a sort of frilly white  shirt, a brown tweed vest that looked too tight, and a jacket that  matched the vest, but had big gold buttons. His hair was the only thing  that looked fake, but maybe that was because they didn’t usually see  grown men with long hair that was so thin you could almost see through  it. His mouth didn’t move either, but if you didn’t look at his face  while he was talking, you would think you were sitting in front of the  real Benjamin Franklin. He told the ride-goers he was born in Boston, Massachusetts,  on January 17, 1706. He then read a few quotes from a book he held  called Poor Richard’s Almanac. He wore little half glasses he said he  invented. “I believe in today’s time, you call these bi-focals” he’d  said. He told them how he had helped draft The Declaration of Independence, and how important it was to think for yourself.  All  three sisters joined together and mouthed right along with him as he  ended with, “And remember, early to bed, early to rise, makes a man  healthy, wealthy and wise.”  The  light faded as Mr. Franklin bowed slightly, and their train started to  move. Gracie never liked leaving the scenes. They seemed so real that  one year she had come close to raising her hand to ask a question. She  would never admit it now, and even though she knew better, she still  pretended the automatons were real.   Lizzie  shook her head as she looked at Gracie and said, “I don’t think you  belong here.” The train car started up again, and the lights faded; it  was complete darkness again. “What’s that supposed to mean, Lizzie?” “What I mean is I think you would rather live in these times instead of the time we live in now.” “Don’t be crazy, Lizzie. Hmmpphh. Crazy Lizzie- has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” Reba Dee chimed in, “Crazy Lizzie, Crazy Lizzie, Crazy Lizzie” “Shut up!” Lizzie said, as she put her hand over Reba Dee’s mouth, then “Ow!. I cannot believe you just bit me!” Reba Dee giggled, and then they all joined in with a short bout of laughter. Gracie whispered to Lizzie, “Did she really bite you?” “Yeah,  but not bad, she didn’t draw blood anyway, at least I don’t think so  but it’s too dark in here.” Lizzie whispered back, and then said loud  enough for Reba Dee to hear, “I’ve just been infected with monkey germs,  that’s all.”  

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