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Stopover   By:

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What will the world be like, the day after Tomorrow, for the lonely ones who will have talents that others will half fear, half envy? William Gerken describes this strange world in which young and old will have to find new values and pursue new dreams, as they search for the answer....



When he opened the door to the shed that day, and saw the axe suspended in mid air, he understood what was wrong.

He had been living with us for a week before I found out he was a Lifter. Even the discovery was an accident. I had started for the store, but then remembered a chore I wanted him to do. I heard the sounds of wood chopping coming from the shed, so I went behind the house to the small wooden structure. I must have gasped or something, because he turned around to look at me, dropping the axe he had poised over a block of wood as he turned. Only he hadn't been holding the axe; it had been hanging in mid air without support.

The first time I saw him was when he knocked on my door. I don't think I'll ever forget how he looked tall and thin, old clothes and older shoes, an unruly mop of blond hair. It was only when I looked at his face that I realized that he was more than a mere boy of eighteen or nineteen. The tired lines around his mouth, the sad, mature look in his eyes, the stoop already evident in his young shoulders; he had been forced to mature too quickly, and seemed to have knowledge a boy his age had no right to be burdened with.

"I I was wondering if I might get a bite to eat, sir," he said.

I grinned. No matter how he looked, he was no different from anyone else his age where food was concerned. "Sure; come on in and rest a spell," I told him. "Marty, can you fix a plate of something? We've got a guest." Marty my wife glanced through the kitchen doorway. After a cursory look at the boy, she smiled at him and went back to work.

"Sit down, son, you look pretty done in. Come far today?"

He nodded. "Guess it shows, huh?" he said, brushing the road dust from his trousers.

"Uh huh. Where you from? Not around here, I know."

"Far back as I can remember, Oregon has been home."

It wasn't hard to guess why he was almost a thousand miles from home. During the war, over ten million American families had been separated, their way of life destroyed by the hell of atomic bombings. Ever since its end, people had been seeking their loved ones; many, only to find them dead or dying. Sometimes the searches stretched across continents or oceans. In that respect the boy sitting opposite me was no different from hundreds of others I've seen in the past ten years. The only difference was in his face.

"Looking for your family," I said, making it a statement.

"Yessir." He smiled, as though the sentence had double meaning.

After he had eaten, he went down to the town store to look through its records. They all do. They turn the pages of the big stopover book, hoping a relative or friend had passed through the same town. Then they sign the book, put down the date and where they're headed, and set out once more. Almost all towns have stopover books nowadays, and a good thing, too. They helped me find Marty back in '63, when the truce was finally signed. In fact, I found her right here in this town. We got married, settled down, and haven't been more than a hundred miles away since then.

Martha called me into the kitchen almost as soon as he was gone. "He's a nice boy."

"That he is," I agreed. "You know, I've been thinking; we could use a young fella around here to help with the work."

"If he'll stay. There was something in his eyes; a sort of longing for someone very close to him. That kind usually takes off after a night's rest."

"I know. Guess I'll drop by the store; see if I can talk him into staying."

By the time I reached the store, school was out, and a group of kids were gathered around him, listening to his description of the Rocky Mountains, which he had crossed during the summer... Continue reading book >>

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