Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Backer Update #7

Here is a photo tour of the construction of the sound booth.

The sound booth window cut outs.

Sawing the separators for the two halves of the window.

Screwing them in place.

A view of the installed separators.

Installing the sound damping material. (polystyrene)

Whew, that was a chore.

I covered the polystyrene in a felt-like material for one more dampening layer.

How it looked so far, with one Plexiglas window.

For strength and stability, I installed dowels that were screwed in from both sides.

A close-up of the dowels.  I packed the felt-like material in around the dowels, before I closed it up.

I hot glued the material down with high temperature glue.

I trimmed off the material, and yes, I wore my welder's gloves--that glue was really hot!

I packed every nook and cranny with material to "soak" up as much sound as possible.

I installed the second window.  The reason it is blurry is because I left the protective covering on as long as possible.

After gluing the material down, I set it up in the position it would be in, to see how it looked.

The sound booth in progress in place.

I needed several panels to cover the gaps under the table.

They also needed to have soundproofing.

Finished, four more inserts to go.

Two longer panels.
You can see the door on the left side has been completed, and I am shaping the foam on the roof.  You can also see the book cases I am using to serve as walls.  They were filled and covered in material.

A view inside the booth.  As you can see, the Plexiglas provides a clean view.

The sound booth completed, and ready for testing. I ended up slopping the roof because I read that it deadened the sound better.  Once your inside, it is amazing how there is no sound, and even your voice is quickly silenced.  It turned out as good a "dead" room as I thought it would be.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Young Andersen's Fairy Tales: The Squirrel and the Silver Pinecone

          It was a frosty winter’s day, clear and sunny, but because of a snow the night before, there was a white blanket covering the ground. Most of the animals of the forest were slow to come out into the cold. But the Squirrel in the big oak was already out dusting the snow from his porch, high up among the branches, and getting ready for the day. He had a mission. Today was the day of the big Christmas party for his family and friends. So much needed to be done, but first he had to find that wonder of the season—the pinecone Christmas tree. He really wanted it to be fresh, so he had gotten up early to select the very best one.

All of his family was asleep, later they would get up and visit friends. It was his job to get the pinecone Christmas tree and get it in place by the time they got home, so they would have this wonderful pinecone to see and then eat later that night.

So off he went, out into the forest to find the best pinecone he could. As he was leaving his tree he could see the chipmunks next door already outside washing their whiskers in the snow. 

“Those chipmunks are so strange,” he muttered to himself. “Look how they rub snow on their whiskers. Squirrels never do that. How very strange they are. They are so different—I don’t like them.”  But he didn’t spend much time thinking about them. He still had his mission.                                                                                                 1

Normally he would just stay in the general area of his tree, but today he went further than he had ever gone before. It seemed that each pinecone he inspected was not quite right.  Either they tilted to one side or the other, or were rotten on this side or that.  And, none of them were big enough.  He wanted the pinecone to be so tall that it touched the ceiling this year.  So he searched further and further from his home. By around noontime he was quite far from his tree.

He had not been paying attention to the time.  The Squirrel just kept thinking, just a little bit further and I will find it.  So he wandered farther than he ever intended to.   He had never been in this part of the forest before, and he was starting to get a little scared.

It was not that he was lost or could not find his way back home.  It was just that the pine trees in this part of the forest were so big that they blocked a lot of the light coming from the sun.  So even though it was noon, it seemed like it was almost time for the sun to go down.

What stopped him from turning back was that the pinecones were getting bigger too.  He had found quite a few that would do nicely, but each time he went to pick them up, he would find an even better one just a little further away.                             2

It was not long before it was almost too dark to see.  The Squirrel was just about to turn back, when he saw a beam of light shining straight down through the forest.  As he followed the light down to the forest floor he saw a blazing flash of light where it struck the ground.

Amazed, he crept closer.  As he got nearer to the glowing object, an old fallen log blocked his view.  When he jumped up onto the log, he was hit by a light so strong, it was as if a star had fallen to the earth.

The Squirrel stood staring at the object with awe.  Right there in front of him was the most beautiful pinecone he had ever seen in his life.  Not only was it huge; much taller than the squirrel, but it was a shimmering silver color.

It glistened in the cold mountain air; the color seemed to wink in and out, as if it had stars attached to its surface.  The Squirrel had to rub his eyes to make sure he was seeing correctly.  Wherever the light struck the pinecone it glowed with a luster that was dazzling to behold.  Even the snow around it sparkled and shined.

The pinecone was sitting straight up in the snow, as if it had been planted there.  It was a moment or to before the squirrel could move at all.  When he finally did move, he stepped toward the silver pinecone slowly, making sure that no one was near him.  3

“Hello?” the Squirrel said softly.  There seemed to be so much life in the grove of trees that it felt like someone was there.   There was complete silence, nothing moved or returned his greeting. 

After he had spoken he felt a little silly.  “Of course no one is here,” he said to himself, “I am all alone.”

He looked at the pinecone very carefully.  It looked like a real pinecone.  The Squirrel lifted it up.  Although it was heavy, it was not attached to the ground.  He nibbled on the bottom.  It was wonderful—the best pinecone he had ever tasted.

“My family and friends will be so excited,” he said dancing around the silver pinecone.  “I cannot wait to get it home.”

So, the Squirrel backed up to the silver pinecone, reached behind him, and lifted it onto his back.  “Oaf,” he said as the weight of the pinecone rested on his back, “This certainly is going to be slow going.”

In spite of the long walk back to his home, the Squirrel was determined to get this wonderful pinecone back to the house in time for his Christmas party that night.  He groaned as he jumped back up onto the log on his way back the way he had come.  But on he went, heaving the pinecone with him.  He had started on his course and there was going to be no turning back.                                                                                    4

At first he made good progress, but soon found he would need to take rest breaks if he was going to get the pinecone back home.  The closer he got to his home, the heavier the silver pinecone seemed to get.  After a while it felt like it weighed twice what it really did.

During one of his rest breaks he heard some chattering coming from above him.  When he looked up he could see two bright red cardinals sitting on a branch above him.

“Hello,” said one of the cardinals.

“Hello,” said the Squirrel between great gulps of air.

“That is a beautiful Christmas pinecone you have there,” said the Cardinal. “I don’t think I have ever seen one more lovely.”

“Yes it is,” said the Squirrel.  “I found it myself, and I am taking it home.

 “It seems you are in need of some help,” said the Cardinal.  “My brother and I will be happy to help you,” he said pointing to the other Cardinal.

The Squirrel found it very strange that someone he did not even know was willing to help him.

“No thank you,” he said narrowing his eyes.                                                    5

I’ll bet those cardinals are just waiting to fly away with my beautiful silver pinecone, he thought to himself.

“Oh let us help you,” said the Brother Cardinal.  “It looks awfully heavy.”

“I can do it myself,” said the Squirrel quickly.

“Suit yourself,” said the Cardinal, then he and his brother flew away.

“I could see how they were looking at my pinecone,” said the Squirrel to himself.  “They are just jealous that I found it first.  They probably wash their whiskers in the snow, just like the chipmunks.”

It did not seem to matter to the squirrel that the cardinals do not have whiskers.  To him they were just as strange as the chipmunks, and different people were not to be trusted.

So back onto his back went the silver pinecone, and he moved forward, slowly.  He had gone no more than a dozen steps and he was tired again.  He still had quite a ways to go, but he was becoming tired, and the pinecone was starting to dig into his back.  The Squirrel put it down again.  He was breathing very hard and was not sure he was going to be able to get the pinecone back to his house.

It was at that moment that he had an idea.  He would run home, get some help from his family, and be back in no time at all.  The surprise would not be as good as if he had everything set up, and then called everyone out to see the beautiful pinecone shining in all its glory, but it would still be a surprise.                                               6

He put the silver pinecone down under a big pine tree, put some small branches over it to hide it, and ran as fast as he could to get home.  Even though he was tired, it was not very long before he had arrived at his home.  Just as he was walking up to his tree, the chipmunks from next door came up to him.

“Where is your Christmas pinecone?” they both asked together.  “We thought you would be dragging it back long ago.”

“If you must know,” said the Squirrel, “I found the most beautiful silver pinecone.  It is so big I had come home to get my family to help me bring it back.”

“We will help you,” said the chipmunks, “Just tell us where it is.”

“It is hidden under some branches under the big pine tree; a little ways back,” said the Squirrel.  Then quickly added, “But I don’t need your help.”

The Squirrel saw a flash of red out of the corner of his eye.  He looked up just in time to see the two cardinals he had met earlier that morning flying back in the direction he had just come.                                                                                            7

“Oh no!” he said and started running back to where he had hidden the pinecone.  The Chipmunks just stood where they were wondering what was going on.

As the Squirrel ran, he chattered angrily.  “I just know those cardinals are going to steal my pinecone.  If I run fast enough, maybe I will be able to get there first.”

So on he ran, jumping over logs and rocks, and even small trees.  He ran so fast that he thought for sure that he had beaten the cardinals.  But as he got to the tree, he could see that his beautiful silver pinecone was gone.

The Squirrel danced madly around the tree chattering, and saying bad things about the cardinals.  He was very angry.  It took quite a while before he was calm enough to stop.

Once he had calmed down he became very sad.  Now his Christmas was going to be ruined.  He slowly began the walk back to his house.  After carrying the pinecone, running home, then racing back to the pinecone, the Squirrel did not have very much energy left.

He began to cry.  Not only did he not have the silver pinecone; he had no pinecone at all.  And as he looked at the sky, he could see it was becoming dark.  His family was going to be so disappointed.                                                                     8

By the time he got back to the tree where he lived, it was very dark.  He climbed the tree, and after taking a deep breath, he stepped inside to face his family.  No one was there, no family, no friends, no one.

“They must have thought I had forgotten to get the pinecone and make the feast,” he said to himself.  “They have gone to a friend’s house for dinner.  I am truly alone.”

The poor squirrel sadly climbed back down the tree and sat in the cold snow.  At that moment he felt very unloved.

Suddenly the moon came out from behind the clouds, where it had been hiding.  Light streamed down on to the snow below.  It sparkled and glittered.  Without warning there was a flash of light and the Squirrel was blinded for a moment.  He put up his paws in front of his face to shield his eyes.

When he opened them again, right in front of him was the silver pinecone, glowing and shining.  It was even more beautiful that it had been earlier that morning.

“Surprise!”  All at once he was surrounded by all his family and friends, laughing and hugging him.  He could see the cardinal and his brother standing by the side of the Pinecone smiling.                                                                                      9

“Isn’t this wonderful,” said his wife kissing him on the snout.  “The cardinals went back and got the pinecone for you, and the chipmunks have prepared a huge feast for everyone.”

The Squirrel looked around.  He saw the chipmunks happily handing out acorns, seeds, and nuts of every kind.  All of a sudden it was as if a veil had been taken away from his eyes.  He instantly felt very silly to have thought poorly of people before he had a chance to get to know them.

And from that moment on, he vowed to expect the best out of people and treat them well, until they showed that they did not deserve it.  He smiled and laughed, kissed his wife and children, then went to wish his new friends Merry Christmas.

It was a wonderful party, and everyone had a great time.  The Silver Pinecone was unbelievably delicious.  The Squirrel was hailed as a hero for finding it.  That night’s party became a legend that was past down from generation to generation.

A silver pinecone was never found again, although a search was made every year afterwards.  It became a tradition that everyone in the forest observed from that year on.  In truth it became a fun frolicking romp that everyone seemed to enjoy for its sake alone. Somehow that silver pinecone brought all the families of the forest together.  They truly became a community.                                                                 10

A great many lives were changed from a couple of simple acts of kindness.  But everyone agreed that the greatest change of all occurred in the Squirrel.  It was not that he was a bad person before, but after that night the Squirrel became the most friendly and helpful neighbor in the forest.

He was always willing to help out people in need, even if he did not know who they were, at any time of the year.  In wintertime, if you needed his help, you could find him in front of his tree every morning—washing his whiskers in the snow.




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A New Reward Level: Jean Lafitte's Privateer Mug

A new level is the Jean Lafitte's Privateer Mug. You get this one of a kind Art-e-fact, signed by the author, as well as all from level 10. This is an art piece meant for a bookshelf, but it can be used as a real mug. It CANNOT be microwaved!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays and a Very Merry Christmas from me and Mammoth the 6th!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Plastic Bathtub Soapdish

Link to: The Plastic Bathtub Soapdish Kickstarter

Chapter 1: The Soapdish

     Danny awoke with a start.  He did not know what had awakened him, but there he was wide-awake.  He lay there in the dark listening, but he didn’t hear anything. He tried to go back to sleep, but now that he was awake he needed to go to the bathroom. 
 As he got out of bed he did hear a noise.  He looked over at a table next to the bed.  In the darkness he could see two small eyes staring back at him.  Mammoth was wide-awake too.
     Mammoth was Danny’s pet rat.  He was hanging on the side of his cage, his wet nose poking through the bars.  It wasn’t surprising that Mammoth was up.  Ratties like to sleep during the daytime and be up at night, although they are more than happy to get up and play with you anytime.  And now that he could see Danny was awake, he wanted to play.
     “Hi Mammoth,” said Danny going over and opening the cage.
     The rattie jumped up onto Danny’s shoulder the second the cage was open.  He immediately began licking Danny’s ear. 
     Danny quickly shut the cage.  He did not want to wake Mammoth’s other three cage mates who were also his brothers because they would want to shoulder ride too.
     The young man took the rodent off of his shoulder and started petting him.
     Mammoth began making the grinding clicking noise that ratties make when they are content (Called bruxing)—but not for long.  He had soon wiggled out of Danny’s grasp, and was back on the boy’s shoulder licking his ear again.
     Pet ratties are lickers.  They almost never bite.  Danny knew that they are probably one of the best pets you could have.  Rats have been given a bad reputation, but it is not deserved.  They are as smart as cats and dogs, can do tricks, learn their names, and even be trained to come when you call them, but like cats, only when they want to.  Danny had even seen a video of a rat that was trained to play basketball.  They also bond to their owners like cats and dogs because they are pack animals.  Once they bond to you, you are a member of their pack.  Ratties are also very affectionate. 
     Danny loved his little pets, although Mammoth was not very little compared to other ratties.  In comparison to other rats, he was huge.  He was easily twice as big as any rat Danny had ever seen.  Mammoth was a Siamese rat.  He had the same coloring as a Siamese cat.  His nose, ears, feet and tail were dark, but the rest of him was a creamy off-white.
     He had a type of fur called Rex, which meant that his fur and whiskers were all wiry.  It was like woolly mammoth fur; the fur and his large size were why Danny had named him Mammoth.
     Danny’s father said that Mammoth was a Tri-ratisaurius Rex because when the rat stood on his hind legs, he looked a little like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.  His dad would even hold Mammoth up on his hind legs sometimes, and walk him towards Danny making a T-Rex noise.
     “Raarrr! Feed me Danny,” he would say, pretending to be Mammoth’s voice.  “Feed me or I will destroy this city.”  He would roar again, and walk the rattie a few more steps.  “I will spare your life if you give me a piece of your sandwich.  Raarrr!”
     It always cracked Danny up because it was well known in his household that Mammoth ate everything and anything.  You could not leave food lying around near him for a second, or he was on it.  But in spite of the trouble his rattie sometimes got into, he was the best friend a nine-year-old ever had.
     Danny walked to the bathroom with Mammoth riding on his shoulder.  As they arrived at the door, noises could be heard coming from inside.  The young man stopped, stood very still, and peered cautiously into the open doorway.
He could see five figures crowded into the small hallway bathroom.  The tallest one was well over six feet tall, even without the long thin battered top hat he was wearing.  He was dressed almost completely in black, from his long pointy boots to the long coat with tails. 
     As a matter of fact, the only thing he was wearing that wasn’t black was a dirty white shirt.  All of his clothing had a shabby appearance, but the top hat was the most worn.  It was bent at the top and looked like someone had put their fist through it.
     The man had a greasy appearance.  His hair was short and black.  He had a long handlebar mustache, and a pasty white complexion.  It was obvious from his actions that he was in charge of the small group.
     The four other men with the tall man were of different shapes and sizes.  At first Danny had a difficult time telling them apart because three of them wore the same type of dark blue jeans, black boots and rugby shirts.  Everything was the same, only the colors of the rugby shirts were different.  There were only two exceptions.  One was that the black-haired man wore a dark blue stocking cap.  The other exception was the young man with long blonde-hair who wore tan cargo shorts and penny loafers without socks. 
     Two of the men were just getting off what looked like a large old-fashioned bicycle.  One of the men fell off and landed on his backside with a thud.  It was a strange thing to see in your own bathroom.  The tall man turned to two of the men.
     “Be quiet you oafs,” he hissed, “you’re going to wake everyone up.”
     “Sorry Professor Mayonnaise.”  The one who had fallen got up rubbing his bottom. 
     “Don’t be sorry, don’t do it you idiot, and how many times do I have to tell you it is pronounced Maynesse.”
     “Sorr,” the man began to say, but stopped after a glare from the professor.
     Instead he just nodded and took his place next to the other three.
     Professor Mayonnaise reached up and rang the bell on the handlebars.  The bicycle began to shrink until it was 10 centimeters high.  When it had stopped shrinking, he picked it up and put it in an inside pocket of his coat.
     Danny could not believe his eyes; that was incredible.  He scrunched down low and pressed himself next to the wall.
     “It has to be somewhere in this room, spread out and look for it.”  The professor and his henchmen began searching the bathroom.
     “Ah ha!” said Professor Mayonnaise picking up an item from the counter.
     Danny squinted his eyes in the low light, so he could get a better look at what the professor was holding up.  He couldn’t quite see it at first, but as the professor turned to show his men, Danny could see it.  Professor Mayonnaise was holding Danny’s plastic bathtub soapdish. 
     It was a replica of an old porcelain bathtub, with lion-claw legs and gold-painted fixtures.  There was a cover over the tub itself, to hide the soap.  His Aunt Judy had given it to him that very morning.  She was visiting from Los Angeles, and had never been to New Orleans before, so his parents had taken her shopping in the French Quarter yesterday.
     While she was there she had seen the soapdish, and knew right away that Danny would love it, so she bought it for him.  Aunt Judy had given it to him at breakfast this morning.  Why those men would want his soapdish so badly he could not say, but he was curious to find out, so he continued to watch them carefully.
     Professor Mayonnaise began to fill up the sink with water.  When it was nearly full, he turned the faucet on the soapdish around until it was facing the other way, then he began looking around again.
     “Now all I need is a container of some sort,” he muttered to himself.
     “I’ll do it for you,” said the henchman who had fallen off the bicycle.  And before Professor Mayonnaise could stop him, he had taken the soapdish from the professor, dunked it in the water, and set it on the floor.
     “Noooo!”  The professor tried to grab the soapdish from the henchman but missed.
     Once the soapdish had been dunked in the water, it began to expand rapidly.  All of the henchmen had to jump into the real bathtub to get out of the way of the expanding soapdish.  As the soapdish threatened to knock the professor over he jumped up onto the toilet seat.  He teetered on the rim for a moment, then one of his pointy boots slipped into the toilet bowl.
     Professor Mayonnaise began to fall over.  He reached behind him looking for something to grab onto.  His hand found the handle, and as he grabbed it, he flushed the toilet. But because his foot was in the way, the water sprayed all over the bathroom soaking everyone.
     “Darn nabit! Rasa fracken, backen raggit!”  Professor Mayonnaise was livid.  His faced swelled and became several different colors, before he could even breathe in.  The henchmen cowered in the tub unable to move.
     It was then that Danny found out why Professor Mayonnaise’s hat was so battered because he took it off of his head and began to pound it into his fist.  He then attacked the gigantic soapdish with it.  Finally he stumbled and fell over the soapdish, and landed in the bathtub.  Once there he took out his rage on the hapless henchmen who tried, unsuccessfully, to avoid his blows.
     Danny had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing.
     “All right you idiots, let’s get out of here.”  The professor got onto the front of the soapdish by the handles, and placed his boots on top of the lion claw legs. Water dripped out of the top of his wet boot onto the floor.
     It was then that Danny noticed that there were a bunch of buttons and knobs on a panel between the hot and cold handles.  Each one was a different size, shape and color.  All of them were lit up.  Some of them were on all the time and others would blink on and off.
     The henchmen sat down on the soapdish cover behind Professor Mayonnaise as if they were riding behind him on a motorcycle.  The last henchmen to get on happened to be the largest, and half of his big bottom hung off the back.  They all had to hold on to the person in front of them so they didn’t fall off.  Bubbles started to come out of the back of the soapdish cover, and the young man could smell Irish Spring soap in the air.
     Danny was so busy watching what was going on, that he did not notice Mammoth jump down onto the floor.  It wasn’t until he saw the rattie starting to climb the back leg of the soapdish, that he noticed the rodent was gone.  He tried to catch Mammoth’s attention to call him back, but the rattie would not look the young man’s way.
     The men on the soapdish were all looking the other way, so Danny crept forward slowly, trying not to make any sudden moves.  As he was quietly moving forward, he saw the professor push a button.  Suddenly the soapdish and everyone on it—disappeared, including Mammoth!
     Danny couldn’t believe it.  He lay there on the floor not moving.  It just could not be!  A huge soapdish does not suddenly disappear in front of you.  On the other hand, after all the impossible things he had seen so far, how could he doubt it? 
     He reached out his hand just to make sure he was not seeing things.  Just as suddenly as the soapdish had disappeared, it reappeared.  Danny found himself touching the leg of the soapdish, which was now floating about half a meter above the floor.
     A few more things happened the moment he touched the leg.  An unseen force pulled his right hand forward until it was grabbing onto the leg.  He tried to pull his hand back, but it wouldn’t come loose.  Danny grabbed the soapdish leg with his left hand trying to pry his right one free, but found that his left hand was now stuck to the leg.
     Danny tugged at the leg, but it didn’t do any good.  It was then that he noticed he was also floating in the air.  He gulped air rapidly as he and the soapdish rose higher into the air.  As he looked up he could see Mammoth stuck to the leg above him, trying to free himself also.
     “I’m afraid of heights,” said the henchman hanging off the end of the soapdish.
     “Then close your eyes and shut up,” snapped Professor Mayonnaise.  “I am trying to remember which knob makes us intangible.  I think it is this one.”
     They rose to the ceiling, but came to a jarring halt.
     “Ow!”  The henchman on the end had hit his head on the ceiling.
     “Well it is not that one,” said Professor Mayonnaise matter-of-factly.  “Then it has got to be this one.”
     There was a startled yelp from above, and then they began to rise once more.  Danny looked up and saw the soapdish above him disappear into the ceiling.  He closed his eyes as his hands started to slide into the ceiling.
     When he opened his eyes again, he was floating in the air above his house.  His hands were still stuck firmly to the leg of the soapdish, for which he was very glad because they were quickly high in the air.
     They began moving forward, slowly at first, then with increasing speed.  After a few minutes Danny could see that they were headed toward the French Quarter.  It was frightening at first, but as time passed he began to enjoy flying above the city. 
     It was obvious to him that he and Mammoth were not going to fall off of the soapdish, so he began to be amazed at all the beautiful lights coming from the city below.  And for a little while, he forgot that he had been taken against his will, and looked on everything with wonder.  Even Mammoth had stopped struggling, and with his head turned into the wind, he looked like a dog with his head out a car window.
     The flight ended up being a short one.  It wasn’t long before they swooped down into the French Quarter, over Bourbon Street, and over smaller lesser known streets and alleys.
     Finally they stopped over an old bookstore.  The sign in front said, “Past and Future Books, purveyors of fine new, used and rare books.”
     Professor Mayonnaise started to lower the soapdish toward the roof on the second floor. Just as they were about to sink into it, the soapdish was suddenly thrown back into the sky.  It was almost as if they had dropped onto a trampoline.
     The professor grumbled a bit to himself, then lowered the soapdish down in front of the building.  The street was deserted.  Only the shadows from the flickering street lamps could be seen moving.  He slowly moved the soapdish toward the front door.
Danny was floating about an arm’s length from the ground.  If he had put his legs down they would have been dragged on the cobblestones in front of the store. 
     When they were just about to the door, everyone tensed, waiting to see if they were going to be bounced back again.  But just as if they were a piece of butter on a hot griddle, they melted through the door and into the shop.
     The inside of the bookstore was dark.  But even in the shadowy light from the street, Danny could see this was a very old place.  It had the smell of musty old books that Danny found to be strangely pleasing.
     In the front of the store were all the new books.  They seemed to be strangely out of place here in this old building.  But as they drifted deeper into the shop, the new was left behind them and it started to feel that things were in order again.
     Used books crammed every nook and cranny.  All of the shelves were full; there were even stacks of books on the floor.  The farther back they went the older the books appeared to be.  They passed through them all, heading for the very back of the shop.
     Directly in front of the soapdish was an odd-shaped wooden door.  The frame of the door was painted dark green.  It was only three-quarters of a normal-sized door, with strange things carved into it.  There were spaceships, airplanes, submarines, trains and even bicycles like the one Danny had seen in his bathroom.  There was even a carving of his plastic bathtub soapdish.  All of the vehicles looked like they had come out of a Jules Verne novel. 
     There were also, what looked like, real gears in the center of the door.  There were large golden metal studs holding the door together, at least they looked like studs at first, but as Danny looked longer at them he saw they were large buttons. 
     Painted above the door in big bold gold letters was the saying, “If Understanding is the Goal, Knowledge is the Key”.  
     Professor Mayonnaise set the soapdish down in front of the door and got off.  As soon as they had landed, Danny found he could take his hands off of the leg.  Mammoth immediately jumped up onto his shoulder, trying to hide in the boy’s hair.  Danny pressed himself close to the back of the soapdish so he would not be seen very easily.
     The professor walked right up to the door and said, “eighteen-ninety.”  Nothing happened.  “Two-thousand.”  Still nothing happened. 
     He began to study the door more carefully.  There was no knob on the door, or even a keyhole of any sort.  Professor Mayonnaise pushed on the door but it did not budge even a millimeter.
     “He must have changed the word keys,” he said to himself.  “Now, what would Jacob have used?”  He stood thinking it over.
     The henchmen all got off of the soapdish.  Suddenly Danny caught the scent of something horrible.  It smelled like old cabbage.  He pinched his nose closed with his fingers.  Even Mammoth, who usually didn’t mind stinky smells, covered his nose with his paw.
     ”Aargg,” the henchman who had fallen off of the bicycle at Danny’s house began fanning his hand if front of his face.  “Stinky let an SBD, professor.”  He pointed to the heavy, grubby looking henchman with the stocking cap.
     “It wasn’t me,” said the henchman who had been called Stinky.  He put up his hands in front of him in defense. 
     Professor Mayonnaise turned toward them.  “What are you yapping about Clumsy?  What is an SBD?”
     “It stands for, silent but deadly.  Stinky farted again.”
     “It was Ox,” said Stinky pointing to the huge henchman who had been on the end of the soapdish.
     Ox glanced around and saw they were all looking at him. “It was not me!”  He pointed his finger at the handsome henchman with long blond hair.  “Maybe it was Bob.”
     “Yeh,” agreed Stinky, “It was Pretty Boy Bob.”
     “No way man.  It wasn’t me,” said Bob shaking his head
     “I do not care who it was—just shut up.”  Professor Mayonnaise turned back to the door, but he took a handkerchief from his pocket and put it to his nose.
     Danny backed slowly away from the soapdish until he could hide behind a stack of books—and breath.
     “Now, where was I?”  Professor Mayonnaise said through his handkerchief.  “Ah yes, word key, word key.  Hum.”  He paused for a moment.  “Carrie.”  Nothing happened.  He fell silent again.
     Danny was watching all of this excitedly.  What was going to happen next?
     “Harper,” said the professor.  “No, too easy.  Time travel.”  Still nothing happened.
     Danny noticed the words above the door again.  Knowledge is the key—of course!  “Knowledge is the key,” he whispered to himself.
     The moment that Danny said the words, the strange metal gears began to move.  Steam shot out of the sides of the doorway.  When the gears stopped moving there was a loud “chunk” that the young man figured was the sound of the door unlocking, which was heard loudly in the silent shop.
     “Ah ha, two-thousand eleven,” cackled the professor.
There was a fizzing noise, then a loud humming, and the door swung open by itself.  Professor Mayonnaise laughed, which was a horrible sound. 
     “You four stay here,” he said and walked quickly through the door.
     It was at that moment that light came streaming down a set of stairs, which were against the left side of the wall.  Shadows could be seen moving in the light, and then a small man with wild brown hair and a small goatee came into view.
     “What’s going on down there,” he said extending his hand out in front of him.
     Danny could see the man was holding something short and shiny.  From where he was hiding, it looked like a toy ray gun.  The shadows behind the man moved, and a young girl a little taller than Danny came down the stairs.  She was also holding one of the toy ray guns.
     “You there,” said the man pointing the toy ray gun at Danny.  “Who are you?  What are you doing here?”
     Danny may have been hidden from Professor Mayonnaise and his henchmen, but he was in plain view of the man on the stairs.
     “Put your hands in the air,” said the small man with the goatee.
     He was pointing the toy ray gun at Danny, but the four henchmen put their hands in the air.  The man on the stairs caught their movement out of the corner of his eye, and turned his ray gun on them.
     “Professor, Dr. Harper has a gun on us.”  Clumsy was leaning his head toward the open door.
     “What the devil is going on here?”  The man on the stairs suddenly saw the open door.  His mouth fell open in a large silent O.
     He was just about to step off of the stairs, when Professor Mayonnaise came dashing out of the door with one of the toy ray guns in his right hand, and several more in his left.  He pulled the trigger, and Danny realized that it was real.
     A thin blue / white light shot out of the end of the gun.  It almost hit the man on the stairs in the shoulder.  He ducked down behind the banister and shot back, hitting Stinky in the chest.  Great white sparks exploded where the beam had struck him.
     The heavy little man had started to step back and was thrown off his feet.  He lay there on the floor not moving, his eyes open and his arms still in the air.  Although he was breathing, he seemed to be frozen.
     “Close and secure!” the man on the stair yelled.  The door at the back slammed shut and locked itself.
     Professor Mayonnaise and the rest of his henchmen jumped behind the soapdish, and he handed the other guns to his men. They all began firing together.  White sparks exploded wherever the blue beams hit.  The banister was lit up like the Fourth of July. 
     The man on the stairs, and the girl behind him retreated behind the corner of the wall.  They fired back, striking the sides of the soapdish.  Showers of white sparks were sent flying over the heads of the crouching men.
     “There is nowhere for you to go Qubert!” said Dr. Harper loudly,  “Throw down your stunners!”
     “Hold your fire!” said Professor Mayonnaise holding up his hand.  All shooting stopped.  “You are wasting your breath Dr. Harper.  I will never give up until I take back what you stole from me.”
     “It is you who is doing the stealing professor,” the doctor replied.  “You have no right to anything I’ve invented.”
     “We were partners, doctor, or have you conveniently forgotten that little fact,” said Professor Mayonnaise as he aimed his stunner at the doctor’s leg, which was exposed.
     “Look out!” Danny tried to warn him, but he was too late.
     A large shower of white sparks exploded from Dr. Harper’s leg as the blue beam hit him in the knee.  He fell over like a statue.  His head hit the wall on the other side of the stairs where he lodged like a board.  The doctor’s hands were still rapped around the ray gun, and his eyes stared vacantly up to the ceiling.
     “Daddy!” said the young girl.  With a savage growl she jumped out from behind the wall and began blasting the men behind the soapdish.
     She managed to pick off Pretty Boy Bob, hitting him squarely in the face before she was hit herself.  Once she was stunned, they all stopped firing.  For a moment it became eerily silent in the bookshop.
     “Come on,” said Professor Mayonnaise standing up, “They are going to come around in less than a minute.  Ox, grab Bob and Stinky.”  He got on the soapdish and began pushing buttons.
     Clumsy got on behind the professor.  Ox got on shoving Bob and Stinky onto the soapdish in front of him.
     Danny watched all of this silently. Suddenly Mammoth leapt from his shoulder running at full speed toward the soapdish.  “Oh no, thought Danny because he could see where Mammoth was heading.
     Hanging out of Clumsy’s left pocket was a package of Peanut Butter Cups—Mammoth’s favorite forbidden food.  Before Danny could even stand up, Mammoth had jumped onto Ox’s leg, over Bob and Stinky, and was tearing at the package hanging out of the pocket.
     “Hey Clumsy, there’s a big rat on your pocket,” said Ox pointing.
     “Yeah right,” laughed Clumsy as he turned his head toward Ox. 
     He looked down just in time to see Mammoth free one of the peanut butter cups from the package.  The henchman let out a startled yelp, and fell off the soapdish.
     As Clumsy was falling, Mammoth leapt from his leg onto Professor Mayonnaise’s arm.    The professor flailed his arms around as if he were trying to fight off a swarm of bees.
     Mammoth easily avoided the professor’s attempts to dislodge him, jumping back and forth from one arm to the other as if he were a gymnast, then jumping lightly to the floor and running behind a pile of books. Clumsy meanwhile, had regained his feet and was now following the rattie.
     “Leave it,” said the professor regaining control of himself.
     “But he’s got my peanut butter cup,” wined Clumsy.
     “I said leave it you idiot,” snarled Professor Mayonnaise.  “The doctor and his daughter are starting to come around.”
     Clumsy reluctantly got back onto the soapdish.  He glared at Mammoth who was sitting at the edge of the pile of books, noisily devouring the candy.  It was as if he was doing it on purpose just to annoy the henchman.
     Dr. Harper and his daughter were moaning.  The doctor was already beginning to move around a little bit.
     Professor Mayonnaise pushed a button and the soapdish rose in the air.  Bubbles flew from the back of the soapdish, filling the air with the scent of Irish Spring.  He pulled both the hot and cold handles back toward him at the same time.  The soapdish, and everyone on it, began to shimmer.  There was the tinkling sound of wind chimes, a few bubbles, a faint smell of Irish Spring, and then the plastic bathtub soapdish was gone.

Chapter 2: Dr. Harper’s Bookstore

     There was silence in the bookstore once again.  Danny stood up dumbfounded by everything he had just seen. He looked down and saw Mammoth, who had finished the peanut butter cup, running back to him.
     “I see you’ve already gotten rid of the evidence,” he said bending down and picking up the squirming little bugger.
     Mammoth began licking Danny’s nose enthusiastically.  The young man could smell the peanut butter on the rattie’s breath.
     “Stay right where you are,” said the young girl.
     Danny looked up and saw two stunners pointed at him.  The young girl stepped in front of her father, getting ready to shoot.  Dr. Harper put his arm in front of her, holding her back.
     “Hold on Carrie.  We do not know what really happened here.  Let us hear what he has to say before you blast him, shall we?  After all, he did try to warn me when Professor Mayonnaise shot me.”  The doctor turned his attention back to Danny.
     “So young man, what do you have to say?”
     “I was not with them.”
     Danny then related everything that had happened to him since he had woken up earlier that morning.  Dr. Harper listened to Danny with growing amazement.
     “So it was your aunt who bought the soapdish from my shop.”  The doctor paused for a moment.  “That was very intelligent of you to have figured out the word key.  I do not think the professor would have been able to do it by himself.”  Dr. Harper extended his hand to Danny.  “I’m Jacob Harper, and this is my daughter Carrie.”
     Danny shook his hand.  “I’m glad to meet you Mr. Harper, I’m Danny Bailey”
     “That’s Dr. Harper to you,” spat Carrie, still eyeing Danny with suspicion.
     “That is enough Carrie.  This poor boy has been through a lot this morning.”
     “He might be lying,” she said raising he stunner again.
     “I am not!”  Danny was sure he was not going to like this girl.
     “Now, now,” said the doctor pushing Carrie’s hand back down.  “I think he is telling the truth.”
     Now that all of the excitement was over, Danny suddenly found that he needed to go to the bathroom very badly.
     “Ah, excuse me Dr. Harper,” said Danny his face beginning to turn a bright red, “but could I use your bathroom.”  Danny began studying his bare feet.
     “Oh, yes, I suppose it would have become a priority by now, follow me,” said Dr. Harper and led the way back up the stairs.  Carrie followed behind them watching Danny, and Mammoth, very closely.
     “I suppose you have a lot of questions about all the strange things you have seen tonight,” said the doctor over his shoulder.
     “Yes.” Danny nodded.
     They arrived at the top of the stairs, and Danny found himself standing in the kitchen of a very large apartment.
     “Here is the bathroom,” said the doctor pointing to a door on his right.  “I have a few more questions of my own.  When you come back out we can answer each other’s questions.”
     “Ok,” said Danny and went into the bathroom.  He quickly shut and locked the door.
     When he came back out, the doctor and his daughter were sitting at the kitchen table.  Dr. Harper had put out a bowl of fruit, cookies, bread and jam, and large glasses of milk.
     “Please, come sit down and have something to eat,” said the doctor pulling out a chair for the boy.
     Danny had to hold on to Mammoth to keep him from diving onto the table.  The rat squirmed trying to break free.
     “Maybe you should give him a bit of cookie so he will stop fussing,” said the doctor smiling at Danny, which made him feel much more comfortable.  He broke off a piece of one of the cookies and gave it to Mammoth, who snatched it as if it were the last bit of food he was ever going to get in his life, and went to work on it right away.
     Looking around Danny could not help seeing a huge bowl of gold-colored buttons on the kitchen table.  Dr. Harper noticed where Danny was looking.
     “I see you have noticed my button collection,” said Dr. Harper a sudden spark in his eyes.
     “That’s a lot of buttons,” said Danny as he watched Mammoth devouring the piece of cookie.
     “Oh this is just a small part of my button collection,” Dr. Harper assured him.  “I have a whole room where I display my finest buttons.  Would you like to see them?”
     “Ah, maybe later,” said Danny.  “Who was that man in the black hat, and what was he trying to do?”
     Dr. Harper smiled at Danny again.  “I suppose I should just tell you everything.”
     “He has already seen more than anyone should have, Carrie.  He might as well know it all.”
     Carrie did not look happy at all, but she remained silent.
     “His name is Professor Qubert P. Mayonnaise, and he was my college professor at  New Orleans University.  You see, Danny, I am a scientist, an inventor.”
     “My dad’s the best inventor in the whole world.”  Carrie beamed at her father.
     Dr. Harper smiled at his daughter’s boasting.  “I am not sure if that is an accurate statement, but I do have a certain flair.  Much of what I am about to tell you is going to be hard to believe, but I assure you that it is all true.  I was born right here in New Orleans in 1862.  In 1890 I invented a time machine that allows me to travel back and forth in time.”
     Danny sat with his mouth open.
     “I realize that this is all very difficult believe.  Just listen to everything I have to say, and by the time I am finished, I think you will believe me.”
     Danny closed his mouth and sat back in his chair, excited to hear all about these amazing things.  Forgotten was the fact that he was in his pajamas on the other side of town from his house, and it was past two o’clock in the morning.
     “When I had invented the time machine, I told my teacher and mentor Professor Mayonnaise.  After he had seen it work, we became partners.  I used the old style bicycles you saw as the framework for the first time machine.
     I made them so they could only transport a few people.  As time went on, I was able to make them fly, become invisible and intangible.  We came up with a plan to go back in time and rescue things that we knew were going to be destroyed.  We brought back things like paintings, statues, and books.
     The enterprise was working perfectly.  We were able to preserve some really wonderful things that had been lost.  Then Professor Mayonnaise started to become greedy. He wanted to take things that were not destroyed, things that were someone else’s.  He wanted to steal from the past.”
     Danny was not sure if taking things from the past was wrong, but he knew that stealing things was wrong no matter when you did it.  He wanted to ask Dr. Harper about it, but he did not want to interrupt the amazing story the doctor was telling him.  It was as if the doctor knew what he was going to ask because that was the next thing he talked about.
     “Professor Mayonnaise does not care if he destroys the past and the future.  His greed has made him unbalanced.  It is very risky to change anything in the past because even small changes in the past could make huge changes now or in the future.  It could even destroy the future all together.”
     Dr. Harper was gesturing wildly, his hands and arms flying all over the place.  Danny could not help but think with his wild hair and manic gestures that he was a funny little man.
     “When the professor realized that I was never going to let him steal from other times, he stole a time machine bicycle, kidnapped my wife and disappeared.  That was only a couple of weeks ago in this time.”
     “If he already had the time bike, why did he come back?” asked Danny.
     “He wanted the soapdish time machine,” the doctor replied.
     “Why would he want the soapdish when he already had a time machine?” said Danny genuinely curious.
     “You’re a very bright young man Danny,” said Dr. Harper smiling.  “I changed the bicycles so they could not bring back much more that you took with you at that time.  I did that on purpose because I began to suspect that Professor Mayonnaise might try to use them when I was not around.
     I did that before he stole the time machine, but he knew that I was working on the soapdish time machine.  It will allow us to bring back much more than the bicycles ever could.  I am sure that when he found out that the time machine he stole would not let him bring the things he wanted to the future, he would need to get the soapdish.”
     “There is one thing I don’t understand,” said Danny. “Why did you make a time machine out of a soapdish?”
     Carrie snorted as if it was obvious.  The doctor laughed.
     “It is very important when you time travel that no one knows you are from the future.  That is why I make things look like toys.”  He held up one of the stunners.  If people from the past saw the shrunken bicycle or soapdish, they would have no clue that they were time machines.”
     “That makes sense,” Danny agreed.  “I thought your stunners were toys myself, when I saw them for the first time.”
     “Quite right, quite right,” said Dr. Harper and stood up excitedly.  “That is my whole plan, to travel back in time, retrieve lost items and return without anyone knowing about it.  That is what the stunners are for.  If someone discovers us, we simply stun them and leave before they come around.  No one gets hurt and we get away.”
     “This is so cool,” said Danny finding all of this very exciting.
     “Yes, well,” Dr. Harper stopped and sat down, “It was until Professor Mayonnaise muddled things up.”
     “He’s a bum,” Carrie said angrily.  “He’s a dirt rotten bum.”
     “Now Carrie…” her father began.
     “He kidnapped mom.  Tell me you don’t think he’s a bum.”  Carrie’s eyes were starting to tear up.
     “I am so very sorry,” said her father taking her in his arms.
Carrie pushed him away.  “Don’t feel sorry, just get her back!”  She stormed from the room holding here hands in front of her face.
     “You will have to forgive her,” said Dr. Harper as he looked after the young girl.  “Having her mother taken has been very difficult for her.” 
     “That’s all right,” said Danny, “I think I would feel the same way.”  It was at that moment that Danny began to think of his own mother.  “Oh my gosh.  What time is it?”
     “Well,” said Dr. Harper wistfully. “That is really relative is it not?”
     “No, I mean what time is it now,” said Danny beginning to panic.  “My mom might have heard noises when we left.  You see, she is a light sleeper, and she might have woken up.”
     “Yes, my wife is a light sleeper also,” the doctor continued in the same voice.
     “Dr. Harper?  My parents may have already called the police.”  Danny could not believe it was not concerning the doctor.
     “If they woke up, I am sure they did,” replied the doctor.  “Under the same conditions I would have done the same thing.  I find parental protective instinct fascinating.  I have often wondered…”
     “I need to go home,” stated Danny firmly.
     “Not to worry young Danny,” said Dr. Harper patting the young man on the shoulder.  “I will get you home in do time.  Ha.  Do time.  Did you hear that?  What a nice little turn of the phrase.”
     Danny looked at the doctor as if he had suddenly gone completely mad.
     “We have time machines,” said Dr. Harper patiently.  “We can take you back to your house, at any time we want.” 
     “Duh,” said Carrie as she came back into the kitchen.  Her words were hard, and she said them as if she thought he was stupid.
     “I thought the professor stole your time machines,” said Danny trying to stick up for himself.
     “We have more than two,” said Carrie mockingly.
     “How was I supposed to know that?”  said Danny feeling very defensive.
     Once again Dr. Harper came to Danny’s rescue.  “I am not sure I would have understood it myself,” he laughed.  “We deal with time travel almost everyday around here.  Sometimes we forget that other people do not.”
     Carrie did not look too convinced, but she said nothing further.  She sat back down at the table, and began eating one of the cookies.
     Danny watched her take a big bite out of the cookie.  She bit it hard and tore off the piece angrily, looking right at him.  He had the feeling she was imagining it was his head.  It made his neck itch, or maybe it was just the crumbs Mammoth had dropped when he was eating.
     The rattie had finished his piece of cookie, and was working hard to getting off of Danny’s shoulder.  The young man could see where his pet was looking.  But, he did not need to see where the rattie was looking.  It was well known that Mammoth loved all shiny objects.
     “If you have a time machine,” said Danny keeping a good grip on the rodent. “Why don’t you go after the professor?”
     “Ah, that it were that simple,” sighed the doctor.  We do not know where he went, or to what time for that matter.  I am currently working on a way to track movement in time, but it is not ready yet.  You did not happen to see the destination when you were next to it, did you?”
     Danny shook his head.  “No, I’m sorry.  Mammoth might have when he stole the peanut butter cup.  It’s too bad we can’t ask him.”  Danny laughed.
     “Do you really think he saw the display pad?” asked the doctor excitedly.  He had stood up so quickly that Danny had jumped.
     “Ah, well, I think so but, ha ha, he can’t tell us.”  Danny had laughed, but it was a nervous laugh.
     Dr. Harper began to jump up and down like an excited little child.  “I would not be too certain of that my boy—Ha ha.  Would you mind if I asked him?”  The doctor had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
     “Mammoth can’t talk.”  Danny was beginning to think Dr. Harper really was crazy.
     “No,” said the doctor taking Mammoth from Danny’s shoulder, “but if you let me, I might be able to get the information from him.”
     Mammoth smelled all over the doctor’s hand, and decided he liked him.  The rat began to groom the hair on the doctor’s fingers.
     “You’re not going to hurt him are you?” asked Danny a little bit worried.
     “Not at all. I have a machine in my lab that allows me to gain information from people’s minds—kind of a time machine recorder.  All we have to do is hook up, um, Mammoth did you say?”   Dr. Harper was carrying the rattie toward the stairs.
     Danny nodded, following from behind.
     “To hook up Mammoth to the machine,” repeated the doctor, “and we will be able to go back and see what he saw on the transit pad.  Of course I have never used it on an animal before but, it should work the same.”
     “As long as he doesn’t get hurt,” said Danny reluctantly, “I guess it’s ok.”
     “Then let us see what it is like in Mammoth’s mind.”  The doctor hurried down the stairs lost in his excitement.  Here was something new to explore, and he just could not wait.

Chapter 3: The Incredible Amazing Mammoth 

     Danny had to hurry to catch up with the doctor at the bottom of the stairs.  He could hear Carrie coming down the stairs behind him.  She was holding the stunner again.
     “This will not hurt a bit my dear fellow,” Dr. Harper cooed to Mammoth as he petted him on the head.  “Perpechuem Intellelocator,” he said in front of the door.
     Danny heard the door unlock for the second time that morning.
     “Two thousand eleven.”  As the doctor said these words the door swung open.
Even though he was considered to be a short man, Dr. Harper still had to tilt his head down to step through the door.  Danny followed him.  He stepped through the door into a brightly-lit laboratory.
     There were strange looking machines all over the room.  Some of them were on tables, some on chairs, some on the floor, and some were even hanging from the wall.  It was an exciting place.
     Most of the machines had some sort of flashing light.  Many of them were moving, and making beeping, whirling, or dinging noises.  As he got closer to some of the machines, he saw that most of them were—or had been—toys.  He passed by a mechanical monkey who seemed to be turning its head to follow him.
     He stopped and smiled.  The monkey smiled back.  The monkey got a surprised expression on its face, then a look of puzzlement.  Danny suddenly realized that it was imitating him.
     “Hey, this monkey is imitating me,” he said laughing.
     “Hey, this monkey is imitating me,” said the monkey laughing.
     Dr. Harper turned around and came back.  He was beaming with pride.  “That is Monkey see Monkey do.”
     “Monkey see Monkey do,” echoed the monkey pointing its hand like the doctor.
     “Wow!” said Danny, “that’s great.”
     “I’m great!” said the monkey, then mimicked Danny’s surprised look.
     “I am still working on it,” the doctor said reaching over and pulling the monkey’s ear, turning it off in mid-sentence.  “It used to drive the professor crazy.  It is sound activated, and it seemed to always come on when he was in the room.”
     “Professor’s crazy in the room,” said Monkey see Monkey do, coming on again.
     “It’s stupid,” Carrie said with the monkey echoing her.  She stepped in front of the monkey and began to scratch under both her arms saying, “ Oh, oh, oh, I’m a stupid Monkey.”
     The monkey imitated her, but said, “You’re a stupid monkey.”
Carrie angrily reached over and pulled the monkey’s ear hard.  “This dumb thing is broken.”
     Danny hid a smirk with his hand, and thought that Professor Mayonnaise was the not the only one who didn’t like Monkey see Monkey do.
     Dr. Harper had not noticed.  He had taken Mammoth over to a nearby workbench.  “Ah, here it is,” he said pulling out a good-sized black box with knobs and wires all over it.  As he turned it around, Danny could see it was a very old television.
     All the wires coming from the box went into a kind of stretchy woolen cap.  Dr. Harper flipped a switch on the machine.  Lights came on all over the cap, blinking on and off.
     “Danny,” said the doctor, “hold onto Mammoth while I fit the cap to his head.”
     Danny took Mammoth, and held his squirmy body, as Dr. Harper adjusted the cap around Mammoth’s head.  It kept falling off until he used a rubber band.  Mammoth looked hilarious with the cap squashed down on his head.  The rattie kept turning his head side to side, which made him sway like he was drunk.  The poor rodent did not seem to be enjoying it much because he began nervously licking Danny’s hand.
     “Just hold him on the table,” said Dr. Harper going over to the TV.  “Good.  Now, let’s see what there is to see.”
     The doctor began to adjust knobs and push buttons.  They all waited, but nothing seemed to be happening.  Dr. Harper hit the side of the TV.  A picture slowly started to come into focus.
     They were looking at a view of the workbench.  Danny was amazed.  He was actually seeing through Mammoth’s eyes.
     “Good,” said the doctor, “Now let’s go back in time.”
     He began to adjust the knobs again, and the picture started to change, then it became a blur.  When it cleared up again, he saw himself sleeping in his bed at home, from the vantage point of the cage.
     “A bit too far I would have to say.”  As Dr. Harper said this he was already adjusting the knobs again.
     This time the picture did not blur.  It was just sped up.  Danny felt like he was watching a movie on fast forward.  They were almost to the part where Mammoth had jumped up onto the professor’s shoulder, when sparks began to come from the side of the television.  Sparks also began to come from the top of the cap on Mammoth’s head.
     “What’s this?”  The doctor tried to adjust the knobs, but it didn’t seem to be working.
     Danny felt a tingling in his hands where he was holding Mammoth.  A great many sparks started coming from the cap.  Mammoth was beginning to jump around, trying to get away from the cap.
     “Shut it off dad,” said Carrie.  Her voice sounded worried.
     But before Dr. Harper could turn off the machine, a very large spark came jetting out of the cap.  Mammoth leapt into the air.  Danny held onto the rat with one hand, and tried to take off the cap with the other.
     Danny felt a large jolt of electricity surge through his body.  For a quick moment a view coming from Danny’s eyes was seen on the screen, then the machine exploded.  Danny and Mammoth were thrown into the air away from the table.  As they fell to the floor, the cap was torn off of the rat’s head.  Smoke was rising from the top of Mammoth’s head where the cap had been.
     “Are you both all right,” said Dr. Harper running over.  He helped Danny to his feet.
     The young man looked down.  He was still holding onto Mammoth.  The rattie was shaking his head.  Smoke was still coming from the top of his head.  Danny’s hand was throbbing, and he had a bit of a headache, but he seemed to be ok.
     “I think I’m all right.”  He held Mammoth close to his chest.  The rattie seemed to be cold because he was shaking.  Danny stroked his little friend.  “It’s going to be ok Mammoth, don’t worry, you’re going to be all right.”
     “I am so sorry young man,” said the doctor a look of concern on his face.  “Let me see him for a moment.  I am a medical doctor also.”
     While Dr. Harper was looking at Mammoth, Carrie unplugged the machine, which then stopped sparking and popping.  It just sat on the table smoking.
     “He seems to be all right,” said the doctor after he had examined the rattie, “No broken bones or broken skin.”
     He handed Mammoth back to Danny.  The rat’s head had stopped smoking.  As Danny petted him again, he even stopped shaking.
     “That has never happened with that machine before.”  He picked up a burnt piece of wire from the bench.  “I might be able to rebuild it, but it’s such a shame we didn’t get the information we wanted before it blew up.  Mammoth was just about to show us.”
     “I still remember,” said Mammoth matter-of-factly.
     They all looked down in shock, not believing that a rat had just spoken.  Danny blinked and held Mammoth out in front of him.
     “What?”  Mammoth said looking back at Danny.  “Did you think I’d forget?”
     Mammoth’s voice was high and squeaky, but he still spoke English extremely well.  Danny looked down, but could not think of what to say.  What had happened?
     “This is amazing,” said Dr. Harper.  “But,” the doctor paused for a moment.  His mind had struck a thought and was now racing through a theory that was taking shape.  His genius mind was already figuring out what had happened.
     “Of course, that has to be it,” he said more to himself that to anyone else.
     “Danny?” squeaked Mammoth.
     “Yes,” answered Danny feeling very strange talking to his pet.
     “Let go, you’re squeezing me.”  The rattie was wiggling to get free.  He seemed totally unconcerned that he was suddenly able to talk.
     “Sorry,” said Danny and set Mammoth down on the table next to him.
     Once he was on the table he immediately began to explore.  It just so happened that he had been set down on the same table as Monkey see Monkey do.  He quickly found the Monkey, and after smelling it, he introduced himself.
     “Hello Mr. Monkey, I’m Mammoth.  What is your name?”
     “Hello monkey, I’m Mammoth,” said the monkey.
     “That’s my name, not yours,” said Mammoth pointing first to himself, then Monkey see Monkey do.
     “My name not yours,” said the monkey pointing.
     “Take it back,” said Mammoth starting to get angry.
     Danny turned back to Dr. Harper, leaving Mammoth to argue with the monkey.
     “What happened to him, doctor?”
     “I have an idea,” he said excitedly.  “Right before the machine blew up, I saw an image from your mind.  Now I can not be sure, but maybe…”
     The doctor’s voice drifted into silence.  He was in a world of his own as he thought his ideas through.
     “Doctor?”  Danny looked at him concerned.
     “He always does that when he’s thinking,” said Carrie coming over to stand next to her father.  “My mom says he is a bit scatter-brained, but I’ll bet he’s the smartest person in the whole world.”
     “It is rude to talk about people as if they were not there, Carrie,” her father scolded her.  “And I am not scatter-brained, maybe a little absent-minded at times, but certainly not scatter-brained.”
     “I’m sorry to interrupt, but what happened here?” asked Danny.
     “Oh, right, well, it is very complicated, but simply put, I think that when you grabbed the cap, your understanding went into Mammoth.”
     “But I still feel the same.”
     “I don’t think it took anything from you.  It was more a copy of your knowledge that went into the rat.  That knowledge was then mixed with his mind, and he became smarter.”
     “Hey, wait just a darn minute,” said Mammoth pausing in the poking contest he was having with the monkey, “I wasn’t stupid you know.”
     “Stupid you know,” said the monkey.
     Mammoth squeaked loudly and attacked the monkey, punching and biting.  But for every punch and bite he gave the monkey, he seemed to receive two back.  The two little animals rolled around the table screeching.
Carrie began to laugh loudly.
     “Mammoth!  Stop it,” said Danny grabbing the rattie, prying Monkey see Monkey do out of his grasp, as he bit the monkey’s ear.
     “What?” said Mammoth, monkey fur coming out of his mouth.
     “The monkey’s not alive,” he tried to explain.
     “The monkey’s alive,” said the monkey.
     Mammoth lunged for the toy again, but Danny held him tightly.
     “Mam-moth, it’s just a toy that imitates you.  See?”  He pulled the monkey’s ear.  The monkey slumped onto the tabletop and stopped moving.
     Mammoth stopped struggling.  Danny put him down on the table again.  The rat sniffed at the silent monkey cautiously.  He poked it once with his paw and jumped away.
     “Ha ha,” he laughed, “I knew it all the time.”
     “Yeah, right,” said Danny smirking.
     “Yeah, right,” said Monkey see Monkey do coming on again.
     Mammoth jumped almost a half meter off of the table.  When he landed, he started to take a swing at the toy when Danny grabbed him, walking away from the table.
     “I think it’s time we went home,” said Danny yawning.  In spite of the fact that so much had happened to him this morning, the young man was getting very tired.
     When he saw Danny yawning, Mammoth yawned too.  “Yeah, let’s go home he agreed jumping up onto his friend’s shoulder.
     “Wait,” said Dr. Harper running forward, “Mammoth said he remembered the information on the transit pad.”
     “Oh that,” squeaked Mammoth, “It said New Orleans 1890.”
     “That is fantastic news,” cried the doctor.  He began to dance around his lab.  He grabbed Carrie and Danny pulling them along with him.  “News, news, fantastic news.”  The doctor said these things in sort of a singsong way, as though he were listening to a piece of music.
     Carrie and Danny laughed and held hands with the doctor as they bounced around the lab.  Mammoth jumped from person to person doing a dance of his own.  Even Monkey see Monkey do came on and began to dance and sing.
     “Why is that such good news?” asked Danny when they had finally stopped dancing.
     “Why?  Oh yes,” said the doctor taking a moment to catch his breath.  “Well, now I will be able to track their time stream.  That has been the problem until now.  I never knew where they went, so I did not know where to start looking.  Now it will just be a matter of time before I am able to find out where they are, and go after them.  Now where did I put that locator?”
     Dr. Harper began to search the tabletops and benches.
     “I’m glad that we were able to help you Dr. Harper, and I know you are very busy right now, but Mammoth and I would like to go home now.”
     “What?” He paused, waiting for what Danny had said to sink in. “Yes of course.  Carrie, would you mind taking them home?  I have got a lot to do.”
     “But…” Carrie began.
     “Thank you,” said Dr. Harper not hearing her answer.  “Ah, here we are.  Now the reversal of the time stream through the space/time vortex…”
     Carrie had begun to protest, but she could see her father was already deep into his inventions, and would not hear a thing she said.  She sighed.
     “Follow me,” she said leading Danny to the back of the lab.
     “Are we going to ride on another bathtub,” asked Mammoth excitedly.
     “No.  That was the only one we had,” said Carrie sadly.  “We will have to use one of these.
     Carrie pointed to a toy bicycle on a workbench against the back wall.  But before she could pick it up, Mammoth had jumped from Danny’s shoulder onto the bench.  In another moment he had jumped onto the bicycle, and was riding it all over the bench.
     “Look at me Danny,” he squealed.  “This bicycle is just my size.”
     “Hey!” Carrie shouted at Mammoth.  “Stop, get off of that machine.”
     Danny chased Mammoth around the table with his hand.
     “Can’t catch me, can’t catch me,” squeaked Mammoth as he dodged Danny and Carrie.
     “All right Mammoth,” said Danny giggling, “You win, but it’s time to go home now."
     Mammoth stopped to complain, but the moment he did Carrie grabbed him and the bicycle.  The rattie easily squeezed out of her grasp, and jumped back onto Danny’s shoulder.
     “You dirty little rat,” said Carrie shaking her fist at Mammoth.  “You could have broken the time machine.”
     “Rats are not dirty,” said Danny feeling anger rise up in him.  “They clean themselves three or four times a day.”
     Mammoth jumped down onto the table, and stood up on his hind legs.  “Who are you calling little, huh?”  He balled up his tiny little fists, and advanced on Carrie.  “I’ll teach you who’s little, girlie.”
     Danny reached down and grabbed Mammoth around the waist, and picked him up.  “Don’t waste your time on her Mammoth, she’s just ignorant.”
     “I am not stupid!”  Carrie raged.
     “That just shows how ignorant you are,” said Danny smugly.  Ignorant doesn’t mean you are stupid.  It just means you don’t know anything about the subject you were talking about.”
     “But I’m not ignorant,” she said staunchly defending herself.
     “If you were not,” said Danny stiffly, “you would have known that Mammoth is probably twice the size of most rats, and he is a really clean animal.”
     “Well said,” said Dr. Harper who had been listening.  “I have to admit that I myself am rather ignorant on the knowledge of rats.  And I might be wrong in saying so, but your pet does seem to be very unique aside from his size.”
     “You’re right,” said Danny beaming.  “Mammoth has always been special.”
     Mammoth jumped up onto Danny’s shoulder, and began to lick his ear affectionately.  Danny petted the rattie’s head.
     “Danny’s the best friend in the whole world,” said Mammoth between licks.
Danny blushed. 
     “He saved me from being feed to a snake,” continued the rattie.
     “That sounds like a good story,” said the doctor.  “I would love to hear it.”
     “But daddy,” whined Carrie, “you’re very busy, and besides, they want to go home.”
     “I am never too busy to hear a good story, and besides,” he laughed, “We have all the time in the world.  You would not mind telling me the story would you?”
     “I don’t mind telling you if Mammoth doesn’t mind,” said Danny looked over at the rattie.
     “Why should I mind?” said Mammoth sticking out his chest. “I’m the hero of this story.”
     “Good, good,” said the doctor as he pulled up chairs for everyone, “I cannot wait to hear it.”
     “Well,” said Danny getting settled in his chair.  “My dad and I were walking in this shopping center when we passed by this pet shop.  My dad pointed out some dogs in the window, and said if I understood that we couldn’t buy one, we could go in and look at them.
     My dad loves all kinds of animals, and if he sees a pet store, he has to go inside and look at all the cool animals.  Mom says he’s just a big kid himself, and if she’d let him he’d bring home every animal in the store.”
     Dr. Harper smiled and nodded.  He was the same way about hardware stores.
     “While we were playing with the puppies,” continued Danny, “I heard a man getting very angry by the counter.  When I looked over he had this cute little rat by the tail, and he was yelling at it.  I said, ‘look at that cute little mouse dad.”
     “You thought I was a mouse?” asked Mammoth indignantly.
     “I didn’t know anything about rats back then,” said Danny apologetically.  “I just thought you were a big mouse.”
     “I still did not like it,” said Mammoth, “but at least you thought I was a big mouse.”
     “Anyway,” Danny continued, “my dad and I went over to take a look.  Dad asked the man what was going on.  The man said that the baby rat had killed a very rare little snake.” 
     “It didn’t seem very little to me,” said Mammoth.
     “Evidently the snake had somehow gotten out of its cage, and into the baby rat cage.  It tried to eat the baby rats, but Mammoth, being the biggest one, fought the snake and killed it.”  Danny paused for a moment. “Now that Mammoth can talk, maybe he should tell us what happened.  I’ve always wanted to know exactly what happened.”
     “Yes please,” said the Doctor turning to Mammoth, “How were you able to overcome a snake, I mean that is what snakes do, eat rats and mice that is.  This is fascinating.”
     “Well,” began Mammoth, “I was in the cage sleeping with my brothers.  Then I heard something.  It sounded just like someone raking their fingernails against a chalk board.” 
     He paused in his story to watch everyone squirm at the thought.  He was really getting into it.
     “Ohhh, I hate that sound,” said Carrie squirming.  She was not the only one.
     Quite pleased with himself, Mammoth continued.  “It was the snake squeezing through a gap between the lid and the water bottle.  The scaly monster slid into the cage, and headed straight for one of my brothers who were sleeping by the food dish.
It reared back to strike, and that’s when I jumped onto its back, biting it just behind the head.” 
     Mammoth re-enacted his jump onto the back of the snake.
     “Weren’t you scared?” asked Carrie her eyes wide.
     “You bet I was,” said Mammoth, “But the snake was going to eat my brothers.  I couldn’t let that happen.”
     “You were very brave,” said Carrie amazed.  “What happened next?”
     “The moment I bit into the snake it began to thrash around.  It twisted and turned, smashing me into the sides of the cage.  It hurt a lot, but I just bit harder and held on.”  Mammoth bit down and shook his head to show them what he did.
     “It seemed like forever, but finally the snake started to loose energy.  Even after it was dead, I didn’t let go for a long time.  I wanted to make sure it was really dead.”
     “Bravo,” said Dr. Harper.  “You saved your family.”
     “The pet store guy had found the dead snake shortly before my dad and I came into the shop,” said Danny taking up the story again.  “He was so mad that Mammoth had killed the snake that he was going to feed him to one of the big snakes.
     Dad told the guy it wasn’t the rat’s fault that the snake had gotten loose.  It didn’t matter to the pet shop guy; he was still going to feed Mammoth to the big snake.  I told dad we couldn’t let the brave little guy be eaten just for protecting himself and his family.
     My dad thought so too, and said we would buy him.  He asked the guy how much the rat cost.  The pet shop guy said two dollars, but the snake cost a hundred.  He said that unless we paid for the dead snake, he was still going to feed Mammoth to the big snake.”
     “He didn’t sound like a very nice man,” said Carrie angrily.
     “That guy made my dad very angry, and dad doesn’t get angry very easily.  But there was nothing else we could do, so he paid the guy for Mammoth and the other three rats in the cage, and we took them home.  Dad didn’t want to buy anything else from that store, so the next day we went to another store and bought everything we needed to take care of our ratties.
     Dad and I even read a bunch of books about rats so we could know how to take good care of Mammoth and his brothers.  Mom wasn’t too crazy about the idea at first, but after we told her what happened, she agreed we had done the right thing.  She still complains, but I think she loves the boys just like the rest of us.”
     Danny reached down and petted Mammoth, who nuzzled the boy’s hand and started licking his fingers.
     “That was a wonderful story,” said the doctor, “But there are still a couple of things I am curious about.  Such as, why did you call him Mammoth, and what happened to his brothers?”
     “We called him Mammoth because he looks a little like a Woolly Mammoth,” answered Danny, “and because he was so big.”
     “Of course,” said the doctor, “I should have realized that one.  What about his brothers?”
     “One of them looks like a smaller version of Mammoth,” said the young man, “but he has a black ring around one of his eyes so we called him Bullseye.  Another one is long and completely black, and when he ran across the floor my dad said he looked like a torpedo so dad named him Torpedo.  The last one is called Goggles because he is a double rex, which means his hair breaks off so he is balding all of the time, except right around his eyes.  He looks like he has a set of fur goggles.  The lady at the counter said they would have been sold, either as pets or feeders.”
     “That’s horrible,” said Carrie.  “Nobody should have a pet that has to eat other animals alive.”
     “I agree with you Carrie,” said her father, “But snakes do have to eat also.”
     “Yeah,” said Carrie defiantly, “but people don’t have to keep them as pets.”
     Her father didn’t say anything else about it.  It was obvious they all felt the same.
     “I suppose you should get them back home now, Carrie,” said her father changing the subject.  “Do you need me to set the time for you?”
     “No, that’s ok daddy.  I can do it.”  She smiled at the rattie as she turned back to the miniature bicycle, and from that moment on she and Mammoth were friends.