New acquaintances and new experiences await Rhubarb T. Porterhut and company.
With his newfound friend and associate, Fibulious, Rhubarb T. Porterhut was more determined than ever to find his way back to his beloved Florentine, but first they had to find more fuel, as their detour had cost them nearly all of their coal.
Rhubarb rubbed his head, scanning the space around him. “Well, if any of us are to make it home, we must find more coal, or at least a sufficient substitute.”
“Some of these trains still have some coal in them. We could use that.” Fibulious started to run off, forgetting that Rhubarb and Columbus did not know the area as well as he. But Rhubarb stopped him short with a finger snap.
“An excellent idea, but perhaps we should proceed together. While my eyes have adjusted adequately enough, I can no better navigate this train yard than I could a cornfield maze. Lead the way, Fibulious, but stay close.”
So Fibulious led them from engine to engine, as they manage to collect a few coals here and there. The engineers must have collected much of the leftover coals when they interred the trains, such that Rhubarb and company were only able to collect a scant amount. It wasn’t enough to get them home, if only they knew in which direction home lay, and was barely enough to get them out of that train graveyard.
After about an hour of intense searching, Rhubarb knew they were going to have to find another solution. “This simply will not do. We will have to have more, quite a bit more, if we are to depart from here.”
Then Rhubarb remembered how he had tripped over the pile of wood. There was ample enough wood around them, in piles and in the trains themselves. While it would not be as efficient as coal, it would have to do for the time being.
“Wood. We can use wood. Quickly everyone, we do not want to have to spend tonight here. Fibulious, you and Columbus can work together gathering wood while I cover this section.”
With bits of wood here or there in nearly every direction, it was not as important for everyone to stay together, so while Rhubarb went off on his own, Fibulious took Columbus, and started disassembling piles of wood to stack on Columbus’ back. For Columbus, it wasn’t the most desirous of situations, but the sooner they collected the wood, the sooner he could be back in his own bed.
Another hour or so of diligent wood gathering yielded enough burnable material to be able to get them away from that wretched place. They had to pluck the skeletons of ancient trains in order to do so, and such desecration left them eager to leave. With the train loaded for bear, it was time to for them to go.
“Now that we have fuel, I suppose the best way to find home, is to get ourselves turned around.”
Fibulious offered a solution. “I’ve seen the men take their trains that way. Then they come back in a little while, but turned around.”
“Sounds as though there is a turntable nearby. We will make excellent use of it then. Come.”
Rhubarb pulled Fibulious up onto the engine with Columbus leaping after. Together, they began shoveling wood into the furnace and started the fire going. The locomotive was slow to take, but eventually starting breathing with life.
“I take it this is your first time being in the cab of a steam engine, am I right?”
“Yes, sir, yes,” Fibulious nodded. His excitement was palpable and contagious, and lifted everyone’s spirits.
“Then let us go home, shall we?”
Rhubarb pulled a lever and the train began to move. Fibulious eagerly peered out the sides, with Rhubarb careful to keep a hold of his tattered shirt. After several minutes, Fibulious began to calm down, and stopped darting around the rather small engine cab.
“If you do not mind if I pry a bit, what ever made you decide to run away from home?”
Fibulious looked down, then away, which Rhubarb mistook for a shyness.
“If it is a sensitive subject for you...”
“Trouble... I got into trouble,” answered Fibulious, still not looking at him.
“What kind of trouble?”
Fibulious shook his head from side to side, and Rhubarb knew there wasn’t going to be anything else forthcoming on the subject, at least for the moment. So he decided to change the subject.
“Well, I wonder what time it is right now. My watch says 6:30. Is it still Saturday, I wonder?”
“I think it’s Sunday,” offered Fibulious.
“Sunday, why then ... we should be more than several hours in the future.”
Rhubarb forgot that young Fibulious had no knowledge of Columbus’ and his experiment. Explaining the situation was a bit of a conundrum.
“Well. You see, I am an inventor, and Columbus and I are performing a grand experiment, the likes of which mankind has never been witness to. In short, we are time-space travelers.”
Fibulious’ eyes went wide to the point of almost bulging out of their sockets.
“And, in reference to our time, you would appear to be from our future.”
“You mean you came from the past?”
Rhubarb was surprised by Fibulious comprehension of time, but was no less delighted by his enthusiasm.
“Why yes. So you being from our future makes you in some ways a future man.”
“A future man,” wondered Fibulious. “That sounds mighty fine.”
“You like that, do you? Well that is what I shall call you then, Fibulious. Futureman.”
Fibulious was beaming from ear to ear. “Wow, Mister Portrait, that’s awfully nice of you. I never had a nickname before.”
“Well, Futureman, I’m glad you like it.”
As their time device moved farther and farther away from the train yard, all three passengers rested content, looking forward to reaching the turntable so that they could start their trip in earnest. Thinking about what the future held, Rhubarb remembered his watch and decided he should wind it since he couldn’t remember the last time he had done so.