Luis's uncle hugged the man and said, “I know it's late. But I'm hoping you can help me with a small problem.” He glanced over his shoulder at Luis and smiled.
Luis's mouth hung open and he couldn't find his voice. The man standing in the doorway looked identical to his good friend who would one day live in the stone cottage at Cider Mill Farm, the Reverend von Klingensmith. The quirky old man standing there now even had the same deep, throaty voice that bellowed from the bottom of his stomach.
The uncle turned and gestured to Luis. “This young man says he's my grown nephew, Luis Fortune. He says he comes from the year 2011, but he isn't sure how he got here.” He turned to Luis. “And Luis, this is my old friend, Reverend von Klingensmith.”
Luis lunged at the old man with white hair. “Tho-mas,” he said, pronouncing the old man's name with the accent on the second syllable instead of the first, “I can't believe it's you. I've never been so happy to see anyone in my life.” Then Luis threw his arms around the old man and hugged him so hard the old guy almost lost his balance.
The Reverend and Luis's uncle exchanged glances and the Reverend said, “I don't think we've met before. But it is nice meeting you, young man.”
Luis knew his old friend wouldn't recognize him, so he didn't pursue the issue. “It's so good to see you.”
“Let's go inside and get out of this snow,” The Reverend said. “These cold fronts from Alaska can be very tricky. You never know when they are going to swoop down on you.”
When they went into the stone cottage, the Reverend Thomas von Klingensmith led them to his small living room and Luis's uncle explained Luis's problem in detail. He told the old man Luis wanted to get back to his real life, in the year 2011, and join his family and all his loved ones again. Then Luis reached out and grabbed von Klingensmith's hands and squeezed them. He begged the old man to help him get back to his real life so he could be with Jase and his son again. Luis said he would be willing to do anything the old man wanted him to do.
The Reverend listened to everything they said, and then he paced the room a few times and let it all process. When he was finished pacing, he told Luis and his uncle to sit down and wait for him. He said he had to prepare and it would take a minute or two. Then he disappeared to the back of the cottage and didn't return until twenty minutes later. And when he came back, he was wearing some kind of formal religious clerics that reminded Luis of a cross between the Pope and a drag queen. His long purple robe was studded with rhinestones and trimmed with white ostrich feathers. There was gold embroidery on the back and front. On his head, he wore an over-sized purple pillbox hat that had a huge round diamond on top, with more gold and rhinestone trim around the edges. On his feet he wore purple velvet slippers with rhinestones. He had a large, exaggerated ring on every finger and it looked as if he'd dotted his lips with pale pink lip gloss. In one hand he carried a large book; in the other a small red velvet sack.
The old man crossed into the room, with the purple robe flowing and ostrich feathers fluttering, and set a large book down on a game table behind the sofa. He opened the book to a marked page and turned to face Luis. “I haven't done anything like this in a long time, not since my days in Virginia Beach with the old psychics. I'm not sure it will work. The frequencies have to be in the exact perfect positions. But I'll do my best to help you.” Then he handed the red velvet sack to Luis and said, “Go back to the small bedroom and put these things on. And don't take too long. The spirit guides are telling me we have to act fast.”
Luis took the sack from von Klingensmith and opened it. When he looked inside, he saw a paper thin slivery, sparkly robe and a pair of slivery, sparkly quarter boots with six inch spiked stilettos. He blinked and said, “I'm supposed to put these on?” This was getting weirder by the minute. All he needed was a brassy blond wig and two inch fake fingernails.
The Reverend sent him a serious glance. “It's the only way, if you really want to get back to your life.”
Luis glanced at his uncle. “There's no way I'm doing this. I'd feel like an idiot.”
The uncle was standing off to the side of the room observing, and his hands were folded below his waist. He smiled at Luis and said, “You can trust him. He knows what he's doing.”
So Luis sighed and took the red sack to a small bedroom off the kitchen at the back of the cottage. He stripped down to nothing and covered his body with the thin silver robe, and then he slipped his bare feet into the silver stiletto quarter boots and looked into a cloudy mirror. The robe was so short it barely covered his buttocks. The spiked stilettos were so high he could barely stand up straight.
When he went back out to join his uncle and the Reverend, he glanced at his uncle and said, “I don't have a good feeling about this. I feel like a blithering idiot.”
The uncle smiled. “You'll be fine, trust me.”
The old man said, “Are we ready to begin?” He was staring at the open book.
Luis's gaze remained fixed on his uncle. “One thing before we begin.” He clamped his hands together and leaned forward. If this did work and Luis did go back to his real life in 2011, he might not get a chance to ever see his uncle alive again. He told his uncle, “Please do me one favor. You have to take care of yourself. I want you to know my son and my husband in the future. You have to take your medicine. Promise me you will.”
The uncle shrugged. “But there is no medicine for what I have, kid.”
Luis shook his head. “But there will be, and you have to take it. I want you in my life for as long as I can. You have to promise me you'll do this.”
The uncle walked to where Luis was standing. He hugged him, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “I'll do my best. But I honestly can't promise anything. That's not how life works, and you know it. Sometimes no matter how hard we try to control things fate takes over and a larger plan develops and we're helpless.”
Luis held his uncle tighter than he'd ever held anyone in his life. For a moment, he believed if he held him this way he'd keep him in is life forever. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach because he wasn't sure his uncle was paying attention to him. “Do your best, then. That's all I ask.”
“I will,” said the uncle, and then he went back to the side of the room so he wouldn't be in the way.
The Reverend von Klingensmith lit about four dozen candles all over the room. Then he lit some kind of brass jug that contained strong, spicy incense and started swinging it back and forth very slowly. The smoke trickled out in long, perfect streams and swirled into the air. Von Klingensmith smiled at Luis and glanced down at the book on the game table. When he started to speak, his voice rang out in a language Luis didn't recognize. It sounded part French, part Latin, and part Italian. The words he spoke ran together and resembled a long stream of absolute gibberish. While the Reverend spoke, Luis felt a breeze pass through the room and the flames on the candles began to flicker. The next thing Luis knew the Reverend lifted his arms and shouted something in this deplorable, incoherent language and all the candles went out at once.