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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
Just as the Allosaurus' huge teeth were about to crush him, Charlie woke up shaking.
Drenched in sweat and breathing fast, Charlie didn't realized at first that it had been a dream. Then he dared to look around and saw that he was in his bed in his own room. As he looked around, he noticed his dinosaur bedspread, dinosaur curtains, dinosaur models on the bureau, dinosaur books on his desk, and dinosaur posters on the wall. A few seconds later, when he had calmed down, he vowed to stop reading about dinosaurs so much, and not to watch nature documentaries late at night.
Charlie's nerves were still raw when his alarm clock went off two minutes later, startling him. His heart still pounding, he jumped out of bed, but his legs were tangled in the sheets and he fell onto the floor headfirst, landing in a twisted heap. Charlie thought to himself, "What a morning. I wonder what will happen next."
Nothing had been going right for Charlie lately, and he had no idea why. Even school, which he used to like, wasn't going very well. He thought that perhaps he should stay home today -- he knew that no one would miss him anyway, they didn't call him the "Invisible Boy" for nothing. Charlie wasn't really invisible, but he was terribly average. He had brown hair, brown eyes, freckles, and glasses. People often forgot his name - they sometimes even forgot he was in the room with them.
Charlie decided to go to school after all - it would be too boring to stay home. He slowly got dressed, putting on his favorite jeans and one of his dinosaur T-shirts. Then he went down to breakfast.
At the table in the kitchen, his parents were reading the paper, and his younger sister, Kate, was eating. As he sat down with a bowl of cereal, he started to tell them about the goriest parts of his dream, but his parents weren't even listening. Kate interrupted him, saying, "Why do you have to ruin breakfast every single day - couldn't you act normal for just one day?" His mother glanced up from her paper and said, "You'd better run, Charlie, or you'll miss your bus again."
Charlie grabbed his backpack and ran. As he was running, he remembered that today was the day he had been waiting for, and smiled. It would be a great day after all.
When he reached the street, the school bus had just stopped, and he got on. Charlie's house was the last bus stop before school, and it was always hard to find a seat. As he made his way to the back of the bus, Claude pulled his usual stunt and stuck out his foot as Charlie walked by. Charlie stumbled but didn't fall. Claude and his friends laughed at Charlie. But for once, Charlie didn't care, because today was the day.
Charlie took a seat in the back by Alice. She was in his class, but she usually ignored him. She pushed her long, brown hair away from her face, pushed up her glasses, and squinted at Charlie out of the sides of her icy green eyes - a warning for him not to sit with her again. It didn't bother him today. He had other things to think about.
Exactly one month ago, Charlie had gone to town on an errand after school, and he had found a shiny red object on the sidewalk in front of the Hell's Creek fire station. No one was around. As he picked it up, Charlie wondered who had lost it. It was a sleek, metallic red triangle with rounded corners; it was almost 4 inches on each side and was only about as thick as a piece of cardboard. There was a small metal loop on one of the points and near it was a tiny button. He pushed the button, and the triangle popped open smoothly. On the inside, there was a screen on one side and a tiny keypad on the other side. It looked like a miniature computer.
Charlie sat down on the sidewalk and started pressing keys at random. A map of the earth came up on the screen, picturing green land and blue water. The only other color on the map was a red dot on eastern Montana, where Charlie was. The screen below the map was empty. Along the bottom of the screen were the words Time: April 10, 2002, 4:00 PM MST and Place: Longitude 105 degrees, Latitude 47 degrees. He sat down and tried more keys - it must be more than a global positioning device with a built-in clock. He was sure that it could do some very cool things, if only he could figure out how.
Stan, Charlie's cousin, who is a firefighter, stuck his head out of the station house window and yelled at him, "Charlie, why are you sitting on the sidewalk? Couldn't you find something even goofier to do?" Charlie almost walked away without answering, but he wanted to tell someone about his great find, even if it was Stan.
Charlie brought the computer into the fire station and told Stan about how he had just found it. They both looked at it for a while but couldn't get it to do much of anything. Stan gave up on it. They couldn't find the name of the owner anywhere, only the marks STU 3535 on the cover.
"You should leave it at the police station where the owner can claim it", said Stan. Charlie wasn't so sure about that, "What ever happened to "Finders keepers, losers weepers?" Boy, was that ever a mistake. Stan put on his I'm-10-years-older-then-you voice and said, "I'll have to tell your parents if you don't turn it in." He would, too.
Charlie left and walked slowly to the police station, which was two buildings down the street. He reluctantly left the triangular computer with Deputy Oppenborn, who said, "I'm proud of you, Charlie. Many people wouldn't turn in a valuable machine like that. Maybe you'll get a reward from the owner." Charlie didn't tell him that Stan had forced him to turn it in. As Charlie was leaving, the Deputy said, "You know Charlie, if no one claims it in a month, it's yours."
That was exactly one month ago. Since then, Charlie had called the station every day at 3:40, right after the school bus dropped him off at home - and so far, no one had claimed his computer!
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Montana is a state in the United States of America. Its capital is Helena.
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