The Time Traveller’s Uncle
WHEN Uncle Lenny said he’d discovered the secret of time travel and wanted Ruby to be his guinea pig, she willingly agreed.
It had always been cool having an uncle who invented things, like having your very own Caractacus Potts at work in the lean-to at the side of the house.
Even though she’d left her childhood behind, Ruby had never lost her sense of adventure, and she had faith that, one day, he’d invent something amazing.
Everything Uncle Lenny invented turned out messy. His automatic toast butterer flicked butter up the walls and none on the toast, which ended up on the floor.
Ruby felt a time machine couldn’t be messy. It was one small piece of equipment like a hand-held scanner.
He wasn’t allowed to use mains electricity for his inventions after the incident with the electric wastedisposal unit he installed in the kitchen. Her dad touched the sink and was flung clear across the room.
Afterwards, Uncle Lenny said people should focus on the positive, which was him getting her dad’s heart started again after the electric shock, rather than the fact that he’d turned the sink into a death trap.
“Will it hurt?” Ruby asked as Uncle Lenny directed her towards a second-hand dentist’s chair. His lean-to was full of things like that.
“Of course not. You know I’d never do anything to endanger your life.”
“My life?” Ruby said, alarmed. “I was thinking more of a bit of a bruise.”
Uncle Lenny laughed and twiddled with the scanner thingy. Ruby wondered if he’d finally gone mad. His inventing had taken over his life and he hadn’t had time for a haircut, so his long white hair was tied back in a man bun.
“One day I will be famous, Ruby,” he said. “Time travel has always been the ultimate prize.”
“Where am I going? Tell me there won’t be dinosaurs.”
“No, Ruby. You will travel only seconds, perhaps minutes into the past. Maybe hours. Or days.” “And how do I get back?” “Ah.” He gestured at the ceiling. “Past me will be there to help you.”
“Wait,” Ruby began. “I don’t think – I mean I’m not sure I have time for this. Perhaps later.”
“Don’t worry,” Uncle Lenny soothed. “Close your eyes and relax. You won’t be missed from this time.” Ruby closed her eyes.
“If you say so. What’s that music?”
“It’s to help you relax,” Uncle Lenny said.
“Remember when you were a child, playing with your friends? I remember hearing you all as I worked on my self-drive car.
“Of course, they’re a thing now, self-drive cars. With the right equipment and some investment . . . But lack of money is the bane of an inventor’s life.”
Ruby stifled a yawn as Uncle Lenny went on about what could have been if he’d only had the funds.
It was he who had kindled Ruby’s love of science. He taught her how to do experiments with household items and he paid her to be his assistant, although she would have assisted for free.
Everyone loved Uncle Lenny: her family, her friends, the neighbours. He was the kind of man who would do a good turn for anyone and never ask anything in return.
He was her mum’s uncle and had lived with them all her life. He’d always had a faint accent, which made him seem rather exotic.
He could cut quite an imposing figure, too. Ruby would never forget the day a boy brought her home late after a night out.
It wasn’t her father waiting at the door, but Uncle Lenny standing on the drive, arms crossed high across his chest.
He was tall, and when he drew himself up, he looked almost gigantic.
The boy scarpered and Ruby was cross, but Uncle Lenny put a protective arm around her shoulders.
“I don’t like him, Ruby. He is not for you.”
How she’d railed at him. How dare he presume to know who was or was not for her? But he was right.
He was almost always right when it came to her choice of boyfriends, but over the years he learned to keep his opinions to himself, especially after the time he was wrong.
She shuddered, remembering Jamie. Uncle Lenny had been quite taken with him.
“He always asks so many questions,” he told her. “Even though he has no scientific knowledge, his
As an inventor, Lenny was full of bright ideas . . .