The Time Trav­eller’s Un­cle

The People's Friend Special - - HERITAGE -

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 . . .

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