The prompt for the Chatham Writers Group today was to write about your favorite U.S. President. I chose to write a sequel to my Time Traveler piece about being present at Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It is a work of fiction, based on a trip our son, Geoff, and I made to Gettysburg for the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. I’ll let you figure out what the fiction stuff is😁.
November 19, 2013
Our oldest son, Geoff, and I rose early to make our way to witness the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. It was a spectacle of a day, speeches from politicians, Civil War re-enactors in full uniform marching to the presentation stage, Ken Burns filming a documentary of people reciting Lincoln’s address, hundreds of Lincoln impersonators, and a noted Lincoln re-enactor who would read the address to the several thousand in attendance. Geoff and I found a great spot on a slight rise of ground that allowed us a clear view of the stage where the speeches would be given.
“Is that stage in the exact location of where Lincoln gave his speech Dad?” asked Geoff.
“No, it was over where that tall monument is,” I replied, pointing to a spot about 100 yards away, “There’s a plaque indicating the location.”
Our cameras at the ready we snapped photos as the invited dignitaries gave their speeches. Finally, the crowning moment arrived and Mr. Kraus, the Lincoln re-enactor stepped up to the podium. Pulling a couple of folded pages from his pocket, donning his glasses, Mr. Kraus began to read. Quaking with emotion, I tried to remain steady as I snapped photo after photo.
A thunderous applause followed the completion of the speech after which the crowd began to disperse. I indicated to Geoff that I wanted to visit the spot where Lincoln gave his original address. Geoff said he would catch up with me, he saw Ken Burns and Justice Scalia and wanted to get some pictures. Arriving at the monument, I began to walk around it looking off to my left. Reaching a certain point, I stopped to look at the monument, then to my left, nodded and walked about 20 yards away. I turned to look back at the monument and closed my eyes.
A high pitched, reedy voice, with a mid-Western twang asked, “Excuse me sir, I believe we may have met once.”
I opened my eyes to see one of the Lincoln impersonators walking towards me. “I don’t believe we have sir,” I said with a smile, noting that he looked more like Lincoln than any of the posers I had seen that day.
Eyes twinkling, the Lincoln guy erupted, “Dr. Laszlo! It is you!” Confusion now spread over his face, “But I don’t understand, we met 150 years ago, I last saw you standing on this very spot…” he trailed off. My head began to spin, I sat down on the ground. I blacked out, for how long I’m not certain. I opened my eyes to the sensation of a light breeze on my face, which may, or may not, have come from the act of President Lincoln fanning me with his top hat. He appeared now as a shimmering image, somewhat pixelated.
“It seems someone is about as surprised to see me as I him,” chuckled the President. You have to tell me your age defying secret. I am dead, and you are very much alive. Looking only slightly older than you did 150 years ago!”
I shook my head to loosen the cob webs and looked around to see if anyone else was observing this exchange. Lincoln sensed what I was doing, “Only you can see me Doctor. That’s how I knew it was you. For quite some time, only loved ones and those I considered close friends could see me, converse with me. Now, only those in the same condition as I can see each other. Until today. what. Is. Your. Story?”
“I am honored, actually humbled, to learn that you consider me a close friend, Mr. President. We met only briefly.”
“Call me Abe, no need to be so formal. I’m no longer the President. We would have become great friends, I am certain of it.”
I gazed towards the stage where the speeches had been given, people were still milling about. I tried to spot my son. He would be looking for me soon.
“My story is short, but complicated. It may take some time to explain, Mr. Pres…, I’m sorry, Abe.”
“I understand. Look, others are beginning to approach. They’ll see you talking to no one and think you as crazy as my Mary. I’ll meet you at the gatehouse when the clock chimes eight this evening. We have much to discuss.”
“Eight P.M. it is sir.” As I got back to my feet, he smiled, nodded and dissolved. A few remaining sparks of light flickered like fireflies.
“Who were you talking to Dad?” I jumped at the sound of Geoff’s voice.
I smiled at Geoff, “I was practicing the Gettysburg Address so I can recite it for Ken Burns’ documentary.”
Geoff and I made our way over to the Visitor’s Center. We went to the Cyclorama show where I gave Geoff a running commentary of the massive, 360 degree painting, pointing out various personalities featured, especially the one the artist intended to be Lincoln dressed as a soldier brandishing a sword. We met Ken Burns and I stood before the camera to recite the Gettysburg Address. I became emotional and had to pause for a moment before completing it.
We made a brief visit to the book store/gift shop and left the visitor center to, as Geoff would say, “Grab some lunch.” On the path to the parking lot, we came upon a bronze statue of Lincoln sitting on a park bench. I took a couple of photos of Geoff sitting next to the bronze Lincoln, Geoff took a couple of photos of me with my arm draped over Lincoln’s shoulder. We accepted the offer of a passerby to take photos of both of us sitting on either side of the statue using both my digital camera and my cell phone.
At the Farnsworth House, waiting for our meals to arrive, I began to slide through the photos taken with my cell phone. When I arrived at the last photo in the set, my heart leapt into my throat and I had to fight back tears. Geoff and I sat on either side of the bronze Lincoln. Behind us, with what appeared to be a hand resting on each of our shoulders, and a big grin, was the shimmering pixelated image of my favorite President.
The Chatham Writers Group
February 21, 2022
4 thoughts on “Time Traveler – Part II”
Wonderful story, Ernie. Gettysburg is magically spooky. Did you see uncle Joshua on Little Round Top?
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Thank you John! Glad you enjoyed my story. We didn’t get over to Little Round Top that day! The Cashtown Inn is haunted. Back in my Civil War Round Table days there were several members who saw ghosts in the area of the high water mark of Pickett’s Charge, around Devil’s Den and in the Peach Orchard. The area northwest of town is supposedly a hotbed of paranormal activity.
I love the way you weave historical fact with personal perspective. Great photo of you and Geoff with “Abe”.
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Thank you very much Nancy. I have been working to improve the mix of history and fiction to create stories that don’t bore people to death.