Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Just Call Me Joe!

by John Erickson

I'll tell you a story - oh no, it's not gory!
I swear ev'ry word of it's true -
A sprightly old gent, not wrinkled nor bent
Insists that I tell it to you!

He sits by my side, to act as my guide,
"Because it's a strange story, you know!
Write down my strange caper, just write it on paper,
Oh yes, and just call me Joe.

"This strange little packet, right here by my jacket,
I bought in that pawn shop right there.
It sat by itself, high up on a shelf,
And just what it does, I will share.

But please, my dear author" he said with a grin,
"I do need five dollars, before I begin!"

I reached for my purse - it could have been worse!
And the gift of five dollars concluded.
"I need it, my friend - just look on this end -
The batteries were not included!"

This thing from the store - just what is it for?
And what's that red button on top?
If I push on that thing, will it talk, will it sing?
And what if I want it to stop?

"This thing from the shelf, I'm not sure myself,
But I thank you for helping with money!
I have these two cells, now who knows what tells -
I might well be saying, 'good bye to you, honey!'"

He took the new batteries and pushed them right in,
And vanished from sight, with a gasp and a spin!

I'm all by myself, yes, here by myself!
There's no-one right here, where he'd been,
As Joe told me later (I'll be the relater)
We'll follow what happened to him.

"I've a strange sort of feeling, I seem to be reeling,
It seems like a strange sort of day!
A strange sort of world, a strange flag unfurled -
Where's that statue of old Henry Clay?

"The bells in the steeple, the voices of people
All speaking a strange, foreign tongue.
Can't tell what they're saying, perhaps they are praying -
It's a strange sort of folks I'm among!

"I picked up my box - enough of this din!
And pushed the red button right in!

"A horse and a cow in front of me now,
The pastures and fields of a farm.
Here comes a young man, I'll ask if I can -
It surely won't do any harm!

"'Hello, there, young guy, don't go right on by -
I'm lost and don't know what I am seeking!'
'I hear you old fellow, you don't have to bellow!
But what an odd accent you're speaking!

"'From what I have read, I think now instead,
You come from a parallel land!
From what I can see, that's what seems to me -
But what's that queer box in your hand?'

"Just watch, I replied with a grin,
And I pushed the red button right in!

"Now I am married, hurried and harried:
Do this and do that and take out the trash.
'Work like the dickens while I feed the chickens,
Then go to the bank and get me some cash!'

"She was chock-full of chatter, but nothing did matter,
Except that she called me, 'Hey Sam!'
It's not quite the same - not me by that name,
That's certainly not who I am!

"I said, 'My dear wife, the light of my life,
I'd like if you'd just call me Joe!
That box that you see, right here by my knee -
Just watch it and you'll see me go.'

"I picked up the box and with a last grin
I pushed the red button right in!

"This time I've a feeling that time has gone reeling,
This world is ahead of our own!
With odd flying cars, with ships just in from Mars.
And look at that video 'phone!

"And here are strange creatures with non-human features
Who come from a planet somewhere,
And round-the-clock pleasure, all made to your measure.
More gadgetry than I could bear!

"And try as I might when someone's in sight,
I could fathom no word that he said.
And when one was near me, she tried hard to hear me,
But smiled with a nod of her head!

"Well, I'll try once again, I'm sure it's no sin.
So I pushed the red button right in.

"Another strange city - it does seem a pity
I stand here in a parallel world!
Still other strange places and other strange faces,
Where me and this box have been hurled!

"Another strange setting, that's all that I'm getting
With this little box from that shop!
This is a bit tiring - could it be in the wiring?
I'd like to make this thing stop!

"Now who knows what tells if I take these two cells
And put them in backwards this time.
I want to go home, no longer to roam
And see my dear author of rhyme!

"Enough of these travels, these things that have been!
I pushed the red button right in!"

Now let me prevail, and back to my tale,
I'm back on that bench - recall that?
I'm thinking of Joe, how I'd seen him go,
And that blank space right where he sat.

When out of the blue - I tell this to you.
I wouldn't tell stories, you know -
At once I espied he was here by my side
And saying, "Just call me Joe!"

"Yes, here I am, friend, my journey's at end.
Of parallel worlds I've unraveled.
Please write what I say and send it away,
So people can read how I've traveled!

"There's a garbage can, right where it's been
And I'm throwing this gadget right in!"

© 2009 John Erickson

Find more by John Erickson in the Author Index.

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