Categories
Science Fiction short stories

To Engage With Time


Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, Oil painting, Americana,

What makes Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting one of his most celebrated works? Created in 1942, Nighthawks is considered the incarnation of existential art, capturing the alienation and loneliness symptomatic of modern urban life. The following story is inspired by the painting.

I mount the time machine and dial the year nineteen-forty-two. I have a keen interest in the war years. Activities like storming the beaches of Normandy are not high on my priorities list. I stay far behind the front lines. I find the study of American culture during the war years fascinating. I stay away from heavily populated cities to remain inconspicuous. You might say I’m not truly adventurous, excluding, of course, time travel and my voracious appetite for knowledge. I’m a scientist, first and foremost. As soon as I’ve perfected my time-traveling technology, I intend to unveil it in a white paper report and work with a team to use my discoveries for the betterment of mankind.

I finish entering all of the pertinent data into the onboard computer and push the launch button.  Seconds later, the machine deposits me in the small town of Independence, Ohio. On this trip, I find myself on a corner across the street from an all-night diner. My trans-spacial watch tells me it’s two-thirty in the morning. Materializing in small towns on deserted streets in the middle of the night is a proven method for avoiding stampeding crowds.

Illustration of a time machine from the story "A Lesson In Time" by David Gittlin

I’m a bit freaked out by the feeling of emptiness the town exudes. I console myself with the thought that I’ve arrived in the middle of the night and everything is closed except, it seems, the diner across the street.

Through the panoramic window, I see four people sitting at the counter inside. My curiosity peaks as I begin, once again, to study life in the past, this time eighty years ago. This morning will be different than the others in one important respect. It marks the first time I will interact with people and environments of the past. I feel that I’ve learned enough from my previous trips to take this momentous step. And, I can no longer resist the urge to relate to people instead of simply observing them.

As I cross the street, I check my reflection in the large window. I’m dressed appropriately for the era in a blue business suit and matching tie with black wingtip shoes and neatly barbered hair. I’ll blend right in. Swinging open the glass and chrome door, I enter the cafe and take a seat at the counter a measured two seats away from a man sitting by himself. 

The small diner smells of stale cigarette smoke, fresh coffee, and the faint scent of body odor from the man two seats away. To my right, half the wall is fitted with small bins containing tempting muffins, cakes, and breads.  Across the counter, a nice-looking middle-aged couple sit demurely drinking coffee. The man is wearing a gray suit with a matching hat, blue tie, and he’s smoking a chesterfield unfiltered cigarette. The pack lying by his hand on the counter tells me the cigarette brand. The man looks like a lawyer or a doctor. The woman is wearing a green silken cocktail dress. It sets off her blazing red hair nicely. By the looks of the two-carat diamond ring on her hand, I figure the couple is well-off and married.  I suppose the couple is drinking coffee to sober up for the drive home after a festive dinner party.

The man behind the counter approaches me. He is undoubtedly either the owner, or someone related to him. This is an independent operation as so many of these places were before chain automats and eventually Starbucks put most of them out of business.

“Coffee?” the man behind the counter offers. Wearing a blazing white uniform, he’s a smallish man with wire-rimmed glasses who is going prematurely bald.

“Black,” I say.

“You must be new around here,” the man says.

“You could say that,” I reply.

Lifting his eyes from his coffee cup, the man across the counter stares at me. He tips his hat revealing bright blonde hair. Combined with his deep blue-grey eyes, he’s a dead ringer for Peter O’Toole in his signature role as Lawrence of Arabia.

“My name’s Kendall,” he says in a friendly tone.” I wonder if it’s his first or last name. I happen to hate my first name. Who names their kid Saul forty years after the war? It would be a good name for my grandfather. Not for me.

“And I’m Allison,” the woman next to him says.

I’m surprised by the couple’s friendliness. Maybe it’s the late hour and the intimate setting. Maybe people here are friendlier to strangers than they usually are in the other the small towns I’ve visited. Maybe–just maybe–this will be easier than I thought it would be.

Illustration of time travel from the story "A Lesson In Time" by David Gittlin

“My name’s Saul,” I say to the couple. “Nice to meet you.” I turn to the man next to me, half-expecting him to introduce himself. It suddenly occurs to me that the guy hasn’t moved a muscle since I came through the door.

“Ignore him,” Kendall says. “He’s just part of the scenery.”

“I’m sorry for that unkind remark,” I say to the motionless man. He’s heavy-set, dressed in a brownish green striped suit, and looks every bit like a non-descript traveling salesman.

I turn back to the man named Kendall. “If that was a joke, I don’t think it’s funny. People have feelings. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”

The last thing I want to do is get into an argument with these people, but I can’t help saying something.

“You don’t have to worry about his feelings,” Kendall says.

“And what do you think?” I ask Allison. On closer examination, she looks uncannily like Julianne Moore in her role as Clarice Starling in the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Allison is new,” Kendall replies. “She’s still in training. She’s not supposed to talk much.”

“Wait a minute,” I say. “Who are you people?”

Kendall leans down and pulls a strapped leather briefcase from below the counter. He extracts a file, opens it, and begins reading.

“Let’s see. Saul Grossman, age thirty-two, engineer/designer employed by Raytheon Technologies, assigned to jet engine development, invented and now operates a time machine in his spare time. Does that about cover it, Saul?”

I am beyond shocked. Fear and anger compete to control me. Somehow, I manage not to panic. I don’t want to hear the answer to my next question, but I have to ask.

“How do you know so much about me?”

“You’ve been on our radar,” Kendall says. “Now that you’ve decided to interact with the past, it’s time for us to step in.”

I’m still in shock, but a ray of hope may be peaking through the gathering storm clouds. “Are you time lords, or some sort of benevolent time control agency from the future?”

“Sorry to disappoint, Saul. We’re your local branch office of the NSA. We made some adjustments to your time machine after reading your time journal in which you wrote, ‘I’m now confident that I can interact with the past to make the present better.'”

“So, you broke into my house without my knowledge or consent.”

“That’s about the size of it,” Kendal confirms.

I feel my intestines start to melt. “What sort of ‘adjustments’ are we talking about?”

“For starters, we’re not in the past. We’re in a computer simulation where the only thing that’s real is you.”

I try to imagine how this can be happening. Am I talking to naked human bodies floating in an electrochemical solution inside giant Pyrex glass tubs? Are they fitted with electrodes attached to their heads to facilitate thought-transference-voice-activation to their virtual avatars? Or is it a cutting-edge holographic computer program capable of interacting with a real-live me?

I reach into my pocket to push the button on my remote control extractor. I’m not going to stand still for this. Literally. I’ll be out of here and back in good old 2021 in no time–or a few seconds.

Nothing happens.

I try again. Still nothing.

“I forgot to mention we disabled your extractor,” Kendall says with a cheeky wink of an eye.

“So now what?”

“Now you stay here for the rest of your natural born existence, my friend.”

“You’re kidding. Right?

“Afraid not, Saul.”

“You can’t do this.”

“Would you rather be thrown in jail?”

“On what grounds?”

Kendall takes the last sip of his coffee. “We’ll think of something. It won’t be pretty.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“It’s an unfortunate situation, Saul. You’ve become a danger to yourself and the rest of us. You played with fire, and now you’re burned. The good news is we know how to use your technology in the best ways possible.”

Kendall grabs the briefcase and guides Allison to the front door. Before they leave, Kendall and Allison wave goodby. “Have some fun,” Kendall says.”You’re an inventive guy.”

“Don’t leave. Please. There’s so much more to talk about.”

“We’ll check back with you in another thirty years, if you’re still around,” Allison says with a cheerful smile.

Outside the door, I watch Kendall and Allison dissolve into ghostly vapors, then disperse into thin air.

The Time Travel Spiral
Categories
fiction Science Fiction short stories

The Silver Sphere Part 4


If you haven’t been following “The Silver Sphere” or need a refresher, click here for part one and here for part two and here for part three.

A Pulsar From A Distant Star Destroys The Earth

I carried an expensive mahogany bar chair from Jeffrey’s den into the garage. My friend, Jeffrey, has a trust fund that allows him to pursue a career as a freelance photojournalist and writer. I have to admit the man has talent and good taste. And, despite all of our trash talk, Jeffrey has proven he’s a loyal friend with a generous heart. He shares his good fortune with close friends. That’s how this whole thing got started. Jeffrey lent me his posh beach house while he was away in Paris on assignment. One night, while walking on the beach among fingers of salt water waves, and lost in thoughts about endings for my latest mystery novel, I literally stumbled over Arcon.

As I walked back to the house to retrieve Arcon, I came to the conclusion that fate had placed me in this situation. Jeffrey might be writing this story as easily as me. It actually makes more sense for Jeffrey to be writing the story since he writes non-fiction articles instead of fiction novels like me. And, he lives year-round in his stunning, ultra-modern house fronting a lone stretch of Daytona Beach. (Except when he’s not off somewhere on an adventurous assignment).

Luxurious Beach House Den Overlooking The Ocean

I planned to take advantage of my good fortune, if I can call it that. I’d write a screenplay and a novel along with a factual account of my experiences with Arcon. With any luck, I’d be able to crawl back into the good graces of my agent and my publisher. Assuming, of course, Arcon and me and the rest of the world survived the next sixty hours.

I noticed Arcon had remained unusually quiet since the conclusion of our latest mind-boggling discussion in the kitchen. I sensed that my friend from the other side of the Milky Way was gathering his energy to restore my old car for our impending trip to One World Trade Center in New York City. I had read it was the tallest building in the United States, and we were headed to the very top of it. I figured if my interstellar friend had it in him to pull this off, it would be nothing short of a miracle, even for a super-intelligent fellow like Arcon.

One World Trade Center Building Standing In The Manhattan Skyline

After carefully carrying Arcon from the house to the garage, I placed him comfortably on the bar chair. A few feet away, my decrepit red Mazda Miata waited for whatever might happen next.

From what I casually refer to as an eye in the center of his sleek silver body, Arcon began scanning the car with a beam of pale blue light. Suddenly, the blue light bloomed into a cloud. It engulfed the entire car. Then, frenetic energy forms emerged from the cloud. For a few seconds, I was looking at an abstract light sculpture suspended above the car, until the forms shot off to do their jobs. Each glob of energy serviced a different part inside and outside of the car. Then, the blue energy globs congealed to create a throbbing blue blob surrounding the car.

Three Dimensional Abstract Moving Light Sculpture.

I expected to see my ancient sports car begin to morph into a new version of itself like a movie I had once seen. That’s not what happened. Arcon’s only predictable feature is that he’s always unpredictable. I kept my mouth shut. I knew instinctively that I’d be excoriated if I interrupted.

I heard grinding noises coming from underneath the sheath of blue energy. Then came screeching sounds of metal moving against metal, almost like the car was screaming in agony because Arcon had forgotten to administer an anesthetic before the operation. After several minutes of nerve-jangling scaping and crunching, the sounds became more subtle and less excruciating. I heard faint crackling noises. It sounded like Arcon was whipping up a huge batch of popcorn in an oven. Finally, I began to detect the pungent odor of paint thinner.

“I think you should leave now,” Arcon said to me telepathically in my native language of Serbian. “The fumes might make you sick.”

I wasn’t used to this kind of concern from Arcon. Maybe he’s starting to warm up to me, I thought.

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Arcon shot back. “We don’t have time for you to recover from a poisoning episode.”

“Right. I almost forgot. I’m just a means to an end.”

“Not quite. Now, what color would you like the car to be? Keep it conservative. We don’t want to attract attention.”

I settled on something called atomic silver, a glossy dark gray.

“Done. Now, be a good boy and wait in the kitchen. I’ll call you when it’s safe to come back.”

Following Arcon’s instructions, I returned to the kitchen and cracked another beer. I closed my eyes and thought about the ending of my novel again. The elusive ending finally dawned on me. The detective and the beautiful FBI agent realize they are both too strong-willed to commit to a long-term romantic relationship. To make matters worse, their next cases required them to work undercover in distant locations. ultimately, they come to a decision: to stay friends and perhaps occasional lovers if their paths cross again.

The thought of unhappy endings generated images of something much worse. I saw the deadly pulsar emerge from a wormhole and slam into Mother Earth. A few hours after the Earth exploded into a blinding fireball, there was nothing left but stardust. All the hopes, all the dreams, all the achievements, all the moments of joy and sorrow, all the beauty and all the ugliness—all gone in a heart-beat. It was not science fiction. It was a reality hurtling towards us–getting closer every second.

A Pulsar From A Distant Star Destroys The Earth

“Come, Joseph,” I heard Arcon say inside my head.

A few minutes later, I stood before a glossy new 2012 MX-5 Mazda Miata. I noticed Arcon had made it a convertible.

“Looks even sportier with the hood added.”

“I thought you might like it,” Arcon replied proudly.

“Is there any chance we can take turns driving to New York?”

“Get real, Joseph. Hurry and pack your things. We’ll only have time for a few cat naps and bathroom breaks on the way. Our window of opportunity is shrinking as we speak.”

Apparently, Arcon was picking up our vernacular with each conversation we had. I did not relish the thought of the journey to New York. I’m sure Arcon didn’t have to read my mind to know this. My expression had to be a dead give-away.

I thought I heard Arcon heave a sigh.

“Don’t just stand there, my boy. It’s time to rock and roll !!!”

To Be Continued…

Categories
fiction Science Fiction short stories

The Silver Sphere Part 3


Art Deco Silver Vase 19th Century
19th Century Art Deco Vase

If you haven’t been following “The Silver Sphere” or need a refresher, click here for part one and here for part two.

“How do you expect to get us to New York quickly?” I asked Arcon, and then immediately regretted it. I expected another irritated rebuke for wasting his time. There is no way a super-intelligent AI being from the other side of the galaxy would not have a solid plan for the journey. I braced myself for Arcon’s withering response.

Arcon made humming and clicking noises, as if my question amused him. “Well, since I can’t fly or beam, I suppose we’ll have go the old fashioned way. We’ll take your car.

“Let me get this straight. You want me to drive you over a thousand miles to New York City in my ancient Mazda Miata with 120,000 miles already under its belt?

Arcon made crackling sounds. I imagined the noise was his latest way of communicating his impatience with me. “It beats taking the bus, don’t you think?”

“The odds are less than fifty-fifty my car can make the trip without having a coronary thrombosis.”

“Give me an hour alone with it in the garage, and I’ll have her as good as new.”

Shades of the movie “Christine” flickered inside my head. I saw my car reconstituting itself like the 1958 Plymouth Fury did after it was destroyed by a gang of bullies. I remembered the movie’s tagline: “Body by Plymouth–Soul by Satan.” I strongly suspected I was in some kind of elaborate nightmare. Perhaps this was my subconscious proving it.

1958 Plymouth Fury from the Movie Christine. James Cameron, Stephen King.

We were sitting at a chrome and glass table in an alcove of my friend Jeffrey’s ultra modern kitchen. Being a silver sphere about the size of a bizzarely sculpted basketball, Arcon fit right right in with the decor.

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

I rose abruptly from the table. “Excuse me, I need a beer.” I was beginning to crack under the pressure of the situation. If what Arcon told me a few minutes earlier was true, the Earth had less than seventy-two hours before a giant pulsar from a distant supernova fried the planet into a crispy ember. Unless, of course, Arcon and me managed to do something about it.

Neutron Star Explosion

After removing an Amstel Light from Jeffrey’s built-in stainless steel refrigerator, I rejoined Arcon at the kitchen table. I was grateful that Arcon had sagely decided to reveal his plan and my role in it one step at a time. I was having enough trouble wrapping my head around step one.

“So, we drive to New York in my resurrected Miata, and then I somehow smuggle you to the top of the One world Trade Center building. Does that about sum it up?”

“You won’t have to smuggle me. I know how we can get past security.”

“Somehow I don’t feel relieved.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Arcon reminded me with his typical lack of diplomacy. “The guards are the easy part. I’ll disguise myself as a gorgeous 19th century Art-Deco vase. You’ll carry me into the building in a case. When you open the case, the guards will be astonished by my beauty and originality and ask silly questions. You’ll say you are delivering me to a collector at an investment firm on the top floor of the building. You’ll show ID and go through the scanners with a polite smile, and we’ll be on our way.”

“You make it sound simple.’

“It will be. Even for you.”

Another question presented itself. Risking another reprisal, I asked: “If you made it from the other side of the galaxy to a beach in Florida, why can’t you project yourself from here to the top of the World Trade Center?”

Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

Arcon answered telepathically, as he always did, in my native language: Serbian. All of our conversations were held in my native dialect to reduce the odds of eavesdroppers comprehending my end of our top secret discussions.

Arcon must have concluded that I needed to hear a nonabusive answer to my query to gain my trust and commitment. To my surprise, he replied to my question calmly.

“The mother-ship dropped me five thousand feet above the ocean. I’m able to navigate and land safely in free-fall, but I can’t propel myself, as I’ve mentioned. It’s a trade-off, Joseph. I don’t have room onboard for brains and propulsion.”

“So how will you get back to your ship?”

“I won’t. I’ll remain here on Earth, if there is an Earth left.”

The Mother Ship Dropped The Alien 5,000 Feet above the East Coast of Florida

I wondered briefly if that meant Arcon had more adventures in store for me, if we survived. Then, I remembered my latest novel and its sad status as distressingly past due. I imagined my editor calling to announce that she had finally lost patience with me and the book was cancelled.

Arcon seemed to sense my utter despair. “Why don’t you join me in the garage and watch me bring your old car back to life. Does she have a name?”

“Mathilde. She reminds me of a French woman I once knew with sunrise golden hair and intense blue eyes. I still have one of her paintings.”

The Artist With Spun Golden Hair and Intense Blue Eyes

“Then come along, Joseph. Let’s breathe new life into your lost love. I’m confident it will make you feel better.

To Be Continued…

Categories
fiction Science Fiction short stories

The Silver Sphere


Man Walking On A Moonlit Beach

I am writing this story at the behest of a super-intelligent synthetic being from a distant star system in our galaxy. If you missed part one, click on “story”.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this, aside from the urgent request, but I feel strongly I’ll have at least an inkling by the time I finish. I’m assuming a cataclysmic event will not intervene to prevent me from finishing. As they say; nothing ventured nothing gained.

My name is Joseph Aleksov. When I first stumbled upon an odd-looking shape on a moonlit beach, it had little patience with me. It called itself Arcon to facilitate communication with my simple human brain. I thought of the thing as a “he,” but Arcon isn’t really a he or she. He’s not even an it. Arcon is pure consciousness of an artificial variety. That’s the best description I can offer. I originally described Arcon’s physical features as follows:

“It was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye, at least not a human one. I couldn’t look at it for too long. It pulsed every few minutes, as if it were breathing at impossible intervals. And then it started flashing.”

Silver Sphere with Streamlined Sides and a Hole in the Middle.

After Arcon convinced me to take him home to my friend’s plush split-level house on Daytona Beach, he finally stopped his irritating and painful-to-my-eyes strobing. I was able to look him straight in the eye, man to man, so to speak.

I had driven Arcon to the beach house in the back seat of my decrepit Mazda Miata. Arcon reclined there regally, like the CEO of a large corporation, ignoring my attempts at conversation. Occasionally, he flashed, vibrated, and made annoying electronic clicking sounds. Clearly something was up, but Arcon refused to let me in on the secret.

As we walked up the stone steps to the sculpted front door, I kept an eye peeled for voyeurs. My womanizing friend, Jeffrey, had commissioned a local artist to carve a seductive female nymph into the oaken door panel. Jeffrey’s amorous adventures were the talk of the town. Frustrated husbands in the neighborhood were known to point telescopes at Jeffrey’s door to catch a glimpse of his latest conquest. I shrewdly camouflaged Arcon with the light coat I had been wearing to protect me from the evening chill. I did not want to be caught smuggling a super-intelligent piece of alien hardware into the house.

When we arrived safely inside, I unwrapped Arcon and perched him atop a glass kitchen table. I took a seat opposite him and asked: “Why did you find it necessary to nearly blind me with pencil bolts of lightning shooting out of your eye.”

Arcon replied telepathically in my native Serbian tongue: “I needed to get someone’s attention, and I was thinking about my mission. Then you happened along, and a strategy fell into place.”

“Please let me in on it”

“Are you certain your friend won’t be returning any time soon to reclaim his house?”

“He’ll be in Paris for the next two weeks writing for a fashion magazine.”

Arcon’s silver sides glistened. “Good. Let’s get down to business. And don’t interrupt me unless you have a highly intelligent question to ask.”

I made every effort not to be insulted by Arcon’s cavalier attitude. I had gleaned from our discussions at the beach that the fate of the world was at stake. If that were true, I had to put my petty feelings aside.

“To put it bluntly,” Arcon began, “your world will be destroyed by a pulsar from a neutron star that exploded two hundred and fifty light years away.”

“What?”

Arcon seemed to pause for dramatic effect. “Unless we do something about it.”

I was too startled to respond, which seemed to please Arcon.

“As your people are fond of saying; ‘time marches on.’ In this case, time not only marches, it is taking a shortcut through a wormhole. The pulsar has heretofore been disguised by the wormhole. It will reappear fifty thousand miles beyond the outer reaches of your solar system. Think of it as a traveler walking to Orlando, and then deciding to hop on a supersonic bullet train to save time and sneaker soles. By the time the pulsar appears, it will be too late. We have seventy-two hours to save your planet.”

Neutron Star Supernova

I thought: This must be an elaborate ruse my trust fund friend is playing on me. What are the odds of something like this happening?

“Did you come here to share a bottle of twenty-year-old single malt scotch to enjoy what is left of our lives?”

“If I was capable of laughing, I wouldn’t.”

I stared back at Arcon wondering: How can a super sophisticated being like Arcon not be capable of laughter?

“I wasn’t created to laugh. It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, I’ve used the time remaining to arrive at a solution to your problem. I must warn you that it’s not guaranteed to work. It all depends on you following my instructions perfectly.”

I closed my eyes thinking; Okay, I’ll play along.

“Why me?” I asked with faked timidity.

“You tripped over me.”

I sighed. “You win, great wizard of the universe. Where do we begin?”

Arcon vibrated and made clicking sounds, as if he were annoyed with me. “Stop thinking this is some kind of foolish joke. I’m not a cosmic comedian.”

“Okay. Okay. Don’t get more bent out of shape than you already are. What now?”

“You take me to New York City,” Arcon answered crisply. “To the top floor of the One World Trade Center building.

(To Be Continued)

Categories
Essays humor issues life musings

Gas TV


Thank you gas stations across America for invading  one of the last bastions of peace and quiet I have (had).  I can no longer pump gas with only my thoughts to keep me company. Now I must listen to a moronic advertisement and a news sound bite repeated endlessly and finally an admonition at the end to like Gas TV on Facebook and Twitter. This request is the ultimate example of adding insult to injury.

Gas TV is a new phenomenon, yet I already yearn for the days when I could quietly observe the random mixture of people crossing paths at the gas station and wonder about their lives.

Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you stressed out?  What are you heatedly saying into your cell phone while making those intense gestures? Who is on the other end? What is your relationship?  Are you always enmeshed in some daily drama of one kind or another? Are you well-to-do or have you spent your last dime to impress me with that Mercedes 550e?

I miss the opportunity a gas station stop provided to take inventory of my day’s to-do list.  Gas TV has also stolen the precious minutes I had to re-assess my existential situation.

Gas TV is some asshole’s greedy idea to make money any way possible without regard to my peace of mind.  It is another idiot’s stupid decision to buy it.

Let’s take a poll. Who thinks we need Gas TV? Please raise your hand.

If your hand is not in the air, complain to the gas station manager.

Thank you. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Categories
Africa international issues Making Changes profiles TPRF

Hannah’s Story


Last year, TPRF  partnered with The Adventure Project to help transform fifty farmers into profitable entrepreneurs in Kenya. We are proud to report that those farmers have moved from poverty to the middle class, and are sending 75 of their children to school for the first time from the money they earn selling produce. Here is a story written by guest blogger Becky Straw, Co-Founder of The Adventure Project, demonstrating the impact this gift is making to feed the hungry in Kenya.

I wish I could take you here. I wish I could take you by the hand and sit you next to me on Hannah’s couch to experience her story in person.

I sat and appreciated the modest house, just one small living room, flanked by two simple quarters on either side. A single light bulb hung from the tin roof, and dozens of baby chicks chirped relentlessly outside. Inside, I admired the walls, every inch covered with images. Soccer posters, old calendars, and embroidered wall hangings. Looking closer I saw that they were bible verses, stitched in between happy flowers: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Upon our arrival, Hannah shrieked playfully, like so many women would, “You have arrived early, don’t film me yet – I haven’t done my hair!” We laughed and nodded in understanding as she ducked into the next room.

While I waited as she primped, I asked her son, Steve, how he’s doing in school. He modestly mumbled, “good,” like a typical teenage boy, even walking with the gait of a sudden growth spurt. I pushed harder until he finally puts aside his 7th grade indifference and confessed to us his dream. “When I grow up I want to work in hospitality management.”

Hannah With Son Steve

“Why?” we ask.

His neighbor is a hotel manager, and he has a good house, he admitted. There’s also a chance that the President might come into his hotel, and that would be very exciting. It’s a modest dream, but it’s achievable. It’s possible because he has excellent grades and because of his family. Because of his mother.

Outside, Hannah hands me a large package, wrapped in yellowed plastic tarp and tied up with string, like a present. I balance it awkwardly. It takes me a minute to realize, “Oh, this is your irrigation pump.”

Kuyu, the marketing manager for Kickstart, looks at me and smiles, speaking softly, “It’s funny that she wraps it like this. It’s chip-resistant paint. It’s not going to rust or be damaged.” Hannah has had her pump for two years. It still looks brand new.

We tread carefully down a slope to her small garden, walking through trees until we reach a clearing where the sky opens up before us. Fruits and vegetables of every variety lay in neat little rows. Huge fuchsia flowers bloom wildly along her fence. It’s an unexpected Eden.

Carefully, she unwraps her pump and goes to work. Hannah’s farming business has tripled since she purchased her irrigation pump, a fact she is keenly aware of.

Her story is not unique. The benefits of one pump are astronomical. A pump can increase harvests by 3-4 times per year and can irrigate up to 2 acres of land per day. One pump has the ability to move a farmer and their family from poverty into the middle class in just one harvest.

The irony of Africa is that 75% of all subsistence farmers’ children go hungry because they cannot grow enough to even feed their own families. With an irrigation pump, farmers suddenly have so much food that they can sell their surplus in local markets. They earn enough to send an average of 1.5 of their children to school for the first time.

As hard as I try, I can’t think of any single item in America to compare the pump to. What’s the one physical item we have in the U.S. that can transform a poor family struggling to feed themselves into nearly instant middle-class entrepreneurs?

Hannah and Steve Gardening

After Hannah finished watering her garden, she grabbed her old bucket, filled it with water from her small well, and did something I didn’t expect. She began painstakingly washing every inch of her pump free of mud and dirt. Thoughtfully. Methodically. As if she was caring for a precious child.

After twenty minutes she carefully took the pump, laid it on the plastic, tied it up with string, and rolled the hose into a neat coil. I asked if she followed this routine every day.

“No,” Hannah replied. “Plants only need to be watered every other day.” In her own way, she answered my question. I took my notebook out of my backpack and wrote one word in the margin. Value.

Hannah and her husband bought this pump themselves. The Adventure Project is helping to subsidize the costs of the Kickstart program, so that the pump can be sold at an affordable price. No determined farmer is too destitute to pay, and Kickstart has even developed an extended payment program for those truly in need.

With the income generated from selling her crops, Hannah has invested in chickens and now sells eggs along with her produce. She can also afford her son’s school fees, and he will never miss school again because they can’t afford to buy him shoes and socks.

No longer toiling all day under the hot sun, carrying a bucket, plopping water and drenching seedlings, Hannah now has time for her favorite activity, she tells us joyfully – teaching Sunday School at her church.

I cannot think of one investment more precious. More valuable.

This is the Kenya I know and love. The story I want you to be part of. There is no longing. No begging. No swollen bellies or hungry eyes. If there are tears, they are mine. And maybe yours. Welling with happiness. For me, I know I’ve found my calling. The opportunity to play a small role in giving something more valuable than gold; a job.

Friends, we have set an ambitious goal: we want to help 323 other families in Kenya this year. Every $400 will get one pump to a farmer in need. If successful, our funds will help 323 farmers grow enough crops to become profitable – feeding 25,000 neighbors and sending 500 of their kids to school for the very first time. Imagine giving someone like Hannah the opportunity of a lifetime.

“The Adventure Project is incredibly honored and grateful for all TPRF has done to support food, water and peace around the globe. Your support for our Hunger Campaign has directly benefited thousands of people, and your $10,000 gift created jobs for 25 farmers last year. We cannot thank you enough for all that you done and continue to do to make the world a better place. Thank you.” – Becky Straw, Co-Founder of The Adventure Project.                                                                                                                        

Hannah In Her Garden