My brother, Perry, always was a bit cracked. As a kid, he almost blew up our house doing experiments. When he was eighteen, he wrote poetry, but fortunately that didn’t last long and he went back to science.
Now, when he showed me this picture, I figured he’d had a relapse of some kind. “This is the girl I’m in love with,” he said.
She wasn’t bad. Not bad at all, even if her clothes were crazy. She wasn’t my type--too brainy-looking--although I could see how some guys would go for her. “I thought you liked blondes.”
“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all the blondes in Hollywood,” he answered. “This is the only girl for me.”
“You sound as if you’ve got it bad,” I said. “You going to marry her?”
His face dropped about a mile. “I can’t.”
“You mean she’s married already?” I was surprised. This wasn’t like Perry at all.
He sort of hesitated, as if he was afraid of saying too much. “No, she isn’t married. I asked her about that. But I can’t marry her because--well, I’ve never met her. All I’ve seen of her is this picture and a few more. She doesn’t live here.”
“You mean she’s in Europe?” I’ve heard of these love affairs by mail, and they never made much sense to me. I said to Perry, “Why can’t she come to this country?”
“Oh, there are a lot of things in the way.”
It sounded worse and worse. I said, “Look, Perry, this smells like a racket to me. It’s the kind of thing a couple of shrewd operators cook up to take some hick for a ride. I’m surprised at you falling for it. How do you know there really is a dame like that in Europe? Anybody can send pictures----”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” he said. “I’ve spoken to her.”
“By phone? How do you know who’s on the other end? You hear a dame’s voice you never heard before. What makes you think it’s hers?”
Again he didn’t seem to want to talk, as if he had some secret to hide. But I guess he felt like getting things off his chest, too, or he wouldn’t have opened up in the first place. And he had already told me enough so that if he didn’t tell me more he’d sound like a dope.
So after hesitating even longer than before, he said, “Let’s get this straight, George. This is no racket. I’ve seen and talked to her at the same time. And the things she talked about, no con man would know.”
“You’ve seen and talked to her at the same time? You mean by TV? I don’t believe it. They can’t send TV to Europe.”
“I didn’t say it was TV. And I didn’t say she lived in Europe.”
“That’s exactly what you did say. Or maybe you meant she lived on Mars?”
“No. She’s an American.”
“This makes less and less sense to me. Where did you meet her?”
He turned red, and squirmed all over the place. Finally he said, “Right here in my own laboratory.”
“In your own laboratory! But you said you never met her in the flesh!”
“I didn’t. Not really by TV either. The fact is--she isn’t born yet.”
I backed away from him. When he was a kid and blew up our kitchen, I didn’t like it. When he wrote poetry, I was kind of ashamed and didn’t want my pals to know he was my brother. Now, I was really scared. Everything he had been saying in the last ten minutes began to make sense, but a screwy kind of sense.
He saw how I felt. “Don’t worry, George, I haven’t gone crazy. Her time is 2973, more than a thousand years from now. The only way I’ve seen and talked to her is on a time-contact machine.”
“A kind of time machine. It can’t send material objects back and forth across time, as far as I know, but it can send certain waves, especially the kind we use to transmit signals. That’s how she and I could talk to each other and see each other.”
“Perry, I think you ought to see a good doctor.”
“It’s a remarkable device,” he said, paying no attention to how I was trying to help him. “She’s the one who first constructed it and contacted me. It’s based on an extension of Einstein’s equations----”
“You think you can explain so much,” I said. “Okay, then, explain this. This dame isn’t going to be born for a thousand years. And yet you tell me you’re in love with her. What’s the difference between you and somebody that’s nuts?” I asked, as if anybody knew the answer.
He certainly didn’t. In fact, he went ahead and proved to me that they were the same thing. Because for the next couple of weeks, the only thing he’d talk about, outside of equations I couldn’t understand, was this dame. How smart she was, and how beautiful she was, and how wonderful she was in every way that a dame can be wonderful, and how she loved him. For a time he had me convinced that she actually existed.
“Compared with you,” I said, “Romeo had a mild case.”
“There are some quantities so great that you can’t measure them,” he said. “That will give you some idea of our love for each other.”
There it went, the old poetry, cropping out in him just like before. And all the time I’d been thinking it was like measles, something that you get once and it builds up your resistance so you don’t get it again, at least not bad. It just goes to show how wrong I could be.
“What preacher are you going to get to marry you?” I asked. “A guy born five hundred years from now?”
“I don’t think that’s funny,” he said.
“You’re telling me. Look, Perry, you’re smart enough to know what I’m thinking----”
“You still think I’m crazy.”