It’s a long drive from Indiana to visit Harvey. He lives in a rural part of Vermont, which shall go unnamed for reasons that will become apparent later. Vermont is gorgeous in the fall. At January’s end, it is just cold. But, no choice here, I need the money.
I committed everything on the upcoming Super Bowl five days hence, and while I will reap a nice windfall from those bets, in fact enough to live on for quite a while, my television went out and I really wanted to watch the game to see how I won it. You see, I already know the final score. That’s because of Harvey.
I better explain. The first time I saw Harvey, he was an undersized, tousled haired kid wearing glasses that might once have been the bottom of Coke bottles. He was in the process of being duct taped to the grade school’s flagpole by some older kids when I intervened. We were both in the sixth grade and eleven years old. While Harvey immersed himself studying the works of Einstein and Tesla, I spent my afternoons at a nearby dojo since I was five and had just won my black belt in Aikido. The three eighth graders tormenting Harvey quickly made themselves scarce after sailing through the air like trapeze artists with no net. I immediately became Harvey’s new best friend, in fact his only friend, and his protector. He needed one. Harvey was a nerd.
I really liked Harvey and we were close during my freshman year of high school, Harvey’s only year. He tested out of everything but phys-ed. At fifteen and with an SAT of 1600, he was off to Princeton on an academic scholarship while I toiled my way through adolescence. It was in my second year at the University of Chicago that I reunited with my old chum. He was my professor in Physics 202. Harvey hadn’t changed. If anything he was more awkward and socially challenged than ever. The pencil case in his shirt pocket and his perpetual distraction with things mathematical didn’t attract a bevy of the opposite sex, or anyone else for that matter. I tried to improve his social life, but to no avail. Nevertheless, we were buddies and my other friends tolerated Harvey, well mostly. Then, without warning, Harvey disappeared.
I got a note in the mail from him telling me not to worry. He had a good job and had moved to Florida. His new job; Project Director on a top-secret program for NASA. Every year, I receive a Christmas card from Harvey. It’s always the same card. I think he bought a package of fifty and sends one out every year to all his friends. That would be just me. Last year, the return address changed. He didn’t have one. The card gave me a phone number and a very specific time to call. It sounded mysterious even for Harvey.
His voice was an excited whisper as he gave me directions to a remote cabin in a forest. I was too curious to refuse. It would be my first of many trips to the land of maple syrup and free money.
Harvey hadn’t changed. Oh, the hair was thinner and a few wrinkles creased his once boyish face, but the shirttail drooped out of his pants and the pencil case was still there. One improvement; the thick glasses were relegated to the past thanks to laser surgery. It was the panel of screens on the wall of his den that grabbed my immediate attention. Harvey didn’t worry about uninvited guests. He had the perimeter of his abode ringed with motion detectors and thermal imaging sensors. I wondered if there might be some land mines out there too.
My friend ushered me into his study. Our old ritual, a game of chess was the first order of business. Harvey could barely contain himself as he conspiratorially dodged the unspoken question, “Why am I here?”
Then Harvey surprised me with a six-course gourmet dinner. As I feasted on this culinary delight, he explained, “When you’re a confirmed bachelor, there are two choices. Learn to cook or starve to death.”
He wasn’t even perturbed that I could still beat him at chess. Not like the old Harvey. He was always competitive in anything mental. Just an occasional sidelong glance with a suppressed snicker. He was sitting on something big.
After feeding me better than Henry the 8th, he ushered me via a trapdoor and a series of tunnels to an underground laboratory. It contained an astonishing assortment of computer screens, servers, transformers and some equipment that I didn’t recognize.
“You better sit down,” he said quietly.
“What is this stuff and what happened to your career at NASA?” I asked. I was getting worried.
“Ah, my old pal. Always impatient,” he smirked. “You are a Christian,” he remarked, stating the obvious.
“Of course,” I replied wondering where this was going.
“Do you believe the Bible?” he asked.
“You know I do.”
“What about the prophecies? Did you ever wonder how God could know the end from the beginning?” he politely asked.
During our time together at UC, we had had this discussion several times. The Bible is replete with examples of fulfilled prophecies that made no sense at the time they were written. The classic example is in Isaiah chapter 45. It prophesied the rebuilding of the temple by the Medo-Persian King Cyrus. At the time, around 722 B.C., the Medes and Persians were no force of any kind on the world’s stage, Cyrus wouldn’t be born for another two hundred years and the temple was standing in glorious splendor and fine shape. The people of Isaiah’s time had to think he was completely nuts.
“When I was teaching at UC, you convinced me that science and a belief in God are not mutually exclusive,” Harvey said. “A scripture in Isaiah that told us the earth is a sphere. Copernicus and Galileo were radicals who ‘discovered’ that truth some 2300 years later. That’s what got me started.”
“So. What’s all this about and why the big conspiracy?” I asked. His answer and the sudden contact of purring fur against my pants leg jolted my senses.
“Oh, that’s Isaac, as in Newton,” Harvey glanced at the huge tomcat rubbing on my leg. “He’s my only other friend in this world and he won’t tell anyone anything. You can’t either!” Harvey asserted with a commanding stare. “I mean it. I need your word that you will never divulge my name or address,” he demanded.
“All right, assuming this isn’t something illegal or dangerous,” I agreed with some reservations.
“No problem there. And if you talk about the subject, everyone will simply think you went around the bend and you’re out there where the buses don’t run,” Harvey laughed. “I just want to protect my privacy. You’ll understand,” he added with a grin.
That being settled, Harvey’s next utterance stopped me cold.
“How would you like a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper today?”
The look of sublime confidence and the twinkle in his eyes told me he wasn’t kidding. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t.
“I mean it,” Harvey said. “Tomorrow’s New York Times or The Wall Street Journal?”
“That’s impossible!” I blurted instinctively.
“Now there is a word that has been overused for all of time,” Harvey chuckled.
Harvey then told me about the project that inveigled him to leave a secure teaching post at one of our nation’s most prestigious universities some thirty years ago. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had covertly accumulated a large amount of extra cash, a slush fund so to speak, as a result of the largess of a grateful Congress following the successful manned landing on the moon. There were a number of top officials in NASA that envisioned a daring venture that Congress would never approve. It involved the application of some highly debatable concepts on the cutting edge of theoretical physics and it would be expensive. Regular deposits found their way into their hidden piggybank for over a decade. After successfully recruiting a uniquely talented and probably somewhat socially dysfunctional reservoir of brainpower, the project began. Its purpose: To exploit the “worm holes” in the space-time continuum.
Briefly, numerous physicists have postulated that there are a number of different dimensions. Stephen Hawking, the leading theoretical physicist of our time, stated that he has mathematically proven the existence of eleven. We are limited by time as an intrinsic feature of our three dimensional world. But this barrier may not exist in the parallel realities to our existence. Astrophysicists have hypothesized that there are “worm holes” through which the limitations of time and space can be circumvented. It’s like the TV series Star Trek; “Beam me up, Scotty!”
At least that’s how Harvey explained it to me. I’m reasonably bright with a well above average IQ, but Harvey’s is off the Richter scale. Even in his simplified version, I didn’t understand much of what he said.
Unknown to all but a selected few; NASA launched an unmanned probe to the nearest star to ours, Alpha Centauri, two years ago. It wasn’t with a conventional rocket. That would take several lifetimes to reach the desired destination, 4 and ˝ light years from Earth. Since one light year is a little over 6 trillion miles, our great grand children wouldn’t be much closer than we are. The launch took place in a subterranean lab using transformers, wires, extremely high-speed computers and an incomprehensible amount of electric power. (Remember the California blackouts?) It took only two hours to locate and navigate a wormhole. Once in the Centauri system, it was a simple matter to guide the vehicle, using conventional power, to a safe landing on the surface of Centauri’s only planet. It was an inhospitable place for living things, but that distant world provided a solid platform. The folks at NASA began receiving telemetry via the wormhole from seven of the eight cameras and data transmitters.
The eighth wasn’t transmitting because it wasn’t there. Harvey had replaced it. He had tried to interest the big boys at NASA with his idea for a device to capture and transmit light waves, but that was too far out even for them. So Harvey meticulously matched the casing, the physical appearance and the weight down to the gram with his dispersed energy alignment re-assembler. He called it DEAR. (So do I now.)
It now sits on planet XC, the only progeny of Alpha Centauri, and retrieves light waves from an Earth 4 and ˝ years in our future. Those waves are reconstituted into usable, and very useful, form by our DEAR right here in Harvey’s underground bunker. Harvey’s new Bentley, the speedboat that I hope doesn’t kill him, and his modest but exceptionally profitable portfolio of stocks and bonds attest to DEAR’s effectiveness. I do the legwork, placing the calls to his brokerage firms and transacting his real estate ventures. That involved seven trips to the Green Mountain State in the last year, which brings us to the present.
Harvey was ready for me. When I arrived, a printout of tomorrow’s Racing Form was strewn about the tabletop.
“How much do you need?” was his first question.
“I already ordered the 36 inch HD plasma screen with wrap around sound. It runs $4200,” I told him.
“ I assumed you need it in cash, so the OTB is the logical answer.” Harvey is always logical. “We need to pick out one or two horses that pay at least twenty to one. That way we can keep it down to $200 or less. Will you have time to stay for some chess and dinner?” he asked.
“I wish I could but I have a long trip back.” I knew I was passing up a delicious dining experience but I wanted some sleep before the game.
“Ah yes, the big game.” Harvey almost salivated over the eighty thousand that each of us profited from the upcoming Super Bowl. “After taxes, that’s about fifty K apiece,” he remarked. “I still don’t see the fascination with watching it. Why bother?”
“I like football, Harvey. I enjoy seeing the plays and the camaraderie of a Super Bowl party with friends. You know you’re invited. Why don’t you join us? It’ll be just a few friends.” I know Harvey has an aversion to crowds, for that matter to people in general “C’mon! It’ll do you good to get out and have some fun.”
“I have plenty of fun right here. You should see this new formula I’m working on. I almost have it solved! I can show you ….,” Harvey began rising from his seat.
“No Harvey! Not now.” I stopped him in mid-air. “I wouldn’t understand it anyway and I have some driving to do. Let’s see if we can find something in one of the early races so I can hit the road.”
We settled on a filly in the second race at Saratoga. With a $200 win bet and $50 more on the exacta; she would bring in just over six thousand dollars. Her name was apropos; “Abby’s Dear.”
As I drove the turnpike to the off-track betting parlor, I called the appliance store in Indiana to arrange delivery of my new TV. I told them I would pay the deliveryman in cash. The manager’s glee in hearing my voice was unmistakable. They knew me.
After collecting the $6200 in cash, I couldn’t help think about my pal. As I drove, I realized that I am probably Harvey’s only human companionship. He has always been a loner. That’s partly because Harvey was never “cool” or hip, not a candidate for the “in crowd.” He just wasn’t cut out of a common mold like the rest of us. His massive brain intimidated most people and alienated the rest.
Once, at the university, I got Harvey to go to a party where I thought he would fit in. It was a meeting of MENSA, the high IQ club. Harvey never went back. He said they were too weird for him.
We both loved baseball and hockey. I think Harvey got a vicarious thrill from the violence on the ice and we always second-guessed the baseball manager. In the case of the Cubs, it wasn’t hard for us to be right. My buddy is an aficionado of all mental challenges. No surprise there. Don’t try him in Scrabble. He does the Times crossword in ink. He’s no bargain in bridge and no one has a chance against Harvey in that obtuse Japanese strategy game of GO. He is, as you might expect, an expert at chess, but I can still beat him. Some of my acquaintances at college wondered why I preferred to hang out with Harvey. The answer is simple. He is my friend.
Obviously, if Harvey was afflicted by megalomania, he could amass an enormous fortune. We decided at that first reunion to keep it low key, only using the technology to provide a comfortable lifestyle. No Powerball jackpots for us. That would bring an avalanche of unwanted publicity. Any massive incursions into the stock markets could initiate an SEC inquiry into possible insider trading. Besides, we have something much better than inside corporate information. We have our DEAR.
We confine ourselves to small positions in the commodity futures markets, buying depressed real estate that the owners want to unload on the uninitiated and, of course, sports betting. The Las Vegas bookies aren’t members of the SEC and relatively small wagers don’t attract attention.
It was the Bible that started Harvey on the path to DEAR. He immediately grasped the fact that science is our method, albeit sometimes a feeble one, of attempting to examine and explain the world and our place in it. DEAR, the dispersed energy alignment re-assembler, has its limitations. For one thing, it cannot transport physical objects back through the wormhole, only light waves. Those waves can give us information, but only on events that occur within a 4 and ˝ year time span. You also need to know what you are seeking and when it will occur, such as the football game to be played in five days. It’s like reading the Almanac for past statistics.
DEAR isn’t much help for personal decisions either, unless you happen to be a newsworthy celebrity. It didn’t warn me of an unhappy end to a relationship with the woman whom I thought would become my wife.
One huge drawback to DEAR’s disclosures is there are things we don’t want to know. We avoid the obituaries. Since we do check the season end baseball standings every March, I know the fate of my beloved Dodgers in advance. The fans in Brooklyn had it right: “Dem Bums.”
As for the “big picture”, Harvey will tell you the Bible has the prescription. In the meantime, we travel this road one day at a time and DEAR has made the journey easier. And it all started because, one afternoon I befriended a kid that wasn’t popular, an outcast who is and has for decades been my best friend.
(DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
DEAR does not exist. However you can obtain a Bible at almost any bookstore.)