Bang! The noise was loud and startling, and my eyes flew back open. The man who pressed the knife against my chest suddenly rolled off of me and onto the paved ground, covering his head with his hands. I got to my feet and, looking around, was amazed to see that a lot of the crowd was on the ground in my would-be murder’s same position or crouching behind any obstruction that gave them cover. I turned towards the sound, and Benjamin Franklin stood before me with a smoking pistol in hand.
To my left George Washington rose to his feet between his two startled attackers and quickly strode towards us. “My friends,” he said, “we must make haste out of here. We are outnumbered!” Washington helped Benjamin Rush to his feet, and while still supporting the bruised doctor, he and Benjamin Franklin started at a run down the street.
Snapped from my confusion at the president’s commanding words, I quickly followed the three. I glanced over my shoulder as I ran and was glad to see the ruffian and his friends were not making after our group, but in that same glance, though, I saw that the security guard who had been running towards the fight had drawn his gun from his holster and was running after us. He was still a good many feet away, but he was yelling at us to stop. I thought it was best to comply with these orders before one of us was shot. I turned to yell at the Founding Fathers to stop, but the trunk of a tree met me, effectively cutting off my yell.
The next thing I remember was looking up at the face of the security guard as he stooped down next to me. “Are you okay?” he asked, helping me up to a sitting position. “Are those old men your friends?”
I looked around from where I lay at the foot of the road-side tree I had slammed into, still dazed. My memory started coming back to me, and I looked back at the man. “Yeah, they are my friends, well, kind of. It’s a long story.”
The man helped me to my feet. “What in the world happened? You have blood on your face!”
I wiped at the sticky blood as I briefly related to the man the fight. After I had finished, the security guard looked down at the hole in my shirt. “You are lucky your friend fired when he did. Come, I need to ask you and the men who attacked you some questions. It would be good to round up your costumed friends too. Can you call them on your phone and tell them to get back here?”
I shook my head. “No, I can’t call them because they don’t have phones. They are kind of old fashioned.” That, of course, was an understatement.
We walked back to the front of the Old Post Office Pavilion, but the crowd had dispersed and the men who had attacked our group were gone. The security guard led me back into the old post office and pointed me towards a bathroom. “Clean yourself up while I have a look around for your friends or attackers. I will ask you some more questions later.“
I went into the bathroom and quickly washed my face, but I left the bathroom as soon as I could. I wanted to get back to my friends, if that was at all possible. Looking both ways, I quickly strode towards the door out of the mall. Leaving the security guard behind when he still had questions for me was probably a crime, but I had made up my mind.
I started back down the street the Founding Fathers had run down just as several police cars pulled up, no doubt alerted to our fight by the security guard or someone in the crowd. I left that place behind. I started to jog, looking down each street that branched off the main road as I did. Suddenly I heard a “psst,” and turning, I saw my three friends standing in one of the side streets. I Let out a breath of air and walked up to them.
George Washington looked me up and down. “Ethan,” he said, “It pleases me greatly to see that you are well. We feared something evil had befallen you when we reached this street and lacked your presence.” He took a step closer to me and placed his hand on my shoulder. “I am glad providence has granted that we meet once again, for I sincerely wanted to thank you for your brave actions a few minutes ago. I saw what you did, braving your life to save me from that knife, and you have my most earnest and heartfelt thanks. If there is ever anything I may do to repay this debt, I will do it unreservedly. The president of these United States is at your service.”
Under the earnest gaze of George Washington, I felt uncomfortable, but also pleased. It felt very good to receive this thanks from this man. “Thank you,” I said. “I appreciate that.” I turned to Benjamin Franklin. “And also, thank you, Mr. Franklin, for firing when you did. Were you aiming at the man on top of me?”
Benjamin Franklin shook his head. “Make no doubt; I would not hesitate to dispatch that rogue trying to bury his knife inside your bosom, but with so many people behind that man and with you under him, I thought it too risky to aim a shot at him. I fired into the air.”
I nodded and looked past him at Benjamin Rush, who was walking around in small circles, still limping. I addressed him. “Are you okay, doctor?”
Benjamin Rush looked up at me. “I am fine, Ethan. I was just walking around a little to try and lessen the pain in my ankle. I twisted it badly after that scoundrel knocked me over, but from what I can tell, it is only bruised.”
George Washington spoke up. “Friends, we must decide what to do now. Ethan has fulfilled his service to us by bringing us here, and we cannot hamper him anymore. I am sure he wants to get back to his home.”
“As to that,” I replied, “I think I will have to stay with you guys for a while and away from my car back at the mall. There are several policemen there now, and if I was spotted, I might be in some trouble. We all are probably in some trouble.”
“Policemen,” George Washington said. “If they are the enforcers of the laws of our nation, shouldn’t we turn ourselves in? We did nothing that we are ashamed to report to the marshals of this land.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” I said. “Though of course you didn’t know it, carrying any kind of gun in Washington, D.C. is prohibited, and I doubt the policemen will take you seriously when you say that you didn’t know that law. You could be facing some very serious penalties.”
George Washington replied, “You are probably correct, though why guns have been prohibited in this district is a question that I hope has a good answer.”
“Well, I guess it was done for safety, especially for all the important people that come to this capital.”
“Safety?” Washington questioned. “I hope that is not the reason, for if it was, than every respectable citizen of this place should bear arms! You saw how my pistol was used but a few minutes ago, as a weapon of self-defense. 'A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.'” *
I had no response, so there was a moment of silence before Benjamin Franklin said, “If we are truly sought after, then I fear we might as well give ourselves up. We stand out in stark contrast to the people; we will be spotted sooner or later.”
I nodded. This thought had occurred to me too. I opened my mouth to respond, but a sound stopped me. It was the sound of people marching. I turned towards the sound and saw that a myriad of people were walking past the entrance to the street we were in. Many carried signs or flags.
Benjamin Rush stopped his pacing and walked with a slight limp to my side. “Who are they?”
“From the looks of it,” I said, peering closely at the signs, “those are Tea Partiers.”
George Washington suddenly showed interest. “Tea Partiers? Why are they called that?”
I shrugged. “According to what I have heard, they are a far-right extremist group that thinks America needs to return to what they claim is how the nation was originally founded.”
George Washington looked closer at the people marching past. “Some of them are carrying “Don’t Tread On Me” flags with the coiled rattlesnake.”
Benjamin Franklin nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, the coiled rattlesnake, the great American symbol.** And look! Some of them are dressed in garb similar to our own. I suggest we throw in our lot with these patriots, for they will effectively conceal us from the policemen at the very least. “
George Washington nodded, and we walked towards the Tea Partiers, joining their ranks. I was by far the most hesitant to join the crowd, for though my parents spoke fondly of the Tea Party movement, I had been told elsewhere that they were radicals that should be avoided. This fear quickly dissipated, though, for as I looked around at the crowd, I saw the faces of many honest looking people, many of them returning my gaze with a nod and a smile. There seemed to be something driving these people, a common motivation among them. As I talked to a few of them and listened in to many of the conversations around me as we marched, I came to believe that what drove these people was an intense love for their country. I enjoyed marching with them.
My Founding Father friends were received in an even friendlier manner. Many of the people in the crowd would smile and wave when they saw the Founding Fathers. Some people even shouted “How are you, Mr. Franklin!” or “Greetings, George Washington!”, not knowing that they were welcoming the actual men themselves. The Founding Fathers would return these greetings and many times start a discussion with the Tea Partier who had shouted them, and most of the time the discussion seemed to please my friends as a handshake was exchanged. The Founding Fathers were very nearly beaming, even George Washington, who hardly showed any emotion otherwise.
Up ahead appeared the National Mall, and as we approached, it was clear that was where the Tea Partiers were headed. Benjamin Rush, who had been walking beside me most of the time since he was the least recognized of the group, looked up at the Washington Monument as the Tea Partiers around us started to fan out into the grassy area around the tall tower. “This place is truly grand, Ethan.”
“Yes,” I said, nodding. “I never get tired of coming here.”
Benjamin Rush smiled and tilted his head towards Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, who were still in the middle of the crowd. “They seem to like this place as well and would probably stay here among these people for a considerable time. I feel that something is changing, though. The queasiness I felt right before we were miraculously transported here has returned. It is possible that we are being called back to our age.”
I looked at the face of the doctor; he was serious. “You’re sure?”
Benjamin Rush placed his hand on my shoulder. “Yes, our time with you might be nearly up, Ethan.”
The two of us walked towards Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. As we did, the people around us started calling out, “Speech! Speech! Give us a speech, friends!” They were addressing the two Founding Fathers in the middle of the crowd, who had become a sort of favorite among them.
George Washington held up his hand. “Good citizens, it has done me well to see so many of you gathered after all of the disheartening news I have borne in my brief stay in your age. I have learned from many of you that you hold to the laws of this nation that so many great men established at my side, and for that I commend you! I have hope for this nation, as I have always had, even if the times be dark, for truly the time is as dark for our nation as it was at its birth. This nation is threatened just as much as it was when the British Empire, the strongest military power in the world, bore down on our shores. This threat, however, is not a military one; it is not one that you can fight against with men and arms. This threat is something far more serious, the threat that has toppled so many nations before us: moral decay. I know that many of you are resolved to fight this threat, as any true patriot should, and surely the hand of providence will be with you.”
George Washington paused to scan the faces looking up at him. “My friends, in conclusion, let us all never forget this: that ‘while we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.’*** Remember this always, citizens. Fight for what has been given you, and may you overcome this threat!”
At these closing words, the Tea Partiers around our first president clapped heartily and shouted their approval. The clapping continued as Benjamin Rush and I found Benjamin Franklin and led him out of the crowd. Once we were outside the crowd, Benjamin Rush addressed Benjamin Franklin. “Mr. Franklin, do you not feel the uneasiness in your stomach that was felt before we traveled to this age? It seems to me as if it might be time for us to return there.”
Benjamin Franklin nodded his round head. “Yes, doctor, I feel the same. I feel also as if the quality of a younger body I perceived I was blessed with at the beginning of our time here is slipping away; I sense that the ailments that have irked me in my old age are returning.”
A concerned look came over his face, and Benjamin Rush opened his mouth, but Benjamin Franklin held up his hand to cut off his discourse. “However, I am still well enough as to not be badgered by your hampering questions, Dr. Rush. Let us find George Washington.”
Benjamin Rush, not looking all that happy about being cut off by the round man, turned from Mr. Franklin. “Yes, where has our president gotten off to? I think it would be wise to be together if we truly are to be transported back to our world.”
I looked around. I thought at first that he was probably in the crowd of the Tea Partiers, but as I turned towards that crowd, I saw the stately man out of the corner of my eye. He was making away from the crowd and was heading past the base of the Washington Monument. “There he is.” I pointed. “I will go get him.”
Benjamin Rush nodded. “We will be waiting here. Please hurry, Ethan.”
I strode in the direction of where I had seen Washington heading. I too walked past the Monument and saw the Reflecting Pool up ahead. A man stood tall with his hands clasped behind his back at its edge, his image reflected in the water with the late afternoon light. The man did not say a word as I approached, but I could tell from the reflection in the water that it was George Washington.
“Sir,” I said, walking to his side, “Benjamin Rush asked me to get you, for he thinks that his and your time here is up. Sir?” I repeated when I did not get an answer.
George Washington, still looking out across the water, spoke to me, and I was surprised at the quaver in his voice. “Ethan, I was there when musket balls tore my men apart, when the bayonet was plunged into their breasts; I saw the agony in their eyes as they fell to the ground and breathed their last. Their blood stains this land. I was there when these men under my command marched past me at Valley Forge, the snow bloodied on the path they tread with nothing but rags on their feet and bodies.” The president finally turned to me, and a tear ran down his cheek. “Those memories haunt me. The patriots around me sacrificed everything for something they held dear—this nation. As I see this same nation now, I can’t help but wonder if they died in vain, if the pain they went through was all for not. Have they died just to see this nation crumble in the days of their ancestors?”
George Washington paused, almost as if he wanted me to answer his rhetorical question. I could not give an answer. Finally the president spoke again, and this time his voice strengthened. “You must fight for this nation, Ethan; you must not let the liberties bought with such a price of sacrifice be lost while you still draw breath. You cannot remain idle. Align yourself with these Tea Partiers, the closest I have seen to patriots in this age. Give your all to defend the liberty that has been given you. The men of my age gave everything, even their lives, for this liberty, this freedom; will you?” George Washington’s eyes searched my face as he waited for my answer.
“Yes.” I said this one word quietly, but I meant it. It was the only word that was needed, and it was the last word I said to the Founding Fathers. George Washington and I were silent as we walked back to the other two Founding Fathers.
Once there, each of the three men who had impacted my life so greatly in that one summer afternoon shook my hand and stepped back from me, each of them feeling the pull they had felt before they had been transported to the parking lot I had been walking across such a seemingly long time ago. We stood a few feet apart from each other in a few seconds of silence. I wanted to say something, anything, to these men before me. I wanted to thank them. But my throat was too constricted to speak.
George Washington, however, seemed to know my desire, and he smiled at me. “Ethan, we are deeply grateful for everything you have done for us, and we thank you for your friendship. I hope we will meet again when your story is finished in this world and you stand before our Maker. Goodbye, Ethan.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but a sudden sound of air blowing towards us cut off the words. I turned towards the sound, and suddenly a gust of wind surrounded me and a whistling sound again assaulted my ears. I stooped over and held my hands over my ears, and the sound passed.
I turned back towards the Founding Fathers, but they were gone. I stood staring at the spot where the men had just been, wondering if it had all been a dream. I put my hand in my pocket, and a cold piece of metal met my touch. I pulled out the Spanish dollar coin given to me by the Founding Fathers at the car dealership. I smiled as I looked at it.
*First Annual Address, to both House of Congress (8 January 1790). Cited from Wikiquote.
**"I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?" Benjamin Franklin on the rattlesnake. Pennsylvania Journal, December 27, 2013.
***cited from Wikiquote, on George Washington.