It wasn’t exactly a DeLorean. Then again, it doesn’t necessarily take a DeLorean to build a time machine.
It wasn’t exactly a DeLorean. Then again, it doesn’t necessarily take a DeLorean to build a time machine. A VW Microbus will easily do the trick too if you install the appropriate equipment.
While Doc Brown’s contraption in Back to the Future required 1.21 gigawatts of power and needed to travel 88 miles per hour to initiate time travel, Samuel Miller-Stolzfus’ 1977 VW Microbus just needed an ordinary car battery – plus it could travel through time without moving an inch.
Sam had thought about applying for a patent but then decided against it – for the time being.
First he had to solve a problem: Donald J. Trump, former president of the United States of America.
It was 2023, and Trump, the most narcissistic, incompetent, lying, 24-hour-tweeting president the United States had ever seen wanted to run again in 2024 – and according to various polls he did have a chance.
To Sam, a second Trump term was simply unacceptable.
So far nobody seemed to have thought of the obvious solution: Somehow the past had to be changed.
On Wikipedia Sam had read that Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, had been born in 1869 in the (then) Bavarian town of Kallstadt, Germany.
At the age of 16 Friedrich emigrated to the United States. He started working as a barber, then made a pile by running a restaurant and a brothel in Canada. Later he returned to Kallstadt and married Elisabeth Christ. When Bavarian authorities realized that Trump had emigrated from Germany to avoid his military-service obligations, he was classified as a draft dodger. In February 1905, Trump was ordered to leave Germany within eight weeks. Trump petitioned the government to allow him to stay, but he was unsuccessful and had to return to the USA.
Having thoroughly digested this information it became patently clear to Sam what needed to be done: Somehow those Bavarian authorities had to be persuaded to accept the draft dodger’s petition, thus changing the course – or indeed the curse – of history.
Apart from installing his time machine in his ancient VW Microbus, Sam had also fitted in a nice little kitchenette, an old mattress, a porta potty, and some other creature comforts.
The photo of Friedrich told him how one was supposed to look and dress in those days.
Three weeks later, after growing a mustache and buying old-fashioned clothes in a second-hand shop, Sam went into his garage, deposited some food in his VW microbus and checked the car battery. Then he activated his time machine, a sophisticated-looking metal apparatus the size of a fridge which was sitting on the floor where the passenger seat had once been. Then he typed the following information into the interface:
Time: April 17, 1905 – 10.00 a.m.
Place: Kallstadt, Germany
coordinates: 49°29’29.5″N 8°10’05.2″E
It was 7 a.m. Since he intended to return just five minutes later, there had been no need to inform his friends about his absence. Nobody would be missing him in those five minutes.
He pushed the red button. The VW Microbus started to flicker – a typical effect of time machines – and disappeared. Sam, by way of precaution, had fastened his seat belt. Of course the old VW bus did not originally boast any seat belts, but he had built one in for the driver’s seat – just to be on the safe side.
He saw how the garage suddenly disappeared, only to be replaced a few seconds later by a huge field of grass and two or three farms in the distance. A few cows grazing nearby did not seem particularly impressed by the sudden appearance of a VW Microbus. There was also a stone wall not 20 inches away from the bus.
The buzzer of the time machine sounded three times, indicating that he had successfully arrived at his destination.
Sam muttered, “Jeez – that was close” and unfastened his seat belt. There was always a remote possibility that the VW bus would materialize inside a building or even inside a wall or a tree, but he had not yet found a way to eliminate that danger.
He parked the bus even closer to the wall and tried to cover it as best he could with branches from some nearby trees.
Then he set out for the village.
* * *
At 10.30 on this sunny morning, Sam thought Kallstadt looked like what a beautiful little German village might have looked like over 100 years ago. Then he realized that was exactly because Kallstadt was a beautiful little German village over 100 years ago – and he was right there. Picturesque frame houses, narrow streets of cobble stones, a cute little cat crossing the street (in the morning sun it seemed to be almost green, reminding him of the color of his VW Microbus), a church with a Gothic tower; in the distance he could see a huge tower on a knoll – the Bismarck Tower, as he later learned.
Sam passed an inn called Weincastell zum Weissen Ross. This was the first time that his knowledge of German came in handy. The name translates roughly as “The White Horse Wine Castle”. All of a sudden Sam felt a deep gratitude towards his mother. Rachel Stolzfus had been raised among Amish people in Pennsylvania. At the age of 18 she eloped because she had fallen in love with his future father, Simon Miller from Philadelphia. She never returned to her Amish relatives; however, she insisted on speaking to her children in old-fashioned Pennsylvania German, the dialect the Amish immigrants from Germany and Switzerland brought with them in the 17th and 18th century. To this day this dialect is still spoken by most Amish; that is why Samuel Miller-Stolzfus had grown up bilingually.
It was already 11 a.m., and Sam had a feeling a wee drop of wine and perhaps a couple of those famous Bavarian Leberknödel might be a good idea. Also, he could enquire about Friedrich and the authorities whom he would have to contact.
He took a photo, entered the inn and was immediately led into a large cozy room by an incredibly enticing smell which turned out to be emanating from heaps of Leberknödel on the plates of several patrons who were already digging into those tasty German dumplings.
He sat down at an empty table, smacking his lips in anticipation. Presently a big-bosomed waitress in a dirndl with a rather intimidating low neckline appeared and asked him what he would like to have. This was of course the second time his Pennsylvania German proved to be very useful indeed. In fluent German he ordered a double portion of Leberknödel and a glass of red wine.
Some thirty minutes later he was focused on washing down his seventh Leberknödel with his second glass of wine when all of a sudden the patron who was sitting at the nearest table accosted him. The man politely inquired where he was from, adding Sam’s pronunciation suggested that he might not be “from these parts”.
Sam almost choked on a Knödel, but he immediately gained his composure and told the man that he was indeed a foreigner – from Burgdorf in Switzerland, to be exact.
Since the man appeared to be very friendly, Sam thought he might as well tell him that he was looking for a draft dodger named Friedrich Trump.
“Mein Herr, what a coincidence!”, exclaimed the man. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Sepp Hinterpichler. I work for the local authorities, and I have been given the task to ensure that this infamous Herr Trump leaves our country within the next few weeks.”
What a coincidence indeed! Sam was overjoyed.
“Sapperlot, what a stroke of luck to have met you! This will make my mission so much easier.”
He invited Hinterpichler to a glass of wine, sat down beside him and proceeded to tell him about his “mission”. He claimed he was working for the American government which had secured his services because he was amazingly fluent in German. For reasons he was not supposed to reveal under any circumstances the government wished that Trump remain in Germany for good.
Hinterpichler appeared to be taken aback. “That may well be the case, but I have strict orders to make sure that Trump returns to the United States. You see, he is what we call a persona non grata here.”
Needless to say, Sam had foreseen that there might be a few problems. From his high school history lessons he had remembered that in the 19th century American Indians could often be persuaded to change their mind by offering them trinkets. Which is why Sam had brought lots of trinkets to Kallstadt.
He leaned confidentially over to Hinterpichler and said: “Sepp – ” (by this time they had changed to using their first names) “look what I’ve got here.”
Sepp was flabbergasted. “Ach du meine Güte – what’s all this?”
From the 21st century Sam had brought along, among other things, 2 donuts, 2 solar-powered pocket calculators, 2 digital watches with spare batteries, 10 colour felt pens, 10 lip balm sticks, 200 plastic paper clips, two 10 inch plastic models of the Statue of Liberty with a light-emitting diode in the torch (plus spare batteries), 2 laser pointers (also with spare batteries), and, last but not least, 2 Swiss Army knives. (And not just any Swiss Army knives either: Sam had purchased 2 copies of the Victorinox Master Craftsman, the exquisite model that has been part of the standard equipment of NASA astronauts since 1970. However, he refrained from mentioning this aspect – Hinterpichler might easily have arrived at the conclusion that he was insane.)
Sepp could not get his eyes off the trinkets. “You are not trying to bribe me, are you?”
Sam smiled. “Of course not. The American government is just asking you to – reconsider. I’m sure it is in your power to do that.”
He treated Sepp to another glass of wine while his new friend fondled the trinkets.
“You have any more of these things?”
Soon afterwards they parted. Sepp recommended staying at Hotel Kallstadter Hof, a nice, reasonably priced hotel on Weinstrasse 102. He promised he would try and work out something within two or three days.
Sam appreciated the recommendation, preferring it to sleeping on his old mattress in the VW bus.
Two days later Sepp turned up in the Biergarten of the hotel. In the meantime Sam had enjoyed exploring the village and the surrounding landscape. He had also been back to the bus to make sure it had not been detected.
Sepp was smiling all over his face. “Samuel, I have been able to convince my boss that Trump is not such a persona non grata after all. However, it took me about two thirds of those things you gave me to change his mind.”
“No problem.” Sam opened his rolling briefcase, inviting Sepp to take a look at the fresh supply he had fetched from the bus.
“Feel free to help yourself.”
Then he looked again at the briefcase (push-button locking telescoping rolling handle system, extremely maneuverable rubber wheels with curb impact protection frame, 2-year guarantee).
“Wait a minute. Come to think of it, you might as well keep this briefcase too. By the way, as you can see there is a cool lock on it too. Remember: The number is 2431.”
Sepp did not utter a single word; he was busy stroking the briefcase.
One tiny problem remained to be solved. “Sepp, I hate to tell you this, but: To my dismay I’ve just discovered that my purse with all my money has been stolen. I’ll be leaving today for Switzerland, and I was wondering whether you could possibly pay my hotel bill.”
Sepp kept on caressing the briefcase. “Of course. It would be an honor. 2431, was it?”
They hugged each other affectionately; then Sam watched Sepp trot off, the rolling briefcase in his wake skipping and swerving on the cobble stones. A few Kallstadters stood and stared in awe.
* * *
Back at the VW Microbus nothing seemed to have changed, except for a few fresh cow pads Sam had to avoid stepping into.
He removed the branches, stepped into the bus, shut the door, breathed a sigh of relief and fastened the seat belt. Then he typed in the correct destination place and time, the latter being 7.05 a.m. – exactly 5 minutes after his take-off from the garage.
He pushed the red button.
The inside of the garage looked as if he had just left it – which he had. The buzzer of the time machine sounded three times.
Sam unfastened his seat belt, switched off the time machine and went into the kitchen.
Trying to remain calm he made himself a cappuccino. The big question was: Had he successfully changed the past?
Looking out of the kitchen window he saw the Washington Post lying on the front lawn in its newspaper bag. He rushed out, fetched it, sat down and scanned the front page.
Nothing in any way connected with Trump.
The suspense was killing him. He remembered his cappuccino and took a large bite out of the Leberkäs Semmel which he had brought from Kallstadt as a souvenir.
He opened the newspaper and began scanning page after page.
No references to Trump.
Then on page 7 – its heading being “Europe” – a caption immediately caught his eye:
Kaiser Donald I makes
patriotic speech in Berlin
Suddenly Samuel Miller-Stolzfus felt dizzy. He stared at his Leberkäs Semmel, his appetite gone, and sank slowly back into his chair.
He couldn’t help asking himself whether the whole enterprise had been for better or for worse.
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