It's not Cost Shifting, it's Plain Old Cost Raising.
In a May 13th article in the Indianapolis Business Journal, a Health Affairs study debunks a common belief among healthcare professional:
Rather than aggressively raising prices on private health insurers to make up for inadequate payments from the government, hospitals across the country—including in Indianapolis—have been raising prices just because they can, according to a new study.
The study finds that as Medicare costs rise, so do private insurer's costs. They move rather in tandem. But can this last forever?
ON THE ECONOMIST'S OTHER HAND...
An IBJ article from yesterday announces that St. Vincent's will cut 865 jobs, mostly from the administrative ranks. The cuts are chalked up to reimbursement cuts which are anticipated from Obamacare and other government budget cuts. It is also because the company which owns St. VIncent's, Ascension Health Alliance, wants to raise margins. (What happened to not-for-profit?)
Providers figured that Obamacare cuts would be offset by Medicaid Expansion and the decrease in the uninsured. But with many states not expanding Medicaid (including Indiana), that freshet of revenue will not develop.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Is your Boss a Sociopath? Are You? Am I?
Not in the same class as a sociopath, but interesting individuals, are Narcissists. Narcissists share some traits with sociopaths. They lack empathy, are very thin-skinned and grandiose in their own images. In a sense Narcissists are sociopaths that cannot completely close the deal.
An article by Craig Milkin, a Clinical Psychologist, wrote a recent article about the warning signs of Narcissism and how to detect them. Here are five things to look for:
1) Projected Feelings of Insecurity: I don't mean that narcissists see insecurity everywhere. I'm talking about a different kind of projection altogether, akin to playing hot potato with a sense of smallness and deficiency. Narcissists say and do things, subtle or obvious, that make you feel less smart, less accomplished, less competent. It's as if they're saying, "I don't want to feel this insecure and small; here, you take the feelings." Picture the boss who questions your methods after their own decision derails an important project, the date who frequently claims not to understand what you've said, even when you've been perfectly clear, or the friend who always damns you with faint praise ("Pretty good job this time!"). Remember the saying: "Don't knock your neighbor's porch light out to make yours shine brighter." Well, the narcissist loves to knock out your lights to seem brighter by comparison. [Authors note: Look for those people that are “one-uppers,” those that no matter how well you have done, they have “one-up” on you.]
2) Emotion-phobia: Feelings are a natural consequence of being human, and we tend to have lots of them in the course of normal interactions. But the very fact of having a feeling in the presence of another person suggests you can be touched emotionally by friends, family, partners, and even the occasional tragedy or failure. Narcissists abhor feeling influenced in any significant way. It challenges their sense of perfect autonomy; to admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them. So they often change the subject when feelings come up, especially their own, and as quick as they might be to anger, it's often like pulling teeth to get them to admit that they've reached the boiling point -- even when they're in the midst of the most terrifying tirade.
3) A Fragmented Family Story: Narcissism seems to be born of neglect and abuse, both of which are notorious for creating an insecure attachment style (for more on attachment, see here and here). But the very fact that narcissists, for all their posturing, are deeply insecure, also gives us an easy way to spot them. Insecurely attached people can't talk coherently about their family and childhood; their early memories are confused, contradictory, and riddled with gaps. Narcissists often give themselves away precisely because their childhood story makes no sense, and the most common myth they carry around is the perfect family story. If your date sings their praises for their exalted family but the reasons for their panegyric seem vague or discursive, look out. The devil is in the details, as they say -- and very likely, that's why you're not hearing them.
4) Idol Worship: Another common narcissistic tendency you might be less familiar with is the habit of putting people on pedestals. The logic goes a bit like this: "If I find someone perfect to be close to, maybe some of their perfection will rub off on me, and I'll become perfect by association." The fact that no one can be perfect is usually lost on the idol-worshipping narcissist -- at least until they discover, as they inevitably do, that their idol has clay feet. And stand back once that happens. Few experiences can prepare you for the vitriol of a suddenly disappointed narcissist. Look out for any pressure to conform to an image of perfection, no matter how lovely or magical the compulsive flattery might feel.
5) A High Need for Control: For the same reason narcissists often loathe the subject of feelings, they can't stand to be at the mercy of other people's preferences; it reminds them that they aren't invulnerable or completely independent -- that, in fact, they might have to ask for what they want -- and even worse, people may not feel like meeting the request. Rather than express needs or preferences themselves, they often arrange events (and maneuver people) to orchestrate the outcomes they desire. In the extreme form, this can manifest as abusive, controlling behaviors. (Think of the man who berates his wife when dinner isn't ready as soon as he comes home. He lashes out precisely because at that very moment, he's forced to acknowledge that he depends on his wife, something he'd rather avoid.) But as with most of these red flags, the efforts at control are often far subtler than outright abuse. Be on the lookout for anyone who leaves you feeling nervous about approaching certain topics or sharing your own preferences. Narcissists have a way of making choices feel off-limits without expressing any anger at all -- a disapproving wince, a last-minute call to preempt the plans, chronic lateness whenever you're in charge of arranging a night together. It's more like a war of attrition on your will than an outright assault on your freedom.
As business people and business lawyers, we probably ask ourselves what separates the good from the great, the great from the average, and the average from talented neer’ do wells. I have my own ideas, but it would be nice to hear yours.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
The BizView editorial in the Greater Fort Wayne Weekly in the May 10-16th addition was entitled “Mixed Messages.” It compared and contrasted two state business rankings. The message was indeed mixed.
The first provided good news. Indiana, in a Chief Executive Magazine annual ranking, was number 5, behind only Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. The survey focused on tax and regulation, work-force skills and quality of life. And placed Indiana at its frequent position of the most northerly of “southern states.”
The second study, however, by The US Chamber of Commerce, put Indiana squarely in the middle. It did well in infrastructure and exports, but lagged in business climate, entrepreneurship and was number 48 on talent pipeline. This is certainly a function of educated youth out-migration. You just can’t keep them on the farm.
So which is correct? Well, next to this editorial is the always enlightening and entertaining Morton J. Marcus. In the parlance of the elevator story, Indiana came out generally well in annual weekly earnings. It came in 14th in earnings growth.
IF INDIANA IS NOT AVERAGE, WHAT ELSE CAN IT BE?
The author is always a little concerned when Indiana’s ranking deviates from an average ranking in nearly any category. Call it experience. Call it the love of the median and regression to the mean. Call it no trust in outliers.
The Editorial closes with this statement “We’ve made strides, but we’ve got a long way to go.” I guess you could say that about nearly anything.
Monday, April 22, 2013
The Author loves the entrepreneurial spirit in this nation. It is a creative force, an energy, and nearly always improves the lives of the entrepreneur and the customers, clients and citizens. Except when…
A few folks kind of overdo it. Or probably more properly stated, set out to push the edges of the law. And step across the line from pushing the edge to breaking the string and veering into illegality.
The Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly (the best business publication in Fort Wayne, in the author’s opinion, because they do real reporting and not puff pieces with slick ads and pictures. The Author will probably get slammed on this, but he owns the “printing press,” right?) has an article in Doug Le Duc’s “Reporter’s Notebook – Banking & Finance” on page 6 of the April 19-25 edition.
Le Duc reports on a recent suit by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller against National Deed Service Inc. and National Record Service Inc. The suit claims that the companies offer copies of certified real estate deeds to property owners at exorbitant prices. The first copy is $59.50 and extra copies are $20. The prices are definitely exorbitant. More outrageous than the cost of Ducati motorcycle parts. (Again, just kidding.)
But as exorbitant as the prices are, the companies also “mimic government legal documents which mislead customers into believing they need a copy of their property deed.”
A copy of your deed is a nice thing to have, and you were likely given one at the real estate closing. And they are easy and relatively cheap to get at your county recorder’s office.
This law suit was supported by numerous county recorders in Indiana.
A deed is not like the title to your motor vehicle. You do not need a copy to sell your property. You do not “sign over” the deed, but in fact draft a new one specific to the purchasers. The deed is kept in the County Recorder’s office and is a public record. And as a practical matter, many title insurance companies have copies of your deed, and other recorded documents, in parallel public records that are called “title plants.”
Indiana Attorney General Zoeller is suing the companies under the Deceptive Commercial Solicitation Act and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
THE DIAMOND LAKE DOOR
By ROBERT C. FEIGHTNER©2007
Author's Note: This short story is not business related. It is a fantasy short story I posted here for my facebook friends. Business material will be posted in a few days.
The man looked to be about a hundred years old. Teeth gone, a week of stubble, a whirly-gray mop of hair on his wrinkled-up head.
The boys meet him while fishing on the South Branch.
The boys were cut loose from chores earlier in the day and had gone fishing. They had some luck, too with wigglers. Between the four of them, they’d hauled in nine nice small-mouth bass.
Johnny, Isaac, Tom and Nathaniel had just gotten out of the fifth grade for summer. They lived in town so they didn’t have to work all day like the farm kids. They had chores, like in the vegetable garden and hauling in wood or coal for the stove, but they had most days to themselves.
Local folks and the town merchants kept an eye on them, partly beause they knew their parents, partly because Isaac and Johnny weren’t above slipping a candy or a tobacco plug into their pockets. But they weren’t ruffians or anything, so most folks just let them be boys.
The old man introduced himself as “Chestnut Daniel”. He claimed he fought with General Winfield Scott in the Mexican-American War. He said he was a drummer boy and that he got grazed by a musket ball at Cerro Gordo.
“See the crease,” he said, pulling up the straggly gray hair that grew down below his ears. “This here crease is why I can find things that other folks can’t. This here crease is why I can go places other folks can’t. This crease is why I see things…”
He did have a crease. It started above his ear and went back a ways. It looked like a little red canyon in the side of his head.
“Horse hockey,” Isaac said. “You’re just a’ sayin’ all this so we’ll give you over some fish ‘cause you ain’t had breakfast or dinner.”
The old man pulled an iron pan out his bindle. He set it down, and then took a small tin of lard from the bindle. He smiled at the boys and winked at Nathaniel with his one good eye. The old man had a wall-eye just like Nathaniel.
“Now you young fellers said you’d share me a couple of them nice fish if I told you about the Diamond Lake Door. So let me tell you about it.”
He took the two fish down to the river and cleaned the fish on a shore rock. He left the heads, tails, scales and offal on the rock.
“You think we was smart giving that old fella two fish to hear some stories,” Tom asked.
Isaac shook his head no. Johnny shifted his weight from onside to the other.
“We got plenty of fish to bring home. I figure we can spare two,” Johnny said.
The old feller brought the cleaned fish back up from the river. He set them on his blanket. He dipped up a small amount of lard from the tin and put it in the pan. Then he placed the pan over his small fire.
“Yeah, boys, them fish will cook up nice.”
The story began simple enough. Ever since he got creased with the Mexican musket ball, the old man said, he sees ghosts, things from the future, things from the past. Sometimes, the old man said, he could see other places or even walk in and out of other places. He saw them in Mexico, he saw them on the evacuation ship, and he’s seen them ever since.
“Sometimes I can just look at a feller, or a house, or a lady and I can see what they were a doin’ some time back. Or what is going to happen come next week, or next year. I can’t only sometimes tell when something happened or will happen, but I can see it, just the same,” the old man said, pulling the bones out of the fish with his knife.
“Damn good fish, boys. Damn fine.”
“You see anything about us,” Nathaniel asked.
“Can’t say for sure. This mornin’ I kind of saw that you boys would be out here. But that’s all I can remember. There was more, but I can’t remember what it all was,” the man replied.
“Wasn’t you going to tell us about the Diamond Lake Door,” Johnny said.
“Well yeah, I am a getting’ there. Just hold your water,” the old man said.
“Like I be ah sayin, I see things, see ghosts, see other places. And a few times, just a few now mind you, I come across places where I can walk in and out of other times, other places.”
Isaac and Johnny stood back away with crossed arms. But Tom and Nathaniel were sitting crossed legged, with their hands on their chins and their elbow on their knees.
“I call them places “Doors”, because that’s about the best word for them. There was a lot of them in Mexico. Land’s sake, there were at least eight or ten of them. Some of them went back to the Indians or them old Spaniards wearin’ the steel helmets and breast plates. One of them was real noisy, with people talkin’ loud that I couldn’t see.’
“When I got back to America, I didn’t see the doors for awhile. But coming through Ohio in 1852, I come across another ‘un. And this one I walked into. Yes sir, I done walked right into it. And it took me right back into the past.”
“What was it like,” asked Nathaniel.
“Well, young man, it was real cold when I first stepped into it. Cold like to go through your bones.’
“But then it was warm again, just like summer time. Yes, I recall it was summer. There had been a little skirmish, I reckon. Soldiers dressed like they was from the first Indian wars, four of them layin’ dead. Dead for a few days, by a smellin’. A couple had hatchet marks in their heads and the other two was shot through with musket balls. Indians got them fellas.’
“Where was the Indians,” Tom asked.
“Them Indians was long gone. I wouldn’t of hung around if them Indians was still there. Well, then, the Indians had taken the men’s muskets and near everything they had. But one of the men had a pistol that the Indians must have missed. So I grabbed the pistol and went back out of the door.”
“How’d you find the door to go back out, Tom asked.
“The doors stay open for awhile. And when you get close to them, you can see through to the other side.”
“We wasted two fish on this old scutter,” Isaac said, “We’re crazier than he is.”
Isaac walked down to the river and started chucking rocks into the water. But Tom and Nathaniel remained intently, and Johnny stayed to listen.
“I can understand why a fella like your friend don’t believe what I’m sayin’. I could hardly believe it myself if it didn’t happen to me.’
“Well, I go back through the door and bring back the pistol with me. I take it into town and take it to a gunsmith. The gunsmith says that he hasn’t seen this model in years. It was made by William Parker around 1790, he figured. But he give me four dollars for it.”
“What about the Diamond Lake Door,” Nathaniel pressed.
“Well, last winter I fixed me up a nice lean-to just north of Diamond Lake. I done a lot of fishing through the ice. One morning I am just wakin’ up and hear’d a bunch of commotion and people talking. And it was another door. I go through the door and now it’s night time. I walk a little ways through the trees and find the folks ‘a talkin’. A bunch of fellers had this horse thief tied up. Some of them wanted to hang him, some of them wanted to take him to the courthouse in Goshen.’
“I stayed back a ways cause I didn’t want to get messed in with them. They might of thought I was a friend of the feller’s and trying to get him loose. I didn’t want my neck stretched. So I found the door and came back out.”
“They did hang a man out there. He was part of a gang of horse stealers. The Regulators caught him and hung him,” Nathaniel said.
“That’s just an old story,” Johnny replied. “I heard that story myself.”
“No,” Nathaniel said, “my dad said it was true. He heard it from L.Q. Hiatt’s dad. Hiatt’s dad said he was there and was with the Regulators.”
“I can’t say I seen ‘em hang the fella,” the old man said, “but they’s ready to.”
“And that weren’t the only time I went through the door. I went through it three other times. Didn’t see any other people, but it took me back some years in time, before they was gravel pittin’ on Diamond Lake hill. And a couple of times, it took me back to Ohio, where I think I was from.”
“What do you mean, think you were from? Don’t you know,” asked Tom.
“Boys, I don’t remember nothin’ before I was creased with that Mexican musket ball. Not nothin’. Not where I was from, who my kin was, my pa’s name. I couldn’t remember my own name ‘cept that they told me what it was. But now I just go by ‘Chestnut Daniel.’
“And I think I’m from Ohio, because that is what the Army told me, that my enlistment papers said some town in Ohio.”
The old man told them to just go out to Diamond Lake Hill and they might find the Diamond Lake Door. He thanked them for the fish, washed off his frying pan in the river, and packed up his bindle.
“You ever remember what you seen about us,” Nathaniel asked as the old man was leaving.
“Not exactly. But it seems like it is something big. I just can’t quite see it,” he replied.
He took off north towards the Lake Shore and Southern Michigan Railroad. He said he was going to follow the tracks west for a ways.
War! When they got back to town the main street of Lincoln was rollicking with the news that the country was at war with Spain and was going to send troops to fight in Cuba, Puerto Rico and somewhere over in the Pacific Ocean.
A few of the business men and livery men gathered out in front of the newspaper office of the “Lincoln Banner”. Nathaniel’s father owned the newspaper. War fever had been running high and most of the men, middle-aged and some quite rotund, backed the invasions.
But while their parents and the people out in front of Nathaniel’s father’s small newspaper office were abuzz about war, the boys were thinking about the Diamond Lake Door.
Even though Isaac was down at the river throwing rocks while Johnny, Tom and Nathaniel were listening to the old fellow, he did hear most of what was said. And Isaac agreed with his friends that they should go out to Diamond Lake and look for the Door. Diamond Lake was only about five miles outside of town. It was a little over an hour’s walk each way, so they’d have most of the day to look for the Door.
The boys met up about 8 o’clock the next morning. They headed south out of town to meet up with the Diamond Lake Road. The Diamond Lake Road would take them right along the north edge of the lake, where Chestnut Daniel said they could find the Door.
It was late April and the farmers were out in the field. Draft horses pulled plows across the fields. The winter wheat fields were bright green against the browner fence rows. They recognized some of the men and boys and waved to them from the road.
“Ain’t you glad we don’t have to spend our days looking up a horse’s ass like those farmers,” Isaac asked.
“Yep” was the consensus.
The farm fields thinned out as they approached Diamond Lake. The land got hilly with small marshes in the low places. There were a few shacks and a couple houses on the North Side of Diamond Lake. And the Diamond Lake Hill, which rose about two hundred feet above the lake itself. There was a gravel pit near the top of the hill.
“What do you think is the best way to find the Door,” Nathaniel said.
No one offered a prompt answer. So Nathaniel spoke again.
“I figure we should find the old man’s lean-to and start looking around from there. ‘Member he said that he was sleeping and heard some people talking and then he went through the Door. So I figure the Door must be close to that lean-to,” Nathaniel said.
Isaac stopped walking and the other boys stopped.
“That makes sense. I kind of remember the old feller talking about his lean-to and then finding the Door,’ Isaac offered.
“Yeah, me too, “Tom said, “I heard him say that he was waking up from sleeping and heard the people from the Door talkin’. I think startin’ at the lean-to is the way to go.”
They saw the lake as they approached it. The leaves were just budding out on the trees and it was easy to see through them. The lake was deep blue in color with shiny reflections. A south wind was rippling up the water.
At the base of Diamond Lake Hill was the rutted road leading up the hill to the pit and a couple of side trails. The boys decided to split up, with Johnny and Isaac taking the road and Tom and Nathaniel taking each side trail. If one of them found the lean-to, they would yell out.
It didn’t take long to find the lean-to. It was about a hundred feet east of the pit road. Isaac found it and called out to the other boys.
The lean-to was more leaning than standing. There was a fire pit out front of it, a few old newspapers inside on the ground, and some oiled paper tacked up on some of the logs. Not much to recommend it. The boys had seen nicer houses for dogs in the Sears and Roebuck catalogs.
“No wonder the old scutter was swapping stories for fish,” Isaac said, “Mighty poor looking place to spend the winter. Mighty poor. It would seem like that feller would have found him a Door to a more prosperous place.”
The boys agreed that they would each go in a different direction, walk slow and just look around. The old man said it was cold around the doors and that sometimes you could see through them. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was all they had.
Nathaniel walked very slow, watching for the slightest evidence of the Door. He was careful and measured in his steps, treading as lightly as he could across the dried leaves, downed tree branches and the occasional maypole plant that sprouted early in the spring. He could hear Johnny tromping along to his left, but the sounds faded as they separated.
He figured he would concentrate close to the lean-to, making several loops north for a ways and then back to the lean-to. He didn’t have much faith that they could find the Diamond Lake Door. A musket ball could probably disturb a man’s mind so that he could believe he was seeing something that wasn’t really there. He’d seen crazy people talk to themselves like they were talking to other people, so it seemed possible that the old man had the same thing wrong with him.
But if they could find the Door, they’d be famous. It would be in the newspapers and on the newswire. They might report it all around the world. England, France, maybe China even. They might even make up a book about it and go on a tour like so many book writers did. His dad would surely put a story about the Diamond Lake Door in the “Lincoln Banner.”
Crack! Thunder slammed through the air. A cold wind powered through the branches on the trees. Nathaniel looked up and saw that the sky was still clear. There had been no lighting. He heard Isaac yelling over to the east of him.
Johnny and Tom were also across the forest. Nathaniel ran toward Isaac’s voice and he could hear Johnny and Tom running and yelling behind him.
“I found it. I damn well found it,” Isaac yelled.
About thirty-feet away from Isaac was the Door. It would shine one minute and then dim. Its edges wiggled around. But if you looked straight into it, you could see someplace else, just like another room behind an open door.
And it was cold around the Door, just like the old man said.
“That’s it,” hooted Johnny, “You found that Door that crazy feller was talkin’ about!”
“Yeah,” replied Isaac, “but the old scutter don’t seem so crazy now.”
The boys slowly approached the Door.
“Where do you think it goes,” Tom asked.
“Don’t know,” Isaac said, “But it looks like a dusty road on the other side.”
Johnny threw a stick into the Door. The stick landed on the other side of the Door. It kicked up some dust on the other side of the Door. A little bit of the dust blew back through the Door towards the boys.
“Damn, you see that? We could reach through there and fetch that stick back,” Johnny said.
“Do it,” said Isaac.
Johnny approached the Door and gingerly placed his hand into the Door. His arm appeared on the other side of the Door, but he was not close enough to reach the stick. He waved his arm around a little through the Door.
“What’s it like,” asked Nathaniel.
“Feels a little warmer. Like it might be summertime,” Johnny replied. Then he stepped through. He picked up the stick and looked around. The remaining three boys could see Johnny on the other side of the door. Then he stepped back through the Door with the stick in hand.
“Damn, that was easy.”
“What was it like over there,” Nathaniel asked again.
“Well, it was warm and sunny. Like summer time. I looked up the road and there was a town just up the way. It looked like I was on the edge of town,” Johnny explained.
“Did you see anybody,” Isaac asked.
“No, but I could see a couple horses in a field by the road. They was behind an old split-rail fence. And there was a lot of fresh tracks and wagon wheel ruts on the road,” Johnny said.
“What do you think, fellas? Should we go through it,” Isaac asked.
“Yeah,” Nathaniel said and walked through.
Johnny followed quickly, then Isaac. Only Tom remained, standing hesitantly near the Door.
“Come on Tom, come on”, the boys said, motioning to Tom. But he would not move. And he did not respond or otherwise say anything.
The three boys on the other side of the Diamond Lake Door looked at each other wondering what to do next.
“Let him stay back there,” Isaac said, “He can stand there and make sure we can get back.”
They nodded and Isaac said, “Tom, just stay put and wait for us. Okay? Okay?”
When Tom finally nodded “yes”, Isaac said, “Let’s go into town and see where we’re at.”
It was indeed summer. Warm and humid, just like an Indiana summer. It looked like they could be in Indiana. The trees, the grass and the weeds looked the same. And there was corn growing in fields.
The town was pretty close. They could see houses and shacks up ahead. As they approached, they could hear horses. But there were no trains or railroad tracks. Nor steam engine sounds, like those coming from a mill or factory.
The houses looked older. Many were small, some were made from brick. Some were made of solid beams with plaster between the beams, a few were log houses. There were hogs, chickens and vegetable gardens in some of the front yards.
Closer to the center of the town were a couple of livery stables and some old blacksmith shops. The livery stables had old buggies out front and the blacksmiths forges were wood-fired with hand-pumped bellows.
One of the livery stables had a sign. “Chillicothe Livery.”
And the style of dress looked older, like old pictures of the earliest settlers around Lincoln. And out of school books and library books.
People they passed were speaking English. A few of them cast long, suspicious looks at the boys.
“These folks look at us more peculiar than folks back in Lincoln. And we ain’t even swiped nothin’ or pulled any pranks,” Johnny said.
“Where you figure we’re at,” Isaac asked.
“Don’t know,” said Nathaniel, “But from the looks of things, we’re back in time. We are wearin’ different clothes, even. Maybe that’s why some of ‘um are looking at us funny.”
The town looked to be about the size of Lincoln. The general store had a sign that said “Chillicothe General Store”, so they figured the name of the town must be “Chillicothe.”
Across the street from the general store was the courthouse square. Some fellows were marching in military formation on the courthouse lawn. A guy in a uniform that looked like it was from the Revolutionary War was leading the small band of men.
The boys stopped to watch the men marching.
“They’re gettin’ up an Ohio regiment to go to Mexico. Them fellers are drillin’ to get ready to go,” said a man coming out of the general store.
The boys turned toward him.
“You fellers look a little young to sign up. But you might make it as drummer boys or powder monkeys,” the man offered.
“No, we’re just here in town for a little while,” Isaac replied.
The man pulled a cigar from his breast pocket, bit off the end, and lit it with a match.
“Well, this one will probably be over for you are growed enough. Old Fuss and Feather’s will have them Mezcans whupped in a month or two,” the man said. He then turned and walked up the street.
The boys looked at each other quizzically. Nathaniel was first to speak.
“That man must have been talking about the war with Mexico. If we went back in time, that would make the most sense. It could be 1846. We could ask somebody.”
“No, I wouldn’t do nothin’ to draw more attention to ourselves. If these folks here us say something about being from the future time, they would lock us up thinking we are crazy,’ Isaac said.
“Isaac’s right,” added Johnny.
Nathaniel nodded in agreement. They walked up the street a little ways and came to a pump.
“I’m thirsty, how about you guys,” said Isaac.
Nathaniel went to the pump handle and began to pump. Isaac and Johnny knelt next to the trough and washed their faces and hands in the trough water. When the water began to flow, Isaac, then Johnny, cupped their hands in the flow of the cold, clear water and drank.
“I haven’t seen you boys around here before,” said a man in waist coat and a top hat.
Isaac stuttered a bit but Nathaniel came to the rescue.
“We’re just passing through,” Nathaniel said.
“Aren’t you fellows kind of young to be traveling without your Ma and Pa,” the man inquired.
“We’re orphans,” Nathaniel replied.
Crack! A wave of thunder cracked across the sky, followed by a cold blast of wind.
“I’ll be damned” said the man, “we just had thunder and cold air come through a little while ago. In the middle of the summer. Can you believe that?”
“It’s the Door,” yelled Nathaniel, “Something must be happening.”
They sprinted down the road out of town. Johnny was the fastest of the boys and ran out ahead, followed closely by Isaac and Nathaniel. They pumped their arms and drove hard down the road.
They passed the blacksmiths and livery stables on the way out of town, and the motley collection of houses. A few people paused to look at them, but no one tried to follow.
Ahead they could see the Door. It was dimming and flashing, and changing size. As they got closer, they could see it starting to close. And they could see Tom on the other side, waiving and yelling at them to come through the Door.
Johnny leapt into the shrinking opening. Isaac, close behind, dived into the Door the instant it closed.
Johnny landed at Tom’s feet and rolled a couple of times. He quickly jumped to his feet.
Isaac’s torso fell to the ground. Johnny and Tom looked in horror at the lifeless eyes and the body that was severed just below the chest. And thought of Nathaniel, lost and alone on the other side of the Diamond Lake Door.
Chestnut Daniel followed the railroad tracks west towards Goshen. He walked the rails until well after dark. West of Millersburg he came upon a stopped freight train. He found an open boxcar door and climbed up inside. The car was empty and he set out his bedroll.
A few minutes later the boxcar jerked and creaked as it started to move. It was heading west at a slow pace. Chestnut Daniel lay down upon his bedroll and fell asleep to the sway and roll of the moving train. He slept through the night and well into next morning.
Crack! He was startled in his sleep by a cannonade of thunder. He was standing at a pump. He yelled something and he and his friends were running through the small town. Running, running, at his fastest clip behind Johnny and Isaac.
Lungs afire, leg muscles straining. Eyes burned in on a hole in the world.
Johnny dived into the hole. Then Isaac.
“Isaac,” he screamed. The hole closed and Isaac was sliced in half just below the chest. Nathaniel tripped over the lifeless torso and limbs. He rolled a couple of times and stood over his friend’s remains.
Just as quickly as he had run up the road, his mind was back in the box car. He was trembling and awash in sweat. A thousand memories flooded over him. He knew where he was from and how he got into the Mexican War.
And just as a door had opened and closed many years ago, a window was now open and Chestnut Daniel could see his life come into full view. He could not go back, but at least he could see across the missing and muddled years, and look forward from his own time and his own place.