Chapter 8 Home
They sat together, watching the meteor shower for a long time and in the quiet, Jeff could hear Bogg's heartbeat again. He couldn't remember ever feeling so worn out. Finally he heard muffled sounds from Bogg's chest and realized he must be talking, but Jeff couldn't seem to make out the words.
"That was a big one," Phineas said after a particularly bright star streaked across the sky. When Jeff didn't answer, he looked down at him and realized he had fallen asleep.
He continued to sit, holding Jeffrey, who was now dead weight in his arms. He'd held children like this before, during rescue missions, and in other emergencies, but this was so different. Jeffrey depended on him like no one ever had before and he felt suddenly scared of the future.
He pictured his Guidebook, and could hear Professor Garth's words echoing in his head as he lectured about the Voyager Code. He thought of the golden tablet, how it was mounted on the wall at headquarters and how the Preamble to the Voyager Code was carved into it in block letters. He forced himself to stop thinking about his way of life. Then, filling the gap in his mind, he pictured Jeffrey, scrambling so quickly to fetch water from the stream in order to be useful, and struggling to hold in his emotions outside Ben Franklin's house, just so he wouldn't be any trouble. No wonder he was so exhausted, just the effort of controlling his emotions alone would be exhausting, not to mention all the physical work he'd been doing.
And none of it made sense to Bogg. Why should he be the one sitting here holding Jeffrey? Some other Voyager whose omni went up to 1982 should have been sent to Jeff's room. But that hadn't happened, and now events were sweeping him along on an unplanned and unfamiliar path and he felt powerless to control them. He looked down at Jeff again, and swore to himself that he would protect him with every ounce of his strength. He was being swept along too. They were both in this together now, and whatever the future held, he wouldn't let Jeffrey face it alone. He stood up carefully, determined not to disturb his sleep and carried him slowly toward the house, still without a clue about what it all meant.
As Phineas approached the back door, it opened and Mr. Ford stepped out. "I was just going to look for you." His eyes traveled to Jeffrey's face as he grasped the situation, "we don't have much room, but you're welcome to stay the night."
Bogg stopped as he approached, "I'd really appreciate that, thanks," he said and followed the man inside. Mr. Ford showed him into a room off the kitchen where one bed sat in a corner. Bogg entered and waited as Mr. Ford pulled the covers down. "This is our sick room, I'm afraid we only have the one bed. In the bureau you'll find some night clothes."
"This'll be fine, thank you."
After the door closed, Bogg put Jeff into the bed, then stood staring awkwardly him. He'd never put a child to bed before. What was he supposed to do?
He slipped his sneakers off and set them beside the bed, then got a nightshirt out of the drawer. He moved Jeffrey's arm gently to slip off his shirt, remembering Johnstown and noticed quite a few bruises on his right side. After easing the nightshirt on, he slipped his pants off and pulled up the covers. Then he settled down in a chair and took off his own boots. He leaned back and put his legs up on the foot of the bed, trying to get comfortable enough to sleep. Luckily, his mind had stopped churning, he still didn't know what to do, but the practical part of his brain knew that there wouldn't be a solution tonight. Right now, they both needed sleep, and Phineas had always been very practical.
Jeff opened his eyes and stared out into the simply decorated room. He was alone. He remembered being in the barn with Bogg and watching the meteor shower. He must have fallen asleep, he had no memory of how he got undressed and into this comfortable bed. This must be Henry Ford's house, and Bogg must have put him to bed.
He dressed quickly and found his way into the kitchen. Henry and his sisters stopped talking as he approached.
"Mornin," Henry said.
"Morning," Jeff answered, fighting a wave of panic. Bogg had left him, he was sure of it. Now that he thought about it, it made so much sense. Jeff could help with the farm chores while Henry was gone. His mind went blank, what would he do without Bogg?
"Pa? He's up," one of Henry's sisters called out.
Almost immediately, Mr. Ford walked through the door.
"Where's Bogg?" Jeff asked him immediately, and the man motioned toward the front door of the house. Jeff ran outside, sure Bogg was gone, yet still needing to search. He looked around and when he didn't see anyone, his stomach turned over and a lump formed in his throat. Bogg had left him. Last night he was too much trouble. He'd known it as soon as he woke up, but he'd thought that maybe...
"Morning," Phineas called out as he came around the side of the house. Then, "you okay?" he asked as he noticed Jeff's expression.
Jeff ran to him and jumped into his arms and Phineas held him tight for a moment before putting him down.
"What's wrong?" he asked again.
Jeff hesitated, realizing it was time to be honest. "I thought you were gone."
"It would be pretty cowardly to sneak off without even saying goodbye, don't ya think?" Bogg asked.
Jeff looked at the ground, his emotions in a turmoil. Had he just called Bogg a coward? He didn't know what to say.
Phineas knelt down in front of him and pulled his chin up. "I won't leave you," he said simply when their eyes met. He hoped he could keep that promise, but the truth was that Field Workers were on the lowest rung of the Voyagers hierarchy and there could theoretically come a time when he might be forced to break it. As he looked at Jeffrey, he decided not to let him know that. All he needed to know right now was that Phineas wasn't going anywhere without him.
Jeff moved to him immediately and gave him another hug, relief flooding through him. "So why were you out here?"
"Just cutting up that tree for firewood. He let us stay the night, it's the least I could do." Bogg had been more than happy to help in cutting up the tree this morning, and as he labored, he had reached a decision. His omni still worked, and history still needed fixing, so that's what he and Jeff would do, fix history ... together. Right or wrong.
"They have been pretty nice to us," Jeff conceded.
As if on cue, Mr. Ford opened the door and called to them. "Come on in for breakfast, you aren't leaving until you've eaten."
Henry's sisters had piled a plateful of food in the center of the table and they all sat down together and ate.
After he finished, Jeff looked up at Bogg and saw him staring at the wall. He turned his head so he too could read the saying embroidered onto a rough, homespun cloth, which hung there in a frame.
It read: A home isn't four walls; it's a place where you get strength to go on.
Henry noticed them looking at the quaint needlepoint. "My mother embroidered it, it was one of her favorite sayings."
"It's nice," Bogg said.
Jeff read and re-read it silently several times. Last evening, inside Bogg's embrace, he had found the strength to go on. He'd never thought of home like that before. Maybe it was true. Then he nodded to himself, of course it was true, but it seemed more true for him, right now, than it could possibly be for anyone else on earth.
The End ... actually, just the beginning ...
As I said at the beginning of this story, I wanted to try my hand at writing different points of view. So I did my best to explain how each of them felt about the different situations they were in.
Sometimes a certain phrase will just sing to me and one from this chapter did just that. It was: "Events were sweeping him along on an unplanned and unfamiliar path and he felt powerless to control them". It seemed to capture poor Bogg's situation so well. To me anyway. Another phrase I felt that way about was in chapter 7, "...and the closer and tighter Bogg held him, the more he sobbed."
I couldn't believe it when I came across that saying that hung over the fireplace in Henry Ford's home. It fits so well with the image of Bogg being Jeff's home, which many of us have explored on this site, in different stories and even a poem.