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The Loser, the Flapper and Rugila, King of the Huns – Part One
by Don Drewniak

Twenty-year-old Mervin Molson was one of life’s perpetual losers. He was slightly less than five pounds at birth and was cursed with a large hook nose. Mervin was the smallest kid in his kindergarten class and one of the smallest boys throughout his school days. This, combined with his appearance and his name (he was often called Merv the Perv), made him a ripe target for bullies until he dropped out of high school the day he turned sixteen.

An only child, his mother deserted him when he was seven. His father, who paid little attention to his son except to curse him for his poor grades, blamed Mervin for losing his wife. As a result, Mervin was more often than not left to fend for himself as the father, a good-looking, well-built man, moved from one woman to another.

When Mervin told his father that he left school, he was given one hour to pack up his belongings and leave their home. Tears filling his eyes, he dragged two large and battered suitcases along sidewalks and streets until he reached the home of the one person who had been kind to him, his recently-widowed grandmother, Phyllis Spaulding. She welcomed him into the house when, still in tears, he told her what had happened.

Grandma Spaulding was his maternal grandmother who had little use for her daughter after she deserted Mervin and rarely spoke to her son-in-law.

“Mervin, bring your suitcases into the spare bedroom, unpack and take a hot shower. I’ll fix you a nice hot supper.” She gave him a hug and said, “Welcome to your new home.”

He wept until not a tear was left to fall. His dinner of steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli was the first hot meal he had eaten in months. Meal finished, Grandma Phyllis taught him how to play cribbage. That took up most of the evening.

Grandma was a librarian at the town library that was conveniently located six blocks away from her apartment. She worked five days a week on a rotating schedule. Evenings were reserved for cribbage, television and Netflix. Mervin passed away most of Grandma’s days at work by surfing the Web and playing games on her laptop.

After three wasted months, his conscience got the better of him and he began to search for a job. He secured a part-time one as a stock boy and floor sweeper at a local supermarket. Mervin was fired five weeks later for chronically arriving late to work. Another three months passed before he became a dishwasher and cleanup boy at a greasy-spoon restaurant. From then on, he went through cycles of spending months messing with the laptop and finding a new menial job that never lasted more than a few months.

Mervin ran out of job prospects three months after turning nineteen. He began walking to the library and escorting Grandma home. Four months from his twentieth birthday and on a walk home, she asked, “Mervin, the next time you come to walk home with me, why don’t you come a couple hours early and go into the library? You could pick out a good book and take it to the reading room.”

He had no choice but to promise that he would do so. Three days later, he chose Robert Heinlein’s 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land. As to why, there was something about the title that intrigued him and caused him to speculate what it would be like to start a new life in a new land. Little did he know.

Days passed into weeks and weeks into months until he stumbled upon a computer page containing a photo of a flapper taken in the 1920s. It was love at first sight. Unfortunately for Mervin, there was no accompanying name or any other information relative to the photo.

Thus began his search. He read a lengthy post about flappers on Wikipedia, watched clip after clip about the “Roaring 20s” via YouTube and scanned the internet looking for another photo of his flapper.

Following nearly a month of futility, he found her name – Ruby Beatrice Corbyn. That was it. No record of her birth. No record of her death. Nothing.

His haunting fascination with the phantom flapper carried over into dreams – dreams in which he traveled back to the 20s in a time machine. It was on the last of these nights that he awoke as the first rays of the morning sun filtered through his bedroom windows. It was his twentieth birthday.

A voice, the sweet voice of a young woman, beckoned him to take a walk in the woods that began at the end of the town’s main road a little over one mile from Grandma’s apartment.

Possessed, he dressed and quietly made his way to the woods where he continued walking guided by that same voice. Mervin came to an abrupt stop fifteen minutes later. In the distance was what appeared to be a small patch of fog. Cautiously approaching it, he saw the outline of a black cube that appeared to be a couple feet taller than he was. His pulse quickened as he saw a slightly-opened door. The voice urged him to enter the cube. He did. The door closed behind him.

Although he was blanketed in near total darkness, he felt no fear. He made his way to a small source of light on the back wall. It was a rectangular ivory-colored button no more than one inch high and six inches wide. Printed on it was “R.B.C. - 1924.”

Mervin couldn't contain his emotions. “A time machine! A time machine! It's taking me to Ruby!”

He pressed the button and next found himself standing in front of a door in a dimly-lit hallway. It was the only door in sight in a hallway that seemed to have no end in either direction. Printed in large white letters on the black door were the letters R.B.C.


He pulled open the door and tentatively stepped into total darkness as the door slammed shut and he heard the faint click of a lock. His bravery faltered as panic swept over him. Lights flashed on. Blinded at first, his sight slowly returned. He was in a room that looked to be about twenty-feet wide and thirty-feet in length. The floor, the ceiling and four sides were all black. Backed up against the far wall were two king-size beds. Sitting on the end of the bed to the left were two of the heaviest women he had ever seen.

My god, they must weigh four hundred pounds each!

Sitting on the other bed was a woman who was even heavier.

Must be five hundred pounds!

Mervin knew they were older that he was, but he had no idea if they were in their thirties, forties or fifties. All three were wearing enormous white t-shirts with two lines of black printing:

Ringling Brothers

Circus - 1924

Their only other pieces of clothing were parachute-sized black panties.

Minutes passed as he seemed to be frozen in place as they stared at him.

Finally, the heaviest of the three spoke, “Here’s our man, ladies. Get him!”

The Loser, the Flapper and Rugila, King of the Huns – Part Two