Albert collapsed wearily into the train seat and let out a long, heavy sigh. He was relieved to find that he was the only passenger in the compartment. Sinking into a daydream, he wondered what it would be like to see his parents again. Albert had no idea how they would receive the news about his leaving the Gymnasium.
A gray-haired porter shuffled into the compartment and said, “Tickets please.” Lost in thought, Albert didn’t respond. The porter tapped the troubled teen on the shoulder. “Sir, ticket please.” Albert started, then smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.” He reached into his pocket, then handed the clerk his voucher, which the porter punched, shaking his head, and ambled on to the next compartment.
As the train rumbled along, Albert closed his eyes and fell back into his reverie. He began composing his story so he could tell his mother all that had happened since she and his father had left. Absently the runaway tugged on the silver chain of his shiny, brass compass, then pulled it from his tweed coat pocket. Still lost in his thoughts, he smiled as he thought of his childhood companion Johann. The last time he saw him was at the farmer’s market. Well, physically, at least. The last time he had “seen” him was after the funeral in his friend’s bedroom.
Albert had been laying on Johann’s bed after dinner, grieving for his friend. He had pulled out his compass, finding a vague comfort gazing at the jewels on its lid. From out of nowhere, a shimmering light appeared above the compass and Johann had materialized, his form shining and translucent. He was smiling, and Albert sensed a warmth and love emanating from his friend’s eyes. The ethereal form just held, and a sense of peace had descended over Albert. Somehow, in his heart, he knew all was well with his friend. As that awareness presented itself to Albert, Johann had nodded, then slowly faded. From that time on, the pain of Johann’s loss had become manageable, and there was even a sense of joy, knowing Johann was somehow just fine.
Morning sunlight shined through the train compartment’s window and glinted in the twelve brilliant jewels as Albert swung his treasure back and forth, then lowered it to his lap. The stones shimmered like stars in a rainbow of light. A spiral of light seemed to project from the compass, and Albert floated up into it and into another dimension of time. Mesmerized, Albert drifted off.
The smell of frankincense woke him. He saw enormous flying buttresses and realized he must be in a Gothic cathedral. Seated next to him in the pew was a bearded, balding gentleman. He stared at the man, watching the swings of a bronze chandelier that hung from the ceiling on a long metal chain and swung back and forth at regular intervals.
After a moment, the man spoke. It was not a language Albert knew, but he somehow understood. “Most interesting, don’t you think?”
“Uh, I’m not quite sure what I’m looking at, sir,” Albert responded respectfully.
The man nodded, then said, “Put your hand over your heart for a moment, then touch your wrist with your fingers.”
Albert complied. “Your heart goes bump, bump, yes?” Albert nodded. “And your pulse does the same.”
“It does,” Albert confirmed.
With his arm, the man mirrored the swing of the lamp. “You see, young man? I have observed that no matter how large or small the arc, the chandelier will complete its back and forth in the same amount of time.”
“Really?” Albert asked, suddenly fully engaged in the conversation.
The man nodded solemnly.
As the subject matter of the discussion began to sink in, Albert suddenly had a sense of whom he was speaking to. Awed, he hesitantly asked, “Would you be, uh, Galileo, sir?”
With a twinkle in his eye, the man affirmed it. “I must admit, I am he.” Galileo leaned forward. “Now, we have established that we can measure time, correct?” Albert nodded. “Then remember that and come with me,” he said, setting down a prayer book and motioning for Albert to follow.
As they strolled outside to a leaning tower nearby, Galileo picked up two rocks, one twice the size of the other. With Albert in tow, he climbed the stairs to the top of the tower. Leaning over the edge, Galileo said, “Watch. I drop them at the same time.”
The rocks fell, and both landed together with a distant thump. “See, gravity! You must use gravity with time.”
Albert nodded thoughtfully, leaning further over the ledge to stare again at the rocks. Suddenly he was falling over the crowning ridge of the tower... He came back to awareness in the train car compartment with a jerk.
I have been with the father of physics! Albert thought with awe as he put the compass back into his pocket and absently gazed out the compartment window, considering what Galileo had said.
His thoughts were nearly enough to distract him from his worry about how he would be received by his family.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish