The Portal – Jeremy Beans continued

         He looked out the kitchen window. It faced the garage. The garage door was open, and he could hear Tyler and Sally Sweet chattering over the sound of some music playing.

Jeremy casually wandered into the living and plopped down on the sofa.

      “Samuel, you want to go with me?”

       Samuel glanced at him. “Baseball? Naw, I’m not very good at baseball.”

      “Well, maybe we can do something else.”

       Samuel was looking at Sponge Bob. “Un-un, I like this.” He jumped around in front of the screen.

Jeremy leaned close to his brother. “I’m thinking about taking a trip in the picture,” he whispered close to Samuel’s ear.

       Samuel turned and stared at him, open-mouthed.

       “The picture?” His eyes got big. “I don’t know Jer. It was a little scary last time.” The boy shook his head.

       “Oh, come on. It was fun. You loved it.”

       Samuel looked uncertain.

      “Let you steer the ship again.”

      “Steer the ship?”

      “Yeah, wear the captain’s hat and everything.”

       Samuel’s eyes glistened, remembering… “Captain’s hat,” he breathed out. “Okay. When?”

       “Like now,” Jeremy answered. “You go get your shoes on and a sweater and I’ll talk to Tyler.”

       The younger boy got up and ran for the bedroom. Jeremy sighed and got off the sofa to turn off the TV. Holding the bat in one hand, he went out to speak to his older brother.

                                                #

        Back in their bedroom, Jeremy shut the door and then closed the louvered blinds by half, so no one could see inside.

       He looked down at Samuel. “Shoes?” Sam nodded. “Jacket?” Sam waved it in the air. “Put it on so you don’t lose it.”

      “But I’m not cold.”

      “You will be, and I don’t want you trying to take mine.”

      Sam grimaced and tugged on his jacket.

     “Ok, I got water and snacks in my bag, so we should be all set.” He looked down at his watch. The watch had been a gift for his birthday and had lots of gadgets. One was a timer. He consulted the time schedule on his bed and set the time to 1:00 p.m. That should give them plenty of time to get home before mom. He also had a cheap Go phone. He stuck that in his bag. He had no idea if it would work in the portal, but this would be a good time to find out.

     “Ready?” he asked his nervous sibling.

     Samuel nodded and sucked on his lower lip.

     “Grab my hand.” They locked hands and Jeremy used his free hand to press against the picture on the wall.

      Instantly, the picture started to glow. The same neon colors that he remembered were there: hot pink, bright yellow, acid green, orange-red, indigo blue, a touch of black; all swirling around each other. The humming too, began again and the picture started to get warm, even hot.

      With a sudden sucking sound and Pop! Jeremy and Samuel were on the other side and had landed on the same wide patch of lush, green grass.

      “Whoa,” Samuel staggered up.

     “I know,” Jeremy grinned, “it’s a rush, isn’t it?”

     Sam looked at his brother a moment like he was crazy and then looked around. “Hey, look Jer! There’s our rock pile we built. It’s still here.” he rushed over to the stack and started adjusting the rocks.  “Maybe it needs one more.”

     “Come on, Sam. I want to get down to the beach.”

     Samuel got too large of a rock, put it on top of the stack and the whole group tumbled over.

     “Oh, no!”

     “Leave it.”

     “We can’t. Dad said we always have to have our marker.”

     Jeremy rolled his eyes and trudged over to his brother and dropped to his knees. Taking the largest rock, he put it on the bottom and built the other ones up on top. It tottered but held.

     “Okay? Let’s get going.”

     The boys turned to the small woods and tramped through a short distance to the giant lake they had been to before. They got to the beach and stood staring out at the blue surface. Being from Tucson, they didn’t often get to see large patches of water.

     Jeremy fully expected to see the ship coming around the huge fountain in the middle of the lake. There was something coming toward them, this time, but it wasn’t the ship. He narrowed his eyes trying to see. Animals?

     “Jeremy, it’s a rhino! Run!” Sam yelled and ran back toward the trees and scampered up the closest one.

     Jeremy was behind him but at a more stately pace. He kept peering at the animals. Rhino? No, close. It was a hippo. A small one followed by a giraffe. He got back to the tall grasses that grew close to the forest and knelt to hide.

     The hippo and the giraffe both came a few yards from the two boys and then did something very curious. They stopped, and both knelt, both front legs bent down at the knees with their noses touching the ground.

     Like they are bowing, Jeremy thought.

     The two animals stayed there and didn’t move. He stood up and cautiously walked through the grass toward them. He approached the hippo and put his hand out to touch it. It grunted at him and he pulled back. Then he went over to the giraffe which shook its head back and forth.

     “Get on my back,” it said to him.

     Jeremy jumped back in surprise. However, why anything in this place should surprise him anymore…

     “Get up, come on. We haven’t all day.”

     Was that an English accent he heard? Jeremy shook his head and gingerly approached the giraffe and climbed up on its upper back. With a startling jerk, the animal stood up and Jeremy had to hang onto the mane on the back of its neck to keep from falling.

     “Get your brother over here,” the giraffe commanded.

     Jeremy could swear it sounded like a woman.

     “Sam, come on. They won’t hurt you. Come on.” He waved at his brother who cautiously stepped out from the grasses.

     “Tell him to get on the hippo,” the giraffe told Jeremy.

     “The hippo Sam, get on the hippo.”

     Sam approached and looked scared.

     “It won’t hurt you.”

     Sam approached the hippo and grabbed hold and climbed up on its neck.

     With a grunt, the hippo stood up and shook itself.

     “About time,” it said.

     Jeremy blinked. The hippo made him think of an English butler he’d seen in a movie.

     The giraffe turned and looked at Jeremy a moment.

     “Hold on, we need to be going. We’re late.”

     With that she took off at full gallop and Jeremy had to hang on to her mane with all his might. The little hippo trotted behind on shorter feet.

     “Slow up Molly, not too fast,” Jeremy heard him say.

     Molly seemed to ignore this request and kept on going.

                                                                        #

     Molly, the giraffe, took long strides through the tall grass that became increasingly drier and more brown as they went. Jeremy looked nervously over his shoulder. Sam and the hippo were further and further behind them. Additionally, they were getting farther away from the lake and Jeremy’s portal.

    “Don’t be worried, Master Jeremy, Jeeves and Samuel will catch up to us. He knows where we’re going.”

     Jeremy nodded his head not knowing what else to say. The terrain started to remind him of an African safari. However, as he peered forward, he could see they were approaching what looked like a castle.

  A red, brick castle, he thought to himself. It reminds me of something. He thought hard. They were almost upon it.

  The castle was indeed red brick. There was an arched doorway at the front with a large wooden door decorated with brass studs. It was sturdy, stained dark brown with age. His eyes traveled upwards; the door was set in a round turret that went up to a round, pointed roof done in black tiles. There was a flag flying from the turret. On either side the brick walls were at least fifteen feet high with battlements at the top. There were rectangular indentations about every ten feet. The structure was bigger than an a house, certainly, but then again not quiet as big as Jeremy expected a castle to be.

     “Smithsonian! That’s it!” Jeremy shouted.

     “That’s what?” Molly asked him.

     “That’s what this place reminds me of. It looks just like the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. We went there on vacation last summer.” He was proud of himself for finally remembering.

     “Have no idea what you are talking about,” Molly responded coolly.

     “Who goes there?” A guard in an old-fashioned set of grey armor leaned over the parapet and addressed them.

     “Molly and masters Jeremy and Samuel to see the professor,” she called out in a bored voice.

     “Okay, let me check.” There was some calling out back and forth of this guard to some other guard they couldn’t see.

     “Alrighty, then Miss. In you get,” the guard shouted down at them.

      “Well, of course we do,” Molly mumbled almost to herself. The large doors seemed to open by themselves. The doors were tall, but Molly still had to stoop to enter. They got into the foyer and stopped.

    “Okay, then, Master Jeremy. This is where you get off.” She knelt again on her front knees and he slid off to the flag stone floor.

     “Now what?” he asked her, mystified.

     “Now, you go meet your Uncle and I go and meet some lunch. Ta-ta.” Molly retreated out the door again and trotted off around the corner.

     In a few moments, huffing and puffing, Jeeves the hippo came trotting up with Samuel.

     “That woman just cannot slow down. She’ll be the death of me,” Jeeves grumbled. Like Molly, he bent down on his front knees and Samuel slid down.

     “It’s lunch for me, lads. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some from your Uncle too. He sometimes forgets to eat.” Jeeves winked at the boys and trotted out the door and followed Molly around the corner. The large doors closed suddenly, and the two boys stood and gazed around the room.

     The foyer was large, and the walls were a grey brick. It was everything Jeremy ever imagined that a Medieval castle would look like. Tapestries hung from the walls, suits of armor stood here and there. The walls were hung with crossed spears, swords and other weaponry. There was a large fireplace at one end and a giant elk head was hung over the fire.

      Mouths open, the boys wandered down toward the fireplace. They got there and stared into a small blaze, overstuffed chairs were grouped around the fire. They both sank into a fluffy sofa when they would hear footsteps coming up some stairs to their right.

       A chubby woman with grey hair and a big apron appeared.

     “Ah, you are here. Good, good. Come with me boys. Time for lunch, then you’ll be seeing your uncle.”

They both got up slowly and the woman smiled at them and waited patiently by the stairs.  “Let’s shake a leg, Uncle is waiting.”

     She made shooing movements with her hands. They stumped down the rounded stairwell into a kitchen. The smell of fresh baked bread greeted them and the smell of soup.

     The woman led them to a large wooden table.

     “Set yourselves down. I’m Mrs. Charming and I’m the cook. The specialty today is navy bean soup and bread. How would that be?”

     Both boys nodded, suddenly feeling ravenous.

     Mrs. Charming set out large metal bowls and spoons. She placed a taurine of soup in the middle with a large ladle. She ladled soup into each boy’s bowl and then brought a wooden platter out with a loaf of the bread and a side of butter. She sliced the bread into thick slices and placed that in the middle of the table. Then she went back into the kitchen and came out with a pitcher of milk and poured them each a large glass of cold milk.

     “There ye be. I’ll let you eat in peace now.” She whisked back into the kitchen.

     Jeremy and Samuel both fell on the food like they hadn’t eaten in a month. The soup was delicious, and the bread was heavenly.

     Samuel was spreading butter on another slice of bread. “Gee, I wish Mom could bake bread like this,” he sighed.

     Jeremy laughed. “Like this? When did you ever know Mom to bake bread of any kind? We always get ours at the store.” He spooned himself some more of the navy bean soup.

     Sam shrugged and stuffed down the bread. “I like her pizza.”

     “That’s because you’re a morn. The pizza comes out of a box.”

     “Hey, I’m not a moron. I thought we decided no name calling. You sound like Tyler.”

     The thought of sounding like his older brother Tyler sent a shiver down Jeremy’s spine.

      “My bad. We did say that. You’re not a moron.”

       Samuel gave a satisfied shake to his head and stuffed in a last bit of bread. When they couldn’t eat another bite, they started to look around. The kitchen was floored with large, grey flagstones, like the foyer. At the far end of the room was a large wooden cupboard with rows and rows of gleaming china plates on display. Lining the walls on either side of the table, were long wooden counters covered with all manner of pots and pans for cooking and baking. Spoons and knives hung from racks on the wall. They were almost below ground, but tiny windows high up let in the afternoon sun.

Jeremy wiped his face on a cloth napkin (who uses cloth napkins?) and started to wander down the room looking at things. Before he got very far he could hear the chirping of Mrs. Charming coming up from some side stairs.

     “There you are. Finished? Ah, good. Yer uncle will be seeing you now.”

      Jeremy tried to fix her accent. English?

Mrs. Charming trotted the empty plates back to the kitchen and wiped her hands on her apron.

“This way.” She led them back up the stairs and then across the foyer. The various weapons hung on the wall glinted in the sunlight. There was another set of stairs toward the back of the room Jeremy had not noticed before. “Here we go,” she pointed up the stairs.

     “We go up there?” Jeremy asked. He felt apprehensive.

She nodded at him with a smile and turned to go. Slowly Jeremy and Samuel walked up the stairs.

The stairs were wrought iron and circled around to the second floor. As they went up, Jeremy could hear a humming sound. They entered a large, well-lit room. The sunlight glinted and gleamed off of what looked like hundreds of glass jars, beakers and bits of equipment. The room had huge windows on every wall and he could look out and see the plain area they had just covered. Walking close to one window, in the distance he could see the lake and their ship, sitting at anchor.

     “Wow!” Samuel said gazing around the room. His mouth open he started to wander the room.

     In the center was a large lab table with a clean, white surface. There was a microscope on the table and attached to the microscope was a large man in a white coat. He had light brown hair going grey at the edges.

     “Ah, here you are! Great!” The man got up and walked toward Jeremy.

     It had been a long time since the boy had seen his uncle. But, now, he was struck at the resemblance to his father. They were both about the same size, big men, similar color hair…but, Uncle Al was older. Probably by some years.

     “Uncle Al?” Jeremy asked.

     “The same, how are you Jeremy?” Al extended his hand for a hearty shake. “Good to see you! And here’s our Samuel,” he beamed.

     Samuel managed to close his mouth and come over for a handshake too.

     “So, you had lunch?”

     They both nodded at a loss for words.

     “Great. Ah, I see you are interested in my lab.”

    They both nodded; dumbfounded.

     “Well, let’s take the tour and I will show you what everything is.” Uncle Al walked them around the big room giving them the tour of the equipment and what it was for. They stopped at a corner where a very large telescope sat. “Here she is,” he patted the scope. “My gal. Susan I call her. Want a look?”

     They both nodded. Al picked up Sam and sat him on the stool and then pulled the scope down and pointed it at the moon which still hung like a ghost in the sky.

     “Wow!” Sam cried. “Jer you got to look at this!”

     He hopped off the stool and Jeremy climbed up. He peered up at the moon. It was amazing, he could see all the bumps and ridges of the surface like never before.

    “Wow!” he said slowly. “This is the bomb.”

     Al grinned. “Glad you like it. Wait til you see things at night!”

     Jeremy got down off the stool and stood awkwardly. “Night?” he asked cautiously.

     “Yes, yes,” Uncle Al nodded with enthusiasm.

     “Well,” Jeremy started slowly. He glanced at his watch. “We really appreciate lunch and all but,” he glanced at the watch. “We only have so much time before we have to get back or my mom will worry about where we are.”

     Uncle Al looked serious. “Of course, of course. Your mother, Alice. Nice lady. I like Alice.” He clapped his hands. “In that case, I guess we don’t have a lot of time and should get going.”

     Both boys nodded at him.

     Uncle Al grabbed a dark green canvas bag and began running around the gathering up odds items and sticking them in the bag. He grabbed the telephone and dialed a button.

    “Mrs. Charming, those sandwiches? Ready? Ok, I’ll send the boys to get them.” He turned, you two go sandwiches Mrs. Charming has made. Now, chop-chop.”

     “But, Uncle Al,” Jeremy explained, “the time.”

     “Oh, yes the time.” Uncle pulled out a watch and looked at the clock on the wall. “12:00 p.m.” Then he pulled out a button on the watch, turned it, and pushed it back in. That should take care of it.” He smiled. “Sandwiches!”

     The boys turned and went downstairs where Mrs. Charming was waiting. She had two brown paper bags and said, “Who has the backpack? Ah, yes, you, Jeremy. Well, here you go.”

     She handed them to him and grudgingly, he stuck them in his pack.

     “Why don’t you wait at the door for your uncle?”

     They did as they were bid and waited by the big oak doors they had come through earlier. They had only been gone from home a few hours but already, it seemed like much longer.

     Jeremy could hear his uncle tramping down the stairs. At the bottom step he paused to have some words with the housekeeper. Turning he took long strides toward them. As he did so, the oak doors opened and Jeremy could see their morning rides waiting out front. Molly, the giraffe was there, and the small hippo – Jeeves,  was there too. They had been joined by a larger hippo who stood looking at them.

     “Everyone hop up!” Uncle Al was like a kid at Christmas.

     The three animals dropped to their knees and the boys clambered up. Uncle Al choose the big hippo for his ride.

     “Say hello to my cousin, Frederick,” Jeeves stated. “Everyone just calls him Freddie for short.” The big hippo nodded his head and flicked his tail. “He’s the quiet one in the family.”

     Jeremy goggled for a moment. Given Freddie’s immense size, he didn’t suppose he really needed to be very loud.

     The animals started off. Before Molly had a chance to break into full trot, Jeremy leaned over to his uncle.

     “Uncle Al, what did you mean with the watch and all that. That will take care of it. I don’t understand.”

     “Ah, my boy, I have simply paused time for a little bit. It is 12:00 noon right now and it will continue to be noon until we get back. Thereby insuring that you get home to your dear mother in a timely fashion. I believe that takes care of the problem, correct?”

     Jeremy gapped at the man. Yes, it took care of the problem and opened up an entire series of questions in his mind. Was that a magical watch? How did uncle do that? Where we they going, and then, by the way. Where in the heck we they anyway? Where was this place in the picture with the lake and the ship? Were they in heaven or in the earth or what?

     His mind spinning with questions, Molly did indeed pick up speed. Before long, she was going at a near gallop and Jeremy had to hang on again to keep from falling off.

     About a half-hour later, they left the tall grass area and approached some small hills. There were large rocks jutting out of the soil and rocks that seemed to tumble on top of each other. The ground began to rise. Finally, Molly stopped and looked behind her. The others were coming at a slower pace.

     “This is where you get off, Master Jeremy. I can’t climb those rocks.” She bent down, and he slid off. He stood waiting and could see Samuel, flopping up and down on Jeeves and Uncle Al, much more steady and graceful on Freddie.

     In moments, the other members of their party arrived. The hippos knelt, and Samuel and Uncle Al slid down from their perches.

     “Ah, here we are. Good,” the scientist seemed pleased. He walked over to Molly and she put her head down and he whispered in her ear.

     “Fine,” she said. “I’ll await your whistle.” She shook her head a little and trotted off toward the grassy lands. The hippos followed her.

     “Where are we going, Uncle?” Jeremy asked.

     The older man pointed up the hill. There was a dark opening in the side of the hill.

     “There. We are going into that cave.”

     “Cave?” Samuel sound worried. “I’m afraid of caves.”

     “How many have you been in?” His uncle asked with a smile.

     “Well, not many, but I watch TV and they always look spooky!”

     “Right you are, young Samuel. Caves can be scary things. But, I don’t think this one will. Not today.”

     The three tramped up the hill to the cave opening. It was very dark.

     “Jer, look!” Samuel pointed to the sky. “Birds!”

     “Not birds, my good Samuel,” Uncle Al responded. “Bats.”

     “Bats!” both boys exclaimed.

     “Oooh,” Samuel glanced upward and gripped the straps on his backpack.

     Uncle gave him a comforting little hug. “They won’t hurt you. They eat insects, and this is the time they go out to feed. They don’t attack people.”

     Samuel looked uncertain.

     “Come on,” Uncle told them, “we’re almost there.”

     They approached the entrance to the cave. Both boys were nervous. Uncle stopped and put his voluminous bag down and undid the zipper. He pulled out what looked like metal helmets.

     “Put these on,” he handed them over.

     Jeremy pulled his on right away and Uncle leaned over and clicked on a light at the front.

     “Wow!” Samuel breathed out.

     “Here, let’s get yours on,” Uncle wrestled the smaller helmet on Samuel and clipped a strap under his chin. Once that was done, he turned on the light. Samuel began to immediately dance around shining his miners’ lamp here and there.

     “Look, Jer,” he chortled, “I’m a miner!”

     Jeremy was also busy shining his light around by moving his head back and forth.

     Uncle Al got his miner’s helmet on, turned on the light and shouldered his backpack. He got down on one knee so that he was Samuel height and was serious.

     “Okay, now this is the important part. Are you listening?”

     Both boys got very still and stood at attention.

     “There may still be some bats in the cave and they will not hurt you if you just leave them alone.”

     Samuel did an “Ooooo,” sound.

     “Samuel,” if for any reason, you get close to a bat, do not try to touch it or pet it. Even if it’s on the path. Walk around it and tell me. Okay? They’re not pets.” He got back up to his feet awkwardly. “I want to hear an agreement from both of you, yes?”

     The boys nodded vigorously.

     “Now, there is a marked path with handrails and we always, always,” he stressed the last word, “stay on the path. We good?”

     They stared at him, mesmerized.

     “Okay, let’s go.”

    They entered the cave which was dark. The air felt damp. Within a few feet they were on a marked walkway with metal handrails. They could see the cave walls with their miner’s lamps.

     “Ooo,” Jeremy pointed. “Look at that.”

     The tunnel into the cave was cooler than outside and they could see the initial formations of stalagmites and stalactites. The gigantic formations hung down from the tops of the cave and pushed up from the bottom. Massive outpourings of liquid rock, frozen for eternity in rounded white mounds hung in silence.

      “They look like ice cream cones,” Samuel danced.

     “Yes, they do,” Uncle had to admit. “Those on the top are stalactites that form from calcium salts and dripping water. The ones on the bottom are stalagmites, also formed from calcium salts and dripping water.

     The trio went on and the ohs and ahs continued. As they went further into the cave, the formations got larger.

     “Look, Uncle Al,” Jeremy grabbed his uncle sleeve and pointed. “It looks like candy.” And the formation did look like ripples of carved peppermint candy. “I can almost touch it,” he reached out.

     Uncle grabbed his hand and pulled it back. “But you won’t do that. Human oils from your skin can ruin these formations, so we just look.” He smiled at Jeremy who looked abashed. “It’s okay, you’d almost think you could eat it, huh?”

     His nephew nodded, and they moved on down the tunnel on the walk chattering about what they were seeing.

     Samuel fell a little behind when they went around a bend. He was fascinated by the ‘candy’ rock formation. Boy, it really did look good enough to eat. If I just climb up on this fence, I bet I can touch it, he said to himself. He reached out and reached out. Then, suddenly, without realizing how far out he was, his tennis shoe slipped on the metal rail and he felt himself tumble and fall; into the darkness. 

There was a scream. Uncle Al and Jeremy jerked around.

     “Samuel!” Al cried.

     “He’s not behind us!” Jeremy was already running down the path back the way they had come. “Samuel, Samuel,” he screamed.

     Al ran behind him.

     “He was right here,” Uncle Al said. “There are the marks of his shoes.”

     “Samuel, Samuel,” Jeremy screamed.

     “Hold a minute,” Uncle put a hand on Jeremy’s arm. “I hear something.”

     They both strained to hear. A small tentative sob reached their ears.

     “It’s him,” Uncle said. “Samuel, can you hear me? Samuel!”

     “Yes,” a little voice came up to them.

     “We’re right here buddy and we’ll come get you. Does your light work?”

     There was a pause.

     “I think it got broke.”

     “That okay,” Uncle was frantically pulling gear out of his pack. One item of which was a glow stick. He snapped it and it glowed green.

     “Just keep talking and I’m going to throw down another light. Okay, buddy?”

     “Samuel, what were you doing?” his brother demanded.

     “Well, I was just trying to touch the candy rock,” the little voice mumbled.

     Uncle Al leaned over the railing and pitched the glow stick. It hit the wall on the opposite side and skittered off and bounced down into the darkness.

     “You missed me, Uncle Al.” The little voice was sad.

     Al yanked another glow stick out of his bag and snapped it. “Okay, here comes.” Slowly and carefully he aimed down. The stick fell with a plop sound.

     “Got it,” a joyful Samuel said.

     Peering over the railing, about fifty feet below, Jeremy could see his brother, the glow stick stuck in his fist. He leaned back and sucked in air.

     “Ok, buddy. I see you, that’s good. Now, Samuel, is there a wall behind you?” Uncle asked looking down.

     “Yes.”

     “Good. I want you to go and stand as close to the wall as possible and don’t move ‘til I tell you. Can you do that for me?”

     There was a tentative “Yes.”

     They could see the glow stick move backwards and stop.

     “Are you sitting down, Samuel?”

     “I am now.”

     “Okay, good. Just stay there.” Uncle Al pulled out more gear and started rapidly stepping into what looked like parachute straps.

     “What’s all that, Uncle Al?” Jeremy’s eyes were big.

     “Spelunking gear,” Al responded.

     “Am I…?”

     “No, you are not. I am.” Al yanked and pulled on buckles and ropes.

     “What am…?”

     “You, my boy,” Al rubbed Jeremy’s head, “have the very important job of holding the ropes when I go down in case I fall. Okay, I am quite literally, in your hands.” Al fit some crampons on the bottoms of his boots. He attached the levers to a hook on the opposite wall and wrapped ropes around the metal railing. He wrapped the rope around Jeremy’s backside and showed him how to hold the ropes.

     “It that it?” Jeremy asked.

     “That’s it. You’re going to feed me rope as I go down and we are both going to pray that the engineers that designed this place drilled their posts very deep into the rock.” With that, Uncle Al, started to walk backwards off the ledge and down the rock wall.

     “Slowly, slowly,” Jeremy could hear his uncle’s voice getting farther away.

     Jeremy’s hands started to sweat, these ropes cut into his hands and hurt. He was terrified he would lose his grip and let go. He started to wish with all his might that they had never come on this adventure.

     Silent minutes ticked past and the sweat was forming on Jeremy’s upper lip and his back. He wasn’t sure how long he was going to be able to hold on.

     “There you are, you little rascal.” Uncle’s voice drifted up.

     There were some low mumblings. “We’re coming up, Jeremy. Hold tight!”

     Jeremy held his breath, the ropes were working through the pulley and pulled even tighter on his hands. They were cutting into his palms. He felt like screaming. There was a scuffling sound and the blond top of his brother’s head appeared over the edge of the rock. There was a push from below and Samuel’s whole body shot over the side onto the path. More shuffling sounds and a clamp, clamp sound and the gloved hands of his uncle appeared over the side. The man got his head and arms over the edge.

     “Pull me, Jeremy.”

     Jeremy rushed forward and grabbed onto his uncle and pulled backward as hard as he could. They both fell backward in a pile and started to untangle themselves. There seemed to be ropes and legs everywhere.

     Finally, untangled they both stood up. Samuel was already standing and was spread eagle against the rock wall looking for all the world like a big cry about to happen.

     “Come here,” Uncle Al put his arms out and Samuel ran over for a hug and started to cry.

     “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was just…”

     “It’s okay, buddy. You’re alright. That’s all that matters. This,” he swung his arm around, “is really a lot to take in.”

     Both boys nodded.

     Uncle started to repack his gear. “Sandwiches?”

     Samuel dolefully pulled out a smashed lump from his pack.

     “Ah. Let’s get going. I think I hear some hot soup calling my name. “

     This time Uncle Al was careful to keep both boys ahead of him the whole way back to the entrance of the cave. He even encouraged Jeremy to hold his brother’s hand. He got a scowl at the suggestion but just arched an eyebrow at his nephew.

     Once out of the cave, Uncle blew on a small silver whistle, and their animal rides soon appeared. They remounted and were back at the castle in a wink. Mrs. Charming tut-tutted over them and got them to eat split pea soup and bread.  Uncle joined in.

     “Okay, thank you, Mrs. Charming. Time these boys got home.”

     The older lady gave them each a hug and kiss and it was time to go home.

                                                            #

     As they were making their way back to the portal, a thought occurred to Jeremy. Something he had been wondering about.

     “Uncle how is it that the ship can go through walls, and we can get through the portal. It’s solid, isn’t it?”

     “Good question, Jeremy. All things look solid, nephew, but in truth are actually billions and billions of tiny atoms moving around in high motion. But they are so small, they give everything the appearance of being solid.”

     “Oh,” Jeremy replied.

     “Do you swim?”

     “Yes.”

     “Do you do the breaststroke?” Here Uncle demonstrated by putting his hands together in front of himself, as in prayer and then pushing out and around himself. “When you do this stroke, you are pushing the molecules of water out of your way and therefore propelling yourself forward. That plus a little kick from your feet.”

     Jeremy nodded. “So…”

     “So, my device slows the particles down at a particular point, and then we push them aside and go through.”

     “The portal,” Jeremy added.

     “Right, the portal at one specific point, slows down matter and then you come through it to this dimension.”

     “Dimension?”

     “Yes, this is just another dimension, very close to your own with some slightly different rules that I have made up myself.” Uncle smiled proudly.

     “Like talking animals.”

    “Exactly. Like talking animals.”

     “Hum. So, when we are on the ship and it goes through the door….”

     “As an extension of the portal, the ship slows down space and simply pushes the molecules apart to let you go through.”

     “Ah,” Jeremy was thoughtful.

     “And when we get back, the time…”

     “The time will be the 1:00 pm that you set the clock for because we have slowed down the time in this dimension.”

     “So, Mom…”

      “Mom will never know.” Uncle smiled. “Unless, of course, you feel you need to tell her.”

     Jeremy whipped around and stared at Samuel.

     “Samuel….”

      “I won’t, Jer, I promise.” His face was the picture of sincerity.

     “Okay,” Samuel was uncertain.

     Pretty soon they were back at the lake and close to the portal. The animals let them down and trotted away. The boys were about to enter the woods that would take them back to the portal.

     “Jeremy,” Uncle waved at his nephew to come over. “Samuel, you go on ahead, we’ll catch up in a minute.”

     Uncle Al gave Jeremy a hug. “I’m sorry about what happened with Samuel. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt.”

     “I know,” Jeremy replied. “Mom would kill me…”

     “Yes, I know. How I know,” Uncle rolled his eyes.  “Maybe, next time, if there’s a next time, you can figure out a way to leave Samuel at home. It might be better.”

     “I’ll work on it, Uncle Al. I will definitely work on it.”

You can reach Courtney to find out about more writing at: webby140@yahoo.com or to purchase: https://sites.google.com/view/webbywritercom/home.

The Portal

Chapter One

THE PORTAL

Jeremy Beans, age ten, lived in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. He had a mom, a dad, a younger brother, Samuel, age six and an older brother, Tyler, age twelve. His friends at school just called him Bean for short.

Samuel was kind of fun because he could be talked into playing games. Tyler was no fun because he was always gone Doing Things.

One day, on a Saturday, Tyler was gone with Dad, working on his school science project. Jeremy was home with Mom, Samuel and Beamer, their dog. His job was to get his room cleaned up. Probably the worst job in the world and the one he hated the most. He and Sam were in the living room and they still had fifteen more minutes TV time.

The doorbell rang, and he could hear his mom.

“I’ll get it.”

The door opened, and mom had a short conversation with the UPS man and brought in a brown paper package.

“Hum,” she said, walking to the kitchen table.

“Who’s it from?” Jeremy asked. He followed his mother. Samuel was crowding his elbow, looking too.

“Your uncle Al.” She frowned looking at the package. “You know, the scientist.” She went to get a pair of scissors. “It’s not Christmas or anyone’s birthday, I don’t…”

She opened the package and a brownish square fell out. She picked it up and looked at it, frown lines creased her brow.

“I don’t know…” She turned it over and over. “I can’t see what it is supposed to be. A picture…? It seems kind of heavy…”

Sighing she put the brown square down on the dining room table. Jeremy looked at it.

“Look, Mom. There’s a kind of design on this side,” Jeremy peered at the square.

“Maybe he is trying out some new art design or something. I don’t know, he always was a little weird,” she replied.

The telephone rang, and his mother turned her head.

“Can I have it, Mom?” Jeremy asked.

Distracted, his mother was walking to the kitchen. “Ah, sure. I guess.”

She disappeared into the kitchen and Jeremy could hear her talking to someone.

“What is it, Jeremy?” Samuel asked.

“It’s a…it’s a…hum. A kind of picture.”

“Let me hold it.”

“No, you’ll just break it.”

“No, I won’t!”

“Yes, you will, you break everything.”

“Aw…”

“And don’t start crying either,” Jeremy commanded. “Come on, we’ll put it up in our room and I’ll let you help.”

They both walked the picture back to their bedroom. There was a little hook on the back of the picture.

“Sam, go get the small hammer and a couple of nails from the drawer in the kitchen. Can you do that?”

Samuel nodded and ran for the kitchen. Jeremy walked around their room trying to figure out the best spot for the picture. He finally decided to put it across from his bed, so he could see it. Then, maybe he could figure out what it was supposed to be.

Samuel came running back in with the hammer and two nails.

“Mom got them for me.” He held them out for Jeremy.

Jeremy placed the picture, the hammer and the nails on the dresser. He pulled out a short pencil, made a little X on the wall and hammered in one nail. He didn’t like the way it looked, pulled it out and hammered in another one.

Samuel leaned on the dresser, breathless. Carefully, Jeremy picked up the picture, looked at the little hook on the back and pushed the picture over the nail. They both backed up and looked at it.

“Now what?” Samuel asked.

“Now…I don’t know. It’s just a picture. It doesn’t do anything.” They stood back and stared at the picture a moment.

“I think Mom is making some cookies,” Samuel said.

“What kind?” Jeremy asked.

“Chocolate chip.”

Jeremy put down the hammer and they both made a beeline for the kitchen.

Later that afternoon, Jeremy was taking a light nap and heard a humming sound. He opened his eyes and looked around. What? He looked over and saw the picture was humming and glowing. He got up and went over to it. It started to turn different glowing colors. The colors were neon like and reminded Jeremy of glow magic markers; hot pink, vivid yellow, acid green, red-orange and a bit of navy blue. They swirled around each other.

He put his finger on the surface. It was warm. With a zap! and pop! Jeremy was sucked into the picture. He fell on a soft surface. Shocked and scared, he got up and saw he was on some green grass in a misty clearing. Looking around it looked like the mist was beginning to clear.

This is some kind of small forest. But where? Curiosity overtook him.

Walking through the forest he came upon a large lake. It was very blue. Large, fluffy clouds filled the sky. In the middle of the lake a huge water fountain sprayed water in every direction. Jeremy gazed around himself in amazement.

Where the heck?

Then, slowly from around the other side of the fountain, through the water mist, he saw the outline of a large, masted ship. It was moving his way.

He realized his mouth was hanging open and shut it when, faintly, in a distance, he could hear Samuel calling his name.

I should get back to my room, Jeremy thought.

The next moment he was standing in his room. He turned around and around. The lake was gone, the ship was gone, the forest was gone.

He stared at his hands and then the picture and shook his head. Wow! This is something! The first instinct was to run to mother and tell her about the picture.

No, she’ll just take it down and give it to dad and then he will send it back to Uncle Al. Maybe not just yet.

“Samuel, I’m in here,” he yelled.

His younger brother appeared around the corner looking frustrated.

“Jeremy, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Mom wants to go to the store.”

“Store, ah, sure. Let’s go.” Jeremy hustled his brother out of the room and glanced back nervously at the picture. To his relief, it had returned to its dull brown color. No hint of the neon glow was visible.

#

Later, that evening, Jeremy sat on his bed and stared at the picture a long time. Getting up he went into the kitchen. Mom was making dinner.

“Mom, where is that envelope the picture came in?”

“I think I put it in the paper recycle bin. In the garage.”

Jeremy opened the door to the garage and went out. The three bins were lined up like waiting soldiers against the wall. The green bin for garden stuff, the blue for recycle and the grey for regular trash.

He pushed the lid open and peered inside. On the top of a bunch of paper, sat the yellow envelope. He pulled it out and looked at it.

The envelope was addressed to him which was surprising. He hardly knew his uncle Al and had maybe met him only a couple of times. Seemed like the guy was always busy off somewhere, doing something. Not much time for family visits.

The labels on the envelope were hand written in black ink. There was his name, Jeremy Beans and their address. In the left corner it read: Dr. Alfred Beans, Kitt Pk., Tohono O’odham Nation.

What the heck? Jeremy thought to himself. Something to do with kittens?

He didn’t want to ask too many questions in case his parents decided It Meant Something, and he had to start telling them more about the picture.

Mr. Beans got home with Tyler and they all sat down to their spaghetti dinner. Mrs. Beans poured herself and her husband each a glass of red wine.

“Ah, red wine,” Mr. Beans commented. He nodded to his wife, “good for the heart.”

“Yes, dear,” she replied with a smile.

“What kind of meat is this?” he asked her.

“85% lean from the health-food store.”

“Perfect,” he commented and dug in. “Looks like Tyler is well on his way to getting his science project underway for the next big school science fair. I think he is going to do us proud.”

Tyler said nothing and kept shoveling food onto his plate. Both his parents beamed at him. He ignored them.

“So, anything happen around here today while we were gone?”

“We got a picture from Uncle Al,” both Jeremy and Samuel said at the same time.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down. A picture? From my brother?” Disbelief showed on his face. “Alice?”

Alice Beans shrugged. “Some little brown thing that came in the mail. I don’t know. Maybe he is taking up art or something.”

“Art?” David Beans looked at his wife, incredulous. “Al doesn’t have an artistic bone….”

“Well, I don’t know,” his wife replied. “He’s your brother. I gave up trying to figure him out a long time ago.”

“Humpt.” David Beans got some French bread off the plate. “Maybe I’ll look at it after dinner.”

Jeremy dropped his fork, then picked it up. He didn’t want his dad to do something with the picture, like take it away. Glancing at himself in the mirror over the sideboard, he saw nervousness. He was definitely going to have to keep his cool.

Later in Jeremy’s bedroom, they stood in front of the picture. Mr. Beans, Tyler, Jeremy and Samuel all stared at the little brownish square.

“So, what do you think it is?” Mr. Beans asked.

Jeremy gave a non-committal shrug and moved away. He plopped on his bed and picked up a baseball and started tossing it from hand to hand.

Tyler touched it and lifted it away from the wall, looked underneath and placed it back against the wall.

“It’s not a canvas, it’s much heavier.” He looked at his dad. “I could test it in my chem lab in the garage if you want.”

Jeremy’s heart skipped a beat.

“No, no,” David Beans waved his hands in the air. “Probably just some experiment my older brother was working on that didn’t work, and thinking it was kind of pretty,” he gave a little laugh, “thought our young man here might like it.”

Jeremy was studying his baseball closely.

“But it’s not pretty,” Samuel added. “It’s ugly.”

“Well,” Mr. Beans shook his head, “gift horse and all that. The envelope, I understand, was addressed to you, Jeremy.” He turned and looked at his son. “You want to keep it?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jeremy was casual, “something different.”

“Okay, then. Well, I think Mom has some dessert. Last one’s a rotten egg!”

The trio scooted out of the room quick march. Jeremy sat and stared at the picture. When he was sure they were gone, he got up slowly and walked over to the picture. He touched it with his forefinger. In that one little spot, a faint orange glow appeared and there was the slightest hum. He quickly pulled his hand away and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Next day, dad was back to work, and mom was busy in the kitchen with a shopping list. Her big purse was on the countertop with her keys and hot coffee mug. Her notebook with the list stuck out of the bag.

“Samuel, Jeremy, here please!”

The two shuffled lazily into the kitchen.

“Ok, it’s less than two weeks before school starts and I have to go get your supplies. Jeremy you still want the thin notebooks with the wire ring on the edge, right?”

He nodded at her.

“And Samuel, first day of first grade. How exciting! We’ll get you lots of crayons and colored pencils.” Samuel bobbed on his toes. “Now, Tyler is in charge when I am gone. Let’s not park in front of the TV all day, ok. Go outside and ride your bikes or something. Get some air.” She gathered up her stuff.

“Where’s Tyler, Mom?”

“He’s in the garage working on his project. Call if you really, really need something. If you’re good, I’ll get Subways for lunch.”

“Yay!” Sam jumped up and down.

“Okay, kiss, kiss.” She leaned down and kissed Sam. She tried to kiss Jeremy, but he leaned away at the last minute. “Okay, later.”

Jeremy stood at the glass slider and watched as his mom get into the SUV and pull out of the driveway. When she was gone he ambled out to the garage with Samuel at his heels.

“Whatcha doing?” He asked his older brother.

“Nothing you would have any interest in so scram,” Tyler turned back to a tiny arc welder and kept dripping bits of metal on a metal plate.

“Okay, well then we’re going down the street to see Sean.”

“Whatever,” his brother waved at him. “Don’t get killed. And, don’t make me call an ambulance.”

“Sure,” Jeremy slowly left the garage, walked down the driveway, circled back to the front of the house and went back through a side door.

“I thought we were going to Sean’s,” Samuel complained. “I think they have a new puppy.”

“Be quiet.” Jeremy went back into the room he shared with Sam and closed the door. “Now you can’t tell anybody about this, okay. If you do, I’ll tell Mom and Dad it was you put the hamster in the toilet.”

“It was an accident,” his brother protested. “I was just trying to teach him to swim.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and then peeked out the door one more time to be sure Tyler wasn’t lurking in the hallway.

“Go sit down,” Jeremy pointed. Samuel sat on his bed.

Jeremy went over to the picture and laid his full hand on it. The picture immediately began to glow and hum.

“What’s that!” Samuel jumped off the bed.

“Shush, Tyler will hear you.” Jeremy put a finger to his lips. The size of the picture got bigger and the neon colors came back. The humming got louder.

“Come over here and hold my hand,” Jeremy held out his hand and the younger boy took it with reluctance. “Now hold on.”

Jeremy pushed against the portal and both boys fell through and landed on green grass.

“Wow! What just happened, where are we?” Samuel got up and turned around and around in amazement.

Jeremy got up and brushed himself off. The portal hung in the air and still glowed, but the humming was gone.

“Okay, let’s just use our scout skills like Dad taught us to map where we are so we don’t get lost coming back.” He looked up at the sky, the huge fluffy clouds were still there, moving lazily through blue sky with a slight wind. “The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. Where’s the sun now, Samuel?”

“East?” The younger boy asked.

“That’s correct. It’s to our east. Let’s stack some rocks here just to make sure we know this is the spot. The lake should be over there through those little woods.

“Lake?”

“Yeah, it’s a big lake, very cool. Last time I was here, there was this ship…”

“You were here before?” an incredulous Samuel asked. “Ooo, you didn’t tell Mom and Dad, you are going to be in so much trouble….”

“Hey. I told you before, this is our little secret. I mean, it came from Uncle Al. How bad can it be?”

Samuel shook his head.

“So, what. You want to stay here and wait for me?”

“Well, no.”

“Alright then, let’s do these rocks and go.”

They made a small marker with stones like Mr. Beans had taught them.

That done, Jeremy set off at a brisk pace in the direction he remembered the lake to be. They got through a short grouping of trees and …

“There it is, just like I thought!” Jeremy grinned at his brother. They moved down toward the lake. The enormous fountain was still there, in the middle, spewing giant columns of white, foamy water.

They came to the edge of the water. Samuel leaned over and touched the surface.

“Oh, cold.”

They stood there and admired the beautiful blue surface and then, like the last time, a large, masted ship started to come around the fountain in their direction.

“Jeremy,” Sam pointed excitedly, “a boat, a boat!”

“It’s not a boat, stupid, it’s a ship. A three-master, in fact.”

They both watched astonished as the ship sailed, seemingly by itself, up to the beach where they stood.

There was a large rope hanging over the side.

“Look, Samuel, a rope. We can climb on that way.” Jeremy started to wade out into the water.

“What if we need a ticket and don’t have one? They might throw us off.”

“Oh, come on scaredy cat.”

“I’m not a scaredy cat.”

“Are too.”

“Look, Jeremy, there’s a little walkway.” Sam pointed.

A landing pier that Jeremy had not noticed before was to their right. It led right up to the ship’s side.

“Ok, come on then.”

They hurried over and ran down the pier. Jeremy pushed Samuel up the rope and climbed up after him. Pretty soon they were onboard. There didn’t appear to be anyone else there.

“Look!” Jeremy yelled, “the steering wheel.” He ran toward it. There was a large black hat perched on top of the wheel. He pulled it off and stuck it on his head. It fit perfectly.

“What about me?” Samuel whined.

“Look, there’s a red scarf thing over there. You can put that on and be part of the crew.”

Samuel ran and got the bandana. Jeremy helped him tie it around his head.

“Would you look at us?” Jeremy laughed. Samuel did a little jig around the deck.

“Where to now, Jer?” the little sailor asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just try to steer this thing….”

To his amazement, the wheel responded to his touch and the ship began to move. Slowly, Jeremy turned the wheel and they ended up circling the fountain. Palm trees on the shore bobbed their head in salute as the boys sailed past.

“This is so fun!” Samuel ran from one side of the deck to the other, looking over the side.

“You better not fall in,” his brother yelled at him. “I don’t want to have to fish you out.”

This would be so cool to take home and show to Tyler. I bet that would show him a thing, Jeremy thought to himself.

As if on cue, there was a slight shudder to the ship and ever so slowly, the front end started to lift. Jeremy realized with shock that they were pulling out of the water into the air.

Samuel grabbed a mast. “What are you doing?” he screamed.

“We’re…uh…flying!” his brother replied.

They were completely airborne now and Jeremy steered the ship around the lake a couple of laps.

“Jeremy, I think I want to go home,” Samuel said, “this is kind of scary.”

“Okay, no problem,” Jeremy was more uncertain than he sounded. “Home it is.” He headed the ship back to the beach, past the grove of trees and toward the portal. He figured they were going to have to jump off the ship when it got close to the portal and let it go flying off into space.

However, a curious thing started to happen as the ship approached the portal. The entire ship started to shrink and get smaller. Jeremy and Samuel also began to shrink down.

Samuel ran to his brother and clung on for dear life.

“Jeremy!!!!”

Jeremy had nothing to say. The ship was shrinking, and it seemed to be pointing itself to the portal almost without his help. They got right up to the little hanging square.

“Jeremy, we’re going through!” Samuel yelled in Jeremy’s ear.

Then with a little Pop! sound they were through the portal and back in the boy’s bedroom. There were the two twin beds, made up with matching orange and brown plaid coverlets. Samuel’s Ted Bear was still on his bed. Jeremy’s baseball and mitt were on his bed. San Francisco baseball posters were on the wall. It was like they had never left.

“Jeremy, we’re back home.”

“Yeah, we are,” Jeremy whispered. “But, we’re small and we’re still on this ship.”

“Ooh,” Sam said.

The ship was floating through the air unaided.

“Can’t we just get down now?” Samuel pleaded.

“Just a few more minutes. Let’s see where it takes us.”

Jeremy could still steer, and he circled the bedroom. The ship then, seemingly with a mind of its own, headed toward the door. Jeremy thought for a minute they would hit the door and fall off.

Again, to his amazement, with a slight Pop! sound they were through the door and out in the hallway.

Beamer was lying down in the hallway having a morning snooze. Leisurely, they sailed over his head. With a jerk, sensing something, Beamer woke up and caught sight of the ship. He jumped up and started barking. Jeremy steered the ship higher, so Beamer couldn’t get it with his teeth. This close he could see the dog’s tawny brown/gold eyes and shaggy brown fur. They kept sailing down the hall and Beamer ran after them, nails clicking on the parquet flooring.

Soon, they were in the dining room and Paws, the cat, came around the corner to see what was going on. Shiny black fur with four white paws, he jumped up on the dining room table and started swatting at the ship.

“Paws stop it! Stop it,” Jeremy yelled at the cat who ignored him. They were about to sail past the dining room table when Paws did a giant leap and hooked a set of claws into the side of the ship. The ship began to list dangerously.

“Sorry, pal. Hate to do this.” Jeremy dropped two planks down and a surprised Paws fell to the floor. Recovering quickly, both animals kept chasing the ship.

“Look, Jer!” Samuel exclaimed, “the kitchen window.” Indeed, the kitchen window had been left open and this one had no screen. Jeremy steered the ship right through the open window.

Outside now, the cool autumn breeze buffeted the ship. The sails on the mast blew out to their full extent. Jeremy steered the ship around the backyard several times.

“Can I have a turn?” Samuel asked his brother. “I haven’t had a turn yet.”

“Well, I guess. But don’t run into anything.”

Happily, Samuel grabbed the big wheel. They were nearing the apple tree when there was a screeching sound and Jeremy looked up. In the sky, dropping quickly was the neighborhood hawk.

“The tree!” he exclaimed and jerked the wheel of the ship into the branches of the tree. The hawk whizzed by and screeched.

“Boy, that was close.” Samuel said. “You take it back,” and he stepped away from the wheel and sat down. “How are we going to get back now with that bird and everything?” He plopped his chubby face in both hands.

The ship balanced precariously on a tree limb.

“I know.” Jeremy started to whistle. “Call to Beamer and Paws, they can come out through the dog door.”

Both boys started yelling for the animals as loudly as they could. In a flash, Beamer was scooting through the dog door with the cat fast behind. Beamer spied them in the tree and started jumping up and down barking. There was another screech, higher up and the sound faded away.

“I think we’re okay now,” Jeremy peered up through the branches. “Let’s go.”

Samuel was holding onto the front of the ship and Jeremy turned the wheel and steered it out of the tree and back toward the house. Beamer kept barking and Paws was following close, doing the stealth bomber thing.

Jeremy steered the ship back inside and straight back to their bedroom. With another Pop! sound they were back in their room. Jeremy steered the ship back to the picture and told Samuel to climb off. Sam jumped down to the dresser and Jeremy followed him. The ship seemed to pause for them. He patted it one last time.

“Time for you to go home now, old thing.”

Promptly, the ship sailed back into the picture which closed behind it. There was a slight sucking sound. Sam and Jeremy jumped off the dresser just as they resumed their normal size. Jeremy looked, and the picture had returned to its dull brown color again.

They both lay on their beds laughing. There is a slight knock on the door and it opened. Tyler stood there.

“What’s going on, you two?”

They stared at him innocently. “Nothing,” they both said at the same time.

“I thought I heard some funny noises. And why was Beamer barking like that?”

They shrugged.

“Well, I better not…”

“You know, Tyler. You sound just like Dad.” Jeremy said to his older brother.

“Yeah, and your point?”

“Just saying.”

“Right, moron.”

Tyler closed the door with an expression of disgust. They could hear footsteps retreating down the hall.

“I don’t think you’re a moron,” Samuel said to Jeremy.

“Well, thank you, Sam. That’s very nice.”

“What’s a moron?”

Jeremy laughed then Sam laughed. They both rolled back and forth on their twins.

At least for Jeremy, he couldn’t wait to go back in the portal again

It was a Saturday and Jeremy Beans, aged ten, was very bored. Dad was working ‘overtime’ whatever that meant. Mom was gone shopping and then to yoga class. Tyler was in the garage with his newest girlfriend.

Plus, Sean, his best friend from school was down with chickenpox and it was Absolutely Forbidden to go anywhere near him. Not even to sit and just talk to him.

Bored, bored, bored. He lay on his twin bed and threw his favorite hardball from hand to hand. His eyes came to rest on the little dull brown square hanging on the wall across from his bed.

A month ago, the mysterious package had arrived via UPS to their house. The envelope was addressed to him and was from their Uncle Al. Their uncle, a scientist, lived somewhere up in the northern part of Arizona. Jeremy didn’t understand why his uncle had sent the package to him. He hardly knew the man and had met him maybe twice in his life.

Uncle Al did research with stars and planets. Jeremy thought hard. Planets? Well, something like that. He yawned and stared out the bedroom window. It was fall and the air was clean and bright. The leaves of the maple in their back yard were starting to turn brown and yellow. When they drifted slowly down to the backyard it would be his job to rake them up. But, not quite yet.

He liked autumn. His favorite time of year actually. Halloween was just around the corner. He was working his brain to come up with a really good costume for this year. Sean would be better by then and they could go Trick or Treating together. His younger brother, Samuel, would of course whine and insist on coming along. Maybe they could park him with his mother just one more year. Tyler, his older brother, now officially a teen since summer wouldn’t want to go.

Tyler was insufferable most days. But now with the new girlfriend…. Sally Sweet – Jeremy called her. The girl’s name was really Sally Swenson, but Jeremy like to shorten it. He could hear Tyler and Sally in the garage. She was giggling.

“Gag,” Jeremy said out loud. He tossed the baseball at the trashcan and it landed inside with a Whump!

“Landed in one,” Jeremy crowed and jumped off his bed to retrieve the ball. He could hear the TV in the living room blaring cartoons. Samuel, age six, would be glued to the set.

Jeremy wandered over to the brown square on the wall. He put a tentative finger to the square and once again, it started to glow with a slight neon orange color. The familiar humming sound started. He glanced over at the digital clock on the bedside table. 10:30 a.m.

Hum, he thought to himself. How long would Mom be gone? He got out his wristwatch and put it on. He did the numbers in his head. She had been gone thirty minutes already. She would go to yoga, that was an hour, at least. Then, shopping. That would be an hour and then drive home. He pulled out a pad and added it up. That would probably give them until 1:30 p.m. He would tell Tyler they were going to the baseball field to practice with the bat. He would even pull out the bat to make it look real. Set the timer on his watch so he didn’t forget the time. They could be back in plenty of time.

He sat and thought. Did he really want to take Samuel with him? No, he didn’t. But if he disappeared, Samuel might come looking for him. Then, Jeremy pondered, if he didn’t find his older brother, Sam might panic and blab. Yeah, blab. That would be majorly bad. Mom and Dad would take the picture away for sure and then…

Jeremy went to the closest and pulled out his bat. He swung it a couple of times for practice. He stuck the baseball in his back pocket.

Water bottle, yes. He found his small backpackand stuck the water bottle in there. Then, going to the kitchen, he pulled open the big cupboard. Hum…. peanut butter crackers, yes. Apples, right. Chocolate bar. Oh good, Mom got the kind with almonds. He loved those. He stuffed them in the pack and shrugged the bag over his shoulders.

to be continued…

Common preservatives causing obesity?

Could Common Food Preservative Make People Fat?

FROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) — If you’re watching your weight, you probably know to avoid sugary and fatty foods. But what about preservatives?

Eating a preservative widely used in breads, baked goods and cheese may trigger metabolic responses that are linked to obesity and diabetes, an early study suggests.

The additive, called propionate, is actually a naturally occurring fatty acid produced in the gut. When it’s used as an additive in processed foods, it helps prevent mold.

But in the new study, researchers found that feeding mice low doses of propionate gradually caused weight gain and resistance to the hormone insulin — which, in humans, is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

And when the researchers gave healthy adults a single propionate dose, it spurred a release of blood sugar-raising hormones — and a subsequent surge in insulin.

None of that proves propionate-containing foods raise the odds of weight gain and diabetes, said senior researcher Dr. Gokhan Hotamisligil, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“The point is not to say this additive is ‘bad,'” he stressed.

Instead, Hotamisligil said, his team is interested in understanding the effects — good or bad — of the various “molecules” humans consume in their diets.

“There’s a scarcity of scientific evidence on a lot of the things we put in our bodies through food,” he said. “Propionate is just one example.”

Still, Hotamisligil said, the findings do raise an important question: “Could long-time consumption of propionate in humans be a contributing factor to obesity and diabetes?”

When it comes to processed foods, the concern is usually directed toward ingredients like added sugar, sodium and trans fats. But there’s also a host of additives that, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are “generally recognized as safe.”

Dr. Emily Gallagher is an assistant professor of endocrinology at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

PAY TOILETS ARE CATCHING ON

https://www.thetravel.com/20-places-tourists-actually-need-to-pay-to-use-the-washroom/

20 Places Where Tourists Actually Need To Pay To Use The Washroom

There are a few places that take advantage of the fact that everyone is going to need a restroom at some point, and charges for that privilege.

BY PAUL HUTERPUBLISHED JUL 09, 2018

PARIS

In France, you can expect to pay to use the toilet on the streets. Specifically, in Paris, the capital city, there are coin operated toilet stalls all over the city. These are pretty simple to operate: you put in a coin or two, usually amounting to a Euro or less, and then you are granted access to the small stall on the inside where you can take care of your business. Not a very high tech or fancy design, but it does serve the purpose well. This is the system that is common throughout much of Europe, however it is in contention about whether it should still be in use.

19London

via: Twitter

Also, in the United Kingdom, mostly London, and not so much outside of England, proper, you can expect to pay a few pence to use the toilet. Although, this seems to be over and done with, and is not as common as it once was or as it is on the Continent, that is, the rest of Western Europe. Yet, the fact that even the British have been subjected to paying to use the loo, even if it is less than a pound, is interesting, even as the practice begins to go the way of the Empire. The system will probably become less in use as the UK continues to move further from the rest of Europe politically and ideologically.

18Amsterdam

via: NileGuide

In Amsterdam, there are still plenty of places where you are given the opportunity to pay to use the toilet. These places are all over the streets of this city, and are used by locals and tourists, alike, whenever nature calls. These toilets operate similar to other systems throughout Europe and the world, and allow for a more clean experience, and less of a wait to get in and out. They may not look like much, but they serve their purpose well. However, like much of the rest of Europe, the pay washroom system is slowly being abolished in Amsterdam.

17New York City

via: Wall Street Journal

A while ago, there was a bit of an experiment in New York City where you could pay $8 a day to have access to a guaranteed clean toilet. This may seem like a lot, but $8 to a New Yorker who is fed up with dirty public toilets is not all that much money. In a world where many places will let you use the toilet if you buy something, paying $8 for an entire day of access to a clean potty is not so bad. Whether the practice continues or not is still kind of up for debate, but it is unlikely that it will really catch on.

16Moscow

via: The Sofia Globe

Moscow, Russia may seem a world away to some people, but they are still part of a Eurasian country that looks to tie itself to Europe as much as possible. One way they do this (possibly) is by maintaining the practice of paid public toilets on the streets. Like their counterparts in cities across the rest of Europe, Muscovites would rather pay a few coins to have access to a clean toilet than have to worry about dirty public toilets. Moscow is not a particularly dirty city, but it is still suffering from some of the problems of Soviet rule, so a clean toilet is a must.

15Germany

via: Sylvia McDaniel

Germany may be the economic center of the European Union, but you still have to pay to use the toilet in many larger cities. Take Berlin, for example. In the capital of Germany, people, both natives and tourists, pay half a Euro or so to get into the washroom in public places like train stations and airports. The money goes to keeping the place clean, which is a relief from some other public restrooms in Germany that are just as dirty and gross as the rest of the world. The pay washrooms in Germany are actually quite nice to use.

14Mexico

via: Big Beaver Diaries

In Mexico, the pay toilets have a turnstile and often an attendant. You are really paying to get the toilet paper, and maybe a towel for drying your hands, which the attendant will give you once you have paid the small fee in coins to get through the turnstile. It is interesting that here, you actually see the person that your money is going to, as opposed to the faceless box that you enter in some other countries and cities. Mexico may not be revolutionizing the way that pay washrooms are operated, as this concept borrows from several other systems, but they do the job well.

13India

via: vidarbha news – Blogger

India is another place where you are paying an attendant to get into the washroom. Note, this is not a tip that you would leave in a fancy club, this is a fee to get in and use the facilities. As in other places, the fee goes to help keep the public commode clean, as well as paying the “salary” of the guy (or gal) standing at the door as you walk in. They may look like ramshackle rundown buildings, but these public toilets are actually better than the alternative in many places in India, and that is a welcome thing.

9Eastern Europe (Former USSR)

via: YouTube

In Eastern Europe, specifically those countries that used to be a part of the USSR, the toilets are open to get into, but you will need to pay an attendant to get in. A couple of coins ensures that they are making the money that makes it worth their while to be there and keep the place clean. This is not the same concept as having to pay to get into the restroom, as in Western Europe. They are not necessarily there to help you with service, but rather to keep the place clean for the next guy to come in.

8San Francisco

via: Wikimedia Commons

On the West Coast of the United States, you may find the occasional pay toilet in places like San Francisco, California. In an effort to help keep public buildings open to people not just needing a toilet, San Francisco has installed a number of pay public toilets. These are similar to the ones found in Europe, and operate on a coin to let people in to do what they need to do, all without the need for people to go into restaurants or bars looking for a toilet. A good idea, if it catches on. However, it may not spread past California, as public pay toilets have been banned in many U.S. states.

7Portland

via: Pinterest

Another location on the West Coast of the United States that is still experimenting with the idea of the pay public toilet is Portland, Oregon. The city has spent some money in recent years to revive the concept as a European style public restroom that people pay to get into. The idea was met with mixed reviews, and may be discontinued. People in the U.S. are just not used to the idea of having to pay to use the restroom. However, the idea of the use of pay toilets and restrooms in the U.S. is growing in popularity among eco-friendly cities across the country.

6San Antonio

via: San Antonio Current

San Antonio, Texas is not a likely place to find pay toilets, but it seems that you can find them there. Much to the chagrin of the locals. The city keeps installing the things, which cost about $100,000 a piece, without really telling anyone about them. But, these European style pay toilets are freeing up businesses to keep to doing business, rather than dealing with people just looking for a restroom. Also, the San Antonio pay toilets demonstrate that it is not just the eco-conscious states in the U.S. that are installing them. Whatever the motivation, it is still a little strange to the citizens of San Antonio.

5Toronto

via: Spacing Magazine

In Toronto, Canada, the city is starting to roll out the use of pay public toilets. It seems that city officials and business operators are looking for ways to keep people from just wandering into a business to use the restroom. The idea is the same as all over much of Western Europe, with a simple structure on the street that you pay to get into for your private use. It is still a relatively new concept in Canada, though, and the use of the pay toilet in Toronto is still in an experimental phase. Despite that, it may catch on and become as ubiquitous as it is in Europe.

9Eastern Europe (Former USSR)

via: YouTube

In Eastern Europe, specifically those countries that used to be a part of the USSR, the toilets are open to get into, but you will need to pay an attendant to get in. A couple of coins ensures that they are making the money that makes it worth their while to be there and keep the place clean. This is not the same concept as having to pay to get into the restroom, as in Western Europe. They are not necessarily there to help you with service, but rather to keep the place clean for the next guy to come in.

8San Francisco

via: Wikimedia Commons

On the West Coast of the United States, you may find the occasional pay toilet in places like San Francisco, California. In an effort to help keep public buildings open to people not just needing a toilet, San Francisco has installed a number of pay public toilets. These are similar to the ones found in Europe, and operate on a coin to let people in to do what they need to do, all without the need for people to go into restaurants or bars looking for a toilet. A good idea, if it catches on. However, it may not spread past California, as public pay toilets have been banned in many U.S. states.

7Portland

via: Pinterest

Another location on the West Coast of the United States that is still experimenting with the idea of the pay public toilet is Portland, Oregon. The city has spent some money in recent years to revive the concept as a European style public restroom that people pay to get into. The idea was met with mixed reviews, and may be discontinued. People in the U.S. are just not used to the idea of having to pay to use the restroom. However, the idea of the use of pay toilets and restrooms in the U.S. is growing in popularity among eco-friendly cities across the country.

6San Antonio

via: San Antonio Current

San Antonio, Texas is not a likely place to find pay toilets, but it seems that you can find them there. Much to the chagrin of the locals. The city keeps installing the things, which cost about $100,000 a piece, without really telling anyone about them. But, these European style pay toilets are freeing up businesses to keep to doing business, rather than dealing with people just looking for a restroom. Also, the San Antonio pay toilets demonstrate that it is not just the eco-conscious states in the U.S. that are installing them. Whatever the motivation, it is still a little strange to the citizens of San Antonio.

View of The Pyramids of Giza

What is the US doing about Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

https://www.epa.gov/retreived Sept. 2021

US Environmental Protection Agency

Carbon Pollution from Transportation

On this page:


Transportation and Climate Change

Burning fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases like methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is causing the Earth’s atmosphere to warm, resulting in changes to the climate we are already starting to see today.

​Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions. Between 1990 and 2019, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than any other sector.

Learn more:


EPA Programs to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Transportation

EPA is addressing climate change by taking the following actions to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. Many of these programs have benefits beyond cutting carbon. For example, decreasing fuel consumption can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save consumers money at the pump.

Setting GHG Emissions Standards for Cars and Trucks

EPA and DOT issued a joint rule-making that set GHG emissions and fuel economy standards for the largest sources of greenhouse gases from transportation, including cars, light trucks, and heavy-duty trucks.

Light-duty GHG regulations for passenger vehicles and trucks are projected to:

  • Cut 6 billion metric tons of GHG emissions over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in model years 2012-2025 and allowing manufacturers flexibility in meeting the standards;
  • Nearly double the fuel efficiency while protecting consumer choice; and
  • Reduce America’s dependence on oil and provide significant savings for consumers at the pump.

Heavy-duty GHG regulations are projected to:

  • Reduce CO2 emissions by about 270 million metric tons over the life of vehicles built under the program, saving about 530 million barrels of oil; and
  • The proposed “Phase 2” program includes standards that would further reduce GHG emissions and improve the fuel efficiency of medium and heavy-duty trucks.

Increasing the Use of Renewable Fuels

Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard program in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil. Renewable fuels are produced from plants, crops and other biomass, and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when compared to burning the fossil fuels they replace.


Taking First Steps to Set a Greenhouse Gas Standards for Aircraft

EPA along with the Federal Aviation Agency at the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization have developed international carbon dioxide emissions standards for aircraft. EPA is also now working through the process of potentially setting domestic regulations under the Clean Air Act that address GHG emissions from certain classes of engines used in aircraft.

China’s Rapid Manufacturing Growth and Pollution

China’s Fight Against Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

China’s carbon emissions threaten global efforts to fight climate change. Its broader environmental degradation endangers economic growth, public health, and government legitimacy. Are Beijing’s policies enough?

Workers try to clear algae from a polluted lake in Anhui Province. TPG/Getty Images

WRITTEN BY

Lindsay Maizland

UPDATED

May 19, 2021 2:20 pm (EST)

  • China is the world’s top emitter, producing more than a quarter of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.
  • It pledged to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement, reduce coal use, and invest in renewable energy. But its Belt and Road Initiative still finances coal-fired power plants abroad. 
  • Air pollution, water scarcity, and soil contamination remain threats to the health and livelihoods of China’s people, increasing dissatisfaction with the government.
  • China’s environmental crisis, the result of decades of rapid industrialization, not only threatens the health and livelihoods of the country’s 1.4 billion people but also the global fight against climate change. As the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, China suffers from notoriously bad air pollution. Its carbon-intensive industries have caused additional environmental challenges, including water scarcity and soil contamination. And, like the rest of the world, China will face increasingly harsh consequences of climate change in the coming decades, including flooding and droughts. 
  • In response, Beijing has implemented policies to curb emissions and stem further degradation, such as by signing the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate and pledging to be carbon neutral by 2060. However, following through won’t be easy, experts say, as the government struggles to maintain economic growth; ease public discontent; and overcome tensions with the United States, the second-largest emitter.
  •  
Figure 1

What are the differences between cow’s milk and plant based milks?

Today, there are countless food and beverage alternatives catering to every lifestyle — dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, lactose-free and more. While it’s great to have choices to fit individual needs, not all options are nutritionally equal.

Take milk, for example. Choosing between cow’s milk or plant-based options like soy, almond, coconut, pea, etc., can be overwhelming. Nutrition content can vary considerably in terms of protein, calcium, vitamin D and carbohydrates.

One cup of unsweetened, original soy milk has 110 calories, 8 grams of protein and considerable levels of calcium and vitamin D. Soy milk also has small amounts of iron and offers nearly 50% of the daily recommended value of B12, which is generally lacking for vegans and in many plant-based diets.

Hormone Levels in Milk

How Does Dairy Affect Your Hormone Levels?

Does the estrogen in cow’s milk promote the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers or cause early puberty in children? Nutrition Diva investigates.By Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS Nutrition DivaMarch 15, 20167616194-minute readEpisode #373

playLISTENHow Does Dairy Affect Your Hormone Levels?SubscribeSubscribe on iTunesSubscribe on StitcherSubscribe on SpotifySubscribe on Googlemute

The amount of hormones in milk is tiny compared to what’s already in your body. Guys, your bodies produce about 6,000 times as much estrogen every day as you’d get in a glass of whole milk. Ladies, your bodies are producing 28,000 times that much. Compared to what your own body pumps out, the amount of estrogen you’re exposed to from dairy products is far too little to have any physiological effect.

If drinking milk could raise your estrogen levels, we could expect it to be useful in treating symptoms of menopause. Ironically, soymilk may be more effective than cow’s milk in beating hot flashes.

There’s no clear link between intake of dairy products and early puberty. It’s true that kids are reaching puberty earlier these days but I don’t think dairy is the cause. For one thing, kids are drinking less milk than they used to. If the hormones in dairy caused early puberty, we’d expect to see the average age of puberty go up as dairy consumption went down, but the opposite is true. I think the increase in childhood obesity is a much more likely explanation for early puberty because circulating estrogen levels increase with body fat. https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/distroscale-public/vplayer-parallel/20210408_1900/ima_html5/index.htmlhttps://c5x8i7c7.ssl.hwcdn.net/vplayer-parallel/20210408_1900/ima_html5/index.html

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There’s no clear link between intake of dairy products and increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. Some people have pointed out that breast cancer rates are lower in cultures or countries where dairy is not commonly consumed. But there are so many other differences between these populations that it’s impossible to say that the difference in cancer risk—or any other difference, for that matter—is due to the difference in dairy intake.

When we compare people from the same country and culture, those who drink the most milk don’t have a higher incidence of breast cancer than those who drink the least. In fact, several studies have found a modest protective effect. 

See also: Does Dairy Cause Breast Cancer?

There may be a link between dairy intake and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is also a hormone related cancer, of course, and studies have found that men who consume more than four servings of dairy a day have a slightly elevated risk of this common disease.  It’s not clear whether this is due to a hormonal effect or something else. But the fact that dairy doesn’t seem to affect breast cancer risk or puberty rates suggests that the hormones in milk may not be the most likely explanation. It’s even possible that the link between dairy intake and prostate cancer is purely coincidental.

See also: Does Dairy Raise Your IGF-1 Levels?

How Much Dairy Should You Eat?

If you choose to consume dairy products, I think it makes sense to aim for no more than 3 servings a day

If you choose to consume dairy products, I think it makes sense to aim for no more than 3 servings a day—especially if you choose whole milk and other full-fat dairy products. Three servings of dairy a day is enough to meet your daily requirement for calcium (without overdoing it) and it keeps you well within the recommended amount of saturated fat.  

See also: How Much Dairy Is Too Much?

If you choose not to consume dairy products, there are plenty of other ways to get your calcium.  

See also: What Are the Best Sources of Calcium?

Do You Do Dairy?

I’d love to hear from you about whether or not you eat dairy products, and why. Post your comments and questions below or on the Nutrition Diva Facebook Page. See also below for several related articles you may find interesting.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes’ most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation’s leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. FollowFacebook Linkedin Pinterest SubscribePodcast Spotify Google Stitcher https://071cec64c83b5c379d2ecc5d239e473d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlMore Tips from Nutrition Divahttps://071cec64c83b5c379d2ecc5d239e473d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

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Chines Yellow Dust and Infant mortality in Korea

1. Introduction

2. Yellow Dust, air pollution, and pollution alerts

3. Methods

4. Results

5. Cost of avoidance and willingness to pay

6. Summary and conclusion

Acknowledgements

Appendix A. Supplementary date References

Show full outline

Figures (4)

  1. Fig.1. A) Average Hourly PM10 Concentrations between 2003 and 2011
  2. Fig.2. Effect of Yellow Dust Events on PM10
  3. Fig.3. Average Daily PM10 Concentrations in each Region across Korea 2003–2011
  4. Fig.4. Monthly Distribution of Number of Conceptions 2003–2011

Elsevier

Social Science & Medicine

Volume 186, August 2017, Pages 78-86

Social Science & Medicine

Chinese Yellow Dust and Korean infant health

Author links open overlay panelDuha T.AltindagaDeokryeBaek1NaciMocanbShow moreAdd to MendeleyShareCitehttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.05.031Get rights and content

Highlights

Yellow Dust is a weather phenomenon that originates in deserts of China and Mongolia.•

Easterly winds carry these dust particles to Korea, increasing the PM10 pollution.•

Exposure to these air pollutants during pregnancy reduces newborns’ birth weight.•

Public health alerts help mitigate the adverse impact of pollution on infant health.•

Omitting public alerts leads to underestimates of pollution’s impact on infant health.

Abstract

Naturally-occurring Yellow Dust outbreaks, which are produced by winds flowing to Korea from China and Mongolia, create air pollution. Although there is a seasonal pattern of this phenomenon, there exists substantial variation in its timing, strength, and location from year to year. To warn residents about air pollution in general, and about these dust storms in particular, Korean authorities issue different types of public alerts. Using birth certificate data on more than 1.5 million babies born between 2003 and 2011, we investigate the impact of air pollution, and the avoidance behavior triggered by pollution alerts on various birth outcomes. We show that air pollution rises during Yellow Dust outbreaks and that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy has a significant negative impact on birth weight, the gestation weeks of the baby, and the propensity of the baby being born low weight. Public alerts about air quality during pregnancy help mitigate the adverse effect of pollution on fetal health. The results provide evidence for the effectiveness of pollution alert systems in promoting public health. They also underline the importance of taking into account individuals’ avoidance behavior when estimating the impact of air quality on birth outcomes. We show that when the preventive effect of public health warnings is not accounted for, the estimated relationship between air pollution and infant health is reduced by more than fifty percent. In summary, air pollution has a deteriorating impact on newborns’ health, and public alerts that warn individuals about increased air pollution help alleviate the negative impact.

Snowglobe

Snowglobe

The snow is falling, 
little white blobs falling on my life. 
My world is a huge snow globe 
with snow falling all around. 


The doctor’s office calls, 
and calls and calls; 
shake, shake, shake. 


He doesn’t call; 
shake, shake. 
The boss yells at me; 
shake, shake, shake. 


The girls all walk around with 
bouquets of flowers; 
I have none. 


Shake, shake. 
The doctor calls; 
you’ll be ok. 


She holds my hand; 
you’re better off without him. 
I sit with my friends 
and drink coffee; we all laugh. 
The snow is outside, 
falling gently.

You can reach Courtney to find out about more writing at: webby140@yahoo.com or to purchase: https://sites.google.com/view/webbywritercom/home.