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I always knew Mr. Oquendo was a bit of an odd ball, a science geek, a loony dude, but I never thought he would have gone this far.
Well I am getting ahead of myself. It all started on Friday, May 15th. I was helping my mom with the flowers when Mr. Oquendo came over and asked if we were going to use our garbage. I thought that was a funny question. What if we answered, “Oh yeah Mr. Oquendo, we need our garbage, we’re going to enter it in the World’s Stinkiest Garbage Contest.”
But my mom, being the kind lady that she is said, “Oh I don’t think we need it. Do you Connie?”
“Nope,” I said with a bit of a grin on my face.
So he took out a big black garbage bag and started rummaging through our garbage. Every once in a while he would gasp and pull out what looked like a regular broken household item to me, but to Mr. Oquendo it might have well of been a lump of gold. He put his treasures in his own separate garbage bag. When Mr. Oquendo was there my mom and I exchanged some weird glances, but we didn’t say anything.
He finally left, with half of our garbage in tow. Then he rang the doorbell of the next house on our street, the Melon’s. I wondered how they would react. Who could turn Mr. Oquendo down? I couldn’t see anybody turning him down. I almost laughed out loud when I thought of anybody turning Mr. Oquendo down.
The next few days it wasn’t very quiet at Mr. Oquendo’s house. We would hear frequent clatters, and shouts of pain, excitement, disappointment, and failure. I kept wondering what he was doing.
Finally, I got up the courage to ask Mr. Oquendo what he was doing with all of the neighbor’s garbage, and what all the racket was about.
After school one Thursday, about the eleventh day after Mr. Oquendo rummaged through our garbage I decided to go to his house. I knocked on the door and soon Mr. Oquendo appeared.
“Connie, so nice to see you. Is it Girl Scout cookie time already?”
“No Mr. Oquendo,” I said with a smile, “I was just wondering what’s up. Lately we have been hearing a lot of noise from over here.”
“Well… come on in and I’ll show you.”
I hesitated for a few seconds. He flashed a winning smile and said, “I have cookies,” and I couldn’t resist.
So I went into his home and there was stuff everywhere! Tables with stuff on top, stacks of stuff, and you couldn’t even see the counters there was so much stuff on them! It was mostly junk: computer chips, buttons, wrenches, old bubblegum wrappers, hammers, itty bitty plastic pieces, and more complicated stuff that I don’t even know how to classify it.
When we got into the kitchen we sat on two chairs that were free of clutter, or so I thought. I sat down, only to jump up again right away.
“OW! What was that?” I bent over and picked it up out of my chair, then showed it to Mr. Oquendo.
“Oh, I have been looking for that.” he said excitedly as he ran out of the room. He soon returned and explained, “I have been looking for the final piece of the Zoom2001.”
“What happened to the Zoom2000?”
“There wasn’t ever a Zoom2000. I thought there were too many things named the something 2000 so I named it the Zoom 2001.”
“I see. What does it do?”
“Zoom will be my little helper. Watch. ZOOM!” The little machine whirled and came over, “Get us some cookies, please Zoom.” The little robot turned around, made it self taller, and reached into the cookie jar. Its hand retreated out of the cookie jar with two chocolate chip cookies, and it set them down in front of us.
“Thank you Zoom. Could you get us some milk too? Thanks.” When Zoom left the table Mr. Oquendo turned to me, “So what were we going to talk about? Ahhh, yes. What I have been working on for the last few days. Well… you see Connie, have you ever made a big mistake in your life? Or wish you would have said or done something differently?” I nodded my head. I thought about the time when my mom was painting my room and I ran in with the phone, because it was for her, and I spilled the whole can of paint all over my carpet. If I would have ran in a few inches to the left or right I could have avoided the whole incident. And I would have avoided getting grounded for a month.
“I made a couple of HUGE mistakes like that in my life,” Mr. Oquendo said, “Follow me.”
I drained my milk, and grabbed the rest of my cookie and followed him. Mr. Oquendo took out a set of keys from his pocket.
“One of those many mistakes I made was leaving my best invention in the basement, and I never thought of locking the door, and it was stolen.” I could hear him muttering to himself stupid, stupid, stupid, as he unlocked the three locks on the door.
We went down the stairs, and I saw more junk down there than upstairs, plus it smelled like the city dump! I thought ‘This must be where he is keeping all of his salvaged garbage. Ewww!’
Once we got all the way down the stairs I saw what he was building, I couldn’t tell what it was, but it must have been good because Mr. Oquendo’s eyes were beaming as he looked at it.
“It’s a time machine! Well, it will be, once I’m done.”
“Well,” I tried to find some encouraging words for what looked to me like a pile of garbage that nobody wants, glued together, “interesting.”
Mr. Oquendo kept beaming.
“I have an idea.” said Mr. Oquendo, “Why don’t you come after school everyday and help me build the time machine?”
I thought about this. My best friend Amanda just left for her one month vacation. What better did I have to do?
“Sure Mr. Oquendo.”
“Oh that’s great. I’m so exited. But you have to promise me one thing, okay Connie?”
“You have to promise not to tell anyone.”
“Repeat after me. I Connie Espammer,”
“I Connie Espammer,”
“To never tell anybody about the time machine that Mr. Oquendo and I are building,”
“To never tell anybody about the time machine that Mr. Oquendo and I are building,”
“And Mr. Oquendo is the coolest guy ever.”
“And Mr. Oquendo is the coolest guy, wait.”
So for the next few weeks I went to Mr. Oquendo’s house after school. I learned that he was very smart, just not very organized, at all. Like his kitchen it takes him an hour to find anything.
In about two weeks we finally finished the time machine. To any other regular person it would look like a bunch of junk glued together, with a door, a little compartment, and a lot of buttons. Mr. Oquendo said that since I helped him build it I could pick the first place we would travel to.
This I thought long and hard about. I lay in bed that night and thought about it. Maybe I should go back to that time in third grade when I slipped and my lunch got spilled all over me. Yeah, that’s a good idea. That is what I want to do.
The next day I went to Mr. Oquendo’s house and told him my plan.
“So correct me if I’m wrong, Connie, you want to go back to the third grade when you embarrassed yourself by spilling your lunch all over yourself.’
“Do you remember the day?”
“Yes I do, it was two days before my best friend Amanda’s birthday, October 5th, 2004.”
“Okay,” Mr. Oquendo said as he punched the date into the time machine, “Now we get in the time machine”
“Okay,” I said, a bit wearily. I wondered if I would ever come back, but really I should have been wondering if anything would ever be the same.
We got into the time machine and Mr. Oquendo shut the door, sealing us in the tiny compartment. He punched a few more buttons, then looked at me and said
“Okay, here we GO!” As he said ‘go’ the time machine gave a jolt and the room around us started to fade. When there was nothing left I thought ‘Oh geez, we’re going to be stuck here forever.’ But then the grayness turned into many brilliant colors, then they started to spin, and then, everything went black.
When I came back to my senses I saw Mr. Oquendo slouched against the side of the time machine.
“Mr. Oquendo?” I said as I shook him, “Mr. Oquendo?!?” a little louder, “MR. OQUENDO!!!”
Finally he woke up.
“No need for shouting Connie, I’m right here.”
“Sorry, Mr. Oquendo, I just wanted to wake you up.”
We got out of the time machine, and many memories started flooding back to me. I saw my classmates, except younger, and I saw myself. I looked at my clothes. ‘Poor me’ I thought, ‘I used to love that pretty blue dress, until I spilled spaghetti on it.’
“Can anybody see us?” I asked as I wondered what my tiny classmates would think if they could.
“Does it look like they can?” Mr. Oquendo jumped in front of Billy Machot and started doing a funny dance. Billy just walked right by him, seeing nothing. I started laughing so hard I thought I would have a hernia.
“I guess not,” I said, still giggling.
We followed the third graders to the lunch room. I saw myself get in the lunch line. Then I hurried to the middle of the lunchroom where little me would fall unless I could help it. I grabbed a few napkins, then I knelt down and wiped up the apple juice that little me would have slipped on if it weren’t for Mr. Oquendo.
Little Connie came past smiling, just as I had finished wiping up the apple juice. I followed little Connie back to her table and sat down. I started toying with Gretchen’s (little Connie’s friend) apple. Soon I got bored with their conversation, and I went to go find Mr. Oquendo.
Meanwhile Mr. Oquendo had been in the kitchen with the lunch ladies, snitching some spaghetti. He had been looking at the recipes of all the foods that they made in the kitchen, and he took out one for apple pie. When I came in he slipped it into his back pocket so as to hide it from me.
“I did it! I stopped little me from slipping on the apple juice!” I exclaimed with a big grin plastered on my face,
“Thank you Mr. Oquendo!” I said as I ran to give him a hug.
“You’re welcome Connie. Now we better be getting back home.”
We walked to the time machine, and Mr. Oquendo said,
“Now we can’t be taking anything from the past back to the present, so do you have anything?”
I checked all of my pockets.
“Nope, my pockets are empty.”
“Let’s get going then,” And we were off. Again the time machine gave a jolt and the room started to spin. Then the color started draining and all that was left was the grayness. Again the bright colors appeared, and the room went black.
Soon I awoke to a loud boom.
“What was that?” I wondered out loud. I looked over and Mr. Oquendo was gone. I was back in the present, in Mr. Oquendo’s basement.
I ran upstairs to see what had happened. Mr. Oquendo was carrying a quite large piece of junk, and had dropped it when he saw the scene outside. I thought that I would have had the same reaction if I was holding a large piece of junk.
Outside where I used to see our nice, regular, suburban, cookie cutter street I saw the exact opposite. Kids were running wild, the yards were unkempt, and the street was torn up.
“What happened?” I asked, stunned, “We must have come back to the wrong time. This isn’t right.”
“No…no, I’m positive we are in the right time.” said Mr. Oquendo, though he didn’t sound so sure.
When I got home, I was the only one there. So I decided to go over to my best friend Amanda’s house. When I got over there Amanda opened the door.
“What do you want?” Amanda said in a snooty tone.
“What got into you? I’m your best friend, Connie. Hello? We became best friends in the third grade after… oh no, no, no, no, no!” I remembered that Amanda and I became best friends after Connie spilled her lunch. Amanda helped me clean myself off, and stood up for me when the other kids laughed.
“Oh no,” I moaned.
“Hey you’re Connie from down the street, right?”
“Yeah, and I just made the biggest mistake of my life.”
“You will never believe me.”
“Trust me, I will”
“I went back in time in a time machine, and stopped myself from slipping in the lunchroom, but that’s what made us best friends, but now we’re not, and, and, and, and…” I lost it and just started to cry, right there on Amanda’s front porch.
“Don’t cry,” Amanda said trying to be comforting, “It will all be okay; it’s alright; its okay.”
Later on when I got her cool back Amanda and I went back to Mr. Oquendo, who was still staring out the window in the same place as when I left.
“What are we going to do?” I looked at Mr. Oquendo who was still staring blankly out the window. “Because obviously this place isn’t the same as when we left.”
“I think we must have changed some thing when we came back.”
I turned to Amanda.
“Did anything weird happen on October third 2004 or shortly after?”
“Yeah,” Amanda replied, “On October sixth we got a new principal, because our old one quit because the lunch ladies misplaced his favorite apple pie recipe.”
“Oh no!” Mr. Oquendo shouted as he jumped up and took a piece of paper out of his back pocket. “I forgot about this! I was looking at it, and I guess I must have put it in my back pocket when you walked in.”
“Well that’s part of the problem,” Amanda said, “When the new principal took over, not many people liked him. A lot of people moved to another school district, and we got some odd families on our street.”
“And Amanda started a clean-up crew for our street once a week, so it didn’t look so dirty, but now we never became friends. So now, Mr. Oquendo, we have to go back to the past, make me slip again, and put the recipe back, and life will be back to normal.”
“Okay Connie, let’s go.”
“Can I come too?” asked Amanda.
“Ummmm I don’t know, but I guess you better stay here, just in case, we don’t want any more mess-ups.”
“Okay,” said Amanda, looking a bit dejected.
“C’mon let’s go,” Mr. Oquendo.
“Hang on”, I said, “Let me get some apple juice or something for little me to slip on”
Once I got the apple juice, and Mr. Oquendo and I were in the time machine Mr. Oquendo pushed the, by now, familiar buttons, and for the third time that day the time machine gave a jolt. Then all of the color started draining from the room, then bright colors, then grey. I started to think this was getting quite boring.
When we woke up all the kids were already in the lunch room. I ran in.
“NOOOOOO!!!!” I yelled as little Connie turned around and started walking towards the lunch table. I ran while opening the cap of the apple juice. I put a nice big puddle in front of little Connie, and little Connie walked right over it, and slipped.
“Yes! We did it Mr. Oquendo; little me slipped, and look here comes Amanda to help me!”
“Good job Connie, now we have to put back the apple pie recipe. Do you want to come with me?”
“Sure, why not. You know I have never been in the school kitchen before.” I said as I followed Mr. Oquendo through the cafeteria to the kitchen.
When I got back home everything was normal.
“Yes” I sighed, “I’m so glad everything is back to normal.”
“Thank goodness”, Mr. Oquendo said, quite relived.
I went home and told my mom about my day. My mom said I had quite the imagination.
Back at Mr. Oquendo’s house Mr. Oquendo went downstairs and admired his time machine. “There is one more thing I want to fix; I think it was back in fourth grade when Charles cheated in the science fair and beat me.”
The next morning Mr. Oquendo got up after a late night out in the time machine. He stretched and got out of bed and ambled over to his window. Then he sighed as he looked out the window and saw the neighborhood and said,
“Oh geez, not again.”