DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2001 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.
THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER: ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
Stardate: Unknown. Earth date: 23 November 1930. First Officer Spock, personal log.
We have been here a week now and still no sign of McCoy. Jim and I have found ourselves at a charity mission in the slums of New York City and, having no better plan but suspecting that an eddy in time will bring McCoy together with us in the near future, we have elected to stay here and wait.
To pay for our meals and lodging, we have both managed to acquire menial jobs around the mission. In what little spare time I have and combining the small amount of money we earn, I am building a crude sort of interface in order to access the memory banks on my tricorder which may tell us more precisely when McCoy will appear.
In the meantime, my days are spent among the homeless and destitute that come to the mission for food and shelter. It is mostly men, but there is a woman who comes in for meals. I have noticed her several times because there are few women here and also because she has four small boys in tow. The children range in age from about seven or eight down to a toddler of about two. They are all thin, ragged and dirty, their faces pinched and their eyes huge with malnutrition. The mother herself is skeletal and wears the look of haunted desperation I have seen on so many faces here.
I cannot fathom such poverty or that people can live with such hopelessness and need. They are reduced to pure subsistence level and can barely find even that. I understand now why Miss Keeler says that this mission is necessary. Without it, how could this woman and her children survive? I have made it a habit to watch for them every day. Something about the family both attracts and disturbs me. There is something familiar about the woman, but I cannot quite pinpoint what it is. Something I seem to have seen before...
* * *
Stardate: Unknown. Earth date: 25 November 1930. First Officer Spock, personal log.
I know what it is now. I came literally face to face with it today.
As usual, I was behind the counter helping to serve the bowls of thin soup and hard bread, paying little attention to the endless line of discouraged men who shuffled past. Then a child's voice said, "Mama, there's that funny man again."
"Shush!" a woman's voice commanded immediately. I turned toward them and looked up ... right into the face of my mother. The impression lasted only a second and then I blinked and broke the illusion. Of course this was not my mother. The year is 1930 and my mother will not be born for three centuries. But the resemblance to this woman was uncanny, particularly her clear blue eyes. They were the same eyes I had gazed into my whole life.
The woman blushed with embarrassment and dropped her gaze, grasping one of her sons by the arm. "I'm ... I'm sorry, sir. He didn't mean it. Jeff, apologize to the man!"
"Sorry," the boy mumbled, eyes on the floor, his greasy black hair falling into his face.
"He did not offend me," I told her, looking down at the thin little figure. "There is no need to apologize."
The woman looked up at me and smiled shyly. "You're very kind, sir." She hoisted her toddler higher onto her hip. "Take your bowls to that table, boys," she directed, then reached for her own bowl, still balancing the toddler.
I quickly intervened. "Here, let me help you," I said.
Her smile was warm and grateful and again her azure eyes held mine. I didn't dare let myself look too long, but caught up the bowl and bread, coming out from behind the counter, following the little group to their table. As I set the food down before her, the woman sank down onto the bench with a weary sigh, the baby boy on her lap. He stared fearlessly up at me with dark brown eyes, his thin face framed by black hair through which oversized ears protruded. I seemed to have seen that tiny face before, too, staring back at me from a very old holo. Another child, another time...
The next smallest boy snatched up his spoon and was about to dive into his meal when his mother halted him with a word. "Billy! Not before grace."
Obediently, the child laid down his spoon and all of them bowed their heads. "Father, we thank thee for all we have," the mother prayed softly. "For this food when others have none. For the kindness of those who help others. May we do likewise in thy holy name. Amen."
She looked up and nodded to her boys who quickly dug into the thin broth as if it were manna from heaven. Perhaps it was, to them.
For some reason, I could not tear myself away from them and stood watching as the woman fed soup to her smallest child, holding him on her lap. After a moment, she gazed up at me, perhaps curious why I hadn't returned immediately to the kitchen. I didn't know why myself, but her expression turned a bit wary and she said in a resigned tone, "You're wondering about us. Where my husband is."
"No, that's not it at all."
"Well, he's dead and we're alone," she stated matter-of-factly. "After the Crash, we lost everything ... our money, our home, everything. He couldn't take it, so he shot himself. Left me on the street with four kids to feed."
Both intrigued and saddened, I sank down onto the opposite bench. "I am sorry," I answered softly. "I wish I could help you."
She shrugged philosophically. "We're doing like everyone else is doing. Surviving day to day. The older boys pick up pennies and nickels here and there for little odd jobs ... sweeping a walk or whatnot. I'm looking for work, but it'd be hard enough if I didn't have these four little ones."
She wiped the toddler's chin and fed him another spoonful, then looked back at me. "We haven't been introduced. My name is Ellie Grayson. These are Joe, Jeff, Billy and Dave."
I cocked my head in surprise. "Ellen Grayson? And was your husband's name James?"
"Why, yes," she responded with surprise. "Did you know him?"
"No ... no, I must have seen the name somewhere," I fumbled. "I'm sorry. I'm thinking of someone else. I am Spock."
"Spock?" she repeated, obviously fishing for more.
"Just Spock." She nodded and let it go. Many men seemed to go by pseudonyms or street names.
I wanted to talk more but Jim was calling me from behind the counter. "Spock ... a little help, if you please."
"Yes, right away." I nodded to the lady and she smiled back. I returned to my duties on the soup line. Later, when Joe, the oldest boy, brought the empty dishes back, I motioned him to one side. Reaching into my jeans pocket, I withdrew a handful of coins. They were meaningless to me, but I pressed them into the boy's hand. "Do not tell your mother," I instructed him. "Let her think you earned it."
His eyes were wide with excitement. "Gee, thanks, mister! That'll buy a loaf of bread and a quart of milk!" He hurriedly rejoined his family and I watched as the woman herded her little brood out into the street, her thin shoulders slumped.
I watched them go, wishing I could tell her what I knew ... that she would survive this decade of hardship and the next ... that her sons would grow into fine young men ... that they would all bring honor on their family and themselves. But only one of them would live to see the end of the coming war. Joe would die on a ship called Arizona, killed in the attack that drew the United States into the global conflict dubbed World War II. Jeff would distinguish himself in combat but would be killed storming a tiny island called Iwo Jima. And Bill would meet death on the other side of the world in an Italian town called Anzio.
Only David would live into old age. He would marry and have sons of his own, and their sons would have sons and so on until another David Grayson would raise a daughter who would do something that brought two very different planets together. She herself would have a son and he would look very much like that thin, malnourished child eating soup in a charity kitchen.
He would look like me.