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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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'Sunglasses, Time-Travel, & Iced-Tea' Part 6

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

6. – Leonard

After being berated by the person known to Jason as ‘Duncan,’ we got to the side of a two-lane road that carried minor traffic.

“Oh, the life of a swivel head,” Jason breathed.

       “Yeah,” Brian agreed. “Great Specials reference.”

       “No, that was the English Beat,” Jason corrected.

       Brian thought about that for a second. “Damn it!”

       John sat down in a heap on the shoulder of the road. “I can’t believe this. The converter teleported us back in time to 1978. We weren’t supposed to do that.”

       “What were we supposed to do,” Jason inquired.

       “We were supposed to arrive at several different destinations, and then come right back,” John replied. He pulled a knapsack off his back. “I don’t think I can text John now. There are no cell towers in existence, and Telus doesn’t exist yet.”

       “That sounds ridiculous,” Brian said.

       “Well, that appears to be our reality right now. We have to find a way to get back. I say we try to get back into town. We’re on Highway 16 – that’s Prince of Whales. Maybe we can hitchhike back.”

       “I really wish we’d brought our Ray-Bans now,” I said. “Do you have any spare ones in your bag, John?”

       “I’ll check…yeah, I do.” He pulled several flashy sunglasses out of his bag and handed each of us one.

       Jason walked out into the road and flagged the first vehicle he saw, using his Ray-Bans to see the bright road, while we used ours to shade our eyes from the bright sun.

       Eventually a red pickup truck cantered to the side of the road in response to Jason’s thumb and came to a stop beside us. Looking out at us, the driver said, “Uh…do you guys need a lift?”

       John looked surprised. “Brent!? I didn’t know you drove a pickup truck!”

       The driver stared at John. “Do I know you? What’s with the matching sunglasses?”

       “We need a lift into the city,” Jason said.

       The driver, Brent apparently, looked at him. “The city of Ottawa or the Township of Nepean?”

       Oh, yeah. The city hadn’t yet been amalgamized. “Uh, the city of Nepean please,” I said. “It’s closer, we’ll give you less trouble that way.”

       Brent waved me down with a toothy smile. “No problem, nice to have company. I’m driving into the city anyway, and I’d be delighted to give all of you a lift. But I don’t know if I can fit all of you.”

       John, apparently knowing Brent, ended up in the front seat while Jason and I squeezed into the tiny foldout seats in the back. Brian was left to ride in the truck’s cargo bed.

       “So what’s the deal with the dark sunglasses,” Brent asked us again as he pulled away from the shoulder of the road. “It’s not that bright out.

       “Oh, we’re just using the guide,” Jason said.

       “The guide?”

       “The Wise Man’s Guide to Life Experiences. It’s a great reference guide we all use from time to time, similar to what most people use a Bible for.” 1 comment

       “Never heard of it. Where are you guys from?”

       “Oh, we’re all from around here,” I said. “Actually, and I hope I don’t sound too weird, but do you know the date?”
“The date? Uh…I believe it’s May 8th.”

       In front of me, Jason made a face. He was attributing the word ‘May’ to his ex-girlfriend’s name, as usual.

       “May 8th….?”

       “May 8th, 1978.”

       “Okay, thanks.”

       “Yeah, no problem. How’s your guy doing in the back?”

       Jason and I glanced at Brian through the rear windows. He bounced and vibrated with the rest of the cargo in the hold, but he still gave us a grin and thumbs-up.

       “He’s fine. How long do you think it’ll take to get into town?”

       “About fifteen minutes. We’re just about to come to Merivale Road. You wanna head up that way?”

       “Yes, please.”

       “Will do.” He came to the tiny intersection and turned left onto the country lane. “What are your names by the way?”

       “I’m Leonard, John’s in front with you, that’s Jason, and Brian’s in the back.”

       “Nice to meet all of you. I’m Brent Hilliard.”

       “Yeah, I knew that,” John piped up.

       “How did you know that?” Brent asked.

       “Let’s just say that in a different reality, you were my friend’s neighbor.”

       “Okay then,” Brent said, uncertain. “Mind if I smoke out the window?”

       “Go ahead,” I said.

       As Brent smoked the cigarette, we sat in silence, gathering our thoughts. This was all bizarre. Why were we meeting people we knew – thirty-four years ago?

       After a few minutes, Brent reached the knob of the radio and turned up the volume. “Wonder what’s playing. Got some good tunes these days.”

       On the radio, an extremely unusual synthesizer played. “What the heck is that,” John said.

       A guitar started playing. Brent said, “it’s Joe Walsh. New single, ‘Life’s Been Good.’ Great, eh?”

       Jason said, “Oh, yeah! I remember that song.”

       “How do you ‘remember’ it?” Brent asked. “It was just released this month.”

       “I don’t know,” Jason responded evasively.

       “Yeah, I like Joe Walsh, and the Eagles,” Brent continued. “Great guitar solos. What do you guys like?”

       “Ummm….” John said, unsure. “I like electronica stuff.”

       “What’s electronica?”

       “Don’t know,” John responded evasively.

       “Oh. Well, we’re almost there. Might take awhile though, Merivale’s usually packed.” We were driving past a small residential section of road that quickly opened up into an industrial office area, populated with small clusters of single-floor office buildings. In the back, Brian continued to bounce and vibrate and wave at us.

       It took us almost half an hour to drive up Merivale, at least to Viewmount Drive, because the road appeared to be narrower than I last remembered it. It kept to four lanes – no left turn lanes at most intersections – so it was slow. Also, more residential streets opened up onto it, when in our time it was just endless parking lots and retail buildings. Jason stared at his old high school as we drove by it, which essentially looked exactly the same save for the different-colored window panels. There seemed to be more open spaces and fields than there were parking lots littered with box stores.

       Brent turned into a place called ‘McDonald’s’ just past a very clean and pristine-looking Merivale Mall.

       “Wanna get something to eat?” Brent asked us. “I’m starving.”

       “It’s alright, we’re just going to see Brian,” I said. We squeezed out of the pickup truck and met Brian at the side.

       “Sorry about that,” I said.

       “It’s alright. Not a bad ride, very breezy. What’s he doing?”

       “He’s going to that McDonald’s place.” I stared up at the huge golden arches that stood in front of the restaurant, which itself had a red mansard roof marked with white vertical strip lights. I’d never seen that kind of building before, but the name sounded suspiciously similar to Donald’s Foods.

       “This place looks and sounds weird,” I said.

       Brent walked into the restaurant and disappeared.

       “So what’s the plan?” I asked John.

       “I don’t know. It’s like we’re lost in our own neighborhood. Everything’s different – the setting, the smells, even the air. And no one we know recognizes or knows us.”

       “It’s really weird,” Jason said. “I think I’m going to go sit down at one of those tables.” He walked over towards the concrete tables positioned in a patio area outside the restaurant, and we followed. The day just kept getting more odd.

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