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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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'Sunglasses, Time-Travel, & Iced-Tea' Part 8

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

8. – Jason

We sat outside this unusual-looking place – ‘McDonald’s’ – wondering what to do. On the road, traffic clogged up every lane. As I looked up at the big arches, it said ‘3,675,093¼ served’ underneath the name.

“You know, I wonder if there’s a version of Shawn working there,” I ventured.

       “I don’t know,” Leonard replied. “Why don’t you take a look?” Heeding that suggestion, I entered the door.

On the other side, I found short queues lining up at a counter, in front of clerks in uniform, who seemed to be taking orders. I spied Brent, who was explaining in very specific terms what he wanted, in halves and thirds, on his ‘Big Mac’ (whatever that was). Food was served up within a minute of the order being placed. I’d never seen such fast food handling. At Donald’s Foods, one usually came face to face with a classy-looking gentleman who would show the party to their seats, whereupon they’d write their order (which could be almost anything they wanted) down on a note pad provided to them. Then, they’d submit it, along with their money, via a slot in the table that went straight to the kitchen. A small screen on the wall normally calculated the amount of money due for the food, and it also took debit or credit card. A meal usually took about half an hour to be delivered to the table by Donald himself, and food ranged from almost any type – you could write any kind of food or meal down. 1 comment

Here – the orders were taken verbally, people got served at a counter within a minute, and all the food appeared to be listed in categories on what I could see as being called a menu – while at the same time, the majority of food items had ‘Mac’ attached to their names.

       What a weird restaurant. I stepped out of there and found Leonard, Brian and John hovering around a fold-out map they’d covered the table with.

       “Listen, guys, I think we should walk over to a bus stop and catch a bus to Fisher Heights or something. And I wouldn’t go inside that Mac place, it’s just pure culture shock in there.”

       “Oh yeah? What’s going on?”

       “I’d rather not really say. Let’s just find a bus stop, yeah? Where are my Ray-Bans?”

       “Here,” Brian said. “I held them tight.”

       “Thank you, Brian. Let’s try walking up the road.”

       “This map is all wrong,” John said. “It’s missing a lot of streets and some of the names are off.”

       “Where did you get it?” I asked.

       “I found it in the door pocket of Brent’s truck, thought we should take a look at it.”

       I glanced at it. To my surprise, Parkwood Hills was labeled as ‘Maywood.’ It annoyed me because it reminded me of Mae’s name, which I didn’t need to think about. Looking south, to where Mae used to live in Nomorbrook – the community was instead called ‘Grenfell Glen.’

       “Odd,” I said. “I understand the missing streets, as it’s only 1978 after all and some weren’t built yet, but why the different names? Maywood? Really?”

       “Who cares?” Leonard said. “I guess this is just this reality – where names are different, people we know are not who we know at all, and you’ve got places like McDonalds with their ridiculous arches and ugly facades. At least the streets are all named the same.”

       “Are we going to try to bus to…” I peered at the map – “Fisher Heights?” Thank God that name was still the same.

       “I guess,” John agreed.

       We all gathered up our things and unanimously agreed to follow Merivale north to what I was relieved to know was a road still called ‘Meadowlands.’ So far road names had remained the same, but everything else – from who I thought were people I knew to how you got your (obviously faster) food – was unnervingly nothing like I’d ever seen before.

       However, as we began to walk along the narrow, under-maintained sidewalk, everything started to brighten. Light filled up the entire setting around us, and I had to close my eyes. Traffic noise, and all ambient sound, died away…

       ...only to return fifteen seconds later.

       As soon as I could open my eyes again, I looked around to find ourselves in a parking lot – fifteen metres away from where we’d been standing, on the sidewalk.

       “What the heck was that?” John said. “And why is it suddenly very hot out?”

       “I don’t know, but I have the bad feeling we’ve skipped across time again,” Leonard, ever thoughtful, pointed out. “Though everything looks the same.”

       “At least I recognize this place,” I said. “Though I see Kresge’s Goods – is it called ‘K-Mart’ here? It doesn’t exist there in the present, they closed it down. And where’s the Scotiabank?”

       “I don’t know whether we’ve gone anywhere in time at all,” John said. “We were supposed to go considerable distances, not considerable time jumps. We jumped a distance of several metres and probably no time skipping at all, if not several seconds. Let’s just get to that bus stop.”

       We arrived at the bus stop and, after viewing the map, began waiting for the 86¾ bus, which sounded like something out of a Perry Hockney book. The schedule meant nothing to us because we couldn’t be certain of what time it was. We just hoped the bus would come soon.

       Four minutes later and we were dispensing a clatter of quarters and change into the fair collector and awkwardly making our way to the back of the bus, which was high-floored and ugly. Its windshield reminded me of the curve of a fishbowl, for one thing. People stared at us for some reason or other, perhaps it was our clothes or hairstyle, though it definitely couldn’t have been our Ray-Bans. We had no idea what the date now was, so we couldn’t be sure. The bus roared its way up the hill past the still-familiar apartment buildings, and over the top. We didn’t say much – even Brian didn’t mention a song this reminded him of, unless he secretly felt reminded of how the wheels on the bus went ‘round and ‘round.

        “We should be getting off at Deerpark straight ahead,” John said. “Then we can walk the rest of the way. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”

       “I wonder what my old house looks like,” I said. “We’re getting off right near it.”

       “I doubt it looks any different, if not younger,” Brian pointed out.

       “Either way, we have no time to go poking around our old, or young, houses. We have to find a way back to our time and reality,” John said.

       “That reminds me of ‘The Old and the Young,’ by Sadness,” Brian pointed out briskly.

       “Actually, you’ve got that backwards,” I explained. “It’s ‘The Young and the Old,’ by Madness. It featured on their Work, Rest & Play EP.”

       Brian sat with that for a moment. “Damn it!”

       We got off at a stop just before the Deerpark intersection – which was in fact just a single traffic light - but before we could cross, a voice suddenly shouted at us.

       “Hey! You guys!”

       We turned around to see what looked like Martin, an old co-worker of mine, beckoning to us. “Come with me right now!”

       “What? Sorry? Why? Who are you?”

       “I am of highest importance – and you must come with me now!”

       “Isn’t that Martin?” Brian asked.

       “Yeah,” I agreed. “If he knows us for once. I don’t know…maybe we should follow him, especially if he actually knows us. Maybe he knows how to get us back.”

       “I don’t know," John said.

       “Oh, shoot, let’s give it a try. We have nothing to lose,” Leonard said.

       We began to follow the Martin character around the building – which consisted of garden homes and their yards – to an inner courtyard I remembered from my childhood, despite this likely being before my childhood even came to pass. He led us straight to my old backyard where a group of four people sat in various poses.

       “Here we are,” Martin said profoundly to his friends. “I have hereby collected the individuals heretofore discussed and debated with certainty, on this present day of August thirteenth, one thousand, nine-hundred and eighty one. My lads, we begin.”

       Staring into my future backyard, I saw none other than Timothy Knowles, a classmate of mine from college, Dean Marshall, another former co-worker from Wal-Mart, and Benny Lee, an old friend from high school. They were all holding a glass of what appeared to be iced tea.
       I gaped.

       Tim, with a high importance in his voice, said, “declare yourselves!”

       John stepped forward, looking shocked, taken aback, and put on the spot. He knew some of these people as well. “I, um…”

       “Don’t stumble. This is a great moment. Declare yourselves!” Tim repeated.

       I studied John, who finally spoke up. “I, um, I’m, well, commander…no, Team Leader of this band of…reality-seekers.”

       I made a face. John, under pressure, continued to invent wildly. “I am Team Leader, and uh, this here is Leonard, our communication and information guy. To my right…” John beckoned to me, “is my navigation expert, Jason. Uh…” He glanced at Brian, who gave him a warm smile. “This…uh, well, that’s Brian, who, we, well, there was an extra spot available.”

       Brian flashed him a thumbs up.

      “Excellent,” Tim said in an easy, deep voice. “We are the High Society of Iced-tea Drinkers, established in one thousand, nine-hundred and seventy-eight. On the basis of using the Nestle Iced Tea brand in exceptional amounts, we gather here every summer day to debate the world’s prioritized topics, focusing on high demand, output, and culture. Our outfit is small, but our words are strong.” He then began to introduce his people. “To my direct left, your right, is Benjamin Lee, our youngest but equally brightest member, who writes poetry and musicals in his spare time when not here, drinking with us. Martin Essemby is our retriever and conveyor, who noticed the bright young people that you are and brought you here. To my direct right, your left, is Dean Marshall, a renaissance man who fuels our discussion and debate. My name is Timothy Robert Knowles, and I founded this group.”

       “Well, um…greetings,” John mustered.

       Yes, greetings. Greetings to the most ridiculous scene I could ever find myself a part of. I hoped anything with the word ‘may’ in it wouldn’t present itself.

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