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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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Is it Like Today? - Chapter 5


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

5.


       Shawn surveyed the mess of materials on the workbench, and then stared at the schematic diagrams.


       It was Wednesday, December 21st, and Shawn was in Jason’s basement, helping him re-construct his desk. They were almost done; they’d started on Monday, and despite Jason’s expectations, they were ahead. It had turned out that Jason hadn’t taken everything apart – rather, he’d left components of the machine together, but disconnected and separate. It was a matter of putting all the components together on the steel frame they’d reassembled several days prior.


       “This is really coming along,” Jason breathed as he rolled out from under the frame on a dolley. “We’ll be using it again by tomorrow evening, I think. Can you pass me the cooling coil?”


       Shawn spotted the instrument sitting on top of a nearby box and handed it to him. “This isn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” he said. “I miss Lennox and Adrian, it’ll be great to see them again back in the fourth dimension.”


       “Who were they?” Jason asked as he tinkered under the frame.


       “They were proprietors of the tea shop I used to frequent, and sometimes I’d meet them at the bar.”


       “They have tea shops and bars in the fourth dimension?”


       “Yes. It’s very similar to our dimension, it’s rather just how you look at it, really. Everyone’s friendly over there. There’s no Donald’s Foods, though.”


       “I know. Well, I don’t, but I would have guessed. I need a monkey brain - erm - wrench.”


       Shawn glanced around the basement workshop and noticed it sitting on a dirty old newspaper page - the heading reading Nomorbrook now 'Grenfell Glen' according to City Council
      
       "Interesting," Shawn mused. "Forgot about that debacle."


       "What?"


       "That stupid idea council took last year, remember that? Your paper here."


       "Oh, yeah. I remember councilman Brown. Apparently he thought the place was more like a glen than - well, I don't know, a brook? I don't think there are either."
      
       “Where is that neighborhood?”


       “Just off Merivale, actually. Brian's cousin lived near there, I think, and I'll always remember that as where Mae grew up. You’ve never been there?”


       “No, I don’t really travel around the city much so I’m not that knowledgeable about neighborhoods,” Shawn explained.


       “Yeah. I didn’t understand the old name, don’t understand the new one either. In fact it gives me an ominious feeling I can't explain, probably why I still have it here in the basement."


       “Why bother changing the name anyway?”


       “I don’t know. Who cares if there was a brook or a glen? It’s a forest. Or it was. Anyway, can you pass me the monkey wrench?”
--
       Relaxing on his private jet (for the first time), John Wharton glanced out his window to see rolling white clouds and white fields; the entire scene below was white, almost overwhelming his eyes.


       Joining him were John Paiten and Leonard Morin, both of whom were invited by Wharton. None of them felt in place with the atmosphere or setting, and none of them had spent much time together in a long while; John Paiten had almost lost all his now-white hair, Leonard’s face was full of lines and accessorized with glasses, and John Wharton had grown his silvery hair long in contrast to Paiten’s balding. He almost looked like a stereotypical mad-scientist since his hair was also frayed and his glasses were huge.


       “So – what have you been up to?” Leonard had asked as they took off over Toronto fifteen minutes earlier.


       “Nothing much,” Wharton had answered quietly. They hadn’t said much since. Wharton had booked a hotel in downtown Ottawa, paying for himself as well as the other two. In his reasoning, he didn’t really care much about the spending.


       “Still drive that black Impala?” John Paiten asked Leonard.


       “No, not anymore. It’s still around, though. I keep it in my spare garage at home. I don’t like driving it anymore, it’s too old to maintain and it’s so rare to find a gas station that actually has old unleaded fuel, so I just polish it every weekend instead.”


       “Oh. I kind of miss riding in it. Have you been in contact with Brian and Jason?”


       “No, unfortunately. Life’s been busy for me. Stressful sometimes, too, probably why my hair went grey so quickly. They say the more stressed you are, the quicker you age.”


       “Yeah, I’d agree with you.” They stared at each other awkwardly. “Still play the guitar?”


       “Now and then. But old hobbies fade away, you know? I used to play it all the time, now I either don’t have time or, rather, the interest. That was the old days, though, wasn’t it? Hell, I even had that short-lived band.”


       “Monkey Brains!” John Wharton exclaimed from the window, startling the two men. “I hope someone still has that album.”


       “God, I don’t,” John Paiten replied. “I suppose someone will bring it to the reunion.”


       “I hope not. That album was just full of silly tunes, all the songs are kind of stupid. The sessions were even more rambunctious, I remember Brian on keyboards, forgetting all the lyrics…” both Paiten and Leonard were laughing now.


       “We’re descending towards the Ottawa International Airport now, we’ll be landing in a few minutes,” the pilot informed them from the front of the plane. “I will be turning on the seatbelt lights now.”


       “We’re home,” John Paiten said happily.


       “I have no idea why,” Leonard wondered aloud as he sat down and strapped himself in, “but for some strange reason, I have this hunkering for iced-tea.”
--
       It was 4am when Jason woke up and got out of bed. He couldn’t sleep much longer; it was the day of the reunion. Daisy slept on peacefully, and he left her that way. The kids wouldn’t be up for another three hours.


       He went downstairs, thinking about the test flight he and Shawn had done the night prior. Jason had never experienced the fourth dimension before. Everything seemed to shimmer, it was bright and mildly warm, and for some reason, things seemed to have a great sense of purpose and strive. Shawn had eagerly led him to the teashop, and he’d enjoyed a happy reunion with Lennox and Adrian while Jason got used to seeing through virtually every solid object. It was almost more like a dream than a test run.


       The night before, he’d had a rather long conversation with Leonard and John Paiten from their hotel downtown. They’d actually come on Wharton’s private jet, which was pretty neat, but Wharton had been unable to talk on the phone (he’d been soaking in a hot tub when Leonard phoned him). Jason had also learned during that call that Wharton had paid for the whole reservation and booked the entire restaurant for that night just for them; they were all set.


       As he woke up his iDo and checked his Facebook, among other things, he suddenly felt a thirst for, of all things, iced-tea. The drink hadn’t been a special favorite of his, it never had been, but here it was. Maybe the tea shop from the fourth dimension had given him the taste.


       As he made his way to his pantry, his iDo vibrated.


       “Hello?”


       “Jason? It’s John. Paiten.”


       “John? What are you doing calling me at this hour? It’s quarter after 4 in the morning.”


       “Brian gave me your iDo number. Can you meet us at the hotel in half an hour?”


       “Why? It’s still night out.”


       “Let me ask you just one thing before you say no. Are you thirsty?”


       “What kind of question is that? Yeah, I’m thirsty.”


       “Are you thirsty for iced-tea, though?”


       Jason hesitated. “What do you mean? Are you?”


       “Yeah - weirdly enough, I am. So is Leonard. And I sound ridiculous in asking you this, but are you thirsty too? For iced-tea?”


       Jason sighed. This wasn’t something he wanted to chat about, but he had no other answer. “Yes, I am. I’ll meet you at the hotel. Half an hour.”
--


      When Jason parked outside the tall building on Slater Street, he found Brian already paying a parking meter.


       “You too?” Jason asked.


       “Oddly enough, yeah. I don’t know why everyone’s got this urge for iced-tea, it’s so unusual. John and Leonard are in the lobby.”


       They both walked into the building to find the two men standing together, hands in their pockets. Neither of them were talking; they both looked messy and tousled, as if they’d gotten up and dressed in clothes they’d worn previously, all right away. John said, “Let’s go back upstairs, I’ve got an idea about this,” and all of them, as a group, quietly walked over to the elevators.


       “Where’s Wharton?” Brian asked.


       Leonard said, “he’s still asleep I would think. He doesn’t seem to have this craving. Anyway, John wants to go up to the roof.”


       “Why?”


       “Just a calm atmosphere to talk in,” John said. He pressed the button to the roof terrace, and the doors closed.
--
       “Do you all remember that misadventure twenty years ago?” John started when they walked out to an open space near the roof’s parapet. Around them, the city remained quiet and dark; it was almost 5am and no daylight had arrived. The view from the top of the building provided a spectacular view of a peaceful, sleeping Ottawa.


       “Man, we’re bringing that up again?” Leonard answered. “That was a thrill-ride, I almost forgot about that.”


       “How could I forget?” Jason added. “It made me never want to experiment with John Wharton again.”


       “Come on, it wasn’t a totally negative experience,” Brian interjected.


       “You died,” John reminded him.


       “I found out Iris was my step-sister,” Leonard said.


       “I was forced to watch my ex-girlfriend Mae be born,” Jason finished. “By those…people, whoever they were.”


       Brian shook his head. “Man, you all totally lost yourselves, didn’t you? There was a lesson in all that. Why do you think that happened?” He looked at John. “Why do you think I died?” He turned to Leonard. “Leonard, why do you think we spent time sitting in your dad’s living room while he forced Iris to go to bed? Why, Jason,” Brian finished, “do you think you had to watch the birth of my cousin’s parents’ friends’ daughter?”


       Jason’s eyebrows shot up. “Your what?”


       “That was just one long agonizing experience,” Leonard replied. “And why are we bringing it up now? We’ve got a great day and evening ahead of us.”


       John said, “there’s a reason for why we’ve started thirsting for iced-tea. I think that group of people are starting to have some sort of influence on things again.”


       Brian said, “of course they are. What happened to us? They tried to teach us a lesson, all of us – “


       “Not you,” Leonard corrected.


       “I was there all the same. It doesn’t matter whether or not I had a true problem, or was just an extra guy along for the ride. They tried to make us see what life has to offer, if we stopped looking inwards at ourselves for a moment and considered what’s there. What happened? We all got distant and grew up away from each other, until nothing was left.”


       “I guess that makes some sense,” Jason pondered in uncertainty.


       “Don’t you see it? Where did we go when we went back in time? What did we see?”


       “I remember Brent driving us to that McDonald’s place and those ugly arches...“ John trailed off, surprised at what he just said. “McDonald's, and...”


       Jason stared for a second. “Christ. McDonalds. The restaurant with the uniformed people and the thirty-second serving time…those menu-things. The ugly arches. The map we looked at…”


       “They were giving us hints to our own separated futures!” Brian stated in triumph. “That’s why Donald’s Foods is closing!”


       “Christ, the map!” Jason exclaimed in sudden realization. “Nomorbrook was called ‘Grenfell Glen!’ They renamed Nomorbrook Grenfell Glen last year! Shit, you’re right!”


       “Wait a second here,” Leonard said. “This all sounds ridiculous. Why, and how, can people like that do such things? Why send us back to 1978 and simultaneously show us landmarks of our future? That makes no sense. Why give us a craving for iced-tea? Brian, they didn’t force that Kraut entrepreneur to buy out and turn Donald’s Foods into McDonalds. That’s just funny coincidence.”


       “Fine, it’s a coincidence, but it’s a coincidence that the iced-tea guys knew about. They foresaw it.”


       “Ridiculous. You always had your head in the clouds when we were young, Brian, you still have it up there now, and I’m surprised.”


       “I don’t know,” John mused. “The more I think about this, the more it sounds like it’s what that group wanted us to see. If they knew all about our personal lives and our problems, and if they were able to put us in certain situations or times like the bank robbery in the mid-80s or Leonard’s father’s house in the mid-90s, then I don’t see how they couldn’t predict or see the future.”


       A wind suddenly gusted, and a sheet of paper flew past the group from above. It fluttered down to them and settled on the ground at their feet. Leonard picked it up.


       “It’s a date,” he said after looking at it. “December 23rd, 2033.”


       The paper was clean and crisp, and notably warm in contrast to the cold winter air.


       “I remember that,” Jason said in quiet awe. “I got that the day I was sent to watch Mae’s birth.”


       “I got one, too,” John replied.


       “Same here,” Leonard said darkly. “I'm beginning to think that that settles it. Perhaps...maybe the High Society of Iced-Tea Drinkers do have something to do with this.” He shook his head.
--


      Twelve hours later, Jason and Brian both entered the soon-to-be-defunct Donald’s Foods on Merivale Road and surveyed the room, opened up to contain the entire reunion. No one else would be at the restaurant that night, only those invited to the main event, and the staff. Led by the chief waiter, they went over the plans for the night, with the kitchen ensuring every kind of available dish could be prepared. A stage was set up at the front of the room, with a drum set, guitars, microphones, amps, and a keyboard. John Wharton had generously paid for everything, including all food, so it would be an open night of eating and socializing and reconnecting.


       Then the two men left to go home to change and get ready for the big evening.
--
       On the stroke of six o’clock, the restaurant officially opened its doors for the reunion.


       Brian showed up first, with his wife Ashley; both formally dressed, they sat together at a table central to the stage and immediately chose fresh salad as an entrée. Ten minutes later, Jason and Daisy walked in, with Lilly and Ian.


       “Hey guys!” Brian exclaimed enthusiastically as the two saw him and ran over. “How’s it been?”


       “Great,” Ian said. Together, Brian and the kids exchanged high-fives. “How’s the soccer going?” he asked Lilly.


       “Not bad, we won our last game but we got trampled this season.”


       “Oh, well, win a few, lose a few, isn’t that right?”


       “Yeah.”


       At 6:30, both Leonard and Tyler followed each other through the doors, not knowing who the other person was, with Derrick ahead of them. “Hey guys, we gonna have a great night?” Tyler asked.


       “I hope so, we’re just waiting for everyone else. Come, sit down, have some salad. I’ve ordered up some more dishes of it.”


       “How are we doing?” Leonard asked. “Who’s that?”


       “That’s Tyler,” Jason said. “Tyler?”


       “Yeah?”


       “This is Leonard, do you remember him?”


       Tyler took in Leonard and thought for a second. “Yeah, kind of. I think I saw you a few times before you left, is that right? You’re the guy with that red button.”


       “Probably,” Leonard said amiably, with the hint of a chuckle. “You’re talking about the button in my Impala, and I moved to Toronto a long time ago. My business is photography.”


       “Oh, that’s right, I remember now.”


       At that moment, both The Johns entered the restaurant, John Paiten in the lead. Taking a table next to the rest of the growing group’s, Wharton said, “ah, just like those old times in my backyard.”


       “Wow!” Derrick took in both Johns with awe. “You’re The Johns!”


       “You’ve got a fan,” Brian intoned.


       “Haven’t seen one of those in a while, Wharton replied with an air of wit. Derrick walked over and held out his hand; after handshakes were made, the young man sat down with them to talk about their past inventions.


       Over the next eighteen minutes the restaurant slowly filled up as Shawn walked in (to general applause), followed by Brian’s cousin Dominick and his wife Leah. John Paiten’s retired cop parents, David and Henrietta, showed up, and Jason’s friends Greg, now a cinematographer, Imad, an engineer, and Duncan, a civil servant. Wharton’s old neighbor and friend, Brent (made locally famous due to his managing antics in the office documentary filmed around him) strolled in, and even Daniel, Dominick’s old buddy, made an appearance. A photographer, hired by John Wharton, arrived at ten to seven, and despite being eighty years of age, Mitchell Bowen was energetic and poised to get the best shots. Leonard and Jason ended up having a long chat with him; Bowen had taught both of them as students at Algonquin College back in the day.


       “We’re off and rolling,” John Paiten said, satisfied.


       “Man, this place hasn’t changed much,” observed Dominick as he sat next to and held hands with Leah. “Remember the days we’d come here and order burgers and sushi?” he asked Daniel, who had wrinkled up substantially over time.


       “I do. We’d get our food from Robin and talk about politics. Of course by ‘we’ I mean ‘I,’ since you knew nothing.”


       “Oh, save your political science. I know how long four terms is by now, you know,” Dominick grinned as Leah laughed.


       “I’m sure you do, by now. I’m going to miss this place…I’ve missed it while I was away, but I’ll truly miss it now.”


       Shawn, sitting next to Brian, produced a small pamphlet. “I’ve got some old pictures!”


       “Aw, pass them over here,” Jason took the pamphlet and opened it up. It was unusual to see old 4x6 photo prints anymore, so this was a treat.


       “Is this us?” he asked. In the photo, Shawn, aged twenty-three and a waiter, stood smiling next to a full table that consisted of Jason, Leonard and Brian. On the back, the date was written as July 15th, 2012.


       “Pass them over,” Leonard said, and the whole pamphlet, full of images of Shawn, Jason, Leonard and Brian, made its way around the tables.


       “I was able to find an old video, actually,” Dominick spoke up when he saw the photos a few minutes later. “We can put it up on the wall projector with the rest of the videos everyone donated.”


       At quarter after seven, John Wharton walked up to the stage and stood behind the microphone; by that point just about everyone had arrived. Turning it on, he got everyone’s attention.


       “Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our big Donald’s Foods reunion. I am John Wharton, as everyone likes to know, one half of The Johns.”


       There was a mild chuckle from the audience.


       “Tonight marks a big milestone for every one of us. Our biggest and longest-lasting restaurant chain, Donald’s Foods, is shutting down. It’s been a Canadian icon since the early 1900s, and everyone here no doubt has a lot of memories of eating here.”


       “We’ve got a tonne of old photos and video, so we’ll be looking at those, and everyone will have a chance to come up and talk about their best memories of – “


       A door suddenly burst open loudly, cutting John off, and everyone turned to look over at the entrance.


       A few seconds passed. Then, slowly, an elderly man in his 70s rolled himself in on a wheelchair.


       “Hey…that’s the guy that I bought the house from,” Tyler whispered.


       The man wasn’t alone. Following close behind him was a woman with a thinning face, sharp jaw line and greying dark hair. Her face was instantly recognizable.


       “Shirley?” Jason breathed.


       “Oh, wow, look at that, we have a couple of new guests,” John said up on stage.


       “She did make it,” Derrick murmured. “Awesome.”


       “Sorry to interrupt,” the elderly man said. “Carry on. We’re just a little late, don’t mind us.”


       “Can you tell us your name?” John asked.


       “Certainly, it’s Andrews. Nathan Andrews. Behind me is my daughter Shirley.”


       Shawn jumped up, with his arms outstretched. “Shirley! How have you been?”


       Shirley smiled. “I’m great. This is the reunion?”


       “Yep,” Brian said from his chair, smiling from ear to ear. “We’d love to have you here. Come on and sit with us.”


       As Shirley and her father settled in, John continued as Mitchell snapped photographs. “Everyone will have a chance to come up here and talk about their memories. First, however, I’d like to welcome up a certain band.”


       “Uh-oh,” Leonard said into his glass of iced-tea.


       Onstage, John said, “Please join me in welcoming up here Leonard, Jason, Brian, and John, my other half!”


       “What are we doing?” Jason asked.


       “I have a bad feeling we’re playing one of my old songs.”


       “Yep,” Brian said excitedly as they walked together. “We’re doing ‘At Donald’s Foods.’”


       “Oh, no! Leonard whispered as they closed in on the stage. “Not that one! You couldn’t remember any of the lyrics, Brian! I don’t know if you can play bass on that one, Jason.”


       “I don’t know either, we’ll just have to see.”


       The four of them walked onstage amidst cheers, applause and laughter. John said, “Leonard, how did you do this one? Were you really inspired by the cool waiters?”


       “No,” Leonard said awkwardly, mildly embarrassed. “It was actually based on another song called ‘Deep in the Dark’ by Laura Branigan.”


       “Branigan!” a woman yelled from the audience.


       “Wait, wasn’t that already a sampling?” Jason asked Leonard.


       “Technically.” He turned to speak into the microphone. “Our song samples the music of ‘Deep in the Dark,’ which itself samples the music of both British and original versions of the song ‘Der Kommissar’ which was performed by After the Fire, and originated from Austrian singer Falco in the early 1980s.”


       “Wow,” John Wharton replied. “That’s quite a convoluted story.”


       “Believe me, it’s nuts. And I guess we’re playing it?”


       “You guessed it. Let’s hear it, guys!”


       Leonard picked up the guitar and looked uncertainly at Brian, who sat himself behind the keyboard and put on his Ray-Bans. Jason, on the other hand, strapped on a bass guitar and awkwardly finger-picked the strings, testing them. John Paiten, equally uncomfortable, arranged himself behind the drum kit.


       “Um…” Leonard looked over at Brian again. Meeting his eyes, he mouthed ‘remember the freaking lyrics!’ In response, Brian grinned and gave him the thumbs up.


       “Okay, uh…one, two, one-two-three!”


       John Paiten immediately started the beat, Jason located the right key, and Brian began the keyboard melody. Averting his eyes from the spotlights, Leonard concentrated hard on the guitar neck and plucked the notes.


       “Check it out, Moe…”


      On bass, Jason was finding it surprisingly easy to remember every single part of the bass line. Having never played in Leonard’s brief band, it was almost as if he’d somehow remembered everything by ear in the small number of times he’d heard the song. His eyes scanned the audience and immediately picked up Shirley, near the back. Playing drums, John seemed to be having no trouble keeping time and rhythm. As they headed into the chorus, he, Brian and Jason joined Leonard on the refrain:


At Donald's Foods, oh-oh
The waiters keep their cool, oh-oh!
I order two tonnes of brisket and not pay my tip
But those guys are cool...
At Donald's Foods...


       Soon, everyone was joining in with them, and Brian, remarkably, remembered every word. When they finished, they got a standing ovation, and everyone on stage bowed. Mitchell Bowen snapped photos like crazy, and they walked off with everyone’s cheers.
--
       "Now," John Wharton began as everyone quieted down. "We have a special guest here, brought here thanks to our photographer, Mr. Bowen. This person has been around for the entire history of this place. He was even here when it was built - and he was here when they cut the ribbon. Please join me in welcoming Elmer Greene!"


       There was appreciative applause as an elderly man, in his mid-seventies, walked onto stage. Near the back, Nathan Andrews yelled "Elmer! You're here!"


       "Good evening," Greene began. "And thank you for inviting me. This is a great occasion and honor to be standing here, as well as a great melancholy. No one wants this place to be closed.


       This branch opened up thanks to my father - he, like Kraut today - was an entrepreneur who worked with the corporate team of this chain. Donald's Foods on its own started much earlier than that - about 1903. That makes it one-hundred and thirty years old this year, and that is a long history. But this restaurant, thanks to my father, came along a little later, about seventy-two years ago. I was six years old when my dad cut the ribbon on those front doors, way back in 1961. This was only the second commercial building on Merivale Road back then, other than the Lancaster Shopping Centre, and the only restaurant. The rest was fields and dairy farms."


       "I have a few pictures," Greene went on, "which I will give to Wharton here. I have quite a few memories of this place as a kid, and no doubt all of you do too. I wish you all a relaxing, fun night of reunion, and good luck to the future - of this restaurant, of this economy, of everyone here." He gave the pictures to Wharton and walked off the stage amidst generous applause.
--
       “So, Shirley, what have you been up to?” Brian asked a minute later. “We haven’t talked in a long while.”


       “Not much, at least not recently. I was in Stratford for most of the year, in a play called The Final Mile.”


       “Still keeping up those theatre roles, eh? Have you been doing a lot of film roles too?”


       “Not that often, but I’ve signed on to do a project in February. Life's been pretty good. How about you?”      


       “I’m doing well, I still work at the hospital. My wife and I are considering a child.”


       “Wow, that’s a big life decision.”


       “It is, but we’ve been thinking about it for a very long time now.”


       Shawn said, “I wish I’d kept in touch with you more. How’s your father doing?”


       “He’s doing fine, he just moved into a home, actually.” Looking over at him, she saw Nathan talking to another elderly man. “I’m glad he’s got someone to talk to.”


       Brian looked over at him. “Oh, that’s my cousin Dominick. I can’t wait to see the videos he’s donated…”


       At Dominick’s table, he and Nathan were exchanging their low opinions on David Redpine after catching up.


       “If our economy is slow now, it’s not like it’s already been like that for awhile. I don’t see it getting worse, but this whole thing perturbs me,” Nathan went on. “I think it’s healthy to get it moving again but does it have to be America that jumps it?”


       “Yes, the whole thing is dubious to think about in terms of everyone’s best interests. I’d agree with you Nathan, though with me it’s even more personal. I used to look after that politician when he was just a toddler.”


       “What? No,” Nathan said in dismay. “That’s just sad. You want to see the younger generation make good decisions for themselves, and it’s hard when they grow up and don’t go the way you may have thought they’d go – especially if their decisions go on to affect the entire country, and especially if you had your own personal involvement with them at a young age. That’s hard for you, I’m sorry to hear that.”


       “Don’t worry about it,” Dominick said. "This is the second time now, eh? I remember him closing Kresge's and everything, and wondering about what happened to you in the process."


       "I got a job managing a hotel, but don't you miss the store?" Nathan asked. "It wasn't bad working there."


       "No, it wasn't, at least after Luke left." Both of them grinned in knowing. "I remember you used to bring in your daughter now and then, and Dean..."


       "Shirley!" Nathan called at her. "Come over, I want you to meet someone." Coming over, Nathan said, "you remember her, eh? This is her now."


       "How's it going?" Shirley asked Nathan.


       "Shirley, this is Dominick."


       "Yes, Brian was just telling me about him." She turned towards Dominick. "Apparently you're Brian's cousin?"


       "Yes, I am," Dominick replied, surprised. "Nathan was just telling me about his daughter."


       "That's me," Shirley said.


       "You know Brian?" Dominick asked her.


       "You know my dad?" Shirley countered.


       Nathan said, "Dominick here worked for me at Kresge's back around the early 90s. Don't you remember him? He used to give you goofy greetings, you always liked seeing him in the store."


       Shirley thought about how there'd been a goofy, funny, positive character way back when she was very young, though she'd never known who he was, other than him being a friend or connection to her father. "Is this really him?"


       "Yeah!" Nathan said enthusastically.


       Dominick said, "This small world really brings huge meaning to this reunion. You're Shirley? You've grown so much!"


       Nathan grinned. "She's always been my angel no matter how old she is."


       "Well, Shirley, glad to meet you. You kind of remind me of my wife, Leah."


       "She's an actor," Nathan said. "Anyway, I'm going to go talk to Elmer, I haven't seen him in so long." He wheeled himself over to another table, as Shirley and Dominick continued to talk.
--
       At 8pm, after all the photos and videos had been collected, everyone watched the projector screen to view the slideshow of them all. The first image was a black and white of the grand opening of the restaurant on an empty, two-lane Merivale Road. The date was May 15th, 1961. This was followed by a group image of the first staff, a shot of Elmer Greene's father, dressed up, with giant scissors to cut the ribbon, and a shot of both six-year-old Elmer and eight-year-old Mitchell Bowen, standing together as they watched the cerimony.


       From there came a few images from the 1970s: Dominick and Daniel, best friends, eating an ice-cream cone on a picnic table outside the building in 1976 (they would remove all the outside tables in 1988) and Daniel's eighth birthday party in 1979. A shot of the building and street, congested with boxy cars of bright color, was taken by Mitchell Bowen in 1978, as well as a few shots of the then-staff.


       A portrait of Elmer Greene and Nathan Andrews popped up, from 1982. Andrews had just graduated from college, and both were at a booth. There was a big group shot of the entire high school graduating class of 1989, consisting of Dominick, Daniel, their friend Doug, and other people, filling the main dining lounge.


       Then there was an image was of Dominick and Leah, circa 1993, embracing each other while sitting inside a booth; it was taken by Daniel from across the table.


       “I miss the old booths,” Leah said. "Remember the day you tipped Robin ten bucks?"


       “He was a good waiter,” Dominick replied, knowing he did it simply because he was happy dating Leah at the time. "Did we ever tell Tyler that he was conceived here?"


       More photos of everyone followed, including a 4-year old Tyler with a mess of spaghetti in 1998, Shawn and Jason standing outside the building in 2013 with an unusual vehicular device (Jason’s desk), and a video of Brian, aged 1, giving a thumbs-up to a waiter. There was a scene of Leonard and his band, all wearing sunglasses, performing on the same stage back in 2013, playing a gig of their one album (they performed ‘Upside-Down Triangle Heads’ in the footage). To Shirley’s surprise, Shawn had managed to find and include a photo of both of them standing in front of the one international Donald’s Foods location in London, England.


       “These are great,” John Paiten observed. “I remember doing my architecture assignment on this building in photography back in college.” Soon enough, an exterior shot of the building plus its interior layout showed up, all circa 2012.


“Seeing these pictures really makes me see how little this place has actually changed,” Dominick said.


       “What I tend to find,” Leonard said, “is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”


       Brian looked at him, smiling. “You’re right, Leonard. Absolutely right.” He looked to his right to see Derrick and Tyler watching him. “This is the whole point of it all, guys. We’ve come this far. Look at everyone. We’re all together again, one big happy family. This is almost like our home.” Near him, Dominick and Leah laughed and reminisced with Daniel, Nathan Andrews, and Elmer Greene; John’s parents sat together, holding hands and relaxing happily. The kids ran around the room, playing tag under the tables. Shirley, Jason and Shawn were talking enthusiastically, with Daisy listening in, and Mitchell Bowen, who used to teach and wear his long-gone hair down to his shoulders, engaged with everyone and recorded everything with his camera.


       “We’re all home.” And as Brian surveyed his table, which included all his friends (and their glasses of iced-tea), he gave them all a two-thumbs up.


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Justin Campbell's website: http://justincottawa.blogspot.ca/

Next: Is it Like Today? - Chapter 4