The Road To New Years
Ronnie scanned the room, looking for her roommate and best friend Jo. The New Years Eve party they were at was turning out to be a real dud, not to mention the fact that Ronnie happened to see her ex-boyfriend with a new girl. Ronnie thought to herself that she probably shouldn’t care but that was a lie, she cared and she was royally pissed off too! “Oh well,” she muttered under her breath, “Who needs that lying sack of two timing, self-centered, ego maniac anyway.”
“Hey good looking,” a voice said in her ear. Ronnie turned around and came face to face with a young man wearing an intoxicated grin, and swaying on his feet, just a little. “Hi there,” Ronnie said, with a big fake grin, “Gotta run, bye bye.” She had to get out of here, just then she spotted Jo. Ronnie hurried over to her friend. Jo was being talked to by another troller, she saw Ronnie and looked relieved "Ronnie, there you are, this is Bubba, Bubba this is Ronnie,” Jo announced loudly. Bubba grunted and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Jo, we have to go now, remember we were supposed to look in on your sick mother?” Ronnie said. “Yes that’s right,” Jo replied, “Sorry Bubba, looks like we’ve got to go, see you later.” Jo grabbed Ronnie’s arm and whispered, “Let’s get the heck out of here.” They walked into the kitchen to get their purses and jackets. Janet their friend, and hostess of the party was in the kitchen filling up bowls with chips and dip. She looked up and smiled, “Hey you two, leaving so soon?” “Yeah, we’re going to take off, can’t handle the excitement I guess.” Jo grinned.
Janet sighed, “I know it’s turned out kind of boring, but I’m really glad you guys came.”
“I’ll see you at work next week,” Jo said. Janet and Jo worked at the same dry cleaners in town.
“Happy new year, you all be careful out there, it’s not a good night to be on the road.” Janet told them. “We will, it’s only 9 o’clock, and we’ll probably just go on home anyway.” Ronnie replied. “Happy New Year,” Ronnie and Jo said together as they walked out the side door.
As soon as they got outside they began looking for their car. They were in Ronnie’s old Toyota tonight. “There it is,” Jo pointed.
“That was the worst party ever!” Jo exclaimed, “I mean I didn’t think it would be the party of the year and we would meet our prince charmings to boot, but geez, that was bad.” “I know,” Ronnie replied, “ But Janet really wanted us to come and we did, and we stayed as long as we could stand it too!” Ronnie giggled, “ Hey Jo do you want to go see if Bubba wants a ride home?” Jo started giggling too and they couldn’t stop even while they were getting into the car.
“Oh my stomach hurts! “Stop making me laugh, it’s all your fault!” Ronnie exclaimed. “It’s your fault, Ronnie, if you stop I will.” Jo said back, she was holding her stomach and breathing deep. It took a while but they were finally able to talk normally.
Ronnie put the key in the ignition and cranked up the car. She looked over at Jo sitting in the passenger seat. She had rolled the window down part way and was smoking a cigarette. “Hey give me one of those, will you Jo?” Ronnie asked. “Oh sure, here” Jo answered, tossing Ronnie a smoke. They sat in the car for a while smoking, not saying much, not giggling anymore. Ronnie and Jo were 19 years old, they had been best buddies since Jr. High school, and were roommates at present. It was new years eve, 1981.
Ronnie put the car in gear and drove down the driveway.
“What do you want to do?” Jo asked, “We could drop in on Diane and Bobby but I think they said they were going to a get together at Bobby’s sisters. We could go home I suppose, it’s just so early yet.”
“Lets get something to eat, there is that place over in Waldenville that serves breakfast all night, it’s early enough we would get there way before the bars let out,” Ronnie suggested. “Good idea, lets do it,” Jo replied.
Ronnie turned in the direction of Waldenville. She turned on the radio and turned it off almost immediately, all Ronnie had was a.m. radio, so they sang the latest songs by Pat Benetar and Reo Speedwagon, they both loved Reo’s new record, “High Infidelity”.
Ronnie pulled into the Chevron station, “I’ll pay if you pump, I am putting in $2.00. That will keep us going,” she said, “it’s a little cheaper here, $1.34 a gallon, can you believe how high gas has gone?” Ronnie went in to pay, Jo pumped the gas, and in a matter of minutes they were once again on their way.
Waldenville was only about 12 miles from where the girls lived, the whole area was comprised of small towns and countryside. It was a pretty area, not much opportunity but a person could always travel to one of the bigger towns nearby for what they might need, like higher education. Ronnie and Jo talked about that sometimes, going to school someday, but they were young and felt they had forever and a day, life was full of possibilities, it seemed so limiting to settle for one choice, at least at this point in life.
Traffic was light and they were glad, less drunk drivers to be aware of. It was a chilly night, kind of damp and foggy, as a matter of fact for a few minutes it got so foggy that Ronnie had a real hard time seeing.
“Wow,” Jo remarked “This is thicker than any kind of fog I have ever seen.” They were only going about 40 miles per hour. For a few seconds a strange weightless sensation overtook them. Then it was gone, and so was the fog. Weird.
“Here we are,” Ronnie announced, pulling into the parking lot of “The Little Diner”. That was the name of the place. Or was. The sign above the restaurant now read, “ “Little Country Diner”.
“I guess it has been a while since I was here, looks like it changed hands,” Ronnie commented as she got out of the car. Jo got out and they stood looking around. The place looked very nice. The parking lot was paved, before it was gravel. The building itself was made over, it had new looking brick siding, partway up the sides of the building. Flower beds were situated above the brick and under the big picture windows.
“Look,” Jo exclaimed, “A fountain by the door, how pretty!” “Yeah, it used to be kind of a dive, but the food was good.” Ronnie commented. She was running a brush through her dark blond hair. Jo decided to do the same and gave her short dark curls a quick brush.
“Shall we?” Ronnie asked. “We shall!” answered Jo, with a grin.
Before they went inside, Jo tossed a penny in the fountain and made a wish.
The inside of the restaurant was also much nicer than Ronnie remembered. Varnished booths lined the perimeter of the dining room. Round tables in the main area were arranged to allow customers and wait staff plenty of walking room, red checked tablecloths brought a homey feel to the place. Vases on each table and booth held a single daisy. Of course the Christmas decorations were still up, and those were pretty too. The smell of coffee and freshly baked cake or cookies or something was overwhelming.
A waitress came over and told them to have a seat where ever they liked, and she would be right over. The place wasn’t crowded, it looked like only five or six tables were full. Ronnie and Jo chose a booth in the corner of the room. Their waitress brought water and menus and asked them if they would like something to drink while they were looking at the menus. They both ordered coffee and looked at the menus.
The waitress brought the coffee and asked if they were ready to order. “Yes I’ll have the pancake special please,” Ronnie answered. “I’ll have the same,” Said Jo, “But ma’am would you mind bringing us an ashtray please?” The waitress gave her an amused look and said, “Honey where have you been? There has been no smoking allowed in any building for many, many years, it’s the law. Your funny!” she walked off shaking her head.
Jo and Ronnie were stunned. “What is she talking about?” asked Jo. “I have no idea, and what are those people over there doing?” “Do you see it Jo?” Ronnie was pointing at the table across from them where a middle aged couple and a kid of about twelve were sitting. The women was talking into something small and square and pink. The kid was holding something similar and staring at it pushing little buttons. The man was just eating, staring at something on the far wall. Ronnie and Jo followed his stare and saw a totally flat TV screen. The girls looked at each other in bewilderment.
Jo stood up, “I’m going to the bathroom, be right back.” “O.k.,” Ronnie nodded, still looking around the room. She saw a jukebox and decided to go see if there were any good tunes on it. She was browsing through the titles and saw a few groups she knew, but who was “Lady Gaga”, and who was “Sugerland?” Then she noticed the small disks, not records but what? She went back to the booth.
Jo was standing beside their booth holding both of their purses. She was white as a sheet! “We have to get out of here now, wherever here is!” She said in a strangled sounding voice. She thrust Ronnie’s purse at her and said, “Come look.”
She led Ronnie up to the cash register and pointed at the little calendar next to a bowl of starlight mints. “LOOK!” Ronnie looked at the calendar. It was on the month of December 2011. December 2011!! Ronnie gasped, “What, what….” She eyeballed the room once before heading for the door, Jo following right behind her. Ronnie and Jo burst through the door and almost knocked over a man who was on his way in.
“Whoa, slow down there,” he said. Then noticing the panicked looks on their faces asked them if they were alright. “No. Yes. The calendar. It’s wrong.” Ronnie wasn’t talking good. The man told them his name was Kenny and he owned the diner.
“Why don’t you girls come back inside and calm down a little before you go?” he suggested to them.
“No way are we going back in there, that calendar said it’s December 31, 2011, but that’s wrong it’s December 31, 1981!! “This is crazy, a joke!” Jo said, “We just need to get home!”
Kenny was rubbing his chin thinking that yes, it is 2011. He looked perplexed. These two girls looked very familiar, but he couldn’t recall from where. What they were saying about the year, this happened a couple of years ago, one night a young couple who ran out of here saying it was 1959. They were dressed in the style of the fifties too. Kenny must have put it out of his mind all this time, very strange.
“What are your names?” he asked them. They told him.
“O.k. Jo, Ronnie, take some deep breaths and try and calm down so you can think.” They breathed.
“Where is your car?” Kenny asked.
They walked over to the Toyota. Kenny walked with them. He noticed the car, the clothes the girls wore, their makeup. He hadn’t seen that much purple eye shadow in decades. Kenny had a funny feeling in his gut, and he didn’t like it.
Ronnie and Jo had gotten into the car, Jo was behind the wheel, being the relatively calmer one.
“Kenny we are not crazy, or on drugs or anything,” Jo informed him.
“I believe you,” he replied, “Are you calm enough to drive now?”
Jo said that she was. Thanked him for his concern and drove away. He stood watching them go, going back inside the diner only when he couldn’t see the taillights on that really old Toyota anymore.
Jo and Ronnie didn’t say much on the way back home. They drove through another thick patch of fog again, had that same couple of seconds of weightlessness. Finally they were home. They got out of the car and unlocked the front door. Ronnie turned on a lamp. Everything looked exactly the same as it did before they left this evening.
Jo picked up the telephone and dialed Janet’s number. After 8 rings Janet answered, “Hello, who is this?” “Janet, it’s me, Jo, what is the date, month, day and year?” Jo asked her friend. “Jo it is now January 1, 1982, are you alright?” Janet asked her in a confused voice. “I’m fine now, thanks a lot, goodnight.” Jo hung up the phone.
“What do you think that was Jo? Some kind of weird time travel? That’s science fiction, not real, but it was, wasn’t it?” Ronnie said shaking her head.
“Whatever it was it did happen, and I have never been so freaked out in my life!! “Ronnie I think we did travel to the future either that or that was one heck of a hallucination!!” Jo exclaimed.
They made some tea with lots of sugar, and after drinking it agreed to talk about it in the morning, because they were both suddenly exhausted.
The next morning was sunny and cool, the first day of 1982. Jo did her laundry and Ronnie wrote in her journal. She recorded everything that had happened yesterday, and then bound up her journal with a bunch of twine and put it in the bottom dresser drawer.
Monday morning Jo went to her job at the dry cleaners. Ronnie went to her job at Luigis spaghetti house, where she was cashier. She had just finished setting up for the day and writing the lunch specials on the chalkboard when the manager came in and introduced the new dishwasher. He was about Ronnie’s age. His name was Kenny.