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Fiction Contemporary Fantasy

Jenny Reed and Johnny King had once been the top radio personalities at KKTM in Los Angeles. For four decades their on-air partnership and eventual marriage were the talk of the industry. But what was the top 100 hits in the 70’s had become a faded nostalgic memory to their ever decreasing listening audience, so when the network offered to buy them out, they both agreed it was time.

After collecting all her memorabilia from more than forty years co-hosting Red Wine for Breakfast, Jenny took one last soulful look around the control room and closed the door for the last time.

“C’mon Jenny,” Johnny put his arm around his wife’s shoulder as they made their way to the car. “Retirement won’t be so bad. We had a good run. Now it’s time to celebrate our success and forty years of legal cohabitation with a great anniversary party. The kids really worked hard to make this perfect. All our family and friends will be there.”

“I guess you’re right, Johnny. I just hope they have a good band for us old folk and not the garbage they call music today.”

“I’m sure they’ll have plenty of your favorites, even if they’re only cover bands of Neil Diamond, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Three Dog Night.”

The hotel banquet room was festively decorated with “40th” balloons, a banner with Jenny and Johnny’s wedding photos and a slide show highlighting the 70’s. Jenny was enjoying the momentary trip down memory lane when her oldest daughter, Michelle, approached the microphone to deliver the first toast, and a surprise for her parents.

“Mom, since we were little all you ever talked about was how great the 70’s were. To celebrate your anniversary the three of us pooled our money from the sale of KKTM and bought you a three bedroom, two bath home in Groovin’ Town.”

As she spoke, the photos of the town appeared on the slide show behind her.

“We  know you never wanted to move to a traditional retirement community, but I think you’re really going to love this place. We did some research. A very wealthy nostalgic Boomer purchased the town a few years ago, for people who loved everything from that decade. It’s located just twenty miles from Las Vegas, but it’s million years from today.”

Jenny was shocked. She’d heard of nostalgic resorts for vacations, but never heard of an entire retro town. Michelle continued.

           “The contract is for a two week trial period before the sale is final.  The only requirement is that you leave all your twenty-first century electronics with us. We’ve packed your things and set up your house. It’s all ready for you to move in.”

           Michelle left the stage and handed Jenny the keys.

“They sent a VW bus for you. It’s parked outside Are you ready for an adventure?”

           “Absolutely! This is going to be wonderful!” Jenny replied enthusiastically.

           “Really Jenny?” Johnny asked. “I’m not so sure. You know I’m not as big a fan of that decade as you are. I’ve told you not to try to relive the past, you know the best is yet to come.”

           “I think that best came and went a long time ago,” Jenny sighed. “I’m so ready, let’s go!”

            The bus drove through the gates, passing several one and two-story houses with impeccable front yards. All the cars parked in the driveways were Fords, Chevrolets and Cadillacs. Jenny noticed how easily she could tell the difference in the styles. Unlike the present day cars that were indistinguishable from each other, she thought.

           When the bus pulled into what Jenny and Johnny guessed was their driveway, they were met by a man wearing bell bottom jeans, a floral shirt with open collar. His hair fell just below his ears. He greeted the pair as they exited the bus and handed them a large manila envelope. 

           “Welcome to Groovin’ Town,” he said. “I’m Jason, the mayor. Everything you need to know to make this yours is contained in the envelopes. Come inside, I’ll give you a tour.”

           When Jason opened the front door, it was as if Johnny and Jenny had traveled back in time. Psychedelic paintings hung on the walls. Shag carpeting covered the floors in the living room and bedrooms. A console television and stereo combo unit stood in front of an oversized couch. Mad magazine, Cosmopolitan, Playboy and a TV guide were on the coffee table.

           “Your daughter didn’t say what your reading preferences were, but you can choose whatever you like from the list in your packet.”

           Curious as to what shows were on television Johnny looked around for the remote. Jason tried to suppress a laugh.

           “This is the 70’s, Johnny. Television sets didn’t have remotes. “There’s no cable either. We only have the three major networks and PBS, of course.”

Jenny ran through the house like a kid at Disneyland.

“Did you see the office, Johnny? There’s a TRS-80 on the desk, and a real land-line push-button AT&T telephone!”

Jason picked up a newspaper that was on the counter. “Here’s the local newspaper. “The Groovin’ News”. It’s delivered every day. I’ll leave you two to get settled. Oh, I almost forgot.” Jason walked to the far end of the living room and opened the door on the cabinet to reveal a fully stocked bar.

           “I’m not much of a drinker,” Johnny said, “But I could get used to this.”

           “One more thing before I leave. Here are the keys to the car in the garage. Enjoy your new home, or should I say enjoy your old home?”

           As soon as the front door closed, Jenny and Johnny went to the garage and discovered much to their amazement, a brand new Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Jenny immediately got behind the wheel, Johnny sat beside.

“I can’t remember the last time I was in a car with a full front seat. Let’s check out the rest of the town.”

Jenny found the control and lowered the top. She instinctively reached behind her for the seat belt, and was surprised, for a second, that there wasn’t one. She laughed as she cautiously left the driveway, feeling freeer than she had in years.

They drove by a very active bowling alley, and the only movie theater in the town, which was showing The Godfather Part 1 and 2 and a few miles down the road was a huge mall.

“I have to go shopping Johnny! The last time I was in a mall, most of the storefronts were empty. I went into Nordstrom, but all I found were old lady clothes for women over 60. Then I realized I was an old lady over 60, and ran out of the place.”

Johnny laughed. “You look young in anything, Jenny. Or nothing at all.”

She smacked him playfully.

           After picking up a few items at the grocery store, they returned home to find several couples waiting to meet their new neighbors. Although a bit tired, Jenny invited them into their home. If they were planning on making this place their permanent residence, she might as well make some new permanent friends.

While Jenny put away the groceries, Johnny went about getting to know his guests. They were more than thrilled when he offered to mix them some drinks. Even though his bartending skills he acquired working during college were a bit rusty. Johnny was amazed how the recipes were still fresh in his mind as if he’d been bartending his entire life.

With manhattans, martinis, and a few scotch on the rocks in their hands, the group introduced themselves. One woman was thrilled to talk up her great success selling Avon door to door and mentioned to Jenny that she would make a great Avon Lady.

Jenny smiled politely and tried to change the subject.

“I’ll have to think about it, thanks. What work did you do before moving to Groovin’ Town?”

           Her question was met by a blank stare.

“You know, I can’t recall. My husband is an insurance agent. I think at one time I thought about doing that, but his company doesn’t hire women agents, only secretaries.”

           “Really?” Jenny was stunned. “I thought that was ended when State Farm settled the class action case in 1988. Strange your husband’s company is allowed to continue that policy.”

           Her comment was met with stares from her guests.

 “Remember, Jenny. This is the 70’s. That case hasn’t even been tried yet.” Johnny whispered.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Never mind.” Jenny tried to cover her embarrassment. “So, what do you do for entertainment here?”

Seemed to lighten the mood.

“The ELKS are hosting their annual clam bake next Sunday. Johnny, maybe you’d like to join us? We’re always looking for new blood in our lodge.”

“I’m really not a joiner, maybe Jenny would like to.”

“That would be the day. The ELKS are men only. The women host the public events, you know the cooking and charity work, but we’re never going to allow women to join. They’d ruin the whole reason we have the place so we can hang out and be men. You know what I mean.”

“Hmm,” Johnny pondered his statement. “Now that I think about it, I kind of like the idea of hanging out with just the guys.”

“It’s getting a bit late, how ‘bout I pick you up tomorrow around noon. We can have lunch at the golf club and we’ll talk about it. The ladies can go shopping, or whatever they do. You do play golf, right?”

Johnny never picked up a golf club in his life, but for some reason he answered in the affirmative.

“Great, see all you guys tomorrow.”

 Jenny was stunned.

“Johnny, what the hell are you talking about? Since when did you want to “hang out with just the guys” and what was that b.s. about you playing golf?”

“I don’t know, Jenny. It’s something about this town. All those years you preached how great the 70’s were and now that I’m seeing things your way, you’re upset? Typical female. I’m going to see what’s on television.”

Johnny manually turned on the set, but all that was on all three channels were the Watergate hearings. Frustrated, Johnny decided to take a shower and go to bed. Not having her cell phone to check her email, Jenny gave up and joined him.

Over the next few days,  Jenny adapted to the retro environment. The radio played all her favorite songs. She was enjoying reading an actual printed newspaper without being constantly interrupted by pop-ups and video ads that were so annoying on-line. actually well written. The 70’s were definitely  the best decade, she thought. Maybe we will decided to make this their new home, she thought. Even Johnny was beginning to warm to the idea.  

After playing round of golf at the club, Johnny invited a few of his new buddies over to watch the Dodgers win another World Series. Jenny was a bit surprised to see him so involved with the game. In all the years she had known Johnny, she never recalled him ever have any interest in sports.

“Hey, honey, can you bring us some cold beers?” Johnny called from the living room.

HONEY? What the F? Johnny knows I HATE being called honey, or dear or any other pet name.

“I think you’re more than capable of getting your own beers, HON.”

Johnny got off the couch and joined Jenny in the kitchen. She was visibly upset with the headlines she read in the Sunday edition of the newspaper.

“I don’t know what you’re so upset about,” he stared. “You’re in the kitchen anyway, what’s the big deal?”

Ignoring his comment about the beer, Jenny held up the newspaper for him to see.

“THIS is why I’m so upset. Did you know there was a town council meeting last night and they voted to amend the residency rules. Specifically, not allowing any mixed-race or gay couples to move in. This is absurd!”

“Jenny, remember we’re living in the 70’s. Federal laws prohibiting housing discrimination didn’t become law until 2021. Don’t worry your little head over it, we don’t know any gay or black people anyway. I’m going back to watch the game.”

“Johnny, what’s gotten into you? I know we’re living in town that’s LIKE the 70’s, but to totally negate the rights that women, Blacks, gays  and other minorities fought for years to obtain is a travesty. How can you be so cold?”

“I think you should calm down – let me make you a martini.”

“At 11 o’clock in the morning? Are you crazy?”

“Jenny, I think you need to have a drink and calm down. I’m going to tell the guys we’re going to watch the rest of the game at the club. You really should do some housework, this place is a mess.”

“Something wrong with your arms?”

“Don’t be silly, men don’t clean.” He gave her a patronizing kiss on the forehead. “Now be a good girl and clean up the place before I get home.”

Johnny notice the game was interrupted by a news bulletin. Images of casualties of the Vietnam war were being shown next to bloodied anti-Vietnam war protestors.

“Damn hippies – they should all be shot.”

“JOHNNY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! YOU WENT TO CANADA when you were drafted – now you say you should have been shot!!?”

Johnny was silent for a moment – he thought about what Jenny had said, and for a brief second seemed to remember. Then, his eyes went dark.

“Jenny, I finally agree with you. The 70’s were the best times. We have the best music, the best television shows, the best movies, and MEN are MEN. I don’t understand what you’re complaining about – it’s perfect, just the way you always wanted.”

“Yes, I thought that was true, looking back from where we are now. I was so excited to see gas prices at 38 cents a gallon, but  when I took the caddie to the gas station the line of cars was several blocks around the corner! It took me over an hour to get to the pump, but I didn’t realize my license plate ended with a 7 and this was an even number gas day. They station was out of gas anyway.”

“Walking is better for you. I’m going to tell the guys to leave so we can finish this argument.

“THIS ISN”T AN ARGUEMENT, it’s a DISCUSSION! You used to be able to tell the difference.” Jenny shouted.

When Johnny returned to the kitchen, Jenny handed him a piece of paper. “I went to the library yesterday to catch up on some classics now that I have the time, and the librarian gave me a list of BANNED books. Here, read this.”

Johnny read the list aloud. “Slaughterhouse Five, Judy Blume’s Forever, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies. I don’t see anything wrong with these books not being available. I think there are way too many controversial books being printed today.”

“Today? What are you talking about, today? It’s 2023 in the real world, don’t you remember?”

“I’m sorry Jenny, I really don’t. I’ve been talking to the guys, they don’t seem to remember their lives before they moved here. Maybe there’s something in the water, or maybe it’s just you were right about the 70’s being so great no one wants to think about any other time.

Men were treated a lot better in the 70’s. We had our male-only organizations and women respected us. We didn’t always have to be careful with everything we said, or did to avoid being called a sexist, or get fired – I tell you Jenny, it’s exhausting in your world.”

“So, what you’re telling me, is that you’d be happier living in a time fantasy all alone, than in the real world with me?” Jenny was on the verge of tears.

“Of course not. I’m trying to convince you to change your mind and stay here with me.”

“Sorry, Johnny. I do love you, but I’m going back to our reality.  Even with all the problems, the politics, the violence and horrible music we have, I’m realizing there was also a lot about the 70’s that wasn’t all that great now that I’m reliving it.

Our generation lived through the Vietnam war, Watergate, worked to improve social injustice and inequality in the home and workplace for women, Blacks and gays. It might not be perfect in 2023, but I’d rather work to make our present better than live in the not so perfect past.”

Jenny put her hand on the doorknob – when she turned around, Johnny was gone. She opened the door and was about half way through it, when she heard him run up behind her.

“We can’t go without this…. In his hands was the TRS-80. “Never underestimate the power of Basic,” he grinned. “Let’s go home.”

Jenny and Johnny walked through the door and returned to the present.

           And the future.

July 28, 2023 00:53

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1 comment

Kelly Sibley
22:52 Jul 30, 2023

Phew, they escaped! I really enjoyed reading your work well done!


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