All her favorite places were gone. McKay's dress shop was a Starbuck's coffee station, and the Roadside Diner was now a sushi place. Her father's hardware store now sold cellular phones, and the church on the corner was gone, replaced by a McDonalds Restaurant. Her past was erased. Her life and presence in this town was non-existent. There had to be a trace of her family and friends left behind here. Joanie wondered about Fonzie's Garage. Surely that still existed, but it was located on the other side of town, and her feet were already hurting her. She stopped to catch her breath on the bus bench at the corner of Delaware and Tenth Street, at least that still existed. Dropping to grieve and try to figure out what to do, she felt the tears slid down her face, her heart pounding in her chest and the grief swelling and taking over her mind.
She heard a motorcycle coming toward her and jumped to her feet, but it wasn't Fonzie. This guy was older and thinner and wore a silver helmet on his head to protect it. Fonzie never wore helmets. Riding a restored 1978 Knucklehead with a dual exhaust system, he cruised to a stop at the stop sign near Joanie, left his engine idling and pulled out his cell phone.
"Frank, where are you?" He looked around. "I got turned around. Where are you?" He suddenly noticed Joanie looking at his motorcycle and him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm lost." Joanie barely answered.
"Need a ride?" Mike offered his extra helmet. "I'll drop you off where you need to get to." He just wanted a cute girl to ride his cycle with him and make him look good.
"Can you take me to Arnold's Drive-in?"
"Arnold's…" Joanie pulled the helmet on. "The burger and fries place on the corner of Lake and Main Street across from the cleaners."
"There's no cleaners on Main Street."
"The drive-in where everyone hangs out."
He looked at her confused again.
"Just drop me off at the Methodist Church on the corner."
"Methodist?" Mike started his cycle. "I thought it was Baptist?"
"Get on…" Joanie slipped on behind him and pulled the helmet on her head. At least girls still got to ride motorcycles. It took off quickly and carried her through traffic, past cars and zipping past whole sections of town. The old Simmons house had been restored into a museum, Jenny Piccolo's house had been rebuilt and remodeled and Main Street had been widened. No one parked along the curb anymore. Three lanes of traffic were now four, and the stoplights had been replaced for modern models. Everything had been updated, restored, rebuilt or replace. This was not her hometown anymore. Progress, renovation and innovation had replaced style, classicism and tradition. So much had happened to Milwaukee in over fifty years, and the biggest shock was coming at her. When she finally strolled up on Milwaukee's 2815 Lake Avenue, she failed to recognize the drive-in restaurant where she had spent so much of her youth. The parking lot with the roller skating waitresses, hot rods and congregating schoolmates was no longer alive with social activity. The shape of the building was there, but the Fifties neon bluish green coloring had been paneled over. The interior was decorated with plate glass windows, wood-paneled walls and a long buffet style food bar. The teen hangout was now a family restaurant. The pennants on the walls were gone, the booths were replaced with wooden benches and tables separated by fake flowers and waitress stations. It was no longer a high school hangout for teenagers; it was a family restaurant with a tavern-style like bar in the corner and a buffet set out along the front of the building. Instead of high school students crowded into booths, it was a place for families to bring their kids, for retired couples to eat out and where businessmen met with clients. Her past was gone; it was erased. Teenagers no longer dominated the media; they hid in the corners of it watching reality and the world go by on tiny windows in expensive computer toys and handheld accessories. The innocence of the Fifties had been replaced in over fifty years by a complacent society. Young girls were now struggling mothers, young punks sold death in powder and plant form on the streets and little kids were living in a life without imagination nor having to think. The age of the greasy-haired leather-jacket street gang was over, replaced instead by the teenaged drug-addled thin white t-shirt future terrorists violating the sidewalk businesses and lowering the property values. Warren Webber had seen the differences too, but he had lived through these changing times. The boy once known as Potsie had settled into late middle aged and facing retirement now managing the place. He checked the receipts, instructed the waitresses, took care of his dining patrons and looked to the future. He was heavyset now with gray and silver white hair. His face was fuller, no longer the lean handsome youth he had been in high school. His blue eyes no longer sparkled with the songs he once sang as a boy. He was a struggling divorced father looking to spend the weekend with his daughter and grandson. Joanie stood watching him as he ran the cash register and swiped a credit card through the register. Joanie stood amazed at the invention.
"Just a minute…" He looked briefly at her and failed to recognize her. He turned and grinned warmly to his departing guests then picked up silverware from off the hostess stand. "Will this be for one?"
"Potsie?" He reacted confused. "No one's called me that in…. Joanie?" He looked a bit closer at her and his mind shifted back into his memories. It couldn't be. It just couldn't. Richie's little sister, here? She was still young, shapely and beautiful. How was that possible? She hadn't aged a day in over fifty years. She had not aged a day since he had last seen her in 1957!
"Joanie?" He was stunned, almost enough to stumble backward in shock, but he remained upright enough to have one of the waitresses take care of his guests. Warren Webber, businessman, former high school football and basketball player and weekend crooner, felt like an old man before his best friend's sister looking all like the teenager from his memories. How was this possible?!
"Potsie…" Joanie looked back in shock and subdued fear. He had grown old and fat, not overly obese, but flabby and out of shape. His dark hair was mottled with gray. His face was lined with wrinkles and freckled with spots. She looked around Arnold's and back at him. "You're here. You're the only person I have been able to find…" She fretted with over fifty years of lost memories. "What happened to this place?!"
"Arnold's burned down in 1961." Potsie revealed. "Fonzie and Al rebuilt it as a family place afterward. Worshams bought us out in 1987."
"He's around from time to time." Potsie answered. "You know how busy state senators are."
"State senator?" Joanie reacted in disbelief. "Potsie, you got to help me! I've been slipping through time, and I can't stop it! I keep stopping in ten year intervals; I want to go home!"
"What?" He stood stunned. He didn't want to believe it, but she looked so young, just as she was when he last saw her. Cute, rosy-cheeked and shapely like the young beauty he recalled. "What do you have? Some kind of Delorean? A Hot Tub Time Machine?"
"Never mind… those are movies…"
"Where are my parents?" She asked the question.
"Joanie…" Gesturing at her to sit at the nearest booth, he slid in across from her and looked at her young beautiful face. He spoke clearly and solemnly. "You father died in 1983; your mother in 1990. Richie and Ralph are in Hollywood making movies. Jenny's now a grandmother. I'm a grandfather. You missed so much."
"Chuck?" Her eyes were filling with tears.
"Chuck retired in Hawaii after Viet Nam."
"That was another war…" He wondered how she could not know that then gestured to one of the waitresses to bring Joanie a Pepsi to drink. "Oh, wow… you really have been traveling in time… Richie was right. He told me about the laptop, the I-Pod, the cash… You had all of it years before they were invented…" He paused out of disbelief. "How is that all possible?"
"I don't know…" Tears fell down the girl's face. "I don't even know how I got them. They…." She paused trying to think. "They were just there. It was like… they were in my head…" She had sobered herself into being analytical. "It's as if… I just always knew what they were."
"Joanie…" Potsie looked at her as her drink arrived at the table. "When you vanished, all your parents remembered were that you were obsessed with the future." He looked across at her. "They somehow believed you had managed to run off for it." He chuckled. "It sounded crazy at the time, but… I guess they were right, because here you are. Is it really all you wanted?"
"I liked the stuff, I liked the music." Joanie confessed and sipped her cold soda again. "I never wanted to leave home." She looked up to Potsie as the last person she could trust. "I want to go home. Not just home, but… back to my time. Back to 1957…"
"How do you want to do that?" Potsie tried to think of her as Richie's little sister and not a friend of his granddaughter. "Jump a few more decades until time machines are possible?"
"This all started here…." Joanie rationalized it all. "That song… that song I sang with you guys…"
"Where were you before that?" Potsie asked. "Do you remember?"
"Of course, I remember." Joanie sipped her drink again. "It was just a few days ago for me. I was at school." She paused. "School... I never carried a backpack home from school before! It started at school!"
"At the Old Jefferson High building…." Potsie gasped. "Joanie, then that's why you stopped going into the future! It's being renovated. Whatever they're changing is going to stop you from going further into the future otherwise you could be telling this all to my grandkids." She looked at him with terrified fear in her face.
"I've got to get you back there." He rose quickly and had Marcie the assistant manager cover for him. "I've got to get you home… Man, I feel like Doc Brown…"
"Who?" Joanie did not get that movie reference. Potsie pointed out his silver Dodge Neon in the parking lot of the church next door and unlocked the passenger side door for her. The automatic seat belt startled her, and the interior made her think of a space ship, but if there was any chance she could get home she had to take it. It was dusk, but almost dark after the traffic let them get back to the school. Her old school looked haunted behind the trees and under the gray sky. Potsie had not driven back here in years; the new Jefferson High was on the site of the old tire factory at the other end of Main Street. He pulled up close to the old student parking lot.
"Joanie," He looked back at her getting out of the car. "You do know if you make it back that I won't recall any of this. Your parents will be alive, Ralph, Richie and Fonzie will be home, and you'll live through everything normally. Just don't tell us what you saw… let us make our own futures with you in it…"
"But if you don't get back…." He looked around hoping what he was suggesting wouldn't happen. "I'll be at the Starbucks on the corner. I'll take care of you."
"What's a Starbucks?"
"You'll find it." He grinned one last time and pulled away. Joanie watched him drive away for all of three seconds and looked back to the school. Tall, white and abandoned with darkened black windows, it might as well be a giant skull looking back at her. The perimeter of the front veranda where students once gathered and socialized was fenced off and festered with weeds. She thought first about climbing over it, then saw the barbwire and changed her mind. Where had she broken through? The gate was in back near the hall to the cafeteria. It was getting dark a bit faster and the streetlights were coming on. The lights cast her shadow into different directions. She hastened past the old teacher's parking lot and lightly jogged to the rear of the building. A light breeze moved the clouds over her had as she searched for the opening. Hastening around the corner, she found it where she had left it in an area strewn with trash and discarded cigarettes. She slipped through the opening in the gate by pressing herself through it until she was on the other side. Under the nighttime sky of eternal stars and a solitary aircraft crossing over, she ran up to the rear exit of the school and pounded at it. She had to get back inside her old school. If there was any chance of her getting home, this was it. She had to get inside. Looking around, she noticed the crumbling concrete and pulled up a piece of the broken sidewalk. At that moment, a police car turned the corner, and its inhabitants noticed her shadow racing along the building toward the cafeteria. Moments later, the sound of breaking glass filled the area.
"Barney…" The officer riding along looked at his partner. "It looks like we got ourselves another bored teenager looking for something to do."
"You'd think, Andge, that with everything in town that they'd have something better to do!" His skinny partner commented.
"Well, let's drive around and pick them up." They ignored switching on their lights to surprise the young lady, but by now, Joanie had pulled her up through the window of Mrs. Moore's Home Economics class. The room was empty and filled with dusty discarded desks and an old flag pushed to the corner. The door to the room had been taken off the hinges, but the end of the hall to the cafeteria had been locked off against her. She heard the brakes of the patrol car squeal outside and a car door slam closed. The voices of the two officers followed. Joanie was going to have to go upstairs and come down the front stairway and elude them while doing that. Her sneakers squealed on the grimy floor and rushed past the hall to the gym. Her feet pounding the stairs, she nearly stumbled on paint cans and a tarp on the stairwell, but on top, she forced herself into the sophomore hall. This was where she had spent so much time gossiping with Jenny Piccolo or changing clothes with Vanessa Danvers in the restroom. Downstairs, the two officers were exploring the downstairs near the cafeteria with flashlights. They heard Joanie running the length of the school toward them over their heads. They'd split up and wait for her at the bottom of the stairs. Racing past the water fountain outside Miss Mansfield's room, she suddenly stopped and hesitated after seeing something in the room. Taking a few steps back, Joanie retreated back to look again. There was one light on in the room and it was on her old desk. Her backpack was still in the history room waiting for her. Lighted by the solitary illumination in the darkened school, she found her laptop in it; her I-Pod left on the desk exactly as she had left it fifty years ago. Her feet carried her nervously up toward it. Angry anxiety filled her senses.
"It's all your fault…" She gasped. "I never wanted you… you ruined my life!" She grabbed it all as flashlight beams came up the stairwells. "You're not mine!" She hurled the book bag down the hall, but the I-Pod and several fifty-dollars printed in 2008 fell to her feet. She scooped it all up and dumped it into the trashcan by the water fountain.
"I don't want it!" Joanie fell to her feet and sat huddled on the floor. Tears started falling down her face. "I want to go home! Please take me back! I don't want to live in the future!" Officer Costello's flashlight hit her face.
"Young lady, are you on drugs?"
"Don't touch me!" Joanie screamed. "Leave me alone! I just want to go home!"
"I'll get you home… trust me." He switched on his radio. "We need an ambulance. Subject is on drugs…" The classroom suddenly lit up with lights next to him. He felt a small breeze on the back of his neck and felt a cold breeze rushing up through the stairwell. A powerful supernatural event was happening. The hallway lights came on as the wind pouring through the school tossed around paper, trash and debris. Beer cans and junk food wrappers left behind by other vandals skirted down along the floors, and coming down the hall, something was tearing open the lockers one by one on each side of the hallway. Joanie heard a million voices in unison coming through the school as lockers continued flying open. It was coming closer and closer. Officer Andrew Costello gasped in shock and wondered where his partner was. A strange force pulled Joanie from him and pushed her hard to the wall. He reached to catch her, but there was nothing there to catch. She had vanished. Had he just encountered the ghost of the high school? Officer Barney Abbott was just now coming to catch up with him behind this interior tornado. Costello would just tell him the girl had escaped.
Dropping to the floor, Joanie opened her eyes to the lights in her eyes and saw her classmates staring down at her. Jenny Piccolo and Vanessa were by her side holding her head. Scott McFarlane watched from the crowd as students mulled past the on-lookers. Her head was throbbing, her mind was fading between unconsciousness and awake. Where was she? Most importantly, when was she?! Miss Mansfield was there as the school nurse and two Jefferson High football players carried a stretcher from the gym to collect her. Confused and distraught, Joanie struggled to stay awake.
"What happened?" Her teacher, Marilyn Mansfield, asked her classmates.
"It was an accident!" Jan insisted.
"Yeah…" Hyde looked at Jan then back to Mrs. Mansfield. "She just tapped Joanie on the shoulder, and she spun around and whacked her head on the locker." Hyde looked away a moment. "I guess we kind of scared her or something."
"Well, be careful the next time you tap a person on the shoulder." Marilyn warned them, and walked alongside Joanie to the nurse's office. Crying and rambling incoherently, Joanie just kept asking to go home again to people she never saw. In the crowded and concerned hallway, Hyde and Jan took one last look at each other and parted down different halls. Hyde turned left at Classroom 78, and Jan turned right at Classroom 67. Hearing his sister had accidentally hit her head and was delirious, Richie came racing down the stairs from the senior's wing just short of missing Hyde as he hurried to the nurse in the main office to check on his sister.
Twenty years later, Donna Pinciotti turned the hall from math class and bent over yet another water fountain, the fingers of her left hand pulling her long red hair back over her ear to keep them from getting wet. Her school wasn't Jefferson High School in Milwaukee; it was Point Place High School in another city in the south of the state near Green Bay. What forces that had overlapped space and time were dwindling and fighting to gain strength again. They waned, encroached and advanced again. Donna felt a chill on the back of her neck. Her eyes turned and looked to the waste can by her.
"Donna…" Jackie Burkhart was one of the hottest girls in school. About five-foot-two of brunette effeminate energy with big brown eyes, perfect skin and a nice figure in expensive clothes, she was part of Donna's circle of friends. She was the on and off again girlfriend of Michael Kelso, one of the best friends of Eric Forman, Donna's boyfriend. Although their connection was indirect, Jackie considered Donna one of the few people she allowed to hang with her.
"I need some help." She explained herself. "Michael wants to take me to the movies but not to see the movie. He just wants to fool around, so get Eric, Joanie, Fez and the guys and join us. He won't make a move with everyone there."
"Right!" Donna was all out for messing with Kelso. "Wait… who's Joanie?"
"Who?" Jackie reacted and thought back. "I… I don't know. Why did I say that name?" She asked herself. Donna was confused as well.
"Forget it…" She shrugged it off. "Look…. Will you be there?"
"A chance to mess around with Kelso?" Donna grinned with a laugh. "Definitely! I love the way his voice gets higher when he gets angry." They shared an evil laugh and Donna turned back toward her math class. Jackie pressed her finger to activate the water fountain, pulled her fingers back through her hair as Donna had before her and took a sip of water. When she did that, she heard music playing. Her round brown eyes looked toward the waste can. Standing up straight, her hand reached on it's own and she plucked out the device she had heard. It seemed to be some very small form of a transistor radio. She held the earpiece to her head.
"Can't Read my… Can't Read My, You Know You Can't Read My…" The song was quickly getting into her head and helping her sing along with it…. "Poker face, Can't read my, Can't read my… Poker Face…." She saved the device for herself and turned toward the cafeteria with the new style of music dancing through her head thirty years before that of her classmates…
"Pohk-Pohk-Pohk-Pohk-Pohk- My Poker Face…."
"They say time is like is like a river…" The voice of Rod Serling spoke over these events and Jackie headed away. "It starts from it's source and flows outward in all directions… sometimes flowing into alternate realities and different possiblities. Maybe this is one of those alternate worlds, or perhaps, just possibly, it also has the tendency to flow back on itself when something impedes its own course. Let's file this one under "Time" in that great expanse of reality which we know as… The Twilight Zone."