Alex and Roger have split up to pursue their respective plans. Roger plans to break into the MacDonald house to steal the MP3 player that Heidi invented so he can take it back to 1987 and reverse engineer it. Alex plans to sneak into their thirtieth class reunion so he can find out how to get Jennifer to go to homecoming with him when he gets back to his own time.
6:55 p.m. on October 14th, 2017. Behind the MacDonald’s house.
Roger checks his watch. He’s been huddled in the park for half an hour. It’s gotten dark, which means no more joggers or dog walkers giving him suspicious looks, but it’s also getting chilly. He digs the raincoat out of his A-Team backpack and puts it on.
He steps up onto the large rock he rolled up next to the back fence of the MacDonald’s back yard. He balances on his tippy toes to check the house again.
Yaz is slumbering in his doghouse. The house is dark except for one light in an upstairs window. That’s Mackenzie’s room. Roger can just make out the top of her head from his vantage point. She doesn’t seem to be getting ready for the dance or anything. She hasn’t moved since the last time he checked on her. Roger’s pretty sure Alex and Heidi left before he got there, but Mackenzie shows no inclination to go out anytime soon.
Roger climbs back down and checks his watch. He can afford to wait a little longer.
* * *
7:05 p.m. on October 14th, 2017. The graveyard.
Alex looks down at his father’s grave marker. He doesn’t know why it’s affecting him so much. In a few hours he’ll go back to 1987 when his father is alive and well. “I might not have had to do this at all if I’d just listened to you when you told me to ask Jennifer to the dance, Dad. You were right. If I don’t choose my life, it’ll get chosen for me. But it’s not too late. I know it isn’t. If I can just find out what went wrong, I can change my fate. This time around I’ll have a life that’ll make you proud.”
Alex turns away from the grave and looks at the school across the street. Middle-aged people are streaming up the front walk to the main entrance, where a banner reads:
CLASS OF 1987 REUNION
A chubby woman sits at a table out front checking people in. Alex won’t be able to enter that way. Besides, he needs some kind of disguise. He doubts anybody would expect a time traveler at their reunion, but Alex doesn’t want to risk being recognized by his old classmates.
Fortunately he has an idea how to solve both problems. In 1987, the lock on the door by the theater department has been broken for years. Perhaps the maintenance team has been just as lazy over the last thirty years as they were in the eighties. And if he can get into the theater department, he can find a disguise. He heads down the block to the west.
But on the west side of the school, he encounters dozens of teenagers heading into the gym. The words…
HOMECOMING DANCE 2017
…are projected on the exterior wall by a light.
Alex works his way down the sidewalk, through the crowd – until someone shout his name.
“Alex, over here!” It’s Sierra. She’s standing with Chase, Jasmine, and Noah. The girls are wearing short, colorful dresses and the highest heels Alex has ever seen, while the guys wear slacks and ties. Chase stands out in all black with a white tie, and Sierra’s dress is cut low enough for her cleavage to be distracting. Alex joins them.
Chase looks at Alex suspiciously. “What are you doing here?”
Good question. “Oh, I’m, um, here for the dance.”
“But you don’t go to this school,” Jasmine says.
“Right. I was supposed to be someone’s date. But I can’t find her.”
“You were going with a student here? What’s her name?”
Jasmine furrows her brow. “I don’t know a Molly.”
“Me neither,” Sierra says. “Is she a senior?”
“Uh... I’m not sure. It was a blind date.”
“You met her online?” Chase asks.
“That’s where people meet these days, right?” That line seems to do everything.
Chase laughs. “Bro, you got catfished.”
“I don’t think so,” Alex replies, confused. “I don’t really like fish.”
Now all the kids laugh.
Sierra throws her arm around his shoulders. “Alex, you’re hilarious! You should come in with us.”
Alex eyes the student at the door taking tickets. “Molly was supposed to get our tickets.”
Sierra shrugs. “You can use Mackenzie’s ticket. She’s grounded.”
Alex turns toward Chase, tries to keep his tone even. “She is? And you came anyway. Without her.”
“Her dad’s a tool,” Chase shrugs. “I’m not letting him ruin my fun.”
“So it’s settled,” Sierra replies. “Alex can use Mackenzie’s ticket.”
“You’re gonna pay me back for it, right bro?” Chase says.
“Of course,” Alex replies. “I’ll pay you on line.”
To Alex’s surprise, that seems to satisfy chase.
Sierra grabs Alex and Chase’s hands. “Good. Now let’s go dance!” She pulls them toward the gym, the two boys staring daggers at each other.
* * *
7:10 pm on October 14th, 2017.
Roger peeks up over the fence again. Mackenzie hasn’t moved.
“Damn it,” Roger whispers.
But apparently his whisper carries. Yaz’s head pops up, ears arched. The dog’s eyes meet Roger’s. Uh oh.
Yaz barrels out of the doghouse straight at Roger, barking furiously.
Roger stumbles off the rock and squats down out of sight. He hears Yaz slam up against the fence, woofing and growling, claws scraping at the wood.
“Yaz, shut up!” The shout comes from Mackenzie. She must have opened her window.
Yaz does not heed her immediately. Roger huddles on the ground, trying to stay silent. After Mackenzie orders the dog to be quiet half a dozen more times, Yaz finally relents. But Roger can hear him snuffling at the fence. Then he hears the window slide closed.
It looks like he’s going to have to execute his plan with Mackenzie still in the house. He only needs to be inside for a couple of minutes, so it should still work, as long as Mackenzie stays upstairs. And so far, she hasn’t appeared to have any interest in even leaving her room.
He pulls a tennis ball from his backpack. He scrounged the ball from the public tennis courts, which were fortunately still there thirty years in the future. Now comes the risky part of his plan.
He creeps out into the park and loops around to the far back corner of the yard. A quick peek reveals that Yaz is still snuffling halfway down the fence. Roger hurls the ball across the yard.
Or more accurately, he hurls it halfway across the yard. Roger is not a skilled thrower of balls. But the force is enough that the ball bounces the rest of the distance and THUDS against the far fence.
Yaz immediately charges toward the noise, barking up a storm.
And Roger seizes the opportunity to pull himself over the fence, tumbling painfully onto the ground. He pulls himself to his feet and bolts across the grass.
He reaches the house as Mackenzie opens her window again. “Yaz! Knock it off!”
But her yell has redirected Yaz’s gaze toward Roger. The dog grabs the ball and charges toward him.
Fortunately, the guest-room window that Roger left cracked open is just above him. He shoves it up, slithers awkwardly inside, and pulls it closed just as Yaz reaches it.
He sits on the floor of the guest room, catching his breath and waiting for Mackenzie to shout Yaz to silence.
Once the barking has stopped, Roger crawls out into the hall.
He pauses, keeping an eye on the stairs. But Mackenzie does not come down to investigate. Phase one: complete.
* * *
7:20 p.m. on October 14th, 2017. Magnolia High School gym.
Alex stares around the gym in awe. It’s dark, with colorful spotlights sweeping across a floor packed with a pulsating mass of teens wearing glowing neon-colored bracelets or waving glow sticks. The music pulses through him. “What’s this song he cries.
“HandClap by Fitz and the Tantrums,” Jasmine tells him.
Sierra, Chase, Noah and Jasmine immediately hit the dance floor, sweeping Alex along with them into a big group dance.
Alex starts to dance, imitating George Michael’s moves from the Wake Me Up Before You Go Go video. He’s practiced them in his basement for hours and is quite confident in his style.
But as he looks at the other dancers, he begins to suspect he is hopelessly out of date. He watches Noah, imitating his moves:
Alex learns the Lean and Dab...
The Whip & Nae Nae...
How to Hit Dem Folks...
And then Sierra starts shaking her butt in front of him. Alex doesn’t quite know what to make of that. He’s sure Ms. Pfeifer would never allow such dancing back in 1987.
Sierra backs up into him, gyrating her rear against his crotch. Alex wipes sweat from his forehead. He feels stirrings. Physical stirrings. This could get embarrassing.
He circles around to face Sierra.
She shimmies close, hands in the air. Leans into his ear so he can hear her over the music. “Are we gonna be friends, Alex?”
“You do seem very friendly.”
“Maybe friends with bennies?”
Alex does not know what “bennies” are, but now does not seem like the time to ask. He’s trying hard not to look down at Sierra’s breasts, bouncing in her low-cut dress. “Oh, sure. Bennies. Lots of bennies. Would you excuse me? I need to go to the boys room.”
He makes his escape.
* * *
The sinks in the bathroom are very confusing. There are no handles to turn the water on. Alex examines them for several minutes, until he moves his hand under the faucet and it suddenly sprays water. When he removes his hand it stops. He tries again – hand under the faucet, water on. Hand out, water off. They’re motion activated! He’ll have to tell Roger about that – Roger will think motion activated faucets are totally rad. Alex splashes water on his face.
Alex hears someone else come in, looks up to see:
“Sierra!” Did he go into the wrong bathroom? He scans the room. Urinals. Good.
Sierra slinks forward. “You move fast, Alex. Normally I’m not this kind of girl.”
“So normally you use the girls’ room?”
Sierra laughs and waves her hand under the paper towel dispenser. It’s motion activated as well. She grabs the towel it dispensed and hands it to him. “Wipe your face.” Alex obeys.
Sierra takes the used paper towel and tosses it into the trash without looking. She gently pushes Alex back into one of the stalls. He has to spread his legs awkwardly to straddle the toilet. Sierra leans up against him to close the door behind her.
“You’re a strange boy, Alex. Luckily for you, I like me a little strange.” Sierra crouches down in front of him.
He closes his eyes. Is this normal teenage flirting in 2017? He feels Sierra pull his pants open, pull his underwear down. And then she says, “Uh, Alex... have you ever heard of manscaping?”
Alex opens one eye. “Actually, no.”
He shakes his head to clear it. Glances down at his Swatch. It’s already almost 8 pm. He has to think of his long-term goals. He has to find Jennifer.
He pulls Sierra to her feet. Holy crap, she’s bodacious. Alex gathers his strength. “Listen, Sierra, we’re gonna have to be friends with bennies later.”
Sierra looks confused. “It’s just a BJ, Alex. What’s the big deal?”
What’s the big deal? He’s never even touched a girl’s breast and she was about to perform oral sex on him! 2017 teenagers act a lot more mature than teenagers back in 1987. Besides, he’s got to stay focused. His future is at stake. He can’t afford to be distracted. “It’s just… I got a text from the girl who was supposed to be my date. She’s here after all.”
Sierra shrugs. “Whatevs.”
Alex buttons his pants and slips by her. He’s halfway to the door when Sierra calls out, “Barn door, Alex.”
Alex pauses, zips up. And then he’s out of there.
Time to find Jennifer.
Go to Chapter 14