They had to leave immediately.
If the rumors on the street were true, if the chatter on the internet was to be believed, a flash mob was planning to attack their neighborhood in roughly 2 hours. Other parts of the city were already under siege. Around 11 pm, Jack called his wife from the electronics assembly plant where he worked, and told her what he’d heard. Trying to calm the worry in her voice, he advised her, “Now don’t panic honey, but I want you to pack a few things and get Tess ready. I’ll be home as fast as I can-I'm hoping to be out of here in about 5 minutes.”
For months, they’d been talking about leaving their neighborhood, anyway. Two years ago, when Jack and Louise first moved to this city, it had seemed like the ideal place to settle down and raise their small daughter. But the picture, painted these two short years later, was not so rosy. Violence had moved in and taken over. Smog and noise were their neighbors now.
Though it was only early fall, there was a decided chill in the air, more keenly felt due to the lateness of the hour. Bundling up their sleeping child, still dressed in her warm flannel pajamas, the pair loaded their car, an imposing vintage black Ford that had belonged to Louise’s grandfather. It offered, in the inky darkness, the safety of a mobile fortress.
“Jack! My cell phone, honey-I left it inside.”
“Leave it. There isn’t time to go back. Besides, I’ve got mine.”
Looking back, as they left their house, Jack and Louise could see, against the night sky, the surreal reflection of several fires burning other parts of the city into ruin. They headed off into the night, without a plan or even a destination in mind, hoping only to find another town, far away from their abandoned town, where they could start over.
After Jack had been driving for more than 7 hours, the darkness began to pull back, revealing the first threads of daylight. The family found themselves at the edge of a sleepy little village- a jewel of beautiful old homes, and a quaint downtown that was just beginning to wake up. As they made their way along the main street, hunger pangs stirring within their empty stomachs, the trio stopped in front of a friendly looking diner and parked between an old red pickup truck and a green sedan similar to their own car. Gathering Tess, they went inside for a bite to eat before continuing on.
Still marveling over their breakfasts-varying combinations of eggs, pancakes, bacon, toast and hash browns-for a mere 35 cents each, they tipped their waitress, a cheerful young woman with a 40’s updo, and went back out into the morning.
Continuing down the main street, both Jack and Louise were puzzling over this oddly dated-yet at the same time comforting- place they now found themselves in. Jack braked to let a man sporting a fedora and wool gabardine topcoat cross the street, and as Jack looked at Louise to raise his eyebrows in a question, he spotted, down a side street, an old fashioned movie theater with a lighted marquee.
This year’s soon to be smash hit!
Starring Bogart and Bergman
Jack fully intended to head back out towards the freeway and continue traveling. He did not intend to linger in this town, as much as both he and Louise felt drawn to it. But for reasons they could not identify, they stopped at a small, well maintained tourist park. Perhaps it was curiosity, or perhaps sheer fatigue, but whatever the reason, Jack arranged to rent one of the park’s tiny cabins for the next several days.
This mysterious little city that seemed to be straight out of the past-a place they didn’t understand, but didn’t want to leave, would offer them a brief respite before they continued on their journey to find a new town, and a new home.
In a few short days they would come to realize two things.
First, it was 1942.
They realized they were already home.