More story.

The next morning was bright and sunny. The light from the steadily rising sun shone through the guest bedroom window directly onto the bed where Kate was sleeping. She stirred as the assault of sunlight on her body woke her and she stretched, yawning. She rubbed her eyes. Turning over, she noticed by the rumpled covers that Alicia had already gotten up and gone downstairs.
Kate wondered what time it was, as her friend was normally a late sleeper. She turned her head back to look at the clock on the dressing table next to the bed. 9:30, it said. Kate sighed. 9:30 wasn’t that late but Kate decided that she should probably get up. She sat up and looked around the room.
As the last wisps of grogginess left her, Kate remembered the events of the previous day: the strange man, being in the park, waking up on the couch downstairs. Kate sighed again, and her shoulders slumped. Seeing the room reminded her that she was still in the same house as the day before and would be going downstairs to eat breakfast. Well, she’d have to go downstairs anyway, as there was something that she was going to do today...what was it? It involved Alicia and Jay and Speed – oh yeah, she was supposed to go shopping today.
Kate got up off the bed and shuffled over to the bedroom door. She opened it and headed for the staircase.

Alicia and Jay were already downstairs with Speed, watching TV and eating breakfast, respectively. Jay sat at the table hunched over his bowl with his spoon in his left hand, chewing. His face had a slight grimace on it and he was currently wondering how anybody could stand to eat the Frosted Sugar Shocks that were in his bowl.
Alicia had already eaten and was sitting in front of the TV watching the morning’s cartoons. She was currently in the middle of Jonny Quest.
Speed had just finished brewing a pot of coffee in the kitchen. He poured himself a mug and sat down at the table adjacent to Jay. Kate shuffled into the room.
“Oh, hi Kate,” Speed responded when he saw her walk in.
“Hey,” she replied somewhat groggily, taking a seat at the table across from Jay. Jay looked up. “Hey,” he said. Kate smiled. Turning to other topics, she asked, “What’s for breakfast?”
“Well,” Speed replied, “we have cereal here”—he tapped the box on the table—“and we have bagels in the kitchen.” He hooked a thumb behind him, to indicate the kitchen. Kate nodded, to acknowledge his answer. She shrugged.
“I’ll have cereal, I guess,” Kate responded. Speed got Kate a bowl and spoon, and she poured herself some cereal. “Frosted Sugar Shocks, huh?” she remarked, reading the front of the box. She raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, those are my brother’s,” Speed explained, noticing Kate’s expression. “He likes the really sweet stuff.”
“And man, are they sweet,” Jay commented. “They made my teeth hurt.” Jay downed the leftover cereal milk in his bowl and got up from the table to put his bowl in the sink. He then joined Alicia by the TV.
Kate looked at the stuff in her bowl, then up at Speed. “What do you usually eat, if these are your brother’s?” she asked.
“Chex, or whatever’s around,” Speed replied. “Sometimes I just have a bagel and a cup of coffee.” Kate nodded, understanding. Sometimes all she got to down before school was a bagel and orange juice.
Kate reached for the milk bottle on the table and poured some on her cereal. She took a bite and remarked, “Gee, if I’d known you had cereal here, we could’ve just had that for dinner last night.”
Speed scoffed. “Who has cereal for dinner?” he asked. The idea sounded absurd. There was silence for a moment.
“Well...I do,” Kate responded, but quickly added, “sometimes.”
Alicia, who overheard the conversation while she watched TV, piped up. “I have cereal for dinner,” she responded. “It’s not that weird.” As it was, Alicia practically lived on cereal, microwave dinners, and takeout. A lot of the time, there was nobody around at her house to cook a decent dinner.
Speed couldn't believe it. Who were these girls, that their mothers didn’t cook them proper dinners?? “Well...cereal’s not enough,” he chided, in an attempt to mask his disbelief. He reached for a pack of cigarettes sitting on the table. Speed shook one out of the pack, into his hand. “You should be eating more,” he said and stuck the cigarette in his mouth. He cupped his hand over the end to light it.
Now it was Kate’s turn to be surprised. She stared in mounting shock as Speed Racer began to smoke his cigarette. He smoked. Kate sat there gaping as the smoke from the cigarette slowly curled past her. The smell of tobacco gradually filled her nostrils. Speed noticed that she’d stopped eating, and looked up to see the expression on her face. “What?” he asked, his brow furrowed in puzzlement.
“You smoke??” Kate asked in total disbelief. For the first time, she noticed the large ashtray sitting on the table.
Kate’s question made Jay and Alicia both look up to see what was going on. Speed turned to see them doing so and suddenly felt dangerously exposed, like a kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar just before dinner.
“So?” he scoffed, trying to hide his embarrassment. “I only have one cigarette here or there. It’s no big deal.” Actually, it was. Speed knew that smoking was probably not a habit that he should pick up if he wanted to stay in top physical condition. His father had stated that explicitly enough. His father had also said that he’d kill him if he ever caught him doing it.
Speed figured, however, that since his dad wasn’t home he didn’t have to worry about hiding this little indulgence. Yet Kate was proving to be quite a nag herself.
“It is a big deal. It can kill you,” Kate commented. Alicia and Jay had both turned back to the TV, but were quietly talking amongst themselves.
“Honestly, Kate, you sound like my mother,” Speed muttered, and took a drag off his cigarette. He was thinking of all the times his mother chided his father for the same vice. You know you need to quit that, dear, she’d say. They’re linking it to cancer now.
Kate went back to her cereal and worked on trying to eat it without gagging from the cigarette smoke wafting in her direction. Meanwhile, Alicia had become increasingly bored with the TV program that was currently airing and wanted to change the channel.
“What else is on?” Jay asked.
“I don’t know,” Alicia answered. “But if I could find the remote for the TV, I could find out.” Jay watched her as she looked around the living room in vain. Finally, she turned to the table.
“Hey, where’s the remote control?” Alicia asked.
“The what?” Speed queried back, putting his cigarette out in the ashtray on the table.
“For the TV,” Jay clarified.
“What do you want to do to it?” Speed asked.
“Change the channel,” Alicia answered.
Speed sighed. What next, he wondered. Concealing his impatience, he got up from the table and walked over to the TV.
“To change the channel, turn this knob here,” he explained, bending slightly and turning one of the round knobs next to the TV screen. The knob clicked and the picture on the TV screen changed.
Alicia had wondered what those knobs were there for earlier. Now she knew. “Oh, okay. Thanks,” she said and sat back down in front of the TV. Speed forced a smile and walked back over to the dining room table.
What the heck’s wrong with these people? he wondered as he sat back down. First Kate took issue with his smoking. Then Alicia didn’t know how to use the TV. It made him wonder what kind of world these other kids came from.
Obviously, they must not smoke there, Speed thought. But what about the TV? He knew without a doubt that they had TV. However, it must have been set up much differently there than it was in his world. Yeah, he thought. What was it Alicia was asking for? A remote control? Now there was luxury...not having to get up to change the channel. Speed smiled at the thought.
In the meantime, Kate had finished her cereal and joined Alicia and Jay in the living room. Alicia and Jay were currently in a fight over what to watch, so Kate decided to do a little channel surfing of her own. Jay and Alicia commented on the shows that flashed by as she manipulated the knobs on the TV.
“Oh, come on,” Alicia scoffed as Kate stopped on Channel 5. Some pretty face with a bouffant was on there giving lady lessons. Kate clicked the knob to the right: Channel 7.
“What the heck is this?” asked Jay. Apparently, he wasn’t a fan of American Bandstand.
“I dunno, it doesn’t look so bad,” Alicia replied, but Kate changed the channel nonetheless, to see what else there was to choose from.
“This sucks,” Jay commented on Channel 8’s show.
“Oh, it’s in black and white,” Alicia moaned about Channel 13’s show, which happened to be a rerun of ‘I Love Lucy’.
Kate switched over to UHF. The programming on channels 25, 37 and 41 fared no better with the three in the living room. Kate turned the knob more, to see if there was anything past 41, but there didn’t appear to be. She put the TV back on channel 5. “Hey, didn’t we check this already?” Jay asked.
“Well, yeah, but there’s nothing else on,” Kate said, shrugging.
“Lemme see,” replied Jay, scooting up to the TV and turning the knobs to see for himself what was on. He flipped through all the channels again before coming to the same conclusion.
“That’s it?” he asked, frustrated. “How many channels is that?”
Kate tallied the available channels up on her fingers. “Seven,” she replied.
“Seven??” exclaimed Jay.
“We only get seven channels?” Alicia wailed. “Waaaaah!”
Over at the table, Speed rolled his eyes. He could tell it was going to be a long day. He considered having another cigarette, but thought better of it.

Sparky showed up at 11 to pick the group up and take them shopping. This had been set up the previous night in lieu of Speed not having a car. He sat in the driveway of Speed’s house in his yellow convertible and leaned on the horn. “Hurry up!” he called.
The front door opened and Speed stepped out, followed by Alicia, then Jay. Both of the latter were wearing the same clothes they’d had on yesterday. However, Jay had untucked his shirt and was not wearing the red scarf he’d swiped from his mom.
Speed walked over to his friend’s car. “How’s it going?” he asked casually.
“Took you long enough to get out here,” Sparky teased, grinning.
Speed rolled his eyes in mock annoyance and the two of them laughed. Alicia and Jay looked at each other, then at the two friends. They felt a little awkward. Although the guy in the car had been over the previous night, they had not been properly introduced to him. Alicia and Jay sort of knew who he was but weren’t sure if he knew who they were.
Speed noticed that they looked a little awkward and realized his oversight.
“Oh. Sparky, this is Jay,” he said, gesturing toward Jay.
“Hey, Jay,” replied Sparky, sticking his hand out over the car door. Jay smiled and shook it.
“And this is Alicia,” Speed said, gesturing toward Alicia. She smiled.
“Well, hel-lo,” Sparky responded, taken with her. Alicia blushed. He offered his hand and she shook it. “Say, Speed,” he said. “Wasn’t there a third person over at your house last night?”
“Huh? Oh,” he replied and looked around. For the first time, he noticed that Kate wasn’t out there with them. He sighed, slightly exasperated. Kate, what are you doing, he thought, annoyed, as he walked back over to his front door. He opened it, stuck his head inside, and called, “Come on, Kate! Hurry up! Let’s go!”
Speed pulled the door shut and went back over to the car to wait. A few minutes later, Kate emerged. She slammed the front door shut behind her and walked over to the driveway where the others were waiting. “I was trying to decide whether to take my backpack or not,” she said, slightly ruffled by Speed snapping at her. Kate did not have her backpack with her.
“Well, anyway, this is Kate,” Speed said to Sparky, and walked around the front of the car to get in on the other side.
“Hi,” Sparky said and offered his hand.
“Hey,” Kate answered, a bit disinterested, and shook it. She already knew who he was, and didn’t really care if he knew who she was or not.
Alicia and Jay had already gotten into the car’s backseat. Kate walked around the back of the car to the other side and followed suit. The car backed out of the driveway and sped off down the street, in the direction of the shopping district downtown.
Kate was sandwiched in the backseat between Alicia and Jay. The three of them were silent as they watched the scenery pass by. Sparky and Speed were sitting up front talking, and Kate was having her doubts about the trip. Could she be sure that Speed wanted to spend money on her like this, considering he hardly knew her? She knew that buying a whole wardrobe was nothing to sneeze at. Kate felt uneasy at the prospect but decided there was nothing she could do now that they were actually on their way downtown.
Up front, Sparky decided to turn on the radio. The speakers crackled to life with The Beach Boys. In the backseat, Alicia rolled her eyes. Kate smiled; it reminded her of baking cookies with her mother.
“My mother likes this song,” Kate remarked, without putting much thought into what she was saying.
“Your mother?” Sparky said, astonished.
“Yeah,” Kate replied, shrugging. She didn't see what the big deal was with that.
“Wow, you must have pretty groovy parents, Kate,” Speed remarked. “Whenever I turn on the radio, my dad always says, ‘Turn that junk down!!’” He shook his fist and scowled, mocking his father.
Kate laughed. “I guess my parents are pretty cool,” she said, shrugging. She didn't know why anyone's parents would hate this music, though. It wasn't junk; it was a lot less immoral than some of the stuff she'd hear back home. But her parents were supposed to be a part of this generation anyway. The two men up front didn’t know that, and it would be too complicated telling them. So Kate let it go.
The radio played on. The group was speeding down the highway now, and they were starting to enter the heart of the city. Alicia was in the backseat drinking up the scenery.
“What a neat place,” she remarked excitedly. “There must be tons of stuff to do here.”
“Actually, we don’t come in here that often,” Speed explained. “Pretty much everything we want to do is out by my house.”
Ah, the suburbs, Kate thought, remembering her American History class. After World War Two and during the 1950s, much of mainstream America shifted from the cities to the suburbs. Kate hadn’t forgotten that she was inside a TV show, and thought that this little bit of history that was inadvertantly reflected in Speed's comment was interesting.
The song on the radio changed to something by Diana Ross. Kate cast a sideways glance at Jay, who was humming softly along with the song, next to her.
Sparky took the turnoff for the shopping district. He drove about three blocks, and then parked.
“Well, we’re here,” he stated, as the group of five got out of the car. Speed stuck a quarter in the parking meter as the others came to stand on the sidewalk. Kate, Alicia, and Jay were looking up and down the street surveying their surroundings.
The long city street looked just like any other the three had been on. However, this was a street in a city they had never been to. Shops lined both sides of the wide street, and most of them looked to be selling clothes. A few sold other things; Jay looked across the street to see a record shop advertising The Beatles. There also appeared to be a restaurant on one corner where the long avenue he was on was crossed by another street.
“Are you ready to go?” Speed asked as he came to stand over by Alicia, Jay, and Kate. He placed a hand on Kate’s shoulder unconsciously, and this made her tense up.
“Hey, I’m going to be across the street at the record shop,” said Sparky, pointing at the shop with the Beatles poster in the window.
“Okay,” Speed answered. “Meet me in a couple of hours at that malt shop on the corner.” He pointed at the restaurant. Sparky nodded, then dashed across the street.
Speed turned back to the other three. He removed his hand from Kate’s shoulder, much to her relief, and started to move down the street. “Come on, guys, let’s go shopping,” he declared. Alicia and Jay hurried to follow him.
Kate followed too, although somewhat at a distance. She could hear Speed further up, pointing out outfits in the windows of the shops to Alicia and asking her which ones she liked.
Kate glanced in the windows of the shops to survey outfits for herself. She wasn’t sure what she’d like, as she was in a different era and wasn’t quite sure what people would be wearing. She spied a Mondrian style dress in one window, but wasn’t sure she wanted to wear that.
She continued walking along behind the others when quite unexpectedly, something hit her in the back of the head.
“Ow!” Kate cried, rubbing her head. The others stopped and turned around, to see what was going on.
Kate looked down at her shoe to see a crumpled up piece of paper lying next to it. Apparently, someone had thrown it at her. She looked up, confused, to see whom the perpetrator might be. Maybe he was trying to hit someone else and missed.
Kate looked up to see a middle aged man in an overcoat standing against the wall of the shop she faced. He had a scowl on his face.
“Go back to your side of the street,” he growled.
Kate looked completely confused. So did Alicia and Jay, who were witnessing the scene.
“My side of the – what?” Kate exclaimed, her confusion laced with irritation. She couldn't understand why this stranger would disrespect her.
The man pointed. Kate followed his finger to see two rather ragged looking people sitting under the boarded up windows of an abandoned shop on the other side of the street. There was a guitar case in front of them, and one of them was playing the guitar that was normally kept in it. Another overcoat-clad man walked by them and dropped some change in the case.
Suddenly Kate understood. This man in front of her thought she was a hippie.
“You think I’m one of them?” she exclaimed. Jay furrowed his brow. Alicia spoke up in Kate’s defense.
“But Kate’s not a hippie,” she said.
Kate stood gaping in utter shock as Speed came around beside her and gave her a nudge, to move her along. “Come on, Kate. Let’s go,” he said.
Kate gave the man in the overcoat a scowl as she walked on.
“That’s why we have to get you new clothes,” Speed said in a low voice.
“What was wrong with that guy?” Kate asked.
“I don’t know. He didn’t have to be that mean to you, though,” Speed replied.
The four walked on a bit more. Just then, an outfit in a shop window caught Kate’s eye. “Oh, look at that,” she observed and walked up to the glass to get a closer look.
The mannequin in the window was wearing a short mini-dress that was covered with a black-and-white op-art print. She had a little matching floppy hat on her head and was holding a small black purse.
“That’s cute,” Alicia remarked.
“Would you like to go in there?” Speed asked.
Kate shrugged. “Sure, why not?” she replied. She had to get something today. Speed expected it.
The group entered the shop. It looked a lot bigger on the inside than it did on the outside.
The shop’s interior was interesting. The floor under their feet was painted purple and covered here and there with squares of carpet. The wall to their right was painted in a psychedelic pattern, although this was mostly covered by the shelves and racks along that wall that bore merchandise.
The wall along the back was painted lime green. There were some cubicles against it that served as dressing rooms, and there were more shelves of merchandise.
There was a glass counter to the left which contained some funky jewelry, and which had a cash register on top of it. There was a middle-aged woman wearing a lime green dress and a string of pearls sitting behind it and looking terribly bored. She had her arm propped on the counter. When she saw the group come in, however, she straightened up.
Speed walked over to her. The others followed.
“We’re interested in buying clothes,” he stated.
“Well, there’s plenty of things on the racks for you to browse through,” the lady behind the counter replied, gesturing. She seemed a bit blasé.
Kate, Alicia, and Jay looked at each other and shrugged. One by one, they wandered off to go browse through the many clothes-laden racks covering the floor.
Speed leaned on the counter. “Interesting looking shop you got here,” he remarked casually. He thought it was kind of strange to see a middle-aged woman who wore pearls behind the counter of a shop like this.
“It’s actually my niece’s,” the lady behind the counter replied. “She wanted to open a shop that would sell clothing for the youth. She says there’s money to be made there.” There was something slightly disdainful about the way the woman talked.
“Oh, well, how old is she?” Speed asked, curious.
“She’s in her twenties,” answered the woman. “But she’s not available today.” She delivered this last phrase as though she were talking down to someone unimportant.
“Oh.” Speed nodded his acknowledgement.
Meanwhile, Kate and Alicia were looking through one of the racks. Kate pulled out a mini-dress that was horizontally striped in orange, green, and white. It came with a little floppy hat. “This looks cute,” she commented.
Alicia held up the dress she’d found. It had a brightly colored swirl pattern on it. “Look at this,” she said.
“Wow,” Kate replied.
“It kind of makes me dizzy,” Alicia remarked, looking again at the pattern on the dress.
“Well, I’m going to try this dress on,” Kate said, draping the striped mini dress over her arm. Alicia draped the swirled one over her arm, and they continued delving through the racks.
While they were doing this, Jay was looking for clothing of his own. He’d managed to find a rack with young men’s clothes on it and was browsing for an outfit to wear.
He pulled a men’s blouse off the rack that had a colorful paisley pattern on it. The sleeves on the blouse were billowy. Jay grimaced.
“If I put this on, I’ll get beat up,” he muttered to himself under his breath as he put the shirt back. He moved through the rack a bit more until he found an apple green shirt. It was a blouse like the other shirt, but it didn’t have a pattern on it. Good, thought Jay. He draped it over his arm.
Kate and Alicia’s arms were now laden with various dresses they’d found on the racks that they intended to try on. They approached the counter where the middle-aged woman was and asked to use the dressing rooms.
“Yes. They’re right back there, girls,” the lady said and pointed to the cubicles along the back wall. Kate and Alicia nodded to show they understood and hurried off excitedly, talking amongst themselves about what outfits they were going to try on first. To them, it was like playing dress-up. It was as if Halloween had come early.
Speed straightened from leaning on the glass counter and moved back toward the dressing rooms as well. He was going to wait outside for Kate and Alicia to emerge so he could see how they looked in what they tried on.
Jay brushed past him and entered the last empty cubicle, pulling the velvet curtains shut. Speed looked up to see Kate emerge from her cubicle in the striped mini-dress, holding the little purse that went with it. She caught him completely off guard.
“How do I look?” she asked.
Speed didn’t know what to say. He’d never seen anyone wear a mini-dress so well. He wondered why she even bothered wearing pants at all. Realizing Kate had asked him a question, he snapped out of his trance.
“Cute,” he said without thinking. He quickly corrected himself. “I mean, that dress looks cute on you.”
Kate realized what he meant and blushed, suddenly feeling very self-conscious. “Thank you,” she said politely. She looked down and tugged at the hem of her dress, suddenly thinking that it was too short. It was quite short, only falling to mid-thigh.
Jay could overhear the conversation in his cubicle as he was trying on his clothes. It made him jealous. It was just his luck, he thought, to start liking Kate once she stopped liking him. And she'd liked him for so long, too. Jay surveyed himself in the dressing room mirror one more time before he stepped out from behind the curtain.
Jay emerged from his cubicle wearing the apple green shirt he’d picked out earlier with a pair of brown pants that flared slightly from the knee down. “How do I look?” he asked. This question was directed more at Kate than anyone else.
Speed sized Jay up. “That outfit looks good, but you’ll have to tuck in the shirt,” he replied. Kate was looking at Jay and trying not to laugh. He looked so strange and silly to her in his clothes, especially that shirt with the poofy sleeves.
Finally, she could contain it no longer. As Alicia stepped out of her cubicle, Kate burst out laughing.
“What’s up with her?” Alicia asked as she came to stand by Speed. She was wearing the colorful, swirly-patterned dress she’d first picked out. She looked over at Jay, who was standing with his arms folded and had a scowl on his face.
Speed shrugged. “I dunno,” he responded, and explained, “Jay came out of his dressing room and Kate just cracked up.” Alicia looked at Jay and could see why Kate burst out laughing. She smiled.
Kate caught her breath. “Okay,” she said, gasping, and turned to look at Alicia. “Nice dress,” she commented, and started talking to her. Jay whirled and went back into his cubicle, closing the curtains angrily. He'd hoped to impress her, but obviously did not succeed. He sat in there and fumed for a while before coming out again; however, now that he knew what Speed was referring to, he could agree that Kate looked quite good in a short dress.
The group of three tried on many more outfits over the next hour. They included a PVC mini dress in which one half was white and the other black; a two-piece skirt and blouse combo made of yellow polyester with red and green blobs all over it; and, in Jay’s case, a purple paisley-print blouse with flared plum pants.
After everyone decided on what they wanted, Speed paid for the purchases and the group left the shop laden with bags. In addition to the clothes, they’d also bought many matching accessories (like shoes).
“That was a rad shop,” Kate commented as she walked along contentedly. Speed was walking beside her and Alicia followed behind her, with Jay. Alicia was talking to him as they walked.
“I can’t believe she laughed at me. I mean, I didn’t look that stupid, did I?” Jay asked. His ego was still slightly bruised.
“I don’t think it’s that,” Alicia explained. “I think she just thought you looked kind of silly, that’s all. I mean, these clothes you got are really flamboyant.”
“Yeah,” Jay grumbled. “I mean, they really didn’t have anything else...” He trailed off, feeling self-conscious about buying such colorful clothes. If the other boys at home saw him in the outfit he tried on in the shop, they would probably beat him up. He wondered what the other guys here wore. It reassured him to see a boy not much older than himself walk by in a shirt even louder than the ones he bought.
Up front, Speed was talking to Kate.
“Now crazy clothes are fun, but you should get at least one nice outfit too,” he was saying. The group was approaching a corner, and Speed pointed to the building on the opposite corner. “They sell some good stuff in that department store there,” he remarked.
From across the street, Kate could see a mannequin in the store’s window that was wearing a rather nice looking women’s suit. It was made of white wool and was lined and trimmed in navy blue. The suit had a matching hat and shoes. It looked expensive.
The group crossed the street and went inside the store. They quickly found the right department, and in a matter of minutes Jay, Kate, and Alicia had all picked out an outfit. Alicia had selected a red wool mini dress that was trimmed in white. It had a small, matching red jacket that went with it. The jacket had white cuffs and buttons, and had a white belt that buckled across the front. The whole outfit came with gloves.
Kate had selected a chocolate colored two-piece skirt and shirt combo that came with small white gloves, a thin white belt that sat on the hips, and its own hat, which was also white. The shirt was long-sleeved and the skirt fell to the knees. Jay picked out a brown suit that had a cutaway top and had plaid on it.
When, finally, all these things were purchased, Speed, Kate, Jay, and Alicia headed back up the avenue to the malt shop on the corner to meet Sparky. The group walked into a shop that looked like a cross between a Johnny Rocket’s café and the malt shop from Back to the Future.
The entryway was at a diagonal. There were booths adjacent to it, along the wall facing the street. Across from these, and the entryway, was the counter. It had a red Formica top and about nine stools in front of it, all chromed and covered in red sparkly vinyl. There was a middle aged, apron-clad man behind the counter drying glasses. It looked like a scene out of a documentary about post-war America.
Speed spotted Sparky in a booth near the back of the shop, next to the jukebox, and headed toward him. The rest of the group trailed behind.
Speed slid into the booth on the other side of the table. Sparky, who was sitting in front of a large plate of French fries, remarked, “Geez, SR, what took you so long?”
“Hey, shopping takes a while,” Speed replied in mock defense, putting his hands up. Sparky chuckled.
“Well, I’ve only been here a half-hour anyway,” he said.
Jay had sat down in the booth next to Speed. Alicia and Kate were sitting next to Sparky.
Sparky looked around at the others. “So, what do you guys all want for lunch?” he asked.
Neither Kate nor Alicia nor Jay knew what to say, as this was an unfamiliar restaurant and there was no menu at the table. Kate vocalized their thoughts when she said, “I don’t know what it is they have to eat here.”
“Oh, it’s just hamburgers and stuff like that,” Sparky replied and shrugged. Kate nodded. The two girls got up so that Sparky could get out of the booth.
“You don’t have to get us all lunch, Spark,” Speed responded graciously, guessing his friend’s intent. “I’ll do that.”
“Nah,” Sparky responded. “I want to. Besides, you’ve already spent enough money today.” He smiled. Alicia blushed slightly.
After everyone told him what they wanted, Sparky left for the counter leaving Speed, Kate, Alicia, and Jay alone together again at the table.
Speed studied each of them. They were odd kids, but he didn’t really know how out of place they’d seemed until he’d taken them out that day. He was curious to know more about them.
“How old are you?” he asked in general.
“Seventeen,” Kate replied.
“Eighteen,” said Alicia.
“Me too,” added Jay.
“Ah. So you’re the same age as me,” Speed observed, mostly of Jay. He eyed Jay and noted that Jay also had black hair like him. Jay actually looked similar to him, but wore glasses. That was the only difference.
Changing the topic, Speed asked, “What year is it where you all live?”
Jay looked down at the tabletop. Kate coughed. That left Alicia, who responded, “2002.”
“2002, huh?” Speed replied, and a wry grin spread on his face. “So, what? Is the world run by robots?” Although he was teasing, he was slightly curious.
Alicia giggled. Kate shook her head and grinned as she replied, “What makes you think that?”
“Oh, well, with the way the adults go on about computers taking over everything...” Speed trailed off, shrugging.
“Oh, please,” scoffed Jay. He eyed Speed incredulously.
“Well, it's crazy anyway,” Speed responded with a sigh. “I say computers don't work right unless they have a human to operate them. Or at least maintain them.”
Kate was impressed by his commom sense. She knew he was thinking of the future in terms of his own world and the attitudes around him. It was interesting to find that those attitudes were quite similar to the ones that were prevelant in Kate's world at the time the show was written. She supposed it wasn't that surprising; after all, TV shows always reflected a little bit of the time in which they were written.
“Yeah,” Alicia responded in agreement. “Humans aren't going anywhere.”
Speed studied her. “Have you ever used a computer?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah, lots of times. As a matter of fact, I had to take three computer classes in order to graduate high school,” she answered.
“Is that so? Interesting,” he said, mystified. “Is it difficult?”
“Not really,” was Alicia's reply.
Speed nodded his acknowledgement and fell silent. He decided not to press the issue further. Besides, Sparky was coming back with the lunches everybody ordered.
Alicia and Kate got up so Sparky could slide back into the booth. Everyone was silent as they began to eat their lunches. Sparky looked around.
“Hey, don’t everybody thank me at once,” he quipped.

On to the next chapter. ---->