Friday 5 September 2014

Tales from 1955 - 30 Days #6

About a week ago I had the pleasure of finding myself among the dazzling lights and retro splendour of the  infamous 'Back To The Future' event run by Secret Cinema in East London. As you know, I'm a sucker for vintage and ANYTHING that goes out of it's way with storytelling to create a real sense of theatrical illusion, and this event pretty much epitomised this.

The most unique and exciting aspect for me was that you were not just a spectator of the show - once you were there, you were a part of it too. A while back when we'd secured our tickets, we were emailed a secret log-in, which redirected to their website for you to input your details. Then it generated your identity, a character for you to play.

My character was named Dolores Leon, an apprentice at Hal's bike shop, and when we arrived in the makeshift town, I headed straight to my 'workplace' to have a poke around. After mere seconds, Katie Oldham of vanished, and as Hal sent me on a secret mission across the set of the town, I was wholeheartedly consumed by Dolores.

So in the spirit of the 30 Days of Fiction challenge, I'm going to write about my experience at Hill Valley from the fictional perspective of what I experienced as Dolores Leon.

All electronics were strictly prohibited, so the pictures below I took on a 35mm disposable camera.

"I'm sorry Dolores... I-I promise I can get it to you by next week. For sure." 

The midsummer sun beat down upon us in a haze, and the balding man before me shifted uncomfortably in the heat. A small sheen began to appear about his eyes, and he wiped a greasy hand across his oil-smattered overalls before retrieving a dirty hankerchief from his pocket to dab at his forehead.

"It's just... things have been tight around here lately, business aint so good, Dolly..."

I gave a small sigh of surrender and nodded my head. I could never stay mad at Hal for too long, despite his persistent inability to get me my paycheck on time.

"Well just this once, Hal." I said for the millionth time, wagging my finger mockingly at him. His face broke into a relieved grin and my heart softened a little. He only ever had the best intentions, and the poor man didn't half get a hard time of it.

"A superstar as always." He grinned.

I gave a weak smile and a dampness spread across my heart as I wondered how on earth I was going to be able to get a dress now, when the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance was just a few hours a way. I'd planned to hit Ruth's Frock Shop after I'd picked up my wages, but now penniless, I had no choice but to head home before I could cry.

"Wait, Dolly!"

I inhaled deeply before turning back to my boss.

"Yes, Hal?"

"I don't suppose you could do me a favour could ya? Rita over at the Hilly Valley Telegraph has a broken bike bell needin' fixin'. I don't suppose you could pop over there and get it for me? I'm sure she'd spare a pretty penny for your troubles!"

I considered the proposition for a moment. What else had I to do that evening now? I sure couldn't go to the dance without a dress. Besides, getting in good with Rita could be my shot at getting a job at the paper after I graduated...

"Sure thing." I sighed reluctantly, grabbing a bike from outside the store. Hal's yell of thanks whooshed past me as I pressed down hard on the peddles, the cleansing breeze washing through my hair. 

As I cycled through the town, the sun began to set, bathing the whole place in a heavenly golden glow. It was graduation tomorrow and I mused how different the whole place was going to look once all the other kids had run off to college. I was one of the only ones who'd decided not to go, deciding instead to apply to all the local papers around, in the hopes of bringing my dream of being a top writer in the city, that little bit closer.

I thought then of Tommy and had to skid to the a halt on the sidewalk to stop myself from choking. 

Tommy Diaggio, the Tommy Diaggio who had asked me to the dance. A dance I now had no choice but not to attend. My lip began to tremble and a hard lump rose in my throat. This was my one shot with him, the guy I'd been crushing on for years, and now it was ruined.

I kicked off the pavement and channelled my fury into the pedals. 'There are far greater injustices in the world than missing one kiss, Dolly' I forced myself to remember. I blinked back the tears and pedalled hard until I reached the Hilly Valley Telegraph. The office was emptying out for the day and I jumped off the bike, only to rush straight into Rita herself.


"Dear god child, where's the fire?"

Her perfectly coiffed red hair glistened majestically in the last of the days sun.

"I, I'm sorry I just-" I paused to catch my breath and she smiled wryly. "I'm from Hal's bike shop, he said you had a bell that needed fixing, I-"

"Aren't you that girl from last summer? The intern?" She interrupted.

"Ah yes, I interned here last year!" I gushed. "All I wanna do is be a writer." I smiled sheepishly. She paused for a moment, surveying me over her horn-rimmed glasses.

"Well, listen here." She gave a surreptitious glance in either direction before leaning in. "I've got a little task for you." She reached into her patent crocodile skin handbag and produced a little red notepad and pencil.

"You know Roy, of Roy's records?"

"...The place next door to Hal's? Well kinda, I've never really-"

"Well rumour has it that he's looking to take over your little bike shack."

"Well it's not exactly a shack, it's a-"

"If you can get some information from Roy, get a few quotes... then I can run an exclusive on the story." Her pale eyes flashed with excitement. "And in return... I'll take a look at your portfolio."

"You'd do that for me?!" I exclaimed, all traces of my previous sadness entirely eclipsed.

"Ssh, ssh kid. You gotta keep this on the quiet okay. Roy's notorious for being a little underhanded with some of his business deals, you know what I mean? If you can get a few words outta him... I'll make it worth your while." 

I bit my lip, desperately trying to hide the excitement from my face. She handed the notepad and pencil to me.

"Go now, I need this by tomorrow morning, got it?"

I nodded fervently, stashing the items in my handbag and grabbing the handlebars of my bike.

"I won't let you down."

Just as I was about to push off she called out;

"Hey kid!" I turned to her, "You forgot this." She threw me the little silver bell and I caught it in one swift movement. She smirked in approval.

"Good luck."

I tore through the streets, a new sense of purpose bestowed upon me. Who cared about the dance anyway? Besides, Tommy was off on a football scholarship next month, it's not like he was going to fall madly in love at first kiss and throw away his dream to stay with me in Hill Valley as a supermarket checkout boy.

First stop was Hal's and I popped in, dropped off the bell and was out again before he could even muster a fumbled thanks - I had bigger business to attend to. I gathered myself with a deep breath outside Roy's records, with its melodic jazz rhythms rising out of the open windows and customers twirling and dancing inside. It was time for my journalistic instinct to kick in. 

I entered and quickly spotted Roy in a lilac and grey pinstripe suit, talking to a couple of drooling girls from my Biology class who were hanging off his every word.

"Excuse me, Mr Rostrum?" I tapped him on the shoulder and the girls looked sourly at me. He with an exasperated expression.

"Can I help you?"

"Uh, I wondered if I could borrow a few moments of your time?" He paused for a moment before giving a courteous nod to my schoolmates and wordlessly leading me through to a back room.

The walls were the colour of crushed velvet and he took a seat behind a large mahogany desk, motioning me to sit on the chair opposite.

"I really just wanted to ask you a few questions about your business, that's all... Sir" I stammered, remaining by the doorway.

 "Hey aren't you the bike girl from next door?" He got up from his seat and perched on the corner of the desk. I smiled quickly.

"Yes I work at Hal's sometimes, I-"

"Did you know I'm taking over that shit show?" He gave a hearty laugh. "Hell, you'd be out of a job soon if it weren't for my generosity."

"Your...your generosity?"

"See I'm gonna be knocking down that little place you call 'a job', and building a brand new studio to propel my record store into the music business. Stars will be born here." He said, holding out his arms, a seedy grin on his face. "But I can't do it alone. You see, I have a lot of... assets tied up in the Bank over on the East Side of Town, just down the road from that shop that sells the little frilly dresses, you know the place?"

I nodded silently.  

"And I was just thinking before you arrived that I'm going to need some help. A pretty little face to... converse with a few of the security personnel to ensure the smoothness of my transactions, you understand?"

I nodded again.

"So how's about this. You meet me at the Bank at 9pm tonight and lend me a little hand... and I'll give you a cut and answer any questions you wanna ask me, okay?"

I was ashamed as my first thoughts went to the money. Hal hadn't paid me for weeks now and I really needed the cash... But no. Whatever plan he had cooked up was completely immoral and I was not going to be a part of it.

...But the story. A scoop like this and Rita would be sure to get me a job.

"I'll be there." I said defiantly.

Before I left for home, I quickly darted into the sidestreet round the corner from Roy's and jotted down every little detail I could remember in Rita's little red notebook. I then held the book to my chest and considered the lengths I was about to go for a story. Perhaps I'd truly been born a journalist after all.

I mounted my bike ready for home, it was 6.30pm, I just had enough time for a bite to eat. To think, all my schoolmates were getting ready for the dance, like I should be, and here I was preparing for a potential bank robbery.

"Well where's your dress honey?" was what greeted me almost before I'd even stepped over the doormat.

"I didn't get one, Ma." I hung my head. "Hal couldn't pay me."

"Well that's preposterous!" My mother exclaimed, following me into the kitchen. "That's daylight robbery, you cannot let that man walk all over you!"

"I know, Mother." I said, grabbing a plate of meatloaf and joining the rest of my family. "It won't happen again."

"You're damn right it won't 'cause that place is going to go out of business! How much money does that man owe you now?"

"I don't want to talk about it"

"Well I have a right mind to go down and give him a piece of my mind!"

"Ma could you just give it a rest? You don't think I don't know that? I'm already having to miss the dance for crying out loud!" I pushed aside my plate and excused myself.

"Well it's your own fault young lady!" Her voice rang up the stairs as I slammed my bedroom door shut.


At 9pm sharp I slipped out of my bedroom window and climbed down the terrace. The Bank was only a couple of miles from my house, so I jumped on the bike from Hal's that had started this whole adventure, and made my way toward the East side of town.

After a couple of breathless minutes I arrived, and sure enough Roy was there, crowbar in hand.

"Look at that little face." He said as I stowed my bike behind some trashcans. "Such a waste."

"What do you mean?" I said with a frown. He laughed.

"Not going to the dance." He wedged the crowbar in between the solid oak doors of the bank.

"How did you know I wasn't going?" I asked, hanging back, arms folded.

"I see ya working on those greasy little bikes kid, I don't mean any offence, but I can think of plenty other little dames any boy is asking over you." He strained, tugging heartily on the metal. "Help me here a sec won'tcha?"

I climbed the steps of the bank, anger rising hot and red in my cheeks.

"Why do you think I asked you to help me?" He chuckled, a vein bulging in his temple with the exertion. "You're the only kid around I knew wouldn't be at that dance, and when you showed up in my store like that, I jumped at the chance. Now c'mere would ya?"

Annoyingly I felt my lip tremble in anger, and the persistent lump in my throat earlier had returned.

"Well," I began, "I'll have you know that I actually did get-"

And just at that moment, with a mighty splintering sound, the crowbar broke through the great doors, and Roy kicked them open triumphantly. But my words were swallowed up by the blaring alarms which kicked into life instantaneously.

"Shit shit, move quickly kid, we don't have much time." He threw a canvas bag at me and my heart began to pound. Three hours ago I was an honour roll student with a promising future as a writer and now I was a bank robber plotting to overthrow my own boss?

As Roy began frantically tearing the place apart, I slowly backed away, letting the drawstring bag slip through my fingertips.

Suddenly the sound of the alarm was mimicked by the distant wailing of oncoming sirens. My heart leapt to my throat. Oh god oh god oh god, this can not be happening, this can NOT be happening. At the first glimpse of flashing blue and red lights I sprinted as fast as I could from the crime scene and ran for the trashcans which concealed my escape.

The first squad cars pulled up just as I dived behind the shelter of the bins.

But I did not flee. As much as my heart screamed in protest, there I remained, frantically writing down all I could see, everything that happened and word for word everything that had been said. And there I saw the confrontation, brawl and arrest of Roy from Roy's records.

"Where's that little shit! The girl!"

"What 'girl' are you referring to Mr Rostrum?" asked a plump mustachioed police officer, arms folded across his chest.

"I don't know her name, do I? That plain looking one, the girl from Hal's. The High School kid!"

The officer laughed.

"Every single High School kid in town is at the dance you idiot. Get him in the car, boys."

Amidst his yells of protest, as silent as I could be, I slowly mounted Hal's bike and pedalled furiously into the darkness. With every second I fleed the scene I was so sure, so certain I'd hear those sirens behind me and I'd be caught and imprisoned forever, my whole life wasted on one stupid chance...

But those sirens never came.

Before I knew it, I was home. I jumped up that terrace, leapt through my window and instantly burst into tears with relief.

After a moment, there came a soft knock at my door.

"Honey... Can I come in?"

In a panic I frantically ripped off my shoes and smeared the oil marks from my legs.

"Sure, Ma."

My mother entered the room, in her hands, a box.

"I'm so sorry about earlier sweetie," She said, placing a hand against my cheek. "I know how hard you've been working lately, and to not have a dress for the dance must've been so horrible for you. So... here." She opened the box. "I know it's not much but... this was my High School Homecoming dress."

I lifted the dress out of the box in wide-eyed wonder.

"I was Homecoming Queen don't you know?" She gave a little giggle and I threw my arms around her neck.

"Are you sure? It's so beautiful, thank you so much." Fresh tears sprang upon my cheeks. I'd got the story and I was going to get my date with Tommy Diaggio. 

"Hey, did Tommy stop by at all? To pick me up? Or did he call?"

Her expression softened again to one of heartfelt sympathy and I knew what the answer was.

"Come on, it's already late. Let's get you to that dance!"

Half an hour later, I found myself standing in front of Hill Valley High in my Mother's Homecoming dress and pearl earrings. For not the first time that day, my heart pounded in anticipation, and I slowly entered my school. I realised this was one of the last times I would ever set foot in these halls. I walked through the locker room and spotted Alfredo Hayes, a kid from my Math class who sat next to Tommy.

"Hey, Freddy," He looked at me with a bewildered expression, "It's me, Dolores...Dolly... From Math class?"

He gave a spluttered cough.

"Wow Dolores... you look amazing."

"Aww thank you." I flashed him a smile. "Hey, have you seen Tommy? He was meant to pick me up but..."

Freddy shifted nervously.

"I, uh... Think he's over there with... Betty Carver." He pointed with a quivering finger to the water fountain, where sure enough Tommy Diaggio and Betty Carver were passionately making out against the door to the teachers lounge.

"I'm... I'm sorry Dolores.... Uh, Dolly." Freddy stammered as my lip began to tremble again. It had all been for nothing, I had risked everything for nothing. "Hey, we're not all that bad." He pushed his glasses up on his nose and gave me a weak smile.

"Oh yeah? Where's your date then?" I mumbled, wiping at my cheeks.

"Well I uh, didn't have one. I didn't think any girls would want to come with me so I uh, didn't really ask anyone."

My tears stopped and I turned to look at him truly for the first time in my life. He was such a sweet boy, really. One of those people who always seemed to be on the periphery of everything, never causing a scene, never clamouring for attention like all the others seemed to.

He was an academic high-achiever but a hard worker too, spending his evenings and weekends as a clerk in the Bank - laughably the one I'd just tried to rob and had nearly got arrested for breaking and entering into.

"So... you came here alone?"

"Well, with some friends, I think they.. I they're getting some punch or something." He gave a nervous laugh and shrugged. 

I took a deep, meditative breath.

"Alfredo Hayes, would you go to the dance with me?"

His brown eyes sparkled behind his glasses and a little pinkness sprang to his cheeks.

"Oh Dolores... I, well, I'd be honoured." He said, holding out his hand.

And that night, we truly said goodbye to High School.

Alfredo and I danced the night away and talked for hours, as I told him all about the crazy adventures I'd taken just to be at the dance. We rode the carnival rides and the ferris wheel, and ate candy corn and cotton candy until we felt sick. We talked about our pasts, our presents and our futures, driving to In-n-Out and staying out til dawn eating fries and drinking milkshakes.

The night seemed to pass in a flash, a montage of laughter and dancing, driving and singing. And at the end, as the sun began to rise, Alfredo pulled me to him and we even shared a kiss, two strangers before tonight.

And as dawn broke on our final day as Hill Valley High School students, with that little red notebook that held my future held tightly to my chest and Freddy's hand in my mine, we walked side by side into our the rest of our lives.

-  T h e   -   E n d   -

Overall, the  Back to the Future Secret Cinema experience was absolutely incredible. I was completely caught up in the act that when the time came to actually sit down and watch the movie in the Town Square, I actually almost forgot we were even here for that (or perhaps that was something to do with the copious mini-bottles of Merlot.)

It's safe to say it was one hell of an experience, and I genuinely cannot WAIT for the next one. My brief stint as Dolores has almost got me thinking I'll try an audition as a character for the next one... those poor actors didn't really know what to do with me getting a little bit too into my character haha.

An incredibly well put together event, and a memory that will last a lifetime. Hats off to you, Secret Cinema.



To find out more about what the 30 Day Writing Challenge is click here. Got an idea for something you want me to write about? Get your entries in now by emailing me with your prompt, your name and your twitter handle!