I have no idea how this story works. All I know is the first time I read this, I spent the following six months thinking about it on a regular basis. There’s something about that gradual transformation that enthrals me. I can’t guarantee the story will be as unforgettable for anyone else, but it’s a strange story all the same.
It starts off normally enough, with a couple dressing up for their high school reunion, which this year has a ‘Happy Days’ theme. (Note that I’ve never watched the TV show and I know almost nothing about it. Apparently the story is even creepier with familiarity.) It’s a success, everyone enjoys it, and they decide to use ‘Happy Days’ as their theme next reunion.
Five years later everyone works a lot harder on making their costumes as authentic as possible, the couple tracking down vintage clothing, the wife (playing Joanie) even practicing calling her husband (playing Mr. Cunningham), “Dad.” The reunion is full of roller-skating waitresses and motorcycle-riding Fonzies.
“Our next reunion came early, as it was generally agreed that people couldn’t wait five more years. My wife’s wardrobe had become pretty much dedicated to Joanie sometime in the year before, and she spent much of her time exercising (even had a little plastic surgery) to maintain the physical aspect of her character.”
It only develops from there. And, crucial to the tone of this piece, at no point is it ever thought that something odd is going on.
Happier Days by Jan Lars Jensen
Availability: print, e-book
Word count: 2,800
First published: Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #12 (e-book available here)
Where else to find it: The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, edited by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link, 2007, Del Rey / Ballantine