Story by Liam Slade // Originally Posted Aug 23, 2023
Just a few highlights of life in the town of Ridgefield by a local resident, Henry Cooper:
“After I got out of the service, my wife Debbie Sue and I were looking to settle down and raise a
family of our own, and what place could have been better than the town where we grew up, Ridgefield? Debbie Sue and I had been sweethearts since high school where I was the prom king
For the love of God someone please help me!
and she was my queen. I was, of course, the star quarterback and she was the head cheerleader. I knew I loved her from the very first time I saw her in the hallway in Freshman Year at Ridgefield
I don’t know how to explain this but here goes. My name is Evan Kidder and I’m trapped in a
High, her long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and her perky round cheeks looking rosy and sweet. I knew she was the girl for me right then and there.
bizarre town called Ridgefield. My four friends and I — Don, Tamir, and Faye — were out for a
Of course, I was shy, even though some may have considered me the “big man of campus.” Something about a girl that pretty just turned my insides gooier than ma’s Jell-O Surprise. I had
drive one night and I guess we had had a bit too much to drink because we got pulled over by
to wait a long time before I had the courage to ask her out. That didn’t happen until Junior Year. I thought maybe by then she would have had a steady or two, but no, it turned out she was
some local cops who said we were over the limit for alcohol and causing a public danger, as well as violating
waiting for the right guy, which turned out to be me. When I asked her to the sock hop and she said “yes” I was so darn happy I could have flown to the moon.
noise restrictions. I didn’t realize we had crossed over into this town’s limits. I didn’t even know the
From that time on, we were inseparable, always walking down the hallways hand in hand,
town of Ridgefield existed, I had never heard of it. But he took us in. The whole place was like a freaky
canoodling at all the big dances. We were the toast of the town. But after graduation I went to
experiment, like a theme park version of Anytown USA, with freshly-built midcentury-looking houses
Boot Camp. On the day before I left I got down on one knee and proposed with a ring out of a
and American Flags on every lawn. It was so strange but I had no idea how strange it got. We were brought
Cracker Jack box, the only thing I could afford. Of course she said she’d marry me even if I
in front of the Magistrate and sentenced to “life.” I was appalled at this miscarriage of justice but then I realized “Life in Ridgefield”
proposed with an onion ring. But that all had to wait until I came back. Well, I did my tour of
meant something different from life in prison… but not that different. When he banged his gavel we all
duty, as uneventful as it was, and we came back to Ridgefield and bought ourselves a nice big four-bedroom house on Goldfinch Avenue
began to change. I grew older and paunchier, like a dad. I watched as Don and Faye shrunk. Don’s hair curled into little blonde ringlets
with a porch swing and a nice shady oak tree in the front yard. My ma and pa were there to help us move in but mostly to bring the casserole for our first meal.
and Faye’s shrunk back into her head as a little boy’s short cropped cut. Don’s jeans became a little pleated skirt and knee-socks, his shoes became shiny Mary Janes,
Nine months later, little Brian was born, a chip off the old block, and a year after that, little Suzie,
while Faye’s crop top became a tee shirt and her short shorts became schoolboy shorts. Tamir’s chocolate brown skin had become pale white, his muscular arms shriveled into the petite proportions of a lady,
the apple of my eye. Some of the best memories of my life have been watching them play in that front yard, giving them piggyback rides down to the corner store,
his sweatshirt filling out into a dress as his waist narrowed and his hips widened. I saw an expression of horror on his face as he watched his transformation, but the expression turned to
teaching them how to ride bikes and seeing them playing hopscotch and tiddlywinks in the
blank acceptance. Before I knew it he was calling himself “Debbie Sue” and me “Henry.” We were supposedly married and the people who were our kids friends were our kids! I couldn’t understand.
driveway while they wait for me to get home from my job at the tire factory. Usually when I get
This place is a nightmare that never ends. We’re forced to play happy family but nothing feels real. Everyone I talk to is like a mannequin. Nothing happens here.
home there’s dinner on the table and a pie cooling on the window sill. Ridgefield is just a great
Everything is so clean and bland and oppressive. “Debbie Sue” and I even sleep in separate beds. I can’t escape and if I try to talk to anyone my words come out gabled and I just say whatever Henry would say. I used to think
kind of town where nothing bad happens and everybody knows everybody and things just work
I was the lucky one because I was the only one who remembered our true selves but in fact I’m cursed with knowledge of the outside world.
without the interference of fancy new technologies and ideas that are ruining the rest of the
But I can feel that changing. The “Henry” persona is taking me over and soon I will just be another resident of Ridgefield. Someone please… help.
world. Life is perfect here and a guy could hardly ask for more.”
Oh God I think I’m losing it…
Copyright 2022 Liam Slade, all rights reserved. To be reprinted only with permission of the author. With regards and thanks to “The Professor.”