“I can’t find the index to this dictionary.”
- Chuck Cunningham, Finding Chuck
I’ve decided to relocate this story in El Cajon, Californa. Not El Centro as I said earlier. I would have to do some research about that town. Screw that. They live in El Cajon, the kind of place that’s close enough to the city of San Diego that when people from farther than Lakeside ask them where they’re from, they say San Diego.
Here are some of the main characters.
Darleen, aka Mrs. Chuck Cunningham
In the pilot episode we have Young Darleen. In 1995 we have Older Darlene. Both are sexy, limber and have a mouth on ‘em. We might want to consider that bipolar actress chosen to play Old Darleen in the Pilot present color Episode will already have her agent negotiating for her to play a new character or Orange is the New Black by the time the pilot goes viral. Darleen is just a big younger and sexier than you might expect from someone who hasn’t had any work done. She is somebody who knows how to leave a hole in a conversation that the other person will frequently fill with unintended disclosures. She rarely speaks more than one sentence at a time, and often in the role of straight man, interrogator, or somebody who seems to give a shit. As an unnamed ghost character from Happy Days she begins as a rather translucent character who is a convicted felon running a law firm and declining the advances of her former probation officer who is the junior partner in the law firm and who she actually has to teach to do his job. Darleen becomes more solid as Chuck finds himself. He finds Darleen too.
Ricki and Johnny Sonic Rocket Cunningham, aka Chuck and Darleen’s Kids
“Little” Ricki is a gleam in Chuck’s eye in 1955. She is 39 in 1995. She and Darleen are close despite the fact that Darleen spent Ricki’s 13th and 14th birthday in prison. They spent some time together while Chuck was in rehab or therapy, or otherwise missing in action. Becoming a teenager while you mom is in jail and your dad is in a coma from either a failed suicide attempt or from the unfortunate conjunction of too many White Russians and an empty freight train can leave some scars. Ricki spent about 3 years in three different foster homes. She has some issues including anger management, ODD, and inconsistent fashion sense. Oddly, Ricki has excellent decision-making skills and a survival instinct that makes Superman seem suicidal.
Ricki is the single mother of Fidel Cunningham, Chuck and Darleen’s single grandson. He is 19 years old and he sells weed to his friends, and some rather unexpected characters from the original Happy Days cast that Fidel’s family has no idea he has ever even met.
Ricki’s brother Johnny Sonic Rocket Cunningham is a ghost character. We’re sure he’s younger than his sister, but don't know their age difference or their relationship. We hear a barely audible mumble on the other end of a telephone sometimes. Although his name is explained in the episode we introduce him, we also understand that his family and friends refer to him as Rock. To Chuck, who doesn't get that Rock is short for Rocket that's short for Johnny Sonic Rocket, even Rock's name is part of the ongoing mystery trope of something missing that echoes and foreshadows Chuck’s incomplete history. We do know from indirect references to him in some episodes that Rock is Gen X latch key child who had no concept of privacy even before the internet was ubiquitous. Maybe we should create a FB page for Rock and make his presence known only by reference to posts. Wait. Do we need to make it a My Space account?
Will Chuck’s children and grandson escape the seductions of forgetting their shared past in a world with such a bleak future, or will they represent redemption? Will Chuck be the pivotal character that – wittingly or not - influences them in whatever direction they take?