From 2017, a never-realized proposal for an Archie Comics one-shot:


“Everybody Goes To Pop’s” (40 Pages) by Paul Kupperberg

Riverdale, today: Late one Friday night, the gang’s jammed into a couple of booths in the otherwise empty Pop’s, hanging out at the end of a long week to complain. Jughead looks over at Pop, who’s behind the counter reading the paper, saying now there’s a content man, with the perfect life. He answers to himself and owns his own restaurant, etc. Pop keeps reading but he heard what Jughead said, and his response is bittersweet, bringing back memories.

Riverdale, in early-1960s. Things haven’t changed in town much since then, mostly the cars and fashions. Pops was, as it had been for decades, the gathering place for all the kids from RHS, in this case, the teenaged grandparents of the current crop (we’ll see the Gang and their parents at various ages throughout the story). And very young Terry Tate, known to everybody in town as “Junior,” because he’s Pop’s son. Even at eight, nine years old, his whole life centered around the Chocklit Shoppe; Terry’s the baby of the family by almost two decades, a late-in-life baby, and his mother dying shortly after his birth. His older siblings grew up and got out of town and away from the Shoppe, but Terry is stuck. He’s here before dawn to open before being sent off to school, and he comes back here after school to do his homework, then help out by busing tables and washing dishes, not getting home to bed until closing. Terry’s stuck in the Shoppe, watching his friends have lives, suffering a long, unrequited crush on a girl, Heather, as childhood passes him by.

Riverdale, 1972. Nothing has changed for Terry, except that the older he got, the more responsibility he took on, especially as Pop’s age starts catching up with him. The old man won’t slow down. He’s dedicated whole life to the Shoppe, just like his father taught him and he tries to teach Terry. But Terry hates it more than ever. He doesn’t even have friends anymore, not really, just classmates and customers. And he’s still got a crush on Heather. No time to date either, not that anyone wanted to go out with him anyway…he always smelled like French fries. But graduation is approaching and, without telling Pop, he’s applied to and been accepted at several colleges, winning scholarships. To soften the blow when he tells Pops, Terry even arranges for all the help the old man will need to run the store, but that makes it even worse for Pops. The Shoppe is for the family, not these strangers. Pop and Terry have a big argument anyway: Pop won’t let him go! Terry says you can’t stop me and goes…but he’s turned back by the college; Pop had called ahead and informed them that Terry had forged his name on the scholarship papers. Terry returns home, defeated. Pops insists it’s for Terry’s own good. He can take some classes at the community college if he wants to.

Fort Dix, New Jersey, 1973. Terry’s escaped…but only because he’s been drafted. But he doesn’t care! He’s free, he’s out of Riverdale, out of the Chocklit Shoppe, out on his own! He can even laugh at the irony of being assigned to the base kitchen because of his restaurant background. He’s making friends, he’s meeting girls, and even with the threat of Vietnam, which was winding down then, he’s happy. Until he’s called to the base commander’s office, where the Colonel and the Chaplain have some bad news for him. It’s his father…!

Riverdale, 1976. Terry celebrates the Bicentennial as usual: at the grill, cooking burgers and dogs for the town picnic. Pop had suffered a stroke while Terry was in the army and Terry eventually had to request a compassionate discharge to return home to take care of Pop and the Shoppe; his older siblings are all far away, with families of their own. The thought of getting back to work was the only thing that kept the old man going, and he made it, but Terry was stuck again. But his old crush Heather comes over and starts talking to him, after all these years asking why he never talked to her despite his obvious crush. He says because of this, the Shoppe. Is that all? she asks and grabs up an apron to join him at the grill. I love to cook; she says picking up a spatula. Pop looks on, at first, it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking, but then he breaks out in a big smile.

Riverdale, 1985. Pop is still going strong, opening the Shoppe with Terry every morning, and later in the morning, after dropping the kids off at school, Heather comes in and works until it’s time to pick them up again. It’s become a family business, the little ones running around after school, his peers coming in with their kids, every day so full, so busy, he doesn’t have time to think about anything but what’s next on his to-do list. An army buddy passes through town; the guy’s made it big in business, travels the world, but lives a great life and loves it. His stories make Terry wistful, starting him to thinking about his life again. He loves his wife and kids, but this place…he was a young man–he can’t imagine having to being trapped and having to look at these same four walls for the next thirty or forty years! He digs up a few-years-old community college catalog in the back; he’d taken a few courses when he first came home, but that sort of petered out. Maybe it’s time to get back to that!

Riverdale, 1995. Pop is getting older and slowing up. The kids are growing up and away from him, leaving Terry to become a bitter middle-aged man, his marriage neither happy or unhappy. Just…there. The townies get a chuckle out of “Junior’s” sourpuss routine and sharp tongue. Terry starts drinking.

Riverdale, 2005. Terry is pretty much left to run the Shoppe on his own. Pop is mid-80s and spends his days on a stool behind the counter, schmoozing with customers. The kids have grown up, neither wanting anything to do with the Shoppe. Terry won’t do to his kids what Pop did to him and lets them go. He’s a 50-year-old man everybody still calls Junior. He and Heather live practically separate lives. He’s an alcoholic. And, because he’s drunk, he doesn’t go with Heather and Pop to pick up the kids at the airport when they come home to visit for his 50th birthday. And that’s why he doesn’t die with them all in a highway crash.

Riverdale, 2005; one month later. Terry and his siblings gather for the reading of Pop’s will. Before they go into the lawyers, his older brother tells him Hiram Lodge have made a very generous offer for the Main Street property is on, plans to build a mall, modernize Riverdale. Terry is still in numbed shock, keeping himself in that state with alcohol. He shrugs. Nothing matters. The will leaves the Shoppe to Terry because as Pop wrote, he deserves it, having dedicated his life to the store; Pop knew Terry hated it, but he stayed anyway because he valued family and tradition and knew he would something to pass on his own children…! The will leaves the property the Shoppe’s on to the three siblings, with the stipulation that it can’t be sold as long as Terry keeps its doors open. Through his tears, Terry starts to laugh.

Later, Terry goes back to the Shoppe, the first time he’s been back since the accident. He goes inside, pulls out one of his hidden bottles, and sits down on his father’s stool behind the counter. He’s finally rid of this place. All it cost him was his entire life. He pours a drink, but before he can get it down, the door inches open and Little Jughead and Archie peek in, making awkward hellos. Terry ditches the drink and dries his eyes, fumbling his own hello. They come shyly in, offering their little kid’s condolences, how much they’re going to miss Pop, etc. Jughead hops up on a stool, saying after Pops and Mrs. Tate, he was gonna miss Pop’s burgers the most! Er…did Pops by any chance ever teach him how to make those burgers? As they talk, more kids drift in, then a few adults. Terry is taken aback; he tries to tell them he’s not open, that there’s nothing to eat or drink in the place, but more and more people are coming in, delighted to see him back, everyone hoping he’d open again, and it quickly turns into a communal memorial service for Pop and Heather and the kids…and a tribute to Terry, “Junior,” the new heart of Riverdale. In all the time he’d been here, he never realized that all these wonderful people had cared for him all along. He’d been so blinded by his own misery, he never stopped to look at what he had to be happy for. But now that he’s lost so much, can he ever hope to find his way to happiness? But before Terry can say anything, Jughead and Archie come over to hug him, Jughead the first one to call Terry “Pops” …as the whole town roars its approval and he breaks down, for the first time in his life wondering how he could have ever wanted to run away from this?!

Riverdale, today: Pop brings Jughead his new order of burgers, Jughead expressing his appreciation of Pop’s culinary technique, saying his burgers are even better than Pop’s fathers were. Pop smiles. Nobody makes a burger like my old man, Pop says, not even me. Jughead and the others say they’re still glad he’s the one making burgers for them. Riverdale wouldn’t be Riverdale without him. Pop smiles and says, Believe me, kids, it’s the other way around; I wouldn’t be me without Riverdale…and all of you. He winks and says tonight’s chow is on the house and walks away, Jughead shouting after him to ask if there’s time to get in one more order on that…!

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