Part 2 – The Big Screen
“Can you roll the damn window up? My eyeballs are about to be blasted out of my head,”Phil said peevishly, holding tight to my jacket.
“Sorry,” I replied, cranking the handle. The window inched way closed, and I reluctantly turned on the air conditioning.
“What do you want to do today I inquired, as Phil groomed himself.
Sundays were the worst day at the lakefront. Everybody and his brother congregated like it was a giant gospel revival. I for one wanted no part of their unruly children.
“What about a movie?” I inquired.
Phil stopped and turned to look at me.
“A movie? In a real theater?: He sighed, “Bette Davis, Cary Grant, and all the popcorn and Coke you could ever want.”
“How do you know about the movies?” I’m sure the look on my face was one of disbelief.
Phil looked at me and replied with his usual dose of sarcasm. “I thought a professor would have more going for him, but I guess I was wrong. My Uncle Wilbut told me about the movies. When the rest of the family was gorging on Coke, popcorn and candy, Wilbur was watching the silver screen.”
It was the first time I had seen Phil smile. My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know more. Perhaps I was stupid. Phil had sure opened my eyes to a whole new realm of reality.
“And,” I asked.
Phil’s look turned hostile. “Must you always know the whole story? Do you think I’m Paul Harvey?”
“It’s just that I never imagined….” I let it drop before I put my foot in my mouth again.
Phil glared at me, his lips pressed tightly together.
“Who is your favorite?” I tried shifting the subject.
“Bette Davis. Now, there’s a lady I could match with. All about Eve has to be the greatest film eer made,” Phil said emphatically.
I could have argued the point but thought better of it. Phil had a right to his own opinion. Did I just say that about a roach?
“Are we on for a movie?”
“You bet ya!”
“So what happened to Uncle Wilbur?” I couldn’t help but ask.
Phil shook his head sadly, and I could have sworn I saw tears in his big roach eyes. “An Affair to Remember was playing…. Debra Kerr and Cary Grant had just kissed when Uncle Wilbur got stuck in a pool of gummy coke, when Splat! Before he could escape a giant size eleven made mincemeat out of him.” Phil sniffed. “Mother relayed the whole horrid story. At least Uncle Wilbur died in a place he loved.”
I drove towards the Prytania Theater, snubbing the big chain theaters which had efficiently strangled every independent show place. It was a nostalgic journey and a little prophetic. An Affair to Remember was playing, and I couldn’t, and I couldn’t help but think of Phil’s Uncle Wilbur.
Phil slipped into my pocket as I parked the car along Prytania Street. Five other people stood in line as I bought a ticket and followed the few old-timers inside. The smell of the popcorn made my mouth water, and I bought the biggest bag they had, with a large Coke and found a seat to settle in. Phil peeked out and sighed.
“i never imagined I’d ever get to see a film on the big screen.” His voice cracked.
“Well, I’m glad to have the chance to help you live your dream,” I said through a mouth filled with popcorn.
A few people drifted in, and the lady who sat in front of us had teased, bubble hair that looked like a throw back to the sixties.
“My God,” Phil exclaimed, “I’ll never be able to see.”
“Shhh….” I urged, feeling my face grow red as the heavyset woman turned and glared at me.
“We’ll just move over one seat,” I whispered.
Phil and I had just settled back down when the movie began to roll. Instantly, the rattling of popcorn bags stopped as the audience became enthralled in the story. I was a hopeless romantic and savored seeing one of my all-time favorites on the silver screen.
“Damn, Deborah Kerr ‘s a real babe,”Phil said as she jumped into the pool.
I had to agree with him. If I had a quarter of Cary’s charm and looks, I could have gone far, perhaps even have won the lady of my dreams. But I was destined like the rest of the populace to mediocrity.
“Makes me think of Fifi and all I lost to that conniving bitch.” Phil was indignant, his voice growing louder.
“Phil, not now. Watch the movie.” I tried to smooth things over.
“How can I be quiet? That heartless little tramp stole my heart, and watching this brings back all those painful memories. Thanks, Peter.”
“But I….” I was at a loss.
“Could you be quiet?” the big woman demanded. “If this keeps up I’ll speak to the usher and have you removed.”
“Yeah, well, it would take a crane to move you, lady,” I heard Phil say.
“What!” Her face turned the color of a radish. Even in the dim light the crimson was obvious.
“It wasn’t me,” I stammered, as felt my face turn as red as hers.
“I’m supposed to believe that? What are you, a ventriloquist? Perhaps a split personality? Either way you’re annoying. There’s no one behind me but you!” Her voice shook with anger. “What mental ward were you discharged from?” She smiled at my discomfort and seemed to enjoy her remark.
“No, lady, he’s not crazy, but I can make you believe you are.” With that Phil flew out of my pocket, launching himself towards the startled woman.
“ROACH!” she screamed at the top of her lungs and swung at Phil with her purse. Phil was too practiced to be taken out that way. Like a kamikaze pilot he dive-bombed into the pronounced cleavage of her low-hung dress.
Her scream pierced the rafters and my ears as well. I expected at any moment plaster would fall as she lurched towards the aisle, dancing like a madcap puppet. Above it all I could hear Phil’s laughter as he dropped to the floor and hurried back towards me. Pretending to pick up my Coke, I watched as Phil climbed into my pocket, safe once more.
“Another bitch put in her place,” he remarked. “What a great Sunday afternoon!”
I watched the lady head up the aisle still doing that strange jig. I actually felt sorry for her. She had no idea who or what she was dealing with.
“Can we do this again next week? I haven’t had this much fun since I took on some know-it-all women in Disney World. Scared the hell out of them! Nothing puts the vim back into ya like a little mischief.”
“We’ll see,” I replied. I was beginning to realize that my life had taken a dive into the Twilight Zone, and I wasn’t sure I was ready. Where was my flask when I needed it the most? I thought about that for a moment and headed to the nearest exit.
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