Second runner-up in our Hallowe’en short story contest
By Richard Grebow
This is my last week; I am a dinosaur, a dying breed. I can see the writing on the wall – the internet, digital projection… my craft is going the way of the dodo bird. The plan is to gut my theatre and ‘repurpose’ the space. They’ve already started removing some walls and putting up others. If only these walls could talk there’s no telling what secrets they might uncover. I started out in the business as a carpenter — it’s criminal how these kids leave their tools out all over my theatre.
I’ve been the private theatre projectionist for the studio for 45 years. It’s been a good run — I’ve seen great films, I’ve seen some real stinkers too. And all, months, or even years, before the public. I’ve seen how a little editing can change everything you see on that screen. But what I’ve seen on the screen doesn’t come close to what I’ve seen from my projection booth in the back of my tiny theatre. I’ve seen politics, pleading, threats, deals, careers made and careers broken and even murder…
The first time Jack Brothers was only a producer. He used to bring women in to impress them. Most were suitably impressed and their clothes literally fell off. Good thing it is a sound proof theatre. This one wanted no part of him and when she tried to leave he got a little heavy handed with her. Well one thing led to another and when he was through hitting her she wasn’t going to go anywhere, ever. Maybe I felt sorry for him, maybe it was to keep my job in tough times, but when he asked for help I rationalized it and told him I’d take care of it.
Soon thereafter I started receiving weekly checks from his private bank account.
The second time it happened he was head of production and having what I suppose they call rough sex with some hooker. He swore it was an accident and after all it was only a hooker, and besides I was already an accomplice, so I entombed her body with first one. It was getting easier…
The third one was the worst. He was head of the studio by then. There was a young actress named Anna Corona. I had liked her the few times we had spoken; she didn’t treat me like one of the extras on a set. As the head of the studio he had the power to bury her film so it never saw the light of day if she did not… uhm how to put this delicately… shower him with favors. When she spat in his face I knew there would be trouble. By the time I ran from the booth it was too late to pry his fingers from her thin dead neck.
It happened once more after that. I watched. I knew it would happen from the moment he walked her into the theatre. I watched. Fascinated. Like a movie within a movie. Unfolding in front of me.
Last night Jack came to see me for the last time. He was alone.
“We are a dying breed you and I,” he said to me smiling.
“Yes we are,” I replied.
“Gone are the days when studio heads were like Gods,” he continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “The studios are all part of some International conglomerate now. The studio heads are just glorified bookkeepers. Soon, within our lifetimes, there will be no more film projection, period. It’s a sad state of affairs Joe.”
In 45 years he had never once used my Christian name. I was taken aback and I looked at him.
He smiled, “What, you didn’t think I knew your name? Someone I was so intimately involved with? What type of man would that make me?”
“I’m just a little surprised, that’s all,” I stammered.
“Life is full of surprises Joe. Like I know this is your last week. What are your plans for your future Joe? For next week,” he asked.
I was getting a little uncomfortable with his repeated use of my name. It just didn’t seem right. “I was thinking I might travel a bit. See if the world really looks like what I’ve seen on that screen behind you.”
Stepping around the carpenters table strewn with tools he turned his back to me and looked up at the blank white screen. “Yes, we’ve seen some things in here haven’t we? Things that should stay in this room. Yes, Joe we are dinosaurs. A dying breed.”
As he turned to me I saw the little pistol in his hand. I pushed him hard against the table and both he and the table went down in a clatter of tools and dust. Before he could dislodge his gun hand from under him I was on him. I picked up a fallen hammer and hit him once on the side of the head. It didn’t kill him but he’d have a heck of a headache when he woke up.
And wake up he would.
In the wall, right next to Anna. I crazy glued his eyes open and his mouth shut. I put a little light in there so he could see his girlfriends as he slowly joined them. Even though the room is sound proof he can’t move or make a sound. I thought it was fitting…
The fear in his eyes as I closed the wall around him was palpable.
Maybe I am a dinosaur. I still use a CD player, not an ipod. I put on my headphones and walked out of my theatre for the last time.
Richard Grebow has previously had work published in The Rusty Nail.