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 theÂ wall â€“ the internet, digital projectionâ€¦ my craft is going the way of the dodo bird. The plan is to gut my theatre and â€˜repurposeâ€™ the space. Theyâ€™ve already started removing some walls and putting up others. If only these walls could talk thereâ€™s no telling what secrets they might uncover. I started out in the business as a carpenterÂ â€”Â itâ€™s criminal how these kids leave their tools out all over my theatre.
Iâ€™ve been the private theatre projectionist for the studio for 45 years. Itâ€™s been a good run â€”Â Iâ€™ve seen great films, Iâ€™ve seen some real stinkers too. And all, months, or even years, before the public. Iâ€™ve seen how a little editing can change everything you see on that screen. But what Iâ€™ve seen on the screen doesnâ€™t come close to what Iâ€™ve seen from my projection booth in the back of my tiny theatre. Iâ€™ve seen politics, pleading, threats, deals, careers made and careers broken and even murderâ€¦
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 wasnâ€™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 Iâ€™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 easierâ€¦
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 didnâ€™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 notâ€¦ uhm how to put this delicatelyâ€¦ 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.
â€œWe are a dying breed you and I,â€ he said to me smiling.
â€œYes we are,â€ I replied.
â€œGone are the days when studio heads were like Gods,â€ he continued as if I hadnâ€™t spoken. â€œThe 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. Itâ€™s a sad state of affairs Joe.â€
In 45 years he had never once used my Christian name. I was taken aback and I looked at him.
He smiled, â€œWhat, you didnâ€™t think I knew your name? Someone I was so intimately involved with? What type of man would that make me?â€
â€œIâ€™m just a little surprised, thatâ€™s all,â€ I stammered.
â€œLife is full of surprises Joe. Like I know this is your last week. What are your plans for your future Joe? For next week,â€ he asked.
I was getting a little uncomfortable with his repeated use of my name. It just didnâ€™t seem right. â€œI was thinking I might travel a bit. See if the world really looks like what Iâ€™ve seen on that screen behind you.â€
Stepping around the carpenters table strewn with tools he turned his back to me and looked up at the blank white screen. â€œYes, weâ€™ve seen some things in here havenâ€™t we? Things that should stay in this room. Yes, Joe we are dinosaurs. A dying breed.â€
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 didnâ€™t kill him but heâ€™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 canâ€™t move or make a sound. I thought it was fittingâ€¦
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.