Nathan arrived home at the usual time and changed into sweats. Aside from being wet from the drizzle outside and the humdrum of the office, it was not a bad day. Sounds emanated from the television in the living room as he came downstairs from the bedroom. He peeked in.
"Where's your mother?" he asked his daughter, Jessie.
"At Aunt Carla's. Book club or something, remember?" she said, without looking away from the screen.
He went into the kitchen and found a mostly bare refrigerator. An orange. A carton of milk. Half of an apple pie. A few condiments. There was plenty in the freezer, but he was too hungry to thaw anything. "Did you eat yet?" he called from the kitchen.
"Yeah. Angela's mom made mac and cheese."
He rummaged through the pantry. There must be something there he could eat. The television emitted excited noises from the other room.
"What are you watching?"
"Some car chase. They say it's happening right now."
Nathan listened from the kitchen as he settled on a can of tuna fish scavenged from the pantry. A reporter was speaking while he brought out the mayo and bread to make a sandwich.
"...that's right Dan," said the reporter over the din of rotating blades, "We're here in the WXTV helicopter, your Eye in the Sky, above the scene as it's unfolding. An unidentified man has stolen the Ford Mustang you see here on the screen and is now involved in a dangerous chase with police on this busy stretch of highway. We can see two cruisers trying to pull up to him, but the Mustang keeps cutting them off. He's going extremely fast, probably exceeding 100 miles per hour. The other cars on the highway look stationary in comparison. Let's just hope this all comes to a safe--Oh wow--"
The reporter in the helicopter went on to describe in detail the near collision the Mustang had with a tractor trailer as it tried to evade the police once again. Nathan finished making the sandwich as the man chattered excitedly on, his voice climaxing to a crescendo by the time he was done putting away the mayonnaise and bread.
"Sweetheart, can you turn that down?" he asked, but heard no answer over the volume and the reporter sounded like he was about to burst a blood vessel.
"--there is no way he can maintain these speeds off the highway like this. Even the police are having a hard time just keeping close to him without adding any more danger to the situation. JESUS CHR--"
Nathan placed the sandwich on a plate on the kitchen table and entered the living room. He tapped his daughter on the shoulder. "I think I'm going deaf," he said.
"Oh. Sorry." Jessie momentarily unglued her eyes from the television and turned it down. "You should've seen it dad! The guy almost ran someone over in a supermarket parking lot! He knocked the grocery cart across the entire street. There was stuff everywhere!"
Nathan saw the car fishtail taking a perilous turn onto a small residential street. Something was bothering him, and it took him a second to realize that the corner store of that street looked familiar. As the helicopter's camera followed the Mustang down the street, he spotted some other things that looked awfully familiar, including a house with black shutters and a blue Toyota Camry in the driveway.
"--coming down this narrow street. He better watch out for those puddles," continued the muted reporter. "One misstep and he can spin out of control, hydroplaning into--"
Jessie squinted at the screen. "Isn't that our--"
Then came a shattering crash from the kitchen. Father and daughter raced into the kitchen to find a fire-red Ford Mustang crumpled inside their house after obliterating the wall that faced the street. Debris was strewn everywhere, including the groaning driver, who was thrown through the windshield and across the room directly onto the kitchen table, where the tuna sandwich had been.
"Now what am I going to eat?" was all Nathan managed to say.
The Silver Screen
Sophie huddled close and grabbed my hand with her small mitten-covered fingers. The sun had risen only an hour ago and it had yet to warm up. Winter was being stubborn, refusing to let go. I bent down and fixed her hat which was coming off.
"Is this where grandpa is?" she asked.
"Maybe," I said. "We'll find out."
I stared up at the blank marquee of the
"Come on." I grabbed her hand and we walked past the empty ticket seller's booth.
The heavy wooden doors at the entrance were ajar and groaned when I pushed on them. They had never changed the locks; he must have used his old key. Inside, the lobby was unchanged for the most part from when the theater first opened. It was just as I remembered from many years ago, before I grew up, before I moved away and started a family of my own. An old, matted auburn carpet welcomed us and the concession stand that used to house sweets under its glass case lay bare. Everything was like it was--with a layer of dust.
"Dad?" I called out.
"Grandpa?" Sophie tried to be helpful.
There was no response. I walked up to the swinging saloon type doors that led into the theater and gave them a shove. Sunlight sneaked its way through the high windows in the lobby and filtered into the aisles as the doors swayed open and shut.
"Quiet," said a familiar voice in the darkness. "The movie is about to begin."
Sophie clung to me and grabbed at the folds in my jacket as we felt our way around in the dark. Ten rows of seats were illuminated for a couple of seconds each time the swinging doors opened and let in some light. At last, I saw a bald head peering inches above a headrest in a middle row.
We walked over and sat next to the sole audience member.
"Dad, it's time to go home."
"After the movie," he replied.
I didn't know what to say, so I didn't. The Alzheimer's was worse, even more than when we had come for Christmas. His memory came and went, like the unpredictability of this spring chill. He was seventy seven, to the day.
My father worked at the Mason for thirty eight years and had loved every year of it. He loved giving people a good night of entertainment, the sound of laughter in a crowded theater, and watching movie stars come to life up on the screen. Being his son, it was a love I had come to share with him.
"Up there on that silver screen," he said to no one in particular, "the greats honed their craft. Using nothing more, they made people laugh, cry, gasp, and even love. It's the beauty of cinema."
I looked up at the front of the theater, and of course, there was no screen, only darkness.
"What screen, grandpa?" asked Sophie.
And just like that--whether it was from his granddaughter's voice or the realization that there was indeed no screen--the switch in his head clicked back on.
"Oh Sophie! It's so good to see you, my little sugarplum. How are you Daniel?"
"Good, Dad," I said. "How about we get going, huh?"
I gave him my coat because he had forgotten his. He held it close to his body and took one last look at an imaginary screen before I placed my hand on his shoulder and led him out.
As we walked out with Sophie skipping along behind us, my father turned and looked at the ticket seller's booth. "Your mother used to work in there you know, selling tickets. They were fifty cents."
"Wow, that's really something," I said, pretending I was hearing it for the first time. "Let's head home. Mom's waiting."
"I made you a card Grandpa!" Sophie said.
"Well isn't that nice," remarked the old man.
BIO: MATT MOK was born and raised in
MOTIVATION: I was trying to create a story based on a few guidelines. It was supposed to take place on a cold morning, and it was to involve three people in a theater. I tried to evoke a sentimental feel that flowed well.