“Movie, the Story.”
*Now on DVD (with deleted scenes and special features)*
The movie is about to begin. You know this for several reasons. One, the commercials have become more desperate. Two, you have finished your popcorn and Milk Duds. Three, the coughing man has finally arrived; he is resplendent in stained Dockers and a 49ers sweatshirt. You hear the upholstery sigh as he sinks into the seat behind you. You stare at the lights in the ceiling. They are meant to look like stars, and they twinkle as your eyes fade in and out. The song they are playing is an instrumental amalgam of vapid pop tunes you have always hated. You are afraid for a second that straps will come out of the chair, restraining you. That your eyelids will be forced open. Don’t worry. It’s not that kind of story.
There is a girl in the front of the theatre who looks like your ex-girlfriend. Or, rather, she looks like your ex-girlfriend when she turns one way and like Iggy Pop when she turns the other. This forces you to wonder if your ex-girlfriend looked like Iggy Pop. Wisely, you direct your mind to other matters.
The floor in this theatre is particularly sticky. It makes you think of things you would rather not. Damp, clammy things. Things that happen in alleys and bus stations. You wonder if bedbugs can live in movie theatres. The newspaper and the internet have taught you too much about bedbugs lately. You know that they crave two things…darkness and humanity. Here they have at least one…most of the time.
Your neck is itching now, but the syringe stuck in the seat crack has probably already given you AIDS. So, you’re screwed. Get over it.
The stupid dancing soda and the stupid dancing popcorn waltz across the torn screen. They seem vaguely racist. You are momentarily offended, but soon this feeling passes. It is replaced by the desperate need to go to the bathroom. The bourbon you drank in the parking lot is trying to complete its journey. You cross your sweaty thighs.
The trailers have started. You feel like your brain is being raped, assaulted by the flashing repetition of explosions and explosive, overly white smiles. You will never see any of these movies. This will not be a loss. The coughing man sneezes and you feel the spit and phlegm spray the back of your neck. You shudder and make a mental note not to let your head touch the car’s headrest on the way home. You hate yourself with a sudden vehemence. You want to stand and confront the man. You want to smash his nose into pieces. You are too meek to even change seats. He coughs again and you hate him more than you have ever hated anyone in your life, yourself included.
Shhhhh! You hear it from all around you. You have the desire to shout something. A kid in the back makes a loud farting noise. You are ashamed, not of your furtive lust for sophomoric pranks, but because you are too cowardly to act them out. Shhhhh! Your brain doesn’t listen. But you force yourself to focus. The movie is starting.
There is a tall, blonde woman. She is a department store mannequin come to life. She appears wooden. And yet she moves. The magic of cinema. The blonde woman is angry because her husband has cheated on her. Her husband isTHE VILLAIN. He has salt and pepper hair. A cleft chin. He is good looking, but he has shifty eyes. The blonde is stupid, but she is stupid in a naïve, mid-western way. You should feel sorry for her, but you don’t. She is beautiful and rich, not a fat, ugly bastard like you.
You hear something rolling down the sloped floor from the back of the theatre. It hits your ankle. You look down at an empty forty bottle. It makes you think about the bathroom again. Luckily you are immediately distracted by more spittle hitting your neck. You feel the tendons in your jaw throb. There is a pain in your chest. Maybe you are having a heart attack? You hope so. Maybe the cougher will feel bad. Maybe the girl who looks like Iggy Pop will give you mouth-to-mouth. Do you want that? You do, don’t you.
THE VILLAIN and THE VICTIM are arguing again. They are throwing plates. There is a scared child in the corner, hiding like a wounded animal. You momentarily feel bad for the child. Then you remember that the child is rich. The fear is false. You cry anyway because it strikes a chord. You cry silently and hope that no one notices.
There is a cell phone going off somewhere behind you. It continues to ring. Apparently someone is unaware that their pocket is playing ‘Hit Me Baby, One More Time’. You stop crying. You gag. The song stops.
The movie is halfway over and you still don’t hate THE VILLIAN. You still don’t feel sorry for THE VICTIM. There is a subplot involving their respective childhoods. You have trouble following it and blame it on the bourbon.
You sit up and realize that the theatre is empty. You wonder how long the movie has been over. You wonder what happened with the blonde. Did she get naked? If not, then why not?
You stumble into the parking lot, the lights surreal in their humming brilliance. Your car is the only one left. It is a ’91 Toyota with no bumper. You turn the key in the door. You turn the key in the ignition. You turn your keys when you get to your apartment: deadbolt, deadbolt, doorknob. The apartment is still a mess. It is still empty. You find an old Iggy Pop record and get out the photo album. You wake up with a wicked hangover and the record’s label scratching against the needle. You think about last night. About the movie. You can’t remember anything the preview hadn’t shown you weeks ago. You wonder what you will tell your coworkers on Monday. They will ask what you did over the weekend. You will say that you saw the new movie. They will ask how it was. You will say that it was pedestrian at best and realize as soon as you say it that this is the reason everyone hates you.
I always wanted to write a story about a DVD of a fake movie. Fake movies are important. Art is important. Being an artist is important. I am important because I am an artist, and this story is important because I wrote it. A lot of work went into it. A lot of heart. I’ve got to tell you…there were a lot of late nights. A lot of creative differences. Drunken fights and tearful explanations. My impotence is genetic…they always try to blame it on the liquor. It’s hard for me to speak about my own work. It’s hard because I understand that my work will be misunderstood, but that I must stand by it. I am crushed by the awareness that the words I craft will scatter like so many pebbles against the ignorant window of your mind. Sometimes I am forced to take stock. To tap into the ether, to find my muse and berate her into giving me the good stuff. John Updike had his time in the sun, I say, now it’s my turn. Sometimes she listens. Most of the time she is a selfish bitch. It’s hard to find a good muse these days. But you want me to talk about this story in particular? OK, fine. This project made me a better man. It is my hope that it will also make the world a better place and, really, how could it not? Sometimes I think of the starving children all around the world and what this story about a fake movie will mean to them. I picture their smiling faces above the distended bellies and I realize that it was all worth it after all. There are a lot of people to thank, of course. First, I’d like to thank the folks that made the paper this was printed on. I’d like to thank Jim Beam for being almost as good as Jack Daniels at half the price. I’d like to thank my family, all except for Uncle Titus. And of course Apple Computers, for the laptop the story was written on and for all the free things they will be sending me in the future. The fingers deserve their share of the credit, as does the brain. Both cramped up a bit at times. But they sucked it up. They went the full mile. They were integral in helping this project gel. They were devoted to the whole concept…they are well aware of the importance of making art about fake movies. It was a group effort. I couldn’t have done this by myself. And I don’t just say that because of my charming humility. I say it because fake movies are magic, and it takes a lot of people to make the fake magic happen. It also takes work to read. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried to read whole books on several occasions and fuck if those things aren’t LONG. And so, I also thank you, the reader. You want to know what question interviewers ask me the most? What an insightful question. The answer is that it varies. I do get asked what question I get asked the most quite often, but if I had to pick the most popular I would go with this: ‘JD, what’s it like being an incredibly well-respected, major short story writer who still stays true to his indie roots?’ Usually there is a sheepish grin that accompanies the question. I blow it out of the water with my million dollar smile. ‘It’s awesome,’ I tell them. Then I get drunk on $200 wine and fuck a supermodel.
(click for deleted scenes)
You ask for the large tub of popcorn and the girl behind the counter smirks. She is young and looks like a cheerleader with acne. She puts extra butter on. You wanted to ask, but were ashamed. Now you are ashamed that she just assumed.
(coughing guy showdown)
The man coughs again and you slowly push yourself up out of your chair. “Listen motherfucker,” you say, “I’ve had about enough.” He begins to quiver with fear. You are tempted to spare him, but this is no time for charity. You pick up a pitchfork and impale him with it.
(Iggy Pop makeout session)
The movie has ended. The theatre is empty. You start to stand up, but feel a hand on your shoulder. You turn. It is the girl. She looks less like Iggy Pop close up. You take a step back and she moves with you. She lets her shirt fall open revealing pale cleavage and a Misfits tattoo and soon you are intertwined. The sex is incredible. For once no one is left crying and disappointed. You will have popcorn in your hair for days.