More writing by Bruce Taylor

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by Bruce Taylor

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Alex, his parents and sister, sit in the back of the dark theatre in the lounge chairs. They are fighting again. Alex glances to the screen but it hasn't changed. It is dark blue, and familiar constellations are on the screen: Cassiopeia, The Big Dipper, the Southern Cross. Alex wonders if this is going to be a foreign film He glances to his father-a tall man, big boned, big jowled and his gray hair is crewcut. His nose is off side a bit, broken from a scuffle while waiting in line for an earlier movie. He's gesturing to Alex's mother, a stout lady whose jaw line is firm as grainte. Her black hair is curly and cut close and she doesn't say anything.

"I toldya, ya shoulda bought the tickets first -" he says, "we almost didn't make it to this show because of that dumb mistake."

"We got in, didn't we?" says Alex's mother, finally. "So, what's your problem?"

"Yeah,"Alex says. He's sitting between his mother and father. "Yeah, what's the big deal here?"

"Lissen," his father says, leaning real close to Alex, "you keep outta this."

Missa, Alex's sister, sits on the right of Alex's mother. She looks like her mother, that firm face, those eyes staring ahead, watching the movie screen and the tranquility of it and the never changing constellations.

Down in the front, a family has started to sing and they abruptly go off key and laugh. In another part of the theatre, someone is crying then sobbing hysterically. But Alex pays little attention to that. "You're always picking on mom," he says, "why don't you leave her alone?"

"Listen buster, you keep outta this. This is between me and my wife, your mother, you got that twerp?"

Just then, Alex's grandfather , sitting in the row ahead, turns around. "You don't call Alex a twerp. You've been petty all your life. Why don't you just shut up and watch the screen?"

And Alex's father explodes. "What is this? Pick on daddy day? She made a mistake and how can I watch the screen when I'm upset? You want I should sit on my anger like on a turd all evening?"

Missa laughs and Alex's mother turns, seething. "I'll not have you use that language in public at this theatre."

"Oh, Jee-zuz Christ you dumb bitch-"

Someone in the back row throws popcorn on Alex's father. "Sexist pig!" someone whispers.

"Hey, looky there," says someone down front, "boy, ain't that a scene?"

Alex looks around but can't tell what the person is referring to. The screen remains unchanged as do the constellations.

"God damnit. Who threw popcorn?" Alex's father turns around in his set and glares into the darkness.

Someone else whispers in the back, "Turn around bozo and quit being such an asshole."

Alex's father stands, turns around again and yanks up a frail old woman with round glasses and black veil by the arm, he then stares. "Oh," he says, "sorry sister."

"Jesus be good to you," she says. "Young man, " she continues, "you must learn to control that temper."

"Fuck you, sister."

Alex shoves his father down in the seat. "Jesus Christ, dad, are you nuts?"

Down front, there is hysterical laughter which changes to a sob.

"Don't you God damn shove me, you little asshole." And Alex's father shoves back.

"Oh," says the mother, "can't we just watch the show? It's always like this. All this fighting. Can't we stop the fighting?"

"Hey," says Alex's father, "I grew up in the front row. I fought all my life. I fought for the seats, the place in the ticket line. You gotta fight to survive, gotta be tough. This movie house here don't do nobody no favors, got it? No favors no way." He folds his arms across his chest in the darkness, obviously self-righteous. Finally he says, "Oh, hell, who wants popcorn?"

But everyone is angry at him and nobody says anything. "Oh, hell," he says, "the Silent Treatment. I'm supposed to feel shitty now, huh?"

He gets up and goes for the popcorn. In the middle of the theatre, another argument breaks out, this time, between kids. It turns into a fight and The Management comes flapping down the aisles whispering urgently, "Shush, we can't have this fighting. You can argue all you want but you can't fight like this. Not in this theatre and since this is the only theatre there is, we can't have fights."

"Bullshit!" someone yells. "people fight all the time here. Always have. Always will. You know, It. Take your flashlight and stick it up your ass."

Alex's dad returns with a big bowl of popcorn. For himself. "Greedy son of a bitch," says Alex, "God, you're greedy."

"Bullshit, you long-haired frog. I asked you if you wanted popcorn. You didn't say anything. What's your problem?"

The mother shakes her head. "You two are always fighting. Can't you stop fighting?"

"Sure, " says Alex, "when dad grows up and stops being such a god damn buttfucker."

The father laughs. "Boy, that's a joke. I mean, who's the one who has to grow up around here? Hey, punk," and then the father leans over. "Want popcorn? Here." He takes a handful of it and dumps it on Alex's head.

"God damn it!" screams Alex and he yanks the popcorn away from his father and sends it flying and spilling over the audience.

"Goddamn it!" someone yells.

"Whoopee!" yells someone else.

And somewhere else, someone has taken up the guitar and plays a lovely Spanish ballad. The father turns to Alex and grabs him by the collar. "Listen sonny boy, you're getting too big for your britches. I don't care if you are just fourteen, and I don't give a fuck what the laws are here but you've just pushed a little too far and--"

There is applause. The main show has begun. And both Alex and his father turn to watch--turn to see a ghostly blue hand come drifting out from the screen, over the audience, over to Alex-the hand engulfing him, then crushing him; his eyeballs pop out of his skull and arc high out over the audience. The hand turns a deep red and pulls back into the screen and Alex's father screams, "Oh, no, oh, no, one less person to fight with! Oh, no!" And the rest of the audience cheers wildly and enthusiastically. A couple dances in the aisle.

"Great show," someone yells.

"Four star!" yells someone else. And the applause is deafening.


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