Posted in Fiction

Before the End Credits Roll: A Short Story

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Before the End Credits Roll

by Brian Rowe

Harold hadn’t been to the movies in more than a year. It had been one of his favorite past-times, going to the local cinema to catch the latest blockbuster, or art film, or B-grade horror film; he didn’t really care what kind of film it was as long as it entertained him. If he liked the storyline, admired the lead actors, he gave almost anything a chance.

But going to the movies wasn’t the same anymore. He didn’t mind the higher ticket prices, or the shitty hot dog that cost as much a gourmet grilled cheese at his local café. He hated the other moviegoers instead, those inconsiderate people who talked from the opening credits to the end, who kicked the back of his chair, who lit up the theater walls with the white light of their cell phones. When he went to American Sniper at the beginning of 2015 — by himself, since his wife is one of the three women in the world who hates the sight of Bradley Cooper — he was inundated with so much rudeness surrounding him that he stormed out halfway through and vowed to never come back. It’s not like he needed to go a theater to watch a movie. He had his seventy-five-inch screen TV at home, 7.1 surround system, Blu Ray player, satellite, Apple TV, Netflix, Amazon, the works. Why did he ever have to leave his comfy leather sofa again?

It wasn’t until his son Ben came home for a surprise visit that a trip back to the movies was in order. The two of them loved anything with Leonardo DiCaprio — Ben continued to rave about his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, while Harold still had a soft spot in his heart for his work in Titanic — so the two set out to see The Revenant on a cold Sunday afternoon.

Harold was nervous on the drive. Even though they were heading to the new multiplex in town that had reserved seating and expensive wine for purchase at the bar, and even though the movie had been out for five weeks and probably wouldn’t be too crowded, he was still scared the experience could be a repeat of last year’s disaster. He pulled into an empty parking space — the lot was barely half full, a good sign — and he and Ben walked through the main entrance and picked up their tickets from the automated machine for the 3 PM screening. Harold laughed after he paid forty-four dollars at the bar, for just two mugs of beer and a large bucket of popcorn, but he didn’t mind the cost; he was thrilled the line had been short and that the hallway to the theater screens was practically empty.

He and Ben sat down in their seats near the back of theater six, the movie just a few minutes from starting. There were lots of people in the middle and front, including a baby Harold couldn’t help but sneer at, but the back two rows were mostly barren, only a middle-aged couple close by, about seven seats over. The lights dimmed, and the previews began, and even though Harold rolled his eyes at the endless barrage of two-minute trailers, he was satisfied at least that this crowd was being quiet and — surprise, surprise — acting civilized.

The Revenant began, and Harold finally relaxed, leaning back in his chair and immediately falling under the spell of this film’s awesome power. The opening few minutes that unfolded on the giant, three-story screen were spectacular, and by the time the scary bear attacked DiCaprio’s character, Harold had fallen back in love with going to the movies. This was how a film was meant to be seen. This was the only way to see the director’s true vision.

Everything was exceeding Harold’s expectations, until the sound of ill-timed laughter snapped him back to reality. He peered to his right, as two teenagers bounded up the steps, stopping momentarily at a row near the middle, then continuing to the very back. He tried everything in his mental power to will them away, out of the theater, never to return, but they kept coming closer and closer, eventually sitting just two seats over. One landed on his butt a little too hard, and they both laughed, again, pushing their palms over their mouths, as if that simple action would prevent anyone near them from hearing their stupidity. The boys looked close to eighteen, hats on backward, baggy pants, underwear in full view. They took out their cell phones at the same time and started texting.

“When’s Maria coming?” the guy on the left asked his friend.

“Why are you asking me? She’s your girlfriend.”

“So? You talked to her last. Hey, tell her the movie already started, that we’re in the back row. Tell her we have seats saved for her and Jennifer — ”

“Do you mind?” Harold shouted, louder than he expected to.

The teen boys turned toward him and glared. “Can I help you?” the one on the left asked.

“You can help me by finding another place to sit,” Harold said.

Dad.” Ben tapped his hand on his father’s knee. “It’s okay, it’s fine. Can you try to just watch the movie — ”

“Ben, stay out of this!” Harold shoved his son’s hand away. He crossed his arms, his face on fire with the kind of rage he hadn’t felt since watching American Sniper. He’d been so close to having the experience he’d wanted, and these two kids had ruined it for him yet again. He leaned over his armrests and said, “You two gonna move seats or what?”

The one on the right sat forward and finally acknowledged Harold, flipping him off without a moment’s hesitation. “Shut the hell up. We have just as much right to see back here as you do, old man.”

Harold jumped out of his seat — faster than any spry kid could have leaped up, that’s for sure — and grabbed both of the teenagers by their hand-me-down t-shirts. “Listen to me, and listen to me well,” he said. “I know you two punks snuck in here. Probably from another movie, right? I’m only going to say this one last time. Move to another row.”

“And if we don’t?” the one on the right said, a condescending smile forming on his lips.

He wanted to slap them both across the face, he really did — but Harold had a better idea. He pushed past them and sped down the aisle, down the steps, out of the theater. He wasn’t going to let those cheap kids get away with talking, with texting, with sneaking into a movie that cost fourteen dollars and no less. Fourteen dollars was nothing to Harold, who was still raking in about three million a year, and didn’t think twice when his wife went on her bi-monthly cruises with her rich, Botoxed girlfriends. But just because he’d taken risks and made more money than he ever could have dreamed of, didn’t mean the slackers of the world could rob him of his fun. His experience watching DiCaprio’s newest had already been compromised, but he still had a chance to enjoy the rest of the movie.

He found the young theater manager and demanded she remove the teen boys from theater six. He told her the truth — they were being disruptive, and worst of all, they’d sneaked in from a different movie. She went into the theater and talked to the guys, and when they still refused to move, she called in a security officer who escorted the teens into the outside hallway, a roar of applause emanating from inside.

Harold gave them a victorious wave good-bye, as the security officer pushed them toward the lobby exit doors. The teens shot angry looks at him, and when they reached into their pockets, he expected them to pull out guns. Instead, they took out little pieces of paper, flung them on the hallway carpet, and stomped out of the building, no questions asked.

“Now you can return to your movie,” the manager said.

“Thank you,” Harold responded, his eyes not on her, but on the carpet.

As soon as the manager and the security officer disappeared behind him, Harold inspected the two pieces of paper. They were tickets for The Revenant, for 3 PM in theater six.

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