The Video Shack

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Summer Time is Movie Time

Chapter 4

Summer Time is Movie Time

“Tom,” A bearded man in glasses cried from across the brightly lit aisles of Palace Video. Every shelf lined with pristine video cassettes sealed in laminated boxes. Andy was still framed by the double glass doors at the front of the store when the husky voice bellowed Tom’s name. “What brings you to the all-knowing-sage of movie-fiefdom on a Tuesday at the mid-day.” Kit found his identity when he was hired by Palace Video two years ago. He had graduated with a film degree from the University of New Hampshire with dreams of red carpets and poolside champagne toasts in Malibu. Crushing debt and his mother’s early-onset dementia gave him the excuse not to face the slings and arrows of life as an unemployed screenwriter in a studio apartment off Pico Ave. “Some little old lady stumped you for a good Cary Grant screwball comedy. Did you mix-up your Martin Landau with your Max Von Sydow? Maybe you’re betwixt-and-between your Sherley MacLain and your Shelly Duval.” Kit put his hand over his mouth in mock-whisper, “The key is: one holds out for reincarnation. While the other put her faith in Robert Altman to make a comedy out of a sailor who loved spinach.”

Andy couldn’t help but notice a shy blush rise in Tom’s cheeks as Kit continued his soliloquy. It might have been the three girls in bikini tops and cut-off shorts huddled around Kit that caused the blood to rise in his face. Their shoulders coppered and smoothed under floral bathing suit straps. Sun Kissed cheeks and freckled noses with tiny flecks of peeled skin that told a story of languid afternoons.

The last time Tom had seen female flesh was late-April when Sarah Jacobson’s pale knee peeked through a frayed hole in her acid wash jeans two seats away in biology class. The thing Tom could never square, as fat and sloven as Kit was that never impeded his ability to hold court within the fluorescent confines of his movie oasis. His zeal and enthusiasm for films--good or bad--overwhelmed anyone who gave him the opportunity to extoll.

Once Andy and Tom approached Kit’s congregation, Kit revealed the movie the girls threatened to rent. Dismay marred his otherwise bright and penetrating eyes.

“Help me out fellas,” Kit pleaded. “It would be a sin if I allowed these fine, young creatures to flee my clutches under the misapprehension Child’s Play Two is a horror movie.” Kit employed the diction of a preacher condemning his flock for worshipping idols. Palace Video was Kit’s church. He had been a messiah lost in the desert until he landed at this hallowed yet gaudy, pop culture-strewn chapel. Like John the Baptists on the shores of Galilee, he would shake down every blasphemous soul who approached his counter with unrepentant dreck. His standards were pre-ordained and he could not abide by anything that fell short of his holy ordinance.

Today his sights were set on Chucky, the murderous doll. The box cover brandished a child’s toy-wielding salon shears twice its size eager to decapitate a Jack-in-the-Box. The doll’s mouth twisted in a scowl. A mane of flaming red hair teased like the hero of a Scottish leather and lace fantasy.

“Help me out here, guys,” Kit implored a second time. “Don’t you see the sacrilege of letting three nice girls searching for some night-terror to fall prey to claptrap?”

Andy wondered why this guy was seeking Tom’s council. Tom wouldn’t watch a horror movie if it was his job. He couldn’t distinguish a Giallo film from a Larry Cohen Production. Andy saw Child’s Play Two at a matinee the previous summer with one of his friends, Mike. Michael’s mother had no issue driving the two of them the twenty miles to the movie theater on a Saturday. She would hang around Ocean City Job Lots considering the wide assortment of garden gnomes until the movie ended.

When the girl in the blue-flowered bikini top made the briefest eye contact with Andy he knew he had to rally to her defense. Afraid his glance might slip from her eyes to the minefield of exposed skin, Andy quickly turned his attention to the untarnished white shelves. So expansive, each display box could face forward to reveal their elaborate terrors, unlike the Video Shack where in order to maximize the limited square-footage every title was reduced to the gaudy font on the spine. Clever marketers had begun replicating the cover image in a small box on the spine in order to catch the eye of browsers in the hole-in-the-wall operations.

His glance fell to the red splash of letters and the glistening finger-knives. The girl cowering in her bed. The obscured image of the most famous cinematic burn victim to ever haunt a high schooler’s nightmares. Was it possible these girls arrived at this stage of life without entering A Nightmare on Elm Street?

Andy picked up a box off the shelf below Freddy Kruger’s nightmare-fueled rampage. The title struck Andy. However, the box art didn’t correlate to the film title. A grim skeletal head and shoulders lingered behind a woman’s disembodied face on top of a popsicle stick.

The girl in the blue bathing suit edged in beside Andy to see what he was looking at. The scent of sunscreen and cherry lip balm was dizzying.

“That looks creepy,” she said.

“I saw it last summer at a drive-in in upstate New York,” Andy explained.

“People still go to the drive-in?” One of the other girls snapped.

“Meredith,” the girl in blue fired back.

Kit snatched the box out of Andy’s hand: “How the heck did you find the one movie in this place I haven’t seen? What is this? Who titles a horror movie Popcorn?”

When Kit edged his body in close enough to get his hands on the video case he knocked the girl’s warm shoulder into Andy’s side. Her eyes were pale blue swimming pools he suddenly wished to drown inside. might drown in. The second time she smiled it was like she kicked him in the stomach.

“What’s it about?” the girl wanted to know.

Kit’s stubby arm flailed out to get his hand on the box Andy held. “I got to see this thing. Why do you gotta bust my balls with this nonsense? At least you, Andy, I figured would choose a classic?”

Andy taunted Kit by holding the film just out of reach. Andy glanced from one girl to the next. “Seems they’re looking for something fun? They did start with Chucky for crying out loud.”

“The cover’s creepy,” Meredith admitted.

“My brother and I watched it on top of my parent’s station wagon. Whenever my parents take us to the drive-in, my brother and I sit on top of the car and share the walkman my uncle gave me out of the Avon catalog. We never watch the movie my parents brought us to see. They would never let us see a movie like this.”

“You’ve seen as many horror movies as me?” Kit remarked incredulously.

“Most of those are either bootlegged from some friend who has cable. Now that Dan and Tom work at the Video Shack I have a lot more options.”

“You guys just sit around all day watching movies?” Meredith accused.

“It’s schlock,” Kit decided, still angling for a better view of the box-art. “Isn’t anybody going to back me up on this?” Kit glanced around the girls he had formed a camaraderie with before Andy and Tom showed up to ruin his game.

“From here,” Meredith observed, “it doesn’t seem Petra really cares what movie, anymore.”

Petra rested her fingers on Andy’s forearm, and asked him, “Just tell me it’s scary?”

All the neurons in his brain fired at exactly the same instant. His mind was at its most acute he could ever remember. Yet, somehow, he couldn’t formulate a single, coherent idea. He could see all the crucial scenes from the movie flashing across his imagination as though the electricity from the girl’s fingertips had ignited a primeval camera inside his head. But still he couldn’t extract a logical plot thread from all the stimulus ricocheting off his subconscious.

“This won’t win any awards,” was the best line Andy could think to say.

The dark haired girl who had yet to speak entered the fray: “Petra, I said we should have just grabbed One Crazy Summer and got outta here.”

There was that name again. Andy had never met anyone with that name before. He had heard the word someplace. But he couldn’t bring the origin to mind. He liked the way it sounded. The was a permanence to the clatter of two hard consonants.

Petra turned to her friend and said, “You always pick a comedy. We agreed tonight we’d watch something scary.”

The third girl hurried to Petra’s defense. “You did agree to that.”

“Nothing wrong with One Crazy Summer,” Tom flashed his best Risky-Business-smile at Meredith.

“Why do I still look out for you, Tom?” Kit rolled his eyes. “You and that rinky-dink operation, I should let it flounder.” Kit swiped his pudgy fingers at the video display box again. “Let me see it. If you aren’t going to tell her what it’s about, at least let me read the back jacket.”

Andy said, “These film students put on a horror movie marathon. They decide to show this creepy movie some guy made right before he killed his family. Maybe the crazy guy showed the movie and then he burned everybody alive inside the theater. Wait, it could have been that he wanted to sacrifice his family to Satan in front of an audience? The story kind of keeps changing as you watch it. But the whole thing takes place in a movie theater over the course of one night.”

“Really?” Meredith cringed. “You’re not going to make us watch that, are you Petra? Let’s just get The Witches of Eastwick. That one has everything: horror and comedy.”

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