Anticipation grew as I chewed my food. I gave a little teaser before the bite by telling her a story of a Halloween party had just popped in mine. It was going to be a long story, and I had a lot of a burrito to finish, so I tried the best I could to have the best timing with both food and words. I chewed. She waited. I made a point to show through facial expressions that I was chewing as quickly as I could. I refuse to talk with my mouth full; simple as that. The piece of burrito in my mouth was bigger than I’d thought. As her interest steadily grew, she gave up all dinner activity. It was clear she did so to be sure to waste not a watt of energy on anything unessential, handing over all available neurons - and then some - to her auditory system and pathways.
The story began..
“A few years ago I was at James’ and Christina’s new house one Halloween evening. I’m on the porch out front with a group of people I’d lever met before when, from out of nowhere, comes a guy slightly stumbling with an empty, red-stained wine glass, crying out for a refill. Come to find out..”
She cuts me off: “..Yeah, I’ve heard this one.” “Really?” She proceeds to give me the Cliff Notes version. It was more of a favor than a thing of necessity. Gave me a chance to have another bite.
I was a bit let down. All that waiting for what was old news now. Plus, that one is a story I really like telling. Looking for a way to keep from wasting the excitement, I ask her if she wants another Halloween story in place of the rerun. She said yes before I had the chance to come up with anything. “You want me to make one up?” “Yeah, you can do that.” “I’ll just shoot from the hip then and see what comes of it,” hoping that in these three seconds of speech would buy me enough time to come up with a winner..
“Several Octobers ago,” I began... It was obvious that it must have had to occur in October for it to have any weight of believability. Any other month and it couldn’t have been a Halloween story; rather, nothing but a rambling hinting at psychosis. But I degress. “Several Octobers ago, some friends came over to my house out in the country. Two movies were brought over, by two different people. Choosing between The Shining and The Fly took up more time and effort than really either of the two are worth. Someone finally evolved into an Alpha Dog for a moment: ‘Enough with the board meeting! We’re watching The Shining. Anyone have a problem with that?’ The passive silence was a convincing enough motion of agreement. Still ruffled by the time wasted, Ashley [That’s always my fallback lady name if one’s needed on the spot. Consider yourself lucky if you’re name is Ashley, I suppose] let out what was more of an Alpha Dog grunt than a sigh as she walked to the machine and put in the disc. Only in hindsight do I recognize the eeriness of the house phone ringing right as The Shining slides in and The Fly is brushed off to the side. I automatically walked into the next room over to answer it without any thought.
‘Hello?’ ‘You should have watched The Fly. I really do wish you had decided to watch that movie.’ Why someone chose to stay silent during the deliberation, only speaking up after the decision had been made - and doing so by an ‘anonymous’ phone call, none the less - was beyond me. Consider The Shining as punishment for not speaking up, I thought. I recognized the voice, but couldn’t quite put my finger on to whom it belonged. I was forced to decide between continuing to talk with the passive partaker of the night’s activities, or simply hang up without a goodbye and get back to the other room. I’d seen various parts of The Shinning many times before, and figured I wouldn’t lose much by giving in to this quick little game of guess who. ‘What’s wrong with The Shinning? You’ve obviously got a big enough problem with it to call and pull me out of the room?’ I wanted to get the person talking so that I could use the voice and the answers to help me figure out their identity. I could spare the time. The thing is, this moment I can think of more reasons to choose another movie over The Shinning than this person gave. This person maybe let out only a handful of words in opposition to Jack and the woman’s constant screaming before devoting every other breath to the praise of not only The Fly, but also to the praise and adoration of Jeff Goldblum in general. Obviously this person could not be serious. This quickly ceased to be a game for me. I’d rather watch the movie playing in the next room than hear nothing but empty praise for an actor, one whose brightest time in the limelight was when the T-Rex picked him up off the pot - if that was even him; I can’t quite remember the plot details of Jurassic Park. As my irritant was talking, though, there was one element which held my attention and kept me on the phone. One thing I am a fan of is impersonations. I wish I could sound like a celebrity. If you listen close, you can sometimes hear a hint of Christopher Walken in my voice when I say ‘Wow.’ But that’s as far as it goes. The thing that intrigued me at this moment (at least more so than the same old scenes from the screen in the next room) was that whoever was speaking could do a pretty good Jeff Goldblum. The pitch was a little higher than I remember, but the pauses, stutters, elevations of the tone - it was all there. Impressively close to the real thing. I was envious...and irritated. Some friend in the next room has been holding out on me. Now wanting a quick answer more than a game, I peeked my head around the corner to see who was missing from the room and on the phone. My mind went blank of all answers when I saw everyone was present - either hooked on the movie or falling asleep. Why I didn’t think of this at first I do not know, but after a short state of my ignorant staring - jaw loosely hanging open and all - I remembered the caller ID on the handset. A mild state of confusion overcame me again when I saw Sarah’s number; and saw Sarah asleep with a bag of M&M’s spilling out of her hand. ‘Sarah,’ I called. (It was fun watching her startled response.) ‘Sarah, where is your phone?’ It took her a moment to come back to all of us in the world, her looking aimlessly around the room with her big, wide eyes wider than normal. She and I both end up scanning the room, both sets of eyes falling on her phone behind the couch on a table next to the wall. Automatically again, yet this time with a curiosity too faint to lay a finger on, but compelling enough to move me forward, I stepped somewhat cautiously to the flip-phone laying open. As I walked, everything else faded. I had ceased to realize that I still had the house phone next to my ear, the high-pitched Jeff Goldblum voice unceasingly complimenting any and all of Jeff Goldblum’s vast amount of distinguishing qualities. When I got closer to the phone I noticed a fly was sitting on it. Instinctively, I swatted at the fly with my spare hand and killed it. Simultaneously, the voice stopped. That was when I understood. That explains everything. Turns out it was a true story.”
That’s the story I told her in place of the re-run. I deemed it necessary to apologize such a story took, with such a Goosebumps ending, but she said she enjoyed it.
I still had a lot of burrito to eat. We finished up and went on. I think we plan on going back to the restaurant sometime.
And our next stop marked the beginning of a peculiar chain of events:
After dinner she and I drove to a park down the road, near to where her mom lives. We parked in front of her mom’s house, and it was no real surprise to see her mom walking in our direction. After some catch-up, her mom had an unexpected thought seemingly rush to the front of her mind and out her mouth before any of us had time to prepare for it. I was happy to be invited to dinner and a play with her and her two daughters - “Oh, I’m sorry; unless you mind; unless you think it’s a girls’ thing.” Daughter number one smiled and shook her head. It wasn’t a problem, and the invitation stood. Realistically, I knew then and there I wouldn’t be able to make it. It was to be on a Thursday, the night before - better said, a few hours before - I was to leave again to Japan for work. Still at least honored by the offer, I asked questions once we were on our way again. They were planning on meeting at 6:30, eating at some restaurant and watching some musical (believe me, I was paying attention). Musicals are not on the top of my list. As we walked by a swan, I told a story about our grandma forcing my brother and me to watch The Sound of Music before we could watch Dick Tracy. (Gram should have stayed with us for at least 5 minutes after putting in the movie before going upstairs to take a nap.) She said she likes that one; I said I don’t. I told a random story about watching a high school’s production of Guys and Dolls, and the aftermath which followed. She likes that one; I don’t. But one we both like is The Music Man. I sung out, “Seventy..tah-ta-da” and “Gary..hum-hu-hi-hm” as we walked on to the car.
On the next day, my last day to piddle around town(s) to take care of some things before I left, I dropped by a video store to pick up something for my mom’s birthday. Not wanting to go straight back to find what I was looking for, I meandered around the store for a few minutes. In the middle of the entry way right as you walk in were two crates full of DVDs marked down to $2.99, begging to be bought. It was like walking into a pound and seeing the dogs stare at you from death row. I thought I’d at least humor the movies. We all know that no one is going to buy all those Jean Claude van Damme or Stephen Segal movies, no matter how cheap they are. I stopped to ruffle a few movies around. Then, as I flipped over one more box as I turned to go on my way, I uncovered Pittsburgh - one which neither I nor anyone else has ever heard of before. The only reason it caught my eye was because standing right there on the front cover was none other but Jeff Goldblum with that big smile of his, dressed up as none other than the lead role of The Music Man. No joke. Look it up if you must. (No need to watch it though.)