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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fiction #40: Lancaster Cooney

An Unsure Populous of Once Luminous Machines

We began meeting at the abandoned cinema off state route 9. Our group lead, Adrian Kleist, had a neighbor friend responsible for the slow decay of property who drew up a waiver spanning everything from alien viruses acquired in the bowels of the vacant men’s room, to hyper-extensions suffered within the folding seats of the viewing gallery. We remained undeterred and signed in flamboyant and swooping cursive. Our group known for its abnormal though symbiotic approach.

We were actively dying. Rapidly subjected human failure.

At our initial meeting, in the basement of Mercy Hospital Springfield, Adrian began group by stating, “Most of you will not outlive Jenna Elfman’s career.” We understood all too well the severity of such a statement. A good portion of the people got up and walked out. Adrian sat in a folding chair, hunched forward, elbows on his knees, a lanky man with the severity of a general’s brow. He had a way of wearing clothes that seemed European, scarves doubled at the throat, button downs without collars. “Anyone else?” he asked. “Now you don’t have to like what you hear, nobody’s saying that, but there’s no help on the way.” Ashley Snell was a mere two months from the dirt at the time, arms dangled loose as the ball and string of a Chinese hand drum. She nearly lost all ability to swallow. Relied on her teenage daughter to thicken liquids and feed them to her like oatmeal.

Movie posters collapsed and rolled into themselves. An empty popcorn bucket hovered over a desolate aluminum valley. Projectors hung head in projection booths, an unsure populous of once luminous machines. Meredith Trammel raised a spool of film, “Prime example of a sequel that should have never been made.”

“There’s a whole market for that stuff now days,” offered Dave Rami.

“Less talking,” Adrian advised. “I want these images to come upon you and pass, as though you were falling right through them.”

Upon initial diagnosis I began hibernating within the well-worn walls of hooded sweatshirts. Spent all my time watching PBS, Nat Geo and Discovery. Natural disasters programs mainly, with an every now and again emphasis on theological hopelessness. I wished tectonic plates to buoy forth, inciting such cataclysmic fuck storms that every city, civilian and cell be swallowed up by the savage waters of the world. I wrote a blog encouraging Presidents, Prime Ministers and Dictators to rouse a few nuclear fist fights and then awaited missile defiance in thy neighbor’s air space. I even admit to an attempt to bring down my mother’s curio cabinet, kick out a leg and watch it topple like a wounded elephant, sending generations of fine china out across the linoleum. The latter of these abolitions resulting in the loss of the big toe nail on my left foot.

None of us wanted to die.

Don Feedback caught up with me on the stage of Cinema 3. “Babinski,” he said. No one called me by my first name. Nobody cared too much for Don. He was our newest member and my elder by about fifteen years and the type to pin you down in conversation that seemed to circumvent into other conversation and never reach a climax. His famous line was, “To make a short story long,” which he would follow up with jocular laughter that enunciated the oceanic rolls of his flabby belly. The planks in the hardwood opted to pry loose at random times and there was that far off chance one would seesaw up and break his jaw.

“We’re not really supposed to be talking Don,” I said. “Adrian wants us to take in the scene.”

“We’ve been here what? Eight fuckin’ times? Not really much more to soak up.”

“Twelve,” I corrected him. “You just joined the group six months ago.”

“My point is, smart ass, I don’t really get what he’s going for here. All of us hold up in this dilapidated old movie theatre.”

“Even still,” I added.

My speech had become somewhat slurred of late, nasal, and I didn’t much like talking. Deke Howell and his brother Grant punched through the emergency doors alongside the building. Deke played middle linebacker for Ryle when I was just a boy. Type a guy who hit people and left them for dead. Had thighs like gasoline mounts on a motorcycle. Now his bro carried him like a ventriloquist might carry a dummy. Muscle atrophy for the books. Nick Laird and Angie Bodkin fumbled at each other’s waistbands in the back of the theatre, all too aware that this ability would one day leave them. Through a generous hole in the roof an early October snow began to fall.

In Cincinnati the minor seasons are allusive and often skirted all together.

Loud throttles came from the tiny window of the projection booth, until a motor finally began to hum. Blue light kicked on momentarily, the motor stalled and the theatre became mostly dark again. Moments later that same throttle and that motor was up and running, spiritual pipeline of light out the tiny window.

“Damned right!!” Adrian yelled.

The screen began to fade out on that lanky bitch holding her torch. Above her it read in big block letters, COLUMBIA. Meredith Trammel walked in and mouthed, “What’s going on?” And Dave Rami poked his head out the tiny window just to let everybody know he was up there with Adrian, as though a cool kid had invited him to a party.

“Damn right,” Adrian bellowed again over the roar of the motor.

And then, I wasn’t up there, but Dave Rami swears he said it, “You can’t kill the Cinema.” Likely as we took to our seats, eyes wide with grandeur, eternal pictures upon the screen.


Lancaster Cooney lives in Northern Kentucky with his wife, two daughters and sweet little pup.  His work has appeared at Everyday Genius, Matchbook Lit Mag, Blackheart Magazine and The Molotov Cocktail.  He received an editor's nomination for storysouth's 2012 Million Writers Award.

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