Bewildering Stories

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Steps and Remembrances

by Thomas R.

The elderly manager looked the place over. The last working cinema in America and among the last in the world. Soon it would just be a museum like the rest. Progress had rendered this form of entertainment obsolete. During this musing he realized he had a visitor.

The visitor’s age seemed uncertain at first, but on closer inspection became clearer. The manager guessed thirty, but nowadays who could tell? As trespassers go he looked harmless. “What are you doing here, sir?”

The visitor acted deferential to this elder. “I am a historian. I did my Master’s thesis on the cinema.” He smiled, unaware that he had done anything wrong. “I assumed Nepal had the last cinemas, but then I heard about this place.”

The old man believed him, but needed more. “Do you have any proof of this story?”

He frowned. “Have your hat search for Beauregard I Nomo.”

The elder manager disliked being told to put the device on, but did so regardless. His derby shaped model confirmed Nomo’s story. Doctor Nomo: 32, divorced, and a Smithsonian researcher. He had no history of criminal or psychological problems. He kindly informed Nomo. “Alright maybe you knew no better, but now you must leave.”

The man looked disappointed. “I’ve studied cinema my whole life, and that was not easy. Information on it languishes in obsolete files, private collections, and some places even destroyed it. My whole life’s work and now I get denied the chance to even see one.”

The manager felt perplexed. “Movie theaters survive as museums. The Smithsonian itself bought the last one in D.C., so you must have seen one.”

“No I mean an actual movie. I hoped to see one somehow.”

The manager smiled. “Your fedora can show you movies better than the old technology here can.”

“That’s different. I want to experience original forms before they vanish forever. To see if progress truly gained us more than we lost.”

The romanticism of the young. “Trust me progress gained us far more than we lost. We cured Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The specific technologies that helped replace cinema allow me to communicate with my Tamil speaking grandchildren. No doubt, we gained.”

Nomo looked dejected. “I suppose, but this must have some appeal or why be here yourself?”

His argument finally moved him. Or maybe he wanted to try it out one last time, too. Still, the group he sold to forbade unauthorized use, even by him. They feared such use would inflame the element that wanted it to remain a working theater. Some government officials warned that such use attracted dangerous Luddites. All nonsense, but he was too old to risk things. He found a loophole instead. “Tell you what: I can show you one, but for research purposes only. After that you leave or they might press charges.” Mr. Nomo grinned at him. “Now I am serious. Anyway, there is an actress I like; won four Oscars, I think we have something of hers on file.”

His derby found a file labeled KH08. The High Resolution screen formed from the wall and began the movie. He then remembered movie experiences from when he was Nomo’s age. He remembered his wife, an audience, antiquated screens, popcorn, and her favorite soda. He almost wished he had those things, before he heard Nomo whisper: “Just like stepping into the twentieth century. I almost feel like we should get the sushi and Cognac.”

The old man almost explained, but decided it no longer mattered. Instead he said, “Yup, maybe we should.”

Copyright © 2003 by Thomas R.

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