do you know what it’s like to tear tickets at a podium
standing on the same set of legs for twelve hours?

i do.

do you know what it’s like to make enough popcorn
to feed the swarming, blood-thirsty masses
of horny adolescent locust cows
filtering mercilessly into the concession stand?

to burn a perfect batch of kettle corn, terrified
as the sweet smoke rises towards the fire detectors
and you know if it gets to be too much
that the alarms will sound
and the box office will have to refund
every ticket sold that evening
to the growling sheep ready to pounce at guest services?

to sit alone in a giant room filled with candy
disgustingly suicidal at three in the morning
counting pieces of stale sour strips by the pound
when all you want is to go home
and die for a day or two in your warm bed?

to wear a three-piece-suit in a congested concession stand
making popcorn bites and overpriced pizzas
while your sixteen-year-old cohorts jack off behind you?

to hold the door for the smiley motherfuckers coming out
of rancid movie theaters leaving behind used condoms
and the scent of bad chainsaw-slasher-horror-movies
and pubescent screams like sadistic adolescent dry humps
in the back of minivans?

to digest a three-course-meal of super nachos
topped with synthetic guacamole
and diluted jalapenos
and insecure sour cream and cheese
that turns to stone in your lower intestines
that you eat on a ten minute grace period
between cleaning monster theaters
where children find ways of getting sour patch kids
and malted milk balls stuck on the ceiling?

to tell the new hires to go get more ice mix
or to only scrub the yellow squares of the carpet
because they’re the only ones that get dirty
or to tell them to go clean theater seventeen
because haha, there’s only sixteen theaters here?

to escape from the cinematic madness to the back room
where the drink compressors hiss
and the dishwasher gargles
and there’s a starry-eyed girl waiting there
and in the midst of gladiator battles and spaceship races,
there is a moment of nothing

where the universe puts its phones on silent
and you too can kiss like you think you know what love is?

to run the satellite food station on a tuesday night
which means you have plenty of free time
to contemplate why you need a second food staion
open a god-forsaken tuesday night?

to have your boss pull you aside to tell you
that you can’t show up to work drunk anymore
and it’s okay if you’re late
just call.

to lock up the front doors at closing
and then to unlock the arcade games
so you and your stupid coworkers can play pinball
and DDR to your little infantile heart’s content
and little known fact –
the high scores on the arcade games at the movie theater
are held by the employees of said movie theater.

to walk to the last bus in the streetlight twilight
with a black trash bag full of popcorn
that keeps you company on the lurking ride home?

to be a ghost in the projector room
to be God flashing images of everylife and eternal heartbeat
onto the anorexic white screen of pure truth?

to sit in a GMC Jimmy at four in the morning
listening to song ADD with a sweet girl
who happens to be your boss
who you like to make out with –
who cares?!
the movie theater isn’t exactly your five-year-plan?

to go talk to the widowed ticket-taker
who hugs you with her eyes
and tells stories the way stories are meant to be told
between two people
instead of between a gaggle of morons
and a billion dollar budget?

to be stuck in the money room
starving for food and moonlight
but you aren’t leaving
until one hundred dollars finds itself?

to go home smelling like decaying sugar
and italian sodas and superficial butter and sweat
and the dead babies living in the squeaky movie theater seats
and coke and diet coke and icees, yeah, blue raspberry icees
and all-beef hot dogs and so much drama
and it was the worst job ever and it was yes.

just yes.



Author: brice maiurro

Denver poet. Author of Stupid Flowers, out now through Punch Drunk Press.

20 thoughts on “THEATER #17”

  1. I already had a list of (OMG! OCD!) 392 reasons why I *don’t* frequent movie theaters.
    Then I read your diatribe…
    And you gave me 117 NEW reasons to add to that list.
    Ew. Just…

      1. Who needs a theater when I have a liquor store that sells bootlegs next door? hahaha

  2. An unflinching look at the horror story that is the working person’s enslavement to a meaningless and mundane reality. This is better than watching Tea Partiers getting fed to Liberian Cannibals. Two thumbs up!

      1. Do me a favour Brice, as I highly respect your writing – would you do me the honour of having a look at my latest post issued today and let me know what you think one way or the other?

      2. I’ll be straight-forward with you. I think the prose of it is beautiful. I think it has tremendous pacing, and I think some of the lines shine really brightly. I think there’s a big opportunity for clarity here though. I agree with your disclaimer that not everything has to be concrete, but I had a hard time attaching on to the piece. I was confused. I think what might be beneficial to both of us is if you told me what your goal was with the piece. When are italics used and for what purpose? I have a hard time with focusing, but I didn’t fully catch on with what was going on.

      3. I share those concerns actually, Brice. I don’t often talk about my intentions, but here it is as I see it. The story is told from the perspective of a child who has a brother that eventually escapes an abusive father figure. This story is about child abuse, at its most basic level, about a child trying to help another (the narrator is slightly mentally handicapped – he is not an animal, but close). Danny escapes, and the italicized items are his thoughts in the future, in a desert on a dig, and he is slightly held back by his memories of what happened to him and the brother he left behind. He witnesses in his mind an every-millenium phantasm of the dead floating on the Nile, and by the end of it, he looks home, where his brother is, where his abusive father is, and that’s where he goes. Thus the italicized items converge with the narrator’s thoughts. The narrator has stayed for all that time, in an atmosphere of chains, of cold, of the dread of a car’s sounds as it come home, dread of footfall. A story about terrible things that happen to children, what it does to them, what it does to whose who more than others aren’t able to protect themselves.

      4. No worries. Could always looks up one of the other so-called “bursts” that are maybe more sensical and let me know what you think. Curious about your opinion.

  3. I have felt this way, many times. The service and hospitality industry is a magnet for the broken hearted and broken souls. I’m sure so many of us remember times like this at our mundane jobs. The “no-so-pretty” picture of hospitality.

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