Charlotte and Randall joined the end of the ticket holder’s line a little way down Holden Street. It wrapped around the corner to the Royal Caulfield box office window – the one Randall no longer had to stand on tiptoe to see inside.
“Think we’ll get in, Mom?”
“Sure,” Charlotte lit a cigarette. “We better. Otherwise, all that ‘Now MORE Seating!’ stuff on the theater’s site is just a bunch of hooey.”
“Yeah, junk, crap.”
“Like empty promises from The Man?”
She laughed. “Where’d you learn that?”
“Dad. When he came home tonight, I asked him how was work and he said it was another day of empty promises from The Man.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s the same thing.”
The line moved a few feet and an elderly couple filed in behind them.
“Do you think that Conan will be just as good as The Karate Kid, Mom?”
“Maybe. They say it’s the best movie in years.”
“Jackie Chan was awesome as Miyagi. Did you hear that the guy who played Captain Kirk in the Star Trek movies was almost gonna be Green Lantern?”
“Did you hear that Orlando Bloom is going to be in Saturday Night Fever?”
Randall made a face. “Saturday Night Fever? Ullgh. That’s a mom movie.”
“What’s wrong with mom movies?”
“They’re not real movies like The Wolfman or GI Joe or Fright Night… Yeah! That’s a movie I can’t wait to see.”
“You’re going to be waiting a long time for that one, pal,” she replied.
“Jake from school is gonna see it. His parents are lettin’ him.”
“Then they’re chumps.”
They rounded the corner. The light from the marquee shined red, green and white in the windows across the street.
“Hey Mom? What’s a ‘remake’?”
Charlotte put her cigarette out, keeping her cool. “Just another name for a movie.”
“See, that’s what I said but Jake said that there was a Conan when you and Dad and Jake’s parents were our age so it made this one a remake.”
Charlotte looked around. Had the woman in front of them been listening? What about the couple behind?
“Again with this Jake,” Charlotte smiled. “Hey, do you think we’ll see the trailer for the new Transformers movie?”
“I already saw it online. Mom, was there really another Conan? One with different actors and stuff and not like the Star Wars show that Dad keeps saying they’re making but like, y’know, a completely different movie with a whole different strong guy?”
Randall’s questions had been a lot easier to field when he was younger. There was the time he asked where the name “Royal Caulfield” had come from. Easy. Queen Elizabeth II was once quoted as saying that she loved its “charming atmosphere.” It had been “Royal” ever since. And “Caulfield”? Even easier. No one knew. There was no record. It was probably the name of some old 20th Century owner.
Randall’s 10th birthday had been somewhat of a light switch. The questions now called for more pointed truths and, as all parents know, the balance between truth and embarrassment is extremely delicate.
“Honey, how can there be another Conan if we’re all in line to see it right now? If that were the case, wouldn’t we have all stayed home and watched it on TV?”
Randall traced the bricks of the adjacent building. “Yeah, I guess so.”
They were only a few yards from the box office window. Charlotte tried to relax. Soon they’d be inside. The snack bar alone would do the trick.
“Jeez, Randall! What are you writing a book tonight? So many questions!”
“What’s an original?”
And there it was. She knew he’d ask one day but never expected it to come so soon. It hadn’t been “Mom, what’s sex?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but…the other question.
The woman in front of them had heard too. Her head was cocked. Charlotte knew she was listening. Who else had been? Of all the places for the boy to ask, did it have to be in the middle of town, with so many people around?
Charlotte knelt before her son. “Now, listen to me, Randall. That isn’t a nice word.”
“But Jake said–”
“Enough about Jake!” she cried, losing her temper for the briefest of moments.
He was a boy, just a boy. The people in line knew that. But now would have to be the time. She looked around again and placed her hands on his shoulders.
“I’m sorry for yelling, Ran. It’s just that…okay, you know how there are bad words that your dad and I don’t want you to say?”
“Well, we don’t like those words because they each stand for something bad – disrespectful things, things the world frowns upon.”
Randall furrowed his brow. “Like the bad guys in jail?”
“No, not evil, more like…picking your nose or burping at the dinner table or–”
“Or spitting in front of Grandma?”
“Right!”Charlotte beamed. “Like spitting in front of Grandma.”
The line moved, revealing the ticket window at last. The woman in front of them looked back with a grin and Charlotte wiped imaginary sweat from her brow.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
“It’s all right, Ran. You didn’t know. Think of yourself as a little older now with brand new lesson.”
Randall smiled. He was older! Just like that! Had anyone noticed? He turned and looked at the couple behind him. The old woman met his eyes, shook her head and winked. Randall stared for a moment before his mother grabbed his hand.
Into the lobby, up to the snack bar, through the film and for years beyond, Randall thought of the conversation outside the theater. All that his mother had said made sense.
Then he’d think about the wink.
© 2009-2021, Brendyn Schneider, Use or reprint not authorized without permission from the author.