Freedom Lane: At The Movies
“How old is your child?” the cashier asked, looking past Helen towards Da’Quarius.
Helen squinted to see the child prices and the notes under it. “He’s six,” she said.
“He doesn’t look six,” the cashier said.
“Look kid,” Helen said. “You look like you’re in high-school. They teaching you any algebra there?”
“Yes?” the cashier said.
“How old is the average parent of a six year old?” Helen asked. “Thirty? Let’s say thirty-five for the sake of the argument. Do you know how old I am?”
“No,” the cashier asked, noticing how annoyed the waiting line of customers were becoming.
“I’m seventy-nine,” Helen said. “So the age difference between the average parent of a six year old is twenty nine years. My son is sixty-five years younger than me. That’s a difference of thirty-six years.”
“Since when does Helen know algebra?” Da’Quarius asked.
“You’ve never seen Helen haggle,” Rose said. “She knows algebra when she haggles.”
“Can you see what I’m getting at?” Helen asked the cashier.
“No,” the cashier said, sighing loudly. “The prices are…”
“Here’s the ratios,” Helen said, taking a step forward. “A thirty-five year old can bring a six year old in here for the child’s price. That’s thirty-five slash six. That’s a ratio of five point something. A seventy-nine year old brings a thirteen year old in, looking to get the same discount. That’s seventy-nine slash thirteen. A ratio of six point something. So you see, the ratio of you giving the discount for my thirteen year old son is two points higher than you giving the discount to a thirty-five year old with a six year old child. It’s more than fair to give my son the same price for his ticket. It’s right there in the equations.”
“Did she do that math right?” Da’Quarius asked.
“No idea,” Rose replied. “It’s been a long time since high-school algebra. Besides, I never question Helen while she’s haggling.”
“Look,” the cashier said. “The prices are set by age, not the age difference between parent and child.”
“So it’s an age discrimination thing?” Helen asked.
The cashier looked at Helen for a moment. “I’m going to get my manger,” he said.
“Good,” Helen said. “Be sure that he brings a calculator, sonny.”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 5, Episode 5: At The Movies
“I can’t believe Helen actually got me in for da six year old price,” Da’Quarius said. “How’d you know all dat math stuff anyway?”
“I learned ratios by bartering trades of cigarettes for bitches in prison,” Helen replied. “The ratios always changed depending on the quality of said bitch on a scale of one through ten, so there were always arguments over how many cigarettes should be given if one were to buy a bitch from another inmate. I would have gotten you in the movie for free eventually, but the damn previews are gonna start soon, and I didn’t want to waste any more time. I’m cranky if I don’t get to see the previews.”
“This ain’t you cranky?” Da’Quarius asked.
“It’s not,” Rose said. “You don’t want to see Helen cranky.”
“Damn right you don’t,” Helen said. “Here we are. Theater seven. Air Titanic 2. I thought I’d die before they made a sequel.”
“You sure I don’t have to had seen the first one to understand dis one?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I didn’t say that,” Helen said.
“Pretty sure you did,” Da’Quarius said. “I think umma hop over to Steam Age 3D instead. I heard da gun fight in da end is crazy.”
“You’ll be coming in with us!” Helen snapped loud enough for the people around to start craning their necks. Da’Quarius suddenly became embarrassed and looked down.
“Helen’s right,” Rose said in a much softer tone. “We don’t want to have to wait around for your movie to end if it goes longer.”
“Alright,” Da’Quarius said. “But can I sit by myself when we get in da theater?”
“What the hell for?!” Helen snapped, drawing attention to Da’Quarius again.
“It’s OK,” Rose said, figuring out what was going on. “You don’t have to sit with us. We’ll meet you in the lobby after the show.”
“Cool,” Da’Quarius said, running into the theater. “I’ll meet you guys in da lobby.”
“I don’t know why you let him run off on his own,” Helen said as she waited in line with Rose for refreshments. “God knows what kind of child molesters are here, tearing tickets with lustful eyes.”
“He’s thirteen, and that ticket ripper seemed really nice,” Rose said. “He doesn’t want to be seen being yelled at by his parents. Especially parents that are as old as we are. It’s embarrassing for him.”
“Bah,” Helen said. “I bought him the ticket. The least he could do is sit with us.”
“He’ll be fine,” Rose said. “He probably went into that other movie anyway. I don’t blame him. Air Titanic wasn’t exactly geared towards boys his age.”
“Bah,” Helen said again. “I heard from Bev that they put more action in this one. I bet they show some bush too.”
“What can I get for you?” the cashier at the refreshment stand asked.
“One medium popcorn and two waters please,” Rose said. “Light salt and butter on the popcorn.”
“OK,” the cashier said, pressing buttons. “That’ll be thirteen seventy-five.”
“Thirteen seventy-five!” Helen exclaimed. “That’s highway robbery! Is there a corn kernel famine I haven’t heard of yet?!”
“I don’t set the prices,” the cashier said. “Do you want the popcorn and waters or not?”
“Not for those prices!” Helen said.
“Again, I don’t set the prices,” the cashier said.
“Are they teaching you any algebra in high-school?” Helen asked.
Da’Quarius found a seat for himself in Air Titanic 2 closer to the screen than Helen and Rose would normally sit. He felt bad about asking if he could sit by himself, but Helen was yelling at him after every sentence he uttered. He hadn’t seen anyone else he knew, so he knew he’d been lucky so far.
He saw some people ahead of him messing around with their cellphones and remembered that his was still on. He took it out of his pocket, turned it to silent, and put it back. He relaxed and waited for the movie to start.
Helen saw the square of light only six rows ahead of her, and was instantly annoyed. She didn’t want to miss the previews, but there was no way she was going to sit through a two-hour movie while watching the little square of light come on and off from some random punk’s cellphone. “Not on my watch,” she uttered.
“What?” Rose asked.
“Excuse me,” Helen said to Rose as she got up. “I need to use the ladies room.”
“Again?” Rose said, holding her small popcorn and water that cost them thirteen seventy-five (you couldn’t win every time it seemed).
“My bladder must be shrinking,” Helen said. “I’ll be right back.” She walked towards down the rows of seats, making a mental note of exactly where she saw the cellphone screen and made a mental note of the dreadlocked head that sat there. It almost reminded her of Da’Quarius, but he would be more respectful than to be on his phone in a movie theater. She was raising him better than that.
Rose waited a few minutes and Helen came back into the theater, making everyone in the row stand up so she could get back to her seat in the middle. “That was quick,” Rose said.
“False alarm,” Helen replied, watching and waiting. She was rewarded for her wait when the theater manager came in. He walked up to the seat she had described. She couldn’t be sure of what was said, but the boy was escorted from the theater. Helen chuckled.
“What’s funny?” Rose asked.
“Nothing,” Helen replied. “Something just popped in my head that made me laugh.”
The lights went down and the previews began. Helen got more comfortable in her seat. She moved her hand onto Roses leg and moved it up.
“Not here,” Rose whispered.
“Then why’d you wear the skirt?” Helen asked. “You’re sending mixed messages by wearing it and then telling me no.”
“The previews are starting,” Rose said. “I know you don’t want to miss them.”
“Fuck the previews,” Helen whispered. “Come closer.”
“Da movie hasn’t even started yet!” Da’Quarius exclaimed. “Besides, I was only turning my phone off.”
“The person who asked us to remove you from the theater said you were being extremely disruptive,” the manager said.
“I was all alone!” Da’Quarius shouted. “Who the hell am I supposed to be disruptive with?!”
“Can I see your ticket stub please?” the manager said, holding his hand out.
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said, reaching in his pocked and handing his stub to the manager. “Dis some bullshit.”
“This is a child’s ticket,” the manager said. “Did you find this on the ground and use it to get inside?”
“No!” Da’Quarius said. “My mother talked da other manager into letting me in because of the age ratio between her age and a regular parent of a six year old.”
“We don’t price tickets by ratio,” the manager said.
“My moms is in dere,” Da’Quarius said. “She can explain.”
“You just said you were alone here,” the manager said. “Besides, the movie has already started. I won’t disturb my customers any further. You’ll have to leave this area unless you buy an actual ticket.”
“I ain’t buyin’ shit from you, bitch,” Da’Quarius said.
“Then you’ll have to leave,” the manager said. “Otherwise, I will call security.”
“Call dem gorilla-lookin’ mo’ fuckers to double-team yo wife,” Da’Quarius said as he walked back towards the lobby.
Helen opened her purse for her own snack. She pulled out the foil-wrapped chicken breast and began to unwrap it. There were groans from behind her, but she was internet on ignoring them.
“What’s that smell?” Rose said, turning to Helen. “How much garlic is on that chicken?”
“The normal amount,” Helen said. The people sitting behind her got up and moved. Someone else shushed her.
“You Shutup!” Helen snapped. “We’re trying to watch the movie!” She reached in and took out a tupperware container of roasted potatoes.
“Who’s that man?” Rose whispered. “Was he in the original Air Titanic?”
“Which one?” Helen asked through a mouthful of garlic chicken. “The colored guy?”
“No,” Rose said. “Never mind. He’s not on screen anymore.”
There were more murmurs of annoyance from around them.
“People in this theater just don’t shutup,” Helen whispered to Rose.
“It’s very rude,” Rose agreed. “Oh! There he is again! That guy!”
“Him?” Helen said, squinting. “I don’t think he was in the first Air Titanic.”
“Oh,” Rose said. “I must have been thinking of someone else.”
Two rows ahead of them, a cell phone began to rang. “I’m at a movie,” the man whispered into the phone. “I’ll call you back.”
“Put it away, Hollywood,” Helen said in a menacing tone. “Some people.”
“Really,” Rose agreed, nodding.
“Oh!” Helen said as realization dawned on her. “I know him! I think Bev said he dies in the end!”
The groans intensified as Helen took a large gulp of water to wash down her chicken and potatoes.
Da’Quarius sat in the lobby with his head on his hands. He looked at the clock on his phone to see that Helen and Rose still had an hour or more left to their movie. He would have left and caught the bus home, but Rose and Helen didn’t have cellphones, and he didn’t want them to worry when they couldn’t find him. He contemplated sneaking into another movie for an hour, but the theater employees were watching him like a hawk since he convinced them to let him stay and wait.
“Da’Quarius?” a familiar voice said.
Da’Quarius looked up to see his Social Studies teacher, Mr. Hessman, standing there with a bucket of popcorn and a soda. “What up, Hess?” he asked.
“I was about to ask you,” Mr. Hessman said. “We haven’t seen each other at all this season.”
“What are you talkin’ ’bout?” Da’Quarius asked.
“This season,” Mr. Hessman said. “Summer! Schools out until fall, you know.”
“Oh yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “You just said it weird for some reason.”
“Why are you hanging out in a movie theater lobby?” Mr. Hessmab asked. “You’re not in camp or anything?”
“No,” Da’Quarius said. “I don’t wanna go to stupid camp, so I’m hoping da biddies don’t notice.”
“That’s all well and good,” Mr. Hessman said. “But it doesn’t explain why you’re sitting in a movie theater lobby.”
“I’m waiting for Rose an’ Helen,” Da’Quarius said. “I got booted from the theater for bein’ on my phone when all I did was shut it off. Some racist old bitch probably ratted me out.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mr. Hessman said. “Well, I’m off to see Steam Age. I don’t want to miss the previews! See you in the fall.” He put in his 3D glasses and left to go to his theater.
“You a dirty mo’ fucka, Hess,” Da’Quarius said. “You don’t even need yo 3D glasses out here. Umma get yo ass for dat.”
Rose reached in her pocket and took her ticket stub out. “It’s rated PG-13,” she said. “So there’s probably no bush.”
“Dammit,” Helen said. “I’m going to have some popcorn.” She reached in her purse and pulled out a spoon, a lighter, and a ziplock bag of kernels.
“I would have shared mine,” Rose whispered. “Or we could have bought a large popcorn for both of us.”
“I’m not giving these con-artists and more of my money,” Helen said, placing three kernels on her spoon. She pulled a syringe of oil next and added a tiny drop. She placed it in her left hand and grasped the lighter with her right.
“It would have been easier than eating your popcorn three kernels at a time too,” Rose said, turning back to the screen.
Helen lit her lighter and held it under the spoon. The acrid smell of roasting kernels in oil filled the area around them and more people moved away. There was a loud pop as Helen’s kernels popped. They flew off in different directions. “Oh hell,” she said. “Did you see where those went?”
“Don’t eat them off the floor,” Rose said.
“Fine,” Helen said, putting three more kernels on the spoon. “Let’s try this again.”
Da’Quarius’ wait was finally over when Helen and Rose exited the theater. Helen looked as surly as ever while Rose had a satisfied look on her face. The people around them were all talking about the movie. “I’ve never had a worse experience,” one patron said.
“Those two ladies would not shut up!” another said, making sure they were loud enough for Helen and Rose to hear.
“I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Helen said. “I didn’t hear any old ladies talking. Just that asshole with his phone.”
“I bet they’re talking about those people that kept shushing during the movie,” Rose said. “That was getting a little irritating.”
“Why can’t people just go to the movies and not stir up any trouble?” Helen asked. “If you want to be a loud-mouthed jerk, you should just stay home. Oh, hi Da’Quarius. What are you doing here?”
“I came wit you guys,” Da’Quarius said. “To see Air Titanic 2.”
“Oh yeah,” Helen said. “I forgot that you were in there with us. Did you enjoy the show?”
“I made the best of it,” Da’Quarius said with a shrug. “They never said you cain’t use your phone in da lobby.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Mr. Hessman exclaimed as the theater security ushered him out, still wearing his 3D glasses. “I wasn’t masturbating in the theater! Who even called you?!”
“We had a number of anonymous calls from inside the theater,” the manager said, following his security guards. “Consider yourself lucky that we’re not calling the police.”
“You can’t call the police if you didn’t see me do anything!” Mr. Hessman shouted. “You got no case against me, losers!”
“We can refuse service to anyone we want,” the manager said as Mr. Hessman was forced out of the exit. “Have a good day.”
“Some people,” Rose said, shaking her head. “Masturbating in a theater. Disgusting. I’m glad we weren’t seeing that movie.”
“Come on, kid,” Helen said. “Lets grab a burger on the way home.”
“Cool,” Da’Quarius said, following Helen towards the theater exit.
“Hey,” Helen said with a chuckle. “I gotta tell you about the kid I got kicked out of the theater for playing on his phone before the movie even started. Little punk didn’t even see it coming!”
Da’Quarius stopped dead. “Wait…” he said. “Dammit, biddy!”