NOW – PRESENT DAY
Locked inside the projectionist room, Porter sat on his stool and stared at the two film cans as if he could burn holes in them. Where in cripes had they come from? From the exact spot Alice’s letter had said they’d be. But how did they get there? He only walked past that shelf many times a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, decade in and out. They had not been there that morning or that month or that year.
Yet there they were on the shelf, covered in a thick layer of dust, a lattice of spider webs knitted from the top can to the wall. Even the cobwebs looked old. Good hell, the spider in the middle was a dry husk, also coated in dust after no doubt having died of? ripe old age. How long did spiders live, anyway?
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK on the door. "What?" Porter said.
"Porter, you okay?"
"Fine. Go away, Teddy."
"What's wrong with you?"
"Leave. Me. Alone."
A beat, then Teddy said, "It is my theater, you know?"
"As if you'd ever let anybody forget that," Porter said.
"Come on, open up. I need to talk to you."
Porter said nothing.
"I'm selling it."
Porter scrunched up his face for a moment, then stepped to the door and unlocked it. Opened it and looked at Teddy. "Selling what?"
Teddy walked through the door, squeezed past Porter, and sat on the stool. "The Magic."
Porter stared at him a good thirty seconds, then said, "Have you completely lost your mind?"
"The hell are you talking about?"
"That chain out of Knoxville wants it. ReelMark."
"Bull hockey. They're huge megaplexes. What would they do with this?" Porter spread his arms, palms up.
"They're buying several old singles in the region, say they're turning them into art cinemas."
"But you can't sell the Magic!"
"Sure I can. It's mine, the business, the building, everything in it. Been paid for a long time. I--"
Whatever Teddy said next, Porter didn't hear. Decades of memories were playing through his mind. Magical memories. Him. Alice. Teddy. The people. Everything. It was the social center of the town, had been as long as he could remember. Alice. It was the passion of her heart. This could not be happening. He interrupted Teddy and said, "No."
"Listen, Porter, old buddy, we—"
"Get out of my booth," Porter said.
Teddy looked dumbfounded. Didn't move. Said nothing. Just sat there with his mouth half open, staring at Porter through bug eyes as if Porter were the one going nuts. So Porter took Teddy by the arm, guided him off the stool and out the door. Then he shut the door and relocked it. Teddy started making racket outside the door again, but Porter didn't care. He had things to do.
He pulled his old ostrich feather duster from its hanger on the wall and started dusting off the film cans. A special showing of Lawrence of Arabia was indeed just what the doctor ordered. Yes sir, it sure was.