Monday, October 21, 2002

Short Fiction from GraniteRants: A first in an occasional series of original short fiction

Jagged, Gritting Teeth
The intoxicating fumes engulfed his lungs. His jagged, gritting teeth clenched on the rusted metal of the tailpipe. He could feel the rush surge through his body with each exhalation from his lips, all the while making sure not to release his jaw and grip.

Finished, he pulled himself up from the cold concrete of his garage. Dizzy and incoherent, he ambled over to the driver's side window of his automobile, reached in the open window, and turned off the motor with a twist of the ignition. He had great difficulty putting on his shoes and slacks. He had greater difficulty navigating the hallways of his fetid house. Garbage, scraps of food, newspapers, cans, and other assorted refuse littered the rooms. The man felt his way from room to room, holding onto grubby walls - steering himself to the front door.

Now for the difficult part. The man had managed to stagger from his house, down the boulevard, and on towards the Nickelodeon Theatre. One of the greatest bargains in town was their $1.00 matinee. The usual features were old classics and westerns, but today was the opening of a children's picture - Ernest Goes to Camp.

Struggling with words and with great difficulty, the man was able to collect his admission ticket. Armed with his ticket stub, the man walked through the curtain and took his seat at the middle of the theatre.

The employees of the Nickelodeon were well acquainted with the mysterious man. Every once in a while (usually with the opening of a children's picture), the man would show up - disheveled, vacant, and always in the state of forlorn dementia. At first the management was quite alarmed with his arrivals, especially with so many unsupervised children in attendance. The manager used to make sure that the theatre ushers kept a close eye on the man - to make sure that he did nothing to the children in the darkened theatre. But after months of his mysterious appearances - always in the same state - always grinning that crazy rust-stained toothy grin, the management began to ease up. At not one time did the man show any interest in the children. In fact, he never even showed interest in the films on the screen. Once, a few years back, the man fell asleep during a particular showing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but that was the only deviation ever noticed from the usual blank staring at the screen. Oftentimes, when the movie was over and the theatre lights we up, the man would sit alone for up to an hour. Everybody thought the man was crazy.

For an hour and a half the children ate their popcorn, laughed, giggled, climbed over seats, threw popcorn, jumped over seats, poked each other, stared in amazement at the screen, or just generally goofed off. The only person motionless in the theatre was the man; the multicolor reflection of the screen illuminating his face; sparkles of light glinting off his rust colored, jagged teeth.....

When the picture was over, and after the children had filed out of the theatre did the man begin to stir. Blank and akin to the behavior of a zombie, the man exited the theatre - continuing up the boulevard and out of sight. The ushers swept up the popcorn and other garbage off the floor and the theatre manager went through the usual procedure - making sure the theatre was ready for the next showing. As he did this, the manager shook his head in wonderment. It never failed to amaze him how many freaks and weirdos there were in the world. Oh well, he thought. He would go home to his dinner and his wife, and tell her about the most recent sighting of that crazy guy with the jagged, gritting teeth.


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