THE PROJECTIONIST

(13 Pages in Typescript)

What I hated most?

What I hated most was when people would scream at me.

What made them scream at me? Is that what you're asking?

Well, dig. I was showing The Blood Creek Massacres one time, and it had gotten to the part where Kenny... You remember him don't you? Kenny is sitting by the side of the creek, fishing, and Hatchet... You remember him, that pathetic retard Hatchet comes out of the woods holding one of those pickaxes he favored, and then right at that moment the film broke. I could hear a startled gasp out front, then a moan, then stunned silence. Then would you believe? People turned around and started screaming at me! I mean, they took it personally! They always took it personally!

Do I think I'm the one who took it personally? Is that what you're asking? Hell no. It was the people who sit there and think the movies happen by magic, the people who forget there's someone up in the back behind them, in a noisy, hot projection booth, running a lot of high-tech equipment. You see? Even your shoulders slump when I mention it. Even you folks have your fantasies. You're just like the rest of them, people: babies when a bottle has been yanked out of their mouths.

So what did I do? I did what I always do. I got busy with a splice. I can do a splice in about ten or fifteen seconds, believe it or not, but the rethreading takes longer. I had to feed the film in, and make sure the sprockets and holes were aligned. Meanwhile, I could hear the people out there jeering and cursing, screaming and hooting. To tell the truth, I began to feel like I was Kenny sitting there by the side of the creek, and someone was coming after me with a pickaxe.

Did situations like that make me feel I was being persecuted, is that what you're asking? Hey, who said anything about being persecuted? Oh, I suppose I did feel some contempt for all the people out there who think movies happen by magic. I mean, they're so naive and gullible! They don't want to believe that someone came to the theater ahead of time, and took the film out of its canisters, that someone has checked it for trouble spots, and clipped its heads and tails. They don't want to believe that someone - actual human being - has turned a certain knob to lower the background music, and pushed a certain slider to dim the house lights, and flipped a certain switch to start the projector. They don't want to believe that someone up there behind them is peering through a porthole, and making sure everything is running properly. What makes me think they don't believe it? I told you, they love the illusion, the fantasy. They love being seduced, mesmerized. Ten minutes after a movie has started, they're hypnotized. And hell, wouldn't you rather go through life thinking it's a fairy tale . . . than this shit? When you're in the middle of a sweet, sexy dream, do you like to be awakened?

Aw, hell. Don't look at me like that. Did I have other experiences like that? Sure. I was showing Dressed for Pain once that's a steamy one, that'll put a shiver up a girl's leg桮d the cheating couple are in bed doing the old in an' out, just rockin' and rollin', when by some sixth sense I wake up. I used to keep a kitchen timer in the booth so I could take naps when I needed to, but I guess I had forgotten to set it. So I wake up, and there's film all over the floor, great silvery gobs of it all over the floor. Turns out the bearings on the take-up platter had seized up, and the film was falling down onto itself in huge sloppy piles. What did I do? I jumped up and began grabbing handfuls of it, all the while hearing Darlene, or whatever her name was, out there whispering: Honey, we can't go on like this. Let's suit pretending. We love each other and only each other, let's make a clean break of it. Let's just get in the car and go桮d here I was, in film up to my knees! The damn take-up platter had jammed! So I wound the film onto the platter, and then had to spend the rest of the movie spinning it by hand! And meanwhile, everyone was sitting out there staring up at the screen with stars in their eyes, and maybe tears, and the men were getting hard-ons, and the lovers were squeezing in closer to one another. And I was up there spinning, spinning, spinning! And I knew if I didn't keep spinning, I'd be knee-deep in spaghetti again.

Did I ever get...personally aroused by the films I showed? Oh, you want to know if I'm a sexual prevert. Shit, you don't know much about movies, do you? Well, folks, it's hard to get too turned on when you're staring through a porthole about the size of your face, and especially when you're seeing the picture for the umpteenth time, and more especially when a hot, noisy projector is clicking away right next to you and you know you're responsible for keeping the whole show going. Oh, I suppose I took a normal, what you might call a normal, interest in the sex scenes, and I always knew when they were coming. But I'm not a sexual pervert. Don't try an' pin that on me.

How did I know when the sex scenes were coming? Easy. The guy who showed the films in the theater before mine the films always went from theater to theater, and made the rounds in a certain way this guy would mark the good spots with white shoe polish. For some reason, white shoe polish works good on film, you know, when you have to mark a splice, or a spot that's sticking. Anyway, this guy would mark not only the trouble spots, but the sex scenes. Anything that was juicy and spicy. Hey, now you're getting interested, aren't you? Well, for your information, I once had sexual, true-life sex in the booth. Ah, now I've piqued your interest, haven't I! Well, think about it. A projection booth is the perfect place. It's warm. It's soundproof. You can lock the door. And the noise of the projector provides the perfect cover. Anyway, there we were, down on the floor and going at it, and suddenly I felt something cold slithering down my behind. I looked over my shoulder, and this babe had her knee against the take-up platter! Dig it! She's saying, Don't stop, don't stop now, baby! and I look at her horrified, and say, honey, your knee, move your goddamn knee! You've got your knee against the take-up platter! Meanwhile, I can feel the film slithering down my back, and gathering on my ass, and then would you believe it's just then the film starts to skip, and suddenly people out front are shouting, Hey up there, focus the damn picture, will you? For chrissakes, wake up! We paid good money for this! But my little chickie-babe, she doesn't hear a thing. Don't stop now! she keeps saying, unh, unh-unh, don't stop now! Well, she's clinging to me tighter'n an octopus but I pull out and push her away, and now she's looking at me like I'm a real prick. But it's Superman to the rescue, gentlemen! Superman to the rescue! I jump up and go to the projector and get the film feeding through again, and peer out the porthole stark naked, mind you but when I turn back, I see my babe has a huge wad of film in her hands and is twirling it around her fingers. She's winding it around her face and arms and body, and laughing! She's covering herself with it like it's some kind of celluloid evening gown! And then - man then there's a knock at the door! And you know who it is? It's the owner of the theater! The goddamn owner of the theater is pounding on the door!

Hey, I am not digressing. You asked, didn't you? If you don't want to know, then don't ask. Jesus, what's the matter, fellas, afraid of a little fantasy? Afraid you'll get distracted from your questions? Well, shit! Relax! Loosen up! Go see a movie! Or better yet, go home and take a good look at your wives and girl friends!

I am not. I am not giving you a hard time. Like I said, you asked. If there's something you don't want to know, then don't ask.

So was I angry when the owner of the theater fired me? Is that what you're asking? Of course I was angry. I had been the projectionist at that theater for nine years. I was always on time, I never missed a day, I showed the films twice on weekdays, and on Saturdays and Sundays when there was a matinee, three times. Hell, the owner of that theater was so cheap he had me cut the credits out, at the end of the films, so people would get up and leave the theater sooner. Yeah, it is. It's illegal. But I did it anyway. And then there was the way he fired me. He didn't do it right then, no. He didn't even look at my little chickie-babe, standing there all covered with shiny film. He waited until he had found a replacement, then, when I got to work one afternoon, told me I was out of a job. Through. Done with. History.

Yeah, that's right. That's when I got the job at the video-rental store. Yeah, right again. I took the job mainly because I got a big discount on movies. Three months. That's correct. I lasted in that job three months. Yes, I was fired. So I decided to take the money I had saved up, and travel around.

Hey now, wait a minute! Who said anything about being a drifter? Get real, gentlemen! There's nothing illegal about traveling around the country on a motorcycle! You know that as well as I do! I don't care if it was seventeen states. Nine, eleven, seventeen, what's the difference? Yeah, I did, I used the word Vaporland. Why? Because when I pulled my visor down over my face and put the pedal to the metal, when I realized I could see out but nobody could see in, it was like being in Vaporland. It was like

peering out the porthole of a projection booth, only now I was the projector, it was movie. Shit, you guys don't get it, do you? Well, let me tell you. When you're barrel-assing down the turnpike and the world is coming & you, constantly coming & you, then you can think of yourself as being stationary, and it's the world that's flowing over you, under you, around you桮d especially when you know that you can see out, and nobody can see in it's Vaporland!

The tapes. What tapes. Oh, those. Are there any more tapes? Is that what you're asking me? Hey, you're the hot-shot detectives, you tell me! Anyway, there's no law against it. I was merely keeping a record of my impressions while I was on the road. Yeah, that's right. I bought a helmet mike and connected it to the cassette deck on my instrument panel so I could talk into it. I was just keeping a record of my thoughts as I traveled. Say again? Do I think I'm the only person in the world I have to talk to, do I think I'm the only person worth talking to? Of course not. But between my visor, my mike, and my instrument panel, I was simply enjoying my own movie. I was treating life like a personal movie, and laying down my own soundtrack. You know the people who ride two on a bike and talk to one another and other bikers with built in microphones? Well, I was talking to myself.

So what happened to the motorcycle? Hey, you tell me, you're the big-shot detectives! No, I am not getting defensive. But if you know so much about me, you shouldn't have to ask. Okay, okay! Let's just say I made it disappear! I disappeared it, gentlemen! Pouf! Just like that! You may not believe this, but I have the amazing gift to be able to make things appear and disappear, I can make things appear and disappear any time I want. My beam of light筹 personal headlight没diates out and hits the world, and what it lights up exists. And what it doesn't, doesn't.

Do I think my world is more interesting, fascinating, and colorful, unquote, than other people's? Do I think I live in a world that's different from other people's? Of course not. It's much simpler than that. Other people are simply part of my world. I blink my eyes, they're there. I blink again, they're not. I open my eyes, they're there. I close 'em, they're not. I can even change the overall appearance of the world. It's simply a matter of changing the aspect ratio on my personal lens. You see, gentlemen, I just crop out the parts of life I don't like, I crop out what I don't like in the frame of life. Because when you think about it, people, life is all in your mind, the world is all in your mind.

Shit, how many more people can we squeeze into this room? Come on in, folks! We're having a wonderful time! Hey, I am answering your questions! I'm not intimidated by your questions! Ask me anything you want!

Drugs. Do I take drugs? Not very often. Only when I want to get a little buzz on, you know, add a little color to the world. You see, drugs interfere with my ability to think clearly. I like to think and see things clearly. What? What the hell are you talking about? Why would I lie? I'll tell you anything you wanna know! I've got nothing to hide! Let's understand one thing, you self-righteous enforcers of the law. Your world is your world, and my world is mine. There's only one difference. I am the center of the world.

Oh, don't look at me that way, gentlemen. Excuse me. Ladies and gentlemen.

Can I prove I'm the center of the world? Of course I can. It's simple, ladies and gentlemen. I am the only person in the world who is me. The only eyes I look out of are mine. And because I am the center of my world, I am the center of the world. There. Case closed.

No, I don't feel persecuted. I told you that before, and you keep coming back to it. I don't care if I'm perspiring, wouldn't you be perspiring if you had to go through shit like this? No, no, I told you before! Somebody has to take control of what's happening to this country! Somebody has to run the show泯mebody who knows what he's doing! So what's happening to this country? Hell. Look around you. Just look around you! The Fed has gone off the gold standard, the goddamn immigrants are pouring in and taking all the good jobs, the gun-control people are trying to take away our guns, and everywhere you look the government is stamping and trampling all the rights of the individual! No, no! Let me speak! Have any of you heard of the Bill of Rights? You've actually heard of it? Well, you can kiss that thing goodbye, because there's not a single article in it that's safe anymore! There's not a single article that isn't being violated Imean, trounced on by the United States government! But because the media have you by the you-know-whats, you couldn't get the real truth if you wanted to! How can you be so naive? Look at the movie business, consider even the movie business! Popcorn, ladies and gentlemen! We were showing the movies for the price of popcorn! The distributors of the films were soaking up all the real profits, and we were making our money off the refreshment stand! What? No. You don't get it, do you! The only money we were making at that theater came from the refreshment stand! The distributors even had checkers come around and count heads in the audience, to make sure they were getting every last penny they thought they deserved!

That's right. The Black Knights. The so-called Knights of Destruction. Sure I've heard of them, I told you that two hours ago. Yeah, I did. I founded the Black Knights. We've been all over all that. No, it was not a paramilitary organization, and no, it did have a hundred and fifty-six members. Where do you get your information? Maybe you should learn to get your facts straight. No, no, let me speak! You know what you are? You're like people in a cineplex that's showing five or six movies at once, and you've wandered out to get a soda, or use the bathroom, and now you've come back in the wrong door. You're trying to remember what you saw before, and how it relates to what you're seeing now, but you're in the wrong movie so it doesn't make any sense, you can't figure it out. If you hadn't come back in the wrong door, and if you weren't, now, totally and completely confused, I wouldn't be sitting here. I wouldn't be going through this shit.

Yeah, thanks. I could use some water. That would make my day.

That would make a perfect end to a perfect day.

Yeah. I was in contact with some people. I told you that two hours ago. I was trying to build an organization along the lines of the Committee to Preserve Public Sanity and Common Sense. So naturally I was putting together a mailing list, naturally I was working to build up the membership. We've already discussed that. What? At the present time? How many Black Knights are there at the resent time? Like I said, I was working to build up the membership, and at the present time there's only, well, one. Me. You got a problem? Shit, stop looking at me like that! What'd you think this was, a mainstream political party? Did you think we were actually going to hold a nominating convention, and run a candidate for President? Get real! It was just one person's橴 was just my桴tempt to stop what's happening to this country!

A gun? I never said anything about a gun. That was your little fantasy. Besides, if I can make things appear and disappear, why didn't I make the gun disappear? I keep telling you, it's not my gun! Shut up, all of you, and let me speak! Do you people know there's a little shutter in a movie projector that blocks out the frame bars, so you won't see the lines that separate the frames? That means that when you're watching a movie, you're actually in. the dark about forty-five percent of the time! But you know what, ladies and gentlemen? You're completely in the dark! I keep telling you and you don't listen! I never said anything about a gun! I said that when the beam of light left my projector, it was like bullets being fired at the screen! I was firing bullets! Cowboys, criminals, and hot-shot Secret Service agents like yourselves would be up there shooting at one another, but all you were firing were images! Little pieces of light! I was doing the real firing, I was standing at the rear of the shooting gallery湥ah, I did use that phrase 'cause the theater I worked in was so long and narrow it resembled a shooting gallery - I was in control, was running things!

Is that the reason I think I'm the center of the world? Is that what you're asking? Let's put it this way. When you've been around movie theaters as long as I have, the world has no more reality than a movie, and half the time less. If the light, the action, doesn't radiate from my eyes, my brain, it's not there.

Alienated? Do I feel alienated? Is that what you're asking? How could I, when my head is so filled with sights and sounds and images? I've got a world to take care of, people, a brain, athree-pound universe you'd believe me, I'm at home in my world! If you want to stand by and watch this country go down the tubes, that's your business. But as Grand Marshal of the Knights of Destruction, I intend to do something about it!

Do I think everyone shares my beliefs? No, of course not. On the other hand, most people just sit and stare up at the movie screen, and think it all happens by magic. Most people forget there's actually a person up in the back who's in charge of things and running the show and, I might add, getting no credit at all.

What the hell are you talking about? How did I know the President was going to be in the area today? How did I know he was going to be in this two-bit backwater? Simple! I didn't! Say again? Why did I have a copy of his itinerary with me? It just happened to be in the newspaper I had in my saddlebag! It was coincidence, folks, pure coincidence! The maps? What about the maps. I put a lot of miles on my motorcycle in a year. I like to know where I'm going. No, no, wrong movie, gentlemen! I did not come here with the express intention of shooting the President! I told you that two hours ago! I just happened to be in the motorcycle shop across the street, buying some oil, and when I saw the motorcade going by, I went out to see what was going on. Frankly, I think someone just wandered out of the gun shop across the square and decided to try out his new toy. Hell, whoever fired the shot missed him by twenty feet, didn't he? Why don't you find that guy, the guy who actually fired the shot, and put him in your movie?

Come right in everybody! Make room for the newcomers, please! But don't crowd me. There's too many people in here, as it is! If you're not careful, you're gonna asphyxiate me! Can't someone open a window somewhere? I can hardly breathe!

Somebody saw me with a gun? Bull...shit! Once again, wrong movie, gentlemen! Okay, okay, so you've found my bike! But you haven't found the gun, or the gun you have isn't mine! And if you don't have my gun, you ain't got nothin'! No, no, let me speak! Let's get clear about all this! Just because I don't like what's happening to this country doesn't mean I took a shot at someone! And it certainly doesn't mean I took a shot at the President! So why don't you just give me back my camera, my tapes, my helmet, my sunglasses.

What? What the hell are you talking about? Held without bond? Enough evidence to present to the grand jury? Are you shitting me? No, no, I'll scream as loud as I want! I hate people telling me what to do! Hey, you can't do this! You can't put these cuffs on me, you can't lock me up! You got no goddamn authority over me! This is illegal and unconstitutional! No, I won't call a lawyer, I can deal with you assholes myself! You're all part of my movie, because I'm the center of the universe! I got my rights! I'll shoot the immigrants! I'll shoot anybody I want! You slimy bastards! You assholes! I'll bang on these bars till it drives you crazy! I'll bang on these bars till you can't stand it anymore! You wait! I'll show you! I'll be outta here in no time! You'll get the picture! You'll see!

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