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Screams like Shadows were cheap solutions
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Most Saturday afternoons I was loitering at the movie house, lapping up the highly saturated colors, the melodramatic action, the hastily written plots. The air conditioning was the main draw for most of us, a break from the sun for a few hours. I loved the improbable costumes – spacemen, or pirates, or vampires – all poorly made, all haphazard. The monsters- cheap, ramshackle, homemade looking but kept mostly in the shadows, an inexpensive costume fix. The leading ladies screams, generous, robust , extravagant. They were lavishly bountiful, the screams, partly to make the monsters appear scarier, but mostly for the actresses to pad their roles and get more screen time. The screams, like shadows, were also a cheap solution.

The movie screens glowed like stained glass windows. Like glossy hard candy when you held it up to the light just right so it could shine through its sugary filter.

The blood in these films usually looks like thick tomato soup . Oranger than real blood, but somehow more lurid, more intense. Emerald green grass gleamed as if it were painted in slick enamel. Jewel like. Vibrant and startling , the movie colors popped off the screen vivid and overblown.

It was an adjustment walking home from the theater at night – everything looks drained, bloodless as if I had been momentarily blinded by headlights, and was stumbling my way through a darkened room. Objects and houses, cars and people doing the bare minimum to have color, as if they were begrudgingly giving a faint gesture of having color – just as a disgruntled courtesy. Pale afterimages.

Gray matted grass clumped together like limp underwater seaweed. Wet , dark, slack. Tired out cars- all beige, and gray, and slight tints of fearful color, murmuring shyly and quietly, afraid of standing out. Of causing too much of a fuss. The familiar houses, the school , the playground… all seemed dingy, even lackluster. Even the woods seemed a rinky dink effort.

My eyes were still tingling from all those “wizard-of-gore” movies. Their sensational cadmium cherry reds – rich like cough syrup or congealed kool aid. Non movie blood couldn’t compete with movie blood. Non movie blood just looked murky. Dumb. Boring. It didn’t have the star power.

I was frankly irritated by the strict curfew. The night air throbbed with the drone of the cicadas. They were a new sound to me. Rick told me that they would only be here for the summer, the cicadas. They were weird and loud and spent 17 years underground doing god knows what down there. They seemed alien, spending most of their life packed in mud, tunneling, burrowing under the surface of the earth – encased in a sludge near tree roots– only to briefly emerge into the world for a few months. I still wasn’t sure if what Rick was saying was true. He tended to lie …a lot.

Aunt Lucille discouraged me from hanging out with him, thought he had too much sass. She was always saying “The world is only what it is” and disapproved of his exaggerations. His stories.

For me, Rick was a good model for behavior. He acted like what I thought being a teenager should be – He: getting kicked out of school, causing trouble, disappointing his folks, the whole bit.

He shirked studying to practice his guitar, and was the kind of kid that smoked in public. He wore heavy metal t-shirts, even to church. He even threw firecrackers at poor Pretzel. He was a jerk, but still , he was everything I thought I should be someday.

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