Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The young black lady was prepared to save our rotting southern community, lord knoweth how or even why.
She was the director of something she called Fascinating Theatre. On the surface, it looked just like any cineplex. It was the largest building ever in our town, and we were all convinced by the simple fact of it. Such grandeur is very impressive. Its erection showed she had faith in Fascinating Theatre in our town. Now, we didn't truly understand the theory, but with such grand developments, we didn't figure we had to, no more than the sun coming up most mornings. Most everybody not otherwise engaged, which was most, became a shareholder, an employee, or both, of Fascinating Theatre.
She taught us that theatre could not be confined to the ten screens within the walls, but must follow us all the day and into the night. All of us must attend the movies, and when not inside the Theatre we must be working for its success among us, and grateful for our very existence as a direct result of Fascinating Theatre.
She convened a meeting to show us what she meant. The city manager (this was the little bigshot Napoleon complex who was the boss in our office once upon a waketime) was trying to manipulate her. After all, she was a woman, and Black besides.
"I don't think we need both me and the mayor for this ceremony..." he laughed. She must've agreed. Immediately, he was out of the project, and only the mayor stood at one side on opening night.
There was developing a Theatre class, and a detritis of the left-behind. I was over there across the street come opening night. Here come the Director, with another one who resembled her. She was dancing, an African dance, scooting along the walk together with her follower, on the edge nearest the street, grinning broadly, their arms syncopated in a motion like the drive wheels of a locomotive. It seemed to be directed at me, standing there in blank stupefication, but maybe all the left-behinds felt that way. I stood across the street, in front of the old Drive In Theatre, which was decrepit and dying, just watching.
It resembled a dance the natives of the Serengeti might have performed to mark the coming of the white man's railroad. It was a celebration of the successful introduction of Fascinating Theatre to our town, or maybe the failure of the old way, or both.
All that the Theatre class did during the day related to Fascinating Theatre. You tried to catch their eye, thinking, you're kidding, right? but they never blinked. When they talked, they did so in banal boosterism, advertising the savior of their community. They sounded like TV commercials. We laughed at them, but we were unnerved. There were few of us, and we had after all been rejected by the Fascinating Theatre.
He is a professional forensic craftsman. He is taking apart a revolver, and he is dusting the shells, and he puts the works through a variety of very close order chemical tests there on the table while we watch. He is sweating.
He cannot find what she wants found. He shrugs. His hand is shaking now. She informs us all that probably they must now tear down the front end of the vehicle. I don't know what she means, but he does. His voice cracks as he says, "I can't do it now; I've been here for sixteen hours!"
He is afraid of being taken off the project through failure, or exhaustion. Then he would only be one of us.
There were chats in the coffee shops, casual encounters at Clayton's Grocery, wives in their turnip patches bent double at the waist out on the broad flat field, men sitting on summer evening porches running water from a hose at the St Augustine...
No more. Now in our town nothing else is but the Theatre.