Teaser 037: The Story Is King

“I want to come with you.” I rose from the sofa. As she took a step toward the kitchen I stopped and turned toward the other guests. “There is one thing I've noticed or, more appropriately, failed to notice. I'm in a movie star's house but I haven't seen a movie room yet. That seems like a gross negligence.”

Serena stopped and faced the others as she laughed. “That's not a bad idea. We could have a movie night. What do you think?” The others were in agreement. “Follow me, old man. We'll get your water and show you the movie room, as you call it.”

In the kitchen Serena opened the 747 refrigerator to reveal an entire shelf of water bottles, including the expensive, “designer” brands, flavored brands, and the local plain variety. I grabbed a plain one and followed Serena from the kitchen, through the dining room and toward the front door. The others waited near a large open area of the wall to our left and Serena walked to a box nearly hidden on the right side of this open area. She lifted the cover, pressed the switch inside, and the wall panel, about twelve feet in width, from floor to ceiling, slid inward a few inches and then slid to the left, revealing a dark, carpeted hallway about ten to twelve feet in length and a room which expanded toward the left past the hallway.

“Oh,” I marveled, “the hidden wall trick. Very clever, Serena.”

As everyone laughed, Serena turned to me smiling widely, and waved her left arm. “Welcome to my movie screening room.”

I took it as an invitation to enter first and after a couple steps noted a short stairway to the left to a very small cubby hole at ceiling height. I turned to Serena directly behind me. “You have a projection room too?”

She feigned shock. “Of course. You would expect less from a movie star?” She looked behind her to the others and they all laughed. “There's a digital projector up there too. It's what we'll use tonight.”

I was impressed. “That's pretty cool. Where's the popcorn?”

“Do you want popcorn?” Serena asked quite seriously. “I can get you some.”

“No, I'm only kidding.”

“Come,” Serena said, nudging me forward, “grab a seat and we'll look at some titles and make a decision and the show will begin.”

When we entered the screening room itself, it was five rows of four seats each, with a circular area carved out of the room to the left which looked like a control seat. Each of the twenty seats, to the right of each, had massive holders attached for drinks and enough table area where you could eat dinner. I noted it and Serena replied it's exactly what it was for and many had eaten dinner in this room. She explained they designed the screening room to be close to the front door and the kitchen for those occasions when guests arrived strictly for a movie screening and she didn't want them to have to walk all over the house to reach it, “like some other thoughtless people in the business have done in their own residences.” She said the last part with obvious distaste.

The screen dominated the wall before us, and from the back row was barely twenty-five feet away. It may seem a considerable distance even for a big screen television. The ceiling in the screening room, though, was high, very high. I told you there were multi-levels in Serena's house and I could see the roof lift high on the right of the promenade and had wondered as we walked into her house the day before but failed to ask. Now I knew. The screen was eight feet tall and twice as long. Sitting in the back row was not going to strain even my “old man eyes.” I picked the seat second from the right wall in the back row. “I'll take this one in the back row. The front row's for goody-goodies. I haven't been one of those since, hmm, birth I would think.”

“Sit down, Gregory, wherever you wish, and I'll pull up some choices.”

All filed in and took a seat while Serena moved to the control area and started fiddling with it. In the dark I couldn't make out exactly what she was doing until suddenly the screen popped to life before us, drowning us in a haze of blue, and icons appeared. I was asked what I preferred. “Please, choose something with an intelligent, adult theme. No kid movies, no 'we're adults making silly movies we think are funny' but the humor always escapes me, something intelligent but not melodramatic or tragic. I don't want to feel that tonight. I don't want to cry, okay?”

When I said the last sentence, everyone turned to me, even Serena, and I heard a smattering of, “You cry watching movies?”

“What? You think I don't have any feelings? Does it really surprise you I admit you folks can make a story which captivates, intrigues, compels me to think and identify with the characters so I actually care about the story, that I will then feel the heartache and the anguish and have it affect me deeply? But you better make those characters human beings I can identify with, I can bond with, because if you fail to do that, I won't give a shit about your story, no matter how profound its message may be.” The look on each face was stunned silence. “You're not going to seriously tell me you have never cried watching a movie?”

Now the smattering of comments were, “No, no,” or “Of course,” until Serena loudly proclaimed, “I cried reading your screenplay, Gregory! I identified with your characters!”

I gazed at this woman with a new appreciation. “Thank you, Serena, but it's what a storyteller tries to do, you know, all of us.”

Will looked back. “And the story is king. It's what you said yesterday. The story is king.”

“In my humble opinion, storytelling is the oldest art form. When humanoids invented language, a means of abstract communication, this invention had to occur before any humanoid could draw the simplest picture, and storytelling evolved through this invention. Storytellers were revered in the group, the tribe, because they were the keepers of knowledge. They could embellish, create fiction to reveal a larger truth, but a storyteller kept the tribe focused by serving as the link to the ancestors and providing direction for the tribe. Storytellers today, the really, really great ones, should be revered because they still perform this same and essential function. They provide the sense of where we've been collectively as human beings and a sense of where we're going. Without great storytellers all of humanity forgets its past, ignores it, and has no direction into the future. We have no idea who we were and therefor who we are, and have no clue where we're going. This is the state of the tribe of human beings today. Aimless, directionless, because storytellers are revered no more.”

There was a silence for a moment until Drake shattered it by clapping enthusiastically, saying, “Bravo! Lord Pacifico is back! And with another profound truth. You are packed with this stuff, aren't you, Gregory?”

“Yeah, Drake, I am, but let's watch something first. I have things I could share about all of you, career choices you've made, statements you've made in interviews, and the like, but I'd prefer to tell you later. Let's get some Looney Tunes up there.” I used my Elmer Fudd impersonation, which is pretty good. “When twacking wabbits one has to be vewy careful. Followed by the announcement, 'And now our Feature Presentation.' Duh-duh-duh-DAH! Doesn't have to be that dramatic, though, Serena, since you are in charge.”

I glanced to her and she smiled and turned around. “Okay, somebody pick something.” Somebody picked something but it's interesting no one remembers who picked or what was picked. If you've paid attention, there seems to be an enormous amount of detail in what I've shared so far. Over the years we've all discussed this in various ways, forums, groups and individually. At times I took notes. Other times I remembered what was said and wrote it down later and there were simply things which always remained fresh in my mind, actions and dialog. I've pieced it together though I cannot provide you an assurance it's completely accurate. What I can say is it is as true to what actually took place as anything can possibly be, and no one remembers who picked the movie or which movie we watched. It wasn't memorable and perhaps because of it I fell asleep well before the movie's conclusion. Drake, sitting in the back row with me, saw my head resting on the chair back and stepped to me deftly to shake my arm. He was the only one who knew I fell asleep. Thanks, Drake.

- Just Desserts, Segment FourDidn’t See That Coming” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com