by Kylee Hoelscher
No Filter Applied
Connie walked into Theater Three with a tub of popcorn and a Diet Tab. There were plenty of seats to choose from at today’s matinee. It was 11 a.m. and most people were still at church, which is why Connie chose to see movies on Sundays. This particular movie had come out on Friday, and she had been looking forward to Sunday all week.
Connie climbed the stairs to the fourth row in the theater and sat two seats down from a young couple. She liked to be right in the middle and couldn’t really enjoy the movie if she was any closer than the fourth row. It strained her neck to look up at the giant-sized characters. She preferred sitting a little higher, but there was an overweight man in the fifth row, and she could tell he would smell sour.
She settled in, putting the box of popcorn on the chair beside her and pulling out her little travel-sized bottle of rubbing alcohol and some napkins she had taken from the snack bar. She poured some of the alcohol on the napkins and proceeded to wipe the last person’s germs from the armrests.
She noticed the girl down the row watching her, so she leaned over the seats separating them and held out some extra napkins and the small, clear bottle of alcohol.
“Would you like some?”
The girl leaned away, into the boy beside her. She shook her head.
“Suit yourself,” Connie said, shrugging. “There are a lot of germs in places like this.”
Connie started to tell her about the time she had gotten the stomach flu after seeing On Golden Pond at this theater, but the boy had put his arm around the girl’s shoulders, pulling her close and whispering in her ear. Connie crumpled the used napkins and stuffed them in the cup holder of the chair on her left.
She put her Diet Tab in the cup holder on her right and pulled the popcorn onto her lap. She grabbed the box of Milk Duds from her purse and shook them in their box to free any stuck to the side with caramel and then poured them into her tub of popcorn, shaking the tub so the candy would be evenly distributed.
“Hey.” The boy leaned over the girl’s lap and stared at Connie, his buck teeth shining from the lights. “Can you cut that out?”
Connie gave the box just one more shake. “If I had teeth like that, I would try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible,” she said, just loudly enough for the boy to hear.
“Now, listen—“the boy said, just as the lights began to dim for the previews.
“Shhh,” the girl said, grabbing his arm and putting it back around her shoulders. “Just ignore her.” She looked at Connie and raised her eyebrows. “She’s just jealous, that’s all.”
Connie shook her popcorn box once more, and rustled around for a handful. Connie actually enjoyed coming to the movies by herself. When she had been dating Phil, they had gone to the movies a few times together, but he had been distracting. He was one of those men who thought a darkened theater was the perfect excuse to put his hand on her thigh or put his arm around her shoulders to rest his hand on her breast.
She looked over at the couple beside her to see if that boy was the type. His hand was still on the girl’s shoulder. Connie shifted her weight slightly to get more comfortable in her seat to get ready for the movie to start. She wouldn’t let a couple of teenagers get in the way of enjoying the movie.
Yesterday at Safeway she had seen a magazine with the movie’s stars on the cover and had slapped it down on the conveyor belt beside her Sara Lee coconut cream pie, two liter bottle of Diet Shasta and the big, orange box of Milk Duds.
“I’m going to see this movie tomorrow,” Connie had said to the woman in front of her in line.
The woman looked at Connie as if she wasn’t sure she was talking to her. “Excuse me—What?”
Connie picked up the magazine and stabbed at the photo on the front with her index finger. “The couple is married in real life.”
“Hmm,” the woman said, scooting her cart forward and turning away from Connie.
The woman was buying a Farmer John ham, Del Monte pineapple rings and a Safeway brand jar of cloves. Connie figured she was getting ready for Easter, which was next Sunday.
“I never buy that brand,” Connie said to her, pointing to the Del Monte can.
The woman turned back to Connie and raised her eyebrows.
“The slices always taste like metal. I buy Dole.” Connie lowered her voice. “Also, Save Mart has Farmer John hams on sale this week. They’re ten cents cheaper a pound.” She moved her purse to her other shoulder and began rifling through it looking for her pie coupon. “This market is always more expensive than Save Mart.”
The woman turned away and began writing a check for her groceries.
“You should always check the ads before you shop,” Connie said. “The only reason I’m here is because Shasta is on sale for sixty-nine cents.”
The woman stared straight ahead as the cashier copied down her driver’s license number on the back of the check and then quickly grabbed her paper bag off the conveyor belt, pushing her cart toward the exit as she put the bag in.
As the cashier rang up Connie’s groceries, Connie watched the prices appear on the cash register and smiled when she saw the pie ring up at five ninety-nine. She handed the cashier her coupon.
“Sara Lee sent me a whole packet of these coupons,” Connie told the cashier as if Connie knew Sara personally and it had been a favor among friends. “I found a screw in my pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Thank God I didn’t chip a tooth on it.”
The cashier was a teenager with white heads on her nose. She glared at Connie, which Connie supposed she deserved for trying to send shoppers elsewhere.
Still, she was a paying customer. Maybe Connie would ask for the manager’s name so she could tell the manager about the cashier’s bad attitude. Connie was the kind of woman who wrote letters to companies to complain about their products or a snippy customer service representative on the phone.
Sometimes companies sent her coupons for free merchandise, like the time with Sara Lee. Sometimes the companies would just send her a letter of apology and tell Connie that they hoped she would still try some of their other products. Connie stuffed these letters straight in the trash, unless the note was signed by a woman. Then, she would buy one more product from that company, just to give them another chance.
“Women have got to look out for each other,” she had overheard her coworker, Sandy, tell another woman in the break room. Connie thought that was a good idea, and she tried to tell Sandy so, but when Connie joined them at the coffee machine, they had both had to leave quickly for a meeting.
On Friday, she had seen Sandy in the bathroom and had asked her to come to the movie this weekend, but now, as the movie was starting, she was glad Sandy had had that dental emergency. Maybe Sandy was the type of woman who would steal the armrest between them or constantly get up to use the ladies’ room. Connie munched on her popcorn/candy combo while the male lead pursued his love interest, all the while thinking it would have been nice if Phil would have brought her flowers or walked her to the door.
When the love scene began, she turned to the couple down the row and said, “That’s not her real butt, you know. She uses a butt double.”
It was quiet in the theater, and Connie’s voice carried across the moans that were coming from the screen. The couple ignored her and she shrugged and turned back toward the screen. Connie had learned about the butt double last night while watching Entertainment NOW! The host, Mandy Mathews, had shown a clip of the movie and had dropped that bombshell conspiratorially to the TV audience.
Connie didn’t see much wrong with using a butt double. When the male star’s butt flashed onto the screen, she couldn’t help think what a shame it was you couldn’t substitute body parts in real life. She thought about the last time she had seen Phil’s butt. They had broken up six months ago, but she could still picture his creamy, pale bottom, full of dimples. And the way his penis looked small and insignificant, hidden beneath his bulging belly, and thick white thighs. He could have used a body double.
The onscreen couple panted and shone with sweat as the woman sat on top of her male costar.
“They had to film that love scene twenty times to get it right,” Connie said to no one in particular.
She popped the last Milk Dud into her mouth and then took a long sip of Diet Tab. Maybe she would call Phil when she got home and, if he wanted to pick things up where they left off, she would picture the man on the screen when Phil took off his clothes. She thought about the TV Guide sitting on her coffee table and tried to remember what Twilight Zone episode was on tonight. The movie ended and as Connie stood brushing popcorn off her lap, she thought maybe if it was a repeat, she just might call Phil.
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Kylee Hoelscher received an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Long Beach and a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara. She is currently writing a novel.