“I still think you should reconsider…”
Ian’s voice trailed off as he rubbed the stubble that flecked his chin. Gloria half-expected that her cubicle wall would fall under his enormous weight, but it seemed determined to withstand the pressure. Ian had stopped by her desk on his stalk around the newsroom. It was his jungle.
Not much had had changed about Ian in the 19 years that Gloria had known him. He was wearing plain slacks that matched his brown hair and eyes and a button up shirt that might have been the same ones he had on when she first started. She doubted if the top two buttons had ever been closed and the sleeves had permanent creases where they had been rolled up before lunch each day.
“Ian, I could never thank you enough for giving me a chance when I was nothing but a cocky girl with a cheap degree, but I’ve made my decision and it’s the right one. There are other things I need to do before I die and I can’t do those things if I have to be here every week.”
Ian’s face sunk and he scratched his chin a little harder.
“I know, I know… You’re one of a kind kid. I just don’t know how I’m gonna replace you. Not everyone has the sense God stored in that head of yours.”
“Well that seems more like the truth every day I live. So what’s her name?”
“The girl you’ve already hired to replace me.”
A smile cracked his scowl for the first time. He stood up straight and looked down at Gloria like a kid who had been caught with a pocket full of the sample candy from the grocery store.
“I guess you were watching more than movies in your time here, huh? Her name’s Josaphine Ray. I hired an educated barbie doll! She keeps spouting all this crap about ‘mise en scene’ and ‘linear developments’. I don’t understand a word of what she’s sayin’. People just want to know if it’s a good movie or not.”
Gloria laughed. She thought about how much she had learned since the days when she knew it all.
“You want me to take her for a spin?”
“Gloria! I didn’t think you was that kind of girl…”
She leaned forward and took a swing at him, but his never-ending supply of wise cracks had made him surprisingly agile for such a big guy.
“Ian!” she shouted in mock shock, “You know what I mean. Take her along with me to a movie.”
Ian laughed and his belly rumbled just the way she imagined Santa Clause’s would when he bellowed his famous ho ho ho’s.
“That would be great. Maybe you can tell me if she’s got what it takes. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s worth my time turning these rookies into real ball players.”
And with that he was gone.
Gloria could hear Josaphine approaching her desk long before she was close enough to be seen. The carpet in the newsroom could only muffle the clack of her heels. Even without the shoes, her earrings announced her location like trendy little wind chimes.
Gloria was finishing a piece on a local director when she heard a high pitched sound behind her.
She turned and could not stop from laughing. Josaphine really did look like a barbie doll. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a perfect ponytail so that it could not cover up any part of her figure.
“Hello. You must be Jo.”
Josaphine’s smile turned to a pout in an instant. She looked down and fidgeted with her necklace, trying to decide if she should speak up, but Gloria saved her from the having to choose.
“You don’t like to be called Jo do you?”
Josaphine looked up relieved.
“No. It’s such a boy name.”
Gloria laughed again. Why had she volunteered to babysit for Ian?
“He must have been watching too…”
Gloria realized she had spoken her thought out loud. “Oh. Nothing. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes! I am excited for this movie. Did you know that the director fashions his shots after Orson Wells?”
“Hmmm.” Gloria shook her head, laughing inside, as they walked out to her car.
On the ride to the theater Josaphine told her that she felt honored to be seeing a movie with such a well-respected reviewer as her. She said that she knew she could learn a lot from someone with her experience. Gloria nodded politely and read between the lines. It was girl talk for, “You are old news and I have will have a bigger following than you in a month.” Gloria just laughed.
When they entered the theater, Josaphine led the way down the aisle and chose a seat that would have been the bullseye if the theater were a dart board. Gloria smiled and continued down the aisle to the very front. She turned and took the seat closest to the wall in the first row. Gloria ball, corner pocket.
It was clear that Josaphine was confused. She stood up and slinked down to the seat next to Gloria.
“Um… Do you always sit up front like this?”
The little hamsters in Josaphine’s head were still running full speed on their wheel when the lights dimmed and the previews began. She pulled out a small notebook and a pen from her purse. Even in the dark Gloria could see the light reflecting off of the little pink rhinestones that adorned it’s cover.
As soon as the music began for the main feature Gloria pulled her legs up under her and turned around in her seat to face the audience. The motion caught Josaphine’s attention and she turned to look at Gloria with a horrified look.
“W-what are you doing?”
“But you are going to miss the movie!” She exclaimed in a loud whisper.
Gloria never turned away from the audience as she explained.
“I will watch it in the showing right after this one.”
Josaphine was frozen with shock. She stared at Gloria like she was crazy. By the time the opening credits had finished, Josaphine had pulled herself into the chair, but she was clearly annoyed.
“What, exactly are we supposed to learn by staring at the back wall?”
“Nothing. So I would suggest watching the people.”
Josaphine watched the blank faces lit by the glow of the over sized screen. As the movie progressed the audience began to change. She watched a girl pull closer to the guy beside her and rest her head on his shoulder. She saw faces of stone transform through a wide spectrum of emotions. She noticed people laughing at jokes that were not that funny. Before the movie was halfway over she knew without a doubt that it would be a success. Josaphine whispered as she watched a mother cry.
“I think I get it.”
“Yeah. But I would have never thought of doing this. How did you know?”
Gloria remembered the look in Ian’s eyes about six months after she was hired and shivered.
“I was gonna get fired. Ian never said so, but I know that look and I knew I wasn’t cutting it. Fear has a way of opening up possibilities you never would have considered before.”
“Well it’s brilliant.”
“It’s not brilliant, it’s desperation. I tried so hard to tell people why they should or should not like each movie and they didn’t care. I finally realized that nothing I said would change how they felt when they saw it. I was giving they ‘why’ before I stopped to consider the ‘if’. So one day I came to the front and turned around to see if I could find out if the people liked it. It wasn’t hard to tell that the movie would be a hit when I was not distracted by the movie itself. I went to the office to write the review before I realized that I didn’t know anything about it. I had to come back and watch it for myself.”
“So this is your secret?”
“It’s not a secret. It’s a weakness. I was not smart enough to figure out if a movie would be liked on my own, even though I knew everything about film making and story. I had to cheat. I let the people’s faces tell me if it was good or not and then I just filled in the reason’s why.”
They sat in silence until the movie ended. The lights came on and the crowd shuffled out of theater chatting about what they thought. Gloria slowly backed off the chair and listened to the reviews as the credits rolled. Josaphine stood with a clack of her heels on the hard floor and turned to Gloria.
“For helping me to understand what this job really is.”
“This job will be whatever you make it. You don’t have to do what I do, but whatever you do, make sure it’s for them, not for you.”
Gloria smiled. Memories of her first morning after sitting the wrong way in a theater chair flashed into her mind.
“Oh, one more thing.”
“Make sure you soak in a good warm bath tonight.”
Josaphine’s mouth said sure, but her eyes clearly said “You don’t know everything.”
Gloria just laughed.
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake