Wayne Michael DeHart
Summer of 1962. For me, the long pause between the 8th grade and the 9th grade. There was this black-haired, doe-eyed female who lived a couple of streets over. She was two years older and 3 inches taller than me and I had seen her use a long left hook to make a guy’s nose bleed at Opechee Park. But on this Sunday afternoon, I’m taking her to the movies at the Colonial Theatre downtown, hoping everyone sees me with … her.
Just a few minutes into the show, she makes a move, nudging me fast and hard, whispers she wants some popcorn. I get up, walk to the old theater’s concession area between the lobby and the seats (where else would it be?) and bought one of those 15-cent cardboard boxes of aromatic, heat-hatched kernels of corn. I get back to my seat, hand it to her, and she says ” No, not THAT kind, I want the buttered stuff in a bucket.” She seemed irked, irritated, impatient. Got back up, went to the stand, paid out big bucks for the buttered version.
Had just sat back down and one handful later, she says,”Didn’t you salt it? I can’t taste any salt. Go salt it.” Up I popped from my seat, task in hand, and headed back to the land of Milk Duds, Junior Mints and SnoCaps. I grabbed the oversized aluminum shaker with the semi-clogged holes and fiendishly shook that mother like a madman. The lady asketh, the lady receiveth.
Upon my return, she quickly converted an oversized handful into an oversized mouthful, gasped, made a face (it was dark, but I KNOW she made a face), then asked where her Coke was. “You didn’t say you wanted a Coke.” She huffed, then hissed, “Well, common sense says that eating something THIS salty is gonna make ya need something to drink, ya know.” As I crawled over her outstretched legs one more time, I pretended not to hear her sarcastic snark in the dark, “Shouldn’t have to ask.” So she said it again, louder, about the time I reached the couple sitting three seats down the row.
Came back with the Coke, even got her the largest size, to make up for the salt surprise. By now I had lost a pound and a half going back-and-forth, the aforementioned couple were breathing heavily (I’m guessing that was because they were tired of getting up for me), and her attitude had become downright non-Christian by 1962 standards. A full minute passed. Then another. Then it came … “Did you bring napkins? This butter is all over my hand. Give me a napkin.” I told her I had failed to bring any, but offered my condolences, and then my handkerchief. “Yuck!”, she gasped, recoiling in disgust at what my Dad used to call a “snotrag” – “Son, when you leave the house, you can forget your wallet, you can forget your hat, hell you can even forget your own name, but NEVER forget your snotrag, ‘cuz sure in heck at some point you’re gonna need it, you’re gonna want it.” The damsel in obvious distress clearly needed it, but didn’t want it. She did, however, remember my name. The words came through clenched teeth, “Wayne, you cheap little twerp, get me a freakin’ real napkin – NOW. “
I probably should have been grateful that her hands were occupied, with the Coke in her left hand and her greasy right hand resting inside the popcorn bucket which in turn was resting between her legs, because otherwise her fists may have joined her teeth in doing that clenching thing. I remembered the bloody nose she had donated to that kid in the park just because she caught him staring at what he wasn’t used to seeing in the 8th grade. He bled all over his shirt. Shoulda had a snotrag with him, I guess. My Dad was right, as usual.
Dutifully, and with great fear and trepidation, again I arose and squeezed past the heavy-breathing couple (“Ohhh”, I remember thinking “now I get it”) and headed for the concession stand. The lady started to ask me what I wanted THIS time, but I walked right past her. Into the lobby. Out the front door. Home to watch the Red Sox game.
I don’t know how long Lisa Left-hook sat there waiting for me, but I have heard that if you can get into that building late at night, all these years later, and you sit very still and remain very quiet, you can hear the distant, shrill voice of a fifteen year old female bully, calling out repeatedly, endlessly … “Wayne? Wayne? Where are you? I want that napkin, and I want it NOW!”
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