My mother died—I think of terminal sexual climax—on November 5, 1971, while watching goo-goo eyed King Kong finger Fay Wray in his king-sized palm, and I inherited $200,000. King Kong was rolling his watery eyes around, trying to focus on that little white fetus in his left hand, lowering his submarine-sized, black, greasy right index finger toward screaming Fay, Mom was squirming in her seat, the people behind me were yelling “Down in front” because I’m so tall and always had to sit down front with Mom, who was eating hot, buttered popcorn and drinking Diet Pepsi. A man behind me was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, buddy, we’d like to see the film too so how about scooting down in your seat a little,” when Mom dropped her popcorn and her Diet Pepsi, stood up, grabbed her breasts and fell, twitched, tried to crawl under the seats but couldn’t because she got stuck on the wet gum stuck under the seats and because we were strapped together. She pulled me over a little when the strap pulled tight and the guy behind me said “Thanks” and I watched the show until she stopped twitching. Six months later I got the money and that’s how I got my own movie house, the Omega I.I thought, and still do, that it was a fitting way to use those “pennies from heaven,” or should I say “dollars from heaven,” because she died right here, left aisle, center section, row four, seat eight. That seat she died in is now up in the projection booth—not “projection room,” as some call it—and bolted to the floor, just as it was in the auditorium, so that I can sit straight up while the movie projectors are clicking gaily along through Silent Running, Leo the Last, A Clockwork Orange or The Tenth Victim. The light flickering out over the seats and through the motes of dust. The nitrogen-filled tungsten lamp glowing. The sprockets slipping those frames through, twenty-four per second, the shutters wheeling, the Maltese cross spinning left, the film flicking past the lens and through the light, sliding smoothly through the soundhead, and me sitting on Mom’s death seat and watching out of one of the camera ports, looking down on my movie house, looking down at the four or five people who have paid ($1.00) their way in because there’s nothing else to do in their dying neighborhood, a neighborhood, Spitzer’s Corner, made up mainly of asphalt-covered parking lots, empty lots where urban renewal has knocked down the old houses and replaced them with wrecked cars on cinder blocks, and one main road, Rum Street, which suicidal drivers use to race to and from their jobs in downtown Cincinnati, cursing along in their death machines, playing “Insurance, Insurance, Who’s Got the Insurance?” or “Demolition Derby” with their Pintos, Cobras, Beetles, Colts, Mustangs, Darts, Lancers, Cutlasses, Dusters and Furies.
I hear the cars go by. I hear the metal rasp and crunch. We have our invitation. I hear the shattered glass, the shouting, the honking and squealing of tires, the rifle shots off my marquee. I hear the disjointed hubcaps rolling up the spitty curbs. I hear the sirens of the ambulances, like those sirens that came for little Anne Frank. We’ll be there, you can bet. But here in my movie house, it’s mostly peace because I never stick my head out of the roof like little Anne Frank did and I know every little part of this building. In the five and one-half years that I’ve lived here I’ve come to know the water pipes, the gas pipes, the furnace and its ducts, the light bulbs, every wire that runs through the walls and to my lights. In the basement, in the walls, in the auditorium, in the lobby, in the projection booth of this old neighborhood theater where I fixed up a room right off the projection booth and where I sleep. I cleaned up the place real good and rarely ever leave except when I go out for chili at the Bluebird Restaurant or we three go out to buy groceries and light bulbs for the marquee from Oscedo’s Fruit and Food one block north up Rum Street. My films are delivered and picked up by armored car. I do my business by mail, even though I have to give the mailman hazardous-duty pay. My assistants, Tracy Burdon and Ludovic Godescalc, live in the basement and help me run the place. We all work to clean the Omega I while I handle the films and show the movies. She sells tickets and he takes the tickets, tears them in two, makes and sells popcorn and sometimes some of the old, gooey Snickers still left in the candy case from the previous owners—we’re worried now because we’re about to run out—to the five or six people who wander in in the evenings, or during the matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, to see Dog Day Afternoon, Freaks or The Exterminating Angel.