Strife of Lie
by Tom B. Taker
Never tell ’em up front how the story ends. I had a good movie-going experience. Oops. What? Yes, it’s true. In fact, I’d say it was literally the best movie going experience I’ve had in years. We’re off to quite the positive start, eh? Or are we?
The devices were turned off.
No one sat too close.
The theater was sparsely populated.
But it wasn’t perfect.
The young man who knocked on the door had dropped the name of Cliff Face. He was about to get booted from my porch, too. But that name! It gave me pause. For the moment the stranger had captivated my attention. Curiosity always got the better of me.
He stood before me in a homespun threadbare suit. His hair was black as freshly-chipped coal which matched the thick rims of the glasses perched crookedly on his weasely nose.
“My name is Puccini,” he said, extending his hand. I accepted it limply and gave a weak shudder. “Cliff said you had quite the story to tell. She said you could prove the existence of God.”
I looked him in the eye and summoned my most sage look. “You bet yer ass, Pu. Can I call you Pu?”
I motioned him to the divan and he reclined against the wall. It was the south-facing wall I had papered myself with a tiger pattern, but that has nothing to do with this tale.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m saying a prayer. I always pray before the telling of this tale. You may find it unbelievable. But it is the truth. I’ve lived an interesting life less lived.”
He drew forth a notepad and leaned forward expectantly. I had him in the palm of my hand. Cliff must have really fed him a line of bullshit.
I was just a young lad at the time. Mother had named me after a toilet. Toi. Get it? My parents were clever that way.
Father had sent me to the theater alone. I was to watch my first motion picture. I don’t know what he was thinking. That place was a zoo!
I purchased my ticket and proceeded to the snack bar. It was there I had an awful argument with the clerk, who happened to be a Frenchman, about the cost of a small lemonade. $4.75! That’s a lot of rupees. I told him where he could put that drink. I wouldn’t need refreshment where I was going.
The lights dimmed and suddenly I was in a place millions of miles away. I’d never seen a 7-Eleven in 3D before. I was especially impressed in one trailer with how they replaced the “D” in 3D with the “D” from the Disney logo. A thrill of corporation expectancy went down my spine. These were the folks who bought Star Wars! This was going to be good.
Then the movie started and sucked me in and, for an eternity of time, I forgot all about the real world all around me. I had been transported to a fantastical world of imagination. I was really suspending my disbeliefs.
Eventually there came a scene that strained credulity, even for me! It was a young man standing on a boat, in the middle of an ocean, facing a terrifying animal of some sort. It was a stand off. The theater was quiet. There wasn’t any music or dialog in the scene. Just the quiet sound of lapping waves.
The camera angle shifted so and we were looking at the lad from behind. His legs were spread. We could only see him from the waist down. What was happening? Yellow liquid began to flow and splash on the surface of the boat while the animal watched.
Suddenly the calm of the theater was thermonuclear blasted by a voice. A man’s voice. “He’s marking his territory,” the blowhard blurted, loud enough for everyone in the theater to hear.
I faced the man, turning my back on the screen. Anger filled my very essence. I had never before tasted anger quite like this. But what I saw wasn’t a man at all. It was a chinchilla, although a mean, nasty-looking vicious one, to say the least. He squared his jaw, snarled and looked at me with a steely glint in his eye. I did not see the light of friendship in those beady little chinchilla eyes.
High above, I caught a glimpse of a colorful hummingbird, hovering as if watching over us both. And then I noticed a centipede, with a broken leg, on the edge of the row of seats.
I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. But the anger was still coursing through my veins.
The chinchilla, who it turned out was named Yeats Frost, lunged at the wounded centipede. It never had a chance. In the blink of an eye the centipede was gone. I named him Centurion. Posthumously.
The experience had taught me something. Yeats Frost could move really fast.
This seemed to have some effect on the humming bird who began to shift colors and glow with such intensity that I had to look away. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
The humming bird dove at Yeats Frost and plucked out his eye before flying away. I remember screaming the name Yeats Frost as sobs racked my body. I barely had time to reach for my hankie before the hummingbird struck again and again.
Soon Yeats Frost lay on the floor between the seats, his belly ripped open, his eyes gone, as his last breath escaped his mouth. The hummingbird soared down, grabbed the broken body and lifted it into the air.
I was filled with gratitude for the mysterious bird, but he didn’t even look back at me. He just flew away with his prize and I never saw him again.
Pu was giving me a look of extreme wonderment. It was almost as if he didn’t believe my story. “My editors will never go for this,” he said. “If I try to write what you just told me I’ll be laughed out of the writer’s club.”
I nodded. “Then let us begin anew. A different tale, perhaps?”
I turned and saw the boorish man. I could see him reflecting in the light of the movie screen. He was laughing. at me and my anger. I jumped the seats and we began to struggle.
The clerk showed up and tried to get between us and break us apart. He was speaking to us both. “Break it up, break it up, Messieurs!” he repeated. This enraged the other man who somehow produced a raptor claw and struck at the clerk, scratching his face. He kicked at his knee and I heard the sickening sound of his leg breaking. The clerk screamed and staggered away into the darkness. I never saw him again.
So angry at what I had seen I lunged at the man. I clawed at his eyes. Somehow I found him in front of me and the raptor claw in my hand. My hand was a blur. Then the man’s belly was open and he was holding his own intestines. He looked as shocked as me as I watched him die.
I looked down at my hands in horror, but the raptor claw was gone. I never saw it again.
The rest of the movie was pretty good and no one interrupted me again.
I looked at Pu. “Now what do you think? Which story do you say is neater? The one with the animals? Or the other? After all, I have no way to prove which story is true.”
He didn’t hesitate. “The story with the animals. That’s the more beautiful story.”
With infinite sadness I merely said, “So it goes with God.”