He stood and looked over the building. He had his fist clenched at his chest. He entered. Dust and ash everywhere. The crushing emptiness of looping monitors telecasting Pauly Shore’s Son in Law warned of death. He looked at the boy. Evening, sir. Welcome to Blockbuster, the boy said. I know.
He walked down the aisles. Every clamshell case as it once had been save faded, cracked. Blackened looters had been here. Scavengers had trundled past the new releases and deep dove into the dollar bin. Littered aisles. Transient movie posters laid asunder to never be replaced. Covered in ash. It will be better when they are all gone.
He crouched in the aisle and munched on half a Zero Bar from his pocket. No place to make a fire that would not be seen. There is no after. This is after. After is later. Ashes. He thought about when she was with him.
I was stupid before. We should have used Video On Demand.
Stop it. Please.
I didn’t bring myself to this video store. I was brought.
You’re talking crazy.
No, I’m speaking truth. Sooner or later all the Blockbusters will be closed. They will watch Netflix and Hulu and you won’t face it. We used to talk about streaming movies online, she said. We don’t now. Why? He doesn’t respond.
Because it is here. You go ahead. I’ll wait in the car, she said. His tears meant nothing to her. He held aloft a flimsy DVD copy of Cool Runnings. He studied the back of the case, enamored by John Candy and Rastafarian antics. Something broke his concentration. Callous youth. They came shuffling through the aisle. Some of them wearing chain wallets. Claggy with hair gel. Their pregnant women smacked gum and sipped from Big Gulps and he was frozen in fear. It’s alright, he said. He hid in the Auteurs section behind the Cassaveteses and the Herzogs.
Don’t look back. Come on.
They slouched along with video game rentals in their hands. All of them wretched. They crossed the Comedy section and grabbed a copy of Corky Romano and were long in waiting at the register. A click and a beep and their media was rented. They left.
He found the movies broken out by Hollywood stars. Blue and white cases on wire racks. Need to find the movie. This is what the good guys do. They don’t give up.
He walked the length of the wall towards the back of the store. Index finger extended. Haggard eyes squinting. Oh my God. A wall of Kevin Costner movies. Waterworld. 3000 Miles to Graceland. The Postman. He held his palm to his forehead. Oh my God, he said. Only one copy.
On the bottom row is Tin Cup. 69% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Is it okay for him to rent it? It’s okay. He blows on the case, dispersing ash. Amiable and amusing said Todd McGraff of Variety. He wonders aloud if he should thank the people who chose not to rent it. Leaving Tin Cup for him.
He turned toward the register and began to walk. The boy stared at him. Too skinny. Tin Cup? Good choice, sir.
Do you carry the card?
Yes, the man said. He pulled his wallet from his pocket. Frayed leather. Not meant to carry breath mints. From it he procured a wrinkled Blockbuster card and handed it to the boy. The man knew his time as a Blockbuster Club member is running short.
A phone sits next to the register. He picked up the phone and dialed the number and the number was to his father’s house in that long ago. The boy watched. What are you doing? he said. That’s for staff only.
You have to carry the card now, the man said. Sir, I don’t want your Blockbuster card.
No, you keep the card with you at all times. Soon this Blockbuster will close. You need to find the good guys but you can’t take chances. I think Best Buy is hiring. Please. You have to carry the card. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it. You’re the brightest guy.
Sir, we don’t actually know each other.
I know. It’ll be okay. Okay?
I know. The man exited the store and into the darkness. Coughing softly. He was a long time down the road, and found her in the car. Her mouth opened black and round like a charred spider’s egg. You didn’t rent anything?
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