This is a short story written by J the header read:
C:\Documents and Settings\jms\My Documents\That nice man.doc Last saved: 15/4/2003 8:33AM
It’s Sunday and I’m in a cinema, watching Steve Martin’s latest japes and frolics in Bringing Down the House through my somewhat scratched and dirty glasses, I’m thinking This film is pretty damn average, when I hear a weird noise, like water splashing out of a downpipe,
I crane my head around, thinking “By jingo, this surround sound business is certainly getting very realistic, if not a little surreal,” when I hear the man sitting three seats down from me spitting. Oh, I think. That nice man has just vomited.
Now what do I do? I can’t smell anything and I actually feel very sorry for him, the poor fellow is obviously ill. He doesn’t seem drunk, and he must be mortifyingly embarrassed. I think to myself “I’ll wait until he leaves, then I’ll shift seats. I am very sensitive!”
I decide to keep an eye on him though. He looks pretty normal. Jeans, shirt, runners, bottle of water and a bag of Maltesers. Forty-ish, thickset with a slight potbelly and short, dark blond hair. Glasses, like me. He’s leaning forward in his seat, elbows on his knees, and there’s a guy another three seats down from him, leaning back in his seat. We exchange bewildered looks. Then the nice man between us vomits again. Like a geyser.
Heavens to Betsy, what next? Surely he would make his exit after this encore performance?
He spits again and takes a deep drink of water, but makes no move to leave. “This film is not that good,” I think. “If he gave me his address I’d happily tell him how it ends”. “Nor,” I counter, “is it that bad,” feeling sorry for Steve up on screen, I’m sure he’s doing his best.
I exchange another bewildered look with the guy six seats down. “That’s it,” I think. “I’m gonna have to move, Nice Man’s feelings be damned. I think I’m going to be sick if I stay here,” and then he does it again. “Bleeuurgh! Splatter splatter splatter. BLEEUURGH! Spit! Spit!”
I’m trying hard to think happy thoughts (“Puppies!” “Jeffrey Archer in prison!”), gathering my stuff together to make my sly exit when I see Nice Man (who I think I’ll start calling “Vomit Guy”) lurch forward to his feet. “Third time’s the charm!” I think.
I pull my legs in tight to give him plenty of room to pass -don’t want him stumbling, now -and hold my breath. But then again I hold my breath all the time. I hold my breath when I walk past old people in the street in case I catch old age. I hold my breath when I’m in a lift. I hold my breath in the waiting at the doctors, which can cause more problems than it solves because patients fainting in the waiting room tends to make a doctor panic a little.
I try to get a look at Vomit Guy as he passes, but it’s dark. From what I can tell though, he doesn’t seem overly troubled by events, doesn’t seem to be in a rush at all. As soon as he’s out of range I leap to my feet and make for the other side of the cinema. I think of SARS and that scene from “Outbreak” where someone sneezes in a cinema and the camera follows the germs flying all over the place. Strangely, no one else seems to move seats. My co-conspirator six seats down remains slouching in his seat, apparently untroubled by the small pond of partially digested Maltesers two metres to his right. I start to wonder if I’m over reacting.
I watch the rest of the film without incident from my new perch and on my way out speak to the usher holding the door open for the exiting patrons.
“Umm, excuse me, I’ve got some bad news?” I wince and shrug to show my sympathy and feel like a dancing monkey. “The last row in the centre front section? A man has …” and here I mime throwing up, because I’m too squeamish to say the word “vomit” but pulling imaginary puke out of my mouth like a stream of clown hankies is no problem. “…in there, about four seats from the left.”
She smiles toothily, nodding, and looks at me like I’d said “Wow! What a great film!” “Thank you,” she says, and then turns to continue smiling somewhat less toothily at the other people still coming out of the cinema.
Well, that’s the very definition of unflappable if ever there was one, I think as I turn to leave. Then I start to wonder if she thinks it was really me who’s vomited in there. As I’m walking down the stairs, tentacles of paranoia wrapping themselves around me, I see this skinny old guy in overalls limping up past me with a vacuum cleaner mounted on his back.
As I continue down the stairs I hear the usher speaking to him in an undertone. Then I hear him cry “What? Vomit? VOMIT?! Awwww no! Gaaaah!” and I can’t help giggling, it’s so sad and funny and terrible cos he’s so old and the usher is so young and attractive and vital and all she has to do is hold open the door and this poor old bugger has to get in there on hand and knee and scrub the carpet and there is A LOT of vomit there let me tell ya. I know it’s not really funny but I just can’t help myself, thinking about that poor old bloke scrubbing that carpet crying “GAAAAAH! NOOOO! GAAAAH! JESUS!” in a cavernous, empty, uncaring cinema, and that bored looking usher with the lipstick going well outside her natural lip line – do people think that no one will notice that they’re basically COLOURING IN THEIR FACE when they do this? – just holding that door open, boredly smiling. And what about Vomit Guy? I mean what happened to him? Does he do this all the time? He seemed so relaxed about it all.
On my way home I wonder if this isn’t the advance guard of a new breed of film critics, taking direct guerilla action to let their cinematic evaluations really be known. “If that is the case,” I think, “it was a bit over the top.” If I had to sum that film up, err, corporeally, I think I’d give myself a wedgie, because it was funny, yet painful.
Some people bring down the house, others bring up their lunch. And isn’t that what our boys are fighting for overseas?