We spend Christmas in a small town an hour north of Nashville, just across the Kentucky state line. Twenty-six people slept in a house with one-and-a-half bathrooms. Holly and I had to fight for our air mattress, which was next to two other air mattresses in the dining room.
It was once a tradition for the family to see a movie on Christmas day. That went out of style several years ago but we have all been very interested in Les Miserables, the musical about French people going through hard times. I believe it translates to Everyone Eventually Dies. Most of my family has seen the play several times and we wanted to sing along with their melancholy. Because it’s Christmas.
Holly and I drove forty-five minutes to the nearest movie theater in Glasgow, KY, using the backroads that my grandfather Pa Will calls, highways. My brother Harlin and my sister and her husband rode with us. En route, we forced Harlin to lay out his life plan. “Coaching, and either teaching math or history.” I voted history in our straw poll. Harlin is very good at telling stories as well as memorization. He would be wonderful, fleshing out old events with new language.
The parking lot was packed so we sent Harlin ahead to buy tickets. However, once we had parked, we couldn’t find him. We searched the box office. We searched the lobby and concessions. Finally we found him waiting outside the theater door. Only then did we realize that not a single employee was taking tickets. Though the cinema was very popular that evening, there wasn’t a soul of security. I assume small towns are on an honor system.
The movie was fairly good, though the screen was small and the sound quality bad. It reminded me of a Turkish movie theater in its mediocrity. We sat in the back, directly in front of a loud talker who wasn’t really that interested in the movie. Instead, he told his girlfriend several incorrect facts about the French Revolution before he began to eat his popcorn loudly – no, wait, they were making out. With a smoker’s voice, a supreme confidence in his false history and his complete swagger, I assumed this was one of the first dates. When the lights came up, he was in his mid-thirties, though he had a sailor’s face, weathered by salt water and storms.
On the long drive home, we joked about that man and Russel Crowe’s Creed voice. I also pointed out that we didn’t have to buy tickets. We could’ve simply walked in.
“I know,” Harlin said. “I bought six tickets for nothing.”
The car quieted a moment before my brother-in-law Cory said, “How many of us are there?”
“Six,” Harlin answered with confusion.
There were only five. “I guess this rules out teaching math,” Cory said.