Josephine wrote, ‘The magical warmth of the projection light suffused the room and evening with unparalleled mirth and goodwill this reporter has ever witnessed. It wasn’t just the portent of the lounge room turning black before each screening, the nachos, vegetarian burgers, or Finn’s choice of cine film. The true champion of the night was Finn himself.’
Josephine described his comical interludes as ‘soufflé’ because of the fragile honesty and truth in the performance. ‘No wait, wait,’ came the cry behind the blinding curtain of light, pen torch rattling in Finn’s mouth as the film shuddered to a whining jam. A spool came lose because he forgot to fasten it, clunked to the floor and unravelled across the carpet like a toilet roll. He once realise too late he was projecting a film backwards because he never rewound it. He swore in French, ‘Putain,’ and ‘Merde’ when he fed a reel through in reverse and the sprockets chomped holes in the wrong side of the film and bit his finger. It made us all giggle like nutmeg and icing on mince pies.
Josephine said “Angus, Finn’s uncle was equally funny the more he drank and forgot and stumbled and swore at the light switch before each movie. ‘You can just go to hell whatever your name is… Mr light guy,’ he said before Close Encounters, before apologising ‘I’m sorry people – I don’t do this often.’ Finn’s mum made fun of him. The light snapped off and Angus clapped his giant mitts and said, ‘Okay, we have it together people,’ and we all laughed.”
“Then I forgot the world for seventeen minutes. It melted away in the loud clamour of the projector and warm eyelid shine animating fantastical imaginations.” Josephine declared it the ‘new youtube’. She described in detail the birthday cake Finn’s mum made as “a staggering achievement of gastronomic design and flavours.” It was a swimming pool cake. The foundation was sponge. The tiling was jam overlaid with cream. And the water was blue jelly. The fence was made with chocolate fingers and it was even decorated with candy bananas, liquorice allsorts and sour ring to match inflatable toys on the water. She signed off with “Finn, truly is an Amateur Perfectionist Projectionist,” and gave details of a repeat movie night in a month’s time.
Lieb who was now Josephine’s boyfriend promoted Finn’s movie night in the weekly newspaper, calling it a cinémathéque. Dunston got a Blu-Ray drive and high definition flat screen television the size of a ping-pong table and retaliated with his own movie night on the same day as Finn.
Lieb, Saul, Darryl, Callum, Freya and Jessica attended Finn’s with the group that was at his birthday. Finn didn’t realise how much he was involved in the event. His effort and comical mishaps were part of the charm. Being the Amateur Perfectionist Projectionist Finn could never really appreciate the movies. He had to sit beside the projector for when it inevitably fucked up. A blinding sheet of light spilled through the grill casing from the projection lamp to obfuscate Finn’s vision while the bruit of the engine swallowed the soundtrack. But Finn didn’t mind. He had watched them so often he rarely looked at the film. The real picture for Finn was the room. He loved hearing the laughs and gasps that were always different and in different places. Only he spotted furtive first touches of hands and interlocking fingers. It reinforced what Finn had learnt to love about life – it wasn’t predictable.
Half the class still went to Dunston’s because he promised everyone could order individual pizzas and desert from Dominoes. He didn’t know what movies to get so his dad hired all the new releases from Blockbuster. Because there was so much choice and feature length running times restricted them to only watch two films, batrachomyomachia ignited in scrub blazes around the purpose built screening room where optical fibres glittered in the ceiling like stars.
Phoebe was deliberately avoiding Josephine because she was jealous and resentful she had her stupid boyfriend Lieb so she went to Dunston’s even though she wished she was at Finn’s. The squabbling irritated her. Her long pointed nose swayed like a rudder. It had a mind of its own and seemed to talk first because it eclipsed her olive-pip mouth with its shadow. She had learnt to use it to her advantage. She swung her nose decisively like a principle’s ruler-tongue and where it rested her decision was final. She chose Legally Clueless, and Road to Providence, which no one else particularly enjoyed.
Finn kept hosting a monthly movie night. The whole class, including Duston was always invited but Duston never came. Josephine and Lieb broke up, so when Lieb went to Finn’s Josephine vetoed the rest of the girls in class from going. Attendances were unpredictable, not that Finn cared. He was always lost in concentration and wonderment behind the projector and veil of funnelled light. There was always butter, salt and pepper and parmesan popcorn, hummus with pita bread, celery and carrot sticks and grilled hallumi and falafel balls that no one really knew what it was but damn it tasted good. Everyone who went agreed it was a brilliant night.
The days grew longer and more certain. It naturally shifted the class’s attention to apparatus with wheels. Everyone started turning up to school on micro scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, bmx’s, long boards and old skool scooters. Pete’s birthday passed and he became a Frisbee perfectionist. He could catch it in one hand, behind his back, under one leg and between his feet. He could even catch it on one foot and while it was still spinning kick it onto a finger. He fashioned different throw grips to make the Frisbee zing low and fast into the chest, drift high and fluctuate like a hawk hovering in wind over a landfill site and skip off the gravel. He could even throw it so it came back to him.
Everyone predicted Dunston’s dad would buy him an Aerloonie, designed by retrenched NASA scientists. They expected to see him rip it from the hip the next morning before class. They imagined it – fizzing out of his hand like soda pop, cutting deliciously through the air, cropping the tip of the old pine tree before losing sight of it in the scorched haze of early morning. They anticipated entering class with the sunken childhood lament for lost things like an escaped birthday balloon. But Dunston arrived for class with nothing new. He already owned an Aerloonie. It lay at the bottom of one of the garage chests of Dunston’s toys after he quickly became indifferent to them. As Dunston stopped bringing the newest contraption to class he noticed he was treated differently. Before the morning bell and at recess and lunch Russell and Aaron didn’t come find him like they used to. And he spent time wandering between the edges of circles.
Finn kept to his films. When Edward’s dad got a job on the other side of town he moved schools in the last term. Edward and Finn made their mum’s promise they could play together once a month. But it quickly became once every two months, six months and that was it. When the class stopped attending his movie nights Angus and his mum were always there so. They enjoyed the sessions no matter how many times they watch the same film so it didn’t matter. His mum equally wished he would stay the same and would change.
Dunston broke his arm just before the start of the holidays on a ‘slip n’ slide’ he set up in his back garden when his mum was shopping. Finn was surprised when she told him Dunston’s mum called and they arranged for Dunston to come over and play. He furtively gave Finn a present wrapped in paper with cartoon monsters on it. He whispered, ‘let’s go into you room to open it.’ It was a mint condition 8mm copy of Aliens. The stock had turned red but Finn thought it never did any harm to sci-fi films. Dunston explained only adults were allowed to watch it but he bought it with his dad’s credit card the last time he was supposed to have custody of him for the weekend.
Dunston asked Finn what it was like not have a father. Finn realised Dunston was apologising although he didn’t actually say ‘sorry’. Dunston admitted if his dad died it wouldn’t make any difference. Finn shrugged. Dunston said he always wanted to see Finn’s movies. Finn smiled. They closed the curtains, turned the air conditioner on and made spider drinks with creaming soda and bourbon bean vanilla ice cream.
A week later Finn’s mum asked what movies he watched with Dunston. She said Dunston’s mum called and said he had suffered nightmares all week. Finn giggled. They talked fervently on the phone for two whole hours. Dunston said he was bidding on Ebay for Superman III, the entire four reel set.’ When Finn got off the phone he asked his mum if he could play with Dunston again.
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