Retirement had never looked so appealing as it did just before we sold up. I hope you can forgive me Bob, but I was tired. It was the late eighties and, if you remember, I was already a couple of years past retirement age. Our cinema wasn’t doing very well. People wanted the variety of a multiplex, and we couldn’t offer that with our single large theatre. When that businessman made us an offer on the place, I thought It was the answer to our prayers, and I could have wept when you turned him down. I can still hear you mumbling “there is no way a yuppie in a baggy suit is turning my cinema into a car park for his yuppie friends to park their Ferraris.” You were so stubborn, and even when the young man increased his offer, you refused.
I stupidly allowed myself to hope when, a couple of weeks later, you said you had a surprise for me. I knew that the kids had been nagging you to sell the cinema, and I thought they had got through to you. Now we could leave the cramped flat above the cinema, and move to a lovely cottage by the sea. You know I always fancied Bognor Regis. It was a bitter disappointment when, with a flourish, you revealed the big secret. A popcorn popper. A huge, noisy and expensive popcorn popper.
“This is going to turn things around for us, love.” You grinned at me as you caressed the glass and shiny red metal. “This baby came all the way from the US of A.”
Well, as you know, it didn’t turn things around. We were struggling to pay the bills with just a few customers during the week, and a half full cinema on a good Saturday night. I was too old to be vacuuming popcorn off the carpet between each show, and honestly, people were so messy with that stuff. I watched you get disillusioned with the machine, and I hated to see the hope drain out of you. Still, you refused to sell.
I won’t lie to you Bob; those were tough days for me. One afternoon, I took a break and watched that horror B movie from Australia about killer rats. You know how much I love a horror flick, and I needed to relax. For some reason, even though I didn’t really like popcorn, I was clutching a huge bag of the stuff, and my hand seemed to travel automatically from container to mouth. I watched the screen in delicious terror as the rats multiplied, grew and started to challenge the supremacy of humans. I could always forget my worries in a good film. When the house lights came up, I looked down and noticed that I had dropped popcorn everywhere. It was on my sweater, my seat and the floor. I was just as bad as the customers, but unfortunately, I had to clean it up myself. That’s when I had the idea. You’re not going to like what I did next, Bob, but I’ve kept this secret long enough.
I purchased two rats, one male and one female, from the nearby pet shop, and I just let them loose in the cinema. I like to think that the end justifies the means although I hope that my actions didn’t traumatise any of our customers. At first, just the occasional person would claim they saw something dart across the theatre. However, the rodents thrived on their popcorn diet, and soon there were reports of rats running over the feet of the audience. As you know, It came to a head when a woman watching Beetlejuice looked down at her lap to see a rat calmly looking up at her, just waiting it seemed for her popcorn to scatter. She screamed the house down, and you were mad when you had to individually refund every ticket.
The environmental health department claimed that the popcorn had encouraged an infestation and shut us down immediately. Someone must have tipped off the yuppie who turned up later that day with a new and opportunistically reduced offer. What choice did you have now?
We never made it Bognor, but life has been good in Brighton by the sea, and I’m going to miss you when you’re gone. I’ve watched you enjoy a retirement full of fishing and walks on the beach, and, to be honest, I don’t regret my actions.