Smile, rip the ticket, point the way to the theater.
Three or four hundred times a day he’d do this.
If there was a crowd, he didn’t smile as much
and he didn’t have to point after the first patrons
because they’d follow each other like lemmings.
Once he got them in, the battle was knocked.
Fifteen minutes of work and then he could read
or walk upstairs and talk to the projectionist.
Later, he’d make an appearance in the theater,
make the kids take their feet off the back of chairs.
Sometimes he would catch someone smoking
and ask them to leave. The funny thing about it
is they listened to him like he was a police officer,
despite wearing a red vest that made him look 12
and dressed up like one of Santa’s little elves.
The movies ended and he smiled some more,
pointed toward the exit door, and herded people
out of the theater and into the mall parking lot.
That was his day. He did that for twenty years.
The day after he killed himself, I took his place.
When I quit a year later, no one knew why.
James Valvis lives in
. His work has appeared in Arts & Letters, Blip, Front Porch Journal, LA Review, Nimrod, Pank, Pedestal Magazine, Rattle, River Styx, and is forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Hanging Loose, New York Quarterly, Night Train, Slipstream, and others. His fiction has twice been named a storySouth Notable Story. Red Fez nominated a poem for Best of the Web. His poetry has also been featured in Verse Daily. His poetry collection, How to Say Goodbye, is due out in September 2011. Washington State