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NONFICTION Hometown


Boy by Kyle Austin


The old movie theatre is abandoned, but it looks as though you could still walk in


and catch a matinee. The ticket booth is still there behind glass, and plastered all over the windows are handbills for westerns and romances, names like Humphrey Bogart and Gene Autry bursting out in bold black ink as though they were still every little boy’s hero and every little girl’s heartthrob. I’ve often wondered why it never caught the greedy eye of a developer, why it was never turned into a trendy clothing store or an overpriced bistro. Across town, there’s a mammoth multi-plex which makes any scenario of the old theatre’s resurrection unlikely, if not downright impossible.


Perhaps it’s true that change comes


slowest to the small towns of this country. Small town people always seem to dig their heels in and grab a hold of something, a longing for that golden utopia of the past they call the good old days, a time less complicated, less convoluted, and less conspicuous than the present.


The old marquee sign does get some use though. Clear bulbs border its edges but there’s no electricity to power them up. Somewhere, a box full of black plastic letters lies in wait. The owner of the building rents the marquee out to anyone who needs it,


42


and so it bears everything from birthday wishes to bicycles for sale. Messages are left up until the sign is rented by someone else. I always like to see what the marquee says whenever I drive past it on the way to visit my parents. I try to imagine who the person behind the message is, what they look like, and how long they’ve lived here. Last week, it read “BILL AND MARGIE: HERE’S TO FIFTY MORE,” but today the black block letters bear a much more somber message: “RIP MICHAEL BRENNER. WE WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU”.


It’s a name I’ve been hearing a lot


of lately, in the papers and on the local news. Michael was the first person from my hometown to return from the Middle East in a casket. Many had come and gone from the desert unharmed, returning safely to their families, riding shotgun with the mayor in the 4th of July parade, and most everyone in the town ate up Uncle Sam’s agenda for breakfast. To them, the war wasn’t a place you went to die; it was a place you went to become a hero, to serve your country. But after Michael died, things were different. The change was subtle, but it was there, there in the way people stared at their shoes instead of at the newspaper in line at the grocery store, there in the way people fidgeted uncomfortably as they pumped their cars full of unleaded gasoline.


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