After The Movies



Jerome Turken

They were amongst the squinting, screen‑dazed crowd flowing through the lobby into the street.  Beverly was leaning on Lou’s arm heavily. His forehead was a bit wrenched, compromising an otherwise neutral look on his face.  On Beverly’s face however was a serene smile.

“I enjoyed that tremendously,” she said.  “It was the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time.”

Lou was silent.

“Didn’t you like it?” she said.

He shrugged. “It wasn’t bad.”

“You didn’t like it, did you?”

“No, I didn’t, to tell you the truth.”

Beverly shook her head.  “Three different people I know recommended it.  All the critics gave it rave reviews.”

“I saw a lot of bombs that the critics gave rave reviews.”

“Oh, come on,” she said, giving his arm a little jog. “Why don’t you lighten up for a change.  The sequence where the rich old husband was chasing his wife’s lover all over the house with a hammer, MacNiel in The Sun put that scene in the same class as Charlie Chaplin.  He said it should get him an Academy Award.”

“I think it would have been a big improvement if that rich old moron would have caught the guy and split his skull open with the hammer and then did the same with that harebrained wife of his.  And then jumped out of a window.”

She looked away with a little knowing smile.  “Vintage Lou,” she said, then faced him again.  “There’s definitely something wrong with your sense of humor.”

“There you go with my sense of humor again,” he said.

“Aah go on, you’re morbid,” she said.

“Morbid?” he said.  “I’m morbid?”

“What’s the matter with you anyway?” she said.  “Don’t you enjoy a good laugh every once in a while, for crissake?”

“Not from that scene.”

She gave his arm something more than a gentle squeeze. “Sure,” she said. “That’s you.  Your humor has to be so sophisticated that you have to consult an encyclopedia to get it.”

“Beverly, it’s not that important,” he said.  “You have your taste and I have mine.  And there’s no arguing with taste, as the saying goes.  So why don’t we just leave it at that?”

She withdrew her hand and put a little distance between them.

“What’s the matter?” he said.

She stopped and faced him.  “I hate that about you.”


“Your why don’t we just leave it at that,” she said. “Your theme song.  If you find a discussion uncomfortable, let’s just leave it at that.  You’ve got a one‑track mind. If the discussion takes another track, let’s just leave it at that.  You did the same thing with the beret.  I’m not wearing it, let’s just leave it at that.”

“Beverly, I’m not a beret person.”

“Beret person!” she said.  “What’s a beret person?”

“A person who wears berets.”

“Very funny.”

“Wait a minute,” he said.  “Wait one minute.  Hold your horses.  What’s really bothering you?  You’re still miffed about last night, aren’t you?”

“That too.”

“I knew that was going to come up again,” he said. “You never just let anything go, do you?  You hold on to things forever.  Now it was awful of me not to call, I know that, and I’m very sorry about it and I apologized, didn’t I apologize?  You don’t accept apologies?”

“Oh sure, your apologies,” she said. “Your facile apologies.  You hand them out like free candy samples.”

“How can you say something like that?” he said.  “I don’t know what more I could have done, Beverly.  It was an oversight and I apologized and I’m sincerely sorry about it.”

She took his arm again.  “Oh, Lou, it’s not a matter of apologizing,” she said. “Sometimes a person’s true attitude toward someone is revealed by what they forget.”

“Didn’t I explain that?” he said.  “I got involved in the writing and I lost track of time.  I mean it wasn’t as if I was sitting on my ass watching television or something.  Before I knew it it was already after one, and as soon as I looked at the clock I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, I forgot to call Beverly.’ I couldn’t sleep all night over it.”

“You’re such a bullshit artist,” she said.

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“I was going to but I thought better of it,” she said.

“Why?  Pride?”

“All right, pride.  Call it pride and let’s leave it  at that.”

“Beverly, it was really important to me to finish what I was doing.”

“Yes, I know it was important to you.  But sometimes you act as though it were the only thing that’s important to you.  There are things in life that are just as important.”

“I know, I know,” he said.  “It won’t happen again, I promise you.  Okay?”  She started to walk.  “Okay?”

“Okay,” she said without looking at him.

“Do you happen to have some aspirin?” he said.

“No.  You have a headache?”


“We passed a drug store on the way from the car,” she said.

“It’s probably closed,” he said.

It was still open.  Inside she waited for him by the door while he went to the counter in back.  As soon as he paid the clerk he opened the tin and removed two tablets, and at the lunch counter at the side asked for a glass of water take them with.  In front where Beverly was standing he spotted a collection of proverbs in a rack of paperbacks. He’d been meaning to buy a good one.

“Wait a minute,” he said.  “I want to look this over.”  He spent a few minutes browsing through it.  It didn’t amount to much.  He put it back in the rack and turned to where he thought Beverly was still standing.  “I just wanted to ‑‑‑”  She was gone.  His eyes took a broad sweep of the store, then he looked down all four isles and peeked into the telephone booths.  Outside she was nowhere in sight either.  He walked a short distance one way, then the other way.  There she was, standing inside the doorway of an appliance store.

“What are you doing, hiding on me?” he said.

“How can you let me stand there waiting so long?” she said.  “That’s what I resent.  The fact that you’re so capable of being so inconsiderate of me.”

“That’s a harsh word, inconsiderate,” he said.

“It may be harsh but it’s appropriate,” she said.

“I think you’re being unreasonable.  If the circumstances were reversed I’d wait a few minutes without even thinking about it.”

“Like you did when I went into a store to look at a dress that time.”

“You were in there for thirty‑five minutes, Beverly.”

“Well it doesn’t take two seconds to look at a dress that you’re interested in.  You have to try it on.  I assumed you knew all that.”  She looked away and examined the facades of the buildings across the street, then turned back.  “I’ll tell you what.  Just take me home.”

“You want to go home?”


“You really want to go home?”


They stood there a few seconds looking at each other, a tableau in precarious equilibrium, then she started walking.  At the car he opened the door for her but she preferred to get in without help.  He closed her door reasonably but slammed the one on his side.  He snapped the starter and flung the car into gear.  The ride was silent except for her one remark:

“If you insist on driving like a maniac you can stop the car and let me out right now, because I still have four or five more things to do before I die.”

He got her home in less than half an hour.  After he turned the motor off they sat in silence for two, three minutes gazing at their laps or into the darkness beyond the windshield.

“So,” he said.

“So,” she said.

He took her hand from her lap and held it between both of his a long moment, then raised it and pressed his lips to her open palm.  She started to play with his hair.  He looked into her eyes then leaned in and they kissed a while, then he glided his lips to the side of her neck.

“Come on,” he said, “let’s have some dinner then go to my place.”

“Isn’t it a little late?” she said.

“It’s only nine‑thirty.”

After a moment she said: “Let’s just get some bagels and lox and I’ll make coffee.”

“And cream cheese,” he said.

“And cream cheese,” she said.

He started the car.  She looped an arm through his, leaned her head on his shoulder, slid the other hand inside his jacket and massaged his chest.

“And I’m truly sorry about last night,” he said.  “It won’t happen again.”

“Yes it will,” she said.

When they stopped for a light he nuzzled her neck.  “Well I’ll try not to let it.”