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Angela versus the Big Bad (by Billy Coffey)

I’m settling in at the movies with my popcorn and soda in an attempt to escape the world’s dreariness for at least two hours. Which is strange given that I’m about to watch the latest in a long stream of post-apocalyptic movies in which some Big Bad collapses governments, then societies, then people. Lots of movies like that lately, I think to myself, though I’m not sure why. We no longer cast a hopeful eye toward the future. Which I guess says a lot about our present.

The movie starts and the fifty or so people around me munch and gawk. It’s a good movie, really. At least the first part. Halfway through the picture and just as things start to get interesting the sound begins to slur, the picture wobbles, and the screen goes blank.

A chorus of groans ripples through the theater that is followed by an assortment of exhales, some stretching, and a few snide remarks. I sigh and think that I’ll have to wait to see what the end of the world is like.

Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

Because as I sit among all these people and watch their reactions, I get a very small glimpse of it from right where I am.

The Big Bad in this case happens to be a broken projector. Not really Big and not very Bad, but it has on a smaller scale the same effect as machines taking over the world or nuclear fallout—we’re all confused, and no one quite knows what to do now.

But then personalities take over. The Type A’s shoot for the door and the manager, eager to fix the situation. The sanguines in the room remain in their seats, certain that everything will work out in the end. The more pragmatic folks see the interruption as a chance to take a bathroom break without missing any of the movie. And then of course there are the pessimists now voicing their certainty that they are now out of twenty bucks.

The theater manager inches through the door. He looks to be about sixteen and I get the nagging sensation that up until this moment the only crisis he’s had so far today is losing his newest copy of Gamer magazine. He stands where he can make a hasty exit and uses the ponytailed lady from the ticket counter as a human shield, placing her between us. Still, all eyes are on him. He’s the one in charge.

He whispers to Ponytail and turns toward the mob. This, I think, is his time to shine. This is why he wears the suit.

The manager stiffens as he draws in a massive breath, exhales loudly…and leaves.

Ponytail watches him with a look of shock. Evidently her being hung out to dry had not been part of the conversation. But just as I think things are going to turn into something less than fine, she does the unexpected.

She talks.

And better than that, she doesn’t talk to us. She talks with.

She tells us her name is Angela and that everything is being fixed. She asks how the movie is so far and if we need anything. She talks about her children. She tells jokes and listens to ours. She is kind and thoughtful and attentive, both sharing our aggravation and easing it. And when the movie flashes onto the screen again ten minutes later, I swear, I swear, we’re almost sorry.

Angela stays with us for a few minutes to make sure everything’s fine and then makes a quiet exit.

The action resumes on the screen. Lots of explosions and blood and mayhem. But I’m not really thinking of the movie now. I’m thinking this:

I don’t know what’s coming down the road toward us. I don’t know if there’s some Big Bad or when it will happen or what we will do when it gets here. But I do know this—if and when that time comes, the future of our world won’t depend on governments or gun-toting heroes.

It’ll depend on people like the ponytailed lady who collected my ticket. People who take the bad and make it better.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.