Day Twenty-One: In Response to Kevin Brokmeier’s “The Ceiling”

by Tom Noonan

“Shall we just have a cigarette on it?”

The sweeping orchestral crescendo and Bette Davis’s eyes filled my head as the ceiling closed in.  My eyes were closed, breath felt hot against my face.  I was lying on the floor of the projection room, and all our films were splayed around me.  Each of them destroyed.

It had been a little under a month since we had shut down the drive-in.  The screen was crushed underneath the force of the ceiling, so all we had was a bunch of film and a projector.  Some people still came out to sit in their cars.  Guess it was just a habit.  We kept selling popcorn.

When the ceiling was just above me, falling slowly towards the floor, I put in one last movie and let it play pointed at the reflective mystery.  The light washed over me, and I just listened to the audio track.

Near the end, I started laughing wildly, uncontrollably; Bette Davis’s tear-filled eyes the only image in my head.  She was hoping this wasn’t the end, the last time she would see the man she loved.  She watched the leaves rustle outside her window and cried forth words.

In the light, I laughed harder, filling the small space between ground and ceiling.  My eyes were closed.  My hands were shaking.  I didn’t sweat.  I was too cold.  I reached up briefly, trying to push the ceiling away, but it was stiff and unyielding.  So we waited, me and Bette Davis, hoping it would stop and retreat.

Then I folded my hands across my chest, laughing all along.  Detritus from the splintered table stuck in my skin.  Each one like a bee’s stinger, but they lingered.  I just let them be.  I wasn’t sure what taking them out would do.

Then I opened my eyes, and the light was blinding and severe.  I thought once more of Bette Davis, and those eyes, and the smoke, and then the light.

“Don’t let’s ask for the moon.  We have the stars.”