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A Night at the Movies

by John Donovan

When I was young, our strict catholic parents watched me and my siblings quite closely. We seldom got off the farm except to go to Mass or to visit relatives. So when my oldest brother, Jim, proposed to my parents that he drive the family car and take Bill and me to the movies one night, we looked forward to the outing.  Jim had the logistics worked out. We would milk the cows early and then Jim would take Bill and I to The Robe at the Marinette theater. (The movie may not have been The Robe. But our parents would not let us see a movie unless it was a good Catholic movie, and The Robe was a good Catholic movie)  Since Jim had seen The Robe in the seminary, Jim would go to a Quo Vadis at the Menomonee theater. (Again it may not have Quo Vadis but a different good Catholic movie). The Robe started at six (I am making up time), and Quo Vadis started at seven (again, I am making up the time, but it started later than The Robe). Jim would park the car in a central location, the Marinette Public Library, and Bill and I would meet him there after The Robe finished.  Our parents agreed to Jim’s plan.

Bill and I watched The Robe.  It was dark when we left the movie and started walking to the library. Right near the theater stood three teenagers.  As we walked by them, the littlest teenager, about Bill’s size, punched Bill in the gut and asked Bill to fight.  “It’s three against one,” Bill said. “Is that the kind of fight you choose?”

I was about ten or maybe eleven.  I had listened to cowboy stories on the radio. Radio cowboy stories (we never had TV) always had the good guys beating the bad guys.  We, the good guys, would take on the bad guys. We would win.  I was ready for the fight. 

Showing my naivety, I said: “Come on, Bill,  I will beat up this guy’’  (a teenager who was about twice my size), “and you beat up those two guys.” 

Just then, three more teenagers stepped out of the shadows.  

“What are you going to do about us?”  one of them asked, and all six broke into laughter. I realized how ridiculous my statement was, and I wondered what Bill and I would do next.

Just then, one of the teenagers said: “Come on, Dale, Let’s go.”  They all walked away, laughing.  My ridiculous statement was their enjoyment of the evening.

After they had left, Bill said to me.  “You know, John, if you hadn’t said such a dumb thing, I might have gotten into a fight.”

Living on the farm and going to a one-room schoolhouse left me a little naive. Being naïve is not a virtue, but in this case, it may have gotten us out of trouble. 

We got to the library before Jim arrived. We didn’t have anything to do, so we started looking for things in the car. Just then, a police car drove into the parking lot. The car stopped, and the policeman walked over. “You kids should be in bed. What are you doing here?” he said.

Bill explained the situation to the policeman. The policeman believed Bill and left.

After the police left, “Do you think he was looking out for us?” I asked Bill. (I still had the confrontation with the six teenagers on my mind) 

Bill replied, “He thought we were robbing the car. We looked pretty suspicious rummaging through the car.”

There is a curse in the Eastern World that goes: “May you live in interesting times.” I am thankful that I lived a quiet life. The small cities of Marinette and Menomonee were about fifteen miles away, and they were the biggest metropolises near us. We were a family of ten, so our education was with our siblings. We were sheltered, and we were naïve, but we loved and trusted one another.

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