Black Petals Issue #96, Summer, 2021

Far Down in the Credits
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Dark Resurrection-Fiction by Michael Hopkins
A Dip in the Pool-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Far Down in the Credits-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Guilt Trip-Fiction by James Flynn
Ky'thagra's Big Day-Fiction by Devin Marcus
Larger Prey-Fiction by Richard Brown
Lover-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Ort's Last Undertaking-Fiction by Taylor Hood
Sail Away-Fiction by Chris Allyne
Sleeping Again-Fiction by Russ Bickerstaff
The Poison Doorway-Fiction by Dionosio Traverso Jr.
The Tick Bite-Fiction by Robb T. White
Bake Sale Inspiration-Flash Fiction by Samantha Carr
Hotel with Full Amenities-Flash Fiction by William Kitcher
Reincarnation Jeopardy-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Sex Fiend-Flash Fiction by Karen Bayly
Witches' Sabbath-Poem by Mike Collins
Blood-Poem by Mike Collins
Death's Pornography-Poem by Mike Collins
Temptation-Poem by Mike Collins
Painting Light-Poem by Mike Collins
Dark Waltz-Poem by Marilyn Lou Berry
The Last Victim of Vlad the Impaler-Poem by Mehmet Akgonul
The Bravest Ant-Poem by Mehmet Akgonul
Ain't Alien Spores-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Giant Goldfish-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Igopogo-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Megamouth Has Cavities-Poem by Richard Stevenson

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Art by Hillary Lyon 2021

FAR DOWN IN THE CREDITS

By Roy Dorman

 

How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All — Firesign Theatre Album Title, July, 1969.

    

     The first time he saw himself on the big screen, at least he thought it was the first time he saw himself on the big screen, Robbie Connor was seated in his local theater, nursing a soda.

     The movie was a new release, a Western, and the scene was taking place in a saloon. The bartender was polishing a beer glass and talking to a gunslinger about how the new sheriff had recently cleaned up the town.

     “Ain’t that right, Archie?” he said to an old man who was pushing a broom.

     “Yessiree, he sure did,” Archie said, grabbing the chance for a break. He nodded sagely and leaned on his broom. 

     When the bartender turned his attention back to the gunslinger, Archie shrugged, went back to sweeping, and swept his way right out of the scene.

     Robbie gaped and choked on his soda. That had been him up there on the screen. 

     The guy next to Archie looked over at him when he’d started choking.

     “You okay…”  The man stopped and looked more closely at Robbie. 

     He’d seen him up there too.

     Robbie smiled and shrugged. “I’m okay. Just swallowed wrong.”

     His neighbor nodded and went back to the movie. 

     The sweeper, Archie, didn’t have another scene, and when the movie ended, Robbie waited for the credits to unwind. He usually left when the movie was over, but this time he had a reason for staying.

     He watched as the cast of characters rolled down the screen. At the end of the characters, just before the listing of the technicians started — best boys, key grips, and such — he saw it. 

ARCHIE THE SWEEPER ……… ADAM CONNOR

     The guy next to him also had waited for the credits. For the same reason. When he saw that listing, he said, “That you?  The sweeper?”

     Robbie cleared his throat before answering. “Why, yes, it is,” he said. “Thanks for noticing.”

     He didn’t trust himself to say anything else. And he didn’t know why he’d said what he’d said. He wasn’t Adam Connor, was he? 

     For years, dreams and being in a dream-like state had been the norm for Robbie. But this little episode had thrown him. He was pretty sure this had been real.

***

     Back home in his efficiency apartment, Robbie did an Internet search using “Adam Connor, Actor”, and came up with a few hits. There was no Wikipedia hit, but other sites mentioned bit parts Adam Connor had had in two older movies.

     Intrigued, and more than a little bit weirded out, Robbie wrote down the names of the movies with him listed as having roles in them. He did find Wikipedia hits for those movies, but the cast only included the more major characters and who played them. None listed Adam Connor for his small parts.

     Netflix and HBO had pretty much killed video rental stores, but Robbie easily found the movies on eBay. He ordered them and also found a small used television with a built-in VHS tape player. He ordered that too and then sat back to wait for everything to be shipped.

***

     Normally, Robbie only went to a movie in the theater once a month or so. But the following Friday night found him back at The Bijou. Feeling that this was maybe some kind of supernatural experience, he chose the same day of the week, the same soda, and the same seat.

     Before taking his seat, he stood looking at the screen, lost in thought:

     Had that dream again last night. I was running from somebody. Running. Running. Maybe from the police. Why was I running? What had I done?

     The woman in the seat behind him whispered to him to sit down and he did.

     Just before the movie was going to start, somebody excused themselves, stepped in front of him, and sat down in the seat next to him. It was the same man who had interacted with him last Friday.

     “You in this one too?” the man asked. “I’m Bill,” he said offering his hand.

     Robbie shook hands with the man and said, “Adam. I don’t know if I’m in this one. It just came out.”

     The man named Bill stared at Robbie. He was going to say something more, but then the movie started.

     After the numerous screen shots with the name of the production company and the various directors and assistant directors had played out, the three name-brand stars were listed and the movie started.

     The reviews had said it was a murder mystery taking place in a small town in the Midwest. The first scene opened in 1991. The main character appeared to be in high school and was hanging out with friends in the cafeteria. Presumedly, the murder would take place in the past, and then the story would move forward to the present.

     “Hey,” Bill whispered, elbowing Robbie. “There you are.”

     “Where?”

     “Back by that group of kids in the corner. You’re holding a broom, and it looks like you’re joking around with ‘em.”

     Robbie stared at the screen. It was him. Two movies on two Fridays. How could this be?

     Then, for a few seconds, his mind was not his own. It was like he was reading for a part: 

     I’ve never even been to a movie shoot, have I? Wait, I have. The memory’s fuzzy, but I remember people asking me where I’ve been. I didn’t know I’d been anywhere. They called me Connor…..    

     He came out of the daydream, hoping he hadn’t been speaking aloud. What Robbie did know was that he was a sweeper. He worked as a custodian at St. Mary’s Hospital, and he did a lot of sweeping on any given day. He had for years. 

     He held onto that piece of reality for dear life.

     “Ya know,” said Bill. “If ya don’t get some parts other than sweeping, you’re gonna get, ya know, type-cast.”

     Robbie managed to smile at the guy and said, “It’s a living, right?”

     The two watched the movie without any more chatter. When the movie ended and the credits started to roll, they both remained in their seats. Watching. And then, there it was.

CAFETERIA JANITOR ……… ADAM CONNOR

     “See ya next Friday?” Bill asked, standing and stretching.

     “Maybe,” said Robbie. “Maybe.”

     “I don’t know why, but you seem like you’re not quite sure what’s goin’ on here. I know I don’t. But I’m bettin’ you’ll be here next Friday.”

***

     Saturday morning’s mail brought the first movie he’d ordered on eBay. It was one of those teenage horror/slasher movies from the early 1980s.

     After looking at the cover and reading the text, Robbie set it aside. He’d need to wait for the television before he could play it.

     Tuesday brought the second video and also the television set. 

     The second film was the sequel to the horror movie he’d already received. 

     When he’d first seen the Internet references to them, he remembered when this type of movie had been popular. These were movies that had lots of scenes where kids ran around doing risky stuff while making really dumb decisions when trying to avoid getting killed off one by one by the movie’s crazed psychopath.

     Some of those movies had countless sequels and had gone on to be classics. These two weren’t in that category. If they were ever to have any claim to fame, it would be as low-budget, B movies.

     Robbie settled in to watch the movies. About fifteen minutes into the first one, he saw himself. His younger self. Dressed in filthy blue coveralls and wearing an old gimme baseball cap, he was leaning on a broom outside a dilapidated gas station listening to some kids asking for directions.

     “This must have been when I got the reputation for being a sweeper,” he said to himself.

     A stray thought interrupted:

     Those snotty kids. Think they’re better than me. We’ll just see about that.

     The second movie had come out five years after the first one, and had a different group of kids out in the same boonies looking for wild times.

     Robbie played the same role. He looked a little older, but seemed to be wearing the same coveralls. Once again, he directed the kids down a dirt road to their doom.

     Two bit parts in two movies in the eighties. Then there appeared to be a thirty-five year break in his movie career until the next time he’d parts. At least there had been no other mention of Adam Connor on the Internet for the time period between then and now.

     Where’ve ya been hidin’ for so long, Connor? We missed ya.

***

     Robbie decided to take the two tapes with him to The Bijou. He’d offer them to Bill, and if Bill didn’t have access to a VHS player, they could at least talk about them. Robbie didn’t have any close friends in his life, not really any friends at all, and he liked the idea of having someone to share a common interest with. Even if neither of them was sure what that interest entailed.

     When the lights dimmed and Bill hadn’t shown, Robbie was disappointed. But he’d watch the movie, and if he had a cameo sweeper part, he’d tell Bill about it the following Friday.

     The movie was about a wealthy New York City businessman who’d bought a dude ranch in Montana. Grant Thompson was well-liked by his staff, all of whom were local folks who appreciated the wages he paid. When he was found bludgeoned to death in one of the stables, everyone was shocked.

     The local police were called in to investigate, and they met with staff in the stable. As the officers interviewed the staff, the forensics team and the coroner went about their business.

     Robbie watched as an older man who had been in the background leaning on a broom slipped out the back door. It was Adam Connor.

     The scene cut from the stable to a room in a bunkhouse. And there Adam was, throwing clothes into a duffel bag.

     “Going somewhere, Mr. Stubbs?”

     Two police officers stood in the doorway with their guns drawn. They had followed Stubbs to his room.

     They escorted him out and walked him to a waiting squad car.

     Robbie left the movie that was playing on the screen, and watched a parallel continue in his mind:

     One of the officers was about to put the cuffs on Stubbs when he turned to see a horse and rider barreling down on them.

     It was Bill! He was dressed in Western garb and had a big grin on his face. He rode his horse between Stubbs and the officers, and without slowing a bit, grabbed Stubbs and pulled him up onto the horse.

     The two officers pulled their pistols and both went to one knee in a shooter’s stance ….

     Someone was shaking his shoulder.    

     “Wake up, sir. Are you Adam Connor?”

     Robbie turned to face two sheriff deputies, a man and a woman, who stood in the aisle next to his seat.

     “I don’t know,” he stammered.

     “So, you’re back in the movie business,” said the woman, Deputy Sheriff Liz Avery. “Where’ve ya been all these years? You disappeared about the same time some kids in the hills of Eastern Kentucky did.”

     “I don’t know,” Robbie repeated.

     “Ya already said that,” said Deputy Sheriff Don Fuller. “Come on. Let’s go outside and talk.”

     The three of them walked to the curb outside the theater. Before anyone had a chance to say anything, they turned in the direction where the roar of a Harley Davidson was coming from.

     Robbie stared into the distance and mentally stepped out for a few seconds. Reality and fantasy warred for his attention:

     The vintage cycle was driven by Bill, and it was equipped with a sidecar. It pulled up close enough to the curb so that Robbie was able to jump in as it passed.

     The deputies drew their weapons and pointed them at the retreating motorcycle.

     But didn’t shoot.

     “Why didn’t ya shoot?” asked Sheriff Avery.

     “I don’t know,” said Sheriff Fuller. “Why didn’t you?”

     “I don’t know,” Avery responded.

     “I already said that,” said Fuller.

     “We sound like we’re in a some frickin’ B movie,” said Avery.

     “I think that’s real close to what’s goin’ on here,” said Fuller. “Real close. I’ve got this feeling we might not see Adam Connor again for a long, long time.”

     Now cuffed, Robbie Connor drowsed in the backseat of the squad car. He was thinking about how he’d once thought he’d make it big in the movies. He’d chosen Adam Connor as his stage name because he thought Adam sounded more masculine than Robbie. He wanted to play tough-guy roles. 

     In real life, early in his movie career, he’d also been a serial killer for a few years. He’d been good at that. He’d never been caught. But as an actor, he’d been type-cast as a sweeper, and was always way down on the list of credits.

     “With better parts, I coulda been a famous actor,” Robbie said to the deputies in the front seat.

     Fuller was driving, and he looked over at Avery. She shrugged.

     “Hell, with good parts, we coulda been famous actors,” she said.  “And some decent dialog…...”

     “You got somethin’ against the way I talk?” asked Fuller.

     “We talk like cops,” said Avery.

     “And just how do cops talk?” asked Fuller.

     “Like we’re talkin’ now. Like Joe Friday on that old Dragnet TV show.”

     Avery started laughing. “Or Broderick Crawford. Remember him? 10-4.” She said the 10-4 in a deep voice. “Now, those guys could talk like cops.”

   “How old are you, anyway, Avery?” asked Fuller.

   “Old as dirt, Fuller,” said Avery.  “Old as dirt.”

     Fuller stopped at a red alight. From out of nowhere a werewolf leaped onto the hood of the car and stared menacingly through the windshield.

     Though the makeup was well done, it was easy to see who the werewolf was.

     “Fuckin’ Bill,” grumbled Robbie, staring at Bill. “He doesn’t seem to be having any trouble getting good parts.”

     The light changed and Fuller took off. “What’s our buddy goin’ on about now?” he asked Avery.

     “Oh, he’s still complaining about never getting any good parts.”

     “Hell, maybe he’ll get lucky and prison will have a theater group.”

THE END

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, WI, who wrote BP #90’s “The Return of the Ferryman” (+ BP #89’s “Orphans at the Dark Door”; BP #88’s “Blood on the Riviera”; BP #87’s “The Sepia Photograph”;  BP #86’s “New Orleans Take-Out” & “Not This Time”; BP #85’s “Door County Getaway” & “The Gift”; BP #84’s “Goodbye to Nowhere Land” & “Nobody Should Be at 1610 Maple St.”; BP #83’s “Door #2”; BP #82’s “A Nowhere Friend” & “Foundling”; BP #81’s “Nowhere Man in Nowhere Land” & “The Box with Pearl Inlay”; BP #80’s “Andrew’s War” & “Down at the Hardware Store”; BP #79’s “Cellmates” & “Get Some Shelter”; BP #78’s “All Is as It Should Be”; BP #77’s “Essence of Andrew”; BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley”; BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy…”; BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others”; BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower”; BP #72’s “The Beach House”; BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites”; BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love”; and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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