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Movie Night.... or, "The Flamethrower" another ΚΦΔ yarn

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Movie Night


Sometimes we may do things that are totally out of character.  Sometimes we may do things that we immediately regret.  Sometimes, in retrospect, we might experience confusion after being roundly thanked and congratulated for doing something borderline evil.   




One random Saturday, late summer 1973.  It was movie night in the ΚΦΔ house.  A peaceful, quiet night at home, with the front parlor packed full of brothers, pledges, and a few girlfriends.  A keg was tapped; beer flowed freely, bowls and bags of popcorn were everywhere.  Windows were opened slightly to avoid an accumulation of smoke generated by a cigar or two, the odd cigarette, and at least one pipe – my meerschaum bowled calabash, stoked with a favorite blend from the Pine Street Tobacconist.


Movie night!  What fun!  Fortunately, within our ranks we could usually find one or two Recreation majors.  One of the requirements of this major was an unpaid internship with a qualifying organization or institution.  And fortuitously, over the years, a relationship had been firmly established between our ranks of generous stalwarts and a very deserving group – Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children.


The staff and kids loved us.  Our men spent a goodly amount of time volunteering at the hospital, and occasionally sponsored events for the kids.  Now, we were not paid.  But there were perks… one of which was opportunity to borrow films that had been cycled through the Hospital for the children’s amusement.  And as some of these were acquired for the older kids, we would avail ourselves of that opportunity.  After all, we were pretty much a bunch of big kids our own selves!  Come to think of it, even some of the “little kid” fare was fun.  Popeye… The Three Stooges… Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner…


But on this particular evening, we were going to enjoy a double feature: The Last Voyage, a film about a sinking ocean liner, starring Robert Stack and Woody Strode, and Captain Kidd, with Charles Laughton and Randolph Scott.  Good, wholesome entertainment!


We were settled in and enjoying the evening.  Bobbo (“Stewballs”) was manning the projector, an old and worn 16mm Bell & Howell machine like the ones we’ve seen so many of in school since about second grade.  Beer, popcorn, crackerjack, and other snacks were munched, and someone even whipped up a batch of hot dogs.  Conversation was sparse and muted as we were all captivated by the drama of the ship sinking while the hero tried to save his wife, who was trapped below decks.


At about the middle of Voyage,  Bill “Wynuts” Wyant arrived, with a date.  A cute girl named Evie, whom he’d met at a recent party.  Evie was unknown to us, although she apparently knew Bobbo’s girlfriend, Denine, and gave him a quick wave. 


Bob stopped the projector for a moment of introductions, then resumed as Bill fetched drinks and popcorn for himself and Evie, and they cozily nestled into a settee. 


But Bobbo had to leave for a bit to fetch Denine, and asked me to take over as projectionist.  Happily, I slipped into the overstuffed burgundy easy chair next to the projector as Bobbo headed down the stairs.  I had my popcorn, beer, calabash, box of matches, and a can of WD40 with a skinny red tube.  This last was to address a bad bearing on the projector; about every fifteen minutes or so I’d have to give it a tiny flutterblast of lubricant to put down a high-pitched squeal. 


All was good.  For now. 


In short order, however, the evening began to unravel.  And the loose thread was Evie.


It seems that Evie was a horrible flirt.


Actually, calling her a “flirt” would be an insult to true flirts everywhere – of any gender. 


Nobody noticed at first.  But after a short bit, I glanced at Wynuts and was surprised to see that he was alone - his date evidently slipped away.  A few minutes later I spotted her standing very close to one of the pledges, talking to him with what I’d call an “enticing expression” on her face.  The lad managed to exit; Evie returned to her post next to Wynuts. 


But not for long.


Two or three more times she popped up and seemed to express an interest in other guys – much to their distress, and even double distress, as their girlfriends were less than amused and made sure the guys were made acutely aware of their displeasure.


I gotta tell ya – I was mildly astonished at her behavior.  And I felt downright sympathetic for Wynuts; he was a stand-up guy and had to be feeling a bit humiliated.

And then, Bill Fox walked in. 


Poor Bill F! 


Bill was a San Francisco Police Officer.  And Bill was on duty.  In uniform.  On patrol, and just stopped in to take a quick lunch break and say “Hi.”  


When Evie saw Bill her eyes saucered, and I’m pretty darned sure she salivated.  Her eyes glued to Bill F; Wynuts just wilted.  Bill F found a seat and made himself comfortable, soda and hot dog at the ready.  Evie fairly gaped at Bill as he ate, he in total ignorance of having been targeted.


As he gulped the last bite of his snack, Evie pounced.


Bill was absolutely shocked when the slight girl suddenly plopped onto his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck.  I think he would’ve handled a robber bursting from a bank, saving an accident victim, or negotiating a hostage release with less angst than he displayed upon her arrival.  I don’t know if the term “lap dance” had been invented yet; I’m quite sure the first time I heard the phrase was at least twenty-five years later.  And Officer Fox was definitely not expecting a squirmy and WAY overly affectionate Evie attack.


Bill leaped to his feet, fairly dumping the lass, and hastily announced that he had to rush off and arrest someone.  With that, he scrambled off, down the stairs, and shot away into the night.


Bill W, meanwhile, had slipped away his own self, seeking refuge in the kitchen with a pledge or two for company.


Every pair of eyes in the room discreetly tracked Evie as she flitted about, seemingly unsure if she should be in butterfly or honeybee mode.  Robert Stack was having to rescue his wife without being cheered on by his audience.


And then the unthinkable happened.


Evie spotted me.


My heart sank, and I tried to studiously ignore her, sinking as deeply as I could into my overstuffed chair, working hard at making myself invisible.

It didn’t work.


She locked her eyes on mine.  She winked.  Then she licked her lips.  Horrified and realizing I was trapped, I felt doomed as she began to sway her hips and wend her way through the crowd, with me her objective.


I faintly shook my head.  She waggled her eyebrows and continued to approach.  I now emphatically shook my head and mouthed a silent “NO!”  Her eyes assumed a smoky gaze and she fixated on me like an owl on a mouse.  All other eyes in the room flitted between her and me as sideways glances, no one wanting to take a chance of making direct contact with this creature.


Now my head was shaking “NO!”  My lips were silently mouthing a VERY loud “NO!!!”


To no avail.  Like a shark on a blood scent, she maneuvered through the room, totally focused on her prey.  Me!


That’s when it happened. 


I don’t know what came over me.  Perhaps it was some sort of divine guidance; perhaps it was a abrupt attack of fear; perhaps it was just an act of self-preservation.


Suddenly, without thinking, I whipped up that can of WD40 and aimed the skinny red tube at Evie.  With one long and smooth motion, I drug a long-handled Blue Diamond Strike Anywhere match up the side of the chair and held it at arm’s length as it flared. 


And then, I pressed the button.


As God is my witness, I never, ever expected what happened next.  I figured, I think, there might have been some sort of a fizzling reaction.  But OH no!  I was perhaps more astonished than anyone else present except - Evie! 


When that fine spray mist hit the match, it ignited in a most impressive manner.  Actually, FAR more impressive than I would have ever believed.  And I instantly felt regret and pity for “poor” Evie, as her entire head was engulfed in a flash of spherical flame about the size of a beach ball. 


It instantly dissipated, and the entire room was filled with wide open eyes and mouths – especially Evie.  Except that everyone else still had their eyebrows and eyelashes.  Evie, on the other hand… well, she might require a bit more makeup for a while.


At least it was quick.  The only thing she felt was an instant of warmth laced with extreme rejection.  She did not even realize that her countenance had been somewhat altered as she spun on her heel, grabbed Bill W, and demanded he take her home.  He shrugged, slipped into his windbreaker and led her off to his car.

When the front door closed, the entire room burst into applause and cheers and congratulatory shoulder slaps from the guys and even a cheek peck or three from various girlfriends.


“Rocko, can ya re-wind that movie about ten minutes?  We’d sure like to see if Stack and Woody rescued his wife!”


“I can do that!” 


And the rest of the evening, including the second movie, was just fine. 



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