Sal Buttaci drops a load of funny on us

In response to my challenge to all y’all to send me your funny story, Sal Buttaci is the first one to step up and share some fun with us. His story is true and funny as hell and I thank him for sharing it with us. So, how about the rest of y’all? Huh? Don’t …

In response to my challenge to all y’all to send me your funny story, Sal Buttaci is the first one to step up and share some fun with us. His story is true and funny as hell and I thank him for sharing it with us.

So, how about the rest of y’all? Huh? Don’t you have one best of the best funny things that’s ever happened to share with us? I know you do. Sal shared and now it’s y’all’s turn. Me and Sal challenge you – no – DARE you to send us your funny story that will be posted right here for all the world to see.

Here’s Sal’s story…..

 

                     AN AFTERNOON AT THE MAYFAIR
by

Salvatore Buttaci

We have all been at one time or another unjustly accused, but I remember an incident in my life when I brought it on myself.

Let me take you back to a Saturday in 1953. West New York, New Jersey. Christmas is  at least a month away, so I have a few coins right now to spend on myself.

 

I am in a movie theater called “The Mayfair,” along with my best friend James Fairchild. We are in the same sixth grade class at St. Augustine School in Union City. I consider him my best friend because we play street stickball on the same team, both enjoy clowning around, and reading novels. And we are both short in stature. The last more than likely being the main reason I liked James for a best friend.  While other classmates call me “Shorty” or “Small Fry,” even “Pewee,” Fairchild cannot because he stands about two inches shorter!

Back to the Mayfair. I don’t remember all these years later what is playing that afternoon we pay our quarter and find two seats somewhere in the middle of the theater. I know there are two regular features–– maybe one of them our favorite, a western, also five to ten cartoons, a newsreel, and plenty of coming attractions.
Back then, Saturday movies were what we kids earned if we kept our noses clean during the week, did our homework, behaved properly, had no fights with siblings or companions, and did the few household chores required of us. My weekly allowance paid for admission to the movie house and a small bag of popcorn. Sometimes a saved-up dime bought a Pepsi. Years later I learned from my father that he would pray we kids at our house would not mess up and not be able to go to the movies on Saturday because it was the only privacy time he had to share with my mother.

James and I sit with our feet propped up on the seats in front of us until the usher comes and shines his flashlight on us. “Put your feet down on the floor,” he says. We recognize him as one of the neighborhood boys who graduated from St. Augustine’s Elementary, so we know if we stick to it, we too will make it out of there. He doesn’t have to tell us twice. Down come our legs, our feet back on the sticky floor, our eyes on the screen. No way will we argue with him. His word is enough to get us booted out of there before the first feature is even close to ending.

Minutes later the Mayfair lights go on and the projectionist high behind us cuts the film to a speedy halt. What has been a quiet theater except for the actors on the silver screen now becomes a raucously loud one as irate kids yell at the screen, “Put the movie back on!” And the number of candy wrappers and popcorn bags and other sundry items pitched in the air toward the innocent screen is in direct proportion to the number of minutes this interruption continues.

“Whatta you thinks goin’ on?” asks my best friend James, still eating his popcorn.

I sit there for a minute thinking up something funny to say. I just know James, after I give my guess, will come up with something even funnier. He has a very creative mind to which his short stories attest, so I know my offering has to be a lollapalooza or I’ll suffer the consequences of James’s one-upmanship: be topped by his gem, laughed at for days, and reminded of this perhaps until I reach my next birthday in June.

Just then we hear on the public-address system a man’s raspy voice speak. “We have suspended today’s movie. Someone stuffed one of the toilet bowls in the men’s room. Before we call the police, I strongly suggest that the person who did this come to the manager’s office now.”

What has been a theater full of noise and loud complaints all at once transforms itself into a theater packed with laughing attendees as if on the screen Red Skelton or Bob Hope or Lou Costello is tickling their funny bones as they stuff yards and yards of toilet paper into the toilet. It goes on and on. Something about a stuffed toilet bowl, I suppose, has enough humor in it, creates an over-the-top mental visual picture, one cannot help exploding with laughter.

James and I are laughing along with the rest of them. Popcorn kernels fly as James’s hand that holds the bag jumps in the air. It is just too funny for words.

I see my golden opportunity and dive right in. I turn towards James in a kind of conspiratorial pose: shoulders hunched, eyes darting from right to left, voice hardly a step up from a whisper, and I say, “Guess what, James.” His blond eyebrows come down tight over his eyes. “I stuffed the toilet,” I tell him and fake a ha-ha-I-got-away-with-it smirk and more laughter barrels up from my puny chest.

Now the lake-blue eyes of my best friend James Fairchild grow huge as blue jawbreakers.  His mouth hangs loose. His neatly combed blond head tilts to the side like one of those mutts trying to figure out if the bowl in front of him is food or poison. When he gets his mouth to work again, he says to me, “You did it?” And, of course, I proudly nod my head and reply, “Yeah, but don’t tell the manager. He’ll call my father and my father will call his belt right off his pants. You know what that means!” Then to complete my little performance, I put my straightened-out index finger to my pursed lips and make a “shhh”
sound. Poor James, outdone by my cleverness, seems rooted sideways in his seat.

Again the raspy off-voice of doom warns us. “I am not going to ask again. Whoever stuffed the men’s toilet and caused a flood in there, you’d better come to the manager’s office right now or the police will come and arrest you!”

The complexion of James’s face in the brightly lit movie house is pasty yellowish green. It worries me enough to ask, “You ok? You look sick as a dog. The popcorn?”

James shakes his head, then lifts himself like an old man out of his seat. “I’ll be right back,” he says. “Mind my seat,” as if a long line of anxious theatergoers are doing arm wrestling matches to win his seat. I sit there and finish my popcorn.
When he comes back, he’s got the Mayfair manager with him, who says in a voice not quite as deep as his P.A. voice, “Come with me, Son.” He proceeds to lift me out of my seat, a strong hand on my jacketed arm. I protest with a few “Hey! Hey! Hey!” but it doesn’t get his attention because now I am being almost dragged out of the theater by Mr. Manager. Like a Judas James walks on the other side of him. All heads turn as we move by. Some throw candy wrappers and popcorn at me as we pass. Some even throw curse words.

“I didn’t do nothing!” I scream again and again, but who cares. The manager will accept only a confession and a quick visit from my father who I know too well will appear, thumbs hooked in his belt, face contorted in shame and anger, and my rear end will smart glowingly red for a week, not to mention a night in jail where they lock up thugs who stuff toilet bowls in theaters. “I didn’t do nothing!” I scream a few more times.

The manager, whom I later learn is Mr. Allwood, looks down at James and asks, “This the boy you said stuffed the toilet bowl?” James first nods, then says, “That’s what he told me.”

Now I am feeling, beyond belief, a mixed stew of hurt, anger, and fear. My best friend James Fairchild whom I would have fought all the wiseass seventh- and eighth-graders who badmouthed him, the friend for whom I’d have laid my life on the line, had betrayed me!
At last Mr. Allwood releases my arm.  I rub the soreness to let him know he did some damage there and would pay for it when my father cools down and sues him for assaulting his innocent son. I look hard and deep at fallen-out-of-grace James. Shorter now than he was in real life when friendship elevated him to hero stature, he stands sheepishly staring at a spot on the floor, so intently I look there myself.

“Well, ya told me that, didn’t ya?” James says. “I mean, why didja tell me something’ if it ain’t true?”

“It ain’t true,” I say. “I made it up to make you laugh!”

Mr. Allwood laughs. “Oh, sure, you wanted the movie to go back on, so you figured if you confessed, you’d get to see how the movie ends.”

 

I shake my head.

“I never left my seat,” I offer as an alibi. “When we got in, I sat down and stayed down. I never went to no men’s room. How was I supposed to stuff the toilet bowl from where I’m sitting?”

James smiles. In his head I suppose he’s imagining my long arm extending down the aisle into the men’s room, yanking empty the paper roll, then stuffing it all into the bowl. Flush Man on the run.

“Nobody’s that stupid to make something up like that,” says Mr. Allwood. I almost say, “I am,” but decide it better to keep my mouth shut.

Then in the doorway of the manager’s office appears my father, hands on hips, a pose I know only too well. The caption always reads, “Now what happened to embarrass me and the family?” I want so much to run to him, throw my 12-year-old arms around him, and confess my story was a false confession, that I am being accused of a crime I said I did but I didn’t do. I want to cry out loud, but that satisfaction I will not give any of them, especially my ex-best friend Fairchild and Mr. Allwood. As for my father, crying never cut any ice with him.

When it is all said and done, my father’s hand on my shoulder, I move hurriedly in front of him and out the door. My father turns around and faces both Fairchild and Allwood. “My son is stupid sometimes,” he says, “and this time he was stupid again, but he didn’t stuff no toilet with paper. He wasn’t brought up like that. He told a little lie to make his friend laugh, that’s all.”

 

James and the manager say nothing as they watch us walk out the door.

Once in the West New York Saturday brightness, I tell my father how James was my best friend once, before the stuffed-toilet joke. He doesn’t say anything for awhile, then stops his walking, grabs me by both arms, much rougher than Mr. Allwood, and says with a voice even deeper than Webster’s, “I ever find out you really did stuff that toilet, I will stuff you head first and flush you to kingdom come!”

#

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose work has appeared widelyHe was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. His poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely in publications that include New York Times,

U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, and Christian Science Monitor.

 

His short-short story collections, Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, published by All Things That Matter Press, are available in book and Kindle editions at Amazon.com.

http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/sambpoet

 

He lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.

21 comments

  1. Glclark says:

    Boy, I do remember those Saturday afternoons at the movies. Good story, Sal. Funny as hell and brought back a bunch of great memories.

  2. Anna Mullins says:

    Great story Sal…it brought back good memories ..I did love going to the movies on Saturday afternoon to watch cowboy hero’s and cartoons. It was a special bonding time for us kids.

    • Everyone in my family loved the movies. As a younger boy in Brooklyn, we had two theaters: The Rainbow where we went on Saturday afternoons, and The Lindy where my father would take me on an occasional Sunday to watch those old westerns we loved.

  3. Josephine Lissandrello says:

    What a terrible way to louse up a Saturday afternoon at the movies. James turned out to be a real fink that day, but did you ever forgive him? Knowing you, you probably did. Good story Sal.

  4. Must have been one of those Capt. Winslow shows; some kid deciding to play navy. Yeah, I remember Sat movies as a kid. Nobody stuffed toilet paper in those toilets; in our towns they didn’t supply paper in the bathrooms, not in the movies or the schools.

    • Ken, no toilet paper? Was that the movie house’s ploy to get you to order an additional bag of pop corn and save the bag? As for none in the schools, well, shopping-bag book covers was easy to replace.

  5. madamxyz says:

    All kinds of Saturday matinee memories are bubbling up in my brain now. Some good, some bad. None quite as bad as what happened to you, though. With a friend like James,you didn’t need enemies!

  6. diana_SD says:

    Although we were too poor to be able to afford movies, the images you conjure ring true. The boisterous audience, the sticky floors (wait, I think I did go once, now that I think on those sticky floors). Your story evokes the desperation of childhood, wanting so bad for friends to be true to the core and believing that kind of friendship could be built on shared enemies. You were lucky to have a father who stuck up for you and believed you (or at least knew the limits of your childish stupidity). I love your happy ending and the realism of your dialogue. You effectively evoked the panic of childhood with screaming over and over, “I didn’t do nothing!” and the feeling of a dark and inescapable fate as seen through the eyes of a young person. Nice writing, as usual.

    • Salvatore Buttaci says:

      Diana, it’s wonderfully nostalgic thinking back on our movie-matinee days, even the horrid ones like the one I just told above.

  7. Where is Art Linkletter when you need him? Turning over in his grave is he? Funny (no phun intended) how some kids do the moral majority while others go for the ride. The father image was neat-o. Was this included in your published shorts? I do not recall.

    • No, Michael, this story was not. Many bio-flashes under the name Antonio Lanzetti don’t appear in 200 Flashes or Flashing My Shorts. Someday…another book of flashes!

  8. Kyle Katz says:

    A story well told. I enjoyed it.
    Brings back the memories going to the Chicago theaters. One particular movie theater, the people were just as entertaining as the feature film. Someone was always talking to the characters on screen, inventing their own story lines. I’m afraid I’ve pick up that habit and few want to go to the movies with me.

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