Screening Room of the Damned

X,YThe studio had sunk what amounted to the Christmas bonus of its below-the-line staff into the picture – a picture that consisted only of found-footage of a slaughterhouse cut with a Suicide Girl twisting the knobs of an Etch-A-Sketch with her toes. This played against a soundtrack comprised of a wheezy human beat box interpolated by breakdowns of roiling bong water.

“I’m not a particularly visual filmmaker,” the young auteur muttered in a tenor rasped by American Spirits when the screening had finally ended, or more precisely, aborted. When a well-burnished exec queried, “Where’s all the friggin’ money?” the filmmaker shook the shag from his eyes and said to his shoes, “Colonel Mustard, lead pipe, conservatory?” Shrill giggles came from a handful of the new school who had accompanied the chap, known collectively on a smattering of influential blogs as “blackNbleau.”

Seeing as Cary Carpe and I had sneaked into the studio screening room, we had to fake a fuss about being on the list and found ourselves separately grafted onto the assigned seating chart.
Without the encumbrance of conversation with those in his row, Carpe had downtime enough to conclude that the placement of attendees in their seats emulated a QWERTY model keyboard by last initial. Hence, H for Howell landed me in the third row, dead center, next to G and J, a pair of foxy lit agents who talked openly of their mutual disdain for L, who sat, furrow-browed, two seats away.
Likewise, C for Carpe found my partner wrestling for the armrest with X for Xerxes, a guest of the filmmaker who insisted he was the ancient King of Persia whose ill-fated invasion of Greece hailed the end of the Achaemenid Empire. This may or may not explain the hummus that was tangled in Carpe’s fashionable faux beard when we exited the screening room to find ourselves greeted by a gaggle of comely PR girls, each bearing a pearlescent smile and the obligatory gift bag. Alas, supplies, the only reason to brave a blackNbleu movie.

Like a smash-and-grab robbery of The Body Shop, the bags brimmed with enough potions and ointments to make an apothecary blush. Real girly loot, including beeswax lip balms, apricot body butters, olive oil toner tubes, elbow avocado slathers, walnut exfoliating chutneys – and most of it edible in a pinch.

“Back in the day,” I averred, “a bag of this stuff with a handmade card and you’d still have a girlfriend.”

A fetching PR girl in a fright wig overheard my crack and wound her way toward me. Every shift of her slender hips and shoulders swabbed the air in a vanilla-tinged musk – and suitably charmed by my line, she presented me two gift bags. The last two. She then confided that if I used the products in a specific order and in certain quantities I would never age, in fact, I could “become immortal” like her.

Carpe sidled up next to me and introduced himself as my “Conscience.”

The PR girl observed that Carpe hadn’t gotten a shwag bag and how that must be a drag. He agreed. Carpe pouted, so in a fit of half-hearted egalitarianism, she improvised and asked him, “Do you like animals?”

Carpe nodded in such a way that I couldn’t help but think of the last chapter of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

The PR girl handed Carpe an envelope and said, “You’ll be glad to know that all of the beauty products we’re distributing tonight are cruelty-free.”

Inside the envelope was a rather plain postcard inscribed “Free-Range Ant Farm” with a box drawn in the middle framing the words “Place Sugar Here.”

blackNbleu, or at least a part of them, shouldered up against Carpe and asked to see his Free-Range Ant Farm Kit. Carpe obliged and thus began a game of keep-away that ended only after their director put the card down his pants.