Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee(6)

I face Tater’s owner and motion at my eye and my nose. “What’s with this…dude?”

He extends his hand. “Lawson Vargas.”

I shake his hand. “Josie Howard. Who threw you through a plate-glass window?”

“I fight MMA. Got kinda banged up in a match a little while ago.”

“Good times. You’re not gonna MMA us or anything, are you?”

He smiles. His face is kind when he smiles and becomes a lot more interesting. “Naw.”

I raise my finger to tell him to hold on. I walk back to the tub and return with a black robe and a Scream mask. “Okay, Lawton—”

“Lawson. It’s fine.”

“Right. Sorry. Lawson. You’re gonna dance with your idiot goofball friends.” I shove the robe and mask into his hands.

He accepts them tentatively. “I’m not a dancer.”

“And Tater isn’t a basset hound, but oh! See how I don’t care.”

“I can’t.”

“You can roundhouse-kick people in the throat, but you can’t dance?”

“Different skill sets.”

“This show has a very limited pool of resources. We use whatever we have at hand, and you are at hand. Plus, you need to be punished for not owning a basset hound and not having smarter friends.”

He looks at the costume he’s holding and smiles a lopsided smile of concession.

He actually does have a nice face, I guess, upon reflection. He should try to get kicked in it less.

I hand Arliss the VHS tape with my dad’s writing scrawled on it in Sharpie. “I bet you didn’t know that the dude who directed A Christmas Story also directed a horror movie in the early seventies called Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.”

Arliss eyes the tape like I’ve handed him a revolver and told him to kill his grandmother or be killed. “So that’s our dreck of the week.”

“For a seventy-thousand-dollar movie, it’s actually pretty decent.”

“Arliss Shouldn’t Help Make This Show. Get it?” Arliss says.

“You wanna know what it’s about?”

“I do not.”

“So this theater troupe goes to this island off the coast of Florida, where there’s a graveyard. And they’re led by this hippie doofus who’s full of hot turds, and he suggests they do this weird ritual and raise a corpse from the dead, but—”

“Lemme guess: children shouldn’t play with dead things?”

“You might enjoy this one.”

“So far, we’re zero for however many episodes we’ve done in the last year and a half.”

I hand him a sheet where we’ve mapped out the time cues and where to cut in the segments so he doesn’t have to watch the movie. Also a CD. “This is new intro music that our friend Jesmyn composed and recorded for us.”

“We’ll get letters.”


“Let’s get this show on the road. I have a very important date with not being here.”

“Arliss? That movie was my dad’s, and—”

“I know, they all are.”

“Yeah, but…this is one of the ones he and I actually watched together, so…”

“It’s special. I’ll be careful,” he says, suddenly quiet and sober, looking me in the eye. Arliss has always treated my growing up without a dad with more respect and gentleness than he affords anything else.

“I’d hate if he ever came back and—”

“I’ll treat it with ten times the care that went into the making of the actual movie.”

“Do twenty times.” I turn to Josie, who has apparently just handed the poor beagle owner a costume. He’s blushing. “You ready, Rayne?”

“Ready, Delilah.”


I don’t know who watches Midnite Matinee or why.

I mean, I have some idea from letters we get. Here’s my guess: it’s lonely people. People who don’t have a lot going on in their lives, because they have time to sit at home on a Saturday night (that’s when we air in most markets, including our home market) and flip through channels. People who aren’t rich, because if they were, they’d have more entertainment options. People who aren’t hip, because if they were, they’d seek out higher-quality entertainment options. People who don’t truly love to be frightened, because if they did, they’d find actual scary movies. People who prefer their awful movies straight, with no commentary, because otherwise they’d watch old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. People who still write letters.

It’s a very niche crowd.

Most of all, I think it’s people who love to be reminded that sometimes you do your best and you come up short, but there’s still a place in the world for people like that. People like them. It might be 11:00 on a Saturday night on a public access station in Topeka, Kansas, but it’s a place. It’s comforting to know that you don’t have to be excellent to not be completely forgotten. Maybe it’s people who feel like the world is leaving them behind.

Maybe it’s people who simply want to remember a time when they were happier and their lives were easier. That’s why I would watch.

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