Over and over we’d heard of the rash of car break-ins at the multiplex theatre, the CD player heists during the evening shows, the signature Tub-O-Popcorn left on the seat of whatever car got hit, but little did we suspect that once we drove there, paid and entered, our movie would show the CD player thief presently roaming the very same multiplex parking lot where we had just parked our cars, or that the thief was the very same usher who, wearing the cobalt blue sport coat and carrying a finger-length flashlight, had just seated us. Now his flashlight was off and in his coat pocket, and the aisles weren’t seats but rows of cars. Without being shown our cars it was hard to tell where we sat—not so much in the theater but more considering our place in the world. The audience fidgeted. Eerie wailing came from the trashed woods at the edge of the parking lot, and the thief moved toward it. Out came his usher’s flashlight. He switched it on, searched up in the trees till he found the eyes of a screech owl, the eyes like flashlights escorting him to look beyond, into a sky not full of blinking stars but blinking anti-theft devices. With his back to us, he released a huge sigh. We couldn’t say that he walked out of the other side of those woods a new man, but felt sure that his sigh signaled resignation to a security too overwhelming, a lifestyle too risky to continue.
Scott Withiam is the author of Arson & Prophets, a collection of poems published by The Ashland Poetry Press in 2003. His poems have appeared in AGNI, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Green Mountains Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry East, and Poetry International. Poems are forthcoming in Ploughshares and Tar River Poetry. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (updated 3/2010)