When I was twelve years old, I went to a movie rental place. I am sure your kids have never heard of such a thing. Tell em, they had these funny rectangles bigger than your hand that held a movie. I know, it’ll seems strange to em. They were called VCR tapes. You could take them home and watch the movie. Tell em.
Say, you’re right. Just like Netflix. Only a whole lot crappier. You only got one movie in it then you had to take it back the next day. Had to leave the house and everything. I know they won’t believe you but tell them anyway.
And at the rental place. When I was there. I saw the box for a film I had only ever heard rumors about. “Faces of Death.” You know. You’ve seen it?
No. Maybe… No, you’d know. Trust me. Now, I know, your kids all watch this kind of stuff on the internet every day. But I bet they didn’t know there was a time when the internet didn’t exist. I know, it’ll be a shock to them. Like them finding out that there is no Santa. The internet is so important to em that they could never imagine it not existing. But tell em that we’re that old, and there was that time.
Well at this store, there was a man behind the counter who knew your parents.
Tell that to your kids. See if they believe you.
The man. He had met them, my parents, and discussed which movies I was allowed to rent. He also shooed me away from the curtained off ‘Adults Only’ section if there were other people in the store.
Don’t tell your kids this part.
If no one was in the store, he would let me crane my neck and look through the open spot where the curtains didn’t quite meet.
I know, your kids get all the nudie videos they want with their little phones in their pocket. They can even get around any parental lockouts you may or may not have put on them. Don’t kid yourself.
But in our day, a glimpse of a tiny picture of a titty from six feet away was a special occasion that you would promptly tell your friends about. And if you saw more than a titty, well… You saved that thought for yourself when there was no one in the house.
But the man behind the counter knew my parents. He knew, we were supposed to be religious. And I pretended to be from time to time. And I wasn’t allowed to rent anything rated R or over. And “Faces of Death” was rumored to be so bad that it couldn’t even get a rating. It was out on the shelf where any-old-body could pick it up and look at it. There was a handful of gross out pictures on the cover, and on the back, it indeed said that it had not been rated. So, I hid it under the two movies I was allowed to rent.
I put them up on the counter and he pointed over to the handwritten sign he had taped on the inside of the window. He said, “Read the sign, son. Only two movies at a time. There are more customers than just you.”
I grabbed the Disney cartoon and said, “OK. I don’t need this one.” And he rang me up for two movies a buck and a quarter each with tax. I scooped them off the counter and turned to take them home on my bike.
He said, “Son.”
I thought, oh no. He just realized what it was that I had rented.
He reached over the counter with a black plastic shopping bag. He said, “Put em in this. I don’t want you dropping em.”
I took it and I said thank you, and I rode home to watch the movie before my parents got home. That is “Faces of Death.” I didn’t care about the other movie. I got it for my sister. She liked that silly muppet movie, “Labyrinth,” or something like that. I popped my movie in and told her to shut up, and go to her room.
Did I tell you my friends were there, too? Well, they were. Two of them. Freddy and Pete. They were good friends, too. Freddy was Mexican and Pete was Hawaiian or Samoan or something. I saw them pretty near to every day. I ate over at their houses sometimes.
Freddy’s mom would make these deep-fried tacos with ground beef and potatoes. I never did see those kinda tacos anywhere else ever again, but they were damn good. And Pete, I’d eat at his house, too. They would eat things like homemade sushi rolls. Which was still kinda rare in those days. And squid.
I was chewing and chewing on that squid, and Mr. K, Pete’s dad, said… And he was the biggest man I ever had seen, so I didn’t want to make him mad. He said, “Son” He handed me a napkin. He said, “You don’t have to eat that if you don’t like it.” But I forced down the mouthful and told him I liked it. And I did, too. And I ate another while he watched. Just chewy as hell is all.
So, I turned on the movie, and Freddy was like ewww! And Pete was like Yuck! And everything you might say. And we kept having to chase Cindy back into her room. And she was saying how she was going to snitch on us and all. But the movie wasn’t that bad. Some of it looked real, but most of it looked fake. But there was this one part filmed at a prison in Venezuela or Pakistan or one of those places. We couldn’t speak none of those languages and there wasn’t much talk anyway.
Wait what? No, no. No. Not every Mexican knows Spanish.
No, Freddy doesn’t know Spanish. His mom knew a few words because her parents moved to the U.S. before she was born and they knew.
No. I didn’t ask him if it sounded like Spanish. In fact, I know what Spanish sounds like, and I am still not sure.
I know how to say some things. I do, and I could tell you to bite my butt if I wanted to. And I still just might. And before you ask, I don’t think Pete or his dad could speak Hawaiian either. You know, this isn’t even part of the story anyway.
Yeah? You don’t think so? Well… Chupa mi culo. Tu madre es una bruja, y tu padre es un baracho. You happy?
No, I didn’t grow up around here, but you already knew that. Do you want to hear the story or not?
OK… Are you sure you don’t have any more stupid questions?
Yes, they are stupid.
We were watching the movie. The prison part. I don’t know what country. Don’t you even ask. I can see it on your face. Don’t ask.
The movie. Prison part. There was this guy. He was kinda fat. He had a hood on his head, and he was hung. Hanging right in the center of the room. Looked like he had been there a while. He was good and dead. Had I seen him kicking, I am certain I would’ve lost my lunch. My after-school snack anyway. It was after school. That is not even the bad part.
The guard or whoever, the guy that was holding the camera, pulled the hood off his head. And he started to turn on that rope. Oh, Jesus… I can still picture it now. I don’t know why I started telling you this story. Oh, boy…
That rope was so tight you’d have of thought it would’ve pulled his head right off. And if you thought his body was fat… I guess the rope had pushed all the blood into his face. All that blood had turned his face black. The skin on his arms was brown, but his face. His tongue was all black and sticking straight out. His mouth open like a goldfish. And his eyes wide open and bulging. So white against his bloated face. I don’t know how they didn’t turn black like everything else. And that camera got good and close, too. With his body turning. I got a good long look at his whole face. I’ll be damned if that was a fake, it was a goddamned good fake.
It has been a good while since the last time the picture has popped into my mind. But it does sometimes. And there you have it. Now you know. If you want someone to take a look at your ass hole, and tell you if your hemorrhoid is infected, you need to ask your wife. Because I already have one vision in my head, I can never get rid of. I don’t want another one. I don’t want another. No. I will not do it. Now you just go right ahead and buckle your pants back up. It’s not gonna happen. Sorry. I would do it. I really would. But I won’t.