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Author(s): Jeffrey Howe

Christmas 1983 at the last porno theater in St. Louis: You'd think the atmosphere would be sordid with a miasma of stale popcorn and dank upholstery.  You'd be right.  Yet, behind the crumbling facade and flickering marquee, even the staff of the Lyceum have holiday plans -- and they're not going to let a little distraction like a customer get in their way.
A short work of humorous holiday fiction from our Nibs literary line.


“Still feels weird.” I pushed another shovelful of dirty snow off the curb. “I mean, if we’re open, why don’t they go all out and put a tree in the lobby?”
“Maybe they’re trying not to offend the Jewish community.” Jerry leaned the ladder against the box office, waiting for me to clear enough sidewalk to change the marquee. “There’s the synagogue up the block. Not to mention the cemeteries.”
“We’re as likely to get customers from those as we are the synagogue. Only the Orthodox are left around here, and I think we’d notice if they bought tickets. The reform types moved to Creve Coeur or Town & Country.” The handle of the shovel caught me in the gut when the blade hit a ridge. “Mmfff. Fescue should spring for a snow blower. His other theaters have them.”
“His other theaters have customers during the winter. We had eleven Friday night. Both shows together.”
“Porn is not at the top of most people’s to-do list this time of year.” I made another pass in front of the doors. “Try now.”
He wedged the bottom of the ladder into a seam in the concrete. “What’s this week’s title again?”
I reached into the storage bin at our feet and unrolled the one-sheet we weren’t permitted to post: a nude blonde, splayed across the hood of a DeLorean, sipping a lemonade. At the bottom the words Hot Dreams appeared in a bright red, half-melted font. “I’d hoped for something with a festive holiday theme, myself. Or a Flashdance parody.”
“I’m just happy there’s no repeat letters.” Jerry pulled out the characters he needed from the bin and climbed to the marquee. The previous feature, Sexcapades, had a backwards three for one of the es. 
“I’ll get salt. Try not to fall to your death.”
The foyer of the Lyceum Theater maintained the dignity of its days as an honest movie house: brass hardware, marble flooring around the box office. Beyond, the seediness became apparent. The carpet resembled a cross-section of a biopsy, the better to hide stains, and no matter how often we dusted the chandelier, the light it gave remained sallow. 
Beth stood in the box office, filling in reports. Behind the candy display, Chrissy counted out her cash box under Luke’s supervision. While I couldn’t shake the annoyance at being here myself, I granted him this: he didn’t shuffle off Christmas duty to the assistant manager. 
“Sidewalk is clean. Where’s the salt?”
“Check behind the screen,” he said. “Near the janitor’s can.”
Calling them janitor’s cans was wishful thinking. The ushers cleaned the place every night. Fescue sent a janitor around once every three weeks as a sop to Luke. The janitor brought in a steamer for the carpet, which then looked like a cleaner pathology sample for a few days, and mopped the bathrooms.
We mopped too. And scrubbed toilets. And polished brass. But the janitors never touched their cans.

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 9781611872248
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: 12/15/2011
Publisher: Untreed Reads

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