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ADELAIDE Independent Monthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Mensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

REPLAY VALUE
by Sean Gallagher  

 

 

“All the talk about Zoltan, it’s not really worth it,” Max said to Grant, trying to douse out the conversation he viewed as pointless. “What else is playing?”

Levi, Grant’s roommate, sat next to him, his head slightly bowed from embarrassment. He wasn’t keen on letting Grant’s intricate observations dominate the evening because he knew all too well Grant’s constant discourses on all things geeky, and Melody, Phoebe, and Tara were unfortunately caught in rapt attention. Max and Sheila, the lone married couple, had moved on, their heads buried in the listed wine selections.

It was as if the local pub near the theater they’d just exited had turned down its white noise volume to let Grant go on and on. Levi had had enough outings with Grant to remain worried.

A short discussion of the flick was tolerable for Levi as long as no one else was around. Earlier in the week, the group had all heard Grant’s trailer-based praises for Zoltan: The Soul Corroder, the sci-fi B-movie they’d just been subjected to. The plot was incoherent, the effects terrible, and the acting awful. Levi (and Melody, sitting next to him, he noticed) managed to fall asleep in the middle, but laughed themselves awake during one of the many ill-conceived fight scenes on the bridge of Zoltan’s doomsday ship, where yet another unfortunate soul wound up corroded.

“…I mean, that had no good fight scenes—just no replay value at all—like, NONE! I’m sorry, guys!” Grant said. Levi smiled, thinking maybe there was some hope for Grant in his social circle after all.

“I should have known, though. Like, last week I was looking through all my old Blu-rays, shows and movies and stuff I hadn’t seen in years! Some seriously had like an inch of dust on the case. I sold them to the store on Wayward and 45th? You know, near the mall?”

Sheila nodded without eye contact, and the other girls had lost interest and were eyeing a pair of bartenders that resembled second-string college quarterbacks.

“And I made like a hundred bucks!” Grant continued.

Levi shook his head quickly. They were losing them. They were losing all of them. Most importantly, Levi was losing Melody.

“So Mel, do you guys come here a lot? You know what’s good?” Levi asked.

“Oh sure! I mean, the fish tacos are like a vice of mine!” Melody said. Her laugh, regarded as annoying by everyone else, was endearing to Levi’s ears.

“Fish tacos, eh? I’ve never tried them

“And the last corroding scene? I mean, I apologize on behalf of everyone who ever thought this movie would be ANY good!” Melody interrupted.

Grant stood up and pocketed out change, which in this case amounted to a couple of pennies and a nickel. Polite laughter greeted this.

“Yeah, it really was terrible, Grant, how about next week we see something that we all agree on, maybe Bridal Engagement 2: The Other Groom? I heard it’s got something for everyone.” This was said by Phoebe, who was the quietest member of the group. Where her affectation waived, her words steered the conversation away from Grant.

“Well…” Grant said, and this time Levi kicked him hard in his shin. Grant jumped as if he’d been stung by a hornet.

“Okay fine, maybe something different!” Tara said.

“No, I think that’s fair,” Levi replied. Beads of sweat were forming on his brow. “I did hear it was actually good…”

Now Max laughed. “Oh come on, Levi, put up a little fight! We can see our own thing!” he said. Didn’t Max realize that Levi didn’t want to argue with the ladies?

“I suppose that I could try something different, I mean it looks like it might be a contender for worst flick in years, but the bottom has to be set somewhere, right?” Grant reasoned.

“How can you even know that?” Melody asked, not smiling anymore. This was not good. “Especially after what you just had us watch?”

“Okay, that’s a good point, but that was supposed to be terrible on purpose…” Grant began.

“Oh, so that gives it a pass? You have some serious double standard issues, Grant!”

“No, I agree, Grant, there’s a time when there’s a purpose and then a time when they’re just trying to mess with you—you have to be in on the joke, right hon?” Max said, nudging Sheila, who couldn’t look less excited, intently focused on her smart phone.

“Max is trying to be cute, he knows I love those movies, but…” she said, turning to face her husband, “…he’s not.” Sheila stood up fast and walked away, the phone resuming its place in front of her face. Max waited a beat, then walked after her. Levi thought maybe this could be a good thing, after all. Only the single folks remained.

“I think we might head out too, actually,” Tara said. Melody sighed and nodded.

No. This can’t happen, Levi thought. Any ideas he had to salvage the conversation crumbled in his brain as the three ladies packed up their purses and made their way out.

“Oh well, you wanna check out All-Around Electronics? I have to swing by there,” Grant said with a shrug, checking his watch. Levi was still intent on watching as Melody walked away.

“It’s better if you just let them go, call up Melody later!” Grant suggested. “She’s good people, unlike Sheila. Can you believe her? No replay value. At. All.”

Levi shook his head and glanced at the menu again.

“You still want the fish tacos?” Grant asked.

Levi folded up his menu. “No,” he replied. “I’ve had them before and they suck.”

***

It was too bad that Levi’s conscience was on overdrive because of the favour he owed Grant from last week. He now felt obligated to tag along inside All-Around Electronics, which was a more literal store name than the owner probably intended—nothing more or less than a refurbished warehouse, filled with the latest gadgets and gear.

Levi checked out the music section, saw nothing he really liked, and made his way back toward Grant, who was pawing through the discounted CD bin.

“So you’re looking for some replay value in games, too?” Levi couldn’t believe he was indulging the discussion any further, but he hoped it would get Grant moving out of there faster.

“Well, isn’t that the point? To squeeze all the good stuff we can out of anything, experience those highs over and over? Why do you think drugs have always been around?” Grant replied, shaking his head at the selection and making his way over to the aisle of cheaply packaged music singles.

“I mean, look at this thing!” he said, pulling out a country greatest hits compilation and handing it to Levi. “Every track on here is like three minutes long, but has the potential to be listened to again and again. That’s the whole point. Nothing ever changes. So you can get more out of this than, say, a double album or a whole concert. That’s what pop singles are, kind of a grasp at perfection, right?”

“Wow, you’re reading way too much into this,” Levi replied. “This stuff’s terrible anyways. I hate country.” He tossed it back in the bin.

“But the concept is the same. The hook, the chorus. Or at a movie, the special effects, the acting, the dialogue. In a book, the wordplay, the twists of the plot. They’re all the same thing,” Grant explained.

“Meaning what?”

“They all provide replay value! And since a pop song is the most potent example, I’ll play this in the car to prove my point,” Grant said, grabbing the greatest hits CD again.

“I’d really rather be talking to Melody…” Levi began, but Grant was already on his way to the checkout. A girl stood at the ready, smile half-interested. Her name badge read Carrie.

“Find everything okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, I think so, but your gaming selection was a bit on the light side,” Grant replied.

With a wave of her hair, Carrie turned to her computer. “Is there anything in particular you were looking for?” she asked.

“Not really, just saying in general.”

“Okay, then.” Carrie swiped the CD with the scanner and smiled. Grant was familiar enough with the store to guess what was coming next: a comment about his musical selection.

“Love this! I think I might pick this up today, I’m glad my shift ends soon,” Carrie commented.

Grant nodded his head. “Yeah, I’m not too into them, but wanted to prove a point about replay value to my buddy here…” he said, but Levi was gone when Grant turned around to face him. “Wow, it emptied out fast here!”

“Yeah, it can be that way,” said Carrie. “I know this sounds kinda weird, but can you do me a favour and go check on the other copies of this and like guard one of them for me?”

Grant looked around again, doing a double take. “Guard them from who?” he asked.

Carrie’s smile rolled high on the left side, twitching her nose, making her facial expression a little flushed. “You never know,” she answered.

“Sure, just a second, I’m not sure where my friend went to…” Grant said, and pulled his phone out of his pocket to text Levi. Other contents spilled out along with it, right on to the checkout counter. Carrie picked up the ticket stub.

“You saw Zoltan? How was it?” she asked.

Grant turned to answer and saw Levi out of the corner of his eye, on his own phone in the parking lot, likely talking to Melody. “Ummm…yeah, it was good,” Grant said. The truth would open up a conversation he didn’t want to engage in.

“Really? I heard it was terrible!” Carrie said, sliding the CD back and forth between her hands.

Grant shrugged his shoulders.

“Come on, you really think it was good? A couple of my friends said they couldn’t even make it through the first twenty minutes! But I tend to like that cheesy kind of stuff.”

Grant’s eyes wandered back to Levi outside, who was now waving his arms in an over exaggeration.

“Aren’t you guys closing? My friend’s getting impatient,” Grant commented.

“He can wait,” Carrie said, and Grant could not believe what he was hearing.

“Wait, what?”

“Come on, just be honest, you really hated it, didn’t you? It’s not the kind of thing you could watch even once, right? I mean, did you fall asleep? Did you seriously even finish it?”

Levi had thrown his hands up in the air in what looked like frustration, then jumped in his car.

The apartment was five miles away.

Grant was going to kill him, if he ever got out of here.

“It’s not typically anything I talk about with customers, but they don’t understand how much you can get out of a little piece of entertainment, you know? I mean, why do you think I work here?” Carrie asked.

“Pay is good?” Grant suggested.

Carrie leaned so close to his face that he could smell her breath, which was full of cigarette smoke. “Pay sucks! But it’s enough, I guess—lets me get discounts on anything I want here.”

Grant heard the car squealing out of the parking lot, the light drizzle that had started amplifying all sound outside. He went toward it, through the remainder of the line and straight for the door.

“Don’t you want the CD?” Carrie asked, crestfallen.

“Not anymore,” Grant said, and flipped up his hoodie. It was going to be a long walk back home in the rain.

***

Grant’s sweatshirt was ninety percent soaked when he passed by the outlet mall, the stragglers running to their cars through the downpour. There was the theater again, and there was the café next door where he’d talked his head off again only an hour before. As he still had a mile to go, he decided to take a break, grab some soup to warm his bones and take the chilly bite out of his soul.

It wasn’t until he had his soup in hand and was looking for a table that he noticed Levi and Melody sitting at the exact table they’d been at earlier. When he realized that the rest of the group was also sitting at the table, he wasn’t sure whether to scream or laugh.

“That was such a terrible movie,” Melody was saying.

“Okay guys, very funny, I get it. Recreating the whole conversation like I’m not there just to mess with me?” Grant asked, nudging in and plopping down in a seat. He did notice one difference: Levi had his arm around Melody now.

“Not really, we just wanted to know what it was like without you here,” Melody said, and Levi hugged her closer.

“I know, it’s boring, isn’t it?” Grant asked, but no one laughed.

“Sorry about the car, but you can make it home,” said Levi. “Only make yourself scarce when you get there, Melody and I want to hang out, so don’t be watching Lord of the Rings for the thousandth time.”

Now everyone laughed. Grant thought about his next action for a few seconds, shrugged his shoulders and then, mimicking the clumsy bartender ten feet away, slowly poured the cheesy potato soup all over Levi’s lap and his head. The group made a collective ‘OOOOOHHHH’ but nobody, Grant noticed, tried to stop him. Some of the excess soup, still steaming, spilled on to Melody’s skirt and, unlike Levi who was too stunned to move, she screamed bloody murder.

The café manager (who was much stronger than Grant predicted) tossed him lightly out, back in the rain. It was a torrential downpour now and Grant laughed as he walked away, unhurried, at the same pace with which he arrived.

“You want to press charges, man?” the manager asked.

Levi shook his head. “Nah, it’s my roommate, I’ll probably just kick him out or something. I’ll settle it later.”

Melody scrubbed a paper towel on his head. “I would if I were you,” she said.

They gathered their things and left the group, hurrying to Levi’s car. “I hope there’s a big puddle next to him, I really do!” Melody said as they got into his car and took off.

“…Wow, what a meltdown,” said Sheila, back at the table, holding Max close. “Promise you won’t overreact like that to anything, especially something like Zoltan.”

“All the talk about Zoltan, it’s not really worth it,” Max replied. “What else is playing?”

 

 

About the Author:

Sean Gallagher received a BA in English from Hope College in 2004. He has self-published two books on Amazon, has been published under Furtive Dalliance Literary Review and lives in Mesa, Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

     
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