The name of the movie was Red Sunset. It was an anti-communist film, and Heather Paige was playing the mother of a soldier. They were filming in D.C. and Los Angeles in the fall for a release in 1986.

And Heather Paige wanted me and my friends to go see it. That’s how we could help America win the Cold War against the Russians. “If a lot of people see it, it can help in the effort,” she said.

“That won’t be a problem,” I said. “My family owns a movie theater.”

Editor’s Note: Check out Part IPart II, Part III, and Part IV of this ongoing weekly fiction series.

       She suddenly became focused. I told her how my father Walter owned the Cinema ’n’ Drafthouse, the classic art deco theater in D.C. He had bought it in 1973 when it was the Boro and was run down and empty and showing porn like Campus Girls in Heat. Dad had gutted the inside and redesigned it to have tables and a kitchen and bar in the back. The Drafthouse frequently sold out, and was often rented out for special screenings and parties – the anniversary of Citizen Kane andCasablanca,or the annual Creature Feature Halloween party with Count Gore De Vol, the local late night Channel 20 horror host. Someone even got married there.

       So sure, my friends and I would be able to see Red Sunset. We may even be able to hold a premier there. To do that for a conservative film, to do it in DC and make a big deal out of it – that would get attention. Washington was very liberal, despite Reagan being president.

       I knew Heather Paige was thinking all of this. Having a family that owned a movie theater you often got request form people to promote stuff and have events there.

       “Are you a Republican?” she said.

       “I’m nothing,” I said, watching Charlie the chocolate lab breathing quietly at her feet. “I’m not a hippie, but Reagan is kind of a goofball.”

       She smiled. “You guys are a good generation,” she said. “Avoiding the baby boomer arrogance but not totally buying into the right. Independent thinkers.”

       Then she said, “Do you know how the free world will defeat communism?”

       “With a shitload of bombs?”

       She laughed. “No. With culture. And with love.”

       Then she said “Tell me Kim, what do you love?”

       I thought of riding a wave with Anne Sato kissing my neck.

       “It’s a girl!” Heather said. Mind reader.

       “No no no,” I lied. “I was thinking about a lot of stuff.” I didn’t want to blow a chance of having sex with Heather. My face was giving me away.

       “You’re cute,” she said. “I’m sure you have no problem with girls. But think deeper. Be more specific. What do you love about right here, right now, this week?”

       I sipped my Heineken. These California people got personal very fast.

       “Do you love your friends?” she said.

       “Sure.”

       “Tell me about them. Who’s down here with you this week?”

       Whether it was the mystical darkness of her beach house porch, the beers I had been drinking all night or the weed I had been smoking, or the fact that I was sitting mere feet from Cosmic Girl herself and that she was smiling and wearing a windbreaker and a white bikini bottom that made me delirious imaging her beautiful Hollywood pussy, I started talking.

       “There’s Chris Lane. He’s my best friend.”

       “Where did you meet him?”

       I smiled. “Well, we had seen each other at school when we were Freshman, but we didn’t really become friends until winter of that year. It was at the 9:30 Club in D.C. Neither one of us knew they other, but we had both lied to our parents about going to movie and instead went to see this German group Einsturzende Neubauten.

These guys combined punk rock with actually using drills and hammers and scrap metal to play music. It was a wild night. Someone had broken the front door of the building, there was a freak snowstorm and I didn’t think I was going to be able to get home. Chris gave me a ride home. We drove through the snow in his Camaro, listening to REM. Murmur. Not the current garbage they’re doing.

       “That’s beautiful,” she said. “Do you have a girl best friend?”

       “Jane Sparks. She lives next door to me. We’ve been next door neighbors since we were born. She likes dancing and Little House on the Prairie.”

       “Do you love her?”

       Blunt, New Agey Hollywood. Feelings.

       “Well, I mean, yeah,” I said. “Like a sister, not really the other way.”

       “What about your parents? Do you get along with them?”

       “Sure,” I said. Heather could tell I sounded noncommittal. I love my parents. My dad is funny but usually focuses on running the Drafthouse, which means a lot of balance sheets and late nights. My mom has gone around the bend with the religion since she had her conversion to Catholicism when I was ten. She’s close to a lot of priests, including this creepy one, Fr. Ted, who teaches at St. John’s. He comes over to the house a lot to have dinner. One night came into my room, he said by accident, when I was changing.

       I suddenly remembered the fight over You Can Fix Your Life, that I was dabbling into the occult by reading it. I made a mental note to myself to make sure to burn the paper I had written Heather’s name on. It was part of the ritual for positive attraction that Karen Summerville had outlined in the book. On the third day, burn the paper.

       “My dad is cool,” I said. “My mom is Catholic. Extremely Catholic. It’s why I’m at St. John’s. she had a conversion when I was ten.”

       “The Catholic Church is doing a lot to fight communism,” Heather said. “They are really strong in Poland. I went to a Jesuit school in New York. Fordham. The Jesuits there taught us to see God in all things. Do you see God in all things, Kim?”

       “I do,” I said.

       “Then here’s what I want you to do. I want you to spend the rest of your Beach Week with you friends and your girlfriends and your music and your freedom and think about how much you love those things. I want you to think about how much you love your family, your school, the German band at the 9:30 Club who live in a country that is only half-free.”

       “Can I think of Cosmic Girl also?”

       She laughed. “Yes, you can think of me. That show was part of being free.”

       I kind of sensed that it was time for me to leave. She was getting tired and my beer was almost empty. We sat there listening to the ocean for a few minutes. Then I got up to go.

       “There’s just one more thing,” she said. “I have some publicity shots being sent here this week, to a P.O. Box I keep down here. I’m going to be traveling and don’t know if I’ll be here. Can you pick them up at the P.O. Box and slip them under the door here in case I’m not here?”

       Of course, it was a test. She saw something in me and wanted to keep a connection, either to promote Red Sunset or for something deeper. Was I being recruited by a spy? She easily could have picked up her own publicity shots.

       “Sure,” said. “Just give me the key to the box.”

       She went inside then returned and handed me a small key.

       “If you see God in all things, we’ll win,” she said.

*****

Photo by valiunic (Pixabay)