Friday in July, working the Coram Drive-in
behind concession glass where I could see
the previews—Fast Times at Ridgemont High,
Conan the Barbarian, First Blood. I scooped
another sno-cone into a white pointed cup. Moths
circled safety lights. A huge guy hooked an arm
around his Jumbo Popcorn, his squeeze for the night.
Almost out of change, Mr. Parini sent me
to the ticket booth. Locusts buzzing for mates,
kids in blue pajamas, a mother passing out grapes.
Two cars, lights off, crept in the exit,
turning smoothly close to the fence. I knew those guys
and Dawn Mitchell with them. She was so hot—
and drinking beer! I was in my yellow uniform
and a paper hat I pulled off and crushed in my pocket.
Dawn smiled at me and waved.
The other two guys had been with her
after a keg party. One, then the other. It was true.
Drinking now beside her,
they tossed cans that struck midair—
a sound so hollow I stopped and realized
that I loved Dawn Mitchell because of all this.
And I wanted to take her to a real theater in town,
to my house for dinner, a walk around the block,
talking about her stuff—Broadway shows, Journey,
her grandmother’s place in the Florida Keys.
The last cars crawled in. My face cooled.
The change, Mr. Parini, the job. I hated that job.
That drive-in screen still burns a page bigger than my whole
seventeenth year—what I can remember of it, anyway.
Thirty years later it helps to see the movies again,
at home with my wife, who sometimes stars
as Dawn Mitchell.
Henry Hughes currently teaches at Western Oregon University.