Fridays With Roy: A New Creepy Story By Barry Gifford
By Barry Gifford in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 23, 2015 3:27PM
photo by Kymberly Janisch
Welcome back to Fridays with Roy, and another tale hot off the typewriter of master storyteller Barry Gifford from a work in progress tentatively titled The Cuban Club. Last week's story took us back to the fading grandeur of the Uptown Theater in the late 1950s. Today we move a block south to the Riveria, which is still going strong (even if it doesn't show movies anymore.) We think you'll agree it's rather creepy. Check back with us next Friday for a bonafide Halloween story!
by Barry Gifford
Roy noticed the creepy little guy following him right after he got off the bus. Roy was on his way to the Riviera theater to see a double feature of The Alligator People and First Man Into Space. His friends Buzzy Riordan and Jimmy Boyle were meeting him there. Buzzy had once been thrown out of the Riviera for shouting “Fire!” and ordered never to return, but that had been more than a year before so he figured the manager and the ushers wouldn’t recognize him, especially since he now had a crewcut and was taller. Buzzy told Roy he’d done it so that he could get a better seat; he’d gotten to the theater late and all the seats except for ones in the first row were taken and he hated sitting so close to the screen because he had to look up all the time and the actors’ heads were too small. Lots of kids ran out into the lobby and Buzzy moved back and sat down in the center seat of a middle row. When the kid who had been sitting there came back after learning it was a false alarm told Buzzy to move Buzzy told him to get lost. The kid called an usher and a girl who’d been sitting in the front row near Buzzy and was now walking back to her seat pointed at him and said, “That’s the creep who yelled fire!”
Buzzy and Jimmy Boyle were in the same fifth grade class at Delvis Erland grammar school, which most of the kids called Devil’s Island. The grades went from kindergarten through eighth so if a student spent the entire time there he or she could say that they’d done nine years of hard labor at Devil’s Island. The school had been built in 1902 and resembled an asylum or prison out of Victorian England. When Roy saw the movie of Jane Eyre on TV he thought the similarity between Lowood Institute and Devil’s Island was unmistakable.
The creep who was following Roy was very short, no more than five feet tall, with splotchy bleached blonde hair, a frog-faced kisser and a pudgy build. Roy guessed his age at about forty. The man trailed Roy from the bus stop toward the theater, keeping a few feet behind him. Roy hurried but did not run, hoping that Buzzy and Jimmy would be in front of the Riv waiting for him.
Roy had to wait across the street from the theater for the light to change. He saw his friends standing under the marquee sharing a smoke. Before Roy stepped off the curb the creep was standing next to him.
“Hello, sonny,” he said, “are you hungry? I’d like to buy you a hamburger.”
Just then the light changed to green and Roy ran over to Buzzy and Jimmy.
“Hey Roy,” said Buzzy, “we thought maybe you weren’t comin’. The Alligator People’s gonna start.”
“Yeah,” Jimmy said, “Buzzy was just sayin’ how if we couldn’t get good seats right away he’d have to yell ‘Fire!’ again.
“Uh uh, I was gonna shout, ‘Rat!’”
When the blonde babe in The Alligator People who’s wandering lost in a spooky southern swamp sees that her husband has turned partly into a gator, she screams, reminding Roy of the creep with bleached hair who had followed him on the street. The skin on the creep’s face was scaly looking, like an alligator’s, and his hair was almost as long as the actress’s. Roy hoped the guy wouldn’t be waiting for him outside the theater when he got out. Buzzy and Jimmy would be with him, though, so he figured the creep wouldn’t try anything. The boys would stay for both movies unless Buzzy pulled some stunt that would get the three of them tossed before First Man Into Space was over. The show wouldn’t let out until dark. Roy was sure the creep would have found another boy to follow around by then.