If there’s one thing I hate more than bad movies, it’s good books made into bad movies. As if movies aren’t doing enough damage to begin with, they start taking it out on my favorite stories. This is a rare account of a time I saw one that didn’t put a book to shame.
So what happened was I called up old Sally. I figured she might have gotten over all that proposal crap I tried to pull on her the other day. I’m such a moron sometimes. I swear I am. I also know she can’t resist a movie. That kills me. She really can’t wait to go waste her time in a movie. “Who’s this?” she said on the phone.
“Listen, it’s Holden. How’s about we go see another movie today. Give it another wack. Whaddaya say?”
“I don’t know, Holden…,” she was telling me.
“I’ve alrighty got the tickets. It’s The Great Gatsby.” She’d be dying to see that one. I was almost positive they were going soil it, but the things you do for a girl.
“Well, okay. What time did you say it was?” She had that uncertain tone to her voice, but I could tell the movie was killing her.
“I didn’t. I figured we’d go to the 4 o’clock showing. Does that sound okay?” I can be such a phony sometimes. It’s terrible. Our conversation went on for a few more minutes, but that’s pretty much all that really was said. We shot the bull for the sake of wasting our morning. I don’t know what my problem is sometimes. Maybe we’re born with the instinct to smile and keep talking to avoid awkward good-bys. I don’t know; maybe it’s not important.
When I got off the phone with Sally, I decided to head off to the park. Phoebe was still in school and I was waiting for my next semester to start at this point. My mom and dad made me enroll in another private school. I hate it when parents think they always know what’s best for you because they think they grew up the perfect way or they’ve pinned down everything they did wrong as a kid and want their kids to avoid it. It’s so annoying, but there really isn’t anything you can do.
I decided I could use the exercise and was tired of taxi drivers not knowing the answers to my questions, so I walked to the park. It really wasn’t all that far from where I was, anyway. And most people were at work or in school at the time, so I didn’t have to worry about too much traffic on the roads or the streets. But the people that you do see on the street when you’re not in school give you the worst looks. How are they even sure how old I am? They just have this sense to them, I guess, and know that you should be in school, but for some reason you’re ditching and giving you the eye will make you want to go back to school. It’s annoying as hell. It really is.
I decided to sit on the bench and see what watching the birds was all about. You always see the old people sitting and watching or feeding the birds on the benches and they seem to be happy spending their whole day there. I still don’t get it.
I wasn’t feeling all that hungry, but I couldn’t really remember the last thing I ate or when I last ate, so I decided to leave the park. There weren’t even groups of kids with their teachers looking at the monuments that day. I was looking all over for something I hadn’t seen before, but you can only go someplace so many times until you know where every goddam rock in the place is. The only thing I found was a penny—tails-up. I really don’t believe in any of that superstitious crap, but I didn’t want to take the risk for something as stupid as a penny. You never know when you need luck, even if it’s all made up. I flipped it heads-up so that the next person that found it could maybe have a chance at luck.
It was coming near 2:30 or so, so I decided that it maybe was a better idea not to go to a restaurant. I bought a hot dog off of some vendor. The guy’s name was Stan. He had horrible facial hair and a wrinkly forehead. I couldn’t help but wonder how often his beard hair got in people’s hot dogs. Then I wondered how many people gave their hot dogs back, and how many threw them away at the next corner, and how many actually had the nerve to eat their hot dogs anyway. I thought about asking Stan, but I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone asked me such a goddam horrible thing like that.
So anyway, I got to the theatre a half an hour before the movie started. Sally was late, as usual. “Holden! It’s so nice to see you!” It was as if she hadn’t seen me a few weeks ago when we did this same thing. She dressed to kill again, which was working on me. Maybe it is insanity to do the same thing twice and expect a different result.
“Hey, Sal. We better get in there soon before we miss anything good.” As if I really cared what part of any movie we missed out on seeing.
“Oh! Should we buy popcorn!”
“Do you see that line? Do you really want to wait through that?” She was really torn. She acted as if she was making a goddam life decision.
“Oh, okay,” she said to me. She took my hand and started running to the theatre. You’d have thought there was a crime scene around her house with a big crowd gathered and she wanted to know what was going on the way she ran.
So the movie starts like this: good old Nick rolls up in his paddle boat and Tom, that son-of-a-bitch, jumps off his high horse and welcomes him and all that happy crap. I have to admit, the actors did a pretty good job. Tom was a bastard and Nick was this normal-dressed guy trying not to ever say too much. Nick didn’t even try to blend in. He was always dressing lower-class than any of the people.
Jay Gatsby didn’t even come in the movie until it was half over. I wasn’t sure we were in the right theatre there for a while. Sally kept making annoying “aww” noises every time Gatsby would mention Daisy or the other way around. I hate that. I don’t even know what it is I hate, I guess it’s just annoying how she puts what everyone’s thinking into noises. It’s like listening to your own brain talk. It’s really annoying, especially if your brain sounds like Sally. Gatsby was super awkward, too. He was like a cross between Ackley and Stradlater. Cool on the outside like Stradlater, but a very vulnerable Ackley on the inside. I didn’t think he and Daisy were ever going to say a word to each other. I thought Nick was going to go to bed with them still staring at each other in his living room.
And oh, the movies these days! They’re getting very graphic. At one point, Tom punched Myrtle right in the face! They showed it, too! I mean, yeah, she had it coming to her. She kept chanting “Daisy! Daisy!” until Tom lost his temper. He probably lost it up Myrtle’s bloody nose when he punched her. Now that I think of it, Tom is probably the kind of guy Stradlater’s gonna grow up to be and I’m gonna be old Gatsby getting shot over Jane. That would be terrible.
The movie was okay, I must admit. I hadn’t read The Great Gatsby in a while and when I was younger, I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on in the book, so the movie kind of helped. I sound like a goddam jock now. Anyway, I felt really bad for Gatsby. He thought he had everything in his hands and it all slipped away just like it did for Bill Buckner. I guess it just goes to show that you can never be too sure of yourself.
Of course, the movie ended with everything falling apart, as all good books are written. Daisy runs over Myrtle, Myrtle’s husband thinks Tom did it, Tom tells him that the owner of the car was Gatsby, and Myrtle’s husband kills Gatsby. Then, to really make it interesting, after killing Gatsby, he stares at his dead body in the pool and wonders what he’d done.
Growing up, Allie, D.B., and I used to travel out to the country during the summer and stay at a farm house. We’d stay with our Aunt Sue and Uncle Scott and help them with the chores. Mom and Dad said it was so we’d learn responsibility or some stupid crap, but I don’t believe it. I think Aunt Sue and Uncle Scott were just looking for any help they could get. Jesus, they’d make us do everything they didn’t want to do.
They had raccoon problems with eating their chickens and all, so they set up these live animal traps that caught the raccoons but didn’t kill them. I didn’t really understand why you’d want to catch a raccoon just to kill it later. But that’s how these things worked. So when we got there, we had to set them up. Well one of them had a dead chicken inside of it when I found it. I immediately felt guilty, though I was fairly sure it wasn’t my fault. I was trying to remember if I’d left the trap open from the year before and a chicken went to roost and got caught in the trap and no one noticed and it just died there. It’d been dead for a while. It was just feathers, beak, and bones. Even though I was almost certain I wasn’t responsible, I felt like I had done a horrible thing. I looked at that pile of feathers and bones and wished I could be in that pile. It was depressing as hell. It really was.
When Myrtle’s husband, I really can’t think of his name, saw what he’d done to Gatsby, he obviously wanted to do the same to himself. That’s when he put the gun in his mouth and shot his brains out! Of course, there was a curtain in the way of the camera because kids could be watching the movie somewhere and also they probably couldn’t really blow someone’s brains out for a movie. I don’t know, maybe if Hollywood pays someone enough, they’ll do anything even if it means blowing their brains out.
When the movie was over, old Sally was crying her eyes out. “Like a baby” Tom said. That killed me. I felt like I was taking Daisy out of the movies with me. And like Daisy, Sally was instantly laughing at something else and running off to greet people she hardly knew. I wondered if the people she was talking to were relatives of the folks in the book. East and West Egg aren’t that far away from here. Talk about depressing as hell, Jesus Christ! What a bunch of phonies we have around here.