The Projectionist

I had the amazing pleasure of watching the movie Hugo this weekend. It was equal parts magic, innocence, and wonder.


A final click sounded as the crank reel stopped. The thick canvas screen which had grabbed the audiences attention with wonder, now became blank. A satisfied murmur filled the stuffy room. Slowly people began to trickle out of the theater.

The projectionist packed the reel away, being careful not to scratch the delicate film. Wrinkled fingers gingerly closed the hard leather case. The elderly man pushed his glasses up on his nose as he looked about the dim theater. His gaze paused when he saw a small tuft of hair sticking up behind one of the seats. Somebody must have fallen asleep and no one woke him up. He gently set the case down on the floor. The faded red carpet muffled his oxford shoes as he walked down the aisle.

“Excuse me, but the picture show has ended,” he said, approaching the seated figure. His eyebrows raised slightly as a child’s head popped up from behind the seat. Two eyes peered inquisitively at him. He filed his way down the row just behind the child, getting a better look as he moved closer. She sat on her knees facing him, little arms crossed over the back of the seat. The dim light did nothing to hide her dirty clothes. Her dark hair was matted and messy.

The projectionists gaze softened. “Do you have anywhere else to go?” he asked. His deep voice expanded in the air, filling the theater with its presence.

The girl shook her head. “But I’m not looking for somewhere else to go,” she piped in a timid voice. “I want to stay here and keep watching.”

A smile spread on the projectionists face. “I feel the same, child. But alas, it has ended, and we find ourselves back in the real world. We can’t keep living in the picture shows, you know that, don’t you?” He took the time to deliberately choose his words.

The girl gazed up thoughtfully at the old man. “I know we can’t, but I still want to,” she said. She tilted her head slightly, thinking hard. “I wish we could jump in the screen when a moving picture is playin’, and be a part of it. Then people could watch us runnin’ around on there, havin’ fun. And if they wanted to, they could come too.”

An earthy laugh rumbled through the air. “If everyone jumped into the canvas, then who would be here to run this world?”

“Who cares if we’re all in there?” She replied, pointing at the screen behind her. A smile graced her grubby face.

“I see your point, young lady,” the projectionist said, returning her smile. “Perhaps you will have to dream up your own picture show. You can write about your adventures in Film Land. I know the maker of these shows would love to hear your stories.”

The child’s eyes briefly lit up. However, as the idea sank in she slowly dropped her gaze, slumping in her seat. “I don’t know how to write. I’d never be able to get my stories to him,” she murmured morosely.

The devastated child caused the projectionists heart to swell. She sat before him, so hopeless. “Look at me, child,” he said softly. “Have you any parents?”

She shook her head, avoiding his gaze.

“Do you have a home, or anyone to look after you?”

Again, her small head shook. She trembled, on the verge of tears.

The projectionist fell silent. He saw something of himself in the girl. There was a wonderment about her, and he knew he had to help her. “Well, that is about to change, I’ve decided. If you’d like, you can come home with me. I’ll feed you, clothe you, and give you a home,” he stated, giving his chin a rub. “In return, I expect you to put forth an effort to learn to read and write under my supervision. Does that sound like something you would want?” He asked, eyeing the girl closely.

Her head shot up to look at him. A look of confusion clouded her face. “But…why?” she asked, stunned. “No one is ever nice to orphans like me. Why would you take me in?”

A smile pulled on the corner of his mouth. “I see great potential in you. You have the creative spark, I know it,” his voice was filled with warmth. “You could have a very bright future, and one day, you might even be making picture shows of your own.”

“Do you really think I could?” she asked. Her confusion caved under the excitement of the thought.

“Everything you can dream you can do,” he replied with a twinkle in his eyes. “All the people who were here, left the theater with excitement. If you work hard at it, you could be the one reaching out to them with your dreams and stories.”

“But how do you know they’ll want to listen to my stories? I don’t think I could imagine greater ones than the picture show you just played.”

He let out a hearty laugh. “My dear child, don’t you know? I am the creator of that film!” He paused for a moment, enjoying the surprise on the little girl’s face. “I think I ought to be able to decide whether or not people will come to see your shows. Now that I think about it, I may need someone with your expertise on my next show!”

The projectionist continued speaking, but his words never made it to the girl. She was too busy imagining what her first picture show would be. Maybe, just maybe, she could make one as captivating as the projectionist had.


About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

2 Responses to The Projectionist

  1. A tender, very sweet story. You did a good job of conveying everything in a short piece. Well done.

  2. Aly Hughes says:

    Thank you very much. I think one of my biggest challenges with this blog will be getting my writing down to about 1,000 words or shorter for this blog. I do have a tendency to ramble, but it’s a good exercise. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, and thanks for commenting!

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