The Reason Why I Didn't Like the Movie "Scream"
By Alison Lapp
My mother kept teasing that Roy, one of the French twins who was staying with my family, had a crush on me, and I harbored the sneaking suspicion that it was true. As the shorter of the two brothers he was not quite as good looking, I appraised with my twelve-year-old mind, but much funnier and easier to talk to. At least, it seemed as though he would be easier to talk to if it were not for our glaring language barrier. All in all I concluded that the situation was not too shabby. I even agreed to dress-up for our evening out at my dad’s favorite Thai place without the usual “dressing-up is conforming to what society wants,” protest that I had in use at the time. Earlier and later in life my only defense for refusing to wear fancy clothes was “I don’t wanna.”
I finished getting ready and went over to my parent’s room to see if ‘the dinner train was ready to head on out,’ as the expression goes in my family. The bedroom was empty except for the answering machine, blinking sixteen, ominous red numbers appearing and then disappearing into their black background. We had been out in San Francisco all day, but still sixteen struck me as a lot of messages. Dread clutched me. I knew what they were before I listened, but still something compelled me to keep going, to press play. I had never heard them, and before the messages started memories flashed by like one-line punchlines from a sickly twisted sitcom: He’s a model, a really good-looking man. Too bad he’s a psycho...We have a plan to get your father out of the office in case he shows up…He told him, “I’m going to kill your dad.” To a five-year-old, can you believe it?… Calls made from a payphone in Chicago, we think.
“Message one. Eleven thirty-eight AM,” the mechanical voice informed me. A stream of vulgarities followed, starting in mid-sentence like the speaker couldn’t wait for the beep to let out his rage. I stood, frozen still in front of the answering machine like a small child paralyzed by nightmares as each message became more and more crazed, until my father came in and immediately knew what was going on. “Is it him? He called at my home? I can’t believe it.”
I nodded and don’t actually remember going into the bathroom, but I remember why. I had to get away from the man on the machine and his rabid dog voice, but needed to remain close enough to treasure my father’s tenuous presence. I paced the length of the bathroom counter, stomachless, head in hands, hands in ears. Occasionally I stopped to look in the mirror and search the glassy eyes as if asking the mirror girl if she knew what to do. Even through my half-maniacal, self-absorbed fear I wondered how this must have been affecting my sensitive father.
The question returned when the messages stopped and I came out and saw his notes. As his life was threatened by lashing words of hate that aimed to scar, my father sat and calmly took notes. The handwriting that had become so familiar to me from birthday cards and notes telling the teacher why I missed class now formed words so disgusting they made my stomach turn. It was the disfigured phrases, the harsh blue stains of ink that made it impossible for me to ever take notes on that yellow Post-it pad again, even when the top layers had long since been torn off, crumpled into balls and thrown away.
My mother knew, my brother knew, yet we were forced to paste smiles over our darkly worried minds. It was time to go out to dinner as planned, and we didn’t want the French family knowing anything was wrong. No use worrying them. “Je veux etre avec Alison.” Roy wanted to ride with me. I didn’t know the definition of the word irony, but felt that this for sure was its bitter taste. Only an hour before I would have jumped at the prospect, but now I could hardly think of anything I wanted less than to be separated from my father even for a second. Pretending not too convincingly that I hadn’t heard his comment, I got into our family car.
We told them what was happening on the way back from the restaurant. I suppose the panic was too hard to hide. Our car approached the house slowly, scanning for unknown vehicles, and we waited in the safe, metal haven while Dad got out to make sure the house was empty. It was, the police were called and we were banished from our home because to remain there would be too dangerous.
My vacationing neighbors had entrusted their house to me during their absence, never guessing that we would flee to it, bleeding on the inside, from the Armageddon outside. The seven of us lay in a mass of sleeping bags: my brother, my mother, the French family of four and me, huddled refugees on a wooden floor. My dad stayed in the house with the police all night. Every car that drove by meant murder to me, every light that shone signified death, and I didn’t sleep but I didn’t get up to look out the window to my house either.
Morning came and we all went back over. Apparently, the police no longer knew the whereabouts of the stalker, but he had not shown up that night. I was just happy to see my dad again. Any fight we might have ever had was forgotten, all I knew now was the strong, protective love that leaps naturally from a fear of loss-a love and fear so similar that they almost felt they same as they burned themselves forever into my memory.
The phone rang. My father answered. Silence. “Hi Bob,” my dad said in a voice that was almost teasing. The man on the other end hung up. The phone rang again, again my dad picked up. I didn’t hear the conversation, Mom herded us out of the room, leaving just my dad, a police officer and the phone around our round kitchen table, but I am told he handled it well. My father read off a list of police facts, telling the stalker his address, his birthday, his social security number, and it was enough to frighten him. He apologized to my dad for his behavior and never called again. Expect once, last year, when he asked if my dad would be his lawyer in some business deal. My dad declined the offer.
© Alison Lapp