As soon as dinner was finished, everyone settled into the TV room. Movie NIght was so exciting that every single resident attended, and they had to bring some chairs in from the games room to accommodate everyone.
Mrs. Edwards entered with a big smile on her face. “Humphrey Bogart!”
Mr. Edwards held her hand and led her to the front of the TV room.
“Looks like you’re getting the best seats in the house, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards,” Ryan said, and the Edwards chuckled.
Then Mrs. Tillynaught and Mrs. Balanafeel came in. “This is so very kind of you kids,” Mrs. Tillynaught said. Behind her, the stream of old people nodded their agreement with smiles of pleasure and joy.
Mrs. Balanafeel found a seat and said, “It’s a little dark for playing Clue. And where are the tables? I really can’t see this working out.”
Next Mrs. Brackish entered, her white dentures gleaming behind her day-glo pink lips. “You two are such wonderful, dear children. We’re so very lucky to have you here.”
It was as if this was the first time anyone had ever done anything nice at Oleander Gardens that they weren’t being paid for.
Ryan had an actual Blu-Ray Limited Edition Totally Remastered or something copy of Casablanca. While he slipped it into the machine, Nora handed out the diabetic candies. The residents each politely took one, even though they were all full from dinner, because everyone loved today’s special dessert, Jell-O with Cool-Whip topping, and had at least two servings.
Then there was a fuzzy black and white “Warner Brothers Pictures Inc” logo with a slightly draggy soundtrack, and it was starting. Nora couldn’t believe how her chest was actually tightening, and her breath actually quickening to see the creaky old black-and-white film start up on the little TV. She honestly had never been remotely interested in watching Casablanca. She didn’t even know what it was about. She was pretty sure that casa blanca meant ‘white house’ in Spanish, so maybe it was an American politics movie from the 1920s or something. At any rate, the TV room was abuzz with elderly excitement, and as she sat down next to Ryan on games-room folding chairs, she caught a glimpse of a delighted smile in the dim white glow coming off the screen.
From the opening credits Nora could see that as Mrs. Edwards had pointed out, Humphrey Bogart was indeed the star of the show. How could she remember something from an old black and white movie that might have been as old as she was, but couldn’t remember telling Nora the story of her white cat Mr. Socks just the day before? Old people were perplexing.
The titles music stopped, a black and white globe spun in some wispy clouds, a man started talking, and the TV room fell silent in anticipation. “With the coming of the second world war, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas.” Nora glanced over at Ryan beside her. His lips were moving along with the narration. Nora did not exactly remember ever watching a black and white movie before, and here Ryan had watched this one so many times he knew the words by heart. People are not what they seem.
The spinning globe phased into a map and a line drew itself across the map as the narrator talked about how people traveled around. It turned out Casablanca was actually a city in Morocco, which apparently was near Spain.
After the narrator said, “to wait… and wait… and wait…” he stopped talking and the music got louder. Ryan leaned over to her and whispered, “I have to admit something. The other day, I couldn’t believe it when you suggested watching Casablanca for movie night. It’s kind of geeky, but this is actually one of my favourite movies.” He gave her a sheepish smile, and then returned his attention to the movie.
It was actually kind of interesting. Interesting in an Oh, so that’s what the world was like in the olden olden days kind of way. Nora glanced around the room. The old people sat riveted. She wondered how many of them had been to see the film when it first came out. He’d said something about second world war, so she tried to do the math. That was in the early 1940s, if she remembered Mr. Ratsoy’s incredibly boring history lessons with his VHS recordings of film strips correctly. She remembered once at her own grandmother’s house, Nora’s mom’s mom, her grandmother told her when she was young, which Nora thought was in the 1950s and ’60s, she used to go to movies in the local cinema where they showed a news reel, a cartoon or something, and two movies, all in black and white, and all for the low low price of five cents including popcorn or something ridiculous like that. So judging from its black and whiteness, this movie must have come out somewhere between the 1940s and maybe 1960s.
There was definitely one way to find out. She leaned toward Ryan. “When did this movie come out?”
Without missing a beat. It didn’t seem to fit. They made a movie about World War Two during World War Two? Maybe she didn’t remember Mr. Ratsoy’s incredibly boring social studies classes correctly. She had tended to fall asleep during his VHS lessons, and showing them old educational movies on VHS had been one of his preferred teaching methods. She was totally desperate to Google it, but that would be totally rude to poor Ryan who thought she was actually into this old piece of crap.
By the time Ryan paused the movie and announced intermission, she was actually really into it. There were kind of funny bits, and a sort of romantic back story but it wasn’t all drippy like some of the movies she’d sat through, and it really was cool to see what the world was like when the residents were young. They all shuffled to their feet and went back to their respective rooms to use their respective toilets, chattering excitedly amongst themselves.
“Maybe now would be a good time to break into Mrs. King’s office,” Nora suggested.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ryan asked.
“Nobody else is here. Just us, the night nurse, who Randy said basically gets drunk and plays video games at the reception desk all night, and the old people. It’s going to take them at least twenty minutes to all get to their rooms, do their business, and come back here, so let’s do it!”
Ryan didn’t look convinced. “That’s actually illegal, Nora. What if one of the security guys comes by? You said they do a night check. Not to mention, it’s, you know, immoral. we ought to try, like, other methods.”
Nora snorted. “As if Rick cares about what’s legal and moral.”
Ryan’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”
“Well, look at him. He let his friend get arrested so he could keep those papers and get the money for them for himself. He’s like, best friends with the police but he lied and hid the papers. Plus he lied to Ilsa and deserted her in Paris.”
Ryan looked like he was about to break down. “Nora, that’s not what this movie is about at all!”
“Yeah, I know… I’m just… I don’t know.”
Mrs. Tillynaught and Mrs. Balanafeel came back. Nora nearly expected Mrs. Rubens to follow behind them; the three elderly Mouskateers. She shook her head at herself when she remembered.
“I just want to help them,” she said.
Ryan shrugged. “I know. And we will. We’ll figure something out. Anyhow, look, they’re coming back now. We’ll be ready for the second half any minute. Do you want to hand out the candies again?”
Nora resigned herself. “Sure.” She picked up the little tin of sugar-free candy, wondering what exactly was left, considering as far as she knew candy was made of 100% sugar, and took it over to where Mrs. Balanafeel and Mrs. Tillynaught were sitting.
“Oh, thank you, Nora!”
“Are you having a nice time tonight, Mrs. Balanafeel? Mrs. Tillynaught?”
“Oh, yes! Wonderful! This is the most fun we’ve had since coming here! Don’t you agree, Evelyn?”
Mrs. Balanafeel said, “I’m quite pleased that you kids cancelled games night for this. We can play Clue any old time!”
“Yeah, I agree,” said Nora. Mr. and Mrs. Edwards came in and she took her candy tin over to them.