The Screen Savers
*** Also available on Kindle Unlimited ***
The Screen Savers is a dark, quirky comedy-novel laced with mystery, satire and offbeat romance.
Adam, who aspires to be alone, loves watching non-mainstream films at his local cinema – films that, thankfully, few people want to see. But when the cinema decides to stop showing these films, he must do the unthinkable: make more friends. At the very least he must work with others intent on keeping these screenings going: first, a mysterious woman who knows everything about him, then a group of misfits who are suspiciously similar to his old friends. Together they form The Screen Savers.
Most of the films Adam watches are about how to gain friends – about how to get over your flaws and integrate back into society. But what do you do if you’ve got too many friends and they’re all irritating? How do you create a life doing what you want to do rather than going along with the duty that friendship entails?
EXTRACT: OPENING SEQUENCE
Adam likes spending the afternoon in the cinema, where he can be alone – think he’s alone at least. He’ll sit at the front watching Bamboozled, a Spike Lee film. Nobody goes to see his films, not around here, not in the day – it’s like his own private cinema.
He asks for a cappuccino and is given white coffee. He does not cause a fuss. The cinema hasn’t quite understood the whole speciality coffee revolution. It’s got a machine with lots of sticky labels: ‘cappuccino’, ‘latte’, ‘espresso’, ‘decaf’; but they all produce the same thing – white coffee. They do, though, have nutmeg, and chocolate, and are ahead of their time in many ways. They have other toppings, like hundreds-and-thousands, small chocolate Flakes (20 pence extra) and chocolate crunch (an all-sort mixture of chunky bits of chocolate that he suspects are ‘pick and mix’ crunched up: chocolate mutants past their sell-by). Once, he’d had the crunch and a crushed jelly baby floated to the surface – so the crunch is not all chocolate, or all crunchy. It shouldn’t even be called topping, because it sinks: the bits are far too heavy, what with them only serving white coffee with no supportive foamy top. You’re left with really sweet coffee and a sticky mess at the bottom of the cup which is impossible to get at. It can’t be dug out – they don’t provide spoons. No. If you actually want to eat the crunch, you have to take a mouthful of chocolate, add the coffee, and gargle.
Oh, there is a spoon. Adam uses it to dish out the crunch. But it is chained to the desk.
He takes his coffee and pays for it. He slips a Flake into his pocket without paying – call it compensation for the cappuccino fiasco – and enters the screening room. It’s empty: what a relief.
He sits in row four. The bottom section: the flat bit at the front. He’s never known anybody but him to sit in any of the front section of seven rows – well, almost nobody – not for a small film like this. Of course, yes, people sat there for blockbusters, after six o’clock and at weekends, when the seats in middle and back are, say, fifty percent full. Oh, and school holidays, how could he forget school holidays – some kids like to sit at the front and get neck-ache. This is a pain for him too. If they sit at the front so must he. And, yes, he too gets neck-ache. (There’s a big difference in degrees of head–neck elevation between row one and row four, a surprising variation for, what, ten feet in seat-to-seat distance.)
He likes all styles of cinema – low-budget, art film, foreign and mainstream. He enjoys the less mainstream films for reasons which include the additional pleasure of an empty screening room. (In this cinema, off-peak, anyway.) Screen Seven. That’s where they show that kind of material – anything non-mainstream. They show them in bouts of one to two weeks. Last week, a low-budget called The Martins; today it’s Bamboozled.
They dim the lights very slightly and the adverts begin – they vary the degree of darkness as the main feature gets closer, as if they’re trying to add to the tension (or allow people to find their seats – that’s another reason). For the adverts they dim, but you can still make out the pattern in the ceiling, quite a lot of light really; for the trailers it gets a lot darker, you can’t see any pattern. And for the feature, you lose all perception of ceiling, as if it no longer existed. There’s just blackness. Could be to infinity. Could be to ten feet above the screen, where it was before the adverts, when they play radio.
During the second advert, a woman walks past and sits in the first row. Right within his field of reality.