In the late afternoon, Jeremy took a bus back to the movie theater. His friends were already waiting for him. Max looked exhausted from pedaling and Brandon talked to two cheerleaders in the back of his Camaro.
“Has anyone knocked on the front door?” Jeremy asked.
“We’re waiting for you bro,” Brandon said.
“Let’s go inside and I’ll introduce you to Bernie.” The group walked through the golden double doors into the lobby. Bernie was nearly finished sweeping dust leftover from the sarcophagus.
“Hello Jeremy, I see you brought some of your friends,” he smiled.
“Everyone, this is Bernie. He’s the owner of The Pharaoh for at least one more day. We’re here to help you get your place ready for this evening.” Everyone exchanged introductions.
“Well, I need someone to greet patrons and handout tickets in the lobby. Maximilian, would you be in charge of public relations and donations? We have a multitier movie room that hasn’t been cleaned in twenty years. I’ll put you ladies in charge of cleaning the first floor.” Bernie pointed at the cheerleaders, reading their names off their jumpsuits. “Mindy and Stephanie, did you hear me?”
They were texting. “We’re sorry mister, but all we do is decorating.”
“Yeah, we have a flare for dazzle, but we can’t pick up trash. It’s like, so gross.”
Bernie raised his eyebrows.
“I’ll pick-up trash on the first floor,” volunteered Jeremy. “Brandon will take the second and we’ll have this place ready to go.”
“But what should we do?” complained Mindy and Stephanie. “I’ll put Sissy in charge of you,” replied Bernie. “I have a couple closets filled with costumes and decorations. They haven’t been used since The Pharaoh became a movie theater.”
Bernie handed the cheerleaders a brass skeleton key to unlock the costume closet. He pushed a small cart full of antique light bulbs and candles around the movie theater, changing the fixtures. Bernie knew lighting was important for a good show.
Opening the closet, costumes and spiders cascaded over the cheerleaders. They couldn’t discern fake webs from the real thing. There were guerilla costumes, Chinese dragons, African masks, and props used for magic acts. A rusted saw hung in the corner with a bloodied blade. The sight of magic gone wrong chilled them to the bone. They pulled silver candelabras from the shadows, not daring to venture further in.
Soon the theater had a cozy appeal in the stairwells and hallways. Jeremy found an ancient Hoover vacuum and began to clean the carpets. It was exciting to discover hidden places inside the century old entertainment house. Everyone lost track of time.
The busyness stopped when an unfamiliar dong resounded in the lobby. Bernie had repaired the foyer clock.
Max finished hauling broken ceiling tiles from the theater seats. He mopped up a puddle of water on the floor. Immediately, the room felt less damp. It was nearly 90 degrees outside. Everything inside and out had a warm sense of mystery.