Am I Crazy, Or Is That Fresh Popcorn?

At first, I wondered if I had lost my mind. Not long after I entered Towne West mall one recent evening, I began to smell hot, buttered popcorn. Mind you, the theater on the far end of the mall had been closed for ages, thanks to the pandemic and then a business decision by the owner.


“You’re imagining things,” I told myself.

But the unmistakable aroma only intensified as I walked toward that end of the mall. There were no movie posters up, the sliding iron curtain in front was still almost entirely shut – but I saw a few people lingering near the entrance. I couldn’t resist going over to check things out.

“I smelled the popcorn way down the mall,” I told them. “Is this a dry run before you open?”

Indeed, it was, they told me – a “friends and family” gathering to make sure all of the lights and equipment functioned properly. I spent a college summer working at the long-gone Twin Lakes Theaters in northwest Wichita, so I knew a thing or two about what it takes for a theater to run smoothly. I even learned how to make the popcorn and set up the old-style pop machines so the syrup, water, and carbonation were properly mixed.

“Help yourself to some popcorn and let us know if we got it right,” I was told.

They had a self-dispensing machine and it worked just fine. The popcorn was a bit too salty and the kernels weren’t as fluffy as I like, but I’ll put those imperfections down to “getting the kinks out.”

I love to think in terms of scenes when I’m writing so the story is more vivid for the reader. I watch movies, not just for the entertainment value but also to see how they set scenes, handle transitions, establish the personalities of characters and keep plots moving.

Oh, and the popcorn? Have you really watched a movie if you didn’t nibble on some popcorn along the way?