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Cheaters never prosper.

I like the punny Lion King version of “Cheetahs never prosper.”

But no matter how you say it, I recently got nailed trying to get away with something.

It was opening weekend for the epic Marvel super hero en masse adventure The Avengers.

Scott could not wait to go.

Jason and I could wait to go.

We’re not die hard enough about any movie to contend with opening weekend radicals for tickets and seats. In fact, we’re tightwads who usually wait for movies to go to the dollar theater or Red Box.

We knew there was no way we would be able to put Scott off that long, but we at least wanted to avoid opening weekend mania, so we devised a plan. Jason told Scott we would go as a family when he broke his soccer ball juggling record of 57 in a row. It had taken him months to get that high and he hadn’t gotten close to that for weeks. But Scott had a ball at his feet before Jason even finished his sentence, and it didn’t leave his feet until 9:48 p.m. on the Saturday of opening weekend when he obliterated his record with a whopping 104 juggles.

“Let’s go!” Scott said as he pulled on a jacket.

We were stunned. “But . . .” we stammered.

“They have midnight showings. Please? You said we could! Come on!”

Jason told Scott he was taking his promise a little too literally and promised we’d go the following weekend.

By the following Friday, Scott could be contained no longer.

While out running errands I had picked up our tickets to avoid lines and secure seats. Though it wasn’t opening weekend there was still a high demand, and the last thing we needed was to show up and have it be sold out and have to call on a super hero to restrain a ballistic tantrum.

I headed home with five golden tickets to round up my family for some Friday night fun.

Then my cell phone rang.

“Mom, can my friend come to the movie?” Madi asked.

Sigh.

“Can’t we just do something as a family for once?”

“What’s the big deal? We’re just going to be sitting in a dark theater staring at a screen. It’s not like we’ll be bonding or anything. What does it matter if there’s another person sitting there with us?”

Sigh.

“Whatever.” I caved. It was Friday and I was tired. “But I only bought tickets for our family, so he’ll have to get there early to get a ticket.”

“Fine, I’ll tell him. Thanks, Mom.”

When I got home, Scott met me at the door, “Can I invite a friend?”

Sigh.

“No.”

“Madi gets to! That’s not fair!”

“Since when has my parenting ever been fair? Besides, Madi’s friend is just meeting us there.”

Madi sheepishly pipes up, “Umm, actually he’s not. We have to pick him up.”

“I told you he’d have to go early and get his own ticket!”

“Well, I figured we’d have to go early to get good seats anyway, and his mom won’t let him take the car.”

“He lives clear out of the way! We’d have to leave now to go get him and get to the theater in time to get him a ticket and decent seats.”

“Well, let’s go then.”

Sigh.

I wasn’t ready to go. I still had one important thing to do before we left—make my own popcorn to sneak in.

I know, I know.

But, it has nothing to do with being cheap this time. I could probably send a kid to college on what I’ve forked out for theater snacks over the years. And popcorn is my second favorite food behind Oreo shakes—theater popcorn especially—but lately every time I eat it I get sick. There’s something in that delicious chemical yellow coating that my aging innards has decided to violently reject, and more than once what I ate out of the bucket came back up into a bowl later.

I know the rules, and if I can’t have what they have to offer on the premises I should just go without.

But what is a movie without popcorn? Often times, the popcorn is the best part of the movie experience with today’s screenwriting quality.

I had every intention of buying the “XL Combo” like I always do for my family, so I would not be shortchanging the theater any profits. I was just going to have a little baggie of homemade stuff stashed in my purse so I could still indulge without the upchuck.

“Call your friend and tell him if he doesn’t have his own ride, he can’t come.”

Popcorn really means a lot to me. I started to set up my air popper.

Madi freaked, “What?! But his mom told him he could only go to the movie with us if he got his work done, so he’s been cleaning all afternoon so he could go!”

Sigh.

“Fine. Then hurry and melt some butter for me.”

The sound of the popper brought Jason into the fray. “What are we doing? Don’t we need to go soon? Why are you making popcorn?”

“Well, actually we need to go now because apparently we have to pick up Madi’s friend on the way.”

“I thought we were just going as a family, and her friend does not live on the way!”

I’ll spare you the gory details of the remainder of this scene and give you an edited recap: Jason freaks out and tells Madi her friend can’t come. Madi freaks out and tells Jason her friend’s sob story of work and no car and that I already said he could come. Scott tells Jason I said his friend couldn’t come even though Madi’s friend could. Jason tells me I can’t come with bootleg popcorn in my purse.

Having wasted our buffer time with the “who can/can’t come” kerfuffle, in resignation, Jason grabs his wallet, keys, three movie tickets, the two friendless kids and heads for the door. “Well, I’m going. Finish the dirty deed, take the other car to get Madi’s friend and I’ll save seats.”

I guiltily packed my little popcorn stash. Madi and I drove in silence to get her friend. When we arrive at the theater ten minutes late, there was a “SOLD OUT” sign on the window.

Two tickets, three people, one of them with a purse full of incriminating popcorn.

There’s only one thing to do—throw Jonah over the side.

I gave Madi’s friend my ticket and shooed them into the theater. I took my guilt, shame, and popcorn out to the vast sea of blacktop and a big green whale with wheels swallowed me whole.

As I sat in the belly of my minivan I pondered about how the universe aligned to save me from myself. I was blinded by a psychotic popcorn crave to the point that I thought I was justified to break the rules, and it kept me from enjoying an evening of sitting in a dark theater staring at a screen non-bonding with my family.

Jason texted me from inside the theater, “Sorry.”

I responded, “No, I’m sorry about the popcorn. I’m stupid.”

He answered, “I know. :)”

I rode the whale home and ate my popcorn while I watched TV alone.

Moral of the story: Don’t let your kids have friends.

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