The green imp waits crouched behind the styrofoam boulder, climbing it slow with his gloved, webbed hands. Coming over the top and looking down at the princess, body hunched as he leers over her. He raises his hands. And –
“Cut.” The director stands from his chair. “That’s good enough.”
“I didn’t do anything yet.” Jamie says. “What about my lines?”
“We’re going to CGI the rest. We’ll have you in front of the green screen tomorrow.”
“Green screen.” Jamie’s face falls. “That’s it? And the other actors?”
“They’re in Hawaii right now, getting ready for their scenes.”
Jamie’s face falls. He sighs and walks down, nimble from one wooden platform to the floor. He takes off his bald cap, strips the green suit off him. The lights above turn off, a crew hand walks over and starts pulling on the seams of his exoskeleton. He hand waves them away, the helpers fold. In front of him a young woman blows her blond bangs off her face, she wipes the tear water and running mascara off her face and in the after glow seems almost cold, lifeless. Blank.
“Where’s my phone?” She says.
“I have it here, Lily.” An assistant runs through the scene.
“Are you leaving tomorrow too?” Jamie asks.
“Yeah.” Lily doesn’t even look at him. The phone’s bright glare lights her face.
“I was wondering, maybe we could get dinner now that you’re done? Talk about the script, ya know?” He says.
“We already talked about it in the reading.”
“You did—a reading?” He asks. “When was this?”
“Oh, uh.” She says. “It was a private thing, you know, just the leads.”
Jamie smiles. Lily turns to him, rolling her tongue in her mouth.
“I’m sorry, I’m super busy ya know. Need to start packing and all that.”
“Right. Of course.” Jamie laughs, though there’s nothing funny about the words. “Maybe when you come back?”
He stands, scratching his head and watching her turn her back and drift off into the background of the camera crew. A man finishes the last of the undressing, holding the green suit like flesh. Jamie is left there, looking around the factory. Overhead lights, a high ceiling with a crane in the background. Giant hydraulic functioning machines that blow out steam with each small movement. Jamie turns and goes towards the director, a fat man guiding two hat-wearing youths with his fingers, giving directions to an imaginary camera. He’s animated. It almost looks like a dance. †1
“Is there anything else you need from me Mr. Hill? Anything at all? I can be a background, you know.” Jamie says.
“You? Oh no, you’re fine.” He turns back to the two. “And we can have a pan out with the drone right there…”
“I have a script too, if you’d like to read it. I have some ideas on some scenes, you know? Especially in the third act…I…”
“You have a script huh?” Mr. Hill says, his eyes sagged into an absolute look of death.
“Yeah. Yeah.” Jamie runs to his chair, the script laying on the canvas with coffee circles around the cover. He runs back, almost tripping as he hands it over to Mr. Hill.
Mr. Hill gives it one lazy look and tosses it on his chair.
“I’ll read it when I get home.” He says.
And Jamie’s heart sinks. He tucks his lips in and strains his smile, nodding up and down.
“Thanks.” His voice chokes. His eyes swell as he turns around.
They walk past him, clapping their hands, screaming for the next scene. The next rotation of hands and crane operations and complicated hundred-man movements of Swiss Watch movement. A machine with several cogs, and him, the only chipped wheel. Stuck there. People come in from the metal doors of the warehouse, he comes out with slouched shoulders and he wanders out into the gray light of an overcast midday. A man in a little golf car drives past him with a speaker, around him the warehouses are numbered. He is numbered.
Jamie thought he would make it by twenty. At twenty, he thought he would make it at twenty five. Now he counts the years with hyper-sensitivity, counting days and hours and seconds. He counts and fears.
Jamie is thirty years old today.
“Every day I add another day, another chance that this time things’ll be different.” Jamie says.
“Come on babe, you’ll make it.” Calvin says. “You made it into a movie this year, right?”
“I’m a fucking imp. Goblin. Whatever.” Jamie lowers his head. “And I’ve only got one line.”
Calvin puts his hand on Jamie’s arm. Jamie snaps it away and folds them across his chest.
“I need another chance.” Jamie says. “I can’t be wasting my time on this background character shit.”
“You have to be patient.” Calvin says.
“How patient? How much suffering does a person need?” Jamie says. “I’ve seen fucking Internet starts who break it out in months. Weeks! Remember that girl who lit a firework in her mouth while doing the Carlson? She has a show now! A show!” †2
He sighs and looks around their cold apartment. Exposed brick that reeks a fecund scent of damp dirt, pipes bulged from the cracked roof that go up into black holes. There are noises in the pipes and not the noises of water. The trash sags in its weight. It has not been taken out for weeks, there are no others rooms save for the bathroom and living room. It’s all here and exposed and divided by curtains that rattle from their iron rings. To call it an apartment would be an insult, it is a garage on the second story. A factory room to house a rabid animal and the poor prey sharing room with it.
Jamie stands, slamming his hands on the glass surface of the table. A cup of coffee rattles off of its coaster. Calvin’s eyes soften, he puts the cup back in place.
“I’m tired of this shit.” Jamie says. “Tired of living here. Tired of being this…this pretentious fucking fool.”
“Let’s move back east then.”
“East? New York? There’s less for me there than here!” Jamie says.
“But maybe joining the company again might be good for you. You know, you can stop doing these commercials and shitty roles and actually act. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
“Maybe it was.” Jamie looks out the window. “Maybe it was enough to just put on a dress and run around the stage. But what’s the point if no one watches? What’s the point of art if no one is there to experience it with you? That’s not language of the heart, that’s just masturbation.”
“You always loved the company. The stage…” Calvin comes up behind Jamie, putting his hands on Jamie’s shoulders. Jamie pushes him. Calvin sprawls against the rug and finally snags. He falls, flat on the side of his face. Jamie looks, eyes open, with a hand out as if to help. But he closes his fist and takes a step back from the scene of the crime. Calvin rises, putting a finger on his lip where it’s popped open, the blood goes down his neck and down to the floor.
“I-” Jamie swallows. “I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s alright.” Calvin’s finger twitches against the wound. “It’s alright…”
Calvin goes quiet, staring at the blood. Jamie swallows his throat and walks past him out towards the door and into the main corridor. The door closes and the view of a limp bleeding figure shuts out.
“I didn’t mean it.” Jamie rushes down skeletal metal stairs. Rickety and aching with age. “Fuck. Fuck!”
In the main hall with the flower patterned carpet and the stains of brown, a group of women stand laughing and waiting for an elevator. The doors open and they turn to look at him. Jamie. With the white, sweat stained t-shirt made yellow and rank with sweat. He’s been jogging and he doesn’t even realize it. Jamie looks at the girls with gaunt eyes and the rabid look in him of a starved animal. The women reel back and step into the elevator. One of them continually presses the up button. Another trips up against an old man, who holds his suit case close.
The old man lifts his suit case to his chest and steps out, looking back at the three girls.
“What’s wrong ladies?” He says. They slam the button quick. It’s just Jamie there, in that hall, with the suited man. To one end is the clerk, to the other end is the giant exit sign a neon red.
“There’s nothing in this world worth rushing for.” The suited man fixes his trilby hat. All Jamie sees is the back fat on his neck shuffle. The suited man is bald, hairless down his spine. The man turns around.
“Oh.” He lifts his hat away from his eyes. “Oh my. What a specimen you are.”
Jamie stands straight, wiping some wetness below his eyes with the back of his palm. The suited man has no eye brows. Pale. Sickly pale. His left eye lashes are bleached. He rubs his chin and wags his finger at Jamie.
“Hey, hey. I know you.” He says. “I’ve been looking for you for a long time, though you wouldn’t know it.”
“Not in the mood.” Jamie says.
“No one ever is.”
“What do you want?”
“My name is Abe.” Abe says. “Abe Don.”
“Some call me that, yes. Abe or Don. Both work.”
“And who are you, Don?” Jamie asks.
“An appraiser of sorts.”
“I’ve never even touched a diamond.” Jamie says.
“Not of rocks. An appraiser of people. I am a stage director, Jamie.” Abe says.
“I didn’t tell you my name.”
Cold comes down to Jamie’s feet, like a tight layer of film.
“You didn’t need to. I know you.”
“Well I’ve never heard of you, Abe. And frankly, I’m busy.” Jamie sets out towards the back exit.
“Busy? You don’t have any work though.”
“Who told you? Did my agent send you here?”
“No. You brought me here. Though you wouldn’t know it.” Abe says.
Jamie’s eye twitches. The neon sign buzzes next to him, the glow casts red across his face.
“Wouldn’t you like to be a leading man?”
Beside Jamie the door whistles with the rush of air, it’s slightly open and drifting in a crack. There’s sound and life and future in the gap, in the light.
He walks to the albino, his back to the exit.
“Would you like to be more than just a background character?” Abe asks. “I have a role for you. If you’d like it.”
“It’s an original production. And I have very few copies.”
The man opens up his briefcase. In black foam, beyond a green cloth waits a thick stack of papers. Abe picks it up. His hands drop at the heft and he brings it up slowly up to his eyes. “La Comedia Grotesqua†3” it says. No author. No address to the production company, no watermark? Nothing but the title in bold.
“Would you be interested?” Abe asks.
“Maybe.” Jamie thumbs through the pages. “Sure. Yeah. I’ll read it tonight. I can start next week.”
“No. You don’t get the job that easily, unfortunately.” Abe says. “You have to audition.”
“Didn’t you come looking for me because I was getting the role?”
“I came to inspect the specimen, and the specimen is not as animated as I would like.” Abe says.
“Well I don’t even know what kind of role it is.”
“It’s the leading role.” Abe smiles wide, skin stretched like latex, a look that should never be repeated.
“Yeah, I get that. But who’s the character?”
Abe walks over to Jamie, only inches away from him. He rears his head closer, there’s yellow on his teeth. Though they don’t look stained at all. They seem like the natural color of this pigment challenged fellow. His shadow overlaps Jamie’s. Jamie takes one step back, but keeps his eye to the script.
“It’s about a clown. A very tragic clown.” Abe says. “And there are ten thousand people waiting to watch it.”
“Ten thousand?” Jamie asks.
“Tickets bought and sold.” Abe says. “They’re just waiting for the play. And I am waiting for you.”
“On name alone?” Jamie lowers his eyes. “Why haven’t I heard of you before then, Mr. Don?”
“Theater isn’t appreciated this side of the country. Not by the common man, at least.” Abe’s eyes go to his corner as if in search of a thought. “But—”
“But?” Jamie says.
“But believe me that amongst my fans are those of the social elite.” He wags his finger. “And the elites know good talent when they see it.”
If there was cold in Jamie, if there was any trepidation then it’s dissipated, dried off from his reeking body. Jamie looks at the carpet. He looks to the peeling floral walls, to the vased plants with elongated green hands palming their containers. His eyes look everywhere, everywhere but the appraiser. Perhaps because Jamie himself is doing a bit of appraising.
How many days has it been in this dying brick house? Sunny Day apartments†4. How many more days will he spend here?
A centipede crawls out from a crack in the corner of the room, it raises its head and finds another hole.
“How much will you pay?”
“That will be discussed after your audition.”
“Alright. I’ll audition, I’ll read the script?”
Abe grabs the paper stack fast.
“The audition and the script happen together.” Abe says.
Jamie’s eyes narrow.
“Alright. When then?”
“Today, if you’d like.”
“You’re giving me minutes to answer?”
“Fate waits for no man.”
Jamie twitches. Abe lifts his hand with the script tight in grip, waving it in the air. Jamie extends his hand towards it, retracts it and looks past the papers. Abe’s smile, his brow lifted. Nubile, an infants face on a man’s body. Jamie puts his hand on the script and clenches.
“Come with me then.” Abe lets go. The script is in Jamie’s hand now, but it feels light? He turns the page and—
“Not yet.” Abe says. “We’ll read it with the rest of the actors. Come with me.”
Jamie sighs and walks out the front of the complex. Out to the gray day.
|↑1||The set for the 2016 Havenbrook Blockbuster, “Princess Kodikoko and the BUSTling castle.”
I’m not kidding.
|↑2||Jolly Julep. Sweet girl. I follow her on Instagram and twitter. She kind of changed once she started youtube, but it is what it is.
I hope she goes back to eating fireworks. That was her peak.
|↑3||The play was actually found by Jamie’s corpse. Though most of it destroyed, only one page remained but it was never shown to the public.
It’s somewhere in Havenbrook’s Police Department, waiting for another reader.
|↑4||Owned by Sammi Daher and sitting on the corner of Leben Park Ave. There are a lot of drug busts there, why just the other day I heard about some idiot in a mini-van selling pot to school kids.
Cops regularly patrol there. And they regularly bust. Funny thing is, I’ve yet to see a criminal in jail from this place…