The Word: Shoot
The brunette sat by herself under the craft services tent, drinking coffee from a paper cup. Her nails were painted, Ricky was sure they were red but they just looked dark against her pale skin. Ditto her lips. It was a long time since he’d seen such a gorgeous broad. Just an extra–but who was he to say ‘just’? He was just the caterer, craft services, meaning he fed the cast and the crew, but this shoot was strictly from hunger. Tuna sandwiches, who fed actors tuna sandwiches? They’d come in for the big kiss and it would be like, hm. Tuna sandwich. And donuts. The crew of course loved the donuts, but the actors just wanted a decent piece of protein with some lettuce or lentil salad. These cheesebags had no idea what they were doing, Ricky thought, rearranging the sandwiches, putting out more bags of chips. The brunette only drank coffee, she took a piece of ham out of a sandwich and ate it plain. That wasn’t much of a lunch, but her lips were mesmerizing. How old was she? Mid thirties, he guessed, playing 23.
He remembered the old days, when there was a regular feast, you had to keep the old bags from the neighborhood from coming in for a free feed. Not even the old broads wanted a tuna sandwich sitting outside for three hours while this kid, high on coke, rewrote his movie. Ricky used to work the big shoots, when he was starting out, but now they were shooting in places like Alabama and Tennessee. He’d been in those places. Bugs is what he remembered most. Bugs the size of rye breads flying at your head. Cockroaches like the invasion of Normandy. He thought about his old place in New York, the east Village. Now that was all gone. Probably not a roach left on the isle of Manahatta. Guiliani probably rounded em all up and dumped ‘em in Queens.
Well, he’d been here twenty…nearly thirty years. Thirty! And it still didn’t seem like home. Thirty goddamn years. God, the movie business had certainly gone to shit since those days—though he knew that’s what old-timers always said. You ever met an old guy who said ‘now, these are the good old days!”? Even if it was awful, people still looked back with nostalgia. Like people going back to Vietnam, when they maybe lost five close buddies and half their ass, now they were taking their families, having a nice vacation. Maybe anywhere you were young. But he’d been young on Spielberg shoots, Altman, Ridley goddamn Scott. There was no tuna sandwiches on those catering wagons.
The brunette stood up, swiveling both legs around to free them from the picnic table. It was a swell move. She looked good in those heels, better than good, had that special kind of walk, it took practice, balance and confidence, he’d done his share of ice-packing some young girl who’d done a banana-flip in new heels. But this one knew what she was doing– in every sense of the word. She had a cigarette in her dark-nailed hand. It wasn’t good for them, they got those lines around their lips, and then they weren’t playing 23 anymore, they had to get shots, and the lips blew up like daffy duck.
“Got a match?” she asked, putting the cigarette in her mouth.
Of course he did. There was a nurse around here somewhere, but he carried everything from bandaids to tampons to a .22 in his tacklebox, you never knew what you might need. He found the matchbook among the other small indispensables, lit her up. “When’s your scene?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m not an actress,” she said. “I’m the wife.” She nodded at the kid. The director. He was conferring with the AD and the DP, his curly mess of hair bobbing vigorously from the coke he’d been doing. “Ginevra.”
“Ricky,” he said.
This beautiful broad, his wife. She had curvy lips like a forties actress, she should have some spangly dress made by Adrian or Hadrian or whatever, Edith Head. Married to the kid directing this piece of shit. Ginevra. The woman of his dreams, married to that dipshit.
“They shouldn’t have tuna sandwiches, but he likes them. He could eat one every day.”
“The mercury’s a bitch,” he said.
She dug her heel into the dirt, dragging on her smoke. She smiled. He could feel her smile hit him like a bus. “You do a lot of thinking over here, don’t you Rick? I’ve been watching you.”
“Lots of time to think,” he said. “We can get very philosophical. The extras especially. Socrates could have been an extra on a shoot. Cave wall and all.”
“What do you think of my husband, Rick?” She gazed at him drolly from under a swoosh of dark mascara. Drolly, it means like ironic, but more old fashioned. He learned it from one of the writers. He liked words. Droll, it rhymed with troll. Ding ding a ling went the drolly… He should have been a writer. Not a screenwriter but a real writer. He always read a lot, had a paperback book with him wherever. Plenty of time to improve his mind.
Now he wondered just how to get around the question. Not that he had no opinion about that idiot, just, well, you didn’t tell some woman her husband was a cokehead and a danger to all about him, that he was pissing this movie away, going off getting loaded with his so-called star or banging the little extras from Fairfax High. It wasn’t his job. “I don’t know,” he said. “They don’t pay me to have ideas.”
“But you have them, don’t you. I’ve been watching you, Rick. You’re a smart guy.” Hip out, steadying her against the table top. She wrapped those lips around her cigarette, then let a slow stream of smoke curl from them, pursing them just enough for the shape. “My husband is losing people a lot of money on this picture. Some say there might not even be a picture, that the studio might pull out. Do you think the studio might pull out?”
He’d heard that rumor, that sonnyboy was way over budget, rewriting scenes on set, letting the star rewrite too, the whole thing was a hot steaming mess, he wouldn’t be surprised.. It wasn’t the seventies and he wasn’t Altman. This kind of shit didn’t fly anymore. “I get paid no matter what,” he said.
“I don’t,” she said. “I only get paid if he gets paid. And we’re about to lose our shirts here.”
She opened up another ham sandwich and plucked out the meat, ate it and tossed away the bread.
That’s when he should have stopped listening.
Part of a semi-weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”
Next week’s word is: HOME