Time to Remember
Musical theatre is hard! Seriously! For a truly successful show there has to be a perfect blend of so many elements that are absolutely necessary to the finished product. A combination of strong actors, singers, choreography, musical direction, plus the extensive production aspects from sets, sound, and lights - all of these and most all a strong leader in the director whose vision brings it all together in perfect harmony. (Sorry- couldn't resist the pun.) They take long grueling hours of rehearsal and are not for the faint of heart but when they come together they are pure magic, making it all worth it.
Gulf Coast State College's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee " made that magic. The exuberant performers were perfectly cast, the singing was extraordinary, and the acting was fantastic. It is the rare show on amateur stages that has triple threats in acting, singing and dancing.This show was the exception.
Of course, one of the joys of this show is that it is a group of young adults playing small children. This can be a tricky thing to pull off without going over the top and becoming caricatures. Director Hank Rion guides his youthful cast with a strong vision,navigating the balance between zaniness to poignancy with pitch perfect results. I have seen this show on three different occasions and was delighted to see what Mr. Rion brought to the plate-every beat thought out, every bit of shtick eliciting laughs. The staging and the choreography (also done by Mr. Rion) flowed beautifully and made my heart sing.
Speaking of singing, Musical director Carissa Hosea was just as successful at getting the best from the youthful cast. The group numbers were strong as well as the solos, (I particularly loved Danyelle Kerchoff's solos as well as "The I Love You Song" with Savanna Wambo and Christian Beccerra- the harmonies were exquisite!)
I say this with great joy-there was not one weak link in the cast! Everyone brought precise characterizations and masterful comic timing. Ben Whitmer brings lovely tics to his Boy Scout Chip Tolentino and "Chip's Lament" surprises with an innocent take to a very relatable predicament for every teenage boy. His song isn't played for bawdiness or shock value but as just a fact of pubescent life.Tyler Kent's hilariously egotistical adenoidal William Barfee ("That's Bar- FAY!!!") had the audience roaring with his nimble "Magic Foot" dance. Amy Tinch's politically aware lisping brainiac has some lovely moments with her two Dads and plays the gawky bespectacled contestant Logaine Schwartzandgrubennierre beautifully. Charis Walker seems born to play the overachiever Marcy Park. The multi talented actress displayed a full range of talents in her number "I speak 6 languages" that left me floored. She can do anything.. Savannah Wambo had a perfect amount of innocence and poignancy to her Olive Ostrovskey and as I mentioned before, sang beautifully. And lastly (for the participants at least) Haythem Spence brought great energy, charm, and hilarity as the spacey Leaf Coneybear. It was a fearless performance (and I'm not talking about the graceful way he glided across the stage in his roller sneakers) that impressed me greatly as (according to the program) it was his first performance ar GCSC.
Now to the adults-Deadpan Christian Paris perfectly delivered his lines as VP Douglas Paunch, Christian Becerra played the tatooed grief counselor Mitch Mahoney with a insouciance and strong voice to great effect, and lastly Miss Kerchoff as Rona Lisa Peretti sang beautifully and captured that sense of wistful regret of her long ago former win.
The set was perfect, the lighting effective and purposeful, and the sound had no glitches that I noticed. All in all, a spectacular production. It goes in my book as one of the best.I only wish I had seen it earlier so I could have gone again.
Another mass shooting.
It's heartbreaking to have to say" another" as this just keeps happening.And the finger pointing and fighting have already started. Again.Both sides of the political fence are attacking the other, partisan politics pointing out perceived blame as the other sides fault.And everyone has an opinion what the "real problem " is-be it taking the bible out of schools to a lack of armed guards on each campus,
or the fact that someone who is deemed mentally ill can freely purchase an assault weapon, and so on.
Some fear the Government is going to take away their guns and others fear that no one is stopping the wrong people from having guns.The bottom line to me is, this isn't a partisan problem.
Life isn't a right relegated to political beliefs. or religious beliefs, for that matter.
This is something that needs to be addressed.
I think one of the stupidest things to say is that this isn't the time to start a conversation about gun control. Or guns. Or anything , for that matter. Just send thoughts and prayers.Ok, I get it. You think that there shouldn't be any restrictions on guns. Fine.It's our right as an American. But how about a conversation about how to change things like this from tearing us apart? How to stop it?
Instead of saying it's not the time for conversations about guns and posting about thoughts and prayers - which I personally think are lovely sentiments but not an effective cure-instead of posting that, let's talk about some alternatives.
Instead of trying our damndest at placing blame and effectively doing nothing,let's come together and talk about viable solutions. I don't think it's too late for us.
Knee-jerk reactions are futile and letting something that should not be a dividing factor like
protecting our children from crazies with guns, or protecting our neighbors, or our loved ones from violent death- that shouldn't be the thing tearing us apart, right?It is , after all, our unalienable rights protected by the government-life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We should be united in this. We need to find a way to stop this from happening.
To not just say, there is nothing we can do. Because I for one am sick and tired of saying "another mass shooting."
Ok, there's just no good way to start this- so the best way is to rip off the bandaid and then circle back and go into the "why" I'm doing this now. I am a victim of sexual abuse and it still affects me to this day.
When I was in 4th grade, there was a teacher named Mr. Rogers. He taught 5th grade and was pals with my teacher, Mrs. Fowler. He would frequently visit her classroom and was also friends with my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Sheppard, who happened to live in the same apartment complex as my family. I don't exactly remember the exact details of how it happened, but he took a shine to me. He would invite me to his classroom which was not in the main building but was a trailer on the quad. I was a fairly lonely boy of 10- we had moved quite a bit in the past few years and it was my fourth school in 4 years- so it had been difficult for me to make friends.
I walked home from school so there was no actual timetable for me to get home. My Mother was a Nurse working until later in the evening,and my Father was frequently out of town on business until the weekend. It was a time in my life when I craved any attention from an adult- our upstairs neighbor Dyan (who is still in my life to this day) had to teach me about "personal Space" and "boundaries"- my favorite place to be would be on her lap or brushing her hair. Dyan had a way with children- a new mother herself with an adorable baby (a tiny preemie named Jennifer- My father was one of the first non-family to hold her when she got home from the hospital!) and she had a tendency to talk to children as if they were human beings.This was not something I was acquainted with. In my mind , the sun rose and set on Dyan.
When this teacher (who was not my teacher) named Mr. Rogers invited me to his classroom trailer after school, I am sure I thought that was pretty cool. Even then, I had a deep love of movies and he would talk to me about taking me to see them. I don't remember any of the details of those conversations or how long it was before he started asking me to sit in his lap, but I do remember clearly the first time he locked the door of the trailer and asked me if I wanted to "go fishing".
Today I can't even tell you how I felt - the mind plays tricks with memories. I know I thought it was weird that he wanted me to put my hand down his pants. I know I thought it certainly wasn't like any fishing I knew of. I think I was more focused on the implied promise that he would take me to see "Star Wars". Afterwards he told me it was "our secret" and he would ask my Mom if it was okay if he took me to see "Star Wars" that weekend. We'd make it into a sleepover- he would even let me stay up to watch Charlie's Angels.
Surprisingly, my mother agreed to let me go. Now, I am sure at this point she must have met Mr. Rogers- our neighbor the teacher did live in the same complex and they were friends as well. I just don't know any of those details.I don't know anything about my family's motivations at this time. I do know my father was an alcoholic and drank heavily on his weekends home. I do know that I didn't want him to come home back then. I know he was kind of scary.
At the time we lived in Greenville, South Carolina. He lived out in the country- on a farm in Traveler's Rest. It seemed like quite a trek out to his house and his nearest neighbor was acres away. It was pitch black dark when we arrived at the house, the only sound in the air the low hum of bugs. He told me to be quiet- his parents lived "next door" and sound carried in the country. He also insisted on carrying me into the house. I can't remember his reasoning beyond "it will be easier". I wasn't that big- at 10 I was still a skinny little thing. We entered through the kitchen and he didn't bother to turn on the light. He said we would just go straight to the bedroom- he had a television in there. I got ro watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.
And I learned there were other activities besides "going Fishing" that made me uncomfortable.
The next morning in the light of day I could see his house- he lived like a hoarder. You couldn't even get into the other rooms, junk and garbage were piled and strewn everywhere. When we left I got a good view of the kitchen. Dishes piled everywhere with solidified food, a pan of what I assumed to be brownies blackened and untouched, a jar of mayonnaise that had turned clear yellow- these things still stick out in my mind because it didn't change for three years. Same brownies, same mayo, with takeout bags strewn everywhere. Everything was so old it didn't even smell anymore.The only clear trail in the house was from the kitchen door to the hallway to the bedroom and the bathroom.
As I inferred- this went on for three years. Not all the time, but enough times to really fuck with my head. Sometimes he would take pictures. Sometimes there would be other little boys. Sometimes there would be pictures with other little boys.There were always promises of treats- movies, food, presents, whatever, but always the implication that no one could know, it was "our secret". I used to bleed from my anus and was convinced I must be having some boy form of menstruation, but it was just from being penetrated.During these years I plumped up into a chubby butterball of a kid. I was still pretty much ostracized at school. I acted out- kicking a substitute teacher. I failed the 5th grade. And I had my first suicide attempt at 13. My parents only found out about the second one (the same year) because in my scramble to get the razor blades out of the brown cardboard band I had cut my fingers and ran out in tears to tell my mother. I went to school that day like nothing had happened, but soon after I started to see a child therapist.The first time was an attempted overdose that just made me sick to my stomach. I never told anyone about that. I didn't tell anyone anything, for the most part. Secrets were an ingrained part of my upbringing.
By the time we moved away from Greenville, Charlie (that was Mr. Roger's first name) had become a trusted friend of the family. He had been fired from teaching under "mysterious circumstances"and was working at Wendys. Things were rocky at casa LaDow. My father just really didn't seem to like me. I was unhappy and lonely at school (again) , and Charlie would call me and pay attention to me.I was 13-14.That summer Mom got me a bus ticket so I could go visit him in SC.
I was to be there for 5 days. He picked me up and when we got to his house, the mayo and the brownies were gone, but there was more petrified food in it's place. He had to run an errand and left me alone in the house. Being a nosey 13 year old, I snooped. I went into the spare bedroom- which I had never seen before. There were piles and piles of magazines and slides and photo sheets. Of course, they were pornographic. As I picked through them, I realized they were all filled with naked boys. Alone, having sex with each other, boys with older men.When I say boys, I mean younger than me. Or at least around the same age as I had been when I met Charlie.I suddenly felt sick as realization hit me hard and memories flooded back. I looked around for a phone. I had to get out of there NOW. My mother had given me a phone list of some other friends to look up and connect with while I was there. Funnily enough, I called Mrs. Sheppard- my old teacher that was my neighbor and asked her if I could stay with her the remainder of my visit. Bless her for saying yes. I told Charlie when he came back that I was having an allergic reaction from a cat that he used to have and couldn't breathe. I stayed with the Sheppards and didn't talk to Charlie for a while.
But of course, he started calling me again. At this time, I was 16 and had pretty much realized I was gay. Junior high had been hell and it was my junior year. By now my Father really hated me and I floundered at school. Charlie was trying to get me to run away and stay with him. He would try to have phone sex with me, but it just made me uncomfortable. He would try to get me to use vegetables (a carrot) as a sex toy on myself and describe it to him. I think that was the first time I ever faked sex. Then he sent me a german porn magazine featuring 12 year olds.
A few weeks later I attempted to o.d .again. This time, I used allergy meds. About 20. And then went to school. The side effects just made me jittery and sick. I was sent to the nurses office and I confessed what I had done. Mom picked me up from school and took me to the hospital where I was committed for 28 days. I never told the Dr. anything about Charlie. During my stay, My Mother brought me a card Charlie had sent through her, It was a cute get well card...with descriptions on the inside of what he wanted to do with me. And guess who came to stay with us the day I got out of the hospital.
We had sex while he was there. For some reason, I thought I had no choice. It's what we do. I was so disgusted by him- I noticed the massive amounts of dandruff and greasy skin. And he smelled. But I thought I HAD to do it. One night we were out to dinner at Godfathers' Pizza and we saw one of my classmates there named Glen. Glen was a slight looking young man that had feathery bangs and a definite sense of style. Charlie pointed him out and said "Do you know him? You should get to know HIM" and suddenly the floodgates opened again and I knew he was a predator. He was a pedophile. I had been raped, molested, and conditioned to think this was normal.
He left the next day and I never talked to him again. I don't know if he saw it in my eyes, of possibly i pulled away from him, but I never got another call.
Several years later I finally came out to my parents and not long after told them about Charlie. Of course, they were horrified and furious. There were calls to action, to go "get him", but in the end, nothing was done. I felt so betrayed at that moment, so hurt, that they failed to protect me when I was a child, and they were still failing me. They left it up to me if I wanted to pursue any action. I wanted them to just DO IT. I was not emotionally equipped to handle it. I didn't love myself enough to do anything. Couldn't they SEE that? Didn't they KNOW that?
So , nothing was done.
Until my twenties-some dear friends had tracked him down- there were new cases against him. I was contacted by a prosecuting attorney to ask me to testify- the statute of limitations had expired but my testimony could help finally put him away. And I ...crumbled. I freaked. I regressed to a helpless child and emotionally imploded. I did nothing.
And I have regretted that ever since. I still deal with self hatred and shame-for what had happened, for not being strong enough, for not stopping him. I handle my depression much better these days, but this story is deeply embedded into the DNA of who I am. I had a friend who critiscized me for being a victim and to this day I still battle those demons and that feeling of being a victim. Because (as is typical) I blamed myself for everything that had happened. I must have wanted it. I must have caused it. I must have deserved it.
Now I know that is not true, but those remenants linger in my soul.
Which brings me to the WHY I am writing this. The #MeToo movement. I have heard a lot of shit about "It's kind of suspicious these ladies/gentlemen waited so long to say anything. Why? If it was me, I would" blah blah blah. Here's the thing. We all have our individual DNA- I don't understand why we try to compare our own experiences to others and pass some sort of JUDGEMENT if it doesn't fit your experience or worldview. You don't have to understand. It's not about you. It makes me so angry -this total lack of empathy because it's not what you would have done. YOU DON'T KNOW! And even if you do know, you STILL don't know how it affects ME! Or THEM. It is not for you to comprehend. You don't enter into the equation. Unless you are being supportive.
I've told family and certain friends in the past, but I've not gone public until now because - well frankly, I felt nobody really gave a damn. No one wants to hear about these things. They make us too uncomfortable. It's better to ignore it or disbelieve it or sweep it under the carpet. What does it really change,anyway?
I hope to find power in sharing my story and healing. I hope by sharing I might empower someone else to step forward. Or to know they are not alone.
Oprah made a powerful speech at the golden Globes that was sneered at for her seeming "complicitness" for being a friend of Harvey Weinstein. Sadly, I have a lot of views on being complicit.But did you listen to her words? A new day. Not yesterday. Not the day before. A rallying cry for the future when no one has to say #MeToo again.
We are still frightened by the truth. Made uncomfortable by it. But we MUST speak it. Especially if anything is going to change.
Casting Notice (A Horror Story)
by Stephen LaDow
**** CASTING NOTICE - Samhain ****LOCATION: Winston, GA
WORK DATE: Tues 10/31 Rate: $88/10
Currently casting for MEN! Males who appear in their 20's-40's, any size, with no aversion to face being covered. Any ethnicity welcome to apply!
This will be a late evening call Must be available all night! Please submit to email@example.com with subject line VIctem. thank you!
Jerrod had been scrolling through his facebook page when his phone pinged with the message alert. He quickly swiped over to his text messages and found the notice. The number was unknown but he had signed up to so many casting websites recently it didn't surprise him. He got at least three to six notices daily and could usually pick up a couple gigs a week as an extra. Georgia's film market was booming and there was ALWAYS something going on. Lately pickings had been a bit slim - he had done pretty much all of the TV shows filmed in the area and had to wait a few weeks before resubmitting- lot's of calls for "fresh Faces" had been filling his feed recently.
This little beauty came as a godsend-by the time the check from the gig rolled in his phone bill would be due. That's how he eked out his meager existence with blind luck- through a variety of random background roles . He definitely had what you called "a look" that pigeonholed him as the working class type .He was a burly fella with a bit of a gut, buzzed short dark hair and ruddy complexion from drinking too much cheap beer, so he had played a construction worker, an orderly, homeless, a cop, and a cable guy and so on.All of which he found a little boring, but hey,it paid the bills.
This would be the first time he played the "victim".
" A fucking horror movie! Fuck yeah! " he muttered under his breath. He couldn't believe his luck.
The call time ended up being eight o'clock on Halloween night which totally sucked- it was Jerrod's favorite holiday- but he wasn't going to complain. Money was money and every little bit counted. Besides, his buddy Richard had gone down to Universal Studios in Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights and Jerrod had no plans without him. Richard had called him earlier that day on his way down to rub it in. Richard was a dork, but Jerrod didn't have that many friends in Atlanta. He had only moved there six months earlier and the fact he was broke most of the time limited his social life or rather killed it altogether Richard lived next door to him at his shitty apartment complex and they had met in the dingy laundry room. It smelled of wet feet and clorox, and they bonded over trying to kill the same cockroach that had skittered between them. Later they realized they also shared a love of gory slasher films and anything by George Romero and Lucio Fulci.
Richard exuded a general air of creepiness- in high school he could possibly be voted "person most likely to become a serial killer" and he'd wear it as a badge of honor. His bald head was speckled with sores and nicks from his razor and his eyes were bulging and exaggerated by his thick black rimmed glasses. He tended to find humor in the most random and strange things (like extremely gory horror movies or nudie pics of fat chicks that he said wanted to fuck him or rather "diddle me", as he says) and was extremely socially awkward in front of just about everyone else. All in all, he was a big dorky mess who made Jerrod laugh and had a great DVD collection filled with hard to find Italian splatter flicks.
"They have a frakkin' Exorcist house this year, man! It is gonna be sick! I watched the walk through on YouTube. " Richard sounded like he was practically salivating. Jerrod could hear traffic in the background on the phone.
Jerrod rolled his eyes. "YouTube? You already watched it on fucking YouTube? Why'd ya do that, dickweed? Now you've spoiled it." He fingered the notepad next to him with the address of the shoot later that night. He tore the paper off and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. Over the phone line he could hear the bleat of someone slamming on their horn and he then heard Richard scream, "Stay in your lane, jerkface! " Jerrod shook his head and grinned at his friends idea of name calling. "You tell him, my friend! Don't fuck with dick!"
"Don't call me that. Anyway, you know that demon stuff freaks me out. I just wanted to be prepared for the house. I'll be fine. HEY! WATCH WHERE YOU"RE GOING!! Listen Jerrod, I've got to let you go. There's some dingleberry trying to run me off the road. Have fun tonight! I know I will. Laterz! HEYYY_" the phone clicked off as Richard hung up.
Jerrod slipped his phone into his pocket and went into the bedroom. Luckily, it seemed, wardrobe was being provided for the shoot so he didn't have to worry about grabbing a bag with changes of clothes. He decided since it was an all nighter he should try to grab a little shut eye before he went to set. It was supposed to be a ten hour shoot but they always had the possibility of going over time, which was cool with him. Overtime was time and a half, and he could use the dough. He lay on top of his covers and soon fell to sleep. He dreamt of Richard in his car, rolled over in a ditch, blood streaming down his face, his eyes sightless and glassy, his mouth agape, and the sound of someone chanting "Jerkface! Jerkface! Jerkface" over and over and over...
The rain was coming down in sheets making it impossible to see. It was almost eight o'clock and Jarrod was starting to worry he was going to be late. Other movies he had worked on frowned heavily on tardiness and even had gone so far as turning folks away if they were late. He slapped his dash clock. "SHIT! MOTHERFUCKING SON OF A BITCH!" He was flying nearly blind- he had no idea where he was save for his trusty GPS on his phone. Winston was booney-ville with not much besides the encroaching green canopy of trees. and the occasional house. The light in the sky had all but disappeared and the torrential downpour made visibility impossible. He was looking for a driveway with a yellow sign posted reading "Samhain" and he prayed to God he could see it in the rain. Google maps said he was only five miles away, but the rain was making him drive slower, especially on the curvy road.
He wondered if Richard had made it to Orlando yet. He pictured him cautiously making his way through the Exorcist house, screaming at the Linda Blair dummy spinning her head and spewing pea soup everywhere. He's such a pussy. Jerrod pondered the unlikely thought of them actually keeping the puke bit in and caught himself chuckling at the idea of Richard's sympathy puke response when he heard a loud pop and he lost control of the car in a skid. "What the....FUCK!???"
He turned into the spin as the car skidded towards the shoulder, straightened the wheel and pulled safely to the side of the road. The unmistakeable tha-thump of a flat tire echoed in the pit of his stomach, and he screamed at the top of his lungs." Dammit!!!!" The rain was not abating and there was no light along the road. He sat there for a few minutes, weighing his options. He checked the GPS on his phone and it said he was .2 miles away from his destination. Jerrod had a spare in his trunk and could easily change the tire, but it was almost pitch black out and, of course, rain. Or he could hike the short distance in the rain and just come back and fix it in the morning after the shoot was over and the sun was up. It was ten after eight. He was already late, but they still might give him a break if he got there soon and explained the situation. "FUCK!"
He hopped out of the car and went over to the passenger side, using his phone's flashlight as his guide. His front right tire was shredded, steel-belt strands frayed and sticking out wildly from the carcass of his Goodyear radial. Definitely no patching that. The rain seemed to get more intense at that very second and the brisk October air was starting to seep into his bones. He sighed in resignation and after locking up his car, began his hike.
Luckily for Jerrod the yellow handmade sign for the production wasn't too far ahead- the marker-inked lettering was starting to run, giving the effect of blood running,but it was still legible. The driveway was long and deep as was the case for most of these places out in the country. Rivers of red mud cut through the unpaved drive and Jerrod prayed that he would be provided with dry shoes along with his costume or it was going to be a miserable night.
There was an ramshackle house about three hundred yards in- it looked like it had been abandoned for many years. Jerrod could see a soft glow sneaking through the boarded up windows. Vines had overtaken the sides of the house and snaked through the cracks in the porch. Lightning flashed and Jerrod caught a glimpse of the dilapidated barn that was situated to the right of the house as well as the grey Chevy van with it's side door open parked between the two buildings . A wave of unease swept over Jerrod. Where are the other cars?A quick scan of the yard didn't reveal much, the dark was pervasive and complete. Maybe there's parking in back ,he assured himself. Most likely this is the transport pickup spot to take us to set. But something seemed to be off, he just couldn't put his finger on it.
A figure opened the door of the house and Jerrod could make out the shape of a short squat woman whose outline gave Jerrod the slight impression of a hobbit. The light was behind her so he couldn't make out her face. She looked down at her watch and barked, "You're late." The red embers of her cigarette briefly illuminated her face as she took a drag and he saw her sizing him up. Finally she said, "You look like a drowned rat. " she sniggered . "Well, come on in! Got yer costume and paperwork.It's gonna be a late one." She took another drag and smiled at him. "When you finish, we'll getcha to the set pronto." She turned towards the door and waved her arm towards the entrance of the house.
With that, he followed her in.
"Where's yer car?" The woman crossed the room and sat in a chair next to a folding card table. She faced him now and Jerrod noted to himself that she was a plain woman with an abundance of freckles covering her chubby face. . Her sandy brown hair which had faded green and blue streaks in it was curly and piled in an unkempt mess upon her head with a yellow number two pencil sticking out of it. Curly may have been an overstatement as most of it seemed just matted. She wore a black long sleeve t-shirt that read Nerf-Herder on the front. Her baggy jeans were spattered with red paint and were puddling around her ankles- they were in desperate need of hemming and covering heavy workboots that seemed comically large. She shuffled through a pile of papers on the table and handed one to him along with the pencil she had stuck in her hair. "Someone drop you off?"
Jerrod took them both and replied, "Flat tire. It's less than a quarter of a mile up the road. I figured I'd fix it tomorrow. Um, can I change into my costume? It's cold in here. " He looked around the sparsely furnished room and realized there wasn't anything else in there besides a couple of battery powered coleman lanterns.
She cackled at him-for some reason she found this funny and Jerrod smiled politely , waiting for instruction. "Yeah, through there. You can just leave your clothes in there . They'll be safe. " She gave him an impatient look , waiting for him to go. "We ain't got all night. Everyone is waiting for you. Come on with ya!" As he turned away, he noticed her get a walkie talkie attached to her belt and speak softly into it. "He's here. We'll be there soon."
The light from the Coleman was stark in the seedy bathroom, casting ominous shadows on the paint cracked walls and chipped tile There was a bare rod above the tub where he draped his sopping clothes and a grey mechanic's jumpsuit hung from a hook on the back of the door. It was not Jerrod's first time to don such a get-up. Add that to the list of "roles" he had played in the past. It slipped on easily over his stocky frame and he zipped up, checking himself in the cracked mirror as best he could. His hair was too short to worry about- a quick rub of his head got most of the excess water and he was good to go.
When he got returned she offered him her chair so he could fill out his paperwork. He plopped down and noticed it was a rather casual looking voucher- not the typical three page tri-colored deal but rather an obvious photo-copy of one."So...this is an independent movie?"
She cackled. "Ya think? Yer lucky yer gettin' what yer gettin', but this is a big scene an' one of the last shots." She fumbled through her purse and produced a bottled water. "No craft services but drink this. Gonna be a long night. " She handed it to him and padded over to the front door. "Come on! They're waitin' for ya." Jerrod took a big swig of his water and followed her out the door. The rain had finally slowed to a drizzle and she motioned him towards the van. He started to go to the passenger side but the woman blocked him. "Get in the back! I got a bunch of shit in the front an' I don't wanna move it."
The back of the van had bulky laundry bags and several rolls of heavy plastic stuffed in the corner. The well worn rust colored shag carpet was nearly threadbare and the lone seat was patched with duct tape. Jerrod awkwardly climbed in. The woman tossed him a burlap sack. "Put this over yer head."
He looked at her, stunned. "W'what?? Um, no! Why?"
"Just do it! It was in the casting notice. You signed on fer this. " She glowered at him. "The shooting location is a secret. Private property, okay? Besides, that's why yer gettin' paid so much. " She smiled at him. "Be a good boy, will ya?"
Jerrod sighed. He had done some weird shit as an actor before, so what was the harm. Money was money. Resigned, he slipped it over his head as she nodded approvingly and shut the van door. "That's a good boy. " She said sarcastically as she cackled again.
Jerrod was really starting to not like this woman.
Being jostled in the back seat coupled with the disorientation of the burlap sack over his head was making him nauseous and slightly dizzy. The burlap smelled musty and there was a strong scent of gasoline permeating the cabin of the van. Jerrod's stomach was in knots. "Are we almost there yet? I'm feeling a little sick."
"Almost there, hun. Just a few more minutes. You gonna whoops yer cookies?" She cackled madly ,tickled by her turn of phrase. Jerrod was glad someone was amused. This woman was really starting to get on his nerves. She seemed a little nutty, but he had met his fair share of eccentric PA's since he had started doing this background artist gig thing. The ones on the big budget sets were usually pretty cool, but he had run across a couple that seemed a few cards short of a full deck.
"What's your name? I'm Jerrod. Sorry I didn't introduce myself earlier- the flat tire really fucked with my night."
"Do ya usually get into vans with strangers, Jerrod? Ya take their candy too? Want some candy, little boy" She howled, slapping her knee. "Oh, I'm jest joshin'. I'm Becky, Becky with the good hair. "she roared with laughter.
At least she's in a good mood he thought to himself. His stomach was now imitating a Ringling Brothers trapeze artist. Flip, flop, flip, flop.. He hoped they would get there soon .
"Well Becky with the good hair, it's a pleasure to meet you. I know..." he trailed off. Something was wrong . His eyes felt like weights were dragging them closed and his ears started ringing with a pulsing wah wah wah wah. "I need to...whu-?"His brain felt like it was in a centrifuge, spinning madly out of control.He tumbled forward out of his seat as Becky cackled, " Whoopsie!"
I really hate this bitch was the last thought he had before he lost consciousness .
There was a dog wailing somewhere close by. Jerrod recognized the pain in the sound. It reminded him of his dog Petey he had lost when he was seven years old. Jerrod had been playing in the backyard (digging holes to bury his green plastic army men who had "died" in battle.)He had his cap gun at the ready to do a twenty-one gun salute (or however many caps he had left on the roll) when he heard a high pitched screech and then the squeal of a dog. He ran to the front yard and saw his teen-aged neighbor Jimmy running around to the back of the car where Petey lay half under the tire. Jerrod fell to his knees beside his beloved beagle. The bottom half of the dog was under the tire up to his stomach which had burst open, steaming guts pouring through the gaping hole. By the time Jerrod had reached him Petey's eyes had gone dull and the sound abruptly stopped. Jimmy was rambling incoherently about It was an accident, buddy! I didn't see him . My phone rang and I was getting it out of my pocket- Jerrod didn't give a shit what he was saying. All he wanted to do- more than anything- was to hug his dog. Instead, he ran and hid in the garage until his Dad came home that and helped him bury the corpse.
The wailing he heard now was piercing the haze in his brain , dragging him slowly back into some semblance of awareness. The clearer his head became he realized it wasn't a dog. It wasn't Petey. It was human.
And it was right next to him.
Pinhole spots of light peeked through the loose weave of the burlap sack over Jerrod's head. The screaming had subsided and had turned into heavy panting. His head was still pounding and his thoughts were still fuzzy as random images flickered through his mind. Petey with his glazed over eyes rolled up into his head so just a fraction of the cornea peeked out, flashes of Becky (with the good hair) throwing back head in a hearty laugh, her double chin jiggling with every move- an image burned into his mind's eye, and his friend Richard in the Excorsist house at Universal screaming bloody murder. As those images faded into one another, he could almost swear he could hear his friend Richard urgently whispering raspily, "Hey buddy. Buddy. BUDDY! Jerrod. You awake? JERROD!"
This last bit he broke him out of his daze as hands gripped his shoulders and shook him. "Richard?!?!?"
The voice replied, "Yeah buddy, it's me."
Jerrod tried to lift his arm and realized it was tied behind his back. His fingers sought out the taut zip tie that bound him at the wrists. "I'm fucking tied up! Richard, is that you? I'm tied up, man!"
"Shhhhh, she'll hear you! Yeah, it's me. You have to-we have to be quiet. There's not much time."
Jerrod began to twist in his chair. "I'm tied up,man!What the fuck is going on? Why are you here? You should be in Orlando!"
Richard grunted. " I was on my way when this jerkface ran me off the road. When I got out of my car to check my tires, this freaky little woman" he spat out the word like a bad taste in his mouth "came up behind me. I turned around to ask her what did you do that for? and she tased me. TASED me!. When I came too, I was in this barn."Richard started crying. "She-she tortured me, buddy. She's got this big knife and she just started...cutting on me, you know? " His cry had a shrill tone to it as he started blubbering. "I don't think we're getting out of here!"
"Fuck that shit, Dick. We're getting out of here! "Jerrod tried to kick out his legs and realized his legs were zip tied as well. "As soon as I figure this shit out." He started to thrash his head back and forth, the hood inching up slowly with each whip of his still throbbing skull. "Help me with my hood, man."The sound of a creaking door slowly opening stopped him in mid whip.
Richard hissed "There's no time, She's back!" Jerrod heard the muffled pad of footsteps approaching. "What do you have behind your back? That's-oh my. Oh my. Come on, you don't want to do this. This is stupid. Just let us go and-HEY! Come on! Stop it. Stop right now! I'm begging you! NO!!! Aaaahhhggghhh!" Jerrod heard a dull thump like punching a melon resolving into a squelching moist sound and felt warm sticky wet liquid spray him. Richards voice had turned into a girlish squeal , high pitched and sustained.
Jerrod resumed his thrashing when he felt a hand grab the sack on the side of his face. It was pulled taught, limiting the movement of his head. He yelled, "DON"T YOU FUCKING TOUCH ME! I"M WARNING YOU, BITCH! DON'T YOU FUCKING TOUCH ME!" His breathe was ragged and harsh and he was on the verge of hyperventilating.
He could feel Becky's breath on the back of his neck . He shrank away from it, straining against the zip ties. She smells rotted. This bitch is fucked up. He twisted his head away from her but she grabbed him by the back of his head and stopped him, surprising him with her strength.
The sack was being slowly pulled from over his eyes and he saw Richard sitting in the chair next to him panting , his intestines piling out of his torso, his eyes wide and glassy. The shrieking was getting softer as if he was being deflated.
Jerrod felt warm and wet spreading at the crotch of his pants. He Had pissed himself . A scream formed on his lips.
Richards head jerked toward him and his eyes bulged, his mouth widening into a howl. "AhhhhhHA! Booga-Booga!!!!" He looked at Jerrod, eyes clear and a grin sneaking across his "blood" spattered face. "Boo. " he stated, erupting into a fit a convulsive giggles.He pointed shakily then forcefully at Jerrod and started screaming, "I got you, I frakkin' got you buddy!"
Jerrod slowly turned to Becky who was smiling creepily behind Richard.
What the fuck was going on?
"You should see your face! WHOO! Oh, jeezum, that's priceless. Ah, man, that's good stuff." Richard was scooping his "guts" (which had turned out to be rubber tubing with some sort of fake blood mixture) out of the hole in the front of his shirt and flinging them to the ground. Becky crossed behind him, a smirk stretched across her mouth. A large dagger was dangling from her stubby fingers, her arms swinging loosely at her sides.
"WHAT THE FUCK, MAN????" Jerrod was shaking-not from terror, but with unbridled rage. "What the FUCK is going on?" He pulled at his wrists, the plastic zip-tie cutting into his flesh. "Let me go NOW, Dick! I swear I'm gonna fucking kill you." He glared at his friend, face flush with anger.
Richard stepped back . "Whoa there, pahdner. It was just a a joke. I mean, like the best practical joke ever! I got you, buddy! Oh, jeezum, but good. Just ...chill out, okay?"
Jerrod shook his head in disbelief. "Who the fuck is she?"
Richard beamed, a grin stretched from ear to ear as he wrapped his arm around her.. "This is my girl!" He bent down and gave her a peck on the cheek. " I told you someone wanted to diddle me!"
Jerrod sat in silence for a few seconds."That's great, Dick. I'm thrilled for you. Hell, I'll by ya'll a drink later to celebrate. But right now all I want is for you to FUCKING LET ME GO!! Because now? Now, I think I want to beat the living shit out of you." Richard blanched."And your girl is lucky she's a woman, because I'm not too happy with the bitch right now."
"HEY! No need for name calling." Richard protectively pulled Becky close to him .Becky seemed unfazed and seemed to enjoy the interaction. " Maybe you need to calm down a little before I let you go."
Jerrod took a deep breath and decided on a different approach. "Okay, Richard, my bad. I just want to know in what alternate reality you thought it was okay to drug me? Becky? Anyone?"
Richard looked down at Becky. "Um, yeah dollface, what was up with that? We didn't talk about that. I thought you were just gonna put the hood on him and lead him here. "
She smiled innocently at him, the slightest hint of a shrug,flexing her shoulders.
"She didn't mean any harm. Oh man, it was the perfect plan. Becky was the one that sent that casting notice first. That was good, right? I just copied one from FaceBook and changed the deets. Then I faked that call earlier- we were already here setting up."He motioned around them and Jerrod took notice of the candles surrounding them. "Becky got this book online and copied all that writing you see around us." Runic symbols were painted on the bare wood walls and Jerrod's chair was in the middle of a painted circle." This is some Hollywood lookin' stuff, right? She got that dagger online too. Show it to him, Becks. " She waved it around. It looked like your standard prop house version of a "demonic" dagger, or even like something you would find Spencer Gifts at the mall, carved with snakes and skulls."We had a lot more scary stuff planned but whatever she roofied you with lasted longer than she thought it would. I had been sitting there for two hours already before you woke up. The blood is just made with red dye and karo syrup, fyi. That stuff is way sticky, my friend. Anyhoo, , we frakkin' got you! Oh, so good. " He practically beamed with pride, a shiteating grin on his face.He crossed over and knelt in front of Jerrod. "You got to admit, it was a heck of a lot scarier than Universal, right? " He pulled out a pocketknife and cut the ties around his ankles.
Jerrod let out a long sigh. Dick was such a freak. He'd probably beat the shit out of him another time, when he least suspected it, but for now he dorky friend was safe. "Yes. It was scarier than Universal."
Richard looked at his friend for forgiveness, smiling tentatively until his eyes widened sharply in surprise, and he jerked forward as if pushed. His neck started to bulge, cords straining, and his eyes turned to Jerrod questioningly. Jerrod couldn't comprehend what was happening until he saw the the blade of the dagger plunged into his friend's neck. He looked up to see Becky (with the good hair) behind his friend , grinning .There was something wrong with her eyes- it was as if they were solid black with no reflection but Jerrod thought it had to be a trick of the light. Richard crumpled like a sack of laundry with a muffled thump on the ground.
Becky turned her attention to Jerrod and he could see her eyes clearly, black as obsidian and glittering in the candlelight , Whoopsie!
Jerrod's brain went into overdrive. Becky had disappeared up the stairs for a while , giving Jerrod a few minutes to process.None of this made any sense to him, but he had to shift his brain into survivor mode and figure out what to do next. He scanned the room around him- searching for clues as to where he might be. It was a large room with a low ceiling. It was quite obviously old houseand extremely dusty with cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. The unpainted planks that made up the walls were cracked with age. A windowless room with no furnishings save for a few broken wooden chairs in the corner piled like kindling. Candlelight danced on the walls, highlighting the strange symbols painted there. He couldn't make out what they said( if they said anything at all-it looked to him like a bunch of random shapes and marks) but they were precisely written and densely covered the entirety of the walls. He heard her again from somewhere high above him, clomping down stairs with something heavy dragging behind her Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump, until she reached the bottom. Becky was muttering something that was just outside of his comprehension- it sounded more like vocal tics than language. Then the distinct sound of something being dragged across the floor behind him. He looked down at Richard who was still laying crumpled at his feet, unmoving, a dark stain spreading beneath him. He nudged him with his toe . No response. Shit.
After dropping whatever she was dragging behind him with a thud, he could hear her padding away from him and going back up the creaky stairs. In time, the silence was deafening.When it seemed evident that he was alone, he did his damndest to focus. Okay, this is it. Think! What are you gonna do? THINK Goddammit! He tentatively tried to get up, his legs weak and shaky. His feet had gone to sleep and he nearly collapsed on the prone form of his friend. He hopped over him barely missing his head and stumbled into the wall. His shoulder took the brunt of impact, the chair hanging to his wrists behind his back. The chair was the same wood variety as the broken ones in the corner and Jerrod had an idea. After a few minutes of stomping his feet trying to get the circulation in his legs going, he went across the room and then ran back, full speed towards the wall and twisting into it with the chair taking full impact. It rammed into his back knocking the wind out of him with a harsh woosh and the zip-ties attached to the side posts sliced into the flesh of his wrists. He grimaced with pain, stifling a moan threatening to escape his lips. Blood started to trickle down his fingertips. The chair was still in one piece, but it's joints were a little looser. He made the run again, this time to successful results, the chair in pieces at his feet. The wooden dowels slipped from his blood slicked wrists and his arms were free.
He ran to the stairs and looked to the top-there was a closed door which upon closer inspection he unsurprisingly found locked. He went back down and sat with a thud on the bottom step. Examining his wrists, he could see they were pretty sliced up. He shook his hands and blood spattered the floor. It wasn't life threatening, so he went back to sizing up the room. His eyes fell upon the sole of a work boot attached to the shape of another body sprawled on the floor. The other foot was bare and small.
Becky had been busy.
Becky's (With The Good Hair) Story
Two weeks earlier
"Are you shittin' me? Who in their ever-lovin right mind would fall for this bull-hockey?" Becky's arm was starting to get achy and tired. "Who is this numb-skull?"
Richard was leaning back on the couch with eyes closed, his head against the wall. He didn't want to talk about Jerrod but Becky was insistent. Besides, she stopped stroking his wiener every time he paused and he needed release. Jeezum, it had been a long time since a woman had touched him that way. Heck, it had been a long time since a woman had touched him in any way, so he figured he could try to concentrate on words as well. "He's an actor frie-"
Becky interrupted him, resuming the thwacking motion with renewed gusto. "ACTOR?? Yeh, that figgers. THAT explains everything. He's a moron." With a well timed flick of her wrist and a subtle application of pressure he came with a soft moan. "okay then. Just tell me what I got to do. I ain't got nothin' better goin' on. This could be fun." She nestled herself into the crook of his arm, her frizzy hair pressed deep into his neck.
Richard brushed her stiff hair away from his mouth where curly tendrils were trying to poke and smiled gleefully."This is going to be frakkin' awesome!"
Becky layed her paintbrushes neatly in front of her as well as a couple cans of paint and a box with the Amazon logo on it. . She sat cross-legged on the floor in the basement of an old farmhouse Richard had found, illuminated by Coleman lanterns she had placed in the four corners of the room. She ripped off the packing tape and dug out the contents, tossing aside the foam peanuts. A wooden box with some kind of odd writing on it's lid and sides, and an old book. She smirked. You really can find anything on Amazon. Inside the box was some sort of knife/dagger thing. She pulled it out, gingerly turning it over in her hand."Blessed mother that's fucked!'She exclaimed, running her finger along the intricately carved hilt. "OUCH! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" She dropped the knife, blood dripping freely from the pad of her thumb. It bit me! She thought, than giggled at the absurdity of the notion, There must have been some ragged piece of metal that had poked me. she rationalized. It was dripping pretty freely, spattering the front of the leather bound book in her lap. "Whoopsie daisy! Don't want to get this piece of shit messy." She got up, knees creaking, and she struggled to stand upright. She swayed, feeling lightheaded. No time fer this, she thought. She had a lot of painting to do. She grabbed a rag, wrapped it around her finger , scanned the room to map out what she was going to do.
She was a little annoyed Richard wasn't there to help her out, but he claimed the devil stuff freaked him out. She had lent him her phone and he was gonna take care of texting the casting thingie to his friend. He was pretty specific about what he wanted in the room- a large pentagram on the floor and a bunch of writing on the walls. He told her to copy the text from the book and when she asked him what part specifically, he said "Doesn't matter. It'll look real enough to scare him. Just whatever. I mean, you could make it up, but I want it to be real, like at Universal studios!" She wanted to tell him that it wasn't real at Universal but decided it wasn't worth the effort. Geeks. Gotta love 'em.
She grabbed a paintbrush and a small can of Spanish Red. It was dark and rich enough to look like blood in the candlelight they planned to illuminate the room with. She started with the large circle on the floor, crawling on her hands and knees, humming softly to herself. She stopped as she connected the circle sat back on her ass with a plop. A buzzing filled her ears and she felt ...floaty. Paint fumes, she thought. The room was unventilated, the air still and stale save for the acrid fumes of the paint. The buzzing grew increasingly louder until it was all she could hear, effectively drowning out her the sound of her thoughts. Her eyes started to glaze over and she blinked , trying to clear them. She squinted, scrunching up her brow , trying to will away the haze. When she opened them she was sitting at the foot of the stairs. The paint cans and brushes were gone, as well as the Amazon box and the packing peanuts. In the middle of the freshly painted pentagram in the center of the room was the wooden box with the dagger laying on top of it. She looked around the walls that now held the text of the book, every square inch covered in writing.
Becky shook her head in disbelief. She had no recollection of doing any of it.Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a hole in the middle of the pentagram painted floor closing like an aperture of a camera. When she turned to look it had disappeared. Freaky deaky.
Becky figured she was still tripping, after-effects of fume inhalation. "Okay, let's go get ready for this hoedown!" She grabbed a coleman lantern and climbed the stairs and slammed the door shut behind her.
The shadows thrown on the room from the remaining lanterns seemed to dance and swirl, dripping down the walls to meet over the pentagram, rising and writhing into solid form.
Jerrod wasn't sure if he wanted to investigate the newfound body wrapped in a painters tarp. It was definitely smaller than Richard, and Jerrod had a sinking feeling of dread that it could be a child. Possibly a pre-teen, not that that made it any better. The bare foot sticking out the end looked to be at least a size six . Not even the sight of his friend lying face down in a pool of blood disturbed him half as much as the sight of the petite foot. He shook his head, trying to clear the images away, and focused on forming some kind of plan.
He definitely didn't want to be caught at the top of the stairs- the actual stairs were narrow and he pictured being greeted by Becky there with no railing to hold on to and her pushing him back down. Not gonna give that bitch any advantage. The fact that the room was bare did not help . No place to hide, save for beneath the stairs. Jerrod supposed that would have to suffice. He really didn't have any other choice.
An idea started popped in his head as he looked over at the pile of broken chairs against the wall. He pawed through the pile, looking for anything that could be used as some sort of weapon. Mostly the pieces were small and splintered, but finally he found a supporting back leg that had run the length from the foot to up the back- it was at least four feet long and seemed sturdy. He gave it a swing, feeling the weight in his hands. It would work, but he just needed more to feel prepared. Protected.
Something was nagging at him, hidden deep in the recesses of his brain- like a thought at the tip of your tongue. It almost hurt to push it forward. All that was coming through was the sound of Richard's voice repeating Jerkface! Jerkface! Jerkface! He looked down at his friend with a twinge of sadness. He was a pretty good dude. Little bit of a freak, but an okay guy. Jerrod had already forgiven him for dragging him into this mess (amazing what being murdered does for ones's friend karma) and was at least gratefull to Richard for cutting the zip-ties around his ankles, otherwise he might still be stuck in the-
Yes! Aw, man, yes! He had totally forgotten about the knife Dick had used to cut his ties. It was a decent size- Richard had actually been quite proud of it. As well as the extensive collection of slasher flicks, he had quite an array of knives along with a few swords plus, a light saber that lit up and made whooshing sounds. But the knife! The knife had a titanium blade and Richard bragged how easily he could gut someone with it if anyone ever messed with him. He assured Jerrod he never was pushed that far, but he was ready for it if it happened. Jerrod knew his friend was full of shit, but right now all he cared about was that knife. He scanned the floor to see if it had slid anywhere. Nothing. Nowhere.
He knew where it had to be. Somewhere under his dead friend.
"Goddammit!!" He knelt at Richard's side and gently rolled him over. Jerrod had forgotten about the fake intestines underneath his friend and picked through them, searching.Real blood and fake blood intermingled beneath the pile, swirling around each other in varying consistencies. Nothing there.
When Jerrod had turned Richard over, his friends arm and plopped to his side, outstretched, and clenched in his hand Jerrod spied his treasure. Bingo. He pulled up the limb by it's sleeve and began to peel Richard's stiff fingers away from the knife.
With a start Richard sat bolt upright, a gutteral moan expelled from his lungs, his eyes wildly dancing around. Jerrod jumped back from his friend, clutching his chest.
"What the fuck??" Jerrod scrambled to pick up his wooden dowel, putting distance between his friend. and himself. He watched cautiously as Richard grabbed at his own neck and sputtered, circling him with his makeshift club raised. Richard's eyes followed him, a look of confusion and shock stamped on his face.
"Wha-" Richard started, his voice gravelly and choked. He cleared out his throat and spat out a large ball of bloody phlegm. "What are you doing?"
Jerrod stopped and pointed his chair leg menacingly at him. "I don't know.Making sure you're not a zombie." He jabbed it at him.
Richard looked at him incredulously. "What???" Despite the excruciating pain in his neck, he started to giggle. "Ow! What are you talking about, man? A zombie? " he stopped abruptly, the smile gone from his lips. "Have you lost your mind? Are you totally de-ranged?" He burst out laughing, choking out a chortle. "Oh Jeezum, ow ,man OW! Don't make me laugh. It hurts too much. "
Jerrod eyed him suspiciously, still not totally convinced. "I know it sounds stupid but some pretty weird shit has been going on." He gestured around the room. "So, how do I know you're not a zombie?"
"Um...I don't want to eat your brains AND I'm speaking, so ergo I can't be UNDEAD! Sweet baby Jesus, I'm hurting here. A little sympathy please!" He stretched out his hand for Jerrod to grab, waggling his fingers. "Help me up already!"
Jerrod stood still for a moment considering his wounded friend. Dick was pale, but shit, he was always pale. He never went outside unless absolutely necessary. His eyes were bloodshot but again, nothing too unusual for him. Dick was always rubbing at his eyes. He grabbed his hand and pulled him up.
"Thank you. "Richard sniffed. Jerrod smiled ruefully and punched him in the arm. "HEY!!! What ya do that for?"
"Are you fucking serious? What the hell is all this , Dick? I'm a little hacked off right now. I thought I was getting some work and next thing I know I'm tied to a chair in some basement in the middle of east bum fuck because my friend thought it would be a funny practical joke and then his psycho girlfriend goes all Evil Dead on us and-and..."
"How do you think I feel? She stabbed me in the neck, man!" Richard pulled his hand away from his wound. "By the way, how does it look?" Jerrod examined it- the slit was small and the flow of blood had mostly stopped. He was lucky. An inch to the right and she would have pierced the carotid.
He gave him a thumbs up and a weak smile. "I think you're gonna live. Now come on, we gotta get ready for that bitch. Give me your knife. "
Richard shrugged."I don't know where it is." Jerrod pointed to the floor next to the body- he had dropped it when he woke up. "Uh, who is that?" Richard's voice sounded strangled as he backed away towards the wall.
"I dunno. I didn't want to look. Just get the knife."
Richard glared at him. "I don't want to. "
Jerrod gave him a look. "We're in this mess because of you. Pick up the fucking knife. "
Richard sighed and knelt beside the body. "Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no! " he fell back on his butt and sat with a thump, pointing at the corpse. "It's Becky."
Jerrod shook his head. "No it isn't. I saw the bitch. She went upstairs. We gotta get ready for her."
"It's Becky, dude, it's Becky! That's her boot. She was wearing those stupid work boots that are too big- look!. Her tiny little feet- Oh jeezum, I think I'm gonna puke." He covered his mouth as his stomach flip flopped.
"It's not her , I'm telling you. Look, I'll prove it." Jerrod grabbed the end of the tarp and pulled it, rolling the corpse out like a table cloth trick of a really bad magician. Ta-da! Richard gagged, vomit spewing through his fingers.
The body of a short plump woman lay between them. She was naked except for one paint spattered work boot. Jerrod still couldn't tell if it was Becky or not because someone had peeled all of the skin off her head including her scalp and her face.
As if it was a mask. Her face is gone as if it was a mask!!
The door to the cellar opened slowly with a screech and time seemed to pause, causing everything to appear in slow motion. Jerrod grabbed his friend by the shoulder and pushed him into the corner under the stairs. Richard started to object but Jerrod placed his hand over his mouth and shook his head, pointing to the top of the stairs. He spotted the knife next to (?) Becky and scrambled for it . Luckily the Becky thing was in no rush to come down or time had stopped altogether- Jerrod couldn't tell anymore. Adrenaline was pulsing through his body at an alarming rate, his heart beating out of his chest.He looked at Richard whose eyes were watering and darting around like a panicked animal. Jerrod shoved the knife into his frightened friend's hand, nodding encouragement as he did so, fully aware that it was a last line of defense in case he failed.
Failure was not an option.
Heavy footsteps started clomping their way down the stairs. Jerrod held his breath as he saw the muddy work boot through the wide slats of the stairs.Those were supposed to be my boots he realized. Inspiration clobbered him over the head and he jammed his hand through the slats and grabbed hold of the boot, sending the Becky thing flying down the stairs with a booming crash. He swung around to the foot of the stairs with Richard close at his heels to find...nothing. Well, that wasn't exactly true. There was a small pile of clothes and one empty boot (the other was still on the stair where Jerrod had grabbed it) but not a trace of the wearer.A bush of frizzy hair with blue and green streaks peeked out among the folds as well of lump of pink flesh that he assumed was the remains of a face. He turned to Richard who was staring across the opposite side of the room, his jaw slack and a tiny bit of drool dribbling out of the corner of his mouth. Jerrod followed his gaze and gasped.
Jerrod couldn't tell what he was seeing-his brain couldn't process the thing before him. It was like a shadow yet somehow solid and tangible,looming and stretching up the wall and across the ceiling. At first the thing seemed to have human form but as it grew and elongated, it resembled nothing Jerrod had ever seen. If dread had a physical form, this would be the embodiment. The shape swirled and pulsed, sending shockwaves of misery and despair.The temperature dropped precipitously and his fingers and toes tingled as the feeling started to drain from his extremities.
The club uselessly fell to the ground with a clattering roll. Jerrod looked over at his friend-Richard stood transfixed, his head cocked at an odd angle, his eyes wide and his mouth working as if trying to say something but no sound escaped."Richard. Richard. RICHARD!" Jerrod called to his friend, trying to break the spell."Hey DICK!"
Richard eyes flickered and his head snapped upright. He turned sharply towards Jerrod. "Don't call me that! OW!" He clutched at the wound at his throat which started to ooze blood ."Ah Jeezum, what the frak is that thing?"
"I don't know, man, but we need to get the fuck out of here. Come on!" The floor inside the pentagram started to shimmer like a mirage, the floor buckling in waves, until it became a gaping maw plunging into an infinite abyss. "You have got to be fucking kidding me."
The dark had nearly reached them and tendrils started creeping splaying out, searching for purchase. towards them. The first landed on Richard wrapping around his wrist. The smell of flesh sizzling permeated the air and Richard's screams soared higher into a feminine pitch as the thing sank into his flesh to the bone.
Jerrod grabbed his friend around the waist and pulled him away. Richards hand popped off cleanly as if it was meant to be detachable. What the ever-loving fuck?? Richard's knees buckled and he looked like he was going to pass out. Jerrod spun him around and slapped him in the face. Richard yelled "OW!"
Jerrod barked "Come on! " as he pushed his friend to the foot of the stairs. He looked back to see the thing preoccupied with the hand it had taken, giving them a moment to flee. Jerrod tried to ignore the fact that this wisp of smoke like being was melting the flesh right off the bones of Dick's hand.
"Move it, Dick! Fucking get your ass up those stairs! " he barked. Richard struggled with his good hand, pulling himself up the railing. Jerrod pushed up into his ass with his shoulder, frantically trying to get him to move faster as the tendrils turned their attention back to them. Richards legs gave and he fell too his knees with a wailing howl. "Crawl goddammit! Crawl!" Richard started pulling himself up the last few stairs, but it was too little too late for Jerrod. There was nothing he could do.
Jerrod smelled his burning flesh before he actually felt it. Bands of searing pain marked his back as if he had been struck with a cat o'nine tails coated in acid. His agonized scream was cut short as the thing sliced through his spine as easily as a knife through butter.
Richard had reached the top of the stairs and turned back to see his friends eyes roll back into his head and his body went limp. The blackness snaked around him and enveloped him entirely until Richard couldn't see him anymore. It's almost like it's eating him. He choked back a sob, unsure of what to do next. Then he saw the tendrils unfurling towards him, stretching, reaching-
He cleared the doorway and kicked the door shut.
Minutes later he was in the van peeling down the driveway.
Two days later
The maid was nearly at the end of her shift- only three more rooms to clean and then she would drop off the linens and restock her cart. Usually she would stay until the laundry was done but today she had to get home early to take her daughter to the dentist. She rapped on the door and when no one answered, she used her paskey card to open it. She called out , "Housekeeping!" and waited a moment for an answer before she stuck her head in.
There was no sign of the strange bald man that was staying there. The day before he had left once she got there and didn't come come back until after she left, which was fine by her. He creeped her out- she couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was about him that made her uncomfortable, he just did.
He certainly is a pig! she thought as she grabbed a handful of hamburger wrappers off the floor. Several empty Coke cans and empty fast food bags were strewn across the dresser. She grabbed a trash bag from her cart and started filling it . Just like my husband. Men are pigs.
There was a sound from the bathroom - she realized she forgot to check it out before starting. She went to the closed door and gave it a light knock. "Mister? It's housekeeping. I'll be just a minute. " The knob jiggled and clicked, the door swung open. The maid averted her eyes politely. I'm sorry to disturb you , I'll come back later-" she glanced up and froze.
There were three people in the cramped space- the bald man towering in the back, another man to his side, and a short woman with frizzy multicolored hair in the front. Their eyes were black as night. The woman in front smiled a smile so disturbing the maid's heart skipped a beat.
The womans lips curled back and she opened her mouth wide revealing an infinite void. The men behind her followed suit, darkness pouring from their mouths, spewing forth, swirling and merging-
Though no words actually came out of their mouths, a word seemed to float in the air, unsaid but still distinct.
As I looked around the sold out Saturday night audience at Emerald Coast Theatre's first foray into musicals, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, I felt affirmed in what I had always suspected- Walton County is hungry for musical theatre. To be sure , there are a myriad of reasons this particular production is filling seats- from the careful growth and steady building of reputation of excellence from this burgeoning theatre company (now in it's fifth season) to the positive word of mouth from patrons- but this is an under represented art form in our area that is the bread and butter of larger cities . Simply put, people crave escapism, and music has a way of transporting in a way that is universal. (Okay, yes I am a musical theatre nerd, but I stand by my statements.)
Director Nathanael Fisher smartly chose this cozy off-Broadway hit (about the stages of relationships from dating to marriage to dating again) and cast it with young, appealing actors with powerful vocal prowess (Led by musical director Mary Jeter and accompanied-perfectly balanced-by pianist Celia Villacres).The staging is uncomplicated (it is not the type of show that calls for elaborate dance numbers) and polished. In fact, polished is a word that I would say perfectly sums up this well paced gem.
The four person ensemble is uniformly strong- there is not one weak link. Marcellis Cutler has charisma to spare, and his voice is rich and inviting. The winsome Hope Golds has a lovely emotional take on the moving I Will Be Loved Tonight. Brian Hilario plays the put upon straight man for well earned laughs and blends beautifully in harmonies with Mckenzie Pollock who is a comic revelation with Always a Bridesmaid.
The characters are broad, the timing impeccable, but the thing that puts it over the top are the voices. I definitely look forward into this theatre's future endeavors in musicals. What a lovely addition to this already strong repertoire .
It definitely left me hungry for more.
Stephen LaDow is an actor , author, blogger, and reviewer living outside of Atlanta, GA. Follow him on his website, unfiltered-ness.com
I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with cars. Their siren call of freedom fell upon deaf ears due to an underlying irrational fear of...well, I was never quite sure of what. I just knew driving could induce anxiety, irritability, not-so-subtle tourettes, road rage, , hysteria, nausea, panic attacks, and general unease. (Yes, it reads like the warning label on the side of prescription labels.) Woe unto you if ever I was put into the position of driving you anywhere as my heightened emotional state would be turned against my passengers.In retrospect I offer my apologies to all who had to endure my mania. You were brave.
Lately I have been trying to piece together a road map to the infancy of my phobia. Memories from my teens are spotty, but I do recall at the age of fifteen attending Driver's Ed class taught by an intimidatingly gruff football coach who was prone to glowering scowls and high waisted yet tiny shorts. In class, he really didn't teach us anything. He relied on the Alabama Drivers' handbook and the films designed specifically to terrify you of the dangers of reckless driving. (the next semester, that very same coach taught the sex-ed class with very similar scary movies designed to terrify you about the dangers of sex before marriage. ) His name escapes me, but I do recall his "teaching" style, which I assumed was very similar to his coaching style. Stern admonitions and barking orders designed to keep us motivated were his fall backs but I found his methods less than inspiring.
All of this culminated in the actual driving in the class car which was equipped with dual steering wheels and foot petals. My journey at the wheel was brief . Coach gave a series of gutteral commands ("Turn here", "Straight ahead", etc., etc.) until his booming voice became increasingly frantic ("Slow down for a complete stop. Slow down. SLOW DOWN!! NOW! NOW!NOW! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!") He finally slammed on his brake and took control of the car while intermittently shooting disapproving looks my way., his thick uni-brow knitted in arched disdain.Our ride back to school was deafeningly silent as I mentally pictured myself anywhere but there, trapped in the stifling confines of the car . It was our only venture out of the classroom.
Amazingly, I passed the class with a B.
It was probably another year before I got in another car to even attempt to drive. My Mother took it upon herself to give me driving lessons. Now my Mother was a fairly soft-spoken and gentle lady, so in theory all should have been hunky dory. She would take me to the high school parking lot or to the local mall lot on Sunday mornings. Even in those vast empty expanses, the coach's voice rang in my ears and my jangly nerves were shot before even sitting behind the wheel. "We're gonna DIE!!" repeated on and endless loop in my brain and I would take my anxiety out on my hapless mother ,yelling at her while pushing myself to the brink of hysteria while she gently tried to soothe me. I won't say she had the patience of a saint, but we did eventually get to a point where I could drive around in circles comfortably. Nothing short of miraculous, if you ask me.
After two attempts,I received my drivers license a year later.
Meanwhile,the mother of one of my Mom's co-workers was selling her car- a 1974 Chevy Bel Aire. This was about 1983 and the car only had around 10,000 miles on it. The owner was a little old lady who only drove it to the grocery store and church. I had recently inherited a thousand bucks from the passing of my Grandmother and my parents both decided this was how I was going to spend it. If you are not familiar with that particular make and model, it was approximately the size of a Sherman Tank (or at least I imagined it to be.). It also was an opalescent shade of pale green, which further colored my perception of it's likeness to a tank.Well, that is if tanks were glittery and shiny and slightly gay, but still. None of this enticed me to wanting to drive it, as for some reason my spatial awareness seemed broken and I had trouble judging where the front of the car ended or how close I was to other cars while driving, or, more crucially when parking the beast next to other vehicles. My first solo journey in that land yacht by myself was to that very same High School my Mother had patiently taught me to drive and park in the empty lot. It bears repeating. In the empty lot. Pulling between two cars- well, let's just say, I misjudged. Sadly for the innocent Toyota whose only crime was being next to an open space, my monstrous vehicle came out unscathed whereas the victim had a seven inch gash across it's door. The expense of repairs turned me off of driving to school (or anywhere for that matter) for a while. The tank sat in our driveway for a good year before I decide to drive again.
At seventeen I finally felt the urge to flee my hermetic existence and explore the world in my land cruiser. Suddenly the prospect of having a choice of where and when I were to venture out in the world dazzled me and my latent fears of driving be damned, I was finally FREE! I traveled to the far reaches of the big city of Birmingham , Alabama (I currently resided in an unincorperated subdivision outside of Trussville about 40 minutes away) . It was a glorious time and I relished every opportunity that arose from being so self sufficient. I thought I finally understood what the fuss was all about. I could do anything I wanted!
Sadly either no one told me or (more realistically) I never paid attention to the fact that one has to do maintenance to one's car (i.e. oil change, anti-freeze, etc.). I drove and drove , blissfully ignorant of the fact that I was killing my grand beast of a vehicle, ignoring the groans and squeals ,until one fateful evening on my way into the city, I smelled smoke. Puzzled, as I was not yet a smoker, I opened my window and thought nothing more of it. I continued forward, radio blasting, singing at the top of my lungs, until I choked out a garbled note- spasmodically coughing, for now smoke was billowing into the front seat. I Glanced in the rearview mirror and let out a small scream -my back seat was on fire!!
I quickly turned onto the nearest road and onto the shoulder, skidding into the gravel, turned off the car, and leapt out. I peered into the back seat and saw the barest hint of flames but noxious smoke was emanating from the spot.. Luckily, I had a big gulp from the gas station in the car and I grabbed it and was able to douse the flames.
I left my car and walked about 5 miles down the road to the nearest gas station. I sent them to tow the beast, and called a friend to come pick me up. Convinced that my car had become possessed and obviously something did not want me to drive (in the retelling of the story, I might have embellished a disembodied voice saying, "Get OUT!! ") . I ended up abandoning the car at the gas station for 6 months.
I eventually went back and grudgingly got the old battle-axe fixed, but our relationship status had been marred. Those few fleeting months of glory before the fire disappeared quickly into the distance- the arranged marriage of circumstantial convenience shattered beyond repair. My failed relationship with this green hulk of an automobile infected every vehicular relationship to come. My uneasy alliance with modes of transportation sullied, the tenuous bonds between my love of getting away stretched to their ends as I inwardly decided that I was a much more suitable passenger than driver. At this point, my love/hate relationship with cars and driving seemed pretty much unbalanced on the hate side.
I wasn't even 19 yet.
End of (possible) part one. Let me know if I should continue in the comments.
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singer,writer, thinker,dreamer, supporter of the arts and former non-driver. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
I think just about everyone of dating age can relate to an awkward first date- in fact, I'm quite sure that "awkward" and "first date" are synonymous terms . A perfect storm of nerves, (sometimes) liquor, expectations, jadedness, ghosts of relationships past, and forced conversations can be a recipe for disaster. It's almost like going on a job interview but the reward being a relationship or sex- it's a hit or miss prospect with no guarantee of a happy ending.
You pretty much know that there will be a happy ending in Kaleidoscope Theatre's current season opener First Date, but that doesn't spoil a thing. That's the joy of this frothy concoction of a musical. It's light and airy , playing on well tread themes, but the brisk pacing and the snappy dialogue succeed on the strengths of the adroit direction of Harley Benner and Bunnie Hibbard and their committed cast. The formidable directing duo excel at this type of musical comedy and wisely choose to not over complicate things by tailoring the staging and choreography to their performers strengths.
Christian Becerra (Aaron) and Malia Sylvester (Casey) are the awkward first daters, and the duo have a lovely chemistry. Christian conveys Aaron's uptight and fussy demeanor without spilling over into caricature and has some lovely moments. Malia's Casey is perfectly jaded and grounded and soars on her heartfelt rendition of "Safer".
The small ensemble plays a multitude of characters and all have their moments to shine-from Hillary McAlindens's feisty Jewish mother, Michael Hunter's aged homosexual waiter who desperately tries to dazzle with jazzhands , Emma Grace Hunter's vocal solos , and Robin Gibson-Grubs earnest take on the runaway bride. Standout performances from Anthony Powiliatis as Aaron's loutish buddy Gabe and Robert Sharp (Reggie)- Casey's gay best friend whose hilarious "Bailout Song" (Casey's backup if the date was heading south , Reggie would call her to give her an out) brought the house down with uproarious laughter. Sharp and Powiliatis also shine in a duo as edgy ex-boyfriends with the rocking "That's why you love me." Lastly, Sharon Carroll in a triumphant return to the Kaleidoscope stage after many years appears as Aaron's mother in the heartwrenching duet with Becerra, "The Things I Never Said".
The set was simple and perfectly evocative of a New York restaurant, highlighted by a beautifully rendered glowing Manhatten skyline. The tight four piece stage band brought much excitement and energy to the show though sometimes they would overpower the vocals- a balance issue I am sure will be worked out.
This production perfectly charmed me- I realized I had a smile plastered on my face from start to finish and judging from the audience's reaction, this was a first date with a happy ending for everyone involved.
#theatre , #review
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singe #r,writer, thinker,dreamer, and supporter of the arts. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
Underage drinking, sex, drugs, bullying, homophobia, teen suicide, and rabies??? Good grief!! Times definitely have changed in playwright Bert V. Royals skewed modern take on the classic "Peanuts" characters, and the kids have grown into the scariest possible incarnations of themselves: TEENAGERS!! They're all here-C.B.(Charlie Brown), Van (Linus Van Pelt), CB's Sister (Sally) Beethoven(Schroeder), and the rest of the gang in this satirical take on toxic youth with relevant themes for modern audiences.
CB is still a bit of a loser and is mourning the tragic loss of his dog who had contracted rabies and ate his sidekick bird. CB's sister is lost, flitting from persona to persona( Goth chick, hippy, etc.) in search of her identity.Van is a horny stoner who is surprisingly wise. Matt (Pig Pen) is a homophobic germophobe with tendencies towards brutality and misogyny. Tricia (Peppermint Patty) and Marcie are cheerleaders who spike their drinks at lunch and sit in judgement of their peers as the popular party girls on campus. Van's sis (Lucy) is institutionalized for setting the little red haired girls hair on fire. And Beethoven is the molestation surviving sensitive artist who is bullied by Matt and , in the past, by CB.
Whoa! Sounds a bit much, doesn't it. But sensitively directed by Ray Stanley, the cast ably brings a grounded reality and genuine pathos to their characters. This definitely could have been broad caricatures of monsterous adolescent extremes, but the youthful cast served a heavy dose of humanity and relatability to their work. Tyler Kent as CB has found the perfect character for his hangdog looks and has an ease of delivery that sets the tone of the performance nicely. Macy Davis wrings deeply felt emotion to the role of CB's Sis and Ian Bingham's Van has finely attuned comic timing that buoys the serious material with much needed laughter. Robert Gasperson transforms physically into the outcast Beethoven and always impresses with his willingness to "Go there" emotionally. David Holland's Matt brings a raw brutality to the role, culminating in a shockingly violent moment that gave me chills. Alexis Master's Tricia and her constant companion Marcy (played by Cassidy Cobb) have great chemistry and play off each other well. And Leah Blais gives a delightfully unhinged take on the locked-in-the-looney-bin sister, still sitting in front of a handmade "the Dr, is in" sign, though this time she the patient.
This is the kind of show I like. I laughed, I felt, I thought. The cleverness with attaching current and relevant issues of the day with cartoon characters I loved as a child made it more impactful to me. If I had one complaint about the production, it would be I saw too many scenes with just a back of an actors head as my only view of their performance. Doing theatre in the semi round is difficult at best, and I mistakenly sat too close to the stage so the scenes that took place center were lost to me. So , sit directly in front for the best view. More to the point, go see this show.
Presented by the GCSC Players at the Amelia Center Theatre Lab July 21-30 , 7;30 Friday and Saturday, Sundays at 2.
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
It's funny how sometimes you forget who you are- or more, who you were when you thought possibilities were endless.In my youth, I thought that ANYTHING was possible. I would blindly dive in head first without a doubt or thought in my head telling me otherwise. Dumb luck was my saving grace and fearlessness my blind guide. I miss those days of youth, long forgotten and buried in boxes filled with old scripts, piles of sheet music and yellowed clippings from newspapers. Proof that I lived a life.
Tonight I spent the better part of the evening sifting through plastic tubs filled with memories in search of some sheet music for an upcoming audition. It took an hour or so- it has been many a year since I had used this particular song and my papers are in no logical order, besides the fact I have scripts and scores for just about every show I have done, and there have been many. Along the way I got sidetracked reading old reviews and notes from directors and castmates. And I remembered something.
I was pretty damn good.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking I am full of myself or have an incredible ego, but sadly that is not the case. I am incredibly insecure. These days, I have brief moments of surety and confidence, but my life has taken me far from where I was going, and I am slowly trying to get back on track. This place (*Florida) has been weird for me. It's easy to lose your identity here. Or at least I have found it to be true.
I don't bemoan my fate- there are choices I've made that led me to where I am now that I would not change for anything. I needed my family, and they have needed me. But I think it's man in the mirror time. -Time to make a change.
Reviews are a funny thing. I used to be so excited when the review of a show came out, to get that feedback, that affirmation. I couldn't wait to rush out to get the paper the next day, just to see what it said.Reading them tonight, I had forgotten that I predominantly got strong notices. Even the ones that were bad weren't scathing, and I treasured them as well. I held on to them all. I was noticed. That seemed pretty cool.
Now I occasionally write reviews, notice people, recognize their talent and give them props. Because I know how good it feels. How important it is to be recognized, acknowledged. To be appreciated.
I miss that.
In the piles of papers I also found about a hundred pages of a book that I had started writing years ago about New Orleans. It was far better than I would have imagined.I don't know why I stopped writing (besides the fact that I have issues with completion, evidently), but there are parts that seem like they could be salvaged into a decent short story. They spoke of a particular time in my youth in New Orleans. I am not sure what I can dredge up from the depths of my fractured memory about that time, but I think it might be worth it.
The other day at work I drew a cartoon sign to illustrate a new rule. I showed it to my co-workers who smiled appreciatively and one chimed in, "That's good! didn't know you were an artist too!"
Yeah, sometimes I forget as well.
Sometimes you just need a reminder.
And affirmation, even if it's from within, does a world of good.
I work in a coffee shop. I wear a uniform. I am so much more than what my wrapping intimates. I believe that when you wear a uniform, you lose your identity.And the older you get, the more complacent you get, and you start to forget who you are. Uniforms are soul sucking, personality draining, mind-numbing aspects of society that I think should be banned.
Because for a while, I forgot I was an artist.
. A singer.
And I was pretty damn good.
Stephen LaDow is an actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
I am a non smoker. That is a phrase I never thought I would utter anytime soon, at least not at this point in my life. Sure, maybe when I'm a doddering old man, attached to an oxygen tank and getting winded as I shuffle to the toilet, but certainly not now. But here I am, wondering how the fuck I got here.
Let me explain.
I didn't start out a smoker- nay, as a youth I was much better than that. Both my parents were smokers , as well as most of my extended family. Between the forced inhalation at home and family gatherings not to mention 10 hour car rides to visit relatives trapped in the back seat of my fathers car with his window barely cracked to allow slivers of oxygen to enter the smoke filled car- well, let's just say the idea just didn't appeal to my pre-asthmatic self.
Cut to years later-my early twenties, Living in the French Quarter, doing a dinner theatre production of Grease playing Kenicke. I decided my character was a smoker (I think he was in the movie) and decided I needed to practice smoking to do it realistically. A smoker can always tell when someone is faking it- the awkward way the imposter holds the cigarette, the quick expulsion of a billowy cloud of smoke because of not actually inhaling, and of course, the inexperienced tend to hack and sputter like a backfiring engine. So I would practice, usually paired with copious amounts of alcohol , inexorably linking the two. I had a great excuse to do it as well- for my art. Sadly, I never actually smoked as Kenicke on stage, just held the cigarette in my mouth, dangling, trying to evoke a coolness that I pictured as a smoking leather jacket wearing greaser would have. But the die was cast and my fate , signed.
Soon I wasn't acting anymore. I was an actual, bonafide, 100% smoker. And I loved it! Initially, it was the head rush you get as your oxygen supply is interfered with or hampered with -that, mixed with the chemical additives that make them addictive. But it was more than that. It was something to do. I am more than sure I was subliminally affected by Hollywood and it's romanticizing of and glorification of smokers, but something about the act of smoking felt so right. Cigarettes became my constant companion. They gave me a pleasureable task that never seemed to get old, like watching t.v. or masturbating.
For many years, I could see no downsides. Sure, most people I knew did not smoke and I had to sneak outside to catch a few puffs, even in harsh weather. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor extreme temperatures could dissuade me from my task. I was the fucking US post office of smokers. Sure, I smelled of stale smoke and sometimes my fingers were yellowed- stained from nicotine. Yes, sometimes I would hack and cough for no reason, but that seemed such a small price for those 2 and 1/2 minutes of lovely time-wasting fun. The best thing about smoking was the time I wasted doing it. It was a great excuse for a break at work, a perfect filler for the silence that surrounded me whenever I ventured out by myself. It was the literal smoke and mirrors at a bar that gave the illusion that instead of chatting up strangers (my social anxiety didn't allow for much of that unless I had quite a few drinks) I was perfectly content by myself, clutching a cocktail in one hand and dragging on a cigarette .
I was a smoker, and I wore that badge of shame defiantly with honor. I could give a rats ass what other people thought. My fellow smokers had become an ever shrinking circle, but that didn't even shrink my resolve. More and more cities banned smoking in public places, yet that failed to deter me from seeking places to light up.
I tried a few times to quit over the years, but finally reached the conclusion that all of the upsides of being a non-smoker meant nothing to me. I just didn't care. The money spent, the isolation, the stigma- none of that really mattered. Besides, I really hated holier than thou non-smokers and former smokers. Somehow the non-smokers decided they had the moral high ground in choosing a smoke free existence. Some would treat it as a sin of biblical proportions, something God himself had declared a commandment (the 11th , I guess.) . This made me want to smoke more than ever. Fuck 'em! The looks of pity, the revulsion, the dewy eyes as they claimed their concern for my health all propel my self destructive rebelllion. Like somehow they were better human beings for not choosing to shorten their lives by inhaling the cancer sticks.
Former smokers were the worst. That whole, "If I can do it, so can you!" just made me even more determined. I always felt like they were traitors somehow, as if choosing their own health and well being was a slap in my face. How dare they chose breathing over looking this cool?
So what changed now? Well, my father recently went to the hospital for respiratory failure. Before he allowed me to take him (it took repeated questioning and talking) , he had to smoke a couple of cigarettes even though (we found out later) his pulse-ox was at 70.
They kept him there 3 nights, trying to get his levels to normalize. The Dr. told him he HAD to quit smoking. Period. He told her absolutely not. He was 73, he wasn't going to change, he'd lived enough. Fuck 'em!
She asked if I smoked and he said yes. "Well, maybe you should quit and be a role model for your son..."
He replied, "Maybe HE should quit and be a role model for ME."
Something inside me snapped and I did just that. I fucking quit. Just like that. 26 years and now, no more. I didn't do it for me, I didn't even do it for him.It literally felt like a switch was pulled and it just ...stopped. I was- am done. No excuses. No explanation. Just finished. I wish I could explain it.
I feel like I lost a big part of my life that day and I miss the action of it, the process, the time spent. Just another chapter of my life, closed. I don't know why I did it and sometimes I regret it. In the grand scheme of things, it still doesn't mean anything to me. It doesn't make me a better human being.
But this I swear- I will never become one of those holier than thou motherfucking-cocksucking-son-of-a-bitching ex-smokers.
#comedy , #memories, #Family
Stephen LaDow is a non-smoking local actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
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