Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When the Screeching Stops

Thunder rumbles like a starved stomach. It's 7PM and 89 degrees on this day in May. I want to walk Penny before the storm floods the streets and blacks the sky. I take a plastic bag and an umbrella. Quick twenty minute walk, a little loop, I tell Scott before clicking Penny's leash and leaving. The white curly haired dog on the left comes bounding toward us, barking at the edge of his property. Penny pulls to meet him, but I yank her to the middle of the street. When we return to the overgrown grass on the side of the road, a small squirrel darts by my dog. Penny rushes the frantic little thing, snatches it up with her teeth and crushes it until the screeching stops. I yell at my dog to drop it, but then scramble away in fear the tail of the deceased will graze the backs of my bare legs. After a few fretful seconds of scolding, she lays her limp victim down in the center of the suburban street. I jerk her away and stare at the stilled body. When I look up, two men and a woman stand in their driveway staring at me and my dog. They have witnessed the entire event. I can see it in their opened mouthed expressions. I apologize for the horror, but then I don't really know what to do. "It's okay." The woman says and I take this as an indication for retreat.  "Big storm coming in." I say to the strangers as I pass by. The woman smiles faintly and agrees. I would have transported the animal with a stick back to the side of the road, but Penny would have grabbed the stick and then grabbed the squirrel and I would have screamed like a fool. So instead, we leave it behind and walk toward the school yard. Once on the other side of the softball game, where thirteen year old girls in purple uniforms hang on a fence chanting rhymes to distract the yellow team's pitcher, Penny poops. I pick it up with my plastic newspaper bag. As I tie the knot, I notice the older of the two men walking up the road toward the scene of Penny's crime. I can't tell, but I think he has a shovel. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I call this the year of Rejection

I take the day off work. In bed, I watch the director's most recent film, Young Adult, on my phone with headphones. I make sure to go jogging to pink my cheeks. I wear the same dress I wore to my audition, along with my tall brown boots and cranberry colored cardigan. I eat lightly, apply makeup carefully and keep my heart from abandoning its steady beat. Scott drives the two hour journey. I sit beside him, rehearsing my lines and giving him directions. We find the run down office building we're looking for. The first and second doors I try are locked, but the third opens and I walk inside for my first callback of a major motion picture. 

Directed by Jason Reitman, the film, Labor Day, stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin and is scheduled to film in Massachusetts during the months of June and July. I had auditioned a few weeks before in Northampton with Suzanne, a friendly casting director who was only slightly distracted by her sudden sniffling sneezing sinus infection. Surrounded by script sides and tissues, she wore sandals with jeans and stood looking over her reading glasses and camera saying, "I like you." Two weeks later, I got a phone call from a New York City telephone number while driving the twins I nanny home after a morning of toddler adventuring. My chest expanded to accommodate my flipping heart as I held the phone up, chanting, "Voicemail. Voicemail. Voicemail." I couldn't answer it. Not with boys in the backseat who crank their voice boxes from minimum to maximum whenever I answer the phone. 

"Who you talkin' to? RACHEL, 'scuse me, WHO YOU TALKIN' TO?"

Questions along with urgent jabber about passing fire trucks, grazing cows and spinning or not spinning weathervanes quickly accumulate. A voicemail was left. I made the boys lunch, sat them down at the table, told them I had to make a very important phone call and requested that they PLEASE not fight.  Jessica, from the casting office, "...wanted to see if (I was) available to come back for a callback with Jason on May 2nd..." With a notebook, pen and phone in hand, I closed the bedroom door and called to calmly confirm my callback. At my audition, I had read for both the Nurse and the larger role of Bank Teller. The casting director told me she would send me the sides for the Bank Teller, but that I shouldn't be upset or surprised if the role has already been cast by the time of my callback. Primarily, he wants to see me for the part of Nurse, which consists of one line spoken to a news reporter about the convict's (Brolin) escape from the hospital where she works. One line. Two sentences. Twenty-one words. I had never rehearsed a single line so much in all my life and now I would have a chance to do it again for the film's famous director. 

I arrive to my callback on time, a little early, but not too early. The building is a maze of white walls and coarse blue carpet, but I follow appropriate signs and find the two casting directors. They instruct me with smiles to sign-in on their clipboard and have a seat. Soon, three other brunettes between the ages of twenty-five and forty show up, sign-in and sit. I make awkward small talk with the girl beside me. "SO quiet." I whisper. Then I see him, the director, Jason Reitman, walking down the hall toward us and the audition room. He wears a dark winter hat and stares at his phone. As he passes by me, we make eye contact and I say "hi". He returns my salutation by pressing his lips into a small smile. I was the first brunette to arrive which means I am the first to be called in. I walk in with my headshot, which I know they won't want and my Nurse and Bank Teller sides, which I know I won't need. The casting directors point me to where I am to stand. They are friendly, but fast. Jason requests that I move in a step. I do. Then, in this bare square room, with two young casting directors, Jason Reitman and a small Canon camera on a tripod, I am read the news reporter's line. Oh, it's happening right now! I realize. No introductions. No chit chat. This shit is happening. I find my focus and when it's my turn to speak, I deliver the Nurse line as I have rehearsed it. "Good" He says. "Now can you try it again more frazzled?" 


The casting director reads the line again and I deliver my beloved two sentences as frazzled as I can. "Great." He says next, standing. He then explains that he's also looking to cast another small part, a pregnant woman. He then pauses in his explanation to jokingly ask if I can get pregnant by June, of which I respond, "I'm on it!" far too loud and with an embarrassing amount of enthusiasm, which is echoed by a light chuckle by the casting directors. He then asks me to stand in a particular spot, hold a protruding imaginary belly and pretend to shop. Simple enough, an experienced actor and improviser should think. However, I have never been very comfortable with miming objects. I much prefer props. But with no time to practice, I grab my pregnant paunch of air and begin sifting through invisible fruit. I reach and grab for a piece of something undefined and pull my clawed hand back toward my face to observe. After careful inspection, I return this unidentified piece of produce to its shelf. The room is quiet. I reach for another oddly shaped object. This time, however, I study my blob of nothing and decide it's good enough to drop into the invisible basket by my feet. Fucking brilliant. I am an oafishly unnatural shopper of blobs. He's seen enough. He concludes my one minute callback by shaking my hand. I thank them, find my things on the floor by the door and escape to the hallway where I can return to real time and run to find my husband in the parking lot. I pass the brunettes. "They go right into it. No intros or anything." I tell them. They nod their heads a little, but they probably know how this works. I'm sure they'll all be sniffing oranges, feeling melons and picking out bananas like a bunch of grocery store champs. Not me. This was my first time. Clearly. I hike across the parking lot. 

Two days after my callback, I email to thank Kate and the casting company for their thorough professionalism and kindness. She emails back that I did a great job. 

It's been three weeks now and still no word. I try staring at my phone, willing it to ring. I try ignoring it in hopes I'll have a voicemail when I discover my phone hours later. However, my superstitious pleas to the universe prove useless. I'm tired now of inventing false hope, fantasizing scenarios where the casting directors apologize that they've been too busy to call me with the news or that director, Reitman has been sidetracked and hasn't watched the callback tapes yet. So today, of all dreary days, I decide to email Kate, the casting director. 

Hey Kate, Is it safe to say I was not cast in Labor Day if I haven't heard anything? Thanks:) ~Rachel 

One minute later, I receive this message: 

Hi Rachel, You did a really great job, but, unfortunately, you were not one of his picks. Thanks. Best, Kate. 

For the past several weeks, I've had dreams where I suddenly find myself hanging out with Kate Winslet. I have nothing incredibly witty or interesting to say, but I somehow know not to bring up her film, Titanic. She appears grateful, lingering in my quiet company. I expect these dreams will cease now. 

After work, I find Scott on the couch and collapse beside him. "I'm never anybody's pick." I say, tugging on the twisted frays of my cut off denim shorts.

Looking to me, his despondent wife, he says. "I think it takes more guts to be your own pick." 

Monday, May 7, 2012

goose poop PUKE

My dog and I hike a mountain. She wants me to take her leash off so that she can really run, but I keep her tied up because it's the law (and because last time I let her loose she didn't come back for twenty minutes and we thought she was dead). It is early on a warm Sunday morning in May. Penny eats some grass and a few treats from my fanny pack, stops to drink from streams and puddles and pulls toward squirrels, nothing unusual. The hike takes about two hours and just before we reach the car, we pass the lake where a family of geese swims. While I take a picture with my phone, my dog discovers a pile of green goose poop and takes a bite. I scream, but she swallows. This is unusual. She never eats poop. We get to the car and I drive to the grocery co-op across town. I crack the windows and leave her to sleep in the front seat. I shop for about twenty-five minutes before returning with three full canvas bags. When I open the door, Penny is not as excited to see me as she usually is. Must be tired, I assume. I jump in the front seat and throw the key into the ignition. With one hand patting my pup's head, I drive out of the parking lot and pull onto the road. However, just as I do, I feel something wet seeping into my pants. I reach my hand beneath my left leg and pull out a handful of wet green goop. My body convulses in a gag as I pull the car into the breakdown lane. I am grasping partially digested goose poop strung together by wads of grass. Horrible. I jump out of the car and Penny follows. I grab her by the collar with my clean hand and walk her to the passenger's side to close her leash into the door to keep her from running off. I grab the roll of toilet paper from the center console and begin scrapping the goose poop puke from my hand and then from the back of my spandex pants. Cars slow down, but I do not. Scraping, gagging, cursing! I go back to the driver's side. HOW DID I MISS CLUMPS OF POOP VOMIT ON MY LIGHT BEIGE SEAT? I must be completely out of it. I scrape the globs off the seat and fill a plastic bag with the greened toilet paper. Penny has not only puked on my seat but inside my closed umbrella on the floor. I pound the handle onto the pavement and the puke lands with a unsatisfactory splat. I pour water over my hands and let Penny drink from my cupped palm. Finally, I pump several squirts of antibacterial onto my hands and drive home.