The Shoot (Part Nine)

“Maybe we should just call it a day,” Mike says.

“No,” Miranda says flatly. “We need more material.”

“It’s too dark to shoot now,” Mike says, raising a hand to the sky. “The sun’s been setting for the past hour.”

“It isn’t setting,” Miranda says as if she can reverse time through sheer tyranny of will. “It’s rising. We’ll run these shots at the beginning of the video and say it’s early in the morning.”

Mike has papers to grade. Amanda wants to be an artist again. Natalie and Drago are still up for anything despite the cold and the setting sun. They all look to me, and I point to a worn-out baseball I’ve been eyeing since we reached the bottom of the hill.

“What if we play some baseball?” I say, flipping my guitar over and swinging it like a bat. “Natalie throws the ball. I knock it into the outfield. It lands at Mike’s feet. Mike picks it up, and we all become friends.”

“Perfect!” Miranda says in shades of Ed Wood. “Marc, you stand in the batting place. Drago, you get behind him, and Natalie, you take the ball to the pitching thing and get ready to throw it.”

“Mound,” I say.

“What?”

“Never mind.”

I’m not really trying to hit the ball with my guitar. Miranda will just try to perpetrate the illusion that I’ve hit the ball when she edits the video together. At least, that’s the plan as Drago and I take our places in a muddy batter’s box.

“There’s a big puddle here,” Drago says. “So don’t throw the ball directly at us. Try to throw it over that way.”

“Got it,” Natalie says, winding up for the pitch.

Then she throws it directly at us, hitting the center of the puddle with astounding accuracy.

“Can we do that again?” Miranda asks as Drago and I wipe the mud from our faces. “I wasn’t shooting.”

The second, Natalie doesn’t splash us with mud. I swing the guitar, and Drago tosses the ball into the outfield as if I’ve just hit it. When Mike picks up the ball, we all gather around him and start slapping him on the back.

With that, I imagine we’re done – and not a second too soon. It’s starting to get dark, and though it’s only in my imagination, the people who live across the street from the park are peering at us through half-parted curtains as they reach for their phones to call the police.

“Great work, guys,” I say. “I think we can call it a day!”

“Not quite.”

Curiously, it isn’t Miranda who wants to keep shooting this time around. It’s Mike. And though my instinct is remind him of the papers he has to grade, I keep my mouth shut and hear him out.

“See that tree over there?” Mike points in the direction of a fallen tree on the edge of the outfield. “It’s the perfect backdrop.”

He’s right. The branches arc up and over to form a small cave or a primitive shelter from the elements. It’s easy to imagine prehistoric hunter-gatherers finding it and setting up camp for the night – or breaking camp at dawn, however you want to look at it. In any case, if Mike’s on board, then so am I.

“Okay, team,” I say. “Let’s do it!”

But they’re already ahead of me, trudging through snow, slush, and mud to take their places in beneath the skeletal remains of the fallen tree. When I take place next to them, Miranda tells us all to start dancing. We’re having a great time, she says by way of direction before commanding each of us to strut toward the camera and look into it with our very best diva pouts.

“Keep dancing,” Miranda shouts when we’ve all finished with our close-ups. “And don’t forget—you’re all rock stars.”

In that moment, with the cars whizzing by in the distance and the good people of Henry Avenue watching us from the comfort of their homes beneath the blinking red lights of the radio towers above, I believe her. This is my band, and as the sun sets pink and orange over Roxborough, Miranda’s camera turns us all into rock stars.

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The Shoot (Part Eight)

The bearded man’s name is Drago. He says he used to be a conflagrationist but hasn’t really kept up with it lately. A conflagrationist, it turns out, is distinct from an arsonist in that the former needs to build something before setting it on fire whereas the latter only burns things that previously existed. The best example I can think of is the Burning Man festival. Someone needs to build the effigy before anyone can burn it down.

Lately, though, Drago has been moving on to other media. Every day it’s something different, he says. Every day is something new. Every day is an adventure, but when anybody asks, he always gives them his stock answer: “Oh, you know. Same old thing.”

“I know what you mean,” I say. “It’s impossible explain everything that’s going on and how it’s all connected, so you end up saying you’re not doing anything.”

“Yeah,” Drago says. “Exactly.”

“Happens to me all the time,” I say, and Miranda tells us to pick up the pace because we’re losing light.

The five of us are crossing Henry Avenue on our way to a park on the far side of the street. Worth noting is the fact that it’s freezing out and none of us are wearing anything heavier than a blazer. Cars are barreling down on us from both directions as we reach the far end of the intersection, and the drivers are barely slowing down not so much to avoid running us over as to figure out exactly what we’re up to.

Mike is dressed as a tiger in a metallic blue cape. Natalie is wearing a sheer silver blouse, furry kitten ears, and a tail. Drago’s face is obscured by the combination of his beard and a feathery mask. I’m still wearing Mike’s blazer and tie and lugging a guitar and bass toward the park, and Miranda, perhaps in a spirit of solidarity, is wearing Spandex pants and a glittery shirt despite the fact that she has every intention of staying behind the camera.

“Come on, guys,” Miranda says as we lay our gear down under the roof of a stone gazebo. “We need some establishing shots.”

From what I can gather, establishing shots are very important because we spend the next ten minutes getting them, and when I think we’re done, Mike asks Miranda if we got enough establishing shots. When it turns out that we haven’t, Miranda calls for more establishing shots, and Natalie pounces atop a trashcan and balances herself on top of it. Not to be outdone, Drago leaps on a picnic table, then lunges for a wooden support beam beneath the roof of the gazebo.

“Is this a good idea?” I ask Mike in a whisper as Drago wraps his legs around the beam and hangs upside down, belly exposed in the cold, winter air.

“It’s fine,” Mike says. “They do this kind of thing all the time.”

“They do?” I ask, images of Drago and Natalie splattered on the concrete floor of the gazebo dancing in my head.

How will I explain it to the paramedics, I wonder? Or worse, to the police?

When Natalie and Drago finish their establishing shots unscathed, Miranda spots a hill and tells us to start descending it.

“Okay, stop!” she shouts, and we all freeze as she moves to another angle and tells us to resume our march. After repeating this process about a dozen times, we reach the bottom of the hill, much to everyone’s amazement.

By now, the cold is starting to sink into our bones, and even the most adventurous among us are starting to feel it. Drago notes that it’s getting late. Natalie mentions that her lips are turning blue. Mike reminds us that he has papers to grade.

But Miranda has other plans.

“What we really need is a story,” she announces. “Any ideas?”

caputure marc 23 seconds, tree with guitar grave yard

Just a guy with a guitar jumping out from behind a tree in a cemetery.