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 Six)

In case you’re wondering, Mocha is a Morkie — part Maltese and part Yorkie. The main benefit of mixing the two breeds is that it produces a five-pound dog with the lung capacity of a right whale. That’s my working theory, anyway, as Mocha takes a breath and then commences to bark nonstop at his food bowl for the next twenty minutes. Cute as a button, though.

Since we can’t leave until Mocha finishes his dinner, we spend our time rifling through the costumes and props that are strewn about the hallway. A set of plastic ram’s horns, feathered masks, fake-fur hats, stoles, gloves, and tails, shiny gold pants, a skin-tight silver shirt, and a plastic microphone are just a few of the items we pick through as we try to settle on the right look for everyone.

That it’s hovering just a few degrees above freezing outside doesn’t factor into our decision-making process, a choice we’ll regret in the fairly near future. For the time-being, our larger concern is that Mike’s father just burst through the closed set of double-doors I’ve been trying to ignore at the end of the hallway, and he’s demanding to know why the dog is barking so much. Complicating matters is the fact that I’m the only person in the hallway at the moment, standing in a pile of props and costumes and wearing Mike’s clothes. The look on the man’s face says I’m lucky he doesn’t own a gun.

“I think I make him nervous,” I say by way of explanation.

“Hey, Dad!” Mike yells from his bedroom as he tries to coax Mocha into taking the last few bites of his dinner. “Marc’s here!”

I offer a limp wave as the man scowls at me and ducks back into his room.

“Maybe we should go,” I suggest, nervously stuffing any props within reach into a reusable grocery bag.

“Yeah,” Miranda says. “That’s probably a good idea.”

I’m already halfway down the steps with my guitar and the bag of props, forgetting for the moment that I’m an adult because my friend’s dad is mad at me for waking him from his nap. Awkward, yes. But it did teach me that if you ever want to feel like a teenager again, don’t fall in love or anything ridiculous like that. Just piss off your friend’s dad.

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Me with a sculpture of Mike’s head. It’s one of the props we decided not to take with us to Roxborough, largely because it weighed fifteen pounds and was difficult to carry.

The Shoot (Part One)

The phone rings at 2PM. The caller ID says it’s Miranda. Coincidentally, I’m watching a movie that her husband, Mike, loaned me earlier in the week. The budget was huge, and it isn’t very good.

“Do you want to shoot a video?” Miranda asks, or words to that effect.

“What, like now?”

“No. More like in an hour or so.”

“I don’t know. I’m kind of…”

I want to say busy right now, but it feels like a line from Napoleon Dynamite. But it’s too late, anyway, as Miranda has already cut me off.

“The snow’s melting,” she says. “So we have to do it today.”

The snow, it turns out is central to the plan, but the snow is also the reason I’m home and don’t want to go anywhere. Then again, I never want to go anywhere because I have what’s known as an adjustment disorder. As long as everything always stays the same (ha-ha), I’m fine. If I’m given advanced warning that something out of the ordinary is going to happen, I can more or less deal with it. If someone calls me out of the blue and wants me to do something other than what I was planning on — which is usually nothing in particular — I freeze and kind of panic.

Which is why I’m at a loss in this particular conversation. The part of my brain that wants to stay home because that was the plan all along is pulling fire alarms and sending out distress signals. The other part of my brain is calmly reminding me that Miranda and Mike are actually doing me a huge favor by offering to shoot a video for me. They like my music and want to be a part of my creative process. And, really, the calm part of my brain is trying to convince the part that’s doing its best impression of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, it won’t be that bad.
Edvard Munch - The Scream - Google Art Project

“Okay,” I say after a lot of hemming and hawing and reminding myself to breathe. “I can be at your house in an hour.”

“Can you make it ninety minutes?”

This does not bode well.