Monthly Archives: June 2014
This story was my entry in the Finn McCool’s Irish Pub Short Story Contest March 2014. Stephen Rea and Ian McNulty judged the contest. It won an Honorable Mention, and will be included in the 2014 Finn McCool’s Irish Pub Short Story Collection.
These are the 10 words we had to use:
ethereal (a word that I can not pronounce, no matter how hard I try, just like entrepreneur)
note: This story was inspired by all the friends I have who are working in the film industry in New Orleans. They are the working class of Hollywood South—they work hard but the work is sporadic so they often have to work other jobs to pay the rent and make groceries. And they don’t get all the perks that the pezzonovante do. They are the propmakers, carpenters, electricians, grips, scenic painters, utility workers, seamstresses, wardrobe, set decorators, hair/make-up artists, extras, etc.
The Extra Part
Copyright © 2014 by Sara Jacobelli (first printing rights Finn McCool’s Irish Pub)
published with permission of Finn McCool’s Irish Pub New Orleans
The shooting site was an abandoned motel on Tulane. It looked to be a better location for a zombie apocalypse than the Bruce Willis type action flick promised by the craigslist ad but Sean was desperate for work. He and a dozen other bored extras milled around waiting waiting waiting. Several young guys wearing T-shirts, cargo shorts and overpriced tennis shoes strutted back and forth, barking into walkie talkies with clipped voices that echoed with the hollow sound of their presumed self importance. He hated them on principle. He took a plastic comb out of his back jeans pocket and ran it through his hair. No mirrors, but he knew he looked good.
The extras were told to lean against the wall, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, look nonchalant. Sean wasn’t sure what nonchalant meant, but if it meant bored, he wasn’t acting. An old guy in a sequined purple suit danced listlessly on the sidewalk, twirling a second line umbrella while two actors portraying New Orleans cops brought out a dead-eyed drug crazed looking couple, each in handcuffs, from room number 17. They walked them down the stairs and shoved them into the police car. They filmed the scene over so many times Sean gave up counting. It made no sense. Why would somebody be second lining when there was no fucking parade? He wondered how much the cameras were worth, fantasized about stealing them, but two massive nonspeaking armed security guards never veered far from the expensive equipment.
Lunch break. Sean gobbled his food. Would these movie jerks ever notice him? Didn’t Mel Gibson or Harrison Ford get discovered working as extras?
He looked like a young Paul Newman, some said. Well, one person said, and that was Ginger, a drunk middle aged bottle blonde he shot darts with one night at Finn’s. You look like Paul Newman, if I’m lyin I’m dyin. Buy me a shot a Cuervo, wontcha honey?
A hobbit–looking guy about sixty, sixty-five, with bright green eyes and a startlingly silvery beard turned over a blue plastic milk crate and sat next to him. Silver Beard mixed four packets of sugar into his coffee as if performing a chemistry experiment, then chewed on the stirrer.
“First movie you done, is it? I done so many, I have. Squeak.” An indecipherable accent, a high pitched voice, every paragraph punctuated by an annoying little squeak.
Sean took a swig of water. “Nah, done two others. It’s boring, but brah, a hundred bucks a day for three days. Plus lunch. Behind on the rent and light bill and shit.” He didn’t want to get evicted from his Banks Street shotgun, not with rents going sky high because of that bitch Katrina and that lame medical complex. Besides, it was a double and his neighbor was hot. He lit an American Spirit.
“NO SMOKING ON THE SET!” barked one of the Walkie Talkie guys.
“What’re you talkin bout? We been smoking and drinkin Dixie beer in this scene about a thousand times. What is this shit?” Sean took a few hits on the cigarette. “And why Dixie? Tastes like dog piss. Don’tch you guys have any Abita?”
“Smoking’s for filming only. It’s like, cuz of the insurance.” Walkie Talkie guy glared at him, waving his clipboard in the air. He looked about twelve years old. “Look, we gotta waiting list a mile long, you don’t want this gig, like, you can split.” He bustled off.
Sean stood up. He put out the cigarette and placed it back in the pack, stuffed the pack into his worn denim shirt pocket, looked at his watch.
“We don’t get outta here til midnight. These twelve hour days suck.”
“What kinda work you usually do, d’ya say? Squeak.”
“I pick up work here and there, painting houses, here and there.” Sean didn’t add that he picked up cute college girls with Rich Parents here and there, although that hadn’t happened for over a year. A dry spell. They happen. Even famous ball players have them.
“Look strong, ya do. Strong and healthy, you are. With fortitude to spare, I’d say. Squeak.”
“Yeah, I’m strong. Leading man material. If casting agents had any sense, I’d be perfect for a Tarantino flick.”
“Work slow, d’ya say? No house painting jobs on the horizon, d’ya see? Squeak.”
“Nah, been slow. Ever since Mardi Gras. Now, St. Patrick’s, St. Joseph’s coming up. Nobody wants their place painted now. Nothin’s happening off-shore neither.”
“But I gotta tip for ya, I do. Squeak.” He leaned in closer to Sean and attempted a whisper, but had difficulty lowering his pitch. He ended up sounding like an asthmatic Chihuahua. “They’s other ways to make money on the set, besides extra, there is. Squeak.” Silver Beard winked at Sean.
“Hey, brah, you’re not some prev-ert, per-vert, whatever, are you?”
“Nothing like that, son, I’m not. But sometimes these Big Stars need stand-ins, they do. You got the look about you of the Big One in this film, you do. You got his height and weight, I’d say. You’ll fit his clothes, you will. Squeak.”
Sean always suspected he’d get discovered one day. He had the looks. A Young Paul Newman. Or was it a Young Steve McQueen? No matter. His name was just right, too. Sean Murphy. And his voice too, his fifth grade teacher said he had a good voice, that he projected. He could do Eastwood on a dime. He cleared his throat. “Go ahead. Make my day.” Damned if he didn’t sound like a movie star already.
“And stand-in pays better than extra, it does. It’s a move up, a bit of a move up, I’d say. And a Special stand in can make, well, nigh two thousand dollars, I’d say. Squeak.”
Two grand! Sean mentally spent the windfall. Back rent, Entergy bill. A haircut. A bottle of Jamesons, hell, a case of Jamesons. Some good weed, get his scooter fixed. A long leisurely breakfast at the Irish House with that cute neighbor Tiffany or Melody or Ashley or whatever her name was.
“But Walkie Talkie dude can’t stand me.” Sean pointed in his direction. He was waving the clipboard around at another interloper. Even the back of his arrogant blond head irritated Sean.
“He’s nobody, he isn’t. Just a PA, is all. Not to worry, you shouldn’t. It’s the big’uns that matter, they do. If they want you, that’s what counts, it does. Follow me then, you will. Squeak.”
This was it. His Big Break. Sean followed Silver Beard into the depths of the ethereal zombie motel. Maybe he would be paired with a hot actress, like Drew Barrymore or Cameron Diaz.
“Who’s this famous star I’m supposeta stand in for? Brad Pitt? Leonardo da Vinci? Matt Damon? Matthew Maconay or however-ya-say-it?”
“Aye, one a them big’uns, I’d say. I gettem all mixed up, I do. Squeak.”
Silver Beard led him through the motel walkway, up one set of stairs and down another, into a parking lot on the other side of the motel. A row of glinting new white trailers were lined up behind twelve foot tall barbed wire fencing. An elaborate security system with cameras and alarms protected the lot. A beefy guard nodded at Silver Beard.
Sean followed him to the largest trailer. Silver Beard placed his right index finger on a keypad, a red light flashed and the device beeped happily, allowing him to open the door.
This must be the star’s trailer. He straightened out his shirt collar, walked inside expecting to see some famous actor and his entourage.
A white-coated doctor grabbed Sean’s hand. “Let me have your finger, son. Just a quick prick, doesn’t hurt a bit, does it? We just need a blood sample.”
“OUCH. Hey, whattaya doin?” Sean looked around the tidy portable medical lab. “Hey, where’s —?” No sign of Silver Beard. “Wait a minute, Dr. House, or whoever you are? What’s this about? Thought I just had to fit inna guy’s clothes is all, Doc.”
“Hmmm. Yes. Well. We need to make sure that you are healthy.” The doctor pressed a cotton ball to Sean’s bleeding finger and wrapped a Band-aid around it, then scribbled something on a pad. He walked out the trailer door with a vial of Sean’s blood, clicking the lock behind him.
A busty bubbly redheaded nurse in hot pink scrubs wearing a name tag identifying herself as “Mindy” came in carrying a tray of medical supplies. She made Sean open his mouth, swiftly scooped out saliva with a huge cotton swab. She placed the spit wad into a Ziploc bag and wrote numbers on it.
“What’s that for?”
“We just want to make sure your DNA is a good match for him.”
DNA? All he knew about DNA was what he’d seen on Law and Order.
She handed Sean a plastic cup. “There’s the rest room, Mr. Murphy.”
“Drug tests! Whaddafuck? Come on, Mindy.”
“Oh, not so much a drug test, sir, more like a drug quiz!” She rolled her eyes and let loose a Betty Boop giggle. “We just want to make sure you don’t have diabetes or any infections. Just bring us a nice fresh urine sample. “
“It’ll be nice and fresh all right, sweetheart. Gotta piss like a racehorse at the Fairgrounds on Thanksgiving Day.” Sean smiled. “But, Hey, darlin’.” He touched her shoulder, turned on the easy charm. “Uh, they ain’t gonna fire me for smokin a little skinny doobie, Mindy, like, for example, if I smoked last night with my cute neighbor? No good, by the way. Ragweed.”
“Oh, no. Nothing like that, sir.”
Sean dutifully went into the can and took a leak. When he came out, he handed the warm plastic cup to Mindy.
“Man, this sure is a lot of trouble to go through just for being a stand in. I mean, I thought you just stood there, and they adjusted the lights and shadows around you and shit, while the movie star chilled in his trailer with a pitcher a martinis, James Bond style.”
Mindy giggled. “Oh, there’s more than one type of stand in, you know. This one, the Special stand in, pays much better than those used for adjusting the lights. Now get on the scale so I can weigh you.”
“Do I get to meet this star? I mean, who IS this dude?”
“That’s not how it’s usually done, sir. The important thing is that the procedure goes well and that there’s no rejection, no infections. He’s a major talent, a very famous movie star. Drinks too much though. . . but he makes the Studio a great deal of money, he’s insured by Lloyd’s of London for fifty million dollars.”
“By the way, babe, when do I get my two grand?”
“Lie down.” She firmly indicated a stretcher brought in by a young orderly.
“A good lookin woman who knows what she wants. I respect that.” Sean obeyed her because she looked sexy in her snugly fitting scrubbies. “We need to get together, Mindy. Chow down at Five Happiness, catch a movie.”
She giggled again, rolled up his sleeve and gave him a quick, sharp shot. “Now, sir, you’ll fall asleep quickly. And what an honor! You’ll provide an Oscar Winning star with a brand new kidney! There should be minimal scarring. And hopefully. . . no side effects.” She touched his hair. “Sir? Mr. Murphy? Did anyone ever tell you, you look kinda like that actor Paul Newman when he was young? In Cool Hand Luke?”
Sean closed his eyes and saw a wad of crisp hundreds. “Two thousand dollars, when do I get my two thou. . .”
Picture Credit: 4-vector, movie clapper board free clip art.
From the Finn McCool’s Irish Pub Short Story Collection 2013:
published with permission of Finn McCool’s Irish Pub
Here are the ten words we had to use in our short stories:
Direction or Bastard (I used both)
The Private Eye and the Diner Waitress (Fiction)
Copyright © 2013 by Sara Jacobelli (First printing rights Finn McCool’s Irish Pub New Orleans)
1. The Phone Call
“Aye. We can meet tomorrow then, about 3 then. Where?”
“Finn McCool’s, it’s a pub in Mid-City. Banks Street.”
“Good then. One more thing, we’ll be needing a woman.”
“A woman? What for?”
“Long story, but we don’t want to interview this lady without another woman present. Just us two lads, she’ll make trouble. You know a woman who can handle it?”
“Sure. My girlfriend. She’ll love it. She’ll think she’s in a James Bond movie.”
2. The Wiener Dog
“Why do you drink your tea with milk in it? Shit. I burned the bacon.”
“Hmm. It’s OK. Just a little crispy.”
“But why the milk in the tea?”
“I don’t know. My mother did it. Her mother and my namesake, Sarah O’Hara from County Cork, she did it. Hot tea with milk and sugar is the solution to anything, that’s the mantra I grew up with.”
“You’re her namesake. I mean, she had the name first.”
“Well, she put milk in her tea, that’s what’s important.” Sarah turned on the radio. They listened to WWOZ while eating breakfast.
She banged on the radio. “Will you guys shut up and play some music?”
“Sarah, listen, I need you to come with me this afternoon. It’s to meet this guy at Finn’s, and, uh, well, it’s about—“
“We missed the pub quiz. I’m definitely going next Monday.” Sarah stirred her tea.
“You can go without me. There’s no point in playing any trivia games with you. You always win. You have the memory of an elephant. No, make that a tribe of elephants.”
“I think it’s a pride. No, that’s lions. Must be a herd. A herd of elephants. But you can be on my team.”
A red and black dachshund bounded into the cluttered kitchen.
“Look who’s awake, Lady Gaga!” Sarah fed her some bacon.
“See, Lady likes my cooking. Let’s take her for a walk.”
Sarah bent to attach the spiked collar around the dog’s neck and hooked on the leash. They walked towards Poland Avenue and to the levee by the Navy Base.
“So this guy I’m meeting, his name is HP O’Grady. Some kind of Irish cat, but can’t figure out if he’s really from Ireland, or if it’s a bit of an act. And he says it’s important that I bring a woman.”
“HP? JJ meets HP? Sounds like a bad B movie.” Sarah laughed. She unhooked the leash to let the dog run. She threw Lady’s ball and watched her waddle after it.
“Well, this guy is a PI in San Francisco. He got my name from when I wrote for that weekly paper. He’s looking to interview this woman here. She’s supposed to testify in some trial. He’ll be in town for a few days.”
“What’s this got to do with you?”
“Come on, Lady!” JJ put the squirmy little dog back on her leash. “He needs my help, since I’m a local. And, he wants a woman to come with, someone who can keep her cool and not blab too much. So I told him I’d cruise the bars and see if I could find anyone. Maybe I could find a hot, buxom, red-headed babe looking for adventure. There’s probably one or two of those in Vaughan’s.”
Sarah tugged at JJ’s arm. “Hey, I’m the woman! Hey, I wanta go. This is like a spy movie or somethin’.”
“I knew you’d love it. He’s even gonna pay us. Maybe we can pay the Verizon bill.”
They reached their double on France Street. Sarah looked at JJ as Lady scampered up the steps.
“We’re not getting involved in anything too weird, are we?”
He struggled with the jiggly door-knob. “This door drives me crazy. “
“I haven’t the slightest idea, Sarah.” JJ finally got the door open and walked into the living room, while Lady ran around on the front porch. He moved stacks of books and records off the couch so he could sit down.
“Hey Miss?” George the Junk Man stopped his battered bicycle out front. “You needin’ new dishes? Or a fancy Tiff’ny Lamp?” The bike had plastic milk crates attached as baskets, and was weighed down with various precariously perched household wares.
“No thanks, George. But keep your eyes peeled for old blues records for me, will ya?”
“Sure thing, sugar. I’ll find some good ones. Leadbelly. You like Leadbelly? Hey, is that a, is that a ferret?” George narrowed his eyes at Lady Gaga. “I don’t mess with ferrets. They bite.”
“A Ferret? A freakin’ ferret? George, you better get some new glasses. That’s a wiener dog.”
3. The Pub
“Aye. Not a bad little pub. They serve food too?” HP took off his leather jacket to reveal two heavily muscled arms. He had a tattoo of the Irish harp on his right bicep.
They arranged three chairs around an empty table.
JJ brought drinks from the bar.“I’m still not sure what direction you want to go with this. You want us to go with you on the interview, but why?”
“They really have some Irish left in New Orleans, do they?” HP looked at the posters and photos on the walls. “I thought they were all house painters in San Francisco.”
“Are you from Ireland? I keep hearing ‘aye aye aye’ and some sort of accent, but–” Sarah said, making a suspicious face. JJ kicked her under the table.
“My folks were born over there. I was born and raised in San Francisco. We went over to visit every year.”
“OK, but back to this mysterious woman. Where do we go to meet her?” JJ chugged his beer while Sarah got up to order fish and chips.
“She’ll be texting me soon with the address.”
HP insisted they all have a shot of Jameson’s.
“Sla’inte.” HP downed his shot.
“Sla’inte,” JJ downed his too. “Come on, Sarah.”
“But I hate whiskey.” Sarah drank hers slowly. “Yuck. Well, Sla’inte, I guess.”
Her code name was Natasha, although there did not appear to be a Boris. Natasha didn’t text back until seven thirty that evening. The unlikely trio downed several more rounds of Jameson’s while waiting for the signal.
Natasha texted HP that they were to drive to Vacherie, about an hour away. She wanted them to go to the Jubilee Truck Stop Casino parking lot on Highway 20.
“Vacherie? We’re going to Vacherie? There’s nothing out there but gators. Maybe the occasional friendly frog.” Sarah sat in the back seat of HP’s rented PT Cruiser. She drew smiley faces in the condensation on the car window.
JJ drove since HP didn’t know where he was going. HP had a Louisiana road map spread out and was studying it as if it was the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“These roads don’t make any sense at all.” HP frowned at the map.
“Don’t bother with that map, there’s no road signs out there anyway. Everyone goes by landmarks, like gas stations or railroad tracks. Ask someone for directions and they’ll say, It’s over by the old high school that burnt down in 82. Right by Fred’s cousin’s place where we used to go for crawfish boils.”
HP nodded. “Sounds like Ireland, then. Except for the crawfish.”
“Bored! Can we at least get some tunes, please?” Sarah demanded from the back seat.
JJ tuned in OZ. They listened to the blues show until the signal turned scratchy and then completely faded on Highway 3127.
“Shit. I love this guy. ROCK BOTTOM!!! A God-dammed dynamite blues LEGEND from Florida. If you don’t LIVE it, you can’t GIVE it! ROCK BOTTOM!!!”
“Aye. She’s a bit of a handful, isn’t she?”
“She never drinks whiskey. The Jameson’s got to her.” JJ drove smoothly into the dark night.
HP tried to make phone calls but couldn’t get a signal. “Where in the world are we?”
“The swamp. This is the real swamp.” They stopped at a lonely gas station to use the rest rooms. Crickets, mosquitos and frogs blended into an eerie night-time musical performance.
Sarah wanted to buy an energy drink but JJ and HP talked her out of it.
“This stuff is really cool. It’s made out of vitamins and kelp and all this stuff.”
“Kelp?” HP said. “That’s just seaweed. Why would anyone drink flavored seaweed, then?”
“I don’t care what’s in it, she doesn’t need more energy, believe me.”
They piled back in the car and JJ drove off.
“Are we there yet?” Sarah said, her voice fading. “Oh, I don’t feel so good. That whiskey makes me, what-do-you-call-it, discombob, discabob, dismobob,”
“I believe you mean discombobulate.”HP said. “Here, use my jacket like a pillow, you can curl up and sleep back there. And you better leave your window open, my lass.”
“Discombobulat-ed. She feels discombobulated.” JJ said. “But, basically she’s just drunk.”
Sarah was snoring softly when they drove into the Jubilee parking lot. HP texted Natasha.
“Hope we can get a signal.”
“Texting gets through even when you can’t talk on the phone. We learned that after Katrina.”
They waited about twenty minutes. Natasha texted a message to HP: Take Highway 643 for five miles.
“What in the world is that?” HP pointed to an armadillo snuffling around in the trash as JJ started the car.
“Wow! An armadillo that’s not run over. Sarah will be mad she missed this.”
“Never seen one before.” HP shook his head in amazement. “Looks like a miniature armored tank.”
5. The Failed Mission
“She changed her mind, then. She won’t do the interview, and she won’t testify. She’s walking onto an airplane right this minute.” HP frowned at his phone.
“What? Are you serious?”
“Aye. If she were a man I’d be calling her a bastard.” HP looked miserable. “This whole trip for nothing. This is a disaster. I need some tea. And a cute waitress to serve it. Is there a diner?”
Sarah groaned from the back seat. “NOT Waffle House. Anything but that.”
JJ laughed. “You’re alive? And awake? I know where there’s a Denny’s.”
“Hey,” Sarah stuck her arm out the window and shook her fist in the air. “There’s a plane, maybe it’s hers. Natasha. Natasha my ass. Her name’s probably Gertrude or Bernice. Or Ethel. She’s a freaking Ethel without a Lucy.”
JJ pulled the car into the Denny’s parking lot.
“Aye. Let’s sit at the counter, then,” HP said, as they walked into the brightly lit diner. “I see the one for me.”
“All I care about is a Grand Slam,” JJ said.
“I really want a blueberry waffle with whipped cream,” Sarah said.
The smiling waitress poured coffees. Her name tag said “Mary-Ann.”
“Aye. I always knew I’d love a Mary-Ann someday. But it’s hot tea I’m needing—not hot coffee, my dear Mary Ann.”
“With milk and sugar,” Sarah said.
Author’s note: This story did not win anything, but is included in the collection. I wrote this fiction piece as a brief glimpse into the glamorous world of private investigation, which in the movies is really exciting—but in real life involves a lot of waiting and waiting and waiting around.
Story judges are Stephen Rea and Ian McNulty.
Finn McCool’s Short Story Contest Entries 2010-2012, and Finn McCool’s Short Story Contest Entries 2013, are available for purchase at the pub:
Finn McCool’s Irish Pub
3701 Banks Street
New Orleans, LA 70119
Photo Credit: “coffee cup,” by sj