ON LOCATION by Corey Miller

Actor Wanted

I’m sitting on the 22” x 14” x 9” life I just purchased, about to board in Blueberry Maine. Stickers of “Fragile” and “Contents Known To Cause Cancer In The State Of California,” label what’s left of me: clothes, a deck of cards, spare change, and my photo album.

Every American has been to the Salty Dog Café and wears this damn shirt you bought me to blend in. The train brings an oily coal in the air. My mind returns to working the factory. I can see the machine press opening then crushing, waiting for me to stick my head in. I’ve got nothing left here so I’m coming for you. I drag my life aboard, planning to use the cards to make money for stamps. I no longer have a return address. 

Supporting Character in a Dark Comedy

Boston has history like a marriage. Signed documents humans fuck up. I’m Robert Smith with The Cure, dancing in circles over the sea. The ocean looks as clear as gin on the rocks with spruce trees as straws – just like heaven. 

I saw you on TV once, in the background. Some sitcom; you were drinking beer and touching his arm. Were you directed to? 

The woman across the aisle orders a cocktail from the cart and tightens her lips in an unsolicited smile. She’s given one of those baby bottles of liquor. It’s hardly a gulp and she only adds half the vial as if the chemistry is off and might explode. I turn to the window to see what state I’m in now. 

Previous Experience Not Needed

Kentucky smells like limestone and horse shit. I see the rickhouses along the tracks, like prisons for bourbon barrels. If we stopped I would help them escape, scratch the oak until splinters inject the sweetness into my bloodstream. The devil’s cut for my angel’s share. 

My parents used to throw parties all the time when I was a child. They would pass out all around the house. There was always someone in my bed so I’d clean up to make them happy. The glasses were half full, I didn’t want to dump it all down the drain.

Worn-Out Male 30-40

We rattle through Misery. I close my eyes from the other passengers. I smell of horseradish, pungent and stinging. The passengers haven’t seen the films that reel on the back of my eyelids. That’s us, you say. That’s me pursuing my acting dream and that’s you finally getting to see the world. You’re the American in Paris. If I could dance like Gene Kelly, I’d spin out of this dream sequence.  

It’s getting hotter the further southwest we go. Filming on location and these costume changes have me working up a sweat. The woman across the aisle buys another cocktail today. I stare at the half gulp not added and want to cough for her attention.

The cart comes back around and she throws out the ounce of liquor remaining. I follow the garbage bag until it’s left unattended and dig through it. In my hands the bottle seems to grow. It’s now the size of a guitar. I slide my fingers down the strings over the frets. I want to return home and stop exploring this foreign world. I’m not sure if this is the former character or the upcoming role I want to play. Surrendering to a drop of liquid, it fixes me—my little pickup. 

Must Be Willing To Change Appearance

I write down a monologue to audition for you. I sing it out loud, born to play the part. The passengers mumble the back-up vocals. The scene has ended for my character. 

I study the farthest landscape I’ve ever reached. It’s all turquoise and dirt. Now that’s the real us. Why can’t we become a new person whenever we want? A lonely factory worker struggling with disease one day, a hero ready to change the next. A snake willing to shed its skin. 

I rent a car and start down a new path. What’s a Ford Fusion fusing together? Probably two things that don’t fit naturally. The vehicle stops in Arizona to see what’s so grand. I yell out to hear someone comfort me. This could be my home with the hills struggling upwards then hitting rock bottom.

Traffic in Los Angeles is a standstill. My first shower in days washes away the old me. I put on a suit to get into character. I’ve rehearsed this a hundred times. Just stick to the script. 

I see you on set, my eyes a camera out of focus. I hear your voice, the dreams I had during fights I slept through. This pilot looks promising, like it could run for seasons.

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