Off Center In The Attic - Short Stories
Constance Faring was the most dynamic actress to make the Hollywood scene in decades. Her old-fashioned name alone suggested a lot of class and she had it all, including long, straight glistening brunette tresses. When it came to acting, she was not only blessed with a sense of humor but could play anyone from regal matriarch to prostitute.
Then along came Arlo Denny, a new breed of director, who angered Hollywood's elite while trampling his way to the top. He insisted on being referred to as The Denny. Underneath the personality façade, he was something of a wimp with a passion for playing cruel jokes to compensate. Although new to film directing, his first major effort became a mega-hit and garnered him an Oscar. Too sure of himself, his joking oftentimes lurched way out of control. He was on a roll and thought his sense of humor untouchable.
The Denny cast Constance in a short role of a woman who gets killed off. While Constance had proven she could play a variety of roles, she wasn't fond dying off early. The story was based around a funeral. Constance disliked the plot from the beginning but it was three months before her next film would begin shooting. Her agent suggested she take the part in Denny's film to have her name associated with this hot Hollywood mogul. It would take only six weeks to shoot.
“And by the way,” her agent said. “Watch out for a guy named Barnard who works on Denny's crew. The two of them together could ignite.”
So Constance's character died off, but Constance didn't disappear from the set. In fact, she had to lie perfectly still in the coffin for the duration of most of the rest of the scenes. That meant filming an endless number of scenes and angles as other actors and actresses played out their parts. Most of the film was to be shot around her lying in the coffin.
Part of the wimp director's repertoire of sic humor was playing jokes on set. Of course, where else? Everyone talked about retribution, but heaven forbid if someone out-did his antics. What kind of get even pranks might the demented director pull while trying to best everyone?
Barnard was a cameraman and insisted his name be pronounced Ber-nerd, plus he thought The Denny was way cool. Barnard had a dry sense of humor and tried to emulate The Denny. Unlike The Denny, who would laugh and dance around after pulling off some shenanigans, Barnard could pull off a joke with the straightest of faces and never so much as smile when people finally caught on. He might have been the best actor on the lot.
Filming a night scene called for the coffin lid being closed. No problem with Constance. In acting, she would rise to the cause for the sake of the film. After making sure she would be okay in a closed coffin—Constance joked that she would catch a catnap—down came the set lights and down came the cushioned lid close to her nose.
Constance could hear and understand the action happening on the set. While making changes and repositioning people and generally not being able to make up his mind, The Denny called a lunch break. He convinced everyone not to tell Constance for a while, but she had heard. Who knew that sound could reach the inside of a closed coffin? The dead never told.
“You coming?” a voice yelled from across the set. It was the voice of Gina Greg, the producer.
“I'll be right there.” The Denny's voice sounded close by where Constance lay.
Someone snapped one of the hinges on the coffin lid. She wouldn't be able to get out! She heard The Denny chuckling to himself and imagined him slinking away.
Constance knew what The Denny had done and why. She wasn't dead. She listened as people left the set. Lunch would be only half an hour, less if everyone wolfed the fare from the lunch wagon before it hit their taste buds. As she lay in total darkness, she realized that idiot comedian of a director meant to leave her there through the entire lunch period. Well, she was would give him a surprise.
Feeling around in the dark, she rubbed her eyes with her fingertips to smear the heavy eye shadow and mascara together. She hoped her eyes would look like two blackened holes. With layers of powder on her skin to make her look pallid, her eyes would look sunken, empty, and ghoulish. She rubbed some of the dark mascara across her two front teeth to hide them. She smeared her painted lips larger than actual size and dribbled some down the corner of her mouth hoping to make it look like oozing blood. She managed to get her hands up behind her head and took down her fancy hairdo and draped some locks over her face. Then for one final touch.
She touched her fingertips in the lipstick and scraped them down the white satin inside the coffin lid hoping the marks would look like blood, as if she tried to claw her way out of the coffin. Anyone seeing her in the dimmed lights of the night scene might think she had been buried alive.
Soon, excited and accusatory voices burst onto the set.
“It was your idea to break suddenly for lunch,” Gina was saying. “You open the coffin.”
“I can't,” The Denny said. “If something's happened to her, I won't be able to live with myself.” He didn't sound that convincing.
“Open it now,” another person said.
“She said she'd take a nap,” The Denny said.
“No one naps in a coffin.”
“If anything's happened to her, it'll ruin the shoot. Get the cameras on this. I want this all documented.”
“Just open the damned thing!”
Constance heard the cameras being rolled across the set. Bernard would zoom in for a great close-up. She was prepared to make a scene they probably wouldn't expect from her.
Slowly, the lid began to open. Constance didn't wait. She threw back the lid and sat up fast and was right up in The Denny's face. She lunged for his neck and gurgled like a vampire about to suck a blood meal.
Everyone jumped backwards. Gina understood the joke and she and everyone else began to howl.
The Denny fainted.