My freshman year of high school, I had a single line in the school play. The play was The Music Man and my line came at the very end, as the children are assembled and playing their instruments for their very proud parents. I was to gesture to a nearby child and yell, “Davey! My Davey!” I really committed myself to the role of overwrought mother and always gestured to the same kid who always happened to be standing near me, much to his dismay. (Months later, I bumped into My Davey! at the dentist’s office with his real mom. I greeted him with my line, which I and his mother thought was hilarious. Davey, not so much.)
I’m reminded of this because I just started re-watching Xena: Warrior Princess. In season 1, episode 1, Xena comes home to a hostile reception (she was evil, remember) and a crowd of townspeople throw rocks at her while her mother lectures her about how terrible she is. It’s a horrific scene, really. And then there’s one guy, one extra in the crowd (or maybe more than one, but it sounds like the same guy to me), who does ALL the talking for the crowd. “We’ll never forget what you did!” and “Go away, Xena!” and the like. Then later after she’s won them all over, the same guy (I think) shouts out more positive things. “You can stand on my head, Xena!” (it makes sense in the episode, honest) and “Way to go, Xena!” etc.
It makes me wonder what was special about that guy that he got all the lines. Was he someone on set who just happened to be on the director’s good side that day? Or just a dude that the sound mixer knew? I don’t know how these things work, but I like to think someone pulled him aside one day and said, “Bill, you’ve really been doing great work with the unfriendly mob! Love that face you make, the sort of squinty frowny deal – yeah, that’s the one! Genius! How’d you like a line or two?”
This is all a very roundabout way of talking about a story I’m working on, about an extra on a TV show and her struggle to be both good at her job (ie, invisible) and worthy of a second glance (and upward mobility as an actor and the like). Mostly I wrote it because I wanted to talk about the cowboy she befriends, but I ended up liking her too.
That story, like so many others, sits ignored and untouched on my hard drive. I’ve been writing a fair bit lately, but not editing. Certainly not submitting. Naturally I have a list of excuses as long as my arm, but mostly it’s just laziness. It’s “I finished my chapbook and now I deserve to take a break for as long as I want and then a little longer just for good measure.” Some writer I am! But I’m going to get better about it. I’m going to submit some stories this summer.
I’m going to do it for Davey – he would want me to. I might constantly break promises to myself, but I would never break a promise to Davey. It’s on the internet, so you know it’s true!