by Michael Rahhal

The casting assistant comes out of the room. Young, normal looking, she ignores us all. “Ben?” she asks. One of the basketball players stands up, bursting into action. He flashes his veneers, running a hand through his thick, black hair. “Let’s party!” he says. The assistant laughs, charmed. The rest of us in the penalty box continue to ignore each other. I go over my lines. I’m tired now.

“Michael?” I look up. I have no idea how much time has passed. There is only one other guy in the box now. I have forgotten all my lines. I stand and smile, following her into the room. Inside, a corpulent olive-skinned woman is sprawled on the couch, a pencil jutting from her hair, script in hand. Her fingernails are blood red, the ring fingers black. “Hi, okay, let’s get started. Slate please.” She seems tired, peering at me over the rim of expensive glasses. “Which scene are we starting with?” I ask. “Ummmm, we usually start with the scene marked ‘scene one’,” she replies. She and the assistant exchange a sidelong glance. The assistant giggles behind the camera.

I remember nothing at all now, not even why I am here. “Ha. Okay. Yeah.” I say. “Slate, please,” she repeats, with all the charm of a tollbooth operator. I say my name into the camera, mustering up as much joy and self-love as I can.

We start the scene. I am stiff, rigid, not really breathing. I look down at my hands and realize I’m holding them in claw shapes for some reason. I’m unable to release them. I’m yelling all the lines, doing this fake man voice, not blinking and then blinking too much. “Okay, I’m going to stop you,” the woman says after about 30 seconds. “You’re completely wrong for this. We’re looking for, like, HUGE guys. Like, six-five and over,” she says, her patience exhausted. “Yeah, I was wondering about that. I was the smallest guy out there.”

“Yep, I wanted to call you in anyway, because you were so highly recommended by your friend David.”

She says the words “highly recommended” like she’s describing an alcoholic relative. The rain gets loud again. “Well, I’m glad I got the opportunity to meet you,” I say, “thanks for calling me in.” She seems really tired. The assistant is engrossed in something on her left index fingernail. “Yep, no problem. Bye!” she says cheerfully. I leave the room.

Every arrow sign has been removed. I spend ten minutes looking for a bathroom, another five finding my way to the elevator. There’s no one anywhere. I can’t remember which door I came in. I find an exit, then the Diet Coke cans and the front door. Before I go outside, I stop and take a deep breath. I think about home, about my wife who will hug me and kiss me and laugh at my story. My dog, who will tackle me to the floor, rubber tail wagging madly while licking my face and head for ten minutes. I walk outside.

The rain has stopped.

This is the end of part two; catch up on part one here