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"Continuity Girl" by Jesse Hilson

Suzanne, the first continuity girl on the werewolf picture, got fired for stealing from the makeup department and Dawn Turbot stepped into her spot after a little training but without much ceremony. Then the whole production shut down for two weeks because the main actor Trek Swanson, who got the nickname “Star Trek,” had to go dry out in Arizona. Dawn mainly hung out at the hotel in the Catskills where the movie was being shot, and got loaded.


The movie was called Lycans Lust, it was written and directed by Ted Runciter, and it was funded by Italians, so Dawn was told during that two week shut down that if anybody Italian-looking came around to keep her head down. “Like Euro Italian, not Sopranos Italian,” they said around the pool. Dawn wasn’t sure she’d be able to tell the difference. She hung around the pool on sunny days with grips and audio people. She heard all kinds of lore about indie film shoots but didn’t know how much to believe because she didn’t trust them. They all seemed like borderline porn laborers, or what she imagined those people would be like. They all seemed shallow and secretive. Like drug addicts.


They loved to talk about serial killer dramas they’d worked on. “We were inside the mind of a monster,” Dale Cranko said, loudly, to Dawn laying out in her jokey two piece bikini with the princess from Super Mario Bros repeated like a cute lattice across her erogenous zones. Dale Cranko, the mic handler, was leaning in too close to where she laid, too close for his loud voice to be merited. Cranko had a harmonica on him at all times that he kept in a special pouch around his neck but never played it. Dawn just nodded at him and concealed her eye rolls behind her rose Shady Ray sunglasses that she got for $40 at the mall.


They were drinking local Catskill IPAs from Left Fauna Brewery. Octopoid Drummer was Dawn’s favorite. It went well with the baskets of peanuts and Cheez-Its she scarfed down in the hotel bar. It was popular with the film crew so she thought she’d take on their coloration by adopting their schwill. Adapt and survive. She would never drink anything like that if it weren’t for this job. It was the kind of beer her brother Noah would drink. He was in Eureka City having surreal adventures with his photographer friends. He’d gotten stung by dozens of bees at a photo shoot gone wrong where the model had to be airlifted to Albany and was said to have no future doing modeling again, the stings were so tragic.


Lycans Lust was a great script, but there were some problems, they whispered. It was full of human-to-werewolf transformations, so required a lot of continuity work, hence the frustration of Suzanne. She must have suffered a complete mental breakdown and lashed out by stealing eyeliner and mascara from the makeup room, which was a suite at the hotel converted for the film production.


Dawn got the job because there was a need to replace Suzanne in a hurry and she happened to be in the right place at the right time. She swore it was not engineered but no one on the crew seemed to believe her when she protested it was just fate. Teddy Runciter met her at trivia night in the hotel bar. Dawn was running the table on TV show trivia, Family Ties, and she won a big pot ($523) on an obscure episode where Alex P. Keaton took his pants off at an Orange Julius at a mall in Akron, Ohio. He got arrested and his dad had to bail him out and there were some laughs. As Dawn sat at the bar counting her money, Runciter, a big mountain of a man with a neck beard that looked lycanthropy itself struck up a conversation.


“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “Are you from around here?”


She looked at him. He looked like a guy who the fates had reached down into the crowd at a comic con and plucked up and put down in a director’s chair surrounded by B-movie hoes. “I’m from around.”


“What brings you to the hotel?”


She held up the wad of cash. “I always go to trivia night but never won any money. I’ll be able to pay the rent this month.”


“With $500?”


“You got it.”


“Do you live in a shed?” He thought he was being slick. He took a dainty swig from his Octopoid Drummer. He had been misled that women found him charming, on many occasions the wrong lessons had been learned and it was Dawn’s turn to be caught up in them. Still, he was a director making a movie in the sticks and she was a sticks girl.


“I rent a house.”


“For $500? I need to meet your landlord, I might want to get a place up here. Brooklyn is crazy expensive.” He looked around at the crowd of hicksters, hipsters taking on redneck gear and redneck customs. “This hotel is dead. You like horror movies?”


She got up to head out onto the hotel balcony outside the bar and Runciter followed. People lounged and smoked on the balcony in sexy pockets of chatter. It was night out and bugs wheeled around the streetlamps that had been installed with the disaster money that had flowed into the town after the flooding in 2011. The balcony looked out over the Main Street of the small town, and hipsters from the film crew or other quadrants of the summer arts economy staggered like zombies up and down the sidewalk in the white light.


“I watched my share as a teenager,” Dawn said. “That’s kind of the age for horror movies it seems.”


“Nonsense.”


“Oh, elevated horror? It’s just arrested development in anybody over 20 years old.”


“Those arrested development people have a lot of disposable income for entertainment. I could show you some charts that would make your eyeballs pop out of your head.”


“I bet you could. People like to pay to watch people turn into werewolves?”


“It speaks to the animal inside. Letting it have its beautiful due. Gotta let the monster out from time to time.” Dawn guessed that Teddy Runciter was a premature ejaculator from way way back.


“How’d you like to make some more rent money?” He leaned against the wooden railing and she worried it would break and send him plummeting to the sidewalk below.


“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“Nothing bad. We could use some people to work on the movie. We’re short-staffed currently. We get a break on permits from the town if we hire a certain quota of locals.”


“So this is for you.”


He looked out over the night life like he was James Bond at Monte Carlo before turning to look back at her. “I always find the best arrangements are mutually beneficial, don’t you?”


“What do I have to do?”


“First you have to pass a test,” he said.


***


The test was watching movies. In Runciter’s suite. On a DVD player attached to a large plasma screen hanging on the wall that Dawn guessed had been brought in by Runciter for the production. The room looked lived in, like a collegiate newspaper’s HQ, the Harvard Lampoon’s offices during its most spiraling days, and like many of the crew traipsed in and out all the time. Dirty dishes and empty bottles of Octopoid Drummer were on most horizontal surfaces.


Dawn wasn’t alone with Runciter. They were periodically joined by a woman wearing chunky black jewelry who just introduced herself as “the costume lady.” The Costume Lady was shady. She came and went on a cycle that seemed drug fueled.


Dawn watched movies from approximately 10 pm until dawn. They smoked bowls of killer weed and nobody from the hotel seemed to mind the heavy odor creeping through the hallways. She was told to look for continuity errors. She watched Jacob’s large tattoo in Twilight Saga: New Moon travel around his shoulder (they had to start off with another werewolf movie). In the Wizard of Oz Dawn spotted that the Tin Man’s rusty joints needing oil didn’t make sense because tin doesn’t rust. “She’s very good,” the Costume Lady said, blowing her nose on a greasy paper bag that had contained a submarine sandwich. Also Dorothy’s hair length changed several times without the proper motivation. They watched all of Blade Runner until Dawn easily noticed that Roy Batty gave his famous tears in rain speech in a downpour that unaccountably cut away to become a blue sky for the pigeon to fly away in. A cobra looked at its reflection in a poorly hidden pane of glass in the Well of Souls as Harrison Ford grimaced in fear. Macaulay Culkin purchased a box of Tide detergent at the grocery store in Home Alone only for it to vanish when his bags broke later.


As soon as she raised her hand to point out the gaffe they stopped the movie and went on to the next one. Movie after movie. Finally, the toughest exam of all happened as the sun was rising and they put in Alain Resnais’ Last Year in Marienbad. It was like pushing an innocent child through a continuity minefield. Dawn was given a notebook and tried to write down all the costume changes while the Costume Lady studied her like she were trying to parallel park during a driving exam. When the movie was over, the two filmmakers quizzed Dawn on the movie.


She rubbed her eyes, needing sleep. “It was a boring mess and nothing added up,” she said.


The Costume Lady looked at Runciter who over the ordeal had gotten more and more horizontal with bags of Doritos all around him. “She’s ready. Hire her.” The Costume Lady then got up and left the room, seemingly still full of otherworldly energy.


Dawn started a few days later but then Trek’s shut down happened. She was given a rough cut of the footage shot so far and kept an eye out for her predecessor Suzanne’s handiwork. The major continuity issues seemed to be cigarette ashes. Runciter’s insistence on many takes—that’s how Kubrick worked, after all—meant cigarettes were always lit and going in the shot, and never the same length of ash: the rough cut had ashes in Trek’s fingertips miraculously growing outward, contrary to linear cinematic time, like a blooming hollyhock seen in time lapse photography.


________


Jesse Hilson lives and works in the Catskills in New York State. His work, which includes fiction, poetry, art, comics, essays, and book reviews, has been or will be published at Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, Expat Press, Hobart, Misery Tourism, Excuse Me Mag, Pink Plastic House, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Exacting Clam, and elsewhere, including several appearances on L’étranger, Radio Panik 105.4 (Brussels). He has written two novels: Blood Trip (Close to the Bone UK) and The Tattletales (Prism Thread), and a poetry chapbook, Handcuffing the Venus De Milo (Bullshit Lit). In 2024 Anxiety Press is slated to publish a short story collection, She Took Her Half Out the Middle.


Jesse Hilson is @platelet60 and @platelet60

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