And so it went, days of fun among dedicated artists and mysterious, glamorous women with Czech accents, getting to dress up “funny” and be someone else—an ideal situation for me, since I have always believed life was too short to be just one person.
The work days were long, it was unseasonably cold throughout my part of the filming and I got stiff in the joints from climbing in and out of vans, but I loved it.
I am bitten by the acting bug and eager to appear in another picture, perhaps playing an old army sergeant brought out of the nursing home to whip a batch of recruits into shape for one last assault on a fortified position.
People are always coming up to me and asking me what I do. I owe them nothing and never tell the truth, which is that I am a retired bicycle repairman. Instead, I claim to be a Methodist bishop, or the inventor of Styrofoam, or an opera singer who lost his voice to polyps on the vocal chords.
All that is in the past. From now on, when I am asked what I do, I will remove my black velvet trilby, throw my cape back over my shoulder and say, “I am a tragedian!”
John Fergus Ryan, “My Dramatic Début” OA12
They are mermaids. They’re also extremely hard-working hourly employees of the State of Florida. The state publishes its employees’ wages online; it was easy to discover that one of the senior mermaids makes thirteen dollars an hour, and none of them receives benefits. They work long days, responsible for training newer mermaids, running various mermaid camps, scrubbing the algae, which they call “scrunge,” off the spring-side of the windows, making sure the theater is clean and the costumes are in order, ensuring the other performers’ safety, choreographing routines, and directing the shows and in-water practices from a little podlike booth off the theater. They get to dolphin-kick and smile and make pretty shapes with their bodies underwater, but the rest of the time it’s a job, and it’s a job that requires freezing in icy water multiple times a day. It’s far more difficult than it looks. Their magic is in making it all look easy…
Check out Anne Conway Jennings’ moody photos of “a place that lingers between worlds both mythic and real” in the latest Eyes on the South.
I peered through one of its windows and saw Tom Marek, the longtime director of West EMS, slumped in a plush recliner in front of a flickering TV. I knocked, but there was no response, so I knocked again. Nothing. I cracked the door, but he didn’t move. “Hi, Tom?” I said. Marek looked completely zonked out, his head tipped back and his mouth drooping open beneath a bristly mustache. “Tom?” I said, louder. He didn’t move. I wondered if he was dead, and then I wondered if he was faking—maybe this was his version of passive resistance to press intrusion. He looked like a parody of a man asleep. I stood there for a minute, maybe two, wondering whether it was appropriate to touch his arm. I decided that it was not. Finally, I got in my car and drove back to Waco, where I had dinner alone in a mediocre Thai restaurant and thought about heroes. “It’s my birthday,” I told the server, who looked at me like she thought I might be lying.
Rachel Monroe, “Fire Behavior" OA84
A few of the other girls—white girls—and I find Mason in the bathroom and throw crumpled pieces of paper over the stall door. The same white girls write “Mrs. Mason Griggs” in newly mastered cursive in their notebooks. They whisper to me about their crushes on Mason, call him “cute,” with his mop of dark hair and tawny skin. To the white girls, I am safe, invisible. I listen dutifully, feeling smug inside because, while any one of them may well become Mrs. Mason Griggs, none of them will ever be his baby.
Read the rest of Emily Bernard’s essay about the effect of silence in the classroom, from our Education Issue.