Ka'shin balanced the paper plate and cup as best he could and weaved his way around the crowded tables to an empty seat at the far end. As he sat down, he realized why this seat was vacant; the sun's blistering heat nearly burned him through his clothing. He gave an involuntary flinch, spilling hot coffee onto his wrist and splattering a brown, abstract pattern on his white tunic.
Oh great, he mused, setting down the plate of burger and fries, the costume department will have a fit trying to get this stain out before the next shoot.
Uttering a resigned sigh he took a sip of coffee and glanced at the seated lunch crowd huddled around makeshift tables beneath the awning erected by the caterers. The din of voices sounded like crashing waves upon the shores as the cast and crew sought respite from the burden of shooting a movie in the middle of a desert. It was midday; yet despite the sweltering heat, sandy air and occasional invasion by lone bugs, everyone seemed to be calm and not particularly bothered.
Ka'shin was amused by seeing sharp dressed gangsters conversing with actors dressed in ancient Egyptian garb. To his left, a medieval Knight was discussing his scene with someone dressed as a horse. To his right an actor disguised as a dog was casually speaking to a little girl from the poor ghettos of 17th century London.
"Could you pass the salt?" cooed a voice. Ka'shin dumped salt onto his fries then handed the shaker to a red-haired woman seated across from him. As she turned, he noticed her lower half was that of an Emerald snake. She smiled a thanks then resumed her talk with a creature Ka'shin guessed must've been in one of those Alien scenes they were filming close by.
How did they ever get her into THAT snake costume, he wondered curiously.
He looked beyond the crowd at the sets rising from the desert floor. Construction crews were busy creating a huge palace for a undetermined time period. Where sand once filled this area now lush, green grass, palm trees, stone walkways and even a river were beginning to appear. It seemed so real he could actually smell the trees and refreshing dampness of water. Ka'shin was looking forward to his scene just so he could play within those wonderful sets.
"Yo, Ka'shin!" cried a voice behind him.
Ka'shin turned in his seat, burger poised in his mouth. He saw the reflective sunglasses of the Script Assistant gazing down at him. The man held a clipboard and conversed briefly into the phoneset draped loosely over his hairless head.
"There's been a change in schedule," the man reported. "The Directer wants you ready for scene 43 instead of 33. Scene 33's props aren't ready." Ka'shin grunted a reply and resumed his meal.
The man recorded something on his clipboard and departed.
Good, Ka'shin thought, that means I don't have to worry about getting the costume director upset. Scene 43 requires a different garb.
In the din above the crowd he glimpsed a woman standing at the caterer's window to receive her lunch. As she turned, Ka'shin tensed. It was the Production Designer...
She stood for a few moments surveying the crowd. Ka'shin watched in horror as the slender woman dressed in a white tee shirt and faded blue jeans navigated the crowded tables. The cast clearly shrunk back and watched her in dismay as she passed.
Oh, no, she's heading this way! Ka'shin realized. He looked for an escape but all the seats were occupied except the one directly across from him. He tried to shrink down, hoping not to be noticed. No such luck. He saw her sunglasses transfix upon the vacancy and knew what was to follow.
The Production Designer reached her goal and set her food down. Even the snake woman scooted her chair a few inches away.
The Production Designer sat, turned towards the snake woman and dropped her sunglasses low on the bridge of her nose. From over the rim of her sunglasses she gave the woman a long, purposeful look. "Oh, you're a piece of work," she commented sarcastically.
That said, she pushed her glasses back up and studied Ka'shin briefly. "Hi. I'm Nekhebet, your ever loving, ever hated Production Designer." Her ruby lips formed an ironic smirk.
"Ka'shin," he croaked in a tense voice.
Nekhebet brushed back her shoulder length white hair. "For an actor dressed up as some Mongolian clone of Ghengis Khan, you certainly could use a lesson in vocalization," she noted. "You might try speaking as if you're in command of loyal subjects instead of trying out as a frog in a beer commercial."
Ouch! That hurt, Ka'shin mused, feeling his confidence shrink in the presence of this White Haired Witch. Why did fate curse him by bringing her here? He suddenly lost his appetite.
Nekhebet ate her salad. She watched him and he noticed her studying his fries and half eaten burger. Disgust was etched in her youthful face.
"Would you like these?" he asked awkwardly, indicating the fries. Nekhebet offered a thin smile. "If you keep eating that stuff, I'll have to build more sets because you won't fit the scenes. That means more work for me and more changes of wardrobe for you," she noted coldly. "Haven't you figured it out?"
He didn't know what to say and the awkward silence was broken by an assistant who appeared by Nekhebet's side.
"What is it, Nadis?" she inquired in an edgy tone, not bothering to look up.
The assistant cleared his throat, glanced at Ka'shin and placed the clipboard on the table. "The final approval for Scene 43," he reported.
Nekhebet took a pen clipped to the sleeve of her shirt and scrawled her name to the paper. The assistant thanked her and quickly departed, nearly dropping the clipboard in his haste.
Ka'shin cleared his throat. She looked coolly to him, waiting.
"I, umm..." he searched for the words and courage to speak.
"Well, don't be shy," she taunted. "You're wondering about scene 43, aren't you?"
Ka'shin nodded. "I was to play the Barbarian King; now I'm a French Cook. Why the change?"
She studied him for a long time, her face expressionless, her sunglasses distorting his reflected image. Finally Nekhebet took a long drink of bottled water.
"What is scripted and what scenes are actually shot are two different events," she replied, her tone having lost some of its edge. "It is my responsibility to make sure all scenes fit the character according to the Director's wish." She slid the glasses down the bridge of her nose, cast a long look at the greasy mound of starch smeared with vinegar and catsup then watched him with those cutting blue eyes, daring him to rebuff her decision.
Ka'shin felt uncomfortable being the center of her attention. Her stare seemed to look deep into his Being and understand everything about him. He averted his eyes.
Nekhebet realized he wasn't going to challenge her, slid the glasses back, and resumed her lunch.
Ka'shin looked beyond at the sets. Now the barbarian's palace was being replaced by a mid- Seventeenth Century French village. Workers hurried over scaffolding, cranes were lifting heavy stones, trucks delivered wood and supplies, walls were being erected, trees planted, shrubs plopped along a cobblestone road. Several camera booms were positioned, tracks laid for dollies, extra lights and reflectors. Production Assistants were prowling the set, conversing into microphoned headsets, recording on clip boards, shouting commands and waving arms.
"I'm reminding you like I remind everybody else," Nekhebet's edgy voice brought him back. "I see the glitter in your eyes and know what all you actors think, 'Oh, such a pretty set; I love it!'" she whined. "Don't you DARE get caught up in the scene!"
Her tone was so sharp it startled him.
"What do you mean?" he ased.
Nekhebet uttered a disgruntled sigh and scowled. It was obvious to him she showed little tolerance for his lack of understanding...
"Every time it's the same thing," she replied impatiently. "You actors are reluctant to go into a scene; but once in, you begin to enjoy the play. Naturally you get into your roles; but there comes a time when you forget you're only in a scene. Then, when the play's over and you must leave, you get all angry and frightened. So ...," she paused, taking a deep breath and leaning forward until she was inches away from him. Ka'shin saw his distorted reflection in her mirrored sunglasses. "The Director gets impatient and sends me in to end this charade. I appear and you curse and run from me, calling me all kinds of names, kicking and screaming. I'l1 tell you, it HURTS! Especially that name...the Grim Reaper!" Her voice quivered and was edged in pain. "Do I look grim to you?!" she snapped, leaning back and gesturing with her arms.
Ka'shin's eyes went wide. He was very aware of others staring at them; mouth aghast.
She bit her lower lip, catching herself. Her mirrored sunglasses continued to hold his distorted reflection. "I may be the WhiteWitch to some of you, but I'm the Production Designer and have responsibilities!"
The tension lingered. She uttered a heavy sigh, nibbling on her salad, collecting her thoughts. "I have Nadis, Praktis and Devas working around the clock to have your scenes ready for the dailies," she eventually added.
Nekhebet took a drink of bottled water and Ka'shin could see that her hands were shaking.
As she continued, her voice became edgy and controlled like a surgeon's blade. "I create the scenes according to your Director's wish; I watch you perform with such conviction you forget who you are! Why can't you just leave the play when it's done? Why must I always be called upon to bring you out?!"
Nekhebet leveled her stare at him as if demanding an answer. Ka'shin felt utterly paralyzed; his mind trying to think of something to say while his tongue worked nervously inside his mouth.
Others, sensing Nekhebet's disquieting demeanor scooted their chairs away.
"Why can't you appreciate my overworked, underpaid, high-stress job for once? she asked, irritated. "Give me SOME respect; you'll be surprised how NICE I really can be!"
Her voice trailed away. Ka'shin shifted awkwardly in his chair and looked beyond to the scenes being built. The uncomfortable silence lingered.
Nekhebet finished her lunch, sullen and tense.
I ... didn't ..." Ka'shin eventually stuttered, as if awaking from a stupor.
She raised her hand, interrupting him. Nekhebet cocked her head to one side, listening to the message in her headset.
Ka'shin sat quietly as the woman concentrated on the speaker at the other end. Finally she looked up, lowered her glasses and watched him indifferently.
"Your scene is ready," she reported, her voice cool and calm. "You're wanted in wardrobe. The Director expects you to be on the set in 30 minutes."
She paused, studying him with those intense eyes. "Try not to blow it this time, Ka'shin. Remember who you are; it'll make my job easier." For the first time her edgy voice was calm and supportive.
He watched Nekhebet push her sunglasses to her eyes, stand and turn to leave. He noticed something written on the back of her white tee-shirt. Squinting against the glaring sunlight Ka'shin read the bold, black letters.
REMEMBER, SCENES ARE BUT A TEMPORARY LIFE...
Dresden Liam Moss, L.Ac., M.Ac.O.M. is a Teja Energetic Practitioner. He is trained in both Western & Eastern Medicine and has been involved in the healing arts for 20 years. He is a visionary artist, writer, musician and walks the spiritual path of Green Tara. He is part of a multi-disciplinary medical group called Nu-Life Spinal & Rehab Center in Battle Ground, WA. Office: (360) 687-5163. VM (360) 418-392