Lise Quintana is the editor in chief of Lunch Ticket, has been married four times, and can kill, pluck and
dress a chicken in under five minutes....read more Her work has appeared in journals such as The Weekenders;
Children, Churches & Daddies; The Rambler; and Willow Review. She does not idle well.
Keres stepped to the edge of the stage, peering out at the six men seated there.
“Who let this guy in?” The tall one in the black t-shirt yelled, looking past Keres at the other men downstage who were busy carrying cables and putting bits of tape on things. “Sorry, Mac, but we're not looking for some kind of big, scary Dickensian character here. We're looking for a chick.” Black T-shirt Man sat back in his chair and began examining a piece of paper in front of him, which Keres knew was producer for “you're dismissed.”
But Keres stayed at the edge of the stage and carefully took off the six-foot, leathery bat wings and the black robe, revealing a low-cut, knee length red silk dress over a pinup figure. The hands flexed, becoming thinner and more graceful, then slid through the hair, pulling it out from the head in cascades that now fell to the shoulders and went from jet black to blonde instantly. The slim hands massaged the face, leaving jutting cheekbones, full lips, big, blue eyes with eyelashes that could be seen from the cheap seats.
“That was good!” Yelled the short, bald man seated to Black T-shirt Man's right. “But I don't think we're looking for your type.”
“What type are you looking for?” Keres asked.
“We were thinking someone a little older. I'm thinking comfort, I'm thinking soothing, I'm thinking reassurance. You guys?” Short Bald Man looked up and down the table for agreement, and several of the other heads nodded.
Keres pulled the hair out longer, then twisted the longer hair into a tight bun at the back of the head. Running one slim hand over the hair, it went from golden blonde to iron gray. Keres put a hand to the high, full breasts and pushed up and out, increasing them from voluptuous to matronly. The hands performed the same trick on the hips, and with a hand-washing motion, the hands themselves became gnarled and spotted. The ancient hands smoothed the dress, which went from red silk to faded blue gingham. A twist of the ankles and the legs swelled up into the shoes which had become sturdy brogans.
“Is this closer?” Keres asked.
“Could you say the line?” Short Bald Man asked.
“Come, if you're coming,” Keres said, staring intently him. Short Bald Man nodded, looking suddenly quiet.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“I don't know,” said an older man to the right of Short Bald Man. “I was picturing someone a little more ethnic.”
...read more (2/3)
Keres raised a hand to the eyes, pulling down the inner corners into a fold. The breasts were pushed back in, the buttocks deflated, the stomach shrunk out of sight. One hand pushed the face in, flattening out the cheekbones, then a single finger stroked the length of the nose, smoothing it out as well. Lastly, one hand went to the top of the head, pushing it down and shortening the whole figure by nearly a foot.
“Come if you're coming,” Keres said to Older Man, who nodded, smiling to himself.
“No, no, no!” said an angry-looking man at the other end of the table. “We're not going ethnic. There's nothing in the script that calls for Asian.”
“Then there's nothing in the script that says that we can't use it, is there?” asked the dark, bald man to his right.
“Let's not go there,” Black T-Shirt Man said. “Let's focus on the matter at hand. What did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking of some kind of hint of female shape, but wraithlike. Something kind of spooky and spectral.”
Keres reached over and pulled the back of the dress collar, bringing a hood of gauzy, tattered black over the face. A brush, and ragged black sleeves extended past the tips of the outstretched fingers. With a few wipes of the hand, the dress became black gauze and the body was only a suggestion under it. Keres pointed one bony, spectral finger at the angry man and whispered in a hoarse voice, “Come if you're coming.” Angry Man shuddered visibly.
“That's WAY more scary than we're looking for,” said a fat guy sitting left of Black T-Shirt Man. “Listen, the script clearly calls for someone comforting, but I think that there's a nice middle ground between a harpy,” (at this, Keres bristled just a bit) “and Aunt Bea. I think that we should have something closer to the first look. A beautiful woman, but not too sexy. Something like an angel – so, light sexy.”
Even before he was done speaking, Keres stood before them in a white robe instead of black. The hair was blonde again and unbound, floating weightless around a face with flawless skin and blue, blue eyes.
“Come, if you're coming,” Keres said, extending a hand invitingly.
“See? That's what I'm talking about!” Fat Guy said, although he looked uncomfortable and couldn't look back at Keres.
“Why can't it be a man?” Dark Bald Man said. “I just want to know what's wrong with it being a man?”
...read more (3/3)
“The script said it was a woman,” Black T-Shirt Man countered, as though they'd been having this discussion forever.
“So? To hell with the script! Throw it out. I want to see a guy! I want to see that guy we saw at the beginning!”
Keres turned and picked up the discarded robes and wings and, without any visible fumbling, put them back on. The robes hung as though a much more powerful, shoulder-heavy person were under them, and the face, after a brief rub with now-stubby fingers, was masculine again.
“Just look at that,” Dark Bald Man said. “Just take a minute to appreciate the artistry in that statement.”
“It's trite!” Black T-shirt Man said.
“It's not trite. It's classic. Classics are classics because they stand the test of time, and this stands the test of time.”
“Only if you're one of those idiots who love B movies,” Black T-shirt Man said, rolling his eyes in a way that was visible from the stage.
“Come if you're coming,” Keres said, doubtful that anyone heard. Dark Bald Man looked over and nodded.
“I'm not happy with any of these,” Black T-shirt Man said. “I think that it should be a concept, rather than an actor. I think that we should have something like a couple of doves or a sheet of shimmery fabric or just a disembodied voice coming from overhead.”
“COME IF YOU'RE COMING,” Keres' natural voice boomed at the men, coming from all sides of them at once, even though Keres had left the stage.
Outside, Thanatos waited on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette.
“You get 'em?” he asked, offering the pack to Keres, who waved it away with one taloned hand.
“Yeah. I got 'em. Honestly, I don't know which is going to make them more mad – the fact that their awful play will never see the light of day, or the fact that they didn't recognize the waitress at lunch as the woman they passed over for the lead in their last flop. It's never a good idea to piss off the person who's serving your food.”