[ When I don’t set them in OZ, I set them in some place from the land of magic realism or New York. Here’s how Sophie rolls when she finds herself on a supposed-to-be three day location shoot.]
It isn’t any old Monday a girl from Herb’s Deli and Diner gets to dress in white silk and lace, ready to be photographed for a Belleview Magazine October Issue. With shiny hair the colour of butterscotch, and eyes the blue of a fair-sailing sky, Sophie looked like a lot of fun. She stood with her hands on her hips and a tilt to her head that proclaimed sassy , as she observed the black satin, and charcoal leather clad Italian model who, no matter what she did , couldn’t please the overthinking stylist. The Italian, Vincenzia, was flushing a deep rose colour, and her jaw was clenched tight. The fussing of the stylist, Bree, was causing the photographer, Stuart, to feel the need to rummage in his equipment bag a lot. From where Sophie stood she thought his mouth movements looked like he was cursing. Yeah. Really colourful too.
Three hours before, Sophie had been released from the makeup chair and she was feeling hollow. She could smell, and imagined she could taste a spicy hot dog with roasted onions and mustard sauce. Her nostrils flared, and her stomach growled, as the nearby food van issued savoury vapours. She changed position and tried to concentrate. The person she felt sorriest for was her cousin Rada, the fashion editor’s assistant for Belleview Magazine. She had appeared half an hour before to find out why the shoot was running three hours behind.
Stuart was complaining to Rada, “ We’re meant to get these particular flower bed shots. By the time we’re ready the light will be all wrong.”
Bree seemed to be dictating a book about about which riding crop Vincenzia should use in the next shot. Should it be the one with the gold handle, or the one with the bronze studded handle? The third model, Brent, a pale lean man with wavy auburn appeared to have given up and sat in a black director’s chair with his eyes and his fingers glued to his phone.
I hope he’s not texting his agent blaming Rada for this debacle, Sophie thought.
Another cloud of delicious savouriness drifted between the trees. Sophie’s stomach groaned like an unoiled door. Anyone could tell I’m not a real model, Sophie thought, as she studied the fake tan on her shapely calves. They did a good job of that, nice and even. Just the way I’d like my mustard sauce, a nice coating all over the dog. Two hotdogs would be awesome, one with the all important mustard and onions, the second one with chutney.
Saliva pooled under her tongue. She shook her head, doing her best to focus on how great she’d looked when she inspected herself in the mirror after makeup and wardrobe had pronounced her ready.
Rada appeared in front of her, “Sophie, you’ll need to pop back into the trailer and get out of that dress for me. Leave it with Michelle so she can steam press it again. “
Ten minutes later Sophie, clad in a beige uplift teddy and a voluminous black satin robe patterned in cherry blossom, was seated on a bench by a spreading Oak sinking her teeth into a chutney topped hotdog. Vincenzia and Brent stared at her. Rada and Bree were having words behind the trailer. The breeze carried the phrase, “stick with what we discussed,” despite Sophie trying to tune them out. Stuart was consoling himself with the thought that every passing minute netted him $4. That particular flower bed was now in shadow.
Sophie noticed Vincenzia was still watching her, while Brent had turned his back on her. She wondered if it was to show disgust, or was he concerned about shading his fair complexion?
Hopefully they’re both Vegans, she smiled to herself.
Vincenza’s eyes widened as she looked over Sophie’s head.
Right, Sophie thought, strawberry Ice cream after this. On camera she was meant to be the angel to complement Vincenzia’s demon, and Brent’s vampire for the Halloween-themed shoot. Too bad.
Sophie felt the presence of someone standing behind the bench. She turned and saw Stuart who nodded to her, and bit into a large bratwurst.
Rada was now making her way towards Sophie and Stuart. Bree was walking away in the opposite direction towards Central Park West. Vincenzia threw up her hands and stomped towards the food van.
Sophie watched as she gestured, seeming to take ages to order from the vendor. Her Italian accent was audible, but Sophie couldn’t quite understand the words. Soon after she stopped gesturing, she received a pale looking salad of tomato, lettuce and onion, with a spicy sausage and cheese on top. Sophie thought, not a vegan then.
Rada sat down beside Sophie, “Stop eating, you’ll have a food baby when we have to get you into that snug ethereal blue number that’s next up.”
She grabbed what was left of Sophie’s hotdog and lobbed it into a nearby bin. Sophie muttered, “That was rough, cuz.” But she had to acknowledge the underwire was starting to dig in a little.
Rada ignored Sophie and turned to Stuart, “We’ll do the dusk shots by the fountain, and I’ll talk to you about tomorrow’s shoot afterwards.”
Stuart nodded, still chewing he turned and headed toward the fountain. Rada headed in the direction of Brent who was still slunk down in the black director’s chair. Vincenzia threw her plastic container, without the salad, but still containing half a sausage into the bin. She headed towards the van where the wardrobe lady was gesturing to them. Sophie sighed. Standing up and gathering the satin robe around her she followed along.
The assignment blew out to four days, while Sophie dutifully ate salad, and spoke with careful politeness to Vincenzia and Brent. She avoided eye contact except where required for the sexy shots. Sophie heard Rada talking her boss, Melany, down several times during the next three days. Rada was amazing as she spoke with graciousness to her boss while beads of sweat formed on her forehead. After all she had a mortgage on her apartment, and part-time care of a foster child. Rada reminded Melany of her recent success with a variety of magazine spreads and that all her other projects were on schedule. Yes, yes, this spread was for the October 1st issue, but it was going to be worth it — the photographer was fantastic!
Yada, yada, yada, Sophie thought
On Thursday evening the shoot was finished. Rada entered the wardrobe van and threw herself on a chair, “Oh Sophie, being a logistics officer for Medecins San Frontieres would be easier than doing this job with Melany for a boss.”
Sophie squared her shoulders, “The shots are fantastic though. All those great setups will burn those designer’s names into your readers minds.” She made a sizzling sound, “images are soo hot!”
Rada slumped down in the chair, “Thank God and Stuart and Y’all.” She passed her hand across her forehead.
Sophie passed a bottle of water to Rada who opened it and chugged down half.
Sophie said, “Even Vincenzia turned out to be not so bad.”
Rada sipped the other half of her water while Sophie collected her things. Two guys who worked for the leasing company turned up to take the trailer away, and Michelle needed help placing all the bagged garments in the plastic lined boot of her early model Mercedes.
As the sun was setting, Rada and Sophie sat side by side on the stone wall facing the Natural History Museum.
Rada said, “ I haven’t seen my little darling, Russ for two days so I am looking forward to a day off.”
“You deserve more than one day.” Sophie patted her arm.
“I have to tell you something before I go. This business will eat you alive.”
Sophie pressed her lips together and gazed up into a nearby leafy canopy.
“I’ve had the thought I might not be perfect for it.”
“Good hold that thought,” she glanced at her phone, “gotta go.”
She headed off in a northeasterly direction towards Columbus Circle.
Sophie hugging her bag in front of her headed towards the Subway station 81. She took a train uptown and walked the last five minutes of her journey to Herb’s Deli and Diner on West 129th Street.
Time to drop in on the Friday night faithfuls, she thought.
When she arrived the place was full up for Herb’s Friday night special : Steak or Fish with fries and two kinds of vegetables , followed by a slice of pie. ( The choice was lemon meringue or pecan. Sophie rolled her eyes. Herb wouldn’t even change it to Pumpkin pie for November. ) All the coffee you could drink. Everything was fresh and not too greasy, and you could get it for $14. The customers were in a good mood, ordering extra beer, and planning to tip the three-day-a -week waitress , Nette, with a generous hand.
Sophie sashayed up to the counter. “Coffee, please,” she called to the counter server Libby. Libby began to laugh without even looking around.
“I know that’s you, Soph.”
Herb looked out from the kitchen, “So how was the modelling?”
Sophie shrugged, “I think I’ll try acting next. The photographer liked me – says the camera loves me.” She grimaced. “I might need a waitressing job while I’m making it.”
“No way”, Herb’s mouth said, while his head nodded yes.
The front table of regulars cheered and thumped the table.
Sophie took a bow.
Image used with permission : Copyright 2013 Lance O’Donnell