My Unscripted Life(6)

By: Lauren Morrill


I don’t have too much time to celebrate, though, because Carly is pushing through a set of heavy double doors into the cavernous warehouse attached to the back of the offices. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light, and even once they do I can barely see through the dusty haze of sawdust floating through the air.

“It’s best to breathe through your nose in here, unless you want to be coughing up plywood for the next forty-eight hours,” Carly says, shouting over the sound of a symphony of power tools buzzing and hammering all around us. She pulls the collar of her soft red T-shirt up over her nose and mouth, muffling her words. “They’ll be done with interior construction in a day or two, so then it’ll be fine.”

I nod, squinting so I don’t get an eyeball full of wood chips. She charges through the building, stepping over cables and boards and weaving around scaffolding. She checks over her shoulder periodically to make sure I haven’t face-planted. And I might, because I keep taking my eyes off my path so I can take in all that’s happening around me.

There are crew members everywhere in cargo pants and heavy boots, thudding around with massive tool belts hanging off their hips. They’re building what looks like a giant plywood pyramid dotted with a few windows. The walls rise a full two stories over my head. Through an opening, I see that though the outside is completely unfinished, the interior looks like an attic apartment, complete with worn wood floors and peeling wallpaper, an ancient-looking efficiency kitchen in one corner. It’s like a life-sized dollhouse. A man inside is hanging a broken-looking iron chandelier from the ceiling.

“This way,” Carly calls, and I realize I’ve stopped moving to stare. I jog after her to the back wall, where she’s holding a door open for me. I step through into another warehouse room with soaring ceilings that looks like something that might be found in the basement of a museum. There are rows and rows of metal shelving extending high above my head. A rolling ladder leans up against one shelf in the back. Half the shelves are full of knickknacks and other items that I guess are props. Carly leads me to the middle row, where a short Asian woman, her dark hair pulled back in a severe ponytail, is lining empty beer bottles on a lower shelf, all of them affixed with labels I don’t recognize.

“Dee, this is Ruth. She’s our production designer. Ruth, this is your intern. Her name is Dee, and so far she doesn’t seem to totally suck.” Carly turns to me with a warm smile, as if she’s just given me a ringing professional endorsement, and hey, I’ll take it. “I’ll see you later,” she says, then disappears back into the warehouse.

Ruth dusts her palms off on her bell-bottom jeans and stands up, extending a hand to me. I notice that she’s wearing a worn gray T-shirt with the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach album cover on it. I want to ask her if it’s vintage or a reproduction, or if she knows that the Allman Brothers recorded the album right here in Georgia, just a few towns north, but before I can ask anything, she says, “Ever done anything like this before?”

“Uh, no, ma’am,” I reply, tugging at the strap of my bag. “They said I was going to be a runner?”

Ruth rolls her eyes. “This is a small production. Everybody is doing bigger jobs than normal, and that includes you.” I’m shocked to hear that this, the warehouse and the construction and the crew of people running around, is considered a small production. What in the world does a big production look like? “You can put your bag right here,” Ruth says, snapping me out of my wonderment. She directs me to a desk in the back that’s stacked high with dinnerware, everything from plates to bowls to coffee mugs, all looking chipped and dingy, like they came from a thrift store. “We’ve got security, so it should all be safe, but still, don’t bring your diamond tennis bracelet to work.”

I take my bag off my shoulder and place it on the desk. “I don’t have a diamond tennis bracelet,” I reply, but the way she raises her eyes at me makes me realize she was probably joking. It’s hard to tell with her deadpan tone, but I can tell that if I don’t want to annoy her, I’d better figure it out quick.

“And none of that ‘ma’am’ stuff,” she says. “I know it’s the South and you’re taught that crap, but we don’t have time for politeness around here. There’s lots to be done, and it needs to be done fast and right, so there’s no need for niceties.”

“Yes, ma—” The reflexive response catches in my throat, and I quickly swallow it down. I put my bag where she pointed, beneath a tall metal work table covered with stacks of paper and file folders.