The Actor (Part 2)

    “…opening at cinemas around the country on June twenty-third, the movie is called The First Return. Jake, tell us about the movie.”

The host looked up from his notes (he needed notes). The other host leaned in; it showed she was listening, and showed her cheekbones perfectly at that camera angle. Jake looked at her. The First Return? What did it mean? His mind ran through what he could remember—an argument with the director, an extraordinarily sweaty extra, a fight scene—or was it a dance? His head was shaved for the role, that’s right. But why? None of this helped. Was there a movie poster on set? No. Nothing. The host looked anxious. How long had it been? Four seconds, five? Dead silence. Advertisers were not paying for silence. Jake cleared his throat. “Well, uh, it’s a fantastic film…”

 Looks of relief from the hosts, the crew. Disaster averted. Jake Rosethorn, the biggest name in Hollywood, smiled. He still could not remember a thing about the movie. He found he didn’t care. He had bluffed his way through interviews before. But this time was different. In a way, he wasn’t bluffing…

    “It’s a love story, really. I play a German soldier during World War One, and I fall in love with a French woman. Hmm. Yeah, and her father disapproves, because… because I have a learning disability. And because of the war, obviously. So, I secretly defect, I join the French, figuring that if I come back to the girl as a hero French soldier, then her father will let us be together, you know?”

 The hosts’ eyes fixed on him. Their mouths hung slightly open.

 “And then, I have a brother, and he thinks I was killed, and so he is out for revenge—he’s in the German army. Anyway, in the French army, I climb to the rank of General—no, Colonel, but no one from my old life knows. And then my brother’s platoon captures the French village where my girlfriend lives, but she thinks I’ve left her, and she’s heartbroken, right? So… now my brother falls in love with her, and to save the people of her village, she pretends to love him as well.”

 “Ahem, well,” said the male host, “that is certainly, uh—”

 “No, wait,” said Jake. The light was shining. “Then I find out the girl I love, um… What’s a French girl’s name?”

 The hosts stared at him.

 “Claire?” said Jake. “Yeah, Claire. So, I find out Claire is in love with my brother, at least that’s what it looks like, and I’m shattered. So then it turns out there’s an abandoned store of bombs at the French-German border, and the Germans and the French are in a race to get to it first. These bombs will decide the war. And I’m distraught, so I’m all like, to hell with it, what’s the point of anything? So I go to destroy the bombs, it’s a suicide mission. I get there before anyone else, and I blow up all the bombs and die in the explosion. And then… yeah, Claire finds out it was me, and she’s heartbroken. Oh yeah, and she has started to really fall in love with my brother. Anyway, he discovers a secret that can win the war for Germany, and Claire knows he plans to use it, so, what happens is, her village is bombed, and only she and my brother survive, and now they’re hiding in the woods—no, they’re in a lifeboat, drifting on the ocean, and she, like, lulls him to sleep and—no, wait… he was wounded in battle, that’s it, so he passes out, and then she kisses him, because she really does kind of love him, and then she puts a hole in the lifeboat. Yeah. That’s it. She sabotages the boat, and then lies down next to him and sleeps, and the boat slowly sinks. And they drown.”

    Camera one. The crew frantically waved and pointed. Finally, the female host cleared her throat. “Well, that was…” She checked her notes.

 “Maybe some, uh, changes in the editing room,” said the male host, straightening his tie.

 “Yes,” said the female host, with a steadying smile. “And we should apologise to our viewers—we probably should have issued a spoiler alert there.”

 “Right,” said the male host. “But plenty of twists and turns still worth checking out, I’m sure. Uh, do we want to… yes? Okay, we have a clip from the movie. Lets, uh, check it out.”

    Jake sighed. He watched the monitor. Stars. Space. Spaceships landing. Intense music, close up of a soldier straining with madness, lasers fire. Jake’s face, dirt smeared and bloodied—the hero. Oh yeah. That’s right. It was a movie about long-lost crazy space soldiers. Futuristic war on earth. No love story. Jake shrugged.

    Camera two. The hosts smiled awkwardly. “Well, certainly one not to miss, that’s The First Return, starring the very talented Jake Rosethorn. When we come back, we’ll meet a woman who married her phone. Sound strange? Wait till you hear who the best man was. That’s after the break, stick around.”

    And… off air. Jake sighed, filled with light. Everyone thought he was crazy—Hollywood crazy though. They still treated him like royalty. Smiles, an autograph or two and a quick selfie, and he was free. The hosts eased back onto their comfy stools. The makeup artist rushed in for a quick touch up as the next guest was ushered in. Teleprompter ready. Camera two. In five, four, three…

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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