Maybe It Looks Better with the Other Eye

By Darlene Eliot

You don’t mind lying at these press junkets. It goes with the territory. You get one question, maybe two, if you’re the bad guy. Normally, it doesn’t matter, but this film stinks on ice. The interviewer works the lead actor; laughing, blushing, asking him about snowmobiles and stunts. He smiles back, popping peanut M&Ms between each comment. His assistant stands by, holding a bowl of blues, reds, greens, and yellows; swirling them around before each offering.

You sit back and watch, wondering when someone will yank the bowl away. Your agent said no one escapes this business without a big bowl of regret. Maybe she’s right. The interviewer glances at you. Her eyelashes look like daddy longlegs. She will skip the Tony nomination and ask how it feels to finally be in a film, though you’ve been hitting marks on locations for six years and got a standing ovation at the last Spirit Awards. The lead misses his mouth and a green M&M rolls across the floor. The interviewer laughs, covering her mouth with glittery manicured fingernails. 

You lean back in the chair and think about your agent. Your too-good-for-this-world agent who wants to quit the business. You remind yourself she is not your friend, though she acts like one constantly. She got you this gig, which got you a vacation home and an option for an indie with a really good script. You had dinner with her and her two kids. She had dinner with you and your dog and your cat (who actually get along). She said it was nice to finally meet them. She meant it. You wanted to kiss her over the pasta, but wrapped the strands around your fork and asked how her kids liked their new school.

The interviewer focuses on you. She asks how you prepared for the role of Shock Absorber #1 and if the scenes on the ice were dangerous. You start to answer. The lead tosses a red M&M in the air and catches it in his mouth. The interviewer laughs, again. You laugh, too, and rest your back against the chair; happy to skip the discussion of prosthetics and makeup and how three months of shooting ended up on the cutting room floor (so the ice scenes and the torture scenes don’t make sense anymore.)  

You think about your agent while everyone watches the candy toss. You wonder how soon your agent will leave. Whether she’ll stay in Los Angeles or disappear to a nine-hundred-acre ranch. Saying good-bye to bad material and a tongue-tied actor who smiles when she tilts her head, squints at movie posters, and says, ‘Maybe it looks better with the other eye.’ You catch yourself and realize everyone is on their feet. Everyone except the lead who is doubled over and pointing at his throat as the interviewer yells, Oh-My-God-Oh-My-God-Oh-My-God. You push the bowl-clutching assistant aside, stand behind the lead, and wrap your arms around his waist. You press your fist into his stomach like you did in the fight scene. You place your other hand over your fist and push up until the discolored peanut flies out of his mouth. He coughs three times, the last cough punctuated with red dye spittle like the torture scene. He waves you off. His publicist waves off everyone else.

You open and close your hand like you did on the first day of shooting when he connected with your jaw and didn’t apologize. You glance at the poster behind you. The poster of his giant open-mouthed face, the airborne snowmobile, a cluster of explosions, and the outline of you and the other shock absorbers falling toward the credits. You stand back. You tilt your head. You close your left eye and open it again. You think of the ranch and your dog and your cat. You think about skipping the next interview, the next ceremony, the next person who asks what-made-you-decide-to-do-this-movie-and-what’s-next-for-you. You think about regional theater. You think about keeping your head above water. You think about calling your agent, even though you don’t need to. You think about what you should have said over the pasta. You reach for your cell phone. You fall through the ice.

About the author

Darlene Eliot lives in California. She enjoys peanut M&Ms, but doesn’t toss them in the air or have a beleaguered personal assistant. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Cleaver, New Flash Fiction Review, Puerto del Sol Journal, Your Impossible Voice, Heavy Feather, Lost Balloon and elsewhere. She recently joined IG (@deliotwriter) and would love to see you there.

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