We’d been shooting for two weeks already, melting. Most of the crew had chiggers bad. Chiggers, we were told, crawl in and lay eggs beneath your skin. They attack ankles and genitals. The cure is nail polish. A good coating will smother them to death. We wore the clear stuff so it wouldn’t show.
Only the L.A. people got them. The Texans wore sulfur in their socks to keep the chiggers out. They didn’t mention this trick to us. Nathaniel and I sat on our opposing motel beds—AC on, anchorman singing box scores in soothing Texas twang—examining the bumps around our sock and jock lines. My body was a morgue; chigger corpses floated through my veins, suffocated under my skin.
“Tonight I plan to dream about Monica Bradley,” said Nathaniel. “Her dream self will meet my dream self somewhere in the depths of my unconscious, and we’ll talk until sunrise.”
Monica was the film’s female lead. Older than us, but looked five years younger with non-hips and blonde fuzz on her pale arms. Monica’s character was meant to be seventeen. There was something deeply erotic in the way her smoke-seasoned voice slipped into teenybop squawk-talk when the cameras came on.
“She’s sexy,” I said. “Definitely.”
“But her personality, I mean. She’s great, right? That joke she told about her mom and the albino. Was that a joke? It might have been a true story. Man, what an interesting life.”
I was distracted by nail polish; I daintily painted. I like its bleachy smell and the way it slowly hardened on my blistered skin and shined.
“I just feel so alive when I’m around her. Like I want to stop time and spend seven years in medical school so I can save her life if she happens to get stung and goes into anaphylactic shock.” Monica had a bee-sting allergy.
“Sure,” I said. “Save her life.”
Nathaniel had gotten me the gig. He was savvier than me, pluckier, bigger in the biceps. Had a surfer thing going on. Not bleach blond in a mimbo way, just tan and easy. Same patchy beard all the hip ones had, hints of amber in the chin hairs. Two years below me in film school, but he’d caught up careerwise. His résumé was up on all the job boards. Had a Web site with built-in Flash and a slick montage. I was shitty at self-promoting. Sent my thesis screenplay around in manila envelopes awaiting return.
“I should probably get an EpiPen and carry it on me. Just in case.”
“I thought Felix would be here by now.”