Jump Chapt 9 Norma
The days, weeks, months passed. Where does time go? Skips away. Slips away. Mother and Father came to visit. Mack and Stanley built a studio and somewhere in all of that, somehow - like cutting a piece of fabric and looking through the hole - I became a star.
Now you have to understand, I have to tell you this and look you in the eyes as I say it so you get it, I never ever dreamt of being a star. Stanley made more than enough money to keep us very well. Sure, I wanted to work, appear in two reelers, but I never expected to be a star of the silver screen. Surprising to imagine it really because it was all different after that.
Let's go back to the beginning. After appeared in quite a few two reelers it became clear the camera loved me and so did the audience. You have to remember in those days Hollywood was a very different town. It was a village. Everybody knew everybody and many actors would walk around town wearing greasepaint whether they were actually in a movie or not. They would congregate at the Hollywood Hotel. There were no agents. They would wait there to see if they were needed.
I had no ambition at all so it was strange to be catapulted into the spotlight. The fan letters began arriving. Mack wrote scripts just for me. My vehicles. Tailormade. We would certainly churn them out. A new movie every other week or fortnight filmed in and around the studio in the up and down streets of Edendale. It was nervewracking to think that a film, a story, revolved around me.
Now other memories push in, jump the queue, demand to be heard.
The studio shone all bright and new. The glass panes, washed only once, and the freshly finished cement pavements, all just waiting. Norma had watched the workmen setting up the wooden moulds, fixing the pieces of string, pouring the cement, grey and stoney and then smoothing it out with flat pieces of timber. Then seeing them, all taut bodies and tanned, resting under that old eucalyptus down near the main entrance. The wind blowing up, catching the dust.
They were creating something completely new here, she knew that. The pride she felt in the enterprise, her part in it and in Stanley and Mack, could be measured in oceans. Some mornings she felt dizzy with pride. Bursting with. Perhaps this was how it felt, at moments, to be a mother. Watching your baby's first step.
The place was still unfinished but it was open for production. She pushed open the door to the glass ceiled stage and stepped into the space. She could still smell the paint, and cement and glue. The place felt peaceful, empty of memories, free from the burden of history. In the far corner Mack was talking with Ted, the set designer. Ted was seated and Mack leant over the table, his hand on the corner of the paper.
'Good morning Norma. Won't be a minute.'
'Good morning Mack. Ted. No hurry.'
She looked around her and above her at the great sheets of glass that framed the sky. Suddenly the space was filled with a great sound. She turned and saw that one of the plates of glass had fallen from the ceiling and landed not far from where Mack and Ted worked. They had turned to the spot, eyes as big as saucers.
'Holy Mary, Mother of God. That was close. Lucky no one got killed, ' Mack said loudly before returning to the plans on the table.
Well, after that someone came and cleared up the glass. And I'm standing there thinking, 'What would have happened if I had decided to stroll around the space or if Mack and Ted and the table had been a few feet across?' I mean it was simple dumb luck that no one was killed.
Norma loved that about Mack: his ability to let things go. She was sure he brooded on things, what Irishman didn't?, but he saved that for the dead of night. The boy from Canada who still had that politeness and friendliness. Steeped in showbiz. She often thought they were two of a kind, Mack and her. Showbiz in their bones.
Sometimes when the three of them were together, and Stanley would make one of his statements, Mack and her would look at each other, just a quick glance. They were young and silly and perhaps they should have been more careful. They never did anything, of course, but she sometimes felt Stanley's hurt.
'So, let's do it again. Norma could you move a bit back when the door opens?' Mack pointed at the floor.
Norma stepped back.
Then there was the important moment when Norma's character realises the baby is gone. Norma asked that one of Verdi's arias be played on the phonograph. Mack sat very close and spoke to her and used his hands to indicate where he wanted her to look. Norma felt the music touch her and imagined the horror and the sadness, that mix. The fear building to unimagineable terror.
The set was quiet and all that Norma heard was Verdi's aria rolling around and over her. Everything faded and all she had was the music and the moment.
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Clinton De Vere