Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
My first significant stage role was my senior year of high school, when I was one of the ill-fated group of random strangers from an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, which our production had renamed And Then There Were None, following the more racially palatable title change that had also occurred in the novel’s later editions. (The second such change, it should be noted, as the original title of the book was Ten Little N*****s. There are many reasons I’m glad I live now instead of in 1939.)
The basic story, one of Dame Agatha’s most famous, deals with the oft-repeated plot of a Murderer Among Us, and follows the ten as they are picked off one by one. My character, Judge Wargrave, was sixth to die, although in truth his death was a mere ruse, facilitated with the help of an unwitting Dr. Armstrong, in order to continue carrying out the rest of the murders without suspicion…and I remember having a moment during one runthrough where I was taken with the simple, effective way the story produced suspense…all it did was slowly subtract. The fear of loneliness, the fear of nothingness, these are all things that are part of the fear of sudden death.
I’ve been temping the past week or so in the Marketing department of a industrial-manufacturing corporation’s Chicago office, filling in spreadsheets with undeliverable addresses pulled off of returned mail and analyzing the website to affirm catalog items. I have received most of these tasks from two different people in the department and was due to hand everything in by 2:00 pm to both of them.
By 10:30 this morning, the man who had been my first contact here and had given me the bulk of my work had been let go from his job. He walked up to my desk and said he was leaving, to which I didn’t place much weight until he added, slightly stammering, “for good.” It was slightly harrowing, like looking at a film of myself from last August with somebody who looked nothing like me cast in the principal role. He told me who to forward the projects on to, accepted my brief sympathy, and walked off.
An hour later, the woman who had handed me my other two large projects last week had also been let go from her job. She carried a small cardboard box that seemed to be filled with shoes. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled thinly as she said goodbye and asked if I had enough work to carry me through today.
Temping is mercenary grunt work, much of the time…you’re called in to plug a hole but not get attached to anything. You have no emotional investment in the work or its workers. You’re here to get paid and move on to the next hole that needs plugging.
But it is strange and unsettling to be sitting here while the economic downturn sneaks about, picking off more victims, dropping chandeliers on unsuspecting gadabout grandsons and strangling the gardener’s niece when she foolishly ventures into the boiler room to examine a strange noise.
It has abandoned anonymity and mystery. It couldn’t care less that you already know who the murderer is, because it also knows that you have no idea how to stop it.
I’m supposed to come back in tomorrow to find out if there is any more work to do and, if so, who is going to give it to me. I will do my best not to look over their shoulder expecting to see a grim, malicious figure inching closer to them with a gleaming butcher knife clenched in one fist. A figure that catches my glance and looks back at me with a brief hunger, replaced by a slight disappointment as it remembers, oh, yes, I did that one already.