By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
She closed the door behind her and made sure the Korean busybody manager wasn't in the hall. She stooped to stuff paper under the door, damming the fumes. Her heart swelled as she left the St. George, soaking in the light. She clung to the rosary of words People magazine said had been so dear to the Blessed Edith Stein: Secretum meum mihi.
This is my secret.
AMARYLLIS SET OUT FOR THE BRIDGE. ON Grand Avenue, trucks and trailers lined the curb. Pedestrians gathered in curious clumps to watch, but there was nothing to see, at least so it seemed. Amaryllis slowed, wending her way toward the blaze of lights that came from the desiccated lobby of the Coronation, one of the bigger SROs. A distant shout of "Quiet!" and a baffled roundelay followed, each voice handing off to the next, all coming closer, some electronically enhanced -- "Quiet!" Then another cavalcade. But instead of "Quiet!" this time they yelled, "Speed!" A girl with purple hair and a ring through her nose like a bull glared fiercely at Amaryllis, gesturing her to be silent. She froze. A voice crackled over a radio: "We! Are! Rolling!" Then, the final chorus: "Rolling! -- Rolling! -- Rolling!" The little girl quaked, waiting for a bomb to go off, certain that's what was happening. Under her breath, she beseeched: Benedicta Benedicta Benedicta . . . and the world stood still. She prayed that if she died then and there, an angel's emissary would get to the babies and keep them from harm. She even wondered what a person who'd been blown to bits looked like in heaven. Then, the crackling voice tore into her reverie: "And . . . cut!"
The woman with the bull ring echoed, with great purpose but to no one in particular, "Cut!" -- then turned on her heel, leaving Amaryllis to fend for herself.
There was much coming and going and people laughing, and she was certain the bomb had been defused. The blinding lights still shone in the window, and she made her way toward them. As she threaded the crowd, it was as if she were invisible. She passed a bum, who smoked and wore sunglasses. He rested a hand on his leg in regal fashion and guffawed, phlegmy and herniated, while a smiling, serious boy with headphones handed him a Styrofoam cup of coffee.
"All right!" someone yelled. "Here we go! Last looks!"
When Amaryllis got very close to the Coronation lobby lights, she hid behind a truck and watched a strange scene: A beautiful girl of about 13 sat on an upturned wooden crate, hair brushed and combed by two bizarre-looking women with beehives and tattoos. The beautiful girl chattered with someone the orphan couldn't readily see. Then a man came along to powder her face while another smoothed the pleats of her dress and primped a collar. It seemed to Amaryllis everyone around the beautiful girl was polite and reserved and happy and the beautiful girl had made them so -- just as she imagined life among the entourage of the Royal Kumari. Then she saw with whom the girl was gossiping: two friends sitting opposite on a shared milk crate, only theirs was horizontal to make them closer to the ground than she who was illuminated. Her companions were a boy and girl, both fair, red and pretty, and the girl's braids dangled so they nearly touched the grotty, gum-flattened sidewalk.
"Is that part of the movie?" asked the boy of the beautiful girl.
"Is what?" she said.
"The snot." He pointed to her nose. "Are you supposed to have snot?"
The beautiful girl grew serious as finger flew to nostril; then she looked at the boy with narrowed, beady eyes, and he laughed. "I hate you, Tull! I hate you!" she said, but she wasn't really mad, and the man powdering her backed off to fetch a Kleenex, which he then applied to the beautiful girl's upper lip until she seized it, completing the job herself. The other adults continued to brush and fluff and straighten and comb -- the finishing touches of merry, manic elves.
"Qui -- et!" came an anonymous voice.
And another: "Quiet, everyone!"
More scurrying. More commands, and the adjusting of machines.
"And . . . roll sound!"
"We -- are -- speeding!"
"And . . . We! Are! Rolling!"
The voices made their way to the outer reaches, where Amaryllis had stood in frozen repose only minutes before. Within an instant, the beautiful girl had stopped laughing and risen from the crate, which was neatly whisked away; her helpers lingered like bees reluctant to leave a flower. A gangly man stood by, listening to someone through headphones while holding a long pole, the end of which wobbled over the beautiful girl as she smoothed her own skirt. Then, a sudden, perfect silence. A man with long, stringy hair said: "Action, Boulder!"
At which the beautiful girl took a deep breath before walking determinedly toward the lobby door. A short muscleman type followed her with a camera strapped to a thick belt on some sort of hinged pivot; he was trailed by the man with stringy hair and then by the other man, gangly and serious-looking, the long pole held high over his head, along with assiduous minions who crouched and slinked noiselessly beside the beefy one with the pivoting camera, some holding aloft cables in his wake as if attending a rubbery bridal train -- but the actress's entrance to the hotel was blocked by the bum Amaryllis had seen earlier. This time his dark glasses were gone. He carried a bottle of brown-bagged wine instead of a Styrofoam cup.