Max Booth III
I stumble into the waiting room with whiskey on my breath. I haven’t shaved in over a week and it’s showing. It’s darker in here than outside — cooler, too — and if nothing else comes of this interview, at least I can find solace in beating the sun’s bastard glare for an hour or so.
Scanning the other actors, I can’t help but smile: they’re pathetic. All their sad, depressing business suits, their hair slicked back, teeth brushed, fingernails cut. This is a movie audition, not a courthouse for Christ’s sake. Compared to everyone here, I might as well be a shoe-in: my ripped, crusty blue jeans; my sleeveless T-shirt covered in spaghetti stains; the hole in my Chuck Taylor’s specially modified to allow breathing room for my big toe. The casting director is going to absolutely love me. This is what they want: this grimy scumbag look, this piece-of-shit, no-good-hobo look. Not some business man, prudish asshole look.
This is going to be easy, I tell myself. This is going to be great.
There’s a clipboard hanging predictability at the door and I sign my name at the bottom of the list in capital letters: GORY FELDMAN. Obviously it’s not my real name but in the zombie business, you don’t use real names. Real names are boring. If you think about it, it’s rather similar to porn. You have your Demi Morgues, your Toby Magores, your Melt Gibsons, even your Arnold Corpseneggers. Of course I picked “Gory Feldman” when I first came down here; I have always been of the opinion that The Lost Boys is the greatest movie on earth. However, I have no comments on its sequel.
I walk down the line of chairs and sit at the very end, giving my feeble competitors another stare down. They have nothing on me. All these poor bastards, these yuppie assholes with their cell phones and wristwatches and health insurance and other things I can’t afford, they’re despicable. They think they’ll get along just fine and do a little acting on the side. Where is their commitment? Where is their soul?
Me, I’m committed. I’m in it for the long haul. Back in Seattle, I had lost my apartment, my job, and my girlfriend. Of course, it didn’t help that my girlfriend had been my landlord, and I was working as a maintenance man for the apartment complex. So it all kind of came down at once. Not to mention that my father died around then, too. Plus the local bookies kept going after my legs. It was high time to get the hell out of there, and what better place to go than Los Angeles? So I had hitchhiked from Washington with the clothes on my back, a pocketful of change and an acoustic guitar I have no knowledge of playing whatsoever. And boy, do I strum the shit out of that instrument on every random street corner I come across. Sure, I don’t know how to play, but I can certainly fake it enough to con the good, ignorant folks of L.A. into handing over their Starbucks change.
I’m leaning back in the plastic little chair, tapping my foot on the rug and contemplating stepping outside for a quick smoke break when the door to outside opens. My foot stops tapping immediately. Three tall, buff-as-hell men come shambling in, their faces covered with incredibly expensive looking zombie masks. The red corn syrup on them is like pus dripping from recently popped boils. These aren’t the kind of masks you buy at your average Halloween costume shop. Nah, these are top quality, Tom Savini-crafted masterpieces.
Of course I know who they are. Around these parts, everybody does. The Three Bloody Tears are only the most notorious zombie cameo group in the entirety of Hollywood. If you needed a couple ghouls to do your movie dirty work, then you went to them. They are the best. Or so it was known. Personally, I thought they were just three assholes who didn’t know when to stop. These bastards have been taking jobs out from under me since I moved down here.
I watch in disbelief as two of the zombies sit down while the remaining one prances toward the clipboard, merrily signing their names as crimson slobber spills down his mouth. Half the waiting room gets up and leaves almost immediately, sighing and cursing.
I might as well give up before I humiliate myself, too. There’s no way I’m getting the job now. Son of a bitch. It just isn’t fair. How many more times will these bastards steal work from me? It’s never going to end. With them around, I’ll have to finally buckle down and get an actual job.
No. Hell no. I can’t let that happen. Not if I want to eat next week. Not if I want a bed to sleep in.
I leap to my feet and storm over to them. They’re just sitting there all nonchalant and decomposing.
“What the hell’s wrong with you guys?” I shout at them. “Are you really so selfish that you have to hog every single goddamn movie? Don’t you realize there are other people trying to make an undead living out here? You fucking assholes!”
The middle zombie just cocks his head to the side like a confused dog and responds in the most empathetic tone: “Whhraaallg?”
“Jesus Christ,” I mutter. “It’s like talking to a fucking zombie.”
“Awwrrooog!” the one on the left exclaims.
“No!” I yell at them, pointing my index finger as if I’m the master and they’ve just defecated on the carpet. “You sons of bitches are not doing this to me again! You think you’re so funny, don’t you? Well, I’ve had enough! Rent is due in a week and GUESS WHAT? I’m going to be able to pay it this time! You are not taking this from me again, you bastards!”
“Herroouuggrr!” the one on the right laughs.
Laughs! I can’t believe this. Here I am, telling them what’s what and this fucker just stares into my face and laughs. I know then that there’s only one option left, one way of beating these bastards once and for all. Somehow, someway, I’ll have to out zombie them. Then we’ll see who’s laughing.
“THEN WE’LL SEE!” I scream manically and stomp off into the public bathroom.
God, I’m so angry, so pissed, I could just kill something! Storming back and forth in the lavatory, I tell myself I don’t have much time before they call my name; if I’m going to do something, I better do it now.
My current attire doesn’t even come close in comparing to those damn gory glory hogs. I’m screwed. So screwed. How am I supposed to zombify myself in a goddamn public bathroom without even any makeup?
The only answer I can think of is I’ll go for gritty realism. I’ll have to be experimental. I’ll have to be edgy. This is the new way and I’m going to embrace it hardcore.
So what do zombies look like? Well, their throats are usually torn out, but that’s out of the question. So what else? Blood. Gore. Violence.
Running my hands through my hair in front of the bathroom mirror, I notice the dirt crusted under my fingernails and I get a beautiful, insane idea. I smile and immediately frown. I must really be desperate. Jesus.
Sliding the nail of my left index finger in between the faucet knob, I hold my breath and close my eyes, thinking a short prayer before slamming my right fist down upon my other hand, snapping the nail off the lunula in one rough instantaneous motion. Tiny drops of blood squirt from my finger as I jerk back in pain.
Progress. No matter how stupid and painful it might be, it’s still progress. But it’s nowhere near enough. What else? Think, man, think!
“Gory Feldman? Calling a ‘Gory Feldman’…?”
The voice outside is calling me. They won’t wait long. Another thirty seconds tops before they move on to the next name. Before they move on to the Three Bloody Tears. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I’m out of time. God, just do something! Don’t think, just act! Looking down at the sink, I sigh. Aw, to hell with it. This might be the most idiotic thing that has ever crossed my mind, and boy is that saying a lot.
“Gory Feldman …?”
My brain turns off. My mouth opens wide. Eyes closed, I strike my face down with immense intensity, my teeth shattering against the porcelain sink, my mouth exploding at once.
Jesus Jesus Jesus oh Jesus Jesus what the fuck what the fuck
My vision is too blurred by tears to see at first, but as it clears I’m able to make out a pile of blood and tears in the sink. My head in convulsing. Jesus. Oh Christ, what is wrong with me? I slowly back away from the mirror, refusing to look at my reflection; globs of blood drop down from my mouth and splatter against the piss-stained linoleum at my feet.
“Fak!” I cry out, praying I don’t choke on my own teeth. Oh, why would I do this? Why the fuck would I do this?
“Gory Feldman! Last call for a Gory Feldman …”
Well there’s no reason to let my stupidity go to waste. I sure look the part. This is real blood falling from my face! They’d be fools to not hire me!
But why does it have to hurt so much?
I exit the bathroom and bump into a small plump woman with glasses; she leaps back and screams at the sight of me.
“You … you Gory …?” she asks.
“Ya, ‘hat’s ‘ee,” I reply, a string of blood dripping down my chin.
“Well. Uh. Follow me.”
“Eh!” I exclaim, grabbing the woman by the shoulder and nearly scaring the literal shit out of her.
“’Ow or ‘ast ‘ombi?”
I spit out a chunk of blood into a rectangular aquarium placed on the waiting desk and very carefully ask, “Slow or fast zombie?”
The woman nods. “Fast, of course. This is the remake of Dawn of the Dead, after all.”
“Yes, you heard me. We’re remaking the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Personally, I’m not for the idea, but it is the season of remakes, unfortunately. Oh what the hell!? Please don’t spit teeth at me, sir. That’s highly uncalled for!”
I apologize as she leads me toward the door, noticing the Three Bloody Tears slumped in their chairs, waiting for their own turn. You really couldn’t ask for a more challenging competition. They’re the bee’s knees of Zombiwood. The sight of my “costume” makes their blood-crusted jaws drop. They can’t believe it. Neither can I. They know that for once they’re not going to get the role. They know they’ve finally lost. I’m the winner here, not them. To further prove it, I make a quick jacking off gesture at them and smile as their jaws drop even further.
I enter the auditioning room. Nothing unique about it, really, just an average size room with a desk at the far end, occupied by a couple of casting directors. The woman sits down with them and, wiping my spit off her, tells me to go ahead.
“’Otivaon?” I ask. Motivation.
“You’re a zombie,” the man next to her says. “Act like one.”
“Oh … ‘ight,” I mumble, and elevate my arms even with my chest. Just like Frankenstein’s monster. “’Raaaiiissssss …”
“Zombies don’t talk!” the man bellows at me, quite upset.
“’Ight, ‘ight …” I struggle back my nerves. Man, don’t blow this now. You’ve already done too much. Come on, you can do this!
Clearing my plasmatic throat, I begin to perform a series of quick dashes back and forth — suicides — along the carpet. As I move, my cheeks shake crazily like some sort of retarded Saint Bernard, particles of blood splashing against various locations among the auditioning room. My confidence is returning. I mime biting an invisible pedestrian on the neck, eating their phantom flesh and enjoying every taste. I sprint around the room like a rabid animal, growling ferociously and showing off my horrendous grin. The judges must be really digging me. The movie role is mine!
But I’m nearly out of breath when I notice their faces: disappointment, pure disappointment. I stop in my tracks and attempt to ask what’s wrong.
“Well…” the man starts, “I don’t think you’re what we’re looking for.”
“’Hat!?” I shriek.
“Well, you see, uh, Susan here has just informed me that the Three Bloody Tears are outside waiting on us, and, uh, well, you’ve seen them before. They’re the best. I’m afraid we just can’t afford to pass on these fellas. Your performance was solid, though. Nice makeup. Maybe next time, yeah?”
“NO! NO! NO!” I grimace. This can’t be happening. It can’t!
I punch the wall next to me and let out a groan. What a bullshit day this has turned out to be. There’s no way I’m going to be able to pay off the hospital bills that I will undoubtedly receive for my jaw. God, what an idiot. What a stupid, no-good piece of shit moron.
Then it hits me.
What if this is some sort of test? A test to see how compassionate I am. It’s a tough call, that’s for sure, but I’m almost willing to bet that this is a test. It all makes sense. There’s no way any sane man would reject my amazingly zombified face.
So the question is, what would a zombie do next?
The answer, well, is obvious.
“Rrraaaaa!” I roar and charge toward the table, leaping over it and tackling the casting director to the ground.
“Ahh, what the hell!?” he screams. “Susan, call the goddamn police!”
I begin to wonder if maybe this isn’t that good of an idea after all.
I tear my grizzly face away from the director and look down at his mangled throat. Gore and blood’s spraying everywhere, all over my own face. The man is crying his eyes out, making it all the more obvious that I haven’t done what he intended, and I decide to get the hell out of here before I do anymore damage.
Somehow, I don’t think I’ve gotten the job.
Hightailing it out of the building, I make sure to give those zombie bastards the middle finger before leaving.
Wobbling along the sidewalk, trying to retrieve some sense of normal balance, I hear the sound of sirens. Police sirens. How did they get here so fast?
“Hey, stop right there!” someone behind me screams. No doubt a cop. “Put your hands up goddammit!”
Ha-ha, yeah, like I’m going to do that.
Blood is still leaking steadily out of my mouth as I sprint across the road, thinking, I gotta get to the hospital. Thinking, I don’t want to go to jail, either.
Then I find myself turning a corner and colliding right into some woman pushing a stroller, sending both of us sprawling along the pavement. I watch in horror as the baby comes tumbling out, falling toward the hard ground.
Fortunately, I use my super quick zombie speed and catch the baby literally centimeters from the ground. I stand up, cradling it in my arms as it screams its little precious head off. The mother still lies on the ground, muscles tensed and nervous as all hell, staring at me with such fright. “Give me back my baby,” she says. “Please, I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Sure,” I mumble, blood spilling out of my mouth and landing on the baby’s little blue onesie.
She screams. “You freak! You monster! You fucking zombie freak!” Then she shoots to her feet and skedaddles across the street into a doughnut shop, abandoning her baby altogether, making me wonder if perhaps she isn’t the greatest mother in the world.
She had called me a zombie.
I raise the baby up at eyelevel and grin stupidly. “Didjer ‘ear ‘hat? See ‘ad I’s a ‘ombie!” I exclaim, drippling more blood on the baby’s cheeks. It’s okay though, it’s not like I have some kind of disease or anything. Still, I probably should avoid doing that again.
A zombie …
Then it hits me.
The woman screaming I’m a zombie, the cop chasing me, the frightened cast directors. This is all still my audition! The moviemakers have set all of this up to determine whether or not I was zombie enough for the big leagues. And boy, I’m thinking I sure proved I am.
I tilt my head and discover a camera attached to the side of a red traffic light. Bingo! They’re watching me right now, those sly bastards. Boy, they really scared me.
But it’s going to be worth it. Oh, yes.
I carefully place the blood-spattered baby back in its stroller, give it a few tickles under its adorable red chin, and turn around. I know I’ve gotten the part now; there’s no doubt about it this time.
Then it hits me.
There’s still one final test. One that I’ve maybe already failed. What zombie in their right dead mind would flee from a police officer? Hell no, that’s not the zombie way! A real zombie would attack! It would stand its ground!
Lowering my head in a very similar fashion of a rhino (a zombie rhino!), I charge down the street toward the approaching police officer. His threats of firing his weapon are very impressive; he’s quite believable. He’s so convincing I can’t help but wonder if he’s going to be in the actual movie. God, it’s such a rarity to audition alongside another actor. They must really see great things in me!
“Goddammit, you zombie punk, stop right now!” the cop screams.
Then it hits me.
Having recently moved to Texas, MAX BOOTH is really trying his best not to make fun of the redneck agenda that surrounds the state. He instead spends his time writing stories and burning his hand on his toaster oven, which he secretly believes is just playing hard to get. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.