Bean Bath

“It needs to be more…palpable,” Ann-Margret says in her breathy voice. Ken, Pete, and the second AD Gary all lean forward to catch her words.

“No love, it’ll be perfect,” Ken says, patting Ann-Margret on the waist and moving her towards the set. Gary adjusts her silver crocheted tank top as she walks.

“You throw the champagne bottle at the screen and when it breaks all this pure white foam pours out all over you, and you just, you know, roll around in it a bit.”

“You’ll be gorgeous,” Pete adds, his eyes darting unfixed. “Like an angel in a cloud.”

Gary positions the white fur around Ann-Margret’s shoulders before scurrying off set to stand behind Ken’s chair, far back, as befitting his status.

“ACTION!” Ken’s voice echoes throughout the studio after Dickie claps the scene. The TV screen breaks on cue when AM throws the bottle, and the foam begins to stream out. She lathers herself in the bubbles.

“It needs to be more!” Ann-Margret calls out, her voice barely audible above the rush of foam. “More…visceral!”

“What were you thinking, love? Maybe some fake blood?” Ken turns to Pete who shrugs and nods, before pawing frantically at his nose.

“Not blood,” AM says, her voice now full and soaring over the noise. “Beans!”

“Sorry love, did you say-”

“I SAID BEANS!” she yells. “GIVE ME BEANS.” Her eyes spark, and Gary thinks he sees her hair stand on end. Ken, wordlessly, nods, and gallons of Heinz baked beans slime through the screen and onto the pristine set. The beans suffocate the foam, and what was once light and airy is now a sea of glutinous orange with thousands of small white nuggets that look like pieces of brain to Gary. He can’t stop watching. All eyes are fixed on Ann-Margret as she throws herself at the mucky floor, her outfit turning rust coloured, hair plastered to her skull. She writhes in the beans, pours them over her head and stuffs them down her shirt, luxuriates in their fluidity.

“MORE!” she demands.

“More beans?” Ken whispers.

“No, it needs to be more…terrestrial!” AM calls back. “Dirty, muddy earth!”

“We’ve got some chocolate pudding back here,” the props master says in a shaky voice. “Dickie thinks it looks like dirt.”

“GIVE IT TO ME!!!” Ann-Margret roars. They don’t even wait for Ken’s go ahead, just start feeding the pudding into the screen, and it pours out, mixing with the beans on the ground. AM pounces on it, coats herself in it, and begins to fling it around the white set. Gary wonders how they will pay for the gallons of pudding now flooding the sound stage. He thinks perhaps they can take some money from the cocaine budget, before remembering that they have already exceeded the cocaine budget three times over. 

Ann-Margret leaps into the white egg chair, clutching handfuls of beany pudding.

“SPIN ME,” she commands, and Gary rushes forward to push the chair. AM gleefully hurls muck at the walls while she revolves. Gary’s tan pants get splattered. AM spies the white circular bed and flings herself on it, stretching out her arms and legs as if to make snow angels. She climbs onto the long bolster pillow and begins to ride it like a lover, covering it in filth. She rolls off the bed, still clutching the pillow; only one small patch remains white. Ken is frozen, has ceased giving directions. Ann-Margret is in charge now. No one could stop her if they wanted to. And they don’t want to. 

She abandons the pillow, and reaches for the only remaining part of the set not covered in ooze, a vase of white daisies. AM pulls the flowers towards her, burying her soiled face in them, then slumps to the ground, spent. For a full minute no one moves or speaks. Gary realizes that he is holding his breath. Ken and Pete have both broken out in a sweat on their foreheads and upper lips.

Finally, Ken says “cut,” in a small voice. Ann-Margret rises from the sludge, her face serene and calm. Her assistant scurries over with a robe, and together they exit to her trailer. 

“Gary,” Ken calls, and Gary rushes to the director’s side. “Get this set cleaned up and back to what it was, would you? We still have to shoot Oliver’s scene. Okay everyone, that’s lunch, back in an hour!” 

Gary walks over to the custodian closet and gets out the mop. Better take two buckets, he thinks, as he begins to fill them with water.

Amy writes and lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, children, and calico cat. She has previously written for CBC’s The Irrelevant Show, Shameless Magazine, See Magazine, and has been published on Flash Fiction Magazine and Daily Drunk Magazine. Find her on Twitter @amy.r.neufeld.

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