George Kavani sat in his chair, waiting patiently as the various makeup artists fiddled with his hair again. Yes, the scene required him to stand up and walk down the hall, but he didn’t think those actions would mess up his hair that much. He had a sneaking suspicion that they just liked playing with it, which was actually flattering, all things considered.
Elizabeth, the director, came up just as the ladies moved away from him. “We’re doing really well, George. One more take and I think we’ll be done with the indoor stuff. If the outside stuff goes as well as this has, we can wrap it up before sundown.”
“I’ll try not to let you down,” George assured her with a smile, “I know how much you like to turn in projects ahead of schedule.”
“We should be fine,” she assured him, “Everything is all set up outside.All we need to do is follow your lead.”
He nodded and took a sip of water. “I’ll be ready in two minutes.”
They were filming a little insurance commercial that was refreshingly straightforward for once. George spent half the commercial walking through “his” dim, gloomy house, discussing why not having life insurance was a bad idea. Then he would walk outside, where the sun was shining and birds were chirping, and then extoll the virtues of this particular brand. The symbolism was obvious enough that they didn’t need to rely on any other tricks. It was the easiest commercial George had ever done.
“Quiet!” Elizabeth called to the crew, and George stood up, moving to position. Giving Elizabeth a smile and nod, he waited for the cue.
“Perfect!” Elizabeth declared, looking up from the playback, “We’re done here. Time to move outside.”
As the camera crew started dismantling the equipment, Elizabeth turned to George. “Have you gotten a look at where we’re filming yet?”
“I haven’t had the time,” he admitted, “How’s it look?”
“It’s a park about two blocks away, and it’s gorgeous,” Elizabeth grinned, “Just what we need for this commercial. A long path for you to walk down, only a few trees so the sunlight streams through, and brightly colored flowers everywhere.”
Something cold ran through George’s veins. “What sort of flowers?” he asked as casually as he could.
“A lot of wildflowers,” Elizabeth answered, “I don’t know their names. But I’m pretty sure the deep purple ones are lilac.”
George clenched a fist behind his back. He’d always had a slight pollen allergy, but a daily dose of allergy medication could keep it under control…except when it came to lilac. The scent of that flower defeated every brand of medicine he tried, and within five minutes, he was sneezing his head off. Still, there was a chance that Elizabeth was wrong, and that they were some other type of purple flower. He’d just have to wait and see.
Elizabeth’s walkie-talkie crackled. “Cameras are set up, Liz. Ready when you are.”
Elizabeth smiled at George. “Let’s go. The shuttle can get us there in two minutes.”
As the glorified golf cart sped towards the park, George craned his neck, trying to get a good look at what he’d be facing. All he could make out at the moment was a riot of color. He had to admit, it was a perfect place to shoot. He was positive the commercial would get an enthusiastic reception. That is, if he could just keep himself under control.
They disembarked from the shuttle, and Elizabeth pointed to a nearby path. “There’s your mark, George. I’ll five you a minute to get situated while I talk to the crew.” George obligingly went to his mark while she headed towards the gaggle of tech guys. As he started to run through his monologue one last time, he took a very cautious breath, and his heart sank as he picked out the prickly scent of lilac among all the other sweeter scents. The clock was ticking now, and there was nothing he could do about it. Well, there was one thing, but he wasn’t sure Elizabeth would approve. Then his nose itched ominously and he knew he didn’t have much choice in the matter.
“Ready?” Elizabeth called out. He raised a hand in assent, and a few seconds later, he heard the call of “Action!”
George took a deep breath through his mouth and started walking forward, reciting his lines. He kept his eyes on the camera (he was supposed to be addressing the viewers, after all) and tried to keep his tone light and his smile warm. When he felt his lungs tighten, he took another breath through his mouth and continued, trying to focus on his acting than on the growing irritation in his nose.
At about the halfway point of his speech, he saw a flash of purple out of the corner of his eye and knew that he had just entered the gauntlet. Even without inhaling their scent, he could feel a sneeze starting to build. He needed to get through this, and fast. With another breath through his mouth, he quickened his pace and started to speak more rapidly. “Knowing that you, your wife, your children, and those you care about are protected…doesn’t that make your life seem a little brighter?”
He smiled, hoping his nose wasn’t obviously twitching. “That’s worth more than any policy. Stop by and ask about our prices today.”
“CUT!!!” Elizabeth called, hopping down from the camera cart and coming over to him. “That was…unexpected.”
George braced himself for a rebuke, and was startled when Elizabeth beamed at him. “Gradually speeding up was a stroke of genius! It shows the viewers that you’re getting more energized and full of life. It’s just what we want to convey. How’d you come up with it?”
“I c-can’t take the credit,” George answered, breath catching, “It’s my…my…” He turned away from her and sneezed harshly towards a nearby lilac bush. “ASHHH!”
When he looked back, Elizabeth was offering him a tissue, smiling knowingly. “Allergies, huh? No wonder you were asking about the flowers. You should have told me.”
“It’s only lilac that…kshh!...really affects me. I wasn’t sure how bad it would be.”
She looked him over. “Do you think you can manage another take or two?”
“Probably,” he said, rubbing at his nose, “But I’d need to sit inside for ten minutes to let the pollen leave my system.”
“I think we can afford that,” Elizabeth said with a nod, “Just don’t break into a sprint or garble your lines, and we can probably finish this and get you out of here in an hour or less.”
“I’ll…Eshh!...do my best.” George promised.
“Excellent.” Elizabeth patted his shoulder before pointing at something. “There’s an air-conditioned café across the street. Get something to drink and be back in ten minutes. I need to give some new instructions to the camera crew…”