Pounds across America — 1990
On Tuesday afternoon I line up with other petite brunette actresses,
silently, our eyes underlined with dark liner. When it's my turn to
walk on stage, the assistant casting director asks me to smile,
inspects my teeth for flaws. She has purple hair, a nose ring, and a
T-Shirt that says '2nd Butch Bitch.' She looks me over —
back to front to back. Says they'll call if I make the cut.
I work in the fringes of mid-town Manhattan on the night shift, which
allows me days to audition. My co-workers are mainly out-of-work
actors. Our job is calling people who've ordered our diet product from
a TV infomercial.
The floor manager creates a sales contest to motivate us, calls it
'POUNDS ACROSS AMERICA!' We're all nervous, fluttering and bullying
each other. I pile Three Musketeers bars next to my coffee. A bite,
then a sip, then a call. I wave at Jeremy who's been on the night shift
the last month.
The prize is Broadway show tickets for two. I dial, opening my Three
tired female voice says.
Hi. Is this Janet?
This is Martha Tiffany
with Dr. Feldman's weight loss system! Congratulations, Janet! We've
shipped your trial order and you should be receiving it any time!
says Janet D. Higgins, 190 pounds, in Racine.
Janet, Dr. Feldman is
having us call every customer individually so we can design your unique
program. How many pounds do you need to lose?
I can't help reaching for my Three Musketeers bar. I hear the pop of a
fart from the young recruit behind me.
says, followed by a puff of air.
Great. How fast would
you like to do that, Janet? I ask, tonguing the caramel
Three weeks? Heh!
Let's see, I'm just
looking at the chart, I say.
I turn to see what's happening. Dawn (who started when I did) is doing
her shtick for a group in the back, saying "Pee – niss" in a
Mickey Mouse voice. "Pee-niss, pee-niss, pee-niss!"
Janet screams, Mommy
needs a little time-out too honey.
Janet, we're looking at...
(here the script suggests improvising)... two to three to four months if
you follow the easy step system!
I look over at Jeremy, his new haircut. He just did a national soda
commercial — knows he's hot. He's rolling a joint under
his desk, not really caring if he gets caught.
I got to try something,
Janet says. I hear a child yelling.
Let me get to the other
reason I called... and this has to do with what we just talked about.
We care about your success as much as you do, Janet, and we don't want
you to have a gap in your continuation — an important concept in weight
loss. We're real backed up here, Janet! People are waiting for months
to receive orders because of the success they're achieving.
The script says, WAIT NOW FOR REACTION.
says. I guess that's
good then. Was your name Martha Tif-ney?
Martha Tiffany Reynolds,
I wave at Jeremy near the window grid flipping me off like he always
does. I stick out my tongue and he gives me his rat face. We spent last
weekend in bed and he's probably bored already.
Janet tells me in a hushed tone that I sound like a "super, no B.S.
You do too, sweetheart
— we love
you here, I say.
She says she's a waitress. Her husband died on the way home from work
one-and-a-half years ago, crushed by a semi. She has a toddler named
Trevor. He's a handful, and needs a good preschool. She hopes to be
able to afford one soon.
Sweat is forming under my breasts and pits even though the air
conditioning is blasting. I say the last line of the script a bit
early, feeling my full bladder, pressing it with my hand to make it
worse. You. Deserve.
She gives me her credit card number, saying Shit yes! to the
Supreme Success Package (the most expensive).
I bet you're pretty and
thin, Martha Tifney, she says before she hangs up.
After work I bring Janet's order sheet home under my shirt. I read off
each name as I tear the sheets into bits: Kelly, Nita, Jen, Marla,
Iris, Nancy, and Janet. They will be mystified when there's no charge
on their statements and they receive nothing else.
I take off my clothes and stand naked in front of the bathroom mirror.
Look at myself from different angles. The way a casting director would.
Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her
work has appeared or is forthcoming in FRiGG, Dogzplot,
Eclectica, elimae, SmokeLong Quarterly,
Pindeldyboz, and others.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200811pounds.htm
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