Photos by Janicza Bravo
Why is everything in this town always so close to falling apart? My sciatica is killing me. My scrotum feels like it’s going to explode from the pain. And my eyes are twitching like they’ve got butterflies in them. Speaking of flies… GODDAMMIT, MELISSA STEPHENS! GODDAMN METHOD ACTORS!
I hired her to do this sci-fi flick I’m producing: White Lie/Black Fly. It’s all about a woman who’s a scientist, but little does her husband know that she’s a mad scientist. She injects herself with fly blood to see if it’ll make her have superpowers, and bingo! She does! The problem is that with her newfound powers comes a whole boatload of crazy, and she becomes kind of like a supervillain. She jumps around and terrorizes her town with her fly laser gun. Great, right? And who could play the part better than Melissa? She’s the best of the best. My dilemma is that when she takes on a role, she stays in it throughout the goddamn premiere party.
The crew tells me she’s been crawling up walls, jumping on people, and even eating caca. Yes, you know how flies eat caca? Well, apparently, that was a very important detail she didn’t want to leave out of her performance. She’s gotta tone it down or we’re going to have 50,000 lawsuits on our hands.
I get to set, and the director is tearing his hair out. They’re shooting up by the RKO caves. I’m told she’s running around up there like a real nutso. “She won’t come back,” he said. “She saw a spider in her trailer and thinks we’re trying to kill her! You gotta do something, Combover!”
I walk up the hill. I get to the caves. I hear something in one of them.
“Mel?! Mel?! Is that you?!”
She comes out. She’s wearing an eye patch, but she still has on her street clothes.
“Buzzzzzzz off, Combover,” she says in a high, squeaky fly voice.
“Come on, Mel, cut the games. Let’s go back to set and make a movie.”
“Movie? What movie? I don’t know anything about any movie. The only thing I know about is a murder plot. You’d just love me to come back down there so you could see me get eaten by poizzzzzonous ssssspiderzzzz.”
“Nobody’s trying to kill you with spiders, Mel.”
“Nizzzzzzzze ‘white lie,’ Combover! Now, how about I introduce you to… Black Fly?!”
She throws a chunk of cave dust into my eyes. I thought it was kind of strange the way she forced the title of the movie into the middle of our conversation. When I open my eyes again she’s in her Fly Woman outfit.
“I AM BLACK FLY! You might think my name should be Blond Fly because of the color of my hair, but it’s not! It’s Black Fly! On account of my black heart! I care for no man! For no man carezzzzzzz for Black Fly! I will zzzzzzzzlaughter everyone who triezzzzzzz to get in my way!”
She shoots at me with her fake laser gun.
“Ooooo, zzzzzzeemzzzz like my fly lazzzzzzzer pizzzzztol does not affect you. I guezzzzzz this meanzzzz I need to murder you in the old-fashioned way. With my fly handzzzzzzz!”
She starts running at me. I run! I’m scared out of my mind until I realize… SHE’S NOT ACTUALLY A FLY WOMAN WITH SUPER FLY STRENGTH! I turn around and grab her by the arm.
“I don’t care what your acting process is! You’re going to break character, or so help me I’ll ruin you!”
She breaks free and runs!
“Black Fly only lizzzzzztenzzz to one perzzzzon! Herzzzzzelf!”
She’s too fast. I can’t catch her. Then I remember something I noticed at the props station on the way in.
I go back down the hill and grab it. When I come back, Melissa is hiding the brush.
“What you got behind your back there, Combover?”
“Oh, just a little something to even the playing field.”
I whip it out.
“OH NO! A GIANT FLYZZZZZWATTER!”
“That’s right! And you get with the program, Melissa, or so help me, I’m gonna flatten you like matzo!”
I swing the swatter.
She buzzes more.
She moves around in quick, jagged motions. She trips and falls in the dirt. She scrapes her knee on a rock and starts crying.
“Now get the hell up and get back to work!”
“Fine. I’ll go back down and shoot, but you have no right to meddle with my process like this.”
I throw the swatter to the ground.
“Process is for prima donnas, and I ain’t no putz. Go get touched up.”
I need a touch-up myself.
Goddamn actors. Schlemiels through and through.
This is the sixth chapter of Combover, Brett Gelman’s novel about Hollywood, the beauty of the Jewish tradition, baldness, and murder. We will be serializing it throughout the rest of the year. Read the previous installment: Jarble Jerble