Authors: Joan Lowery Nixon
Sean yelled after him, “Oh, yeah? When did you
help with the dishes?” But Sam had already shot out the back door and was on the way to his house, next door.
Mr. Quinn chuckled. “Sam seems to have forgotten all about that so-called jinx.”
“Sam was just trying to scare Sean,” Brian said.
Mrs. Quinn sighed. “I wish Sam wouldn’t always come up with those awful, scary stories,” she said.
“Aw, Mom,” Sean said. “I’m not scared of any old jinx.” But even though he tried to sound brave, he felt cold prickles up his backbone. He’d never run into a jinx before, and he wasn’t sure he knew how to handle it.
The next morning, as he entered his fourth-grade class, Sean stopped worrying about the movie jinx. He had his own horrible, scary jinx—Debbie Jean Parker.
She waved a paper in his face and said, “Sign here, and you can be a member of the Redoaks Dakota Wayne Fan Club. I’m the president, of course.”
“Who elected you?” Sean asked.
“I elected myself.” Debbie Jean held out her arms and tried a ballet twirl, nearly falling into the nearest desk. She caught her balance, shrugged, and said proudly, “I was signed as one of the extras. You know what that means, don’t you?”
“The casting director lost her glasses,” Sean said.
Debbie Jean ignored him and burbled, “It means that all of Hollywood will see my face and talent on the screen. I’ll be discovered and made a star!”
“Oh, yuck,” Sean said.
“And I’ll actually get to meet Dakota Wayne!”
The bell rang, and Mrs. Jackson clapped her hands. “Take your seats, boys and girls. I know you’re all excited about the movie that’s going to be filmed here—especially those of you who are going to be in it—but we’ve got lots of work to do. It’s time to get busy.”
Sean couldn’t resist temptation. As Debbie Jean was turning to go to her seat, Sean grabbed her arm and said, “You may be an extra in a few scenes in the movie, but I’m going to work as Justin Moore’s stand-in.”
Debbie Jean’s eyes widened, and her mouth fell open.
Sean slid into his seat with a big grin on his face. This whole movie experience was going to be even more fun than he had imagined. What could go wrong? Nothing!
HERE WAS ANOTHER INTERVIEW,
and forms for Mrs. Quinn to sign. Finally, Sean was told to report to his school, and from there to the outdoor set near the east door.
“We want to see you bright and early,” Miss Carter said. “Be there by six o’clock.”
“Six o’clock?” Sean asked. “But school doesn’t start until eight-thirty, and anyway, tomorrow’s Saturday.”
“Kid, you’ll need to be dressed in costume and through with makeup by seven-fifteen,” Miss Carter told him.
Makeup? Yuck! Sean hadn’t counted on having to wear makeup.
Miss Carter chuckled. “Don’t look so miserable. Even the stars turn out that early.” She handed him a card. “Report to Maria. She’ll be in one of the trailers.”
The next morning Sean had no trouble waking up. He was so excited he was sure he hadn’t slept all night. His dad delivered him to the school grounds and helped him find Maria’s trailer among the more than twenty huge trucks and trailers that were parked all over the east side of the playground and street.
Dozens of people were setting up equipment near the stairs leading to the east door. Some people were drinking steaming cups of coffee and eating doughnuts, and some were shouting orders. There were also lots of people standing around watching.
“It’s a cloudy day,” Sean said to his dad. “If there isn’t enough sun, does that mean they won’t have enough light to film the movie?”
“Movie companies use lights powerful enough to be sunshine,” Mr. Quinn said. “They won’t have any problems.”
Sean stopped and gawked as a man yelled to two of the crew members who were carrying potted plants, “Put them on the right side of the steps!”
They did, and he yelled, “Now try them on the left side. … No. Take them away. Wait … put them by the side wall. Where’s that autographed basketball? Okay. It belongs on the lower step.”
“Come on, Sean. You’ve got an appointment,” Mr. Quinn said. He led Sean to Maria’s trailer.
“Hi, Sean,” Maria said with a smile. “They sent your costume over here. You can go in that back room and put it on.”
She held out a pair of jeans, a white T-shirt, and a San Francisco Forty-niners jacket. Sean, who’d been wondering what kind of weird costume he might have to wear, gave a sigh of relief. “Cool,” he said.
He said good-bye to his dad, put on the costume, and reported back to Maria.
She put him into a chair that faced a mirror surrounded by lights. Then she tucked small towels around his neck to protect his clothing and got to work.
Sean made a face as she put a creamy foundation on his face. “Guys don’t wear makeup,” he complained.
“Sure they do, when they’re acting,” she said.
“I bet Dakota Wayne doesn’t.”
Maria chuckled and pointed to some special jars on a nearby shelf. “Yes he does. That’s Dakota’s special makeup. He’s got a lot of allergies. It’s hereditary on his father’s side. Anyhow, Dakota’s allergic to something in the usual creams and face powder we use, so we always have his own personal makeup on hand.”
Sean closed his eyes and let Maria get to work. She had almost finished when someone poked his head inside the trailer door and said, “Hurry up. Sean’s wanted on the set.”
Sean’s heart gave a jump.
Wanted on the set
. Wow! Even though he was just a stand-in, he had a part in making a movie!
“Follow me,” Maria said, and she walked from the trailer. Sean was right behind her.
But someone yelled, “Watch out!” and Sean and Maria were shoved out of the way.
With a loud crash, one of the tall light standards smashed to the ground—right where they had been standing.
Brian, Sam, and some of the kids on the basketball team ran to Sean.
“What happened?” Sean asked.
“I saw the light start to fall,” Brian said. “It was weird. It didn’t fall like it was top-heavy. It just fell.”
“Like it was pushed,” Sam said.
“Yeah,” Brian answered. “And it fell in a spot that had emptied, like someone had planned it. At least it was empty until you and Maria got in the way.”
“I don’t care how it happened. We can’t afford any more problems,” a tall, skinny man said. He shook his head so hard his ponytail bounced.
“Who’s he?” Sean asked.
“I heard people calling him Max. He’s one of the assistant directors,” Brian answered.
A short, small-boned man standing next to Max said, “If I were you I’d get rid of the grip responsible for that light. I think you should fire him. That will show people there’s no jinx. It was the grip’s fault.”
“You’re probably right,” Max said. “We can’t survive any more of these rumors about a jinx.
Debbie Jean wailed in Sean’s ear, “The picture can’t be jinxed! Being in a movie—a movie with Dakota Wayne—is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my whole life!”
A small, mousy-haired woman rushed up. She clutched the arm of a blond boy dressed exactly like Sean.
“What happened? What was that crash?” she called to Max.
As Max began to explain, Sean turned to the boy. “Hi,” he said. “You’re Justin Moore, aren’t you?”
Justin looked at the way Sean was dressed and smiled. “Yes, I am. You must be my stand-in.”
“Yeah,” Sean said. “I’m Sean Quinn.”
“Hi, Sean,” Justin said. “I hope you don’t mind all the boring stuff that goes on when you’re making a movie.” He took a quick look around. Then he pulled a candy bar out of his pocket and stuffed most of it into his mouth.
Sean was surprised. “It hasn’t been boring so far,” he said. “With that light crashing down and—”
“The jinx,” Sam interrupted.
Justin looked scared. He gulped down the last bite of candy as he said, “I know about the jinx. Don’t talk about it!”
“There’s no jinx,” Sean said. “At least that’s what my dad said. Sam just—” Sean didn’t get a chance to finish. A hand gripped his shoulder. “Come with me,” Maria said. “Hurry. They want you on the set.”
Sean followed Maria to a nearby spot that had been marked with a small piece of colored tape. Maria combed Sean’s hair again and once more powdered his nose, making him sneeze.
Max positioned Sean and said, “Stand right where you are. Don’t move.”
Sean stood still as the broken light was replaced. Many lights, with different kinds of filters, were focused on him. Reflectors were added.
A camera operator called, “Gaffer, get that shadow off the lower side of his face.” Reflectors and lights were rearranged and focused again.
“I don’t like the potted plants there. They have to be moved,” Max called. He took a step forward. “Hey! Where’s the basketball?”
“I dunno,” somebody shouted back. “I put it on the lower step, just like I was told to.”
“We need that basketball in the shot,” Max insisted. “You’ve got to find it.”
“Can’t I just get another basketball?”
“No, you can’t. This one’s got autographs all over it. There’s not another one like it.”
“Is it valuable?”
“It’s valuable because it’s part of the script and part of the set.” Max’s face grew red. “We left Hollywood to get away from problems like broken equipment and disappearing props. I don’t want any more excuses. Find that basketball!”
“Right away,” a crew member said, and hurried off.
The camera operator called to a gaffer again, and the lights and reflectors were moved to other positions. Sean shifted from one foot to the other and yawned.
“Hold still, Sean,” someone ordered.
At that moment Sean saw Dakota Wayne walk into the school yard. Dakota was tall with black hair and blue eyes and looked much older than he had in his last picture. He was surrounded by a large group of studio people, including the short man who had wanted the studio grip fired. Sean stretched for a better look as he saw Debbie Jean squeal and run toward Dakota.
A cameraman yelled, “Stop moving around, kid! You’ve got to stand still!”
“But Dakota just got here,” Sean protested. “I want to see him.”
“That’s not your job. We’ve got to film him pretty soon, so stop wasting our time,” the cameraman said.
Sean tried not to move. He couldn’t see anything, but he could hear. Nearby, Mrs. Moore said in a low voice, “Justin, darling, it doesn’t matter how much fuss they’re making over Dakota Wayne.
going to be the real star of this film, not Dakota.”
Justin answered, “Get real, Mom. They’re all hanging around Dakota, not around me.”
“Give it time,” she said. “You’re an up-and-coming young actor with a great future, while Dakota’s outgrowing his child roles and will soon be a has-been.”
“Aw, Mom, don’t talk like that,” Justin grumbled. “I like Dakota.”
“Maybe so, but just wait and see. You’ll find out your mother is right,” she said smugly.
Sean wanted to turn and stare, but he didn’t dare move. What was Mrs. Moore talking about? If it concerned the accidents and burglaries that were happening on the set, then maybe she was a part of it.
EBBIE JEAN GAVE A
happy squeal, and Sean turned to see what was going on. But Max stopped him with a yell. “Sean Quinn, you were told not to move!”
Sean’s excitement about being a stand-in for Justin Moore quickly faded. The lights were hot; he wasn’t allowed to move; and when he absolutely couldn’t stand it any longer and scratched his nose, one of Maria’s assistants rushed out of nowhere and powdered it again. That made it itch even more.
Finally, the people around the cameras and lights seemed to agree about everything. Justin moved out of the crowd and walked to where Sean was standing. Justin was scarfing down another candy bar.
“I see what you meant about boring,” Sean told him.
“It’s just as bad for the actors,” Justin said. “We say a few lines, then have to say them over and over and over again.”
“What if you get them right the first time?”
“I do get them right the first time. My mother sees to that. But the director wants to try them one way, then another way, then—”