It’s some kind of freak waking nightmare: I’m rushed into the auditorium, hustled onstage, and navigated between various jungle props crafted from Boca Linda’s finest foam and cardboard stock. I squint against the blinding stage lights, trying to make out the details of an impossible darkness beyond, trying to figure out if it’s just Mrs. Currant and a few lackeys observing the dress rehearsal—or half the school.
A flamboyantly-dressed Mexican incarnation of Hollywood Montrose (from the movie Mannequin) thrusts a rumpled script at me and hisses into my ear, “We’re doing the boulder-rescue scene. Just like we rehearsed. Got it?”
I nod and smile and kind of go numb for a second as I skim over my lines, wondering what the hell I’m doing and how the hell I let myself get here in the first place. I’m no actor! I’m not even a real jungle boy! Am I so mortified by the prospect of getting in trouble that I’d rather parade around school as an undead child actor than admit defeat and be done with it?
Lex Barker enters stage-left.
“Holy shit—it’s Lex Barker!” I scream, instinctively ducking behind Hollywood.
“What?” Lex spreads his arms. “Is something wrong with my skin?”
Oh, right. This isn’t the real Lex Barker (or Thrill-Kill’s unreasonable facsimile thereof), it’s some high school kid wearing a Lex Barker skin for rehearsal.
Mrs. Currant’s annoyed voice escapes the darkness: “Are we ready, gentlemen?”
Hollywood steps aside, shoves me center-stage. “Stop messing around, Tyler. We’re behind as it is. Marks, everyone!”
Lex crosses the stage and lies prone beneath a giant foam boulder, gives me a thumbs-up.
I glance at my script again and think to myself that this doesn’t sound so bad. I can do this. Say a few lines, save the day, and then I can be on my merry way. What could possibly go wrong?
Hollywood whispers into my ear, “By the way, Principal Sandalwood’s got the superintendent in the audience, so don’t fuck up.” He yanks the script out of my hands, pats me on the shoulder, and books offstage. “Action!”
I crouch beside the boulder.
An expectant silence presses in on me.
A million worst-case scenarios play out in my head while my entire body bastes in retro sweat: What if I fart? What if my voice cracks? What if I sneeze? Vomit? Succumb to uncontrollable hiccups? To name a few.
“They took the diamonds!” Lex hisses at me from over his shoulder.
“What diamonds?” I hiss back.
“That’s your line, dumbass!”
Oh. “They took the diamonds!” I proclaim with absolutely zero charisma. The sweat is now coursing down my forehead, cascading off my shoulders and chest, pooling beneath my legs.
Lex glares at me. “Use your knife to cut me free!” He wiggles his ankle for emphasis.
“They took the diamonds!” I shout again.
“You already said that!”
I dab at my face with the back of my arm and grasp for my knife, unsheathing it haphazardly—and not realizing until it’s too late that the handle has somehow caught on my loincloth.
Which parts from my thighs without delay.
And goes flying across the stage in epic slow motion.
Resulting in a very naked and very embarrassed Joey Martin now face-palming himself in shame before a hushed audience.
If you’re listening, please make my death a quick and painless one—
My prayer is interrupted by the sound of someone padding barefoot onto the stage. I look up and spot a second Joey coming toward me and Lex.
“Hey, everyone. Sorry I’m…” The other Joey trails off, pays my bare ass a look of shock and disbelief. “…late.”
Shut up, Tyler. You’re ruining the moment.