It’s said that a single, seemingly insignificant event can alter the course of person’s life. A ripple in a pond leads to a tidal wave; a butterfly flapping its wings makes a hurricane half a world away. For Carla Garcia, struggling actress, it was something as simple as what underwear the director wanted her to wear.
“Nick?” Carla’s voice echoed off the pickle green bricks of the studio hallway. “What the hell is this?” Carla’s manager and agent looked up from his phone, giving a passing glance to the soft plastic-backed bundle she held in one outstretched hand. From the way she held the thing, one might think it was a hungry piranha wriggling around and trying to bite her fingers off.
“That,” Nick stated plainly, “would be a diaper.” He gave Carla a little smirk like he thought he was being cute or something. Of course it was a diaper. What else could it have been, with its white plastic backing and nauseatingly pink and purple flowers and butterflies? Even from arm’s length, the scent of its lavender perfume wafted into Carla’s nose. This was either a diaper meant for a particularly large baby or a maxi-pad for an amazon.
“I know it’s a diaper, Nick,” Carla growled, “but what the hell is it doing in my dressing room?!”
Nick slicked back his chestnut hair. “I’m not an expert, but I’m betting that’s part of your costume. Just guessing.”
“I know it’s part of my wardrobe,” Carla hissed, “but why?!” Nick furrowed his eyebrows in concentration and confusion. For a brief moment he was a dog that had been asked to pedal a unicycle. He wanted to make her happy; he just didn’t know how.
Her gaze followed his as he looked conspiratorially over his shoulder. “I snooped around and saw some other packages in Wardrobe,” Nick whispered like he was a spy in one of those cheesy prison break movies they’d watch together. “They’ve got diapers with teddy bears on ‘em, and owls; even ones with clouds and balloons and stuff. Say the word, and I make a call. We’ll get you the right kind of dia-“
“I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT WEARING DIAPERS IN THE HALLWAY WHERE EVERYONE CAN LISTEN IN!” Carla’s shouts rattled the door to the dressing room behind her. She was suddenly acutely aware of exactly how loud she had just been. Several stage hands and technicians had stopped dead in their tracks and stared in horror and disgust at her. Her first acting gig in months, and they likely already thought she was being a diva. All that was missing for them was the popcorn.
“Dressing room!” she scolded him as quietly as she could. “Now!” With her free hand, Carla grabbed Nick by his tie and dragged him into the dressing room the studio had provided; any harder and the tie would have unclipped from his shirt.
“I get that you’re upset about something,” Nick said after the door to Carla’s dressing room was closed and Carla had released his tie, “but I just don’t get what it is or why.” Carla puffed out her breath in frustration. Now it was her turn to be perplexed. What was so hard to understand?
“Why do I have to wear a diaper in the first place?”
“Uh…because you’re playing a baby…?” Nick offered sarcastically. “Says it there right in the casting call: ‘Big Baby Bella’.”
Nick had gotten Carla a part for a T.V. pilot. It was some kind of kid’s show, targeted for late bloomers and immature types who didn’t want to grow up, or something. Nick had described the show as a variation on Lazy Town, only for children that didn’t want to move up to “big kid” status instead of ones who didn’t want to exercise.
And just like Lazy Town, all the characters for Little Land were being played by adults. Only one part was available: “Big Baby Bella”. The downside was that Carla didn’t know anything else about the part. It had been a last minute gig, with the original actress dropping out suddenly and Nick managing to get Carla’s headshots into some casting director’s lap.
Carla had yet to meet any of the other actors, or do a table read, or anything other than make it to the studio. She’d managed to get a glimpse of the director- Max Hammerschmidt, a local legend in children’s programming- before a few stage hands shuffled her into a dressing room while Nick walked behind them playing on his phone.
Worse yet, she wasn’t going to get the chance to properly prepare for the role, it seemed. Max Hammerschmidt had a reputation for being particularly demanding when it came to keeping on schedule, and today was the first day of filming. No rehearsal, no nothing. Carla was going to have to read the script moments before the cameras started rolling, hope that she could memorize the lines, and let her natural talent carry her through today.
That had been the plan, at least, until Carla had seen her wardrobe: a lavender colored dress with puffy sleeves, a matching wig with its artificial hair in pigtails, some baby bootie socks with grips on the soles so that she could walk around without slipping, and a diaper big enough that it could actually fit her. It wasn’t even an adult style diaper like something found in the “embarrassing personal products aisle” at the grocery store. It was, for all intents and purposes, a baby diaper that had been blown up to scale. The moment she found the dreadful thing waiting for her in the dressing room, Carla had gotten a pretty good idea why her predecessor had suddenly quit.
“This is ridiculous, Nick,” Carla whined, shaking the diaper in her hand for emphasis. “Why do I have to wear a diaper?”
Nick glanced at his phone, like he had somewhere better to be. More than likely, he had one of his games on pause and was itching to play. “It’s for the part. You’re ‘Big Baby Bella’. You wear diapers. It’s kind of in the name.”
“Yeah,” Carla allowed, “but I didn’t expect to have to wear a real diaper for the part. I figured that they’d just give me some kind of puffy pants, or maybe the old white-cloth-and-giant-safety-pin bit. Y’know? Like in the cartoons?”
Nick sighed. Why was he the one acting exasperated? He wasn’t the one expected to trade in his undies for Pampers Size 26. “This isn’t a cartoon, and it’s supposed to be educational,” he told her. “How are the little two and three year olds of the world going to know that being in diapers is a bad thing if your diaper doesn’t look like something they’d wear? How many kids wear diapers without some kind of cartoon on them? How many kids wear safety-pinned diapers?”
“If it’s supposed to be realistic, then why is this diaper plastic?” Carla countered. “I’ve got a little niece, and all of her Pampers are that fake cloth-like shit.”
There was a pause. Nick’s eyes searched the room for an answer. “It’s part of the aesthetic, I guess. Your other stuff seems kinda plastic to me.” Nick levied a finger at the dress and wig laying on the countertop. Gingerly, Carla picked up the dress and rubbed the material between her fingers. It didn’t crinkle like a raincoat, or a…well, Carla didn’t even want to think the word if she didn’t have to…but there was definitely a kind of shimmer and sheen to it. Maybe Nick did have a point there. Still, she wasn’t about to admit defeat.
“That’s not the point,” she moaned. “This is degrading and embarrassing.”
“That’s showbiz,” Nick replied flatly. There was another ten full seconds of tense uninterrupted, unblinking silence between the two.
Nick let out a long sigh and rubbed his temples. “Look, babe; you’ve basically got two choices: either put on the diaper, or give up on being an actress.” Carla’s heart was in her stomach in an instant. “I have busted my ass trying to get you good, speaking parts, and for some reason, this is the only one that’s panned out. And…and…and…” he seemed to search for words and came up wanting.
The young actress felt like she was going to throw up in her mouth. Even Nick was close to giving up on her. Nick never gave up on anyone. Anyone. He had a mime as a client for God’s sakes! She was about to be brought lower than a mime all because she wouldn’t wear a diaper.
“Other than this,” Nick broke into her train of thought, “best I can do is get you a gig as an extra in a herpes medication commercial.” An extra? In a herpes commercial? She wouldn’t even be the one talking to the camera about how she had herpes. Best case scenario, she’d be bike rider number four in a crowd of bike riders to demonstrate that yes, even people with herpes could ride bikes. She wouldn’t even get to say “…But not anymore.”
“Do you want the part, Carla? Do you want to at least get your foot in the door? Or do you wanna go back to waiting tables at the shit bar where we met?” Nick was right. This might be her last chance.
That’s when the fight went out of her. “Fine,” she conceded. “I’ll put the damn thing on. Now get out. I need to get…” she paused. “Changed” would have been a poor choice of words on her part. “I need to get dressed.”
“Atta girl,” Nick grinned, stifling a laugh as he went for the doorknob. “That’s very mature of you. I’m proud of you.” Carla gave him a look and Nick slapped his hand over his mouth. This is why they hadn’t worked out as a couple. Never one to restrain himself too much, Nick waited until he was almost completely out the door, leaned back in and said, “Now you just let your Nick-Nick know if you need any help getting your diapee on,” before fluttering his eyes coyly. Son of a bitch managed to get out and slam the door right as the diaper came flying at his head.
The young actress turned to face the dressing room mirror and took a deep breath in through her nose before letting it out quickly through her mouth. “Nick…” she whispered to herself. Sometimes that man’s own name could be used as a curse word. But as infuriating as he could be, Carla still liked him, at least as a friend and agent. He had gotten her plenty of auditions over the past few years and it wasn’t his fault that she was never “quite what the director was looking for.”
An old Mitch Hedberg joke came to mind just then: “You know what keeps me from acting? Fucking auditions.” It had been funny when Mitch had said it. It wasn’t nearly as funny when Carla was living it. The irony that she hadn’t auditioned to get this part wasn’t lost on her, either.
Regardless, she had gotten a speaking role, and something about her was what at least one person had been looking for, even if it had been as a last minute replacement. What did it matter if they had also been looking for someone desperate enough to wear a diaper on camera? She could do this. She could totally do this.
With a last look at herself in the mirror and a huff, Carla pulled her midnight black tank-top over her head; folding it neatly, almost ceremonially, before setting it down on the counter in front of her. She pondered leaving on her matching sports bra for a moment before double checking the dress she was supposed to wear. Twisting her lips to the side, she frowned slightly as she examined the childish costume. Her bra would definitely show if she left it on; not camera appropriate in the least. It was a stupid mistake on her part. Should’ve brought something strapless, just in case, she thought.
But, she reminded herself, babies don’t wear bras, so it made sense to go without. It wasn’t a mistake, it was a character choice. Further inspection of the front of the dress revealed that it had a little bit of padding up top, too, so it was likely meant to be worn without any additional support. The actress sighed in relief, and the bra soon joined the sacrificial altar of her dignity. Her sneakers, socks, and jeans were added shortly after.
Carla was about to take off her panties when she remembered that their replacement was still lying on the floor. Shimmying her panties down her hips while she tiptoed to the door, Carla picked up the tacky, padded, plastic, monstrosity and turned it over in her hands. Once again, the faint smell of lavender wafted up into her nostrils, bringing with it memories of babysitting her niece and perhaps even long buried memories of being babysat herself. It did smell nice, if you didn’t think about what its intended purpose was. Not that she’d be using it, of course. This was a costume piece; a prop and nothing more.
For the first time since discovering it, she completely unfolded the adult baby diaper in her hands. Opening up the sides revealed even more purple plastic around the waistline and leg gathers; God, but this thing looked gaudy! Still, if meant getting the job, then…
Carla froze. She didn’t actually know how to put a diaper on herself. She knew how to put a diaper on someone else, but she quickly realized that she didn’t have the slightest inkling of how to be both the adult and the baby at the same time.
Perplexed, she looked at the thing in her hands and studied it like it was some sort of puzzle. She could tell where the back was by the tapes, but didn’t get much further than that. How to put this thing on? What secrets did it hold?!
At first, she tried to pull it up between her legs and fasten it standing, but whenever she reached for a tape in the back, the front drooped down like a wet noodle. Likewise, when she pulled the front up to her waist for a nice snug fit, the backside inevitably fell before she could fasten it properly. Carla considered squeezing the middle between her thighs so she might hold the damn thing in place long enough to fasten it together, but that might wrinkle it up and make it unappealing to the camera. Did diapers wrinkle that much? She’d never thought about it before.
This wasn’t working. Carla was Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill. “Wish there was a spare,” She whispered quietly enough so that she was sure Rick wouldn’t hear her. “That way I could worry less if I made a mistake.” The irony that she was now wishing for more diapers wasn’t lost on her. Defeated once more by this simple task, Carla decided to go at it from another angle. She lowered herself down to the floor; the carpet tickling her spine while the padding cushioned her backside like an overstuffed pillow.
Better. Much better. Carla reached between her legs and pulled the undergarment up past her belly button. So far, so good. But as she twisted around to try and grab at the tapes, she felt the underside of the diaper tickling at her thighs. How the hell had that happened?! She was doing it wrong, again!
Well past the point of frustration, Carla sat up only so she could throw herself back onto the carpet with a thud; her forearms brushing into the carpet in a miniature tantrum that resembled making a snow angel. Damnit! Damnit! Damnit! She might lose this job just because she couldn’t diaper herself! How was she supposed to play Big Baby Bella if she couldn’t get a damn diaper on? That was the rub though: babies didn’t diaper themselves.
Carla picked herself off the floor and went to the door of the dressing room; opening the door just enough so that she could see Nick leaning against the wall, playing on his phone.
“Nick,” she whimpered through the crack in the doorway. “Heeeeelp meeee.” Nick looked up from his phone.
Her agent did a double take. “Seriously?” he asked. Her throat dry from embarrassment, Carla nodded. In the space of a heartbeat, Nick was a through the door and in the dressing room. Carla didn’t even have time to blink before Nick was picking the repulsive padding up off the floor and walking towards the counter where the rest of her costume laid.
“Right,” he nodded, more to himself than to her. “Let’s do this.” Nick placed the rest of the costume on a nearby stool while still managing to knock some strips of lavender plastic and a bottle of spirit gum to the floor. “Over here”, he patted the countertop. “Come lay down.” Carla looked at him indignantly. “What?” Nick scoffed. “You asked for my help, now come lay down.”
The countertop was cold as she hoisted herself up onto it. Carla shivered a bit as she laid her head down using the pile of her adult clothes as a makeshift pillow, and closed her eyes. “The things I do for my clients,” Nick muttered loud enough for her to hear.
His hand gently moved hers away from her pelvis; she had already started to cover herself in a kind of second nature to preserve her own modesty. “Relax, you literally don’t have anything I haven’t seen before,” Nick reminded. “Or have you forgotten those couple of months when we tried being more than actress and agent?”
Sadly, Nick had a point. However in her current state of vulnerability, his words made Carla feel less like an ex-lover and more like a little girl at the doctor’s office. She shut her eyes all the harder when she felt her agent slip an arm under the back of her knees and push her legs up over her head. Just relax. Let him do his job. Carla heard just as much as she felt when Nick used his free hand to slide the diaper under Carla’s rump. She let out the slightest breath of relief as her naked skin touched the soft inside of the diaper and cringed a bit when she heard the accompanying rustling of the soft plastic.
“Just a second,” she heard Nick say. Carla didn’t even have time to respond before her senses were overwhelmed. The sickly sweet lavender scent from the diaper multiplied tenfold in her nostrils and her skin was assaulted with the sensation of cool flakes pelting her backside. Baby powder?
Carla opened her eyes to see Nick sprinkling baby powder on her, coating caramel skin with a layer of powdered sugar. “Hey,” she coughed, “what gives? I already smell like a baby.” Her nose twitched as she suppressed a sneeze.
“You’ll thank me at the end of shooting when you haven’t been chafing all day,” Nick told her. “Besides,” he continued talking after he lowered her legs and began sprinkling the stuff on her crotch. “I really think it’ll help you get into character.”
There was a knock on the door. “Miss Garcia?” A muffled voice from the hallway interrupted their banter. “Five minutes till they need you on set!”
“Thank you, five!” Carla called back, using theater lingo as a matter of habit. Her entire body tingled with embarrassment as Nick pulled the diaper up between her legs and pulled the tapes taught over the front. She was acutely aware of the new and invasive bulk between her legs. His hands reached out to her, and she accepted them, pulling herself up into a sitting position before hopping off the impromptu changing table.
There was a distinct change in her gait, Carla noticed, as she took a few tentative practice steps in the bulky thing strapped around her waist. “How’s it fit?” Nick asked. Carla’s ears rang with the crinkle of thin plastic. She twisted her hips a bit and bent and stretched to see if the noise could be reduced through use; like breaking in a new shoe. It couldn’t. On the bright side, it showed no sign of slipping off, so there was that at least.
“Fits pretty good,” Carla replied before picking the purple baby dress and slipping it on over her head. “It’s been awhile since I’ve worn one of these, so I don’t know how it’s supposed to feel.” She smoothed the material down and adjusted herself so that her breasts fit comfortably. Absentmindedly, she ran her hand down the down the hem of her dress and noted that her hand hit smooth plastic far sooner than she would’ve liked. That could be a problem.
Not having the luxury of time to fully examine herself yet, Carla quickly went about the business of pinning back her hair and slipping a wig cap on so she could properly adorn the violet wig, pigtails and all.
Nick chuckled to himself as Carla finished getting dressed. “You have no idea how pathetic you looked; all naked and afraid, begging me to help you put on a diaper. You couldn’t even get it on without me.”
The eyes in Carla’s head rolled so much she almost got a glance at her own brain. “Ass,” she playfully spat as she pulled on the baby booty socks, complete with grips on the soles and frills on the edges. “When was the last time you wore underwear that required assembly?”
“More recently than I’d like to admit,” Nick smirked, “but not nearly as recently as you. And I wouldn’t call what you’re wearing underwear. Underwear is typically…under something.” He pointed his finger and waggled it between her dress and the diaper.
The actress caught her reflection in the full length mirror by the door. It was worse than she thought: Her “hair” was plaited into two dangling pom-poms, her feet were slipped into in little more than baby booties, and she was wearing a dress that Cindy Brady might call immature. She was a sight to behold, like something out of a cartoon.
The dress seemed to flare out, making a kind of triangle at her hips. Only, more to Nick’s point, the hem of the dress wasn’t covering much of anything. To call this thing she was wearing a dress was an overstatement. It didn’t even completely hide her diaper; it covered the top half at most. There was absolutely no angle where one couldn’t see that she was heavily padded. Carla burned inside a bit once she realized she thought of the diaper as hers.
“Ay, dios mio! I’m a friggin’ Kewpie doll!”
Nick took a spot beside her in the mirror; comparatively the Ward Cleaver to her Cindy Brady. “I think you look kinda cute, actually.”
“I look like I’m two!”
“The two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive,” Nick said, adding a wink.
Jackass. Flirt. Jackass flirt.
“You’ve got less than five minutes to get to the set,” he quickly changed the subject. “So quit stalling, and go get ‘em!” Carla nodded, more to herself than to him, and shuffled over to the dressing room door and opened it, giving Nick one last look back over her shoulder before she left.
“What?” Nick teased, “You need me to hold your hand and walk you there?” If he said anything after that, Carla couldn’t hear him over the door slamming.
“Nick…” she cursed, before storming down the hallway towards the set. The word “storm” may have been an overstatement, though. It was actually very difficult to “storm” when every step you took reminded you that you were dressed more like your toddler niece than the adult you actually were.
As embarrassing as it was being dressed like this, though, it was evident she was expected. Every crew member she passed in the hallway nodded at her politely as she passed, and when she asked, one of them confirmed that she was headed in the right direction. Maybe her earlier outburst in the hallway had gotten her a little bit of respect.
“Aha!” a voice rang out as she approached the stage. “There she is!” Carla’s neck craned as she looked through the crowd of key grips, best boys, errand runners, and interns. Finally, she located the source of the voice. An older man, dressed most peculiarly, was rapidly approaching Carla; considering Carla looked like she wasn’t quite ready for potty-training, that was saying something.
The old man was dressed less like what a director would actually wear to set, and more like what someone going to a costume party as “a director” would throw together. His brown riding pants were tucked into black boots. A too-tight banana yellow t-shirt clung to his torso. His wrinkled face wore dark aviator sunglasses and he had a curly mustache penciled on with what must have been eyeliner. His fire-engine-red beret was complimented by an equally obnoxious red scarf thrown around his neck. In one hand he carried a riding crop and the other held a giant megaphone that a cheerleader might use.
The eccentric old codger made an exaggerated and genteel bow. “Miss Garcia, I presume? How do you do?” Carla’s lips smiled politely, but her eyes were frowning. She cocked her head to the side like she was looking at him from the wrong angle. Who was this joker? Looking past the aviator sunglasses and into his eyes, something clicked. She had seen this man barking out orders on set just moments before she had been shoved into a dressing room.
The director’s mouth frowned while his eyes smiled, “Mr. Hammerschmidt is my father’s name. I insist that all the cast and crew call me ‘Max’. If the children who we make these programs for can’t be expected to pronounce my name, why should you?”
“I’m so sorry,” Carla apologized. “I didn’t recognize you at first. You just look so…so…so…” Carla stuttered to a stop; using her arms to gesture at his outfit.
“Ridiculous?” Max supplied the words Carla couldn’t quite spit out. “Quite right. It’s a bit of a superstition I have. If am to expect my actors to be comfortable in their borrowed skins, I must create one for myself.” He gestured dramatically, like a Shakespearean actor past his prime and drew her gaze to her current wardrobe. “Most of this cast is portraying a kind of caricature of childhood, and thus…” he paused for effect, “…I must portray a caricature of myself.”
“Oh,” Carla said, feeling stupid. “That’s…cool, I guess.”
“Indeed,” Max agreed, though Carla had the sneaking suspicion he was agreeing with himself more than her. “We must all sacrifice for art. Speaking of which…” His riding crop hovered to the hem of her dress and lifted it so that her diaper was on full display. Carla froze, her arms rigid by her side as if the crop were a poisonous snake.
Max leaned in, examining Carla’s padded crotch as though it were a painting, before nodding. “Good!” he said, letting the hem of her dress fall back into place. “Everything fits as intended, and you clearly know how to follow direction. We were lucky to find you on such short notice.”
Her mouth suddenly felt very dry. “Thank you?” This was a kid’s show, right?
Max squinted his eyes from behind his sunglasses. “You also seem to be one of those Latinos. Also very lucky. Very popular with the target audience these days, thanks to that Dora cartoon and all. So, good for you! Very good. Very good.”
Carla didn’t say anything to that, but felt her anger rising at the older man’s casual racism. Her hands became fists at her side. Her fearful trembling mutated into furious shaking. Max, for his part, did not seem to notice. Instead he looked over her shoulder, raised the megaphone to his face and then blared “Aha! There he is!” before walking right past her to the next cast member that had caught his attention.
Her blood hot, Carla whipped her body around; the hem of her lavender dress angrily fluttering around her. A soft, feminine hand on her shoulder kept her from waddle-storming after Max to tell the old bastard off.
“I know that look,” the woman attached to the hand said to Carla. She too, was older than Carla, with several strands of her otherwise straw colored locks giving way to a middle aged gray. “Let me guess, Max just said something casually stupid and or offensive.” Seeing a sympathetic soul, Carla nodded to the newcomer. “Yeah,” the older woman sighed, “Max does that sometimes. I don’t think he means to be that insensitive, he’s just a little out of touch with everything. Still, I’m glad he’s sworn off voting.”
Carla frowned. “And you are…?”
“Justine,” the woman held out her hand, “assistant director and one of the few people willing to put up with Max on a regular basis.” Smiling politely, but noncommittally, Carla shook Justine’s hand.
“Max can be a little like everybody’s drunk uncle at Thanksgiving,” Justine explained, “but he’s brilliant and brings out the best in his actors. He wore his own paper-mache dinosaur head when he directed Barney & Friends and got a daytime Emmy nod for his work.” Justine’s nose wrinkled as if remembering a particularly bad dream. “Had to be taken off the show the next season, though, because the kids on set were heard repeating his theories on ancient Egypt. Long story…don’t ask.”
There’s a fine line between “crazy” and “eccentric”, the measure typically being success. Obviously, Max Hammerschmidt was “eccentric”. The cold and calculating lizard part of Carla’s brain buzzed with ambition. She could handle some old white guy calling her “one of those Latinos” every now and then if it meant regular work on an award winning T.V. show.
Justine leaned in closer and Carla flinched, preparing for yet another stranger to stare at her pelvis. Fortunately, the assistant director instead peered at the actress’s face. “Hmmm, you should have been given some prosthetic eyebrows to exaggerate your facial expressions. Didn’t Wardrobe leave them in your dressing room?”
Carla’s brow furrowed in concentration. The memory of two little slivers of rubber and a bottle of spirit gum left being swept off the countertop as Nick readied to diaper her flashed in her mind’s eye. Shit…
Carla began to fidget nervously. “Oh yeeeeah. I might have accidentally misplaced those when I was getting my…” she racked her brain for an appropriate euphemism, but couldn’t find any delicate way to get around it, “…diaper put on me. I must’ve misplaced them then,” she confessed.
Justine pursed her lips. “You couldn’t put it on yourself?” Carla felt her cheeks heat up with embarrassment. So she had been expected to diaper herself.
“I was getting into character…?” Carla lied; the uncertainty showing in her voice.
“Well, not a big deal,” Justine replied. “I’ll send someone over with replacements to make sure you’re camera ready. Just wait here.” Carla nodded politely and did as she was told. Camera ready. That was a laugh. No one would be noticing her eyebrows once they got a look at her bottom. Two people quickly ran up to her and glued the purple strips of silicone to her face, making her look even more like a cartoon character, while she continued to feel sorry for herself.
Before the spirit gum had even properly dried, Max’s voice rang out over the set from his megaphone. “Alright, alright! Actors gather round for the Big Baby Bella scenes!” Carla walked over to the stage with purpose, the crinkling with each footfall buzzing inside her ears and the smell of baby powder wafting up from her bottom making her increasingly self-conscious.
“It’s just the crinkling of money,” Carla whispered a prayer to the acting gods. “I’m getting paid for this. I’m getting speaking lines, and I’m gonna be famous someday because of this. That’s not baby powder; just the smell of success.”
The set piece where they gathered looked like a giant nursery. Every trope was accounted for: giant crib, oversized rocking chair, a box of toys big enough to be a coffin, a bouncy harness that looked like it would fit Carla perfectly, a rocking horse the size of a Clydesdale and the usual assortment of gargantuan stuffed animals worth thousands of tickets at a carnival. All of it was painted in bright, simple colors. There was grass green carpeting, sky blue walls, and purple, yellow, and orange furniture pieces with not a single muted hue to be seen.
None of that particularly surprised Carla, given the subject and theme of the show; though Carla did feel a pang of dread when she spotted the adult changing table with diapers identical to her own stacked and waiting on the shelves beneath. Please let that be just for decoration.
“Ah, Miss Garcia,” Max Hammerschmidt motioned for her to come closer as she approached, “join us, please. Everyone, this is our Big Baby Bella for today. Miss Clark canceled after the incident at rehearsals yesterday.” There was an uncomfortable and knowing nod from the other actors, hinting at memories best not revisited. What incident?
Max motioned to the two actors directly in front of him, “Carla, meet Randy and Miranda. They’ll be playing your parents, lack of family resemblance not-withstanding.” The hairs on the back of Carla’s neck bristled, waiting for some form of ignorance to spring forth from Hammerschmidt’s mouth. Thankfully, none came.
The two actors playing Bella’s parents, Carla estimated, were about her age: mid to late twenties, early thirties at most. The campy old-age makeup couldn’t really hide that fact, even though Randy’s plastic looking eyebrows and mustache were dust bunny gray, as was the square top wig he had on. Miranda, likewise, wore a stiff wig which was styled in a ‘do June Cleaver might call conservative, and was a shade of tangerine that still came off as a bad dye job in a technicolor world.
The “Dad” costume consisted of a boxy sweater vest the same nauseating pickle green color as Carla’s dressing room. His loafers were similarly the shape and size of shoe boxes. “Mom” wore a dress that was an orange hue only a few shades lighter than her wig. Like Carla’s dress, Miranda’s costume flared outward giving it a kind of triangle effect; with the main difference that being you couldn’t tell what kind of underwear Miranda was wearing at a glance.
“Hello,” they each said, politely. Carla returned the courtesy.
“And this,” Max indicated the actress standing beside him, “is our star, Debra Donaghy. She’ll be playing the part of ‘Little Miss Lucy’.” Carla’s jaw hit the floor.
Debra Donaghy was quite obviously younger than all of them. If she was eighteen, she was only just eighteen. Her petite form only came up to Carla’s shoulder, exaggerating the perception. Her neon blue wig came down in bangs, framing her face perfectly and drawing the eye to her too perfect button nose. Equally as complimentary was her light blue plaid jumper with leggings and high tops that matched her wig. Carla bit the inside of her cheek to suppress a jealous scoff.
This was the lead? Carla had never heard of Debra Donaghy, but she was instinctively certain that this was some ex-child actor who had gotten the part by sitting in some producer’s lap. She looked so young, Carla bitterly thought, that they should trade roles; girl looked like she just got out of Huggies anyways. Maybe that was the point, though: To have adults acting like babies while a baby taught them how to act like an adult. Visual Irony.
“Hi,” Donaghy’s smile was saccharinely over-sweet and obviously fake, “I’m looking forward to us working together. This’ll be fun.”
Carla returned the fake smile. “Same!” She’d met enough girls like this one in high school. Real queen-bee-mean-girl type who would kick dirt in your face the moment the teacher wasn’t looking. She hadn’t come here to relive high school, Carla reminded herself. The trick was to just keep things professional and everything would be fine. This wasn’t junior year of Drama Club all over again.
“Alright! Now that everyone is acquainted,” Max spoke up, “let’s get to filming.” He looked over to Carla, but something about his gaze gave Carla the feeling that he was looking through her and not at her. “Now, Carla, I’m told that you haven’t had a chance to review the script yet. Correct?”
Mutely, Carla nodded, suddenly feeling small and “less-than”.
“Not a problem,” Max waved his hand Carla’s insecurity. “Your dialogue is fairly basic. Debra is doing most of the heavy lifting. We’ll give you a peek where needed before rolling. But just in case,” he went on, “we’ll start with a scene where you don’t talk.”
Apprehensively, Carla licked her lips. “Okay. Let’s go with that.”
“Places, everyone!” Max shouted. “Come with me, my dear. Let’s chat.” Suddenly the kindly grandfather, Max offered his wrinkled hand to Carla, the little girl. She took it and Max escorted her over to the toy box big enough to bury someone in.
“This scene is fairly simple,” Max explained. “Little Miss Lucy has just come to Little Land and she’s staying with Mr. and Mrs. Petite. This scene is where we meet your character. You’ll be playing with the blocks, and generally ignoring them while they talk about you. I’ll have the camera following Debra around, but she’s the only one allowed to break the fourth wall. You just act naturally. Understood?”
The directions were so simple, Carla didn’t know whether or not to be insulted. Besides, she hated it when people said “act naturally”.
“Play with blocks. Don’t look at them or the camera. Got it.”
Max’s lips puckered like he was sucking on a lemon. Once again, he squinted at her, sizing her up. “Let’s see if we can get this done in one take, shall we?” Carla toddled over to the pile of alphabet blocks and went down to her knees so she could begin properly playing with the little wooden cubes. The other thespians, meanwhile, gathered downstage and took their places closer to the camera.
“Quiet on the set!” Max yelled into the megaphone. Soon there was complete silence and Carla was left with only the sound of the padding on her ass rustling as she gently shifted her weight. God, she hoped that wouldn’t be picked up by the boom mics. “Roll film! Aaaaand action!”
(Continued in Part 2)