Some Kind of Superstar: Part Four
The trailer is identical to last time; the same plasterboard walls, two couches in the middle, the desk of Neopet selectors. There’s something in their faces as they look at me, a kind of cold angry harshness. But they are judges for the biggest show on Neovision, so they have to be strict and austere. They can’t just go letting everybody in. I really hope I’m not part of that ‘everybody’.
“You are Kristen, right? Owned by Ravendhi?” The Neopets who do the casting appear to be the same as last time: the Gold Ogrin with the enormous glasses, the Pink Cybunny, the really super old Green Techo with the awful cardigan, and of course, my guide Steein, a White Bruce.
“Yes,” I say, sitting down on one of the couches. “That’s right.”
“Is your owner with you?” the Pink Cybunny asks.
“No, she had to stay at home, she’s really sick. My owner, not the home.” I grin nervously and tell myself to shut up. They don’t care that my owner is sick. They just needed to know that my owner isn’t here.
“Okay...” croaks the Techo, writing something down on a sheet of paper. “Did you study the script?” She looks up at me with eyes that are clear and sharp, despite her shaky voice and old age.
“Oh, yeah. I think I’ve done nothing else but study it!” I laugh. Again I silently insist that I shut up and stop blabbing.
“Okay... now it’s been changed slightly, sorry about that. We’ll keep that in mind when you audition.” The Pink Cybunny hands me a replacement and I leaf through it quickly, scanning the lines of dialogue.
“Vanessa and I will be playing the roles of the grandmother and the father,” says the Ogrin. “You, of course, will be the daughter. Or Abigail, I think it says on the script.” I find a reference to my character and nod. Abigail. Pretty name. The Ogrin and the Techo – Vanessa – stand up and walk around the table. They sit together on the couch opposite me and pick up their scripts.
“Well, how was your day, dearie?” the Techo says in a voice like nails down a chalkboard, even worse than her usual rasp.
“Well... school’s school, y’know, Gran?” I say, projecting boredom. “Oh yeah, one thing did happen!” Now I’m sitting up straighter, excited about my story. “We got to play football, right, and Liam was like totally ‘Oh I’m the best footy player there is’ and rubbish like that, and he insisted on being goalkeeper – wouldn’t let anybody else near it – and I scored three goals past him!” I grin and bounce up and down on the couch. “Isn’t that just totally great?” This is bizarre. I think I’m taking the manic, happy quality over the top. But if it’s too much, I’m already out of the running; if it is good, then I don’t want to change it. Manic and happily over-the-top it is.
“Right...” the Ogrin nods slowly. “Okay...”
“Come on, Dad, y’know how annoying it is when somebody’s like ‘Oh I’m the best’? Yeah, well, Liam was totally doing that, and I just like totally proved him wrong!”
“We never played football in my day,” creaks the Techo like a really rusty door hinge. “There were six of us in the whole school, in one room with a faulty heater. And none of this brick and insulation to keep you warm. Our room was made of one layer of wooden planks, with cracks between them, so in a storm the rain and snow blew right through like a sieve. And I grew up on Terror Mountain so you can imagine how awful that was!”
“Gran, you’ve told that story like a thousand times already.” I roll my eyes exasperatedly. I sound like Jasmine. She lives down the road from us and she’s the ultimate stereotypical teenage girl. You know the type, thinks blonde is the only colour a girl’s hair can be; thinks it’s a crime not to be stick-thin; talks about nothing except what’s fashionable and who’s wearing what and all the parties she went to; probably has more lipsticks than brain cells.
“I have not. You young people, with no respect for your elders. Why can’t I tell my stories as many times as I like? You tell your stories about boys and football, well, I will tell you about my school.”
The audition continues in that vein. Sometimes the judges up the back ask me to stop and repeat things, saying different words or using a different tone. The audition does confirm my belief that Caulfield Lane is a supremely boring show. It could bore for Neopia Central in a world competition. It could bore for Neopia in a universal competition! I cannot believe that people pay to watch this kind of thing, when it could be happening in their own home! I mean, kids coming home from school and talking about their day isn’t exactly a rare event, and that seems to be the theme in this ten minutes of dialogue. But still, if people watch it, and love the people in the show, then it’s a one-way ticket to stardom. My dream. Reachable. As long as I concentrate on my lines.
“Dad! Don’t hug me! I’m not three years old anymore!” It’s creepy. He is actually hugging me. Which is hard if you think about it, because Ogrins walk on four hooves. I push him away.
“Can’t I give my baby a hug?” he asks, looking wounded.
“No! I’m not your baby anymore! Dad!” I squeal as he tries to hug me again. It’s weird, how we have to do all this action while reading our scripts. But we won’t have scripts for the real thing. Real thing! Yes! One day, soon, very soon, I will be performing this same act – complaining about the grandmother’s story, complaining about the dad hugging me – if I concentrate. If I’m good enough. If I’m cut out for it.
“Gran! Dad! I am way too old for hugs! Why can’t you just leave me alone?” The next line is ‘storms off through door’. It’s hard to do that in a closed trailer, so I make do with storming off to the other end.
“Whoa! Hold it right there!” shouts the Cybunny from the other end of the trailer. During my performance I’d almost forgotten about her and the Bruce up the back who were watching me. Nothing existed except me, my dad and my gran trying to hug me. I was totally immersed. But her shout has broken my concentration. ‘Hold it right there’? She sounds pretty agitated. Did I do something wrong? Suddenly my legs go weak and I want to collapse. I think I’ve skewed the whole thing.
“Kristen, we need to talk. Very urgently. Could you please wait outside?” Steein indicates the door with a firm, decisive flipper. I walk over on my shaky legs, open it and step out onto the muddy ground. Despite the serious nature of the moment, I can’t help smiling. A week ago, I sat on the ground here with Nathalie, trying to comfort her about her audition. And now I’ve been booted out of my audition early for an emergency meeting. Distantly, like it’s happening a mile away, I hear somebody close the trailer door behind me, locking me out. What are they saying in there? Discussing effective ways to tell me I haven’t made the cut? How to let me down gently? Who should tell me? Maybe they’re listing everything I did that was complete rubbish. I’m sure that performance was piled with it. Or they could be talking about what I did right. Maybe it’s a vote about whether to hire me or not! I may as well be optimistic. No matter how low my hopes are, it’s still going to hurt if I’m rejected. Thankfully, I don’t have to think about it very long, as the door is opened. I stand up and walk inside. The Ogrin says something. Their decision.
I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I was half-expecting this, but to hear it said makes it something else. It goes above reality; those two simple words enter a higher plane of existence, past all comprehension by something as simple as my brain. I can’t wrap around it. I stammer out some response – I don’t even know what – and they say they’re going to call my owner later. I nod, say a quick goodbye and tumble out of the trailer. Completely automatically, I stagger through the rock maze back to the Arts Centre. My brain keeps repeating their words on loop. You’re... you’re... I can’t even think the last word; what it means is just so phenomenally unthinkable.
Mum’s waiting outside the rock maze when I emerge.
“Well? How’d it go, Kristen?”
“Mum...” I swallow my emotions before continuing. I haven’t really allowed myself to believe it, but saying it makes it seem much more true. Saying it makes it a reality I can’t run away from. “I got in.”
To be continued...