You read over the scene with Bilbo, played by a Jewish homebody with a pageboy haircut and enormous breasts. You ask to borrow a prop for the One Ring to Rule Them All. Someone hands you their pinky ring. You nail the Gollum audition.
The Precious Moments gather around you with congratulations. Hooded Sweatshirt and Braces are cast as Balin and Dwalin. Patton is also a dwarf, and by some incredible fortune, the audition has attracted three friendly, large men to be trolls.
You burst into your house clamoring for the Precious. Your dad asks from the couch if you will still be attending Washburn University basketball camp.
When you say no he does that thing where he sighs out of his nostrils.
Your mother drives you to the 24-hour Walmart to buy items for your sack lunch.
Lunch is on ‘the terrace’ after mornings of ‘blocking’ in the parking lot. You make sure to wear small shirts to make yourself known as a sexual object, but soon find they don’t cover the underwear bands that stick out of your jean shorts. You are grateful Dan is always in front of you, directing, and never has to see the pink and purple cotton bunches being shoved down like naughty children.
One of the Precious Moments’ name is Whitney. You sat across from her every day at lunch after you showed up wearing the same yellow Old Navy Fourth of July shirt as she did. “Twins!” she had said, and now she tells you all of her secrets. She and Patton begin to go on dates.
Hink, along with being the musical director, is the also the dance mistress. She has you practice being the creature Gollum on a large boulder made of wire and cardboard. When you get on it for the first time standing straight up, Hink notices your bruised ankles.
“They are both kind of sprained right now,” you explain. “From basketball.”
“But it doesn’t hurt?”
“I’m used to it,” you say.
Every time you leap off the rock Hink makes a noise like you are going to fall and die, but you never do. Even when your choreography involves multiple chicken wire rocks, you never fall. Using the thighs you have coaxed year after year into muscular hams, you leap from rock, to rock, to floor. You feel like a giant flying squirrel. When you land, ham hocks bent like a frog, you contort your face and hiss.
You feel sexual.
When the music stops, however, this feeling leaves you. Your feet feel big again. Sweat runs from your bangs and ponytail like it wants to get away. Your underwear is halfway up your back because your mother will not allow you to buy small panties. And you will not force the issue. Secretly, you are afraid of what they might reveal.
When you go home, you see Dan has copied and pasted a funny conversation with a girl named Reed Underhill into the ‘Info’ section of his AIM profile. Reed is a dancer. She is short and sleek. Even before Dan copied and pasted the conversation, which admittedly was very witty, you had watched her do a dance routine from the bleachers when your Catholic high school played hers in basketball. You were particularly struck by her backwards roll into a split. I could do that, you had muttered to a teammate. She had laughed.
One day, after a long session of leaping around the set built inside, you rest on one of your rocks, sunning yourself under the stage lights.
Whitney comes over and tells you that Dan was totally staring at you while you were doing Gollum moves today.
“No way,” you counter.
You tell her it was probably only because you were in what they call a ‘dance sack.’ Your costume, designed by Hink, is a stretchy, peach flesh-colored bag with a tiny mesh opening through which you can barely see.
Lately, you’ve been hopping around in what could be mistaken for a spandex burka.
“Oh, but he was staring even before you got in the dance sack,” Whitney reassures you.
You gauge his interest later that week during ‘character development.’
“What you gotta do is, you know, think about where Gollum is coming from,” Dan says to you on the same bench, wringing his hands with neuroses that don’t exist. “Where geographically and what he wants, why does he want it, etc.”
“Right,” you say and look at him. “Thank you.”
Behind his glasses Dan has the intelligent, sad eyes of a bored dog. Once, he brought over Hannah and Her Sisters to watch on VHS in your living room. Your dad wandered in and said, “I remember this movie.” You fell asleep while they just sat there, Dan next to you the couch and your dad in an armchair, watching Mia Farrow and Woody Allen walk places and talk. Your feet and the outer edges of your hands were touching him the whole time, even when you were asleep.
Dan clears his throat. “You can use my notebook paper to write stuff down.”
“Gollum,” you say while twirling your hair and writing. “He wants the ring…”
“Lora,” the woman with a cigarette voice comes outside, interrupting. She wears a shirt that says, ‘And Tigger, too!’
“We’ve decided you look like a blob in that dance sack, and we can’t see your face. We’ve got a new costume for you. Hink wants you to try it on.”
“Be right back,” you tell Dan.