(keywords: actress, tunnel, highlighter, surprise, dog walker)

Clarice sat on a bench in the park. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, children were laughing, and people seemed happy all around. Clarice wasn’t happy though. She felt miserable. With her chin resting on her hand, she scowled at the script on her lap. The acting agency had finally sent her one, the first in months, but it wasn’t the one she had been hoping for. This was not going to be her big breakthrough. With a highlighter, she marked her dialogue. It wasn’t much. Her character had a few lines at the start of the movie but was soon turned into a zombie and then had only a few grunts and moans to utter.

Was there no light at the end of the tunnel? Would she forever be stuck as an extra in Hollywood? Would she never be appreciated as the great actress she knew she was? Clarice looked up and sighed. Yes, she was a great actress. It was in her being, her soul. She had loved to act all of her short twenty years, from the moment she could walk. People just didn’t know it, yet.

Clarice took in the scenery. There were mothers with their babies having a picnic, people walking their dogs, a few office personnel enjoying their coffee break. A smile crept upon Clarice’s face. She was going to act right here and now, to see if she could fool anybody with her acting. If she could pull it off, the boost would do her morale some good, anything but going through this worthless script. Now, what could she be and who could she fool? Pouting, she scanned the people in the park. The mothers… no, Clarice wasn’t that fond of babies. The office personnel? She could pretend to be an office worker too, hoping for a friendly chat.

Suddenly, her eyes caught sight of a man walking a Labrador. Clarice loved dogs. The man didn’t seem in a hurry. ‘Great choice,’ Clarice’s inner voice said. She rolled up the script and tucked it into her back pocket. As she approached the man, Clarice adjusted her mental state and became another person.

“Excuse me, Sir. Do you mind if I pat your dog?” Clarice asked the dog walker.

The man, somewhere in his late thirties, turned to the pretty girl approaching him. She had a beautiful smile.

“Sure, why not. Barney loves a cuddle,” he said.

Clarice knelt and patted the dog. Barney licked her face, making her laugh.

“He sure does!” she said and continued to pat him. “I’m so sorry, I just needed some positive energy. My brother just died, you know.” Clarice let her face turn solemn.

 “Oh dear, my condolences,” the man said. He touched the young woman’s shoulder in a caring way. Clarice stood up.

“Yeah, it was sad. He came here to seek fame and fortune but instead found only drugs and misery. I nursed him these last few weeks. It was awful. All the vomit and diarrhea were bad, but it was the hollowness of… of his soul… was what got to me.” Tears welled up as she spoke the words, and Clarice broke out in a heart-wrenching sobbing session as soon as she finished her sentence.

The man looked around uncomfortably and then patted Clarice on the arm. She wailed again and the man couldn’t help himself. He put his arms around the poor, distraught woman.

“There, there. It’s all over now. He’s not suffering anymore,” he said, trying to soothe her.

Clarice let the man hug her. She let her sobs slowly taper off.

“Here,” the man said as he pulled away from her and offered her a handkerchief. Clarice gladly accepted it and blew her nose. When she was done, she tried to hand it back. “Don’t bother, you can keep it,” the man said with an awkward smile. “Where do you live?” he asked.

Clarice hadn’t anticipated the question and stuttered.

“I… I live just over there, down by the beach.” She turned to point in the direction of her tiny apartment.

“What’s this?” the man said with surprise as he grabbed the script from Clarice’s back pocket.

Clarice turned back, not sure if she should be afraid to be found out or angry that he took her property from her pocket.

“I know a script when I see one…” the man said as he studied the dialogue on the paper.

Clarice sighed.

“I’m sorry. I don’t have a brother, and nobody died. I was just having some fun acting. What you have there is a crappy script I was given, and I know I can do so much more.” She bit her lip in anticipation of the man’s reply.

“You are so right,” he said. “This is a crappy script. I’ve never seen one so bad in my life.” When he looked up at Clarice, he smiled. Clarice frowned inquisitively. “Do you know who I am?” the man asked. Clarice shook her head. “Well, I happen to be the producer of a small production company. I’m quite impressed with your acting, little lady. You had me there for a moment. And… it so happens that my director is looking for a female lead for our next production. Do you think you’d be interested?” He handed the script back.

Clarice couldn’t believe her luck.

“I sure am!” she said.

“Great! My name is George. Here’s my business card. Give the number a call in about an hour, I should be back from my lunch by then, and we’ll talk business.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Clarice said.

“The pleasure’s all mine… Um, what’s your name?”

“Clarice, Sir. Clarice Denton.”

“Please call me George. Until we meet again, Clarice Denton.”

The man continued walking his dog, and when he was out of view, Clarice did a happy dance after which she chucked the crappy script into the first bin she came across.