Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Prop Room

Sharon Wildwind

I was a late comer to writing, maybe nine or ten, before it dawned on me that I didn’t have to wait an entire week for the next episodes of my favorite adventure shows. I could make up all the stories I wanted, but I longed to do more than simply write words. I wanted to act out the stories, proclaim dialog, strike a pose, feel the heft of real life flow through my fingers.

Raids on assorted closets and jewelry boxes produced a gracious plenty of scarves, hats, jewelry, and makeup. What I needed was props. A decade before Dr. Leonard McCoy immortalized salt shakers as futuristic medical instruments, I discovered that a burned-out electric razor made a dandy microphone for a crusading reporter. Foil-wrapped chocolate coins, bits of ribbon, rick-rack, safety pins, and glue created medals that could not only be awarded to heroes, but eaten if things got tough. A discarded electric drill could be dressed up with silver paint so it looked like a ray gun.

By far, the prop I loved best was a huge, white, cast iron window fan. It filled one bedroom window and was bolted into the window frame, which was a good thing because this sucker had a motor the size of Cleveland. Six industrial-strength speeds plus a blessed “off” setting so that the house could occasionally stop vibrating and settle back on its foundation.

Revved to maximum, the fan turned my bedroom into a wind tunnel that would have pleased the most demanding aeronautical engineer. Pieces of paper flew across the room to plaster themselves against the white grate. Diaphanous scarves instantly bonded across the entire window, giving the room an appearance that was a cross between a stain-glass-enhanced cathedral and the bottom of a Martian cave. Hard objects faired less well. Once my debutant/space princess threw her diamond necklace at the hero in a fit of pique. Unfortunately, his imaginary body stood in front of the fan at the time. This produced a loud grinding noise, followed by my mother yelling, “What are you doing in there?” To which the only viable reply was, “Nothing,” a more prudent answer than “Trying to separate what’s left of your rhinestone chain from the fan blades.”

The fan served as the engine room for innumerable space ships, submarines, and research vessels. It was the winch, towing in the damaged space liner just in time to save all the passengers. When the Admiral yelled, “reverse engines” I could switch from blowing to sucking in a matter of seconds, thus saving the entire crew from the giant squid. It was an experimental medical device, the only thing that could save the hero’s life after everyone had given up hope. If I put my mouth right up against the screen, “Heed me or see your world destroyed,” came out in a base vibrato, just the way the malevolent dictator from some distant, unfriendly planet should sound. At night, with the fan quietly purring in the background, all was quiet on the bridge, the universe once again secure and the crew taking a well-earned rest, nibbling on their medals.

So you might say, I’ve always been a fan of writing.


Anonymous said...

"fan of writing" clever! Have you tried any sci fi. You'd be good at it

Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait to see my favorite TV show, either, so my Barbies played Star Trek with my brother's G.I. Joe as the Captain. I was a brainwashed little girl--didn't realize a WOMAN could actually command a Star Ship.

Ha! Those days are gone!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Clever indeed, and marvelous use of language. I loved "medals that could not only be awarded...but eaten if things got tough." And the "motor the size of Cleveland." And more seriously, "feel the heft of real life flow through my fingers." You made me think of Jo and the other March girls writing plays and playing dress-up in their attic.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Hehehe, a soul mate! Except my favorite was a small heater in my bedroom which became a "romantic fireplace" in front of which my make-believe prince and I danced. My gown? My mom's gathrobe worn backwards because it came to my ankles and the belt could be tied in the back. Ahhh, lovely days.