Story Shots: Shooting for the Stars

People are as unique as snowflakes. It’s really true – even twins have variance in their fingerprints. When I assigned “Shooting for the Stars” as the topic for this month’s Story Shots, I expected a bunch of stories about reaching for goals and either obtaining them or falling short. What I got back from our writers surprised me. They were brilliant and their stories were riveting, and while some stuck with the idiom theme, some writers were wildly interpretive and redefined the idea of shooting a star.

“Who would see a movie about this? I mean really, its just a bunch of shots of a Lohan-look-a-like and Franco reading her Salinger.”

“Sh! He could hear you and then we’re out of jobs!” The set was bustling with stage hands powdering the red-head’s face until she looked like porcelain and draping the sheets on the bed so it looked liked it had been used, but only for sleep. Not sex. Never sex. He definitely did not have sex with that woman.

“Director on the set!” Mr. Franco saunters into the studio, crooked smile cracking his face permanently, and glances at the carbon copy.

“Her hair isn’t nappy enough.” He waves his hand, and more stage flies buzz around her, tugging and pulling at her hair.

“Better. Okay everyone lets get started. Now Lindsay…”

“Her name is Amber.”

“Excuse me?” Franco turns on the camera man, glaring at him with his dead eyes.

“The actress’s name? It’s Amber.”

Franco breaks his face again by stretching his grin. “Well here she’s Lindsay now isn’t she?” He puts his hand up to silence the camera man’s protest and turns to the woman on the bed. Not in it. Never in it. He did not sleep with her. “Now, Lindsay,” he stresses, “are you ready to perform the scene?”

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“Okay, let’s get started. You ready camera man?” He lowers his hand.

“Sure,” the camera man replies, holding back his disdain.

“Good. Get off the bed and enter the door. The dead bolt will be on, so you need to press your face in the crack to deliver your line.”

The clone exits the set and waits at the door. Franco lays out on the bed, pulling up his pajama bottoms so that his dick was faintly outlined. He glares at the camera man through the lens. “Ready?” The camera man counts down, and then “Action!” The red-head opens the door until it catches.

She pushes her face in the crack “Open the door, you bookworm punk blogger faggot.”

“Cut!” Franco jumps to his feet and places his hands tersely on his hips. He shakes his head as he unlocks the deadbolt and looks his Lindsay duplicate in the eyes. “You see, you sound mad. Angry. What you need to sound like is like you want me. Like you need me inside of you.” Her eyes flutter as she apologies and promises to get it right the next take. “Actually, let’s take a break.”

“A break?! We just did one take!”

Franco returns his harden glance to the camera lens, though the camera man was standing next to it. “I’m the director and I say we need a break.” He turns back to Lohan and gently takes her hand. “Want to go grab some lunch? There is this diner by my hotel room I’ve been meaning to try.” As they left the studio, the crew knew that he was going to sleep with her. Actually fuck her. He did have sex with her. “Okay, let’s break down the set.”

The camera man spins around. “What, you don’t think he’ll be back?”

“Oh hell no, he’s done for the day. This is what happens when you shoot movies for the stars.”

By Nicole Neitzke

That old saying, “nobody is perfect” – ain’t that the truth. In fact, no one is anywhere near perfect because sometimes life throws some crazy shit in your way and despite your best efforts or talents or hard work, the opportunities are simply not there. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try. Sure you might fail, but you absolutely need to try your hardest for what you really want in life because, well, it is what you want out of life that is important.

I realized that I wanted to be a teacher about the time that I entered high school. I had some pretty kick ass mentors that gave me a quality education. Someone gave this poor little Mexican boy a chance to succeed and I wanted to take that opportunity and show the world that I could pay it forward to several generations of students by encouraging them, motivating them, and showing them that they had potential to be somebody in life. I wasn’t going to be just a teacher, oh no. I was going to be the teacher.

Then I entered college, and the economy was awesome. Then I graduated and the economy was stable. Then I entered my credential program and the financial world went to shit. The little green arrow that normally pointed up was now a red arrow descending on the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans. I had no idea what any of this meant at the time because I was so focused on my goals. Nothing could stop me, not even one of the worst recessions we have ever had.

I was lucky enough to receive a paid internship at a school for emotionally disturbed girls. I was going to teach for the first time. It wasn’t my dream job, but at least it would help give me experience and help pay for my increasing college debt. I taught there for three years. Those three years validated my choice in careers. I smiled from ear to ear and life was grand. I even saved some money and bought a house at the age of twenty-four. Then I was laid off. My last day of work was two days before my wedding day. I went a year without teaching, and my new wife and I had a set of problems that we never anticipated. She pushed me to move forward and keep trying and I did.

Finally I got a job working at a middle school in LAUSD, the second largest school district in the nation. I worked with some wonderful people and met some amazing educators who were buried in work by a district that was too large to be managed effectively. In February I received a pink slip. In March I was told that I would be brought back the next year. Later in March I was given another pink slip. Obviously, this was not a very stable place to be for someone looking to start his career.

During the summer I found work in my alma mater district. This was pretty much my dream job. The pay was great, the benefits fantastic, and more importantly, they hadn’t let go of any teachers in the past twenty years. What a wonderful track record. My first year went by quickly and I made an impressive mark on the school and my administrators. My second year, I was given a pink slip. The notice was given to me days after I found out that my wife was expecting our first child. I was devastated.

There were some hearing and a legal battle, but the district made due and released several teachers from several schools. At this point, the economy had made somewhat of a bounce back and jobs were out there for experienced teachers (can’t say the same for first year teachers). I had been teaching for six years, and in a classroom for seven. I had finished my credential program and my BTSA (a two year induction program), plus I was confident in myself as an educator and my abilities to succeed in teaching students.

So what happened to this poor little Mexican boy? Well, that summer I went into every interview and handled business. I received offers from multiple schools and pretty much had my choice in where I wanted to go. Was I worried after I was laid off with a baby on the way? Yes, but I knew that I had worked hard to get where I was at and my track record was that of a proven educator who was a victim of an unstable economy. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about leaving the profession. The same profession that I had already invested years, money, and heart into. But I stuck with it. My wife helped me realize that this was what I really wanted, and if you don’t keep trying for what you really want, than your not really living life. Four schools, five pink slips, and seven years of teaching later, I am a better person. Sometimes life throws some crazy shit in your way. You just have to learn to go with the flow.

By Cesar Castellanos

I have a big mouth – not sometimes, but all the time. We were putting on a fundraiser with professional standup comics and I asked if I could go up and do standup after. I still don’t know what possessed me to volunteer to get up on stage and tell jokes. Not only do I get nervous on stage, but I was following four professional comedians with their own Comedy Central standup specials. People pay to see these guys talk – no one has offered me a red cent for the words that constantly come pouring out of my mouth. But I did it. I sat between two of my friends, one of which offered me some anti-anxiety medication when he heard me chanting “fuck, shit, why the hell did I say I’d do this?” under my breath when I was announced to be the last comedian of the night.

I declined his offered medication and opted to just be scared as hell instead. I walked up to the stage and I can’t really remember how it all started – probably awkwardly. There were bright lights. The professionals left the room and I was stuck there with a room full of people who paid to laugh at other people looking at me. Wisely, I had written my standup routine two weeks ahead of time and practiced it religiously to be sure I wouldn’t freeze up when this opportunity arrived. I started talking about how awkward sex-education was in school, and about horrible sex ed videos that featured uterus pancakes and how, in junior high school, I was taught about my budding female body by a 50 year old male shop teacher. I got laughs. I got a lot of laughs. I was still scared when I sat down.

“You were great,” one of my friends said while the other gave me a high five and ran out the door to meet her boyfriend at home. When my remaining friend walked me to my car, he told me “No, really, you were the funniest of the night. At least, I thought so.”

I guess that means I did it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a professional comedian or attempt standup again, but for one brilliant moment on stage, I was the funniest person in the room and I made all the people watching laugh. So watch out all of you Comedy Central stars, I may be gunning for your job if teaching and writing doesn’t pan out.

By Amanda Riggle

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