TG Techie: Chapter 12: The Loft

The Loft

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Sometime around platform number three I stopped to rest, because everyone else had stopped to rest. I sat, legs splayed in front of me; arms, like a tripod, behind me. Autumn and Sarah were discussing the play we were doing, as if they had both read it. Because they had both read it. The discussion centered around the set design, and had nothing whatever to do with the rest of the play.

I had done some drama before. In my experience the discussion was all centered around the difficulty of a particular scene, or the motivation of the character. On the other hand, all of the actors had contributed to building the sets (which were marker drawings on butcher paper), there were no lights, flies, or sound. Apparently the stage techs did not give a flying fuck about the character’s motivation, of the subtleties of playing them.

I asked something about it, as round about as I could, “Do you think the lead will be difficult to play?”

Bree shrugged, “Not my problem. So long as they can find the light and get to sound checks on time, I couldn’t give a fuck.”

“Are we getting a choice between painting and building again?” Sarah asked her.

“As long as I have anything to say about it,” Regular Dave said from behind them. He was carrying a really big box with Big Davey. Big Davey was around five foot tall and Regular Dave was closing in on six foot, so there was kind of a mismatch there. “Susan has left. We have about an hour fifteen. Sarah, can you bring in fly bar one?”

Sarah got off the ground with minimal effort, and went stage right, where a group of… well… very complicated pulleys stood against the wall. She did somethings that seemed only a little less complicated, then called out, “Fly bar one coming in downstage!” And started cranking the rope.

From down from the ceiling—the flies I guess—a big metal bar descended, while everyone moved out of the way. She held her place over by the fly pulleys while Regular Dave took some strap things from Rachel. He carefully cinched the box up, and attached some caribiners to it. Then he and Big Davey clipped them to the fly bar and screwed them on tight.

I could see that there was a picture of a couch on the side of the box, and made the leap when Rachel asked, “Hey Regular Dave, what’s the safety factor on a couch?”

“Sixteen,” he told her. Everyone laughed.

I’m sure I’ll get one joke eventually.

Everyone stopped laughing when Sarah called, “Give me a second to load eight hundred pounds on here.” She turned to a stack of weights.

“Don’t you dare,” Big Davey called to her. “It weighs fifty pounds. You’ll send it through the fucking roof.”

“Don’t joke then,” she flipped him off. He flipped her off.

“Take it up,” Regular Dave called.

“Fly bar one going up, downstage!” Sarah shouted again, and the bar went back up.

Autumn got up, and offered me her hand. I took it, and brushed dust off my ass, as Regular Dave led us over to a ladder standing next to the fly pulleys.

“Four years ago,” Autumn told me, “Susan had to go somewhere—”

“—to get high in the park—” Goober interrupted.

“—so she left the keys with Jessica. She was the STD, graduated that year. Jessica worked at Home Depot part time, so she took the keys over and copied every one of them.”

“These keys,” Regular Dave showed me, “Have been passed down between STDs ever since.” He unlocked the metal plate the blocked off the ladder, bowed and waved gentlemanly for us to proceed.

Rachel went first calling, “On ladder!” Before she started climbing meticulously. Never less than three limbs on a rung.

I was next, and I stepped forward and put my hand on the ladder when Autumn put her hand on my shoulder and yanked me back. “Wha—”

“Safety first,” she told me. Then she stepped between me and the ladder and waited without touching it.

When Rachel called, “Off ladder!” Autumn called just like Rachel had, when Rachel called “on ladder”. Then started climbing.

Then I was next, and I waited until I heard her call out, and climbed just as carefully.

The top was a huge, new kind of special. Dark for a start. The light filtered up from below, making this a weird twilight realm, fifty feet above the stage. We were over the house, where three rows of catwalks were connected by one walk that went from the back of the house to the back of the stage. Along bars—haphazardly placed—were long, tubular lights, with levers and hooks hanging from c-clamp type things.

I was spellbound all over again, until Rachel called beside me, “Off ladder!”

I turned to her, trying to shake off my awe, “I could have done that.”

“But you didn’t.”

I had to give her that. I stepped away from the ladder and looked down at the stage. I’d like to say it looked tiny, and it did, so I will. At the same time, I was aware that this part here was also the stage. And the walkways that led back to the house were the stage. And the flies that stretched still further above us were the stage. And it was all the stage, and it was huge.

Rachel left my side and started down the catwalk, to where the box sat suspended on the bar. She started pulling the bar closer, then called down to Regular Dave, “Hey genius. The loft is back there.” I couldn’t see what he did, but I saw her flip him off. This seems to be a common refrain here. No one is upset by it. When I’m comfortable enough to flip someone off, I’m in. I started to plan who it would be, and why I would do it, as I wandered along the cat walks thinking.

Finally Regular Dave called, “Off ladder!” and we were all up here. By this time Rachel and Sarah had wrestled the box off of the fly bar and were negotiating it further upstage over the catwalk. I followed the crowd, which followed the two of them, eager for something new to discover.

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What I discovered was “the Loft.”

The Loft sat above the shop, but not over the shop. The Loft was poorly lit, until someone flipped a switch, and a light hanging precariously from one of the rafter bars came on. Then the Loft was too brightly lit, and I could see that it was pieces of 3/4 plywood c-clamped on the rafter bars. Two feet below were foam ceiling tiles that I knew would shatter to bits if I put the slightest weight on them.

The Loft was about fifteen feet to a side, and the rest was empty space. At some point guard rails had been erected as sturdily as everything else these people did. At first glance it looked like it would come apart in a second and we would all plunge into the abyss. Then I noticed sturdy bolts, strung high tension cable, and thick wood. Whoever put this together knew exactly what they were doing. “When did you make this?” I asked.

“No one knows how long it’s been here,” Wee David told me, from where they were setting down the box. “Since the school opened we guess. Jessica put in wire rails. Before no one came here because they were all terrified.”

Box down on the floor, three people whipped out sharp knives and started cutting it to pieces. Then they pulled packages out of the pieces, and started cutting them out of their pieces. Wee David and Rachel started passing the bits to Autumn and Bree who had loaded a screw gun each, and were already reading the instructions.

The a couch like the one that had taken my mother and me half a day to finish was together in about ten minutes. That done, Big Davey picked up three screws off the floor. “When you have parts left over, that just means you built it better than it was supposed to be,” Bree told him.

Regular Dave sat on one of the beams and crossed his arms, “Did anyone bring a gel?” No one had. “Aisling, go to one of the ellipsoidals, and find a gel. Try to get darker than fifty percent, but anything will do.”

“Sure,” I told him, “I will do that, because I totally know what all of those words mean. In fact, I know so well that I should give you a test on them.” I did my best to not be terrified as I leaned on the rail, “Now, what do they mean?”

“Let me show you,” he said.

An ellipsoidal, it turned out, was one of the long lights. Gels out it further turned, were transparent colored plastic that hung in a frame in front of the part of the light where the light came out. Regular Dave took one of these, melted into a little bubble, back to the loft, where he put it over the little can shaped light.

“What do you think guys?” The loft was bathed in hideous green/yellow light.

“It’s shit hideous,” Sarah said.

“Blue? Red?”

“Red,” said everyone.

“Can you do it, Wee David?”

Wee David got up from the couch, where Rachel promptly sat down, and grumbled his way down the ladder. Yes, he called out, “On ladder!” and “Off ladder!” Then he called it again when he came back.

“What game should we play?” Bree asked.

Everyone started to say games I’d never heard of, when Regular Dave checked his watch and said, “We only have thirty minutes.”

“Hang on,” Sarah pointed at me, “She hasn’t been sworn in.”

Everyone agreed, that, yes, I hadn’t been sworn in. “Is this something with blood?” I’m not afraid of blood, unless it’s my own, and I have to bleed it.

“No,” said Regular Dave—

—at the same time, “Yes,” said Bree. “You can’t go easy on the new girl just ‘cause you’re hot to get in her pants.”

I looked at Regular Dave with a whole new sense of fear. Oh, god. Not him. Not now.

“I’m not trying to get in her pants,” said Regular Dave.

Whew.

“That will happen later.”

Crap.

Regular Dave pulled a screw gun off of his belt, and flipped a knife open.

What the hell are you doing here, Ash? Everything about today had been surreal. For a moment I felt myself outside my own mind. This couldn’t be me. This kind of thing didn’t happen to me. I didn’t make friends like this. I didn’t end up inside peoples secret lofts. I’m really at home right now. I’m reading a book, and imagining all of this.

Then reality snapped back when I saw myself offering my hand, palm out.

“No, use this one,” Autumn told him. “I just got a new one.” She leaned forward on the couch, and pulled a knife out with a clip on the handle of a pocket. I could see as she did that there were two other clips on that pocket, and three on the other side of her jeans.

She handed it to Regular Dave who said, “This is a Kershaw, are you sure?”

“I said I just got a new one.”

Regular Dave shrugged and looked at me. I had put my hand down, and I held it out again, palm up. “I’m not gonna cut your palm,” he said. “It takes weeks to heal, and I can’t have you bleeding all over my tools.”

Rachel laughed, and looked to the group, “He thinks they’re his tools.” She threw a gum wrapper at his head.

“That’s it,” he said, “You don’t get the keys anymore.”

“Please? I’ll suck your dick.”

“Okay you get the keys again.” He took my wrist in his hand then, and with Autumn’s knife, he drew it across my upper arm. I didn’t hurt at all, but I said ‘ow’ out of reflex. Then he took my right wrist, almost tenderly (I tried not to think about that) and put my palm on the cut.

My mind had gone numb at this point, like what was happening was happening to someone who had a clue. Who was cool.

“Put you hand on the screw gun.” I did. “Repeat after me, ‘I Aisling McKinnon do solemnly swear…’”

I repeated all this, don’t make me write it twice, and I won’t make you read it twice. It’s boring for both of us.

“ ‘… will not, on pain of death, dismemberment, and more death, reveal the keys, the Loft, or our extracurricular activities, to any faculty, parents, or shit-eating, cocksucking, actors.”

Extracurricular activities? It’s just tech club. Wait, is this a club? Whatever.

“Free from jealousy or envy I will play without inhibition, so do I swear.”

I finished repeating. What the hell does that all mean?

Regular Dave took my hand off the screw gun, as the crew said, in unison, “So swear we all.”

Autumn got off the couch, “I’ll show her the first aid kit. Save my place.”

“You all have to go,” Regular Dave said, and the crew started to file out. All except Sarah and Big Davey. “Rachel,” Regular Dave admonished, “you owe me something.”

Rachel turned back, “What about them?”

Sarah had turned around on Big Davey’s lap, and looked up from where she was kissing him seriously. “We’re gonna stay and christen the couch.”

I only realized my mouth was wide open, when Autumn whispered, “Your mouth is wide open.” I shut it, and cursed my titties, hard and pointy enough to be shot out of a cannon. As I left, Sarah was busy unbuckling Big Davey’s pants, while Regular Dave sat on the couch, and Rachel got down to kneel in front of him.

What in hell has happened to me here?

I remembered to call ‘off ladder,’ this time.



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