Will I Swing?—Elaine Bonow
Will I Swing?
“There he is. Let’s get him. He’s the one. He’s the killer.” The posse of six men headed their horses up the side of the mountain. The terrain here was steep and lightly covered with Ponderosa Pines and low scrub, scattered with large boulders.
The film crew followed the action with cameras mounted on a train track, which circled the area the director had picked for a western titled Will I Swing? Jake Wilder was on the run from the townspeople who wanted some quick frontier justice. He knelt on his mark waiting for his cue and the camera to capture the fear of hanging in his eyes. He stared into the camera hair disheveled.
Sweat beaded on his tanned forehead and across his chiseled cheekbones. His tan looked authentic under the medium stubble on his chin. A few well-placed smears of dust and dirt enhanced his ruggedness as his pale blue eyes registered real fear. He prided himself on his well-honed acting skills. He was adept at being able to tap into deep human emotions with an authentic earnest intensity that was getting the attention of important directors and producers.
He waited for his cue and shouted at the crowd below. “But I’m innocent. You’ve got the wrong man Sheriff. It was Luke who was the shooter. He was hiding in the doorway behind me. You’ve got to believe me. He’s the one I tell you. You can’t pin this on me just to make old man Garrett happy.”
“He swears it was you Billy who shot his son. He also says you did it because you got Betty Jean pregnant and he found out.”
“That’s all a lie. I never messed with that girl. It was Luke I tell you.”
“I wish you could prove you are innocent Jake. We have to bring in someone dead or alive. You’re just as good as the next guy.”
“Cut.” The director shouted. “ Good work boys. We’ll give the horses a break. We don’t want the animal rights posse after us. We’ll resume right at two.”
Jake, whose real name was Alfred Hutton but used his stage name Billy O’Neill, reached over and picked up his cowboy hat from the dusty ground and slapped it against his equally dusty leg, ridding himself of the grime of his made up existence. He scampered down the hill and across the set to his trailer.
Once inside he cranked the air conditioner down to a cool sixty to combat the desert heat. He checked his phone. “Damn, she doesn’t ever give up.” He pushed the speaker on.
“Billy, call me, please call me. It’s all your fault. Oh just call me.” Samantha’s voice so melodramatic and pleading almost got to him.
“God, that girl is just too much.” He said to his reflection in the large mirrored vanity. “At least I don’t have to shower.” He quite liked doing Westerns. He loved the simplicity of the costumes. The sets were usually outside and in a fake studio town on a remote lot. He appreciated the straightforward drama of man verses man in different psychological situations. This movie presented him as Jake the innocent bystander at the mercy of an unjust accusation.
A little cooler now, Billy dug into his catered lunch. Keeping in character he ate some chili and drank some plain black coffee. He leaned back in the straight back chair and rolled a cigarette. He didn’t light it. He doesn’t smoke but enjoys the trappings of authentic old-time America. He put his Justin cowboy boots on the coffee table complete with tracings of the mud and dust of the trail. He kept on his cowboy clothes: leather vest, khaki jeans, a button down shirt and his favorite prop the gun belt complete with fake bullets and a six-shooter.
As he was admiring the cowboy Jake, Billy’s phone rang. He looked at the screen. It was her again. He let it ring and after it stopped he pushed the chair back to its four legs got up and opened the trailer door. “Irene, don’t let anyone come in please. Let me know when we’re about twenty minutes from set.”
“Sure thing Billy.” Irene said, “I’ll keep them away.” and made a note on the clipboard. “Damn, that man is a doll. I know he is going to go all the way to the top.”
Billy stretched out on the narrow bed and told his phone to call Samantha. She breathlessly answered on half of the first ring. “Oh Billy.” She started crying, “Oh what have you done? What are we going to do?”
“Come on Sam what the hell are you talking about? You know I am busy with this movie. I don’t have time for your hysteria. What’s happened this time? Did you break a nail or was your hairdresser mean to you again?”
Billy had been patient with Sam and liked hanging out with her. He thought she was wild. They had so much fun at first. She knew all the important people, and she did help open studio doors for him. Lately she was acting a little crazy or maybe he was getting more serious about his movie star status.
“Billy, I’m pregnant. I took the test this morning and the damn thing came out positive. What are we going to do?”
“What? I thought you were on the pill. You told me you were taking something.”
“ I…I don’t know what went wrong. It’s not my fault.”
Billy sat up, his hand propping up his head. “Sam this is not the best time to tell me this. I’m right in the middle of shooting. We’ll have to deal with this later OK?”
“I am so freaked out. I called my mom right away and she told my dad and they are so happy for us. Dad has promised me, I mean us, a house in the hills. Billy, Billy are you there?”
“Yeah Sam. I’ll see you tonight. Ok. They’re calling me to the set.”
Billy hung up the phone with a sigh. “Oh Hell no.” He said aloud. “What the fuck?”
There was a tap on the trailer door. “Mr. O’Neill you are wanted on the set. Twenty minutes.” He had to concentrate on his character. The trailer filled up with the make-up artist, the hair stylist, the costume person and the rehearsal prompter. Billy put the phone conversation out of his mind and quickly became Jake Wilder the cowboy running for his life.
He found his mark on the side of the hill behind a clump of trees. The filming started and his savior appeared. “Come with me boy if you want to live.”
Jake grabbed the man’s arm and was pulled onto the back of the horse. The man fired into the posse and they scattered for cover behind the boulders—fake and real. He galloped over the hillside with Jake holding on for dear life.
“That’s a wrap. Cut and print.” The crew and cowboys applauded. “All right boys and girls, go home. That’s it for the day.”
Billy headed back to the trailer. Irene was there to see if he needed anything before he went home.
“Billy, I’ve called for your car. It’ll be here in a half an hour.”
“Thanks Irene. You’re a doll.” He gave her a sweaty hug.
“You Ok? You are usually so up after a shoot.”
“Oh yeah. You’re going to have to keep a better eye on me Irene, I think I’m going to have some serious problems coming up.”
“Damn, it’s so typical of boys like you.”
“What do you mean? What do you know?”
“Billy, it’s my job to watch over you and I take my job seriously. I have seen all types of women try and trap a young rising movie stars.”
“But I’m just a hack. This is my first really big movie.”
“Yes but the word is already out about you. Now go and change. You’ll need an experienced lawyer and I have just the man for you. Don’t worry. You won’t end up on Celebrity Springer wondering if you ARE the father.”
Billy showered and reluctantly changed out of his western gear and into jeans and a tee shirt. Before he called Samantha he prepared his role as victim in this drama. It was easy this time. It was life imitating art or for Billy life imitating a soon to be blockbuster movie called “Will I Swing”? Starring Billy O’Neill in his first leading role.