Monday, August 10, 2015

"Playing with your Nuts?"

Three Shells and a Pea
I was reminded of a story from my SOAP days last week in a very obscure way.  Turns out that the actress at the center of this story is a friend of a friend.  These two friends of mine reconnected during the reunion of a theatrical company they were both involved in.  Some how they "Kevin Baconed" their way into the realization that she and I were friends as well.  
I don't want to call her by name without her permission, so with no names I will recount the story.
My friend Harry taught me the "Three Shell Game" while I was working on SOAP.  I found I had an aptitude for the "trick" and got very good at manipulating the Pea and the shells.  I would say I became obsesses with it and would practice nonstop. I even invented a "move" with the shells that Dai Vernon (affectionately known at the Magic Castle as the Professor) said had never been done before. 
Now during a television show filming, unless you are in every scene (which was never the case for my character) there are times when you have to wait around till it is time for the scene you are in.  During this down time I was usually practicing my shell moves up in the dressing room. It was during one of those times when this happened. 
There was an actress on the show who was only in the scene I was in so it meant we were both waiting.  She and another actress friend walked by my dressing room and asked what I was doing. 
"What are you doing? Playing with your nuts?" she said.  Score one for the actress.  But this comment led to me ask if they wanted to see a "trick". They did.  So I began to do my shell routine.
Not to give away secrets but, you can't win the shell game, at least not the way I play it.  There is no time when the pea is not under my total control. It can be under any shell at any given time and all three at once if that is my desire.  The pea in the game is not really a green pea but a small rubber ball specially crafted for the game, and it is the ultimate secret to the effect.  
The routine went on for some time and my actress audience was completely baffled. They guessed wrong when I wanted them to and guessed correctly when necessary.  There was never any legitimate choice in the performance.  But one of the actresses got more and more frustrated by the effect.  She really thought there was a way to beat the game, and eventually she found a way.
At one point I looked down at my close up magic mat.  There were the three shells but no pea.  I had done nothing with it; I looked all around and on the floor to see if it had rolled off the table, but nothing. From the body language of one of the actresses I knew she had taken it.  I joked around waiting for the  pea to be returned to the game, but it was not forthcoming.  I finally got serious and said that the pea was special to the game and I did not have another.  "Please give me back the pea." I said sincerely.  Nothing.  She showed me her hands, she was not hiding it but I knew she took it.
Finally after all value to the theift had been depleted she admitted she took the pea. I asked her in the nicest, "you got me" tone to give it back.  She said she couldn't she swallowed it!
I laughed and said, "That is a silicon pea and it has been rolling around on this dirty mat for some time. I don't think it would be very healthy to ingest it."  I figured she was still punking me about swallowing it.  But I was wrong  she did swallow it.
This put an end to my practice and my ability to do the moves that evening and for several more days after that.  It took me a long time to craft another pea with just the right consistency to perform the moves again.  But after a few trials and errors I was able to replace the missing part of the game. 
A week later it was filming night again.  I sat in a makeup chair getting my working face applied.  There was suddenly a tap on my shoulder.  It was the actress who swallowed the pea.  She said, "Hold out your hand."
I did,  and with that she placed the missing pea in the palm of my hand.  
"Here is your GodDamn pea. I knew I would get it back eventually. But if you thought it was dirty before, it really is now."  And she walked away. By this time everyone knew the story and knew what I was holding in my palm.  They also knew intellectually where that pea had been for a week.  The makeup lady made me go to my dressing room to wash my hands and get rid of that "thing" immediately before she would continue. 
Now, there are two ways percieve this. First, she didn't really swallow the pea, but hid it in her dressing room and waited till the perfect time to "recover" it as a joke on me.  The other way to see it is, well, I don't really want to go into the implications of recovering it if she did swallow it.    
I still have the pea, sterilized and in its own plastic pill bottle.  Although I will never know for sure where the pea was for a week the memory of the story has eclipsed my need to know.
Either way the joke was on me; I still laugh about it and think of her fondly. The story would mean more if I used her name but her kids might not want to know that much about their mother's former life.  But now I have said too much.
For you Phil.
As you were, 
Jay



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