"Welcome, Mr. Deacon. I'm Pablo, and I will likely be the director for this film. It is most wonderful to work with someone of your caliber."

"Pablo? Pablo who? I'm not sure I've ever heard of you."

"Please, Mr. Deacon, there is not much time to prepare for the shoot. My assistant Esmeralda needs to go over the details so we can begin."

"Begin? My agent just told me to stop by here and talk to you about a possible film project. I'm not prepared for a shoot. I don't have any of my people here..."

"Hush. Hush. Too much noise. Too much noise in the spectrum. We have to get this scene shot today. The weather is so deliciously perfect. Ah! Ah! Breathe in that clean wonderful air!"

"Okay, at least tell me what kind of picture this is and maybe we can talk..."

"Talk is for lovers, Mr. Deacon. We are here to shoot a picture. Please, go stand over where the lovely Esmeralda is standing with her delightful hot chocolate in that gorgeous earth tone ceramic mug and we'll take our places and the shoot can begin!"

Hoping Esmeralda might have something more substantial to offer, the beleaguered Jonas Deacon walked over to her. She took a very seductive sip of her hot chocolate, letting a melting miniature marshmallow hang precariously from her lip. Then she drew her lip gently into her mouth and licked it clean with an ever so slight movement of the tongue.

"Ah, Mr. Deacon, I have seen most if not all of your films in recent memory. Let me be on the line first to tell you of the movie of which you will be most best known about for generations into the future."

Her accent had no nationality. It was more like she had learned English from listening to a fully submerged 8-track tape player.

"Look, are you people for real? What is this picture Pablo is talking about? I can't sign on to this project until I know the details and talk to my agent. She told me just to stop here on my way to Omar Shariff's Christmas Gala and talk to someone named Jefferson."

"Not important to know Jefferson. He sick mostly at this time. This we know for quite a bit in time. We shoot picture quickly, wrap up and cross the border. This a blockbuster picture. Big scenes. Big action. You know?"

"Huh?"

"We only need you one scene. Only be playing one scene. Put together later. Work out good for movies. You have retardant of flames suit to wear? We require to have one. You understand?"

"No, I really don't. Flame retardant suit? I told Pablo, I did not come here prepared for a shoot."

"Is not too bad really. We provide suit for wearing on you. We spray from can on body. Clog all pores nicely."

Esmeralda ducked into a striped tent erected just behind the carafe of hot chocolate she provided only for her own enjoyment. Jonas Deacon watched for a moment, noticing that she tended to shake her hips in a gentle, rocking motion that screamed "Come to me, you big movie star." He resisted the temptation to follow, even as he heard her engage another woman in conversation inside the tent, and went back to address Pablo and express his intention to leave the scene unscathed.

"No! We must shoot the scene right now, Mr. Deacon. The minkies are ready. I am ready. Esmeralda is ready. The fire marshall is here on an hourly basis and our budget will not allow us to pay him past five o'clock. The shoot will be quick. One take! One take! All my pictures I do in one take! Is easy, no?"

"Look, really, I don't work this way."

"But the minkies! The precious, blood thirsty minkies!"

"Minkies? Do you mean monkeys?"

"Not particularly. These minkies, you must meet them. They are in their cages waiting for the big scene."

"What the hell is a minkie?"

"A rabid rodent with big teeth and mink fur. Very valued. Very valued, but until now they have not appeared in a film of the caliber I am about to produce! I mean, direct. Jefferson, he is the producer, but he is lying down."

"Okay, I want to know what the hell is going on here. Who put you people up to this? Was it Bruce Willis? Dreyfus? Juliette Lewis?"

"Ah, you know Bruce Willis? He would also be great in this picture. Both of you could be running through the maze together with the fire at your backs! Ah, would be nice, but then we would have to change the script... we must shoot as it is."

Esmeralda returned from his visit to the tent
He summoned all the power of his lungs
And screamed.
"Everyone! Places!"
Esmeralda had become a man.
"Bring to me the minkies!"

"You see, Mr. Deacon. This is a perfectly professional shoot we are running. Now, your place for this scene is over by the old building over there. We needed a maze, but instead we chose this abandoned office building. Very convenient and worked out nice for us. We had to rewrite the script, but the script it is not sacred by any means. Now, you will see the minkies, become very, very, very scared and run into that building.

Jonas Deacon did not understand.
He listened but it made no sense.
His attention diverted he did not notice.
Esmeralda did sneak up behind him.
She pointed the aerosol can at Jonas Deacon.
Then Esmeralda, newly a man, sprayed from her can.
Jonas Deacon was thus covered with flame retardant.
It was the kind used on Christmas trees.

"What the HELL is wrong with you people!"

"It is for your own protection, Mr. Deacon. Now please, take your place near the door to the building. Wait for the fierce, rabid minkies--"

"RABID?"

"It is okay, they respond to my voice commands. There is little if any danger. You will enter the building after you are frightened by the minkies and continue to run. You will run through all the corridors and cubicles until you find the emergency exit. We believe that we have a camera crew inside, but we haven't talked to them since this morning. I am sure they are ready to go."

"Okay, this is obviously someone's joke. I know. Burt Reynolds is finally getting back at me for the whole oatmeal incident. I'll just play along. Yeah, yeah, you got me Burt! Ha ha ha!"

Esmeralda stepped back.
She scratched her face.
The five o'clock shadow was gone.
She smiled.
She had become a woman again.

"Whatever you need to think in order to psyche yourself out, Mr. Deacon. I know about you actors!" Pablo paused to giggle at his conceptual sense of humor. "Now, once in the building we are going to set it on fire. We set up a trail of gasoline. Trail so thin, like spiderwebs on all the walls. Very safe. Very, very safe. Especially with the flame retardant spray. What is it that Santa says when he comes with the presents? Merry Christmas? Yes, like that. This is a present for you, Mr. Deacon. Now take your place and lets get ready to shoot."

Jonas Deacon took his position.
Esmeralda patted his back and stepped away.
He went back to the tent, a man once more.
Esmeralda waited with a friend for the shoot to begin.
First the minkies were set free.
Then a cigarette was tossed to ignite the fire.
Jonas Deacon began running right on cue.
He ran into the building and vanished from sight.
Esmeralda and her friend shouted their joy.

"Absolutely perfect, Esmeralda," saluted her friend with a champagne toast. "I can't believe Jonas bought it. Now we can escape to Fiji and live happily ever after."

"How long do you think he'll keep running?"

"It doesn't matter, my husband has gotten his just desserts and I have you. What better ending could there be?"

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