In addition to acting in a haunted house, I also do makeup for the other actors.
Because – and you must trust me on this – you haven’t lived until you’ve ripped bits of skin off someone’s face and sprayed blood everywhere.
Last year, I sort of got the gig sprung on me, and had to make do with my own meager kit and whatever the other makeup artists were willing to sling my way (I work with some really talented and generous people, so I did fine) but starting earlier this year, I went on a mad hunt for specialty brushes, applicators, stipple sponges, expanding foam, and all the weird tools of our trade. Some of them hide in plain sight, and some are repurposed as other things when you’re not a weirdo who’s either going to dip it in latex or fake blood. And, because every single time I walk into a home improvement/hardware store I get the “what are you using this for?” question… it got awkward.
I tried being vague
ME: (describes exact plastic that I need)
ORANGE APRON: Have you tried Hobby Lobby?
ME: (screams internally)
HIM: (wanders over) Okay, I found the gorilla tape. Did you get the plastic?
ME: Not yet. (pointed glare at Orange Apron)
ORANGE APRON: What are you using it for?
ME: Umm… (shifty eyes) texturing? And… things.
HIM: She works in a haunted house.
ORANGE APRON: (confused) Okay… but what will you be doing with it?
ME: Do you have it or not?
Seriously, you’d think I was asking them for hypodermic needles.*
Eventually, Husband got sick of watching me struggle, and suggested that I just tell them the truth. This… got messy.
ME: Excuse me, where are the chip brushes?
ORANGE APRON: What are you using them for?
HIM: (encouraging look)
ORANGE APRON: (terrified)
ME: Oh, look! There they are, behind you! (reaches for chip brushes)
ORANGE APRON: (disappears into thin fucking air)
HIM: Maybe not quite like that.
But I tell you, it got to be addictive. And? Somehow liberating.
I was done pretending that I do normal things with the spray bottles, the tooth brushes, the masks and squeeze bottles and all the weird things I buy at the dollar store. So what if they thought I was a serial killer on a shopping spree? I looked them dead in the eye and dared them to question me further.
ME: Do you have more of these same filters, but without the charcoal?
FISH EMPLOYEE: (starts walking) Maybe. What kind of tank do you have?
ME: Oh, I don’t have a tank.
FISH EMPLOYEE: (stops, confused) Then, why… ?
HIM: (trying not to laugh)
ME: It’s for all the blood. Seriously, so much blood. And these come in nice big bricks!
HIM: (moves away to hide choking sounds)
FISH EMPLOYEE: (pales, runs off to check shelves)
My only regret, if I had to point out something making me sad right now – other than the combination of late nights and early mornings that’s making me hella cranky – is that I’m running out of opportunities to use this tactic! My kit is more or less complete, and with the haunting season in full swing, there’s just nothing I really need that can’t wait another year. Until the other day, at the thrift store.
ME: Just these, please.
CASHIER: Aren’t these wonderful? I’ve been thinking I need one; do they work for soups?
ME: Not sure, that’s not what I’m using it for, sorry.
CASHIER: Oh? What are you putting in it?
ME: Blood. Keeps it warm, easier to work with.
‘Tis the season!
* Fun story,** I actually had less difficulty getting needles out of a pharmacy once. The pharmacist informed me that they absolutely could not sell them without a prescription, because Druggies. I said I understood, and made sadface, and she asked me – rather suspiciiously – what I needed them for. I considered a few of the more creative lies I’d thought up on the way there, but opted for honesty instead: “Vodkamelon.”
“I… what?” she asked, utterly confused.
“You buy a watermelon, inject it with vodka, let it sit at least overnight, and you’ve got a tasty party treat. Better than jell-o shots, by far,” I explained. And she loved my honesty (and the idea) so much she sold me three needles right there.
** I actually just realized this story is maybe not as “cool” as 22 year-old me thought. I mean, that woman should definitely have lost her job, and what if I’d been lying about the vodkamelon? But I’ve already typed it all out, so…