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In the Hall of the Mountain Stunt Double

by Tantra Bensko

Pierre wanted to go to Jack and Naomi’s wedding but because of his new job as Jack’s stunt double, he wasn’t allowed to go. Someone might see you, the producer said. They’d start thinking.

Is thinking so bad?

Bad for his reputation. No one is supposed to look as good as him. Especially to his wife. And if they think about how he didn’t actually do all those things in the movies, well.

OK, then, what about the Oscars?

No! Didn’t they tell you the rules before? You can never be seen anyplace Jack goes. You are the anti-Jack, in effect.

Where can I go for a good time, then?

To the Hall of the Mountain Stunt Doubles!

Where’s that?

On the south side of Mt. Baldy.

I’ve driven up there before, but I didn’t see anything special.

This is in a cave. You probably didn’t look in any caves.

You’re right. Well, I’m sticking around instead. Cause I want to marry Favarre. I just have to find the right place to meet her.

What? No stunt doubles have ever married famous movie stars. It isn’t done. Being in the public eye and all. No, kid, get used to being second class.

Well, in that case, fuck it. I’m going to Mt. Baldy tonight!

He drove around Mt. Baldy on a Wed. night, listening. He heard nothing special. Until he got to the emptiest part of the mountain. And there, he heard it. Apocalyptica playing.

He found his way inside, creeping through moss, announced by raucous crows.

Stunt doubles were everywhere, serving their gobly king. There was “Brad Pitt” dancing with “Tom Cruise,” naked, covered in mud finger paintings. “Angelina Jolie” frenching “Sarah Jessica Parker,”  and lifting her upside down and shaking her, while “Sarah Jessica” grabbed “Angelina’s” knees, and said the faux safe word. They knew. Nothing in this world was safe, and nothing was meant to be safe. Blue beer and contortionist human pretzels were passed around, in and out of the dangerous dancers, and tiny yellow eyes peered out of the edges, behind those electrically romantic places where stalactites and stalagmites meet.

The dust and mud and guano and silt whirled and caked and crudded. But nothing touched the figure standing in an area protected by slender stalactites lit by fires behind them, glowing hellishly. You can marry my daughter, said the lugubrious cave-king. But you have to wear slit-eye contact lenses. You have to start rumors about having a tail and shape shifting at night. You have to work only graveyard shift, and sleep all the daylight away.

His daughter came out of the green room dancing. She wore a gown obviously cast off by an actress after being called out for Worst Dressed of the Year. Her brunette roots were showing. She had obviously not had a boob job.

Yuck, said Pierre.

All the other stunt doubles had been waiting a long time for someone to marry her. They were getting tired of the usual offer and fanfare that accompanied it, the promise of a great feast for all with a wedding, and the predictable rejection.

Do it! Do it, they cried. They circled around him, banging garbage lids together, and shrieking. They piled up and down and did all their most dangerous stunts, out of context, backwards, at the same time, all around him. They jumped off ledges and pretended to break their legs, the sick angle of impact having an unearthly realism, until they jumped up and spread out their arms and laughed. They rode each other around like flamboyant horses and shook each other off, landed on the cave floor, barely avoiding the stalactites, and mimicking the candle-lit hobby-horse chandeliers.

They played Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” They brought in a banshee, but they couldn’t get it to oblige with a shriek. So they tickled it, and instead it vomited in front of him.

No, said Pierre. I’m just going to quit my job. I think that about does it.

And he became a janitor, on the spot. And then cleaned up the spot. It shone so brightly no one could look, as it hurt their eyes to see.

Tantra Bensko teaches fiction writing through UCLA Ex. Writing Program, Writers College, and her own academy online. She has two full length books out, with two more slated – from Dog Horn and Make-Do, four chapbooks, including from ISMs Press, and two hundred stories and poems in journals and anthologies. She publishes people’s chapbooks through LucidPlay Publishing. She lives in Berkeley.

Lead image: “I do all my own stunts” (via Flickr user Scott Swigart)