Monday, April 25, 2011

Part Ten: In which "The Improfessionals" humiliate a shy, nervous girl. Or do they?

"Okay!" said James. "On your feet, everyone! We're going to get started." Katie stood reluctantly, and looked at the floor. This was so not her type of thing. "Okay, everyone, we need a volunteer! A brave soul who's ready to dive right in and make magic!"

Luis began pacing in front of them, staring into their faces. Katie looked down, knowing that eye contact would be the death of her. "No one wants to volunteer?" James shook his head. "This is terrible!" His voice was loud, comical. "I guess we'll just have to go with...."

Not me, not me, not me.... Katie knew it would be her. She just knew it. These things always happened to her and she .... "This lovely girl!" Katie heard Luis' voice coming from across the room. What? It wasn't Katie? "And your name is....?"

She looked up and saw Erica. Poor, sweet, Erica standing, trembling, in the front of the semi-circle. Her eyes looked bright and wet. She was literally shaking in her wolf sweatshirt. (The wolf, set on a dark blue background, was pictured on a rock, and was braying at a full moon. It was as though he was sending a distress call about Erica's plight.) "Erica..." Erica said, quietly, resigned.

"I'm gonna have to get in there...." Katie muttered to Melissa, at the same time as Melissa muttered back, "You're gonna have to get in there...." The far-reaching responsibility of being someone's supervisor weighed heavy on them both.

"So." James addressed the group.  "How often have you had someone turn down an idea that you've brought to a meeting or a planning session without even considering it? I mean, I bet lots of you have lots of good ideas, and your managers or bosses just dismiss them without even considering them. Am I right?" James' arms were crossed across his skinny, vegan chest, his pale legs open in a "power stance". "Well, in improv, our first rule is that we never say no! To anything! We agree with whatever our friends bring to the table!"

Katie wondered if James had ever worked in an office. She figured that he hadn't. If he had, he'd know that people often had terrible ideas at work. If she agreed to all of them, Katie's department would have its own "best places to nap" wiki. Not that she objected to such a wiki. But Katherine had to. And recently, Melissa's department was trying to get Katie's department to compete in a pedometer contest, which Katie, Paul and Mike were actively trying to shut down. Imagine if they said yes? They'd all have to take the stairs just to win free salads for a week! Never.

"So the first game we're going to play is called Yes, And." Luis stepped forward and stood next to Erica.  "So, Erica, here's what we'll do. I will say something, you'll agree to it, as well as build on it with another suggestion. Here it goes." He looked brightly at Erica, whose face was festooned with a wide, false smile. Oh, dear. Katie knew that face. It was the face she made whenever Katie asked her to do something out of her comfort zone. Which was pretty much anything.

"Hi, Erica!" Luis' voice was suddenly loud, and enunciatey. Katie realized he was now Acting. "Let's go for a walk."

Erica's smile widened, tightened. She was silent. Katie felt her heart constrict. Yes, and. Yes, and. Yes, and. Katie prompted silently.

"Yes, and..." Erica squeezed her eyes shut. "...and let's take our dogs." She expelled an enormous breath. It was as though she had just given birth.

"Yes! And let's go to the park." Luis began strolling, his arm through Erica's. No! Don't touch her! She hates to be touched! thought Katie. This is it. Erica will fall apart. Right? 

Katie watched anxiously at the unavoidable breakdown. "Yes, and let's get ice cream cones." Erica stopped walking, and closed her eyes. Katie held her breath, and began to step forward. This was it. She would step in and save her now.

But then something happened. With her eyes still closed, Erica began miming like she was eating an ice cream cone. "Yum! Strawberry," she giggled (she giggled!?). Luis giggled back.

"Yes, and let's see aliens coming towards us!" He looked up and pointed at the ceiling. Reflexively the entire office looked up but all they saw were water stains on the ceiling panels. Clearly, though, Erica, her eyes now open, wide and staring, saw something else.

"Yes! They're coming!" She screeched, mimed dropping her ice cream, and pulled on her dog leash. "Come on, Rex! We've got to get out of here!" She fled to the other side of the circle, and crouched down. "Luis! Over here! Under this park bench!" she hissed over at her scene partner.

Luis looked a bit taken aback, but shrugged, grinned at the assembled audience in a "what're you gonna do?" kind of way and ran over towards her. "Yes, and here is my laser gun!" Luis held up his hand in a gun shape.

Erica, now lying on her stomach in a commando pose, seemed to have weaponry of her own. "Take that, aliens!" And then she was rat-ta-tat-tatting like a gangster, gunning down the aliens, all the while holding tight onto her imaginary dog leash.

"What is going on?" Katie, her anxiety long since morphed into a frantic sort of laughter, clutched at Melissa's arm.

"I don't know!" Melissa sounded like she was choking down laughter as well. Across the semi-circle, Paul and Mike were shooting looks of horrified surprise at Katie, who found herself mimicking Luis' "what're you gonna do?" shrug.

"...and Scene!" James, rushing into the centre of the circle, shut the scene down. Luis and Erica stopped shooting their laser guns and climbed to their feet. "Let's hear it for our brave volunteer, Erica, who showed us just what can happen when we accept even the most preposterous ideas!" Erica was suddenly bright red; she hung her head forward and her hair covered her face, but Katie could see that the girl couldn't stop grinning.

"Thank you Erica!" Luis and James began clapping, and Erica's coworkers followed suit. Mike wolf-whistled at her, which Katie hoped the wolf on the sweatshirt appreciated.

"Did you see that? Can you believe what just happened?" Melissa whispered to her friend.

"No, I really can't." Katie whispered back. It had been remarkable. Like watching someone break open and a whole new person stepped out. Like there had been a whole other person inside Erica just waiting to be set free. Did Erica know that person was even there?

(Katie had moved back to Toronto from Vancouver because of Bobby. Because she hadn't loved him. But more than that. Bobby wanted a wife, Bobby wanted someone who wanted what he wanted and Katie didn't know what she wanted but she knew she didn't want dinner parties, she didn't want weekend visits at his parents' place, she didn't want a shared email address, she didn't want to wear his grandmother's engagement ring, he'd loved her so much, he'd've done anything for her and she'd walked away.

She had come back to Toronto because this was where she'd been an artist, this was where she'd made her best pieces, where she'd made all those collages, where she'd been in some group shows. And so she wallowed for those Terrible Four Months, but she had woken up, eventually,  and so she bought that house, with the basement, because that was going to be her studio, she was going to work part time and make art in the basement.  She'd had a show set up within months of arriving back in the city, but the basement started to leak, almost to flood, that spring, and her new job was so much more demanding than she'd imagined, and she was distracted by television and there were always dishes to do and the art never got made and she lost the show, and that was that. That was this. This was that.

This was her life. What?)

"Yes, and...Katie?" Melissa was poking her in the ribs. "Katie? Yes and?"

"And what?"

"Are you paying attention at all?" Melissa's eyes showed real concern. "Katie? We're supposed to be playing this stupid game."

"Oh." Katie looked around the room, at her coworkers who were standing in partners, "Yes And-ing" their hearts out. "Sure. Sorry."

"Okay?" Melissa didn't seem ready to drop this.

"Okay, yes. Yes and!" Katie forced a smile. "Yes and...let's get a drink after this!"

"Yes, and we can decide on my wedding attitude for next weekend!"

Katie laughed, and played along. This stupid game. Yes, and. And here she'd always thought it was enough just to agree to things. Now to realize she had to come up with the next was exhausting.

Two hours later they'd mastered "Yes And", progressed onto Copying the Silly Walk and Conveying an Idea Without Language.

"So, miming?" Paul had asked when that particular skill was introduced.

"No. We don't teach mime. This is different." James had said, but five minutes in, after Luis had shown them how to use only their bodies to demonstrate baking a cake, Paul had asked again. "So, this is miming?" Katie knew his voice, and knew he was being just a bit of a dick. He probably thought James was cute.

"No, this isn't miming, this is silent expression," James stressed, and Luis, quietly, murmured to Paul, "Back off, man. We're not licensed to teach mime."

After that they'd progressed to trust falls, during which a lot of people got dropped.

"Okay!" James was helping Judith the office manager off the floor. Katie wasn't surprised Judith had ended up on the floor. No one trusted her, either. "So we'll take about a twenty-minute break, and when we get back to it, we'll learn about how to make the most of your emotions."

"Learn to make the most of our emotions?" Melissa snorted. "Obviously that man was never a teenaged girl."

Katie slipped her hand through her friend's. "Want to hide in the washroom on 3rd?" All this sharing with her coworkers was getting to be a bit much. Katie just wanted to disappear for a while.

"Sure," Melissa and Katie started towards the elevators, when Natasha the intern stopped them. "Katie? There's ah...someone in the lobby to see you."

"What? Who is it?'

"They didn't say."

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE TIME: Is it Katie's long-lost sister Anne or her eccentric, well-traveled Aunt Angela? OR maybe it's Bobby, the boyfriend she left behind in Vancouver?


  1. Anne! I am always in favour of people named Anne showing up.

  2. Hey! I like that Rex (even imaginary Rex) makes a cameo here! I vote for Anne too. Because, if she's a drunk, maybe she doesn't realize that it's Saturday and that Katie shouldn't be at work (it is Saturday, right?).

  3. hmmm. Anne but make it quick...quixotic?

  4. How about Anne coming by because she wanted to leave a note (and didn't want to actually talk to Katie) and is surprised into having to do just that. And then runs off before Katie connects with her....

    That's too much direction isn't it? I should just say: