the first family plot

Me and The Lotus are bad people who want to ruin our future children's future. Here's how:

A year or so ago, in between assignments, I spent a couple of afternoons as an extra for the series I now produce. The show is an historical doc series that mixes interviews and archival footage with ultra-low-budget reenactments, and the producer plucked me from the extras talent garden because a) I was her friend, b) between trips I tended to sit at home in my bathrobe and let my brain go to cheese, and c) being an extra on the show pays slightly better than bathrobe sitting. Slightly.

It also helped that I bore a strong resemblance to the person I was playing, a Nova Scotian man (just like me!) who had lost his family to a fire in the aftermath of a storm (not like me!). I had been the one who interviewed him for the program, and my first thought upon seeing him was My God we look alike and then is he thinking the same thing? and then they're totally going to want me to play him in the reenactments.

Since months later I found myself dressed in a pair of ill-fitting pyjamas, choking on mineral oil smoke and pretending to be struggling for my life.

You'll be happy to know that I escaped through the bedroom window, slowly peeling away pieces of venetian blind until I was able to poke my head through the window. It's difficult to see in this photo, but what I'm actually clutching is an actual child.

Several days later I awake in the hospital, where the compassionate and well made-up doctor looks very very concerned. I am made of stone.

Now that I look at these photos again, I have to wonder: if I'm coming to after several days in the hospital, why is my face still smudged from the fire? Anyway, the doctor has left and now the nurse is compassionate.

They make the mistake of telling me that my family has died in the fire.

I thought I was a worldly guy, but I'd never had the experience of struggling in a bed and being held down by several strange women. Anyway. This next one is my favourite. I'm supposed to be yelling and grief-stricken, but I appear to be singing with a mask on. It's some kind of oxygen-deprived opera.

I whip my head around until the mask comes loose, and the scene shifts from Il Convalesci to Heavy Med Elvis.

After the stills came back from reenactments I selected a few from the duplicates and brought them home for The Lotus' amusement. She decided that we would slip them into our family photo album. Years later, when our currently unborn beans find these photos of agony and torment, they'll say, "Dad, what happened to you?" And then The Lotus will whisper "That was from Dad's first family" and close the album gently but firmly, as I exit stonyfaced from the room.