March/April 2011

Virginia Mountain
Scream Queen

My Life in B Movies

by Rebecca Taylor
Illustrations by Tony Millionaire

A movie can set up a lot in a few fast moments before the opening credits: this is who to care for, this is who to fear, this is who will love, who will hurt, who will die. The first moments of a movie can foreshadow the end, or they can tell you what came before.

A sixteen-year-old girl moves alone to New York City with the dream of becoming an actress. Her mother believes in dreams like these, so she lets her go. In New York City, the girl lands an agent who sends her on her first audition—to play the part of Meryl Streep’s daughter. The role goes to Claire Danes, and this is the way it always goes. She reads for a dance movie—she is not a dancer. She reads for Juliet—she is too tall. The girl does not become an actress, but she learns how to lose an agent, and how many days of solitary silence it takes to forget the sound of her own voice. By her eighteenth birthday, she’s back home in Virginia. She’s a waitress living in the woods with her parents.

Here, in the Virginia woods, is where the opening credits start, where the names of the stars appear. But there are no big stars in this picture. The girl before the opening credits, who by now you should care for, if she did her job—that girl is me. But I’m not a star, and I don’t have top billing in this story. In this story, another name comes before mine, and it’s the sort of name that appears before the title. I could have put it up top on this page to begin with, but I chose not to. I’m the one who gets to tell the rest of my story, and since this part is about moviemaking—and movies are made with tricks—I chose to deceive you. But I will reveal it now.

In the beginning, it’s 2001, and I’m back home in Virginia, living with my parents and my fifteen-year-old sister in the house I grew up in. The house sits on a hill, surrounded by forest. It’s the very end of the summer. You can’t see the river through the trees, but you can hear it.

Here’s a shot of me: a pale girl with long, brown hair.

Here’s a shot of the house on the hill.

Here’s a shot of the trees changing colors.

A title appears on the screen: John Johnson’s Virginia Mountain Scream Queen.

Fade to black.

Fade in on my mother clipping an ad for me from the local newspaper: on Saturday, in a playground on the other side of the mountain, in the little factory town of Waynesboro, Darkstone Entertainment will hold an open audition for an “Independent Low-Budget Horror-Western.”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

Rebecca Taylor grew up in the Virginia woods. Now she lives and writes in New York City.

Illustrations by Tony Millionaire

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