Roy’s job today was to die. Then to stay dead. To not breathe, blink, or give any other hint that he’d not corked it. But, bundled up as he was in a window seat, he’d had plenty of time to ponder the manner in which he’d arrived at that state.
The lid opened for the first of what Roy knew would be several times that morning. “Poor Mr Grimsdale,” said the female intrepid investigator.
“Indeed,” said the male intrepid investigator, as if he was contemplating a costly claret at a wine auction.
“He must have taken it quite to heart,” said the female intrepid investigator. Roy watched through his lashes as she smiled at her own quip.
Must have taken it quite to heart, Roy thought. What did that mean? Had Grimsdale been stabbed? If so, there was no blood on his shirt front, no knife sticking out of his back. But, then, wherever these two went, finding bodies in the most inconceivable settings, there was rarely any blood. Or emotion, either. Which was why, of course, Roy’s mum so disapproved.
“It’s unseemly,” she’d said, the last time Roy had died, his body rolled downhill in a bass drum. Male intrepid investigator had found him, arms and legs akimbo, head bursting through the drum skin, and he’d joked about him being “drummed out of the band”.
“It’s wrong,” Roy’s mum had said. “That’s not how people behave.”
It was a good thing she hadn’t seen the one where Roy had been “fired from his job at the munitions factory”. That had involved a cannon.
Still, whatever Roy’s mum did or didn’t think, it would be nice to know what “taken it to heart” meant.
The window seat shut above him and Roy heard/felt the pair of intrepid investigators sit down.
Precisely none of their conversation had anything to do with poor Mr Grimsdale. There were no concerns about wife or children or extended family. Nor any thoughts about the need for the police or a pathologist or any of the things Roy knew would be needed in such a situation.
“It’s tasteless,” Roy’s mum had said. “Quipping before the corpse is even cold.” Put that way, listening to the pair of them above discussing the next steps in their intrepid investigations, Roy began to see her point.
Not that he’d been paid to see the point. Dennis had made that very clear to him. His job was to die, to stay dead, to not laugh when male intrepid investigator stumbled, mid-way through expounding on the defeat of the Big Bad who’d done away with Grimsdale and so very many others this week.
“Some kind of disguise is in order,” he was saying before the pause and the cough and the buttock shuffle. “No, no, I’ve lost it, I’ve lost it,” he said, thumping the lid of the window seat and making Roy jump. “Line!”
Roy rubbed his forehead and heard Dennis shouting for them to “Cut!”
“Sorry, love,” male intrepid investigator said to female intrepid investigator before checking in with the continuity girl.
No-one, of course, checked in on Roy while they set up for the next take. Not even when the First AD came over to prop the lid open again and the camera dollied back in for the one decent close-up Roy was going to get in this week’s episode. He’d got an extra guinea for featuring so prominently. If it was any other job, his mother would have been proud.
She was right to be bothered by the glibness. Being enclosed in a window seat for the best part of a morning not knowing what his “character” had taken to heart very much concentrated the mind on such things.
Maybe it was time to properly have it out with Director Dennis. Maybe the break in production, as it ached onwards while male intrepid investigator demanded a new flower for his buttonhole, would provide Roy with a chance to say something. Make his mum proud.
He sidled up to Dennis at the tea trolley. He apologised in advance for being a nuisance. But he’d been thinking and maybe something needed to be done about the tone of the series. Maybe give a bit of dignity to the characters who were so unceremoniously bumped off.
Dennis arched an eyebrow at him. “Oh, really?” he said. “And what would you suggest, young man?”
Roy had spent two days stuck in a window seat. He’d had plenty of time to think about it. His mum would protest. She wanted the show shut down. He, however, had rewritten the script.
Roy probably wasn’t the first extra in history to rewrite his own part. His suggestions to an increasingly grim-faced Dennis included a protracted flashback to Mr Grimsdale’s youth before an additional scene at the close of the programme, in place of the usual larking about tag scene. He thought it might be more respectful to have the intrepid investigators at Grimsdale’s graveside. Maybe, just this week, they could shed a tear or two and mourn his loss before the credits rolled in silence and a voiceover gave viewers a number they could ring if they’d been “affected by any scenes in tonight’s programme.” His mum would have liked that.
No, Roy probably wasn’t the first extra in history to rewrite his own part.
But he was very likely the first to argue his character into such a gruesome demise that Broadcast Standards would no longer permit a close-up.