In unison everyone watching gasped. The noise of our breath was loud and visibly startled the lion back to the darkness. The cage rolled on making room for the star of the parade: Rosie. Wearing a shimmering headband she lumbered down the street. Her trunk swayed back and forth, back and forth. Children laughed with excitement and pointed from the window of the candy store. A man next to me lit a hand-rolled cigarette. I gave a big holler to Rosie and clapped my hands. Back and forth, and back and forth, she lumbered. I rested my right leg on the bumper of an old two-door Ford - a relic from an era passed.
“Great job ladies and gentlemen!” “Back to the top!” The AD had the megaphone again - and for good reason. All of the cages, carts, clowns, and circus animals turned around and walked back to their starting positions. Christoph and Rob slipped into the parade without fanfare. On the next take the two actors walked near each other but not too near. There was a visible tension between them, especially now that Marlena sat atop her prized Rosie. She looked stunning in her silver shimmering costume and waved at the crowd. She looked my direction and I waved back. Who knows, maybe she was looking at me?
The parade continued on for a couple of hours before we returned to our tents and I drank six Dixie Cups of ice water. Some of the Rubes sat in circles and talked, others went to sleep in the grass. I paced. I wanted more. When the next call came I was first in line.
We followed the AD back down to the street and gathered around the corner convenience store. I wondered why they had so many watermelons. A middle-aged Asian man stood high-up on a ladder in cargo shorts and a sweaty t-shirt. He wore a faded blue baseball cap fastened down by an over-sized pair of headphones and held a ten foot long boom mic over the crowd. “Ok folks, make some room!” Out of thin air, Rosie appeared and was walking toward the middle of the crowd. We immediately split and cleared a path. Once she was in position I was so close I could reach out and touch her hind leg.
“Thank you for your patience folks. Here is what’s going to happen. Tai (Rosie) is going to be eating the watermelons and Rob and Camel are going to come and take her away. When she starts to back up, make sure you....” Ptthhhmmpppp. Silence. Laughter. “Ewwww,” a group of people groaned at once. The Rubes directly behind Tai took a few steps back and covered their mouths. Elephant fart.
Once everyone regained their composure the filming began. My job was to look enthralled by the fact there was an elephant eating at the convenience store. How could I not be? Jacob and Camel pushed their way through the crowd and attempted to lure Rosie away with the smell of whiskey. This turned out to be harder than they’d imagined. In between takes Rob stood comfortably in the back of the crowd. He had an undeniable composure and worked diligently to make the scene the best it possibly could be. He inspired all of us to give our best until the sun began to set.
Read Cody's full experience as a Water For Elephants extra HERE