Some natural flowers had been allowed to bloom across the field. Sunflowers, the big ones, he couldn’t remember the name,  Giganteus blah blah. Buttercups, he at least knew those. A pinkish type. Fine petals drawn upward like bunched fingertips. Bees bounced from one to the next. The field was bright green. Unnaturally so, as if it had been dyed, which he supposed it might have been. The rest of the flowers were fakes. Made from a light plastic able to sway in the breeze, and if there was no breeze, the breeze might also have to be reproduced, an industrial fan clattering in the background of the opening scenes.

Michael wore his costume, everything except the head, which waited upside down at his feet. He was hungover. No point in putting on the head until the director was exactly ready. His body below the neck had already entered that familiar and strange dissociation, brain struggling lightly against the sight of his hands, now enormous and blue. A stomach also enormous and blue. In the early days of the job he had found this moment fascinating. Stroking his blue stomach with his blue hands, nerve endings firing as if each were his own.

The director clapped his hands. Right, assemble! He was secretly sweet, Michael thought. The way he sucked in his paunch, still visible through those black T-shirts he preferred. The director clapped again, impatient, although everyone was already falling into place. A large and horrible lamp was used to intensify the sunlight. The other actors appeared beside Michael, heads tucked against the sides of their chests. Red, Purple, Green. Colors given the personalities of feral children. Left to live inside what looked like a metal bunker on this fake green hillside. 

Here we go again. Gio, the other man, half-heartedly sexist, saving up asides for Michael. He believed the women who played Red and Purple were better built to survive the costumes, that for men it was harder, more torturous. Michael tried to respond only in disinterested smiles, though he found Gio’s bitterness attractive. His silence hadn’t yet put Gio off.

A woman from costume, her name momentarily gone from Michael’s mind, brushed down their bright fur. Tutted at Michael, picked his head up off the ground, wiped the top with a heavy hand. Try not to if you can, gets very mucky very quickly. Michael nodded, loyal. They were not stars. No one much gave a shit about the people inside the characters. The director waved his hand. A wedding ring, Michael noticed for the first time, winking in the harnessed sun. Perhaps he didn’t always wear it, perhaps he only wanted to be heterosexual on special occasions. 

The heads were put on. For the first few seconds, Michael closed his eyes. Breathed in, breathed out. On the fifth or sixth movement of his lungs, the costume tuned in. Heft of fur and polyester, heft of muscle and blood. Noises commingled, that syncing of bodies real and otherwise. Today, whispers of alcohol on his breath. Pressure in his face, pushing outward. At his eyebrows, at the hinge of his jaw, at the pause of his temples. And in his neck, a pain newly building. The weight of the head slowly fucking up his spine. 

Last night had been fun enough. Commemorative stamps of Princess Diana had just been released and the George had thrown a party. One man, tall, Michael guessed at a pierced nipple beneath his T-shirt, had wanted to know what Michael did for a living, wet lips touching his ear. You’ll never guess, Michael had flirted chaotically, casting himself into myth.

Michael shuffled forward. Behind Gio, behind Green. Red and Purple already in position, their huge neon forms shifted about by a DP, then by the director. For vibes, they played the theme song. The crew groaned and rolled their eyes in acceptable self-loathing. Michael smiled even though no one could see him. He was able to see only through fine slits in the creases of the costume’s cheeks, his vision striated. In his ear a hard whistle, then the director’s voice hummed. Everyone on? All four lifted their massive hands. Scene three, after the surprise arrives, let’s run down the hill, is the dog ready, Kate, is the dog ready?

Michael swiveled to better see the dog. Led onto the grass by a handler all in khaki, her color palette infinitely dull against the green grass, the fake flowers. Bandy legs, a long snout, a perfectly round brown spot on its flank, like a child’s drawing of a dog. That was the idea, Michael supposed. His eyes swam a little. The pain in his neck expanded. The handler whispered something to the dog, who had begun to pant, perhaps in anticipation. She scratched its neck fondly, which to Michael seemed unprofessional, he figured the world of animal handlers ought to be cold and intellectual. Leash unclipped, the dog stayed sitting. Freedom had never crossed its mind. Right, Red and Purple, off you go, then Blue and Green five seconds behind. Names lost to their colors, they lumped down the hill. Red and Purple impossibly sprightly, kicking together their inflated heels, stretching the fabric of their armpits into a two-handed wave. Maybe Gio was right after all. Michael stumbled forward, the incline steep beneath his blue feet, or paws, the costume’s intention not particularly clear.

Release the dog! Go the dog! The woman in khaki snapped her fingers. The dog took off after them, a large brown spot swimming between their multicolored legs. Cut, cut. They stopped running. Michael damp with sweat, the smell of alcohol sweetening. He turned toward the director, enjoying that belly in profile. Sorry, sorry, can we get the dog to show some excitement? The woman in khaki nodded furiously. The dog, meanwhile, had resumed a sitting position, this one a little tenser, sharp white teeth pressed over purple gums. Like, can the dog maybe jump, or bark, or something, it needs to be lively, you know? She nodded and nodded. Right okay, good work guys, let’s go again, okay, action! The woman in khaki took off along the edges, ducking and weaving between the cameras and cameramen, the tall booms, the assistants holding coffees and elbows. She called out to the dog, wanting it to leap, to break its hard-earned control. The dog stopped to watch her. Michael found himself doing the same. She seemed to draw on a deep-held mania, more animal than her animal. 

Gio nudged Michael’s elbow. Michael tilted to the left. He was holding up the scene, he started his run again. The dog, attuned, began its mimicry. Barked excitedly. Something in it momentarily broken apart. No longer flashing between their legs but looping around them, herding. Cut! Cut! That’s it, nice work. The woman in khaki now heavy with exertion. Motioned to the dog, crouching, her arms open. Michael had expected a tin whistle. Short, sharp commands.