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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

TITLE: Red Shirt in the Morning, Trekkie Take Warning
By Jan Ackerson


My first acting role was The Stage Manager in Our Town. Emboldened by the reviews--generally positive, but mentioning my youth and inexperience—I auditioned for and landed Curley in Oklahoma! a year later. I brought down the house with my “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning…” This time the paper raved; it was all the encouragement I needed. If the Hilltown Gazetteer said that Jake Gibbons’ Curley was “definitive” and “superb”, then…well, I headed for Hollywood with the tassel from my mortarboard tied to the handle of my suitcase and my Class of ’58 letter sweater tucked inside.

Ten years later, my most impressive acting job had been “Man in Suit” in an episode of The Twilight Zone. I had a speaking part in that one: I got to say “He’s been gone for a while, hasn’t he?” That paid for beans and bread for, oh, about three days.

I was a walking cliché—the starving actor, working odd jobs in Hollywood, just waiting for a break. And then my agent called, with the part that would change my life.

“Jake,” he said, “you’re not gonna believe it. How would you feel about being on the crew of the Enterprise?”

I practically tore over to the studio, where I was told to report to wardrobe. Another guy joined me there, and we gave each other that sideways glance that guys do, sizing each other up. We were pretty interchangeable: physically fit young men, close-cropped hair, looks of desperation. Maybe Star Trek would be our ticket to the big time.

The wardrobe girl was a real cutie—she wore a Dorothy-in-Oz dress with combat boots and a fringed vest, and her hair was two curly ponytails. I liked the way her freckles jumped around when she checked us off her list. She pointed out a rack of uniforms, tagged with our names.

“You’ll go to Door B and pick up your scripts and props, then come back here for wardrobe and makeup,” said Cutie. I looked over at the rack; there were two uniforms there, one gold and one red. Disappointment rose in my throat; the “Jake Gibbons” tag was on the hanger of a red uniform, and anyone who’d seen Star Trek knew what that meant. The Red Shirts are the guys who get killed off first on “away missions”. Best I could hope for was an interesting alien to fight, but more likely, I’d be phaser-ed with less than ten seconds on screen.

I was about to slump off to Door B when the other guy sidled up to Cutie, pulling her close. “How about you put on one of them little mini-skirt uniforms and we can play “Captain Kirk and the yeoman”, babe?” I took two steps to rescue her, but apparently she’d dealt with guys like him before. She kicked him in the shin and shoved him toward the door, where he stormed past me with an angry face.

“You okay, miss?” I said, but she just flushed deeply and ducked behind the rack of uniforms. I left for Door B.

After collecting phasers, flip-top communicators, and scripts, we headed back to wardrobe to prepare for our scene: an encounter with three-legged purple aliens on a swamp planet. I reached for the “Jake Gibbons” shirt, mentally calculating if my paycheck for this job would cover my gas to the studio, when I noticed that the tag was on a gold shirt. A gold shirt! Gold Shirt Guys had lines! Speaking parts paid more!

The tags must have been tangled up on the hangers. I pulled on the gold shirt, and listened to the bozo who’d bothered Cutie grousing about being a Red Shirt Guy. I didn’t much like his language, but the wardrobe gal had disappeared. At least she didn’t have to hear it.

It was a great day. I got to fire my phaser—twice—and I had two lines. You may remember my groundbreaking interpretation of “Get down!” and “Behind you!” The Red Shirt Guy got nailed by a purple alien after about two seconds of action. There’s justice for you.

Yeah…Star Trek turned out to be my big break. I guess I should tell you what happened as I was leaving the set.

I met Gene Roddenberry, who…nah, that’s not it.

Leonard Nimoy praised my line delivery…nope, not that, either.

But I did cross paths with Cutie again, on the way to my ’63 Rambler. And she winked at me.

You finish the story.

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This article has been read 934 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 10/08/09
Love the title. As an avid Trekkie, I had to read this story first—it was worth it.
Melanie Kerr 10/08/09
I wrote this poem years ago and it came to mind when I read you story.

The man in Star Trek, does he know
That he will soon be dead
The opening scenes are fatal for
The stranger dressed in red
Leah Nichols 10/08/09
Loved it! So true....
Marita Thelander 10/08/09
The title grabbed me. Loved the ending. Good job.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/08/09
Title grabbed me this morning but I didn't have time to read until now. Great story. Did Cutie switch the tags? I'll bet she did!
Sonya Leigh10/08/09
What a quaint and delightful story--very engaging and light-hearted, in a truly clever sort of way. I love Star Trek. Have you seen Galaxy Quest? One of my favorite humorous flicks.
Charla Diehl 10/09/09
I'm not much for sci-fi stuff, so I never was a fan of Star Trek--though I am familiar with the original characters. Anyway, I found this piece fun and entertaining and was cheering for Jake the whole time. I'm believing Cutie changed the tags,that she and Jake got married and had lots of trekkies. Two thumbs up for this enjoyable entry.
Bryan Coomes10/09/09
Great title brought me in and the story delivered. I really enjoyed this.
Kimberly Russell10/09/09
Absolutely loved this, however, I do believe that after they got married, they had a herd of Tribbles...
Pamela Calhoun10/09/09
Ewwww, I loved this! Gives you a lot to think about!
Catrina Bradley 10/09/09
Yes! I love it. :)
Betty Castleberry10/12/09
Very cute and creative. Although I'm not a Trekkie, I'm married to one, making this extra special. Well done.
Emily Gibson10/13/09
Jan, this was hilarious. I heard Gene Roddenberry speak when I was in college, and he showed a blooper reel, and up until then I had never known the significance of wearing the "Red Shirt". This was a great take on the topic.
Ruth Brown10/13/09
Jan, this was so fun. Of course you are a Good Writer!!
Thanks for comments on my piece. You are such a blessing to FW!! Ruth
larry troxell 10/13/09
loved the way you involved the reader, like deciding if cutie switched the tags. made you want to read another time if see what you may have missed.
Colin Swann10/13/09
A heavyweight piece that will KO most in here. But we lightweights will get you one day. Colin
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/13/09
The conversational tone pulls the reader in, the sarcasm is just right, and the story, superb. I really enjoyed it. Such creativity!
Mariane Holbrook 10/13/09
Jake's my man! Big ole heart of gold, couldn't fake it if he tried. Of course, Cutie switched the tags and Jake and Cutie got married and had enough babies for another sequel. He turned out to be Andy Griffith and Cutie is his wife of 38 years! ("It's my story and I'll lie if I want to, lie if I want to, lie if I want to..." **grin**
Laury Hubrich 10/13/09
Yay for the good guys!
Joy Faire Stewart10/13/09
Though not a "trekkie", I found this entertaining and the mc very personable.
Cherie B.10/14/09
Jan, I loved this. The title totally grabbed me and the ending made me laugh - I loved the wink! Fun :)
Loren T. Lowery10/14/09
I can't help but wonder if "Cutie" didn't have something to do with that gold shirt in wardrobe. Poetic justice all around and I'd love to read a sequel.
Joshua Janoski10/14/09
Haha. It's so true that the guy in red always dies in Star Trek. Very fun take on the week's topic. I especially liked the ending. :)
Aaron Morrow10/14/09
Once again you demonstrate to me just how very, very far I have to go as a writer. Fabulous work Jan as always, and as a massively deluded Trekkie myself I was especially transported by your phaser beam wit and willingness to boldly take on such a warped topic. I'll probably have more to communicate after I review some Tricorder readings :) Ensign Morrow, out.
Brenda Shipman 10/14/09
Fantastic entry! And I'm not even a Trekkie. Totally believable characters. I hope to write this well when I "grow up!"
Pamela Kliewer10/14/09
I'm not a trekkie either, but this was a fun read. Made me chuckle. Great take on the topic.
Shilo Goodson10/14/09
This was fun to read even though I am definately not a Trekkie. It was great how you could draw in the "Star Trek" fans as well as those who have never watched the show.
Art Westefeld06/05/16
Amusing, especially to a devoted Trekker. Hope this does very well.
Art Westefeld06/05/16
Amusing, especially to a devoted Trekker. Hope this does very well.