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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

A Gluten for Punishment

(It’s science time! That’s Secondhand SCIENCE time to you.

This week, we’re learning [if you can call it that, which you mostly can’t] about nanoparticles. Like carbonite, maybe, if that’s a real thing. Or Ariana Grande. It gets a little weird. Go see.)

I don’t like making people uncomfortable.

(Except for the times when I do, which is mostly all of the times. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume I don’t.)

Problem is, sometimes there’s no good way to not make someone uncomfortable. I had one of those, a few weekends ago.

You may know (or may not) that I was involved in a short comedy film shoot over the past month or so. My friend Jenn and I wrote the script, and decided we liked it enough to give filming it a shot.

“I might as well decide I’m going to invent a perpetual motion machine made of used popsicle sticks and powered by Tinkerbell farts.”

Which means absolutely nothing, for me to decide such a thing. I might as well decide I’m going to invent a perpetual motion machine made of used popsicle sticks and powered by Tinkerbell farts. Luckily, Jenn knows how these things work and has a ton of past experience, practical knowledge and helpful contacts.

(For the filming. Not the fairy-fart machine. Trust me — I asked.)

So we put a schedule together, and planned to shoot over a couple of weekends in November. We used my condo, her car, a local pub and assorted locations in Rhode Island. But before shooting, we had to put all of the pieces together, like the props. Jenn acquired a Santasaurus sweater, four dozen urine specimen bottles and two Boy Scout uniforms. I found a velour track suit, a laser pointer and a banner for the (nonexistent) West Chelsea Charity Arts and Crafts Fair. Meanwhile, our designer rolled out the graphics, both printed and digital: a mafia-themed cupcake company logo. “Got chlamydia?” pamphlets. Dick Aficionado magazine.

(By the way, if that last paragraph doesn’t make you want to see this movie ASAP, then I don’t know what the hell we’re doing here. I’m just saying.)

Clearly, all of these things made our mail carriers very uncomfortable, along with a couple of Kinkos employees making copies of whatever unholy thing we had to xerox. These people, we didn’t care so much about. They see weird shit every day.

But when it was nearly time to start shooting, I was tasked with picking up the last set of props. One of the characters we’d written is a big fan — no, a big fan, really — of pastries. Doughnuts and cupcakes and bear claws, oh my. You name it (and preferably, glaze it) and he’s into it. That’s his “thing”.

Naturally, the actor who signed on to play the part — hilariously, by the way — has a gluten sensitivity. So we couldn’t actually feed him all those rich sugary pastries, or we’d kill him. Which isn’t really supposed to come up until near the end of the film, and anyway, that’s what we bought the (disabled) handgun for.

So the day before shooting, I found myself walking into a local gluten-free bakery, looking for treats that would both look good on camera and keep our actor off a hospital gurney. A very nice lady at the counter offered to help, and I walked out of there a few minutes later with a flourless mini cake, a half-dozen cupcakes and a large heavy gluten-free pumpkin roll.

(The last of which would ultimately become a featured co-star of the film. Based on all the work he put in, we probably should have paid the pumpkin log a union rate.

But instead, we ate him. Or smeared him on some sheets. I’ll get back to that.)

The lady didn’t ask a lot of questions; I went on my merry way and we filmed some great scenes that first weekend. But when the next weekend of shooting rolled around, we needed more goodies — did I mention this character really loves pastries? — so I went back to the same shop for another run.

The same lady was there, and looked a little puzzled when she recognized me. I’d taken a lot of merchandise home just last week. That could have been for a party, sure — but why would I be back so soon? And why was I now ordering another big batch of cupcakes, another pumpkin log — and another half-log, besides?

I could almost hear her wheels turning. “Is this freak coming in every week? Is this my life now? Where did I go wrong?” But she smiled sweetly when I approached the counter, and rang me up as before. As breezily as I imagine she could muster, she asked:

Oh, you’re back — got another party or something?

And there was no way at that point to not make her uncomfortable. I could have lied and said “yes” — but then I’d have probably offered more details to make the lie seem believable, and told her I was having a bunch of gluten-hating eight-year-olds come over to my van or something. I don’t lie well on the spot. I need prep time to cross the t’s in a mistruth. And I wasn’t ready.

I could have just said, “no” and left it at that. But then she’d wonder what the hell I was doing with all her baked goods. With no other information to go on, she might think I was hoarding them for some glutenless apocalypse, or building some kind of flourless Frankenstein’s monster.

That didn’t seem right. I thought maybe telling her the truth would put her mind at ease. Then I thought about the truth, in the context of the scenes we were shooting, and how that would sound:

Nah, the first batch was for a guy to snuggle with in my guest bed. And these are mostly to smear on his face while he’s sitting in my friend’s Yaris in an empty parking lot somewhere.

All of which is true. But none of which would make the lady more comfortable. Or, perhaps, keep her from calling the police on me.

So I just smiled, and shrugged, and took my cupcakes and pumpkin logs away. I could see her eyebrows knitted up with curiosity, and I know she was a little uncomfortable. But hey, I did the best I could. Cupcake lady, what you don’t know probably won’t hurt you.

But for the record, everything was delicious. I can’t wait to see how tasty it looks on film.

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