Luckily, the fresh void of college kids has left room for some time-passing grunt work opportunities. Some local actors have taken on second jobs as bartenders at the Pioneer or servers at the Wells Fargo Steak House. I've taken a position at the prestigious Cousin's Candy Store. The owner of the shop -- who bears a striking resemblance to President Snow of Panem -- needs help handing out free samples and packing up the licorice section for winter storage. I spent my first shift restocking various multi-colored baskets with mint humbugs, peanut butter bars, and coconut longboys to the tune of "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," the lesser known "Shut Up and Drive," and other modern country jems.
But the sexiest part of the job is definitely the taffy. It's made on the premises, on a machine that stands in the window, hypnotizing passersby. Watching the machine turn and turn as taffy stretches and fold and blends over it is probably more entertaining than the Virginia City Players. (And I had thought the sketch comedy group up the road was our main competition.) Once the taffy is finished (the corn syrup has to be kneaded until enough oxygen folds into it to turn it white) and the flavor is added, I mold the giant taffy lump into a snake and feed it into a gizmoesque manual crank that slices it into scores of bite-size pieces. The crank is the most fun part of the process. The fresh pieces then must be hand-wrapped in small wax-paper squares. If you twist the paper just right, it should form a lovely little tulip.
Now that I know the ropes and taffy tulip origami is second nature, I spend most of my shifts shooting the sugar with President Snow, who evidently abdicated his presidency to open a sweets store in an effort to compensate for his part in massacring children for 25 years (spoiler alert, Hunger Games fans). Ultimately, the quiet life calls out even to dystopian fascist dictators.
Of course, I still perform 8 shows a week at the Opera House, though our audiences have significantly decreased in number with the waning tourist season. From time to time, our stage manager, Stephen, will go from dressing room to dressing room calling, "Short show no bugs! Short show no bugs!", meaning the audience is so tiny and subdued we'll be cutting a couple of vaudeville numbers to match their energy (one of these numbers involves a diddy about boll weevils).
Even with the candy store and short show no bugs, however, the remaining Players and I still benefit from a lot more empty free time than usual. This portion of the summer is a lot like the long straightaway at the end of a marathon, and we're all starting to embody the urge to reach the finish line. Meanwhile, I shall try to attend the campfires that have become porch lights, watch the breathtaking sunsets that have become a peripheral backdrop, and stroll along the Old West boardwalk that has become mundanely modern. I won't be here for much longer, after all.