“CHANGING MENTAL CHANNELS (So You Don’t End Up in Podunk When You Wanted Emerald City)”
by Glenn Younger
Creating a story from reader’s input—rough first draft.
Chapter 1: TORNADO WARNINGS
Sharp staccato heels on Palladian marble floors gives Tandy her first warning that trouble is brewing. Again. She looks up to see the imposing figure of her boss swaying towards her, dark bob bouncing in perfect synchronicity to an abundance of female attributes.
Tandy’s heart drops when she sees Edwina, the young woman in tow wearing a dark expression. It didn’t take Mimi long to demoralize her by the looks of things. She’d seemed so confident when she walked in not ten minutes ago asking to speak to someone in charge. Oh well. It’s not like it’s Tandy’s fault. She did warn Edwina that the meeting might not go well when she’d let her pass through to the hallowed back offices.
“Tandy.” Mimi’s eyes don’t match the soft tone of her voice. “We’re in the business of helping people grow through good artistry, remember?” Red lacquered nails counts off the list. “All visual artists, writers, musicians, and computer techs with a spiritual orientation and good ideas. Remember? Not just anybody.”
Tandy shoots a glance at Edwina with her electric blue spiky hair and eclectic outfit of mix-matched patterns that somehow seem to work together. Then again, what does Tandy know about fashion? Still, Edwina looks like all the other artists that come and go.
“I thought aromatherapy might be an interesting fit.” Tandy resists the urge to pull her camera out of her purse to take a surreptitious photo of Edwina’s striped stockings, which are twisted just enough to look like drunk candy canes moving upwards towards a short purple skirt.
“What’s our motto?” Mimi’s voice raises a half tone.
“Sorry? Our motto?” Tandy points to the wall behind her. “It’s right there for all to see.”
“Exactly.” Mimi waits for Tandy to connect the dots. When she doesn’t, Mimi forces her face into a smile. No sense in losing what she likes to call a teaching moment. “What does it say?”
Tandy clenches her stomach muscles to hold back a scream of frustration. She hates being treated like a baby. She doesn’t even want to give her boss the time of day, much less give her the satisfaction of an answer. What she wants is to let out a bloodcurdling Apache war cry. Jump over the desk and yank out a hank of Mimi’s perfectly cut mahogany brown hair. Send it to the nearest witch doctor. Have a spell put on her that makes her choke every time she opens her mouth to speak, so she’d never sing a tone again until she learned to treat people with respect.
Tandy doesn’t do what she wants, though. Too many eyes are looking at her, waiting to see how she reacts to her boss’s newest “lesson”. Besides, Tandy doesn’t know any witch doctors.
Instead, she gives her boss her most innocent look, blue eyes rounded into a pair of ingenious porcelaine saucers. That signature expression always melted her Dad when he was about to go over the edge. May his soul rest in peace. Not. Mimi is cut from the same character mold.
Tandy turns to read aloud what’s woven onto the mirrored and gold embossed wall behind her reception desk. It’s the ugliest piece of art she’s ever seen, even though Mimi takes pride in it being the first original piece done by the first artist she signed when the Foundation began.
Her fingers curl involuntarily into a Buddhist meditation pose, but she bites back on chanting the name’s letters: AUM. Not only would Mimi not appreciate the irony, it would bring her too much pleasure if Tandy did let out a long undulating sound that was supposed to take you to new heights of spiritual consciousness. In high heels if you worked here.
Tousled blonde hair in need of a good haircut looks back at her in the mirror. Her lipstick could use a touch up, too. Living in New York, and working under Mimi, has standards that don’t always come easy. Tandy straightens her back and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear before reading aloud.
“Artists United for Mankind. We support and produce books, films, stage production, documentaries…” Tandy swallows a tiny hiccup, and forces the next word over a clenched throat, “Photography, events, courses, and retreats designed to reawaken the innate power of mankind, and help people understand their reason for being.”
“Exactly. When you’re sitting at this desk, your job in the overall picture is to screen people to make sure you don’t waste my time.” Mimi adds as an afterthought, “And waste theirs, too, naturally. Time is money,” she chirps, “and our goal is to make this foundation profitable. The more profitable it is, the more people we can help, and the better off we’ll all be. Right?” She doesn’t wait for a response. Instead, she hands Tandy a black portfolio as she turns to leave.
“Did you look at them?” Hope flickers across Tandy’s face.
“Look at what?” Mimi turns on black patent heels and almost slips on the polished marble floor. She catches herself gracefully and poses with hand on hip, red nails shining like four fat drops of freshly drawn blood against a crisp ivory skirt.
“My photos. What did you think?”
“Oh. Those. My dear, you truly aren’t your mother, are you? Such talent. Has she changed her mind about working with us on a project?”
“No ma’am.” Tandy mentally berates herself when she sees Mimi bristle. Dammit! I’ve worked like a dog to get rid of the accent, and that stupid Southern upbringing still rears its head. I’ll never be a true New Yorker.
“What did I tell you about saving your yes ma’am and no ma’am for rich dowagers with fat purses? I’ve barely turned thirty. That hardly merits.”
Tandy bites her inner lip to hold back a smile. She’s seen Mimi’s driver’s license herself and knows for a fact that Mimi is well enough along to be called ma’am by any self respecting Southern girl. She almost loses it when she hears Edwina bite back a snort of laughter.
Mimi leans over the desk and whispers for Tandy’s ears only. “Might I remind you that you have two more weeks to either find a rich donor, an important art project that brings the foundation significant notoriety, or come up with something fresh and new on your own. Otherwise, you’re out. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of carrying dead weight.” She stands up and smooths out her skirt. “Considering you have no experience at fundraising, and I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would call these art…” Sharp red nails tap the black portfolio of rejected photos. “Well, let’s just say it’s in your best interest to turn your mother around, don’t you think?”
“That’s the thing I tried to tell you, ” Edwina interrupts. “My aromatherapy lotions ARE a fresh and new kind of art. Where the human consciousness is the canvas. And they ARE good for reawakening your innate power.”
Mimi tilts her head and studies Tandy with a squint. “Your aura is off today, dear. You’re such a soft touch, I sometimes wonder if you wouldn’t be happier working in a soup kitchen.” She turns to Edwina and smothers a grimace of distaste with a tight smile that oozes pseudo sincerity. “I’m so sorry and DO wish you well with your little lotion venture. Unfortunately, as I already told you, you don’t fit our profile of visual and interactive arts.”
“Yes, but I’ve got lotions that could seriously take your visual artists to whole new levels,” Edwina mutters at Mimi’s sweeping retreat. “Such a stupid ignoramus.”
Do her lotions have drugs? Tandy wonders. So you get Carlos Castenada types of hallucinations?
“Perception is everything,” Edwina says to Tandy. “In art and in life.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” The corner of Tandy’s mouth twitches. “And I have to work with her everyday.”
“You agree?” Edwina gives her a wink and a knowing grin. “You’ve heard about my lotions, then.”
“I don’t need to. I know Master Mimi.”
“Master?” Edwina takes a small step back and looks towards the glass door that separates reception from the back offices. “She doesn’t strike me as a Master.”
“She likes to think she is.” Tandy lets out a small snort of wry laughter. “If it’s not her idea, though, or she thinks she can’t control you, she’s goes into storm mode.”
“So I should’ve worn my rain gear.” Edwina shifts her heavy flowered bag up higher on her shoulder.
Encouraged, Tandy says, “My grandmother would call her a tornado riding on the back of a hurricane. ” She doesn’t add that was really her grandmother’s description of her Dad.
“Big time. And she likes to call herself spiritual just because she can see people’s auras.” Tandy bites her lip and thinks, “Not much good it does her. What a bitch.”
Edwina’s booming laugh peals out like a church bell ringing over still water. “Bitch. Good one.”
Tandy jumps. “Did I say that out loud?”
“Didn’t have to.”
“You read minds?”
Edwina shrugs. “We should call her Spir-bit.”
“Spir-bit?” Tandy’s face lights up. “Spiritual bitch?”
They both crack up laughing.
““Crickey, I like you!” Edwina slaps the reception desk. “Wanna go have coffee? Get to know each other?”
“Can’t. It’s my turn to answer the phones. Part of my internship as project coordinator.”
“Double bummer. How about later?”
“I can have coffee in the park before I meet my boyfriend.”
“Great! What time? I’ve got something super special for you.”
COMMENTS are open for business. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and ideas. Or just cheer me on in this NaNoWriMo challenge of getting a rough draft of a novel finished by November 30.
What works for you—or doesn’t? What do you love? Or wish would melt away into the ethers of deleted words? Talka-to-me!