“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 16: Pics, Plans, and Painted Ladies
When Tandy finishes reading the Mystery Missive, she puts it down on her lap. Pushing the shutter release button is now a reflexive action on her part, and she’s tuned out the quiet click that plays in rhythm to the music softly playing over Marc’s soundtrack.
Tandy looks directly at the camera for the first time.
“Do I want the same old-same old?” Tandy asks its ever present eye. “Of course not. Then what do I want? That’s the question.”
The paper said the answer is buried underneath her past conditioning. She closes her eyes, and thinks about the meditation. How does it go? She isn’t sure, but does the best she can with the country music that just came on. She hates country music, so it seems like a good enough thing as any to practice with. She asks for her dislike of country music to be transformed into illumination.
As steel guitars pull on her heartstrings, the vocals play in her head speaking of broken promises, hopes that are dashed, pulled up again, projected on to others, and hearts breaking back into pieces once again. In their own way, each lyric speaks to her pain, both past and present, and she tries to transmit Divine Light to the best of her ability. At one point, the country voice of Vince Gill takes root.
“Tell me why…” The words float around her. “We do the things we do. Tell me why…”
Good question, she thinks, and mentally sings along with him. Oh, I wish I knew the reason why.
Before she knows it, she’s actually singing the words out loud. Soulfully. Heartfelt. As the song unfolds, she sings with a fervent yearning that puts a beautiful reverb in her voice.
Missing one of the high notes pulls her out of the moment. Out of habit, she gives a guilty look around her to see if anyone notices. Of course, they don’t. She’s by herself.
Still, the windows don’t have curtains. Anybody could look right in. Except Marc’s loft is higher than the building across the street. The only people who could look in would be flying people. She smiles to herself at the thought of someone flying by.
“See?” She admonishes herself to the camera. “I’m always worried about what people will see and say.”
The thought of someone flying by the window turns to the thought of little supermen, which turns to superpowers in general.
If I could choose a superpower, she thinks, what would I choose? Her left eye squints in concentration as she looks to the camera for inspiration. Not flying. Not running like the Flash. All the gadgets of Batman would be a hassle. Not fire like the Torch. I know. I’d be Wonderwoman with super vision, but the all-knowing kind. I’d be able to see all, so I’d always know the truth and fight for peace against Mimi and all the people who try to tell each other how they need to be. If we all did that, maybe we wouldn’t have wars. And I’d feel peace, too. Yes, I want to know the truth of all things.
“Ah, now here’s the question.” Tandy says to the camera. “What would that truth be?”
Right on cue, the music track changes. Naomi Judd and Bette Midler start singing a duet.
Tandy slumps in her chair. The Rose. That’s hers and Karl’s song. He used to sing it to her, telling her that she was the seed to love. She sings along out of nostalgia, tears squeezing at her vocal chords when she recognizes her own buried pain in new ways.
Something shifts when she hears the lyrics, “I say love is like a flower… and you, its only seed.”
Suddenly, the song takes on a whole new meaning. It’s no longer Karl’s song. It’s now her salute to the first sensations of an infinite flow of Divine Love that she feels flowing through her. A vague memory of her earliest Sunday School days floats to the surface, of a time when she felt God within her, and before the dogmatism of a particularly strict and cruel Church spinster had polluted the love she’d felt in the world around her. Afterwards, she’d gone running to her father’s protective arms. He’d held her like they said Jesus did everybody, and she embraced his soothing tones whispered in her ear. “Stop crying, baby girl. You’ve got to learn to suck it up.”
She asks the Light to transform that long buried memory and sings along with Naomi and Bette, belting the words out loud and clear. And doesn’t hear the pounding on the door until the very end.
“Tandy! OPEN UP!”
“Edwina!” Tandy drops the shutter release on the chair and runs to the door. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Sorry, it’s late, but I’ve made an important decision, and you weren’t answering your phone.”
“Crikey, I didn’t know you could sing like that,” Edwina says.
“Agh, I was just fooling around.” Tandy brushes it off.
“Seriously, you’ve got some pipes on you.” Edwina takes off a brightly colored 60’s vintage geometric print duster that covers a matching dress. At Tandy’s smile, she gives a twirl and a curtsy. “You like? Found it today. Forty dollars for the lot.”
“They didn’t have the go-go boots to go with it?”
“Ha. Ha.” Edwina mugs looking around for eavesdroppers, and then says in an exaggerated whisper. “I would’ve gotten ‘em just for the kick of it. But they didn’t have any.”
“The combat boots make it your own.”
“I know. Right?”
“Do you want some wine? There’s some left over from dinner.”
“No. Thank. You.” Edwina shudders. “I’m still drying out. I’m telling you, mid thirties is the witching hour. Your body just can’t do what it used to do when it was—” She shrugs. “Your age?”
“I’m not that far behind you.”
“Tell that to our birth certificates.” Edwina notices the photography lights turned on and camera set up. “Is Marc here?”
“No, he’s out.”
“What are you shooting?”
“Me.” Tandy blushes. “It’s an experiment Marc gave me. I’ll show you.” She motions to the chair. “Sit here.”
“Okay, I’m game.” Edwina drapes herself over the arm of the chair. “Like this?”
“No silly.” Tandy laughs. “Just sit down. And talk. Meanwhile, I’m going to take pictures.”
“Oh, goodie. We’re playing Andy Warhol ala 60’s. Crickey, I’m glad I dressed the part.”
“So what’s your big news?” Tandy asks. Click.
“Oh, that!” Edwina’s face lights up. Click. “That’s what I wanted to talk to Marc about. I’ve made a huge decision.” Click.
“What’s that?” Click.
“I’m going to go on the road to sell my aromatherapy at Metaphysical Book stores along the way to the Cincinatti Spiritual Arts Fair. Maybe somebody’ll share booth space with me.” Click.
“When are you leaving?” Click.
“Wednesday. That gives me twenty four hours to get the cash-ola for an unlimited travel bus pass.” Edwina cocks her head with a flirty pose. “Wanna’ come? In two, we could afford a car.”
“I can’t. I have the musical Fundraiser on Wednesday.”
“Thursday then. At the latest.” Click. “You in?”
“Edwina! I told you…”
Edwina pouts. Click. “No changing your mind?”
“I don’t have a choice. Money honey, remember?”
“Right. Spir-bit. And deposits.” Edwina hops off the chair. “But I was thinking maybe you could find a really cool artist in Cincinnati. Make a fat commission?”
“Cincinnati?” Tandy’s voice breaks in disbelief.
“They come from all over. It’s supposed to be big. Just think about it?”
“Okay, I’ll think about it.” Dang, Tandy thinks, I just told another lie. So much for new beginnings.
“So are these yours?” Edwina rifles through the bridesmaid dresses on the clothes rack.
“No, Marc is doing a shoot with them.”
“Check this one out.” Edwina holds up a deep blue crinkled taffeta. “Crikey, this’d be a whole new look for me.”
“That’s the understatement of the year.” Tandy laughs.
“Let’s try some on.”
“I don’t know…” Tandy wrinkles her nose. “We don’t really have permission.”
“Do you think he’d really mind?” Edwina suggests the answer by lifting the left side of her lip and shaking her head.
“Well…” Tandy says. “If we’re careful, probably not.”
“Let’s do it!”
Laughing and giggling, the two try on different dresses and take photographs of themselves. It’s when they find a box of black Cleopatra wigs destined for the models to wear that things take a surrealistic turn.
With Tandy’s blonde and Edwina’s blue hair covered with black bangs and a short Cleopatra bob, they’re both barely recognizable. Turning together to view the effects in the wheeled dressing mirror, they both gasp.
“Holy stromboli!” Edwina says.
“Whoa!” Tandy agrees. “We look like twins!”
“Okay, my nose is bigger than yours. But still.” Edwina cocks her head and studies their reflection. “With the right makeup, yeah, we could pass for twins. Now, wouldn’t that be a hoot?”
“C’mon. We gotta get pictures of this.”
They’re five minutes into their own Cleopatra shoot when they hear the key in the door. Tandy and Edwina freeze in horror. They’re caught in the act! Before they can move, however, Marc comes in and slams the door behind him. He stops dead in his tracks.
“What the—,” he says.
“Don’t be mad,” Tandy begs. “We were—.”
“I’m not mad. Not about you anyway. Don’t move!” Marc yanks his jacket off and drops it on the floor behind him as he strides over to the camera. With a few deft movements, he has the camera off its tripod, the cable release unscrewed, and he’s taking pictures of the two women. Tilt your chin. Click. Move to your left. Click. Now back to back. Click. Good.
Both Tandy and Edwina are compliant to his curt directions. Partly because they don’t want to be in trouble. Partly because it’s kind of fun. But mostly because there is an angry intensity to his commands.
“What are you so mad about,” Tandy finally asks.
“Yeah,” Edwina adds. “What’s got your goose in a gander?”
“I am sincerely tired,” Marc growls, “of all this dating bullshit about men and women.”
“Bad date?” Edwina gives a pouty look to the camera. Click.
“You could say that. And more,” Marc says. “She gave me this outrageous theory that she saw on the Internet that says men’s brains are like tiny condominium compartments. They have to leave their sex compartment in Miami to travel over to the emotional one in Seattle, because sex and emotions for men are not connected. Whereas women’s brains, of course,” he adds with heavy sarcasm, “are interconnected, so their sex drive and emotional drives are, too. ” The more Marc talks, the more furious he becomes in his photo taking. “It just goes to prove that you don’t have to be smart or insightful to be on the Internet. Whoever is spouting that garbage is clearly trying to compensate for some underlying guilt because he must have done so many bone-headed things in his life that he’s preparing a defense in case he gets caught by his girlfriend for past crimes. That guy’s videos must be porn for stupid men and the poster child for feminists worldwide.”
While Edwina keeps posing, Tandy stares at Marc in open-jawed astonishment. She’s never seen this side of him.
“I mean,” he continues, shooting all the while. “Focus is something that all people show from time to time, both men and women. But to confuse focus with compartmentalism reduces all men to single cell idiots. What’s next? He’ll claim that men can’t eat dinner and have a conversation at the same time? Unless you count “Pass the salt” as a deep conversation with your date.” He gets down on one knee and points the camera upwards. “Tandy close your mouth.”
“Wow!” Edwina laughs. “That pushed a hot button.”
“You’re damn right it did! I am sincerely tired of all this bullshit about men and women,” Marc growls. “She treats me like a wind up sex toy, all the while batting her lashes and telling me how superior women are. And then justifies it with that guy’s videos. Totally ridiculous! If we all took the time to listen to our hearts, and followed the damned things, we’d all be better off.”
The two women are silent. Marc shoots in rapid bursts, circling around them, changing angles, shifting the lens focus.
“Yeah, but…” Tandy says. “What if our heart says to be with someone, and their heart says to be with someone else? Then what?”
“Then it’s a wake up call.” Marc lays down on the floor, and shoots at an upward angle. “Time to quit being our own worst enemy and choosing the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Quit subjecting ourselves to our self imposed lies. Quit giving our power away to someone else to confirm our basic need to love and share love. And it’s definitely time to quit projecting hopes onto the other person, and go deeper.”
“How?” Tandy says with hands on hips. “That’s the question!”
“Let it go,” Marc says. “Figure out what you were hoping for with that person, and find another way to have it.”
“Does that work?”
“So far, for the most part.”
“And the other part?”
“I’m still working on it,” Marc says through gritted teeth. “Tonight’s date is a good example. No more painted ladies for me.”
“Me neither,” Tandy says with a heartfelt nod of agreement. Marc’s unexpected burst of laughter from the floor startles her, and then she laughs, too. “You know what I mean! The male equivalent. Give me that camera!”
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 new novel finished by November 30.
**What are your thoughts? I deliberately chose the songs for a reason, but I recognize that not everybody would know them. Do I need to include more lyrics?
And is Marc’s venting too much for the scene? Or do you see it as foreshadowing?
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