“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 18: Expect the Unexpected
Tandy yawns, partly for the surreality of standing in a cold garage that smells of stale urine and machine oil at 6.30 in the morning, and partly to stave off all the wishes running around in her head. She wishes she hadn’t opened the lid to her coffee cup in search of that one last sip. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have spilled what was left onto her only clean pair of jeans and white teeshirt. As she drops her now empty coffee cup into the nearby waste bin already flowing over with garbage from who knows how long, she wishes she’d bought the bigger latte like Edwina had suggested.
So much for standing up for what she thinks she wants.
In the cold light of early morning, she sincerely wishes she hadn’t opened her fat trap with Mimi the night before. She wishes she knew how she’s going to pull this off. Her mother is not only NOT in Cincinnati, she’ll never ever contribute a piece of her artwork to AUM if she’s to be believed. Ever. She was flat out clear on that. It hasn’t stopped Tandy from dropping hints, though, even if they’ve fallen on deaf ears.
Tandy wishes it wasn’t today. Of all days, not today.
She wishes the guy would come already with the car. How long does it take to go fetch a car?
As she yanks her ponytail into a tighter knot, she also wishes that Edwina would put a lid on it.
“O.M.G!” Edwina’s excitement can’t be contained. She does a little jig. With her short red, green, and blue plaid shirt bouncing over bright green tights, and her thumbs tucked inside a bright blue vest the same color as her hair, she looks like a happy leprechaun wearing decidedly punk Scottish attire. “I can’t believe you pulled this off! You’re absolutely brilliant!” Edwina gives her an exuberant hug that rocks Tandy’s rigid response so hard, they almost lose their balance.
“Yeah. Brilliant isn’t quite the word I’d use.” Tandy sticks her hands in her back pockets and wishes they didn’t have all that stuff with them. I hope we can get all these boxes in the car.
“We got it into the cab didn’t we?” Edwina says cheerfully.
“Barely.” Tandy perches atop her one large suitcase and taps her foot.
“Don’t be such a worrywart. You got that Universal Bank of Being bankcard working for ya’,” Edwina says with one last spin that lands her plopped on top of one of her boxes with legs crossed. “How’s that for the perfect landing?” She lets out a laugh that echoes in the empty parking garage.
“Why are you bringing so much with you, anyway?” Tandy speaks over another deep yawn, “You weren’t going to take this on the bus, were you?”
“No, but when you so brilliantly came up with the idea that sucked Spir-bit into giving you the company car, it made sense to bring inventory. Now look at all the sales I can make! Besides,” Edwina says with a wicked grin, “you KNOW it’s going to be a luxe car with a HUGE trunk. It is Spir-bit, after all.”
Despite herself, Tandy can’t help but smile.
“This” Edwina predicts, “is going to be an EPIC trip. I can just feel it! You’ll see. We should expect the unexpected.”
“I think it’s already started.” Tandy says with a wry look at her coffee stained jeans and tee shirt. “I didn’t expect this, that’s for sure.”
“OH!” Edwina jumps up and claps her hands.
“I almost forgot!” Edwina digs into her tartan cotton bag, pulls out a tiny red bottle, and hands it to Tandy. “I have a present for you. This is pure essence, so be careful how you use it.”
“Thanks.” Tandy sticks it into the front pocket of her jeans. “That’s so sweet.”
“Yeah! It’s to inaugurate the trip.”
“Are you sure I can smell it over the lovely perfume of this…” Tandy waves her hands around with an exaggerated grimace. “Motor palace?”
“Look at you wakin’ up,” says Edwina. “You’re grumpy in the morning, you know that?”
“Look at you with all the compliments.” Tandy laughs. “So nice you can appreciate still another one of my wonderful attributes.”
“I do appreciate you!” Edwina jumps up to give Tandy a shoulder hug. “Now smell it.”
“Okay.” Tandy unscrews the cap and screws up her nose, waiting for a blast of horrible.
“No worries.” Edwina oozes confidence with her hands on hips. “This one’s different.”
It smells of spring rain, blooming flowers, and fresh cut grass all rolled into one.
“Wow!” Tandy takes another sniff and visibly relaxes into it with a grin of appreciation. “Nice. What’s it for?”
“Courage. Epic courage.” Edwina winks. “I call it the Red Bottle of Courage. Get it? No? Too literary for you?”
“I was a theater major before I changed to photography, remember? The Red Badge of Courage is one of the classics.”
“So it’s a good name, right? Don’t you feel more courageous?”
“Is it going to make my hair frizz?” Tandy asks with some effort at a mischievous grin. “Like the cowardly lion after his trip to the hairdressers in Emerald City?” Before Edwina can answer, Tandy’s smile drops into an expression of utter dismay.
Edwina snaps her head around to see why. “Oh. No.”
The garage attendant drives up and jumps out of a rusting 1994 black and red Chevy Baretta. “Here ya’ go ladies. Your chariot awaits you.”
“That can’t be Spir-bit’s,” Edwina mumbles.
“Are you sure this is the right car?” Tandy’s voice breaks in disbelief.
“Oh, it’s Ms. Light’s all right. Kept it here ever since I’ve been around.” He lifts his backwards New York Yankees baseball cap and fluffs out bleach blond afro hair before pushing it further down onto his head. “It’s seen better days, I’ll give you that. But, she’ll get you to where you want to go.” He hands Tandy the keys. “I’ll get the paperwork.”
“It’s epic all right,” Tandy says circling the car for closer inspection. Along with the rust bordering the lower edges, there are little wheel-cog decals that look like flowers planted along the curve above the four wheels. The general effect is a cross between a flower child hippy mobile and a seventies disco ball united onto a nineties junker. “I can see why she was so generous with her offer.” Tandy hits the word ‘generous’ with biting sarcasm. “The ones on this side are peeling off.”
“Yeah, Spir-bit is a piece of work. Okay, it’s got four wheels and an engine, what more could we want?” Edwina doesn’t sound convinced, but she puts a bright smile on her face anyway. “Toss me the keys and lemme’ see what the trunk’s like.”
“You ladies need some help?” A dark haired smiling attendant appears out of nowhere, and catches the keys mid air.
Both Tandy and Edwina jump with a squawk. Before they can say anything, he pops open the trunk and tosses the keys back to Tandy before loading up first the two large suitcases, and then Edwina’s boxes.
“Thanks,” says Tandy. “You’re so kind.” She shoots Edwina a where-did-HE-come-from look. Edwina shrugs.
“Just doing my job,” he says from under the trunk’s hood.
“Hey, Tandy,” Edwina says from the passenger side. “Yah know, it’s not that bad.” She jumps in and wiggles down into the seat. “You could even say comfy. And there’s a CD player. No CD’s, but there’s a player. No, wait.” She opens the glove box. “Taa daaa. There’s even a couple of CD’s.”
Tandy opens the driver’s side door. The seats are spotted and worn with age. There’s a dark stain on the carpet, and the dashboard is a long way away from its glory days. She drops her purse and camera bag in the back seat and gets in.
“It’s not that bad, right?” asks Edwina.
“Could be worse,” Tandy agrees and puts the key in the ignition.
“And it’s going to get us to where we want to go.”
“The engine sounds smooth enough.”
“And there’s music. If this thing works, that is.” Edwina pops in an unlabeled CD and the first notes of a country song play. They look at each other in astonishment.
“Crikey, whodathunkit? Spir-Bit likes country.”
“The plot thickens,” Tandy says in a dramatic radio-announcer voice with a thick country accent.
“The layers get peeled back,” Edwina joins in with the game.
“On both the car AND the woman.”
The vocals kick in to the music and Rascall Flats starts singing, “I’m Moving On.”
“AH!” Both scream together and Edwina raises her arms in triumph, “EPIC! We have our road trip theme song.”
“We’re moving on,” Tandy sings with Rascall. She places Edwina’s red bottle on the small ledge in front of a heater vent and improvises lyrics to the tune. “And we’ve got the courage, in a little red bottle—”
“Agh!” They both scream again when the knock on the window catches them by surprise.
Tandy looks up to see a pair of sea-foam green eyes smiling at her. She rolls down the window with a laugh and says, “Sorry! You scared us.”
“Yah, big time.” Edwina ducks her head and leans over to get a good look at him.
“Didn’t mean to do that ladies,” he says.
“Wait a minute, do I know you?” Tandy scrutinizes the sea-foam green eyes, strong jaw line, full lips, and black hair. “You look familiar.”
“There’s one more thing.” In lieu of an answer, he hands Tandy a white envelope.
“Do I need to sign these?”
“No, but I have a message for you. It’s time to go home.”
“Who’s the message from?” Tandy asks as she unseals the envelope.
“OH MY GOD!” Edwina screams. “DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?”
Edwina points to the window. Tandy looks. There’s nothing there.
“Where’d he go?” asks Tandy.
“That’s the point! He-he just disappeared.”
“See? I told you it wasn’t my imagination.” Tandy rubs her forehead and adds one more wish to her list of many. I wish I knew what’s going on.
“What’s in the envelope?” Edwina asks in a shaky voice.
“Do you need to ask?” Tandy tosses it to Edwina, slams the car in drive, and peels out of the garage.
Neither of them see the baseball capped attendant running after them with the papers they never signed.
With a frown of concentration, Edwina reads the paper looking for answers. The silence in the car is filled with the Rascall Flats singing the last refrain.
“I sold what I could and packed what I couldn’t
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I’ve loved like I should, but lived like I shouldn’t
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I’m movin’ on.”
When they’ve made their way out of city traffic and are on the open highway, Edwina tries once again to broach what Tandy has been avoiding since they left the garage.
“So, do you want me to read it to you or what?”
“Did you find any answers?” Tandy asks.
“No. But…” Edwina pulls on her earlobe.
“It’s oddly relevant.”
Tandy sighs. “Then you might as well.”
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 in general? And does Tandy come off as being too grumpy?
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