“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 2: Storm Clouds on the Horizon
Tandy tilts her head back and closes her eyes as she waits for Edwina. The park bench is still warm from the early September sun. Her hand is resting on her camera to protect it from too much heat. It’s a good time to just take a break and not think. About anything. She lets her thoughts wander at will.
Maybe she got some good shots of the late afternoon sun shooting across John Lennon’s memorial. Maybe there’s still time to get some rose color on her cheeks before she meets Karl. It’s been lonely without him. He’s always able to put any Mimi drama into perspective for her. Where was he again? One of those big cities in the Orient where investment bankers like to go. Singapore was it?
Hope moves through her like a breeze through the tree tops, rustling a sense of longing she hasn’t felt in a long time.
Maybe one day, she thinks, I’ll go with him. I’ve always wanted to travel.
A small smile plays on the corner of her mouth. That’s a lot of maybe’s. One step at a time. First the move in together.
Pictures of what their new apartment is going to look like float through her mind. She mentally rearranges the furniture they’ve bought together over the last four months for the umpteenth time. Karl said his secretary was taking care of the delivery details, but she still likes to think she’s doing the decorating. Even though she’s not seen the apartment, Karl has described it in detail, asked her opinion every step of the way. “I want it to be a surprise,” he said after he gave her a particularly juicy kiss.
Dreaming about how Karl always gives her a warm feeling. Maybe today, he’ll surprise her with a ring. That’d be the perfect housewarming present, wouldn’t it?
“You look like a happy coconut,” Edwina says as she sits down. “Feel good to get away from Spir-bit?”
Tandy laughs and moves to her left to make room. “Hey.”
“Sorry I’m late. The subway was packed, and I had to wait for the next one.” Edwina tears off a piece of pretzel and hands it to Tandy. “Want some?”
“No, I’m good. I’m having an early supper with Karl before he has to get back to the office.”
“Karl’s your home skillet?”
Tandy chuckles. “Kind of. He’s my man-about-the-world skillet more than anything. He’s been away on business for the last in two weeks.”
The silence of newness falls between them. They both speak at once.
“So I Googled—“
“I’ll take some pretz—“
“Sorry—“ They say in unison and laugh.
“Have some pretz.” Edwina hands it to her.
“Thanks.” It feels dry in Tandy’s mouth. Why is meeting new people so hard? She reaches for her camera, and snaps a few quick pictures of a some runners. Then a quick one of afternoon sun glinting off of Edwina’s blue hair like sparkly little bits of fairy dust.
“Is it a good one? Lemme’ see.” Edwina leans in to look at it on playback. “Okay. Approved. You can post it.” She leans back and casually rests her arm pointing towards Tandy along the back of the bench. “So I Googled you. Not in a stalking kind of way,” Edwina rushes to add. “Just to know your work. You’re a photographer.”
“More wannabe than anything.”
“Must be hard working in the shadow.”
“Mimi isn’t that big of a shadow.”
“Not talking about Spir-bit. I’m talking about your Mom. JJ Johnson. That’s big stuff. Crikey, her work on women in emotional turmoil is core. No wonder Spir-bit wants her hands on it.”
“Mom’s out of the business now.” Tandy lowers her eyes and fiddles with the camera lens. “Works in advertising.”
“Still. She was doing all those emotional upheaval pieces right around the time of 9/11. I’m telling you, she spoke to me. Helped a lot of people, not just me.”
“What inspired her, I wonder?” Mimi crosses her leg and leans in towards Tandy.
“Hard to say,” Tandy mumbles and picks at her cuticle. “I was young.”
“What was it like? Being JJ Johnson’s daughter. Did creativity like ooze out of the walls of your house growing up?”
Smalls sounds come from Tandy’s throat. She shakes her head. Shrugs her shoulders. Words don’t come.
“Don’t mean to be a nosey posey. I’m just curious.”
Tandy sucks blood from the ripped cuticle.
“I mean, did she ever talk about her work? It must have been exciting. Is that why you became interested in photography?” Edwina reaches down to straighten her striped stocking. “I wanted to be a photographer once upon a time, but no matter how good the equipment, I never had the eye to translate what I thought I was seeing onto the memory card.”
“Her burning house piece was amazing, wasn’t it? It captured what the nation was feeling perfectly.”
Tandy shudders at the memory.
“Are you okay? I’m being a nosey posey, aren’t I? I do that sometimes.” Edwina raises her palms in surrender. “Just give me the word, and I’ll pull back, okay?”
“The burning wasn’t 9/11. ” Tandy blurts the words out against her will. “It was our house. I was in it.”
“What?” Edwina rears back as words tumble one over the other. “You were in it? Oh my God, you poor thing. I’m so sorry. That’s why I wasn’t getting clear signals. Tell me what I can do.”
“Nothing. It was fifteen years ago. I was just a girl. I’m fine, now.”
“How’d it happen?”
“It’s a long story.” Tandy shakes her head with an apologetic smile. “I don’t want to talk about it. Muddy water under the bridge and all that.”
“Now I know why I wanted to give this to you. It’s a lotion for scars.” Edwina rummages through her red flowered canvas bag.
Tandy lets out a half laugh. “You’re about fifteen years too late.”
“No, silly, emotional scars. It’s my newest. Aha! Here it is. Try it. ”
Tandy takes the small blue bottle. I wonder if Edwina chose this because it’s the same color as her hair?
“What can I say? I like blue.”
“How do you do that? Know what I’m thinking?”
“I gotta’ lotion for everything.” Edwina mimes a cigar and chuckles. “Seriously. It just takes practice and listening. Smell it. What do you think?”
Tandy twists the cap open, and raises it an inch before the stench of smokey burnt cinnamon makes her head jerk to one side with a grimace. Memories of the fire assail her. She shudders against the terror she felt, followed by relief when Marc pulled her out.
“Hard to ignore, right? How does it make you feel?”
“Gives me kind of a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
“Huh. Spir-bit said the same thing. Claimed it had drugs in it. Can you believe it? What a douche bag.”
“Does it?” Tandy hands the bottle back to Edwina.
“Not like she meant. Go ahead and keep it. My present. The smell changes depending on what needs healing. Sometimes from the past, sometimes for what’s coming down the pike.”
“How do you know which is which?”
Edwina shrugs. “With a little trial and error, you learn to recognize the signals.”
“I mean, is mine for the future?” Tandy bites her inner lip.
Edwina studies Tandy’s concerned expression. “Look, the future has a way of connecting to the past, anyway. Until you disconnect it, that is. That’s the hard part.”
“So is that a yes?”
Edwina wrinkles her nose with an expression that says, “I’m sorry.”
“So—” Tandy looks through the camera lens in search of something to do to calm the wave of nervousness that makes her throat dry. She coughs. “Can I ask—”
“It’s better you don’t.”
“It’s that bad?” Click. Tandy captures a particularly banal shot of a rock.
“Now you’re fishing!” The twinkle in Edwina’s eye softens the soft pop she gives Tandy on the back of her head. “Put a lid on it!”
Tandy cuts her eyes at Edwina, and then adjusts the camera lens for a close up of the rock. Click.
“Things always happen for a reason, you know.”
“That’s what they say,” Tandy mutters.
“Besides, if you know it ahead of time, you can make it worse than it needs to be.”
“But maybe I can head it off at the pass.”
“Believe me, I speak from experience. When you got a tidal wave coming at you, sometimes the best you can do is ride it out.”
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.
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