“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 20: Three Degrees of Separation
“So what do you think?” Edwina asks. “I mean, I know it doesn’t give any clues to who that guy is. Or maybe what would be the better description. I don’t know. But the dream stuff makes sense. Doesn’t it?”
Tandy is silent.
“What struck you the most?” Edwina asks. “Not about the guy, although he sure was a looker wasn’t he? Of course, he doesn’t seem like the type to stick around, know what I mean jelly bean?” She cracks up laughing at her own joke. “No? Nothing? Okay. I mean the paper. What struck you the most?”
“I don’t know.” Tandy’s voice is curt. She looks in the rearview mirror, turns on her blinker, and passes the car in front of her.
“What’s got your goat today? It can’t just be what happened in the garage.” Edwina adds under her breath, “Although it’s a biggie.”
“Tandy, I’ve known you for forever and all of six days. I don’t have to be a psychic to know it’s not nothin’.”
Tandy cuts her eyes at Edwina when she hears her say ‘nothing’ in a pouty baby voice.
“Seriously.” Edwina’s voice is flirty with concerned undertones. “We’re going to be in this car for another five hours. Do you really want me bugging you about this until you tell me? Of course I don’t want to be a nosey posey, but I CARE about you. You know that, don’t you? So just tell me and we’ll get it out of the way.”
Tandy sighs. And keeps driving.
Edwina also sighs. Taps her fingers on the arm rest. Takes the Red Bottle of Courage from the dashboard. Dabs a few drops on her pulse points. Takes a deep sniff. Holds up her wrist and blows the essence towards Tandy.
Tandy swallows down hard.
“C’mon pumpkin head.” Edwina flops back into her seat and stares out the window. “You can’t tell me it’s not working, or we might as well turn around and go back to the same old same old.” Edwina turns back to Tandy and challenges her with, “Is that what you want?”
“No. It’s not.”
“You wanna’ find your voice? Right?”
“Yes…” Tandy’s voice is wary.
“Then speak.” Edwina softens it with, “Please?”
“It’s just that…” Tandy takes a deep breath. “Today’s the anniversary of the fire. It’s always tough.”
“And then… Then there’s so many questions, I mean so many unanswered ones that don’t have answers.”
“Oh, God.” Tandy bangs the steering wheel. “Where to start?”
“Start anywhere. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Go!”
“Other than who in blazing ditches is the guy who keeps keeps dropping off these little mystery missives? I’d like to sit down and give him two pieces of my mind.”
“What would you’d tell him?”
“Stay put,” Tandy says grimly, “and start talking.”
“You’re starting to sound like me with you.” Edwina holds back a grin and bats her eyelashes at Tandy.
“Truth be told,” Tandy gives her a small smile in return, “that’s not the big one that’s bugging me. The big one is the same question that comes up every year and I still don’t have an answer fifteen years later. Why did Dad start the fire? Then there’s the question of what was so dangerous about Mom doing art? What was he so afraid of? Why’d he get shot down in Fortaleza before I could get answers? Why was he always so hard on me? Mom says he was hard on everybody, himself more than anyone. Still. Without answers, I just feel like I spend my life running hard on this treadmill that takes me nowhere but where I’ve been before. Which brings me to Mimi. Why is she so hard on me? What did I ever do to her? And Karl.” Tandy chokes back a sob. “What did I do to him to deserve what he did to me? Why did he lie to me? We had an honesty pact. And why did I lie to Marc, the one person who has always loved me unconditionally? Okay, it’s one thing to lie to Mimi, she deserves it, but it’s a whole other thing to lie to Marc. It’s like I wear this invisible sign on my forehead that says, ‘Bully me’. And another sign in my heart that says, ‘lies are the food of life.’ But does it have to be that way? If it doesn’t, how do I change it? And then there’s this mystery man who keeps showing up with these weird pages. What’s that about? Is life just this random set of events? Or is it all somehow connected? And if so, how? Because I want to smash the cycle into smithereens.”
“I think it’s all connected somehow,” Edwina says. “You know, three degrees of separation and all of that.”
“What do you mean?”
“They say you can take any two people anywhere on the planet and connect them by just three connection points of separation.”
“Well if that’s true, I’d like to know how Dad, Mimi, Karl, and the Mystery Man are all connected.”
“Well,” Edwina says as she digs for her notebook, “we know how Mimi and Karl are connected.”
“Through Rancid Rebecca.”
“Good one.” Edwina laughs and draws four circles on the page with a name in each. She draws a line between Mimi and Karl ,and writes RR on it.
“What are doing?”
“I’m mind mapping it.” Edwina lifts her notebook towards Tandy. “See?”
“You need to draw two more circles for me and you.”
“Done. So we have the first two connections, but your father is still hanging out there with Mystery Man.” Edwina taps her pencil on her paper. “Hey! Is it possible the Mystery Man is your father’s ghost?”
Tandy looks at her with a shocked expression, and then shakes her head. “Impossible. That guy has eyes the color of the caribbean ocean. Dad’s were blue like mine. He did have dark hair, though. But still.”
“How did he die? Your dad, I mean.”
“He got shot down in South America. The police report says he was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a drug war.” Tandy cuts her eyes at Edwina with small smile of satisfaction. “His lover didn’t, but she got stranded down there without a dime to her name.”
“Holy stromboli, I did not see that coming.” Edwina writes the word ‘drugs’ by the father circle. “You dad did drugs. Go figure.”
“No!” Tandy laughs. “My father was many things—narcissistic, egoistic, charismatic, selfish, charming, a cheater, super intelligent—but he never ever would’ve done drugs. This I do know.”
“How can you be so sure?” Edwina draws a line between Karl and Tandy’s father, and writes ‘1-in-same’.
“Because,” Tandy says “Granddad is a recovering alcoholic. That drove my father to be clean of drugs. I had to listen to a trillion lectures on the subject when I was growing up.”
“Spir-Bit is anti-drugs in a big way.” Edwina writes ‘anti-drugs’ with a question mark. “Maybe their paths crossed somewhere in that.”
“How? Spir-bit was in Berkeley when Dad died, and his work never took him out west. See? Now you’ve got me calling her that.”
“About time. Okay, we’ll scratch that off the list.” Edwina makes a tick mark on her page. “So they never found out who exactly who killed him?”
“Apparently some hippies who thought they could fight the drug cartel on their own.”
Tandy shrugs. “I call it karmic justice.”
“Aren’t you being a little rough?”
“It is what it is.”
“Yeah, but you can’t keep carrying a grudge.”
“‘Cos, it’ll own you until you let it go.”
“What was the first line of that paper again?” Tandy asks.
“Someday… someway… somehow,” Edwina reads.
“Exactly. Someday I’ll be free of it all.”
The two women drive in privacy filled silence.
Tandy takes solace in the sound of wheels thrumming on the open highway. What if Edwina is right? The grudge against her father does define her, but all experiences define who we are. But does it own her? Is that why every man she chooses betrays her in some way? Will this journey take her into her future, and be the defining marker of leaving her past behind? A sharp pang in her heart reminds her she still has a long way to go. She breathes through it, and thinks about Divine Light, and unlimited bankcards. No, she’s going to live her life her way. No more letting other people pull the puppet strings. What’s she going to do about money?
Meanwhile, Edwina projects her thoughts into the passing scenery of deep forest. She’s one to talk about grudges, isn’t she? When is she going to put her money where her mouth is? On this trip, that’s where. She’ll show him. Can’t stand on her own two feet. That’s just bullocks. In her imagination, the trees turn into bottles and bottles of aromatherapy lotion sold across the land as she dreams of great success and an even greater I-told-you-so.
“Yeah,” Edwina says as she puts the mystery missive papers back in their envelope. “How can you dream big when you’re carrying a grudge that doesn’t do much but suck the life force out of dreaming? Want me to stick this in your purse?”
“Sure,” says Tandy. “Hey, you feel like driving for a while? I need to get on the computer and send Spir-bit the photos from last night.”
“Lemme’ at the commands, Capitano.”
The rest of the drive into Wheeling, West Virginia is done in silence with Edwina at the wheel, and Tandy on her computer.
In perusing the photos to send to Mimi, Tandy takes a long look at all the new photos on her hard drive. The lies, the laughter, the honesty, the deceptions are all right there in plain site. Marc was right, photos do tell a story. Edwina was right, too. People lie. All the time. She tags and separates them into folders, then adds two additional categories: Me the way I want to be. Me the way I used to be. The first is woefully thin, while the second has so many, she needs additional subcategories to separate them out. Not sure what to label them, she starts just by numbering them. Bit by bit, the new folders take shape. Me&Karl, at the beginning. Me&Karl in the middle. Me&Karl towards the end. Friends, false and true. Work events with related people, false and true, brittle and warm.
When she leans back, closes her eyes, and thinks, I want to know the Truth. My Truth. I want to stand up and speak my own voice, know what I want to say, and then say it.
The urge to do the meditation with more focused attention rises up and spurs Tandy into action. She takes out her phone, puts in her earbuds, and listens to the Basic Activation meditation with the intention of discovering. At the end, she mentally says, I release anything that’s getting in the way of… what I want…she hesitates, again not knowing what to ask for. She waits. Then it comes to her. From where she doesn’t know. She just knows, and states it with conviction. I want to know, and to express the real ME.
The sense of relief from asking for something so truthful is palpable. Goose bumps rise up along her spine and arms. Her legs. Even her head. Then a vision comes to her. It’s a full frontal image of her with tiny photos superimposed over her entire body. On the left hand side, the photos are square. The right hand side is filled with circle photos. It’s like I’m split in two, she thinks.
Following another strong urge that tells her this is something important, she opens her computer back up and starts to work on making that vision more concrete. Chooses a photo from the Cleopatra shoot of just her, looking straight ahead with a blank expression. She fades it down, and starts overlaying photos, some on the left, some on the right.
With singular focus, Tandy does this all the way to Wheeling, West Virginia. By the time they get there, she’s in a different frame of mind altogether.
“How ya’ feeling’?” Edwina asks as they pull into a colorful downtown neighborhood.
“Better.” Tandy closes up her computer and puts it away.
“That’s a relief. ‘Cos we’re coming up on a big moment of truth.”
Coming soon… CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
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 think this chapter might need to be combined with the next one?
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