“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 6: Echo Messages
Courtesy of Edwina’s overstuffed flowered bag and her ingenuity back at her place in her cubby hole laboratory, a large circle of aromatherapy candles now create a flickering anchor to the room where a sofa, chairs, and end tables once created the safe haven Tandy called home.
One packing box and two pillows from Tandy’s makeshift air mattress bed sit inside the circle of scented light. Two very empty and slightly tilted wine glasses are perched on top of the box, along with a bottle of Chardonnay that still offers two more liquid inches of pain numbing hope. An empty pizza box and crumpled paper towels on the floor next to it show the two women had sense enough to eat something to soak up the wine. The other empty wine bottle that’s resting on its side, however, shows how their common sense did have its limits.
Tandy’s camera is safely parked to one side towards the edge of the inner sanctum of light, with the lens staring blank eyed at the evening’s drama. Edwina’s blue bottle stands beside it like a toy soldier standing guard over the Royal treasury.
Her tan leather Coach purse lays closer to the action next to matching princess heeled pumps, its contents spilling out in a stream of feminine necessities. Lipstick, lipliner, and mascara are clumped together next to a small tortoise shell travel brush with blonde hairs stuck at the roots of its bristles. There’s a pack of chewing gum, and a small box of breath mints laying on the silver edge of her laptop. A black moleskin calendar with its elastic band twisted out of shape from holding too many extra bits of paper, lies precariously close to a small puddle of spilt wine that’s gone unnoticed. Last, there’s an iPhone, which has been balefully silent amongst the verbal tirade of the evening.
Edwina grabs her flowered bag and hoists it onto her shoulder. Her movements are cautious to overcompensate for the wine as she makes her way to the door. Tandy follows with a barefooted weave.
“You call firsh’ thing tomorrow an’ see if you can get your lease back, okay?”
“And write down everthin’ you want to say to Karl. That way, you’ll be ready when he calls.” She thinks, IF he calls, but gives her new friend what she wants to hear, instead.
Tandy sways a bit before she nods her agreement.
“Ser’sly, Tandy.” Edwina hesitates, and takes a breath. She repeats what Tandy has been avoiding all night. “Zat lotion I gave you can really help. I mean it.” Hope that tiny little nose of hers can handle it, she thinks.
“‘Kay. I’ll think ‘bout it.” Tandy reaches out to hold the wall to keep her balance.
“You’re gonna’ be okay. Say it.”
“I’m goin’ be okay.”
“Call me when you wake up,” are the last words Edwina says as she closes the door behind her.
Tandy stumbles back towards the pillow where the two girls had commiserated, railed, reasoned, cried, debated, and reasoned some more until they realized they were parroting words that had already been said, and it was time to call it a night. Along the way, she knocks over one of the candles. Hot liquid wax spills out onto scuffed wooden floors.
“Oops.” Tandy drops to her knees to correct the damage. “Thas’ not good.”
She blows out the flame after two misses, and reaches for a pizza stained paper towel to wipe up the wax. It makes a mess. “Thas’ good ‘nuff,” she decides and empties the last of the wine into one of the glasses.
With her Moleskin calendar in hand, she opens it up to the last pages of lined paper for freestyle note taking, and tries to clear her wine soaked brain. There’s only on blank page left to write on. That should be enough. What does she want to say? The blank page stares back at her, even lines taunting her to find the courage to say it. Say what?
Edwina’s blue bottle twinkles softly in the candle light and catches her eye.
Maybe Edwina’s right, she thinks. Maybe it can help.
Tandy tries to stand up to go get it, but decides that crawling on hands and knees is a much wiser alternative. No sense in inciting any more candle mishaps.
With bottle in hand and safely parked back on her pillow, Tandy screws open the top and steels herself against the inevitable pungent smell of burnt cinnamon. Nothing. Hmm. She holds it up to her nose and takes a tentative sniff. That’s strange. It almost smells like the open freshness of lemons. But not quite. There’s a subtle undertone. She focuses on the lemon. They remind her of the good days when summer sunshine and lemonade stands brought out smiling neighbors, and her Dad’s applause for her having the courage to be a true entrepreneur.
The memory creates the opening of a small smile inside the pain in her chest. In a desire to feed it, she holds the bottle closer to her nose and inhales deeply, as much as her lungs allow. The underlying smell rises to the top, and overpowers the lemon freshness with a stench of rotting garbage that sends Tandy’s gag reflex in overdrive. Her stomach heaves against the bitter metal tang in her mouth. She screws the lid back on and looks around for something to get rid of the after taste. Gum would be the obvious choice, but it’s too much bother to get to. Gargling wine to wash out the taste won out if for no other reason than sheer convenience. So much for healing inner scars ala Edwina’s lotion potion.
Where was she? Oh, that’s right. Write to Karl. She picks the Moleskin back up and stares at the blank page flickering in the candlelight. Takes another sip of wine. Smaller this time, in order to ration what’s left.
Just start writing, she thinks, and it’ll come to you.
With her head leaning close to the page so she can see in the low light, she starts scribbling. It’s hard to stay between the lines, so she ignores them and writes in a steep downhill slant. If Edwina were there to read her words, she’d know all her hard work to help Tandy open her eyes doesn’t come close to reaping the results she’d envisioned for her friend.
I have a pain in my chest where there was once love that overflowed for you. How could you? I did hear you say, “Your son”, didn’t I? He was so perfect with his little head of black hair and those fat chubby little hands sticking out of his blue rompers. How could you? That should be OUR baby. Not someone else’s. You were my Soul Mate. You said so. I know so. So how could you? But maybe it’s not what it seems. Life rarely is. Maybe he’s your son and that’s your surprise? Do you want me to be its mother? That could might maybe work. Does our new apartment have three bedrooms so we can make him a baby sister. I want to have a baby with you. That’s what you do with a Soul Mate, right? You listen to each other. Hear each other. Make a family that goes on trips…
(She’s running out of space now, so writes smaller to fit it all in.)
…together. Do things together. We won’t lie to each other. Honesty is impotent.”
She doesn’t notice her Freudian slip because there’s no more space to write in. Maybe there’s a free margin somewhere. Nothing. Maybe there’s an extra page forgotten amongst other notes. Again, nothing. With a growl, she flings the Moleskin like a Frisby over the circle of candles. It hits the wall and falls to the floor with a cracking pop.
Why is it she never gets to say what she wants to say? Even the Moleskin is against her. Her eyes light on her iPhone.
I’m just going to have to be the one to call him, she thinks.
She hears Edwina’s voice of warning in her head. “Don’t do it Tandy.”
“I’m gon’ do it,” Tandy slurs out loud in response.
“Don’t! You’ll be sorry,” Edwina’s voice insists.
“Shut up! Yur not my mother.”
Tandy reaches for her phone, ready to fight back against Edwina’s voice.
“Don’t dial that phone.”
The phone rings.
“Hang up now before it’s too late!”
Something shifts right when Karl’s voice mail answers. Edwina’s voice becomes the voice of Tandy’s own Inner Guidance.
“This is not in your best interest,” the voice says with a neutral calm that breaks through the white noise in Tandy’s mind.
She hangs up the phone, and slaps it down on her knee.
Stupid truckin’ BATCH-of-brownies. Now what?
Now she’s really pissed. At the situation. At the empty apartment. At the fact that she can’t even get in a decent round of swearing without that Southern upbringing holding her back. She’s pissed that she can’t say what she wants to say. Even if she isn’t sure what it is, she knows it has to be said. And heard. By God, she will be heard. But how?
The idea to use her phone’s recorder hits her like a beacon. She presses “record”, gulps down the last few drops of wine, and starts speaking.
“Firs’ things firs’, I’m tired of people tellin’ me wha’ to do. Is time to set the record straight. Stupid truckin’ son-uv-a-batch-of-brownies, really means you stupid fucking son of a bitch. You fucking asshole. Fuck. Shit, Damn. Hell. There, I said ‘em all. Out loud. An’ the world’s still spinning ‘round the shun. Op, forgot one. PRICK! An’ I’m not talking about what a rose does to your finger. I’m talking about you mister Karl Cramer, bringer of roses that wilt and die. Although they’re nice to get, they don’t last do they? An’ love is shupposed to last so do you love me or what? You shay you do, but you also shay you love only me. So if you’re honest like you shay you are, why did you have a baby with someone you din’t love when you could have a baby with me because that’s what Soul Mates do is have babies together so does that mean we’re not Soul Mates? If we’re not, that makes you a liar. A low down scoundrel of a fat faced liar, which is why you have a fat faced baby, who’s as cute as can be, but a BABY Karl, a BABY? What were you thinking? That’s what I wanna’ shay to you. What I want to know. No, need to know. The people have a right to know, and I’m one of them. What were you thinking? And how do you think you’ll make this okay if you don’t call to make it okay, if it ever CAN be okay again, I don’t even know even if I want it to be okay. No, I do want it to be okay. I want things to go back to the way they were, and still move in together, but it can’t be that way because you are a two-faced fucking liar who’s leaving me in an empty apartment that echoes back everthin’ I say. An’ it’s all your fault. Can you hear the echo? (She holds the phone up and raises her voice.) ECHO! HEAR THE ECHO? (She talks back into the phone.) Thas’ the sound of my empty apartment. I sold ever’thing. Ev’ry. Thing. Why? ‘Cause we bought furniture for OUR apartment. Are you goin’ live there with her in OUR apartment, my Upper East Shide shurprise. I was shupposed to live in Emerald City and you’ve left me in FUCKIN’ PODUNK. (She whispers.) Dang. There’s that echo again. Won’ leave me ‘lone. Thas’ how empty zhis ‘partment is. What am I gonna’ do? Talk to the echo for company? I know! Here’s wha’ we can do. The furniture we bought together, you’re goin’ have to have your secra’ry send it to MY apartment. I’ll talk to the shofa. No, scratch that, I cancelled the lease on my ‘partment, you asshole! How could you? Did we even buy that furniture? Maybe thas’ a lie, too. How many lies have you tol’ Karl, how many? How many lies can a love take before a heart breaks? (Silence.) Okay. I haf to stop now ‘cos I sound like a cuntry western song, an’ my phone’s ringing. Maybe is you.”
Tandy sees Mimi’s business photo on the caller id screen.
“Ah rejec’ you Mimi Light,” she tells the phone as she fumbles to press the red cancel call button.
While she’s pressing buttons, she goes back to the voice recorder, which is still recording. Safely saved, she wonders what she should do next.
I should send it, she thinks.
“It’s not in your highest interest,” the calm voice in her head says.
But I want to be heard, Tandy protests and presses her palm over the tightness in her chest.
“Don’t do it.”
“Shut up,” she tells the voice. “I’m tired of people telling me what to do.”
Her compromise is to prepare the recording to send to Karl by pressing the share button and adding his name. Temptation is strong, and the voice strangely silent, so there’s nothing to fight against. Only her lonesome self.
With a groan, she lays her head down on the pillow and closes her eyes. The room feels like a spinning merry-go-round, so she sits back up and digs for scraps in the pizza box. Empty. She needs food or there’ll be hell to pay tomorrow.
She puts the phone in her purse and scoops its contents back inside. Wait. If she’s going out to get something to eat, she needs lipstick. Going more or less by the feel of the lipstick on the edges of her lips, she draws a decidedly lopsided rust colored lip line before weaving her way out the door, and down to the darkened city street.
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 general feel do you have for Tandy at this point? Do you sympathize? Relate? Or are you ready to wring her neck?
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