“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 3: Somewhere over the rainbow… stinks a big one.
Tandy’s phone rings and her heart skips a beat when she sees Karl’s tanned and smiling face on the screen.
Tandy grins, shows Edwina his picture, and puts the phone up to her ear.
“You snagged a young George Clooney!” Edwina wags her eyebrows, and gives a thumbs up of approval.
“Hey honey.” Tandy gives him her sexiest voice.
Edwina mimes waving the heat off her face. “Lemme hear his voice,” she whispers. “Put him on speaker phone.”
Tandy shakes her head “no”. “What?”
With two palms together, Edwina mouths, “Pleeeeease?”
Tandy rolls her eyes and presses “speaker”. “I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t get that?”
“It’s really urgent,” a rumbling male voice whispers.
“What’s urgent? Sorry, I didn’t hear you before.”
“We need to meet in Soho. Not the park. You need to jump in a cab. Now. ”
“Meet me at Blue Ribbon Sushi. On Sullivan.”
“Go! Or we’ll lose the table.”
“I’m already at the—“
“Dammit, Tandy.” His whisper has an urgent edge to it that makes Tandy cringe. “I can’t argue with you right now. Just DO IT, okay?”
“Okaaaayy.” Her reluctance draws the word out longer than it should be.
“That’s my girl.” Click.
Hairs rise up along Tandy’s back. That’s my girl? Same shit her Dad used to say. Anger turns to embarrassment that makes her hand shake as she slips the phone into her purse. “We’ve never argued before. Sorry.”
“You call that an argument? Girl, that was nothing more than a bad phone connection.”
“Really?” Tandy’s face brightens.
“Totally. You don’t have much experience if you call that arguing.”
“I don’t actually. Southern mother and all that.” Tandy dons an affected deep Southern accent. “Ladies don’t argue and cuss. They can give a piece of their mind, but never the whole thing, and they can’t get ugly when they do. And they never, ever, wear white shoes after Labor Day.”
“Well hush your puppies,” Edwina mimics the accent. “An’ ah do declare, they never swear?”
“No, they say ‘that’s nice’.” Tandy mimes fixing the edge of her “hairdo”. “Instead of fuck yew.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Well, nice you, too. Now tell me, what did ah dew to deserve that?”
“Why, not a thing. Ah just wanted to cuss Southern style.”
They both laugh.
“Well, I guess I should go.” Tandy puts her bag over her shoulder. “This was fun. Short, but fun.”
“Which way are you going?”
“I’ll pick a cab up on the East Side.”
“I’ll walk with you.”
“So…” Edwina links arms with Tandy. “Tell me about Karl. What’s his last name?”
“What’s he do?”
“He’s an investment banker.”
“Oh a snooty cahooty.”
“He is NOT.” Tandy gives Edwina hip bump.
“Why don’t you ask him to be your donor, and get Spir-bit off your back.”
“I couldn’t ask him. That’d be taking advantage.”
“You two in looooooove?”
Tandy’s smile lights up her face. “Yeah. We are.”
“He’d help you out for love, wouldn’t he?”
“Of course he would!”
“So what? You’re keeping him as an ace in the hole?”
“Edwina!” Tandy takes a few pictures of late afternoon skies over the tree tops before speaking. “No, I want to be able to say I did this on my own.”
“Fair enough. So are you guys monogamous?”
“Yep. Big time.”
“Ahah. The plot thickens. Serial monogamy or real monogamy?”
“You know, love-only-the-one-you’re-with-at-the-time monogamy? Or one-and-only monogamy with no other distractions in the mix?”
“You’re funny.” Tandy squeezes Edwina’s arm with hers. “It’s serious.”
“We’re moving in together.”
“Get out! When?”
“Day after tomorrow.”
“Whoa. That’s seriously serious.”
“I know, right? I’m so excited. We’ve been buying furniture together for months. I sold all mine, so I’m sleeping in a totally empty apartment for two more nights and then…” Tandy giggles. “I feel like a semi mid-town vagabond. With a roof over her head and an inflatable air mattress to lie on.”
“Double whoa. You’re giving up your apartment? No backdoor to slip through if things go south?”
“You still have all your boxes of stuff, though. Right?”
“Uh uh. I read an article somewhere that it’s hard for two people to integrate their stuff without creating all sorts of problems. It said one way to cut them off at the pass was by starting off with a brand new apartment that’s only “ours”. When I showed the article to Karl, he was all over it. So we’re putting our stuff in storage, and we’ll bring it in bit by bit. That way we acclimate easier.”
“And you agreed?”
“He told me I was brilliant.” Tandy laughs. “Now why would I argue with that?”
“Well, it makes sense in a way. Still. Talk about working without a safety net.”
“It doesn’t feel that way.” Tandy shrugs. “I don’t really like change in general, but I’m ready for a new beginning. It kinda’ seemed like a middle-of-the-road way to go.”
“More power to you, that’s what I say. What’s your new apartment like?’
“I don’t know,” Tandy says lightly. “I haven’t seen it yet.”
“Whaaat?” Edwina’s voice cracks on a high note. “Girl, you’re either certifiably nuts, or the most confident person I’ve ever known! Which one is it? The people have a right to know.”
“Well, in this case I’m the people, and you’re now my people, and you already know. So the rest of the people have the right to know.” Edwina points her thumb at herself. “That’d be me. So are you uber confident or a borderline nut job?”
“Somewhere in between?” Tandy’s rueful grin makes Edwina laugh.
“I’m gonna’ keep the jury out on that one. Okay, I have to ask. Why haven’t you seen it?”
“Karl has been renovating it as a kind of present to me. He calls it his Upper East Side surprise.”
“Well, you’re moving into decent real estate, I’ll give you that much. I’d go pea green with envy, except it’d clash with my hair.”
Tandy laughs and turns her lens to Edwina. Click. “You’d look like a munchkin in Munchkin Land.”
“Love it! Wizard of Oz, what a classic. So are you gonna’ invite me to Emerald City for the housewarming?”
“Will you wear those Lollipop Kid stockings?” Click.
It’s when the two girls pass by the lake, and Edwina gets the bright idea to get their picture taken together to memorialize their new friendship, that things go wonky. She grabs Tandy’s camera and thrusts it in the hands of a middle aged woman walking by wearing a dark business suit and sparkling white sneakers.
“Will you take our picture?” Edwina asks.
“But,” Tandy protests, “the lens—“
“C’mon!” Edwina grabs Tandy by the waist and pulls her in.
The two tilt their heads together and pose with their best smile for the camera.
“It’s good to see such good friends,” the woman says as she hands the camera back to Edwina. “How long have you two known each other?”
With looks of complicity, they answered simultaneously.
With heads eagerly lowered towards the camera’s playback screen to insure they were memorialized at their best, they do look like they’ve know each other forever.
“Hey, check it out.” Edwina points to the screen. “If you photoshop those people out of the background, we’d look like we’re on a cruise ship.”
“It’s tr—“ Tandy reels back with a gasp. Her head snaps around and eyes narrow to confirm what she sees. Her whole body tenses, and she yanks the camera out of Edwina’s hands. For a full two minutes, her only movement is frantic hands pushing the shutter button in rapid fire succession, and adjusting the lens for a clearer focus. Click. Click. Slide. Click. Slide. Cl-cl-cl-click. Slide. Click.
Edwina’s eyes follow the direction of Tandy’s sudden interest. Nothing on the horizon but some couple with a baby carriage. Okay, they’re good looking and all that. Yes, it’s nice to see the man cooing over the baby, and the wife fawning over hubby. Still.
“What’s the scoop, pumpkin?” Edwina finally asks. “You giving up art for shooting Hallmark cards?”
Tandy stops taking pictures, but keeps the camera to her face, fiddling with the camera lens as if it were a telescope. She gulps in air with tiny staccato hiccups.
“I don’t get it. You know them, or something?” Recognition dawns on Edwina’s face. “Oh. My. God! That’s your Karl. Isn’t it?”
A calm mask drops over Tandy’s face, with only a slight tremble to her lower lip to betray her. “It looks like him. I can’t really tell from here.”
Edwina hesitates, unsure of how to read Tandy’s reaction. “I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”
The two girls look back at the loving couple. Karl’s dark head leans over the woman’s blond one, and he gives her a lingering kiss.
“That asshole!” Edwina stamps her foot. “She even looks like a pale version of you. With too much makeup. And that’s a lot coming from me.”
Tandy gives a wan smile. She has trouble seeing through the tears welling up.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll talk to him about it at the restaurant.” It sounds weak even to her own ears. “There’s got to be a logical explanation. Right?”
“Logical, schmogical.” With hands on hips in a pose of pure defiance, Edwina says, “If there’s a logical explanation for a kiss like that, I sure would like to hear it.” She grabs Tandy’s arm and pulls her in Karl’s direction. “Let’s go.”
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.
Is the pace moving along fast enough? Or is it too slow? Talka-to-me!