“Words—like people—only have the power you give them.”
If the truth were told, the ménage which found succor and release on the line-rich pages beyond the dollar-store notebook and amongst my scattered scribblings was a ‘quatre’, not a ‘trois’. Four: the original Idea, The Character, The Plot, and myself; whom I suppose has always been present. I include myself because, though I hardly seemed an active participant, the three melded with both my knowledge and my approval. It was certainly a ménage, in the traditional sense. They knew I was both the voyeur and the facilitator.
At first The Idea took rough hold of The Character and crushed her against the yellowed, lined page of the pad, finding the nape of her insecurities and diving in to draw out the darkest concept from the source. The Character struggled at the exposure of her ambitions, but unconvincingly. With one determination wrapped possessively around The Idea, she whispered to it, taking quick command. “Call me Kara.”
The Idea examined the name, stretched it, tasted it, found it a delicious blend of domestic vintage and exotica. “Kara.” It liked the way the consonants rippled across its webbed structure, finding its way into the branches of the cerebral tempest tattooed on the first leaf of the notepad. The Idea played with the name, tickled it, caressed it, let it tumble and swirl around within itself. The Idea quickly believed that it loved the name, and just as it drew up tall and solid, another presence slipped into its awareness, at the edge, in the periphery. A shadow, writhing, bubbling, wanting to evolve and take form, with them. The Plot.
The Plot nudged The Idea to the side, but not so far as to exclude it from the equation. The Plot twisted and slithered over Kara, around her hometown, between her tender, quivering, moist diplomas, across her taut, strict, upbringing, and finally settling on her guarded, virginal dreams. It prodded the dreams, found a crack, an opening, and tore it wide, exposing it for the ménage to savor. I watched from behind my pen, waiting, with my ink barely in check.
The Plot ran a tendril of smoke over Kara. “You’re a photographer and you want to be a photojournalist.”
Kara fought the exposure. She was a girl, a woman. Society wanted her at home and she wanted to be wanted, but domesticity was a poor, narrow fit. Following her dream would be a difficult path through a world that didn’t want her, but the more she felt its whisper, heard its light so clearly, she knew her dream was a good fit—a thick, comfortable, fit. “Yessss.”
The Plot worked its way across her clenched-shut eyes, to her ear, where it traced her lobe with possibilities. “But your brother sold your camera for drugs—” Kara twisted violently, nearly breaking free of The Plot’s stale embrace. The Plot pushed her down against the notepad and The Idea pushed her hair away from her neck, to expose her pulsing desire along her past, leading to her present.
“Not drugs, then Kara, but… concert tickets, to see…” The Plot ground its hardening exposition into Kara’s resolve. “To see… THE ROLLING STONES!”
Kara bucked and wrapped her determination around The Plot, grinding her dream into it, then she pulled The Idea down on top, screaming, “When?! When?! When?!”
She squeezed her stubbornness, then clamped her anger down on both The Idea and The Plot. “Not yet! I…want to know…when… the concert is!”
The Plot tore away from her, dragged itself a cliché away. “Nineteen-sixty-nine.”
“November 5th!” The Idea groaned.
“Fort Collins!” Kara thrust back into The Idea’s midst, dragging The Plot back into the fray.
The Plot didn’t hesitate another moment and pulled Kara’s despair behind her back before she could regain control. “You need to get the tickets to…” The Plot felt a surge of realization ram into it. “… to sell, to get your camera back to, to enter a LIFE Magazine competition… but your brother is on his way to Colorado! If he gets to Fort Collins and uses the tickets, your dreams are shattered!”
“I give chase, in my uncle’s Chevy, north, out of Santa Fe!” Kara chimed in, a full participant in the exuberant structural grappling and wrestling in the ménage. Her motivations were stippled with goose bumps of pounding adrenaline.
The Idea slapped Kara with a dark reality. “But you get to the Fort Collins Greyhound depot just as his bus arrives… and he’s not on it!”
“Why?” She spewed the word, her voice harsh under the strain.
“He’s been… mugged!” The Idea stumbles.
The Plot, more experienced, pulled in another direction, playing on the times. “No, arrested! In Denver! No… in… Greeley, Colorado!” The conflict slid across Kara’s mid-drift and tightened knots around her future.
“A young black man travelling by bus in 1969!” The Idea caught on, slammed another element into the sweating midst.
“But you don’t know where he is. You call home, dropping nickels into the payphone. Mama hasn’t heard a word from him. She begs you not to kill him when you find him. You make no promises.” The Plot slid sideways, wrapped emotion and guilt around both The Idea and Kara, cuffing them to each other as the scenario evolved.
“I make no promises at all. I’ll whip his ass all the way back to Santa Fe and dump him on Mama’s front porch!” and she whipped her tresses across The Plot and sunk her teeth into the anger The Plot stirred up.
“Still, you can’t find him so you have no choice. You have to wait at the depot, indefinitely, because you have no idea where he is.”
“What about the police?” The Idea wondered weakly as it was spun around, pressed face-down onto the notepad, wedged tightly onto the thin blue lines.
“Help a black girl looking for a black boy?” Nearly bleeding ink in the moments of racial frustration.
“They might…” My writing crushed the pen into the pad, as Kara pleaded to The Plot.
“The driver! Where’s the bus driver?! Maybe he knows!” The Idea got… an idea, and I scribbled, madly, seeking to keep my eyes on the scene, not miss a drop.
“Find the driver, learn that your brother never got back on the bus in Greeley, go there, find him—” The ink bled, poured forth, stained the pages as the Plot unfurled and expanded and dominated Kara, dwarfing The Idea.
Kara resisted, pushed, twisted and rebelled against where The Plot has led both her and The Idea. “And what? Pay the fine before they lynch him? No money! Sex the fat, stupid sheriff to get him out? No better than rape!”
“No! Been there! Done that! Break him out, with the Chevy!” The Idea’s simplicity was shortsighted and it peaked too soon.
“And die in a shootout?!”
“True.” But The Idea wasn’t ready to surrender participation in the tryst. “Sell the tickets?”
“To the deputy?” The Plot was surprised, its grip loosened. Kara flipped it over, rode it through to the climax.
She growled “Tickets traded for fine, deputy distracts sheriff, we slip out of town, and high-tail it back to Santa Fe!”
The Idea was drained, slumped to the side. The Plot was weakening as the action fell. “You punch your brother in the head for being a dumbass and a thief.”
“Just once, because he produces the fat sheriff’s gold watch and promises to get my camera out of hock.”
“You laugh.” The Plot faded, wound down. “The fat fuck deserves it.”
Wringing the last of the cream out of The Plot before tumbling down into the denouement, Kara smothered both it and The Idea with grateful, wet, determination and satisfaction. “I arrive home to find that Mama entered my best outdoor concert photos in the contest anyway.”
“She hugs her ‘babies’ and puts an ice pack on your brother’s black eye, though not before cuffing him hard herself.”
Ciao for now.