Ménage à Plot

“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?!”


LIFE Magazine 1969

LIFE Magazine 1969

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.”

Kara pulled the exhausted Plot and drained Idea in close, making them inseparable with a satin bindings only The Character could tie. I completed my frantic summation and collapsed in my chair.

Ciao for now.


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The Dance of Character

Words—like people—only have the power you give them.”

The Idea became a song, slithered around the ambient world, and nibbled playfully on my lobe. As soon as I lifted my chin and turned my head to focus, she was there, in front of me, bound by the song, thrusting herself into the rhythm of the sea of my subconscious.

Once the Idea had formed on my pen then left the instrument spent, it was only a matter of velvet-smooth time until the Character herself found her way out of the shadows and emerged into the dim light of my writerly imagination.

She beckoned with long fingers of dark walnut with a hint of chocolate. She swayed with complete abandon, her clothes looser than the current style, but draped in a way to accentuate her charisma, show off her wisdom. Sweatshirt and jeans, dark-framed glasses, and a smile to burn away the blues. Her rhythm was off, as if she were out of practice, but as she stepped forward and back, forward and to the side, my mind draped itself around the Idea that she was someone I knew, or someone from a past, and I tied her to the present.

A lover? A coworker? A complete stranger? She moved with such freedom and randomness even within my binding that I could see she herself didn’t care who she was or would be. She would leave that all up to me. Control was mine and she would submit to the knotted cords of Plot and Setting I placed around her, my Character.

I joined her on the hardwood floor, moving with trepidation of my own, unsure who swayed and writhed before me. Her slender, naked fingers wiggled at the rhythm of the Idea as her bare feet stepped and shuffled and stamped to the tempo of a plot not yet set. She flirted with being someone’s coworker, someone’s lover… then she became a complete stranger, still.

Her bright eyes illuminated the shadows, banished the greyness, accentuated the colours in our spectrum and beyond. Brightness and contrast ramped up, simply within her sphere of surrender. One hand moved behind her back and I gripped it close, moved in closer. With the back of my free hand I caressed the curve of her ethics, followed the shape of her education. As we moved with mutual tread, my lips found the back of her favourite movies, then slid gently down to her book collection, her favourite recipes, and found then the slope of her small town upbringing. My own whiskers of curiosity tickled her love of blues and folk, and she writhed languorously around to face me. A twist of her arm and this captor became the captive, at least until the ebony of her ringlets spun out dark cherry highlights and revealed very few lovers, all drifting away to the horizon behind.


The Dancer by Tim Reynolds.
Acrylic/Digital. 2001/2013.

The rhythm of the Idea became more pronounced as we characterized her place within it. A cheek pressed a temple but a ripple ran across, a twitch broke the surface, and her recent past struggled against the satin joy binding her to the present. A scar was not fully healed, a lover not completely banished… a miscarriage not forgotten, and never would it be.

Her eyes spoke with a full timbre, her mouth shone with visions of starlight. She was too tall for her liking, too short for her preference. Her curves were too luscious for her morals, too subtle for her desires.

In my binding of her, and my inking of her soul down onto the vellum, below the Idea above, she waited with shallow breath nearly held. She waited, my Heroine did, for her name.

Ciao for now.


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Seduced by an Idea

“Words—like people—only have the power you give them.”

I was flirting with sleep in the hours between witching and waking when an idea slipped in and caressed my pen, teasing it, promising to make playing with it completely worth its while. The pen didn’t take much convincing—‘Easy ’ was its middle name.

Gifted: An Anthology of Superhero Tales

Gifted: An Anthology of Superhero Tales

It was an attractive idea, in an unpolished, rough-edged, misunderstood way. Its caress was firm, but soft, not yet surrendering complete control to my pen.

It was trusting me to capture it, to contain and bind it with my words. I knew it wanted to be caught and restrained so that it could truly know life.

This idea had been drifting, unencumbered, unattached; flitting from pens to keyboards to pencils, and now to my pen, wanting to be wanted, desiring to feed and be fed. Wanting existence.

Certainly none of the ideas that had, over time, flitted about and flirted with my pen would ever understand why this idea was the one I chose to strip bare and bind with silken prose to the virgin white, lined, vellum sheets I kept locked away for especially tasty ideas.

This was a literary ménage a trois: the idea, the pen, and the vellum that was both prison and freedom.

The idea grew comfortable, rolling around in my imagination, struggling to be free of convention and stereotype. It clung to cliché, yet it yearned to break those bonds and slip free of the shackles.

Even as my pen bound the idea loosely, it struggled, half-heartedly; but soon it surrendered to the inevitability of the moment, wrapping itself around and around my pen, giving and getting life It did so incrementally, unwilling to surrender everything at once in a flash. The idea preferred the slow burn, as did the pen.

Excited both by the possibility of comprehension and the fear of misconstruction, the idea blossomed, seeing liberation as the only solution to the sluggish morass it was mired in. Yes… complete textual satisfaction was possible. It could see it on the event’s horizon.

I knew that the creative juices would flow, faster, maddened by the desire to do justice to such a pure and trusting idea. Rationalizations would roll along and off my tongue and the pen’s nib. The idea’s caress would reach deep into the bone of the pen and the captor would become the captive, unable and unwilling to stop, until expression was complete, full, and ripe.

There was no safe word here. The idea wasn’t going to abandon either the pen or me until the pen was drained, done, had no more to offer up. But the pen knew it had reserves unimagined and that it would outlast the idea. Or so it hoped, for an idea—even a fresh, virginal, innocent idea—had unimaginable staying power once it was given a voice, liberated from the mire.

Once the pen admitted that this idea could be its last, its own surrender was complete and the idea flowed in and through and out of the pen, claiming the vellum for its own. The bound became the binder.

Eventually I slept, sated, while the idea percolated in the background, watching over the deliriously spent pen.

Ciao for now,


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