There are Characters, and Then There are Characters

Mandy was everything her mother had hoped for in daughter. Mandy grew up with long blond curls and strikingly blue eyes. As a preteen, she was colt-like, long-legged and agile. The rest of her charmed life followed: Homecoming Queen, high grades earning her a scholarship to State, a four-year degree in Ecology, on to a Law Degree at a prestigious university, and marriage to her high school sweetheart, who worked hard to become Chief of Pediatrics at the University Hospital.

But this isn’t who Mandy really is. Who is she really?

18 responses to “There are Characters, and Then There are Characters

  1. oliviascarlett

    It was three in the morning. The streets were quiet. The radio was off. The only sound was the heater, blowing dry air into the cab.

    “What are you doing back there, reading your e-mails?”

    I looked up from my phone at the driver. He was wearing a hunting cap, the kind with red and black checked ear-flaps. Some gray hair stuck out over his collar.

    “My friend just texted. I need to meet him at the corner of 5th and Walnut,” I said.

    “Oh, I see.”

    We drove for awhile.

    “Hey, you mind if I ask you something?”

    “Sure.”

    “If I want to change my computer screen, what do I gotta do?”

    “You mean to change the backdrop?”

    “Yeah, the picture.”

    I tried to clear my brain, which was fuzzy from wine and second-hand smoke. I remember leaving the party but how did I get into this cab?

    “Well, is it a —? It’s probably a PC. So when you see the image you want, you right click it with the mouse. Then you pick ‘Set as Desktop Background.'”

    “Okay. So say I see a picture of a clown, I just push right and then it says I can put it on the background?”

    “That’s right.”

    He nodded and was quiet and I knew this was my chance to seize the silence, which might last the 15-minute ride before I meet my contact. I needed a hit.

    “Are you going to put a clown on your screen?”

    “Nah. Maybe Lindsay Lohan. I just got this picture of a moon and I’m sick of it. I want to change it.”

    “Huh.”

    “Or what’s that girl — she was married to that Kurt —?”

    “Cobain? Kurt Cobain? Courtney Love.”

    He smacked his hand on the steering wheel.

    “Oh, yeah! Courtney Love.”

    “You like Courtney Love? Huh. Well, she looks kind of like a clown.”

    He snorted. “I always thought she was so sexy.”

    We were quiet for a long time.

    “So how long have you been a cabbie?”

    “Fifteen years. Hard to believe. Time just goes by.”

    “Yeah.”

    “First job I ever got.”

    “Yeah?”

    “I was a cocaine addict for 20 years.”

    “Wow. Twenty years. How’d you kick it?”

    “Assassination attempt. I was in the hospital for 30 days and after that I kicked it.”

    “Who tried to kill you?”

    “When you’re an addict you do all sorts of crimes. I did all sorts of crimes. Me and my associates. They were doing a crime every second of the day.”

    “So, you got shot?”

    “No, they clubbed me.”

    “Shit.”

    “With a pipe, actually.”

    “And then you went into a clinic to kick the habit?”

    “No, I was clean 30 days while they had me in the hospital. So I just stayed that way. Clean.”

    “Good for you. Where’d you grow up?”

    “East New York.”

    “Dangerous there.”

    “Oh yeah. And I’d go out there to score on Canarsie at 2 in the morning. I’d go out — you ever hear of the Canarsie Girls? They were junkies. I’d go out with them to score at 2:30, 5 in the morning.”

    He was quiet, as if he were remembering.

    “The city used to be a different place.”

    “Yeah, so they say.”

    “The AIDS virus changed everything. It took out all the criminals. There was a higher grade of criminal before.”

    “Ha.”

    “Before the AIDS virus you could walk on the corner of St. Marks and 2nd Ave and see 15 people and all 15 of them would all be criminals. It was nice, if you ask my opinion.”

    “Ha.”

    “It was Little Beirut down there. In the middle of the night there’d be people selling all kinds of things there on the street.”

    “Like what?”

    “Bikes, in the summer. They’d turn around 30, 40 a night. Stuff.”

    “Did you sell stuff?”

    “Now and then.”

    He paused.

    “Mostly I worked with prostitutes.”

    “You were a pimp?”

    “Yeah. They called me the white pimp.”

    “In Manhattan?”

    “Yeah, around 11th street and 2nd Ave. ”

    “What kind of prostitutes?”

    “What do you mean what kind?”

    “Girls?”

    “Yeah, girls. There was one transvestite I had to take care of. She died of AIDS. They all died.”

    We pulled up to the intersection. I could see my man, waiting for his customers like me.

    “What’s your name?”

    “Mike.”

    “Mike. I’m Mandy”

    We were quiet as I paid with my credit card.

    “You want your receipt, Mandy?”

    “No, thanks. It was nice talking to you. I wish I could hear more.”

    “You have four minutes?”

    I hesitated. It was so late.

    “Uh, sure. Yeah.”

    “I told you about the girls? Well. There was a rabbi. He was, you know, what do you call em — a dwarf. He lived on 11th Street. Later the girls said he was the one that gave it to them. There were eight, nine girls out of 17 that got it. The AIDS virus. But they didn’t even know what to call it then. First one got it and then a few months later, another, then another. The thing is they got paid more to do it without a rubber.”

    He paused. At some point he had turned around.

    “Gloria. Gloria was my wife. The first one who got it.”

    “You were married to one of the prostitutes?”

    “I didn’t think of it as pimp and prostitute. I thought of it as a drug addict couple.”

    He continued.

    “Beth Israel Hospital had a clinic. They turned it into a ward. Gloria went in there and she had her own room and you had to sign a book and everything, but she kept making money in there, she had more money than she knew what to do with.”

    He shook his head.

    “I’ll tell you something. If you’re lucky enough to have a prostitute fall in love with you and stay with you, believe me you never go back.”

    I waited a long time before I said anything.

    “How come you didn’t die?”

    “I didn’t get it. Somehow I didn’t get AIDS. I felt like I won a beauty pageant when they told me I didn’t have it. I got tested 35 times.”

    He turned the engine on.

    “That’s quite a life, Mike.”

    “Oh, yeah. Beautiful.”

    He didn’t sound sarcastic at all.

    “Beautiful.”

    • Olivia, this drew me in instantly. Brilliant ! I could almost hear their conversation and smell the fumes from the buses passing them on the street. Thank you for an engrossing story.

    • You have good skill with dialogue. I love stories that move along based on what two people are saying to each other. To me, it’s the best kind of action.

      Looks to me like you’ve been writing. Hope so!

      • oliviascarlett

        Yes, I’ve been writing. Getting ready to publish my very first novel! Thank you for everything, Ann. You gave me the confidence I needed to just do it!

    • cranberrylodge

      Smooth reading. I like dialog that runs fast like real conversation. Good luck on your novel!

  2. Hi Ann. I hate to contact you through your blog. I’m trying to contact you regarding a class you teach at PCC for business writing. I read the reviews and it seems like you’ve helped a lot of people with this class. I’m looking for help teaching and/or creating a business writing class for my employees. If there’s a better way to reach you can you contact me at adamd@consumercellular.com? Thank you so much, Adam.

  3. “Oh, damn it ! I’ve done it now….I am sure to get a demotion for this one!”

    “Scotty.”

    “Yes Captain.”

    “What are you mumbling about?”

    “ Well Sir, I hit the wrong button on the Holodeck control panel and I think that I Perma-Beamed someone down. I don’t seem to be able to Beam them up again.”

    “Down where Scotty?”

    “I’m not sure Captain, I have no video connection…only audio.”

    “Well, what are you hearing Scotty?”

    “ I cannot identify it, but I will patch you through Sir. Maybe you will have better luck.”

    “Do so.”

    The sound of singing came wafting over the speakers on the Bridge…

    I’m standing on the edge of time,
    Walked away when love was mine,
    Caught up in a world of uphill climbing,
    The tears are in my eyes,
    And nothing is rhyming….

    Oh Mandy,
    Well you came and gave without taking,
    But I sent you away,
    Oh Mandy

    “Oh, Scotty, say it isn’t so… Not Mandy,.”

    “Oh Captain, it is so…It’s Mandy.”

    “But, she was my favorite Hologram Girl.”

    “I know Captain. Sure will miss her, but she is Barry’s Babe now. But I am working on something that I think you and Mr. Spock will love just as much. Have either of you ever heard of Tribbles ?”

  4. Mandy had it all, wealth, beauty, intellect and Herpes.

    • I used to hate that song, except it had a great tune, so I had to try to tune out the words. Now you’ve recreated them for me. Ack! Mandy will now forever haunt my dreams.

      Just to return the favor, have you ever sung the song, “Happy Talk” from South Pacific? Sing it just once, and you are doomed.

      • I went through a phase where Gene Pitney songs like ” A Town Without Pity,” would take up valuable space in my brain for weeks on end. Or the folk song, ” It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song.” What is a WORRIED song anyway ? I am guessing it isn’t like when the choir director at Our Lady of Perpetual Piety is worried that the elderly soprano section will unsuccessfully attempt to execute the Descant above The Battle Hymn of the Republic only to miss it by a painful half step…I have even participated in some of those “Worried Songs.”

        Oh well…..
        Happy Talk keep talking Happy Talk,
        Talk about things you like to do.
        You’ve got to have a dream,
        If you don’t have a dream,
        How you gonna make a dream come true.

  5. She slid out of bed without waking Rudy. She would do her long jog this morning. It might lift her spirits.

    What was happening to her? Where had her fire gone? Trying to be the best had always kept her going . But now she just felt empty. She had triumphed at everything. Had she gone after the wrong goals. Could she make a change now or was she trapped in her success? Her engine was sputtering and she was just coasting now at work. And with Rudy.

  6. Interesting turning point for Mandy. What does Mandy do when she has reached every goal? Run for President?

  7. Mandy is a sociopath. That mother who got her wish never noticed that behind the blond curls, the blue eyes, and the coltish legs was a girl who was determined to get whatever she wanted at any price. Why not? It was so obvious to Mandy that she should have everything. One look in the mirror made that clear.

    Every magazine reinforced her view of how she deserved the best of everything. Making Homecoming Queen was easy; cheating for high grades was tougher, but Mandy discovered the power of emotional blackmail. Less attractive girls were happy to share their work and answers for the privilege of Mandy’s company. Even college was a breeze, as long as she steered clear of any female professors and sat close to the front of the class in her shortest of skirts. Ecology major. What a joke. All those hairy horny cloddish instructors couldn’t wait to tutor Mandy privately. No matter that she never let them touch her; it was the promise of “perhaps” that kept them panting. Law School? She made sure she got pregnant by the Dean’s only son, making a deal to trade an abortion for admission. Her high school sweetheart was Mr. Success, and he believed Mandy’s vision of the perfect power couple.

    But now she was bored. What does a gorgeous, rich, semi-intelligent sociopath do for fun?

    That was when she had a visit from a certain MIT professor, a Dr. Greepwock, who gently informed Mandy that she was really an android. He’d made a bargain with Mandy’s mom for the perfect child, and he’d delivered… sort of. But that’s another story.

    • cranberrylodge

      Worse than ‘Happy Talk’! How will I get the name Greepwock out of my head? Sounds like Creep Walk. UGH! I’m doomed!

  8. ‘Greepwock.. Greep-wock… Dr. Greepwock . He told me that he was an MIT prof,’ Mandy said.

    ‘Well hold a moment. I’ll ask someone. …. Oh really, nooo.’

    ‘Hello, this is the registrar. You wanted to know about Dr. Greenwock. He did work here long ago. He claimed a breakthrough in his robotic research. A lot of press about it but no one could duplicate the results.

    I would say about a year later he began to rant and had a breakdown of sorts, Last I heard, he was in the Clinic for Weird Fancies.’

    ‘Thank you.’

    Mandy put down the phone and looked up the address for the Clinic. She must find out if what he had told her was true.

  9. And so the story goes on….

    Good work!

  10. Thanks Ann. This is a good setup for someone to run with. Must say you have collected some very inventive folks here. :))

  11. Mandy walked up the steps to the clinic. She pressed the doorbell and Mandy walked up the steps to the clinic. She pressed the doorbell and studied the nameplate. I would have named it the ‘Clinic for,’and here she chuckled, ‘the Fancifully Challenged’. She was smiling when the door opened and a tall, skinny, young man said,

    ‘Please come in, Miss Flotsam is waiting for you. I’ll show you the way.’ He quickly guided her to an office, gestured her in and left.

    A woman stood up from her desk and came to greet her with an outstretched hand. They shook hands and Mandy felt the woman’s grip tighten like a vise.

    She faltered, ‘It’s good of you to see me so quickly, Miss Flotsam.’

    ‘Not at all, not at all. I like to tackle things… and when you mentioned Gweepwock….. Please sit down.’

    ‘Well, can you tell me his condition. He told me some things that are bizarre and I wonder…’

    ‘Let me guess, did he say that you were an andwoid, we can’t seem to get wid of that fixation of his.’

    ‘But he did seem sane. Is he?’

    ‘Sane, sane, it weally depends on what the critewia are. He is living with his sister so she keeps him out of trouble. Surely, you didn’t believe the andwoid stuff?’

    ‘No, no, but better to check. Thank you for your time, Miss Flotsam. I’ll find my way out.’ Miss Flotsam stood and offered her hand but Mandy turned quickly and left the office. The hall was empty and she was curious about the clinic.

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