That is exactly what a kidnapper would say. Part 4

RECAP: There’s 6 toed cats, The Office trivia, my friends’ loss, pain, and fear. The solution to all problems is a 6 figure book deal. DUH.

What lasts 2 hours too long, is boring and hot but made better with the occasional ping pong ball and a half dozen confetti canons?

Not a night of beer pong, but close. The Powell county high school graduation ceremony before the night of underage beer pong.

When I graduated, we couldn’t decorate our grad caps, toss them in the air or nothin’. As I watch my husband’s sister graduate, I am thrilled to see that their (more-rural) class is pranking the principal with ping-pong balls. A student walks across the stage, a ping pong ball tucked in their palm as they shake the principal’s hand. The principal has to figure out what to do with the ball as another student approaches.

It’s not every student, which makes it something to look out for. And it’s all kinds of students, which gives you something to think about as you watch for the next one. All the while, the principal is running out of things to do with the influx of ping pong balls because students keep stealing her containers. First she has a plastic tub. Stolen by a young man. The crowd laughs. Next is a cloth cube. Taken when I’m not looking, but the laughter tells me what has happened. Last is a fake plant. The principal resorts to passing the balls off to her fellow educators behind her. When all 150ish students retrieve their diploma, confetti canons go off and I admit I am jealous of the graduating class who’s High School career was completely robbed from them by a global pandemic.

Every Tuesday at 6 pm, I go to Romero’s Restaruant and sit with a half dozen others and listen to a film industry veteran talk about screenwriting, and sometimes talk about my own screenplay ideas. Some of the others have already turned in their own finished drafts but I am being cagey. I have a lot written but I’m not sure what to do with the 3rd act. I know I can probably sit down and figure it out, but I like to be at least excited about what I’m writing. I like to start with some sort of exciting idea, you know?

I decide to lace up my bootstraps and just do the damn thing. When an excuse to walk away presents itself, I swat at it like a housefly. I put everything off. I am late to work. I turn down invitations. I hide as I make up scenes as I go. Then one day, I can see the end in sight. My husband says he’s going to Lexington, he invites me along and fully expects me to stay back. Surprising us both, I decide I will continue writing in the car on my laptop.

I finish my screenplay in a modest 80 pages, in the early evening, in the parking lot of a Best Buy. Damn, does it feel good. Not because I didn’t think it would ever happen, but because when it happens, I don’t hate it. (I will in time, no worries.) When I get home, I print it. The margins are all messed up and my 80 pages is more like 70, but it’s still a hefty pile. I hold the warm pages, carry it around my home. Take a video of me flipping through the scenes. Breathe.

It is a week later, when George C. Romero tells me he finished reading my screenplay. He tells me I have “great pacing” and an “unteachable intuition for stories.” I don’t look him in the eye when he tells me this. I pick a broken window of an empty main street shop and allow my mouth to ramble on about Tom Waits’ & Elizabeth Gilbert’s comparative theories on how stories are either born of our selves or kismet connections made with sentient ideas that have their own agency and will move on from us if we don’t attend to them.

He later tells my husband, “She doesn’t take compliments well, does she?”

Last year, there was a festival that became well-known for not having any water. 40,000 attendees baked in the hot July sun, in the parched bluegrass of central Kentucky, waiting in line for “liquid death”. They applauded when a cloud floated by, and passed out in droves as the cloud drifted on. It was a classic shit-show. Couldn’t even tell you the headliner that year.

My husband is set to play the same festival this year. As a mere wife, I am not granted back stage with him. The bass player’s wife is in a similar boat, and we both scoff at the injustice. We both want to meet Sheryl Crow and Valerie June. Instead we are stuck with 40,000 other plebeians who may very well suffer dehydration and, I don’t know, dysentery.

So we prepare for the day with ice filled coolers packed with water, snacks, sunscreen, and emergency beers in the car. We decide, if it gets bad, we will leave the festival grounds and have the car to come back to while our husbands enjoy their hospitality tents, their air conditioned green rooms, and their new famous best friends. We will lose our selves in the thousands of fans who show up to watch our spouses play, fighting for elbow space and craning our necks for a decent view. (I’m looking at you Railbird organizers).

The show goes well and we are properly fed, and hydrated, and honestly, there is a ton of shade to be found. Plus, I’m covered in sunscreen and I have a baseball hat on that I purchased in Key West. The weather is still cooler than it was in Florida, so I’m sincerely comfortable. I entertain myself people-watching because I’m not terribly interested in any performers outside my husband (hazard of the trade.) I’m quietly impressed with myself that I am in the thick of 40,000 people and am not having a panic attack. I count cowboy boots and hats, local band t-shirts I recognize, and sun burns.

I accompany a friend to get snacks from the car and learn walking out and back into the festival again isn’t worth it. I very coolly and causally swap that friend for the person who I’ve been waiting to hanging out with all day. My friend who let me argue for guns and never held it against me.

We talk about in-laws, and inappropriate responses to tragedies (pretending it didn’t happen, not responding at all, etc). We talk about my screenplay. I confess, I want her and her husband to act in it. I’m not sure she realizes I’m serious.

She chases down Silas House and his husband, dragging me by the hand. She introduces me as a “fellow author.” I refrain from contesting the statement. I smile and shake their hands. Silas House points to my hat, asks me if I’ve been to Key West. I tell him I arrived home from Key West a week ago. We chat about our favorite parts, and places. There is wit and laughter on both sides. I walk away feeling like I didn’t fuck that up. Another wildly unexpected moment from a day that came with a warning label.

Despite how well the day is going, Josh and I are tired and leave before Weezer begins. (Is this a flex?) Maybe we are just in the habit of quitting while we’re ahead.

There is talk in my household of staring a small film production company. My husband has been doing videography for years now, dipping his toes in music videos, pedal reviews, tourism, social media, and finally Reality TV sizzle reels. He has become come good friends with George C. Romero himself. They want to make movies. Better yet, we even have a building in mind. It’s cheap ($150,000) but would need retrofitting.

I run some numbers because I am a numbers person:
A 20% deposit would be $30,000. That leaves a loan for $120,000 at 8% interest rates, over 15 years. Did you realize, I would pay $70,000 over 15 years, just in interest? The deposit ($30,000) + the loan ($120,000) + the 8% interest on a 15 year loan ($70,000) would cost $220,000.

[And that’s not even counting the required fees of property tax, insurance or PMI, which could put a monthly payment at $1430. 150 payments of $1430 = $214,579. That’s $244,579 to own and pay off the house listed for $150,000. And let’s face it. You never truly own anything. It’s property tax and insurance until you die.]

Josh and I are invited to eat Crawfish. The hosts are in the education field and this is the beginning of their summer. When they dump the bucket of crawfish on the large table, they show me how to crush the boiled creature with my finger and suck the meat from it’s tail. I know that I’ve signed up for this. I do, in fact, love crawfish meat but I have to disassociate in order to carry on as those around me. I think about how, if I were starving, I wouldn’t think twice. Plus all the cute little creatures are already dead. Never mind that I have a cartoon cousin, affectionately tattooed on my thigh.

I chat with the female host, who is celebrating a promotion, beginning next school year. She places crawfish corpses on her fingertips like they are puppets. It is ridiculous–sacrilegious–and we know, but it makes us laugh, and distracts us from the fact that she has been cagey this whole time.

It is not until hours later, bellies full of crustaceans, that she reveals announced she is in the running for the Great British Bake off. She has one more “try out” before she (hopefully) disappears to London for filming in August. I am sworn to secrecy and honestly can’t stop congratulating her. To even attempt it, seems like a brave and commendable feat. The woman with the crawfish finger puppets is practically on her way to the American Idol of Baking.

I am working on a novel. It’s the one that hit 60,000 words recently. I told myself I needed information about Social Services, ER nurses, and Missing Persons databases. Which is honestly just another way to say, I needed a really convincing reason to procrastinate finishing it. In the aftermath of a completed screenplay, I tell myself I’m going to contact one more person for answers to my “theoretical questions” and then I’m moving on–I will make up the ending if I have to.

So, my husband and I are headed to the Laurel Cove Festival. It is a long drive. I bring a notebook and scribble down ways to end my novel. I text Lizzy, the wife of my fellow Editor at BarBar. She is in the Social Work field and can tell me if my ideas or way off base.

Quick Backstory: Lizzy and Cory adopted a little boy almost 5 years ago.

Lizzy generously responds for 30-40 minutes via text. I ask questions and when I realize I’m looking for a specific kind of answer, I confess that I’m trying to figure out how to get my character into and out of a specific kind of mess. Most of my character’s problems come from having been kidnapped at a young age from her adopted parents, and then running away from her captor–who turns out to be her biological mother. Essentially, I need her to never be found well into her teen years. I need my captor to get away with it. Lizzy assures me there are lots of kids that are never found. The system is imperfect. It’s also really hard to prove “ownership” of an adopted child when it goes missing.

I send her the synopsis of my character’s life history, in case it helps. It dawns on me, she has an adopted son. Her son’s biological mother, is alive and well.

“If this is too close to home, just tell me! I don’t mean to be insensitive.”

I don’t get a response back. I wait a few minutes, and then “Oh no” comes out my mouth, which attracts the concern of Josh. He raises his eyebrows at me and I explain to him that I’m certain Lizzy thinks I am insensitive and insane for asking her these questions.

More than an hour goes by, and I’m convinced she thinks I’m the psycho going for her son. I text Cory and plead that he tell her I do not want to kidnap her son. My questions really are for a novel. I don’t even want kids! (Of course, I am all too aware, that is exactly what a kidnapper would say.)

We arrive at the Festival, a beautiful stage in the woods, and I put it out of my mind. I figure I can’t keep all my friends. (You win some, you lose some, amirite?) I’ll have to accept the fact that two people out there have probably already contacted the officials. When they knock on my door, I’ll have to get some character witnesses lined up. Maybe once we sort all this out, I’ll ask the officials how they’d suggest successfully kidnapping a child.

This dear reader, concludes the Missing Weeks. Next time, my blogs will be more recently sourced content, and less narrative heavy. Maybe, Idk. In the weeks since Laurel Cove (and Lizzy getting back to me, assuring me that she enjoyed talking about “something creative”,) the world still feels in flux. Like a change is gonna come.

I am reminded today, that my 2023 yearly tarot spread had a grim second half of the year. July will be the the Queen of Cups in reverse. Therefore, I am metaphorically holding on to my Key West hat, and will be exercising the manifestation of a good ol’ emotional shield.


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