phantom

“Brunch with Phantoms” – A Novel Synopsis

Flashback to around the same time last year, I was bit of a jaded prick to be around. The year prior had left me a bit of a bitter husk of a geek. The culprits were a series of people I’d associated with online that turned out to be less than they seemed. Much less. They didn’t even exist.

People had gone through the trouble of not only creating fake personae online, but creating complicated backstories to them. It was like an RPG, but some fuckhead forgot to tell me I was a player or provide me with the necessary d20s. What’s worse is that it isn’t the first time I ran across forgeries. Over the course of ten years, the tally was well with in the double-digits. 06-07 simply took the cake for Most Amount of Fake Fucks. At the end of those exhausting episodes, I came up with the perfect name for them.

Either I was just stupid or gullible, I couldn’t decide which. Worse off, I wasn’t entirely sure how I could justify the time spent courting these mythical maidens. A buddy of mine was equally as jaded, having encountered a couple himself. What could posses someone to do that? And how can one redeem themselves for getting involved with them. Then I had it.

I’d write about them!

In October of ’07, Brunch with Phantoms was concocted. The first time I came up with the idea, I test-drove the pitch with another female friend over whiskey-infused tea. (I don’t recommend it.) She seemed to like it. Then I spoke of it to others. It was different than my other ideas. It didn’t involve zombies, kung fu strippers, spaceships, or space fungi named Fred.

What did I do after that? I sat on it for a year. It gathered dust in the back of my mind as everyday life distracted me. Blogs gained a foothold over my writing output. Stories came a distant second. The ideas kept coming, but none really bit hard enough to get me moving. When I concocted an idea called Life to a Tea, the “phantom women” also demanded to be heard once more.

I listened to them.

Premise

Raymond Elkins plans a gathering with six women he has known for the past year. Most don’t know of each other. None know the reason for the meet-and-greet. He gathers all of them at his favorite Victorian-style tea place for brunch. A couple of them are the brunch-ish sort. The rest, not so much. Over the course of the noon hour – as the six trickle in – they relate stories of how they know the host and/or how they relate to each other. As they do, their stories unfold.

Main Characters

Raymond Elkins:

Age: 24

He is the protagonist, and basically like the author. A few differences, though, are prevalent. He’s not a sci-fi fan, for one. Truth be told, he’s more “average” than “geek”. He is 24 and a recent college graduate. Some have told him he’s a gifted poet, but he chooses to ignore this as a viable road of discovery. Personality wise, he’s reserved, overly cautious, cynical, and analytical. However, he has been praised for having a penchant for self-sacrifice, loyalty, and a dry sense of wit. Against his wishes, he’s also the proverbial “glue” to his offbeat circle of friends. He has two roommates, Clara Parks and Samir Ali Khan.

Samuel Mallory:

Age: 24

An old high school friend of Ray’s – a closet tech nerd who hides behind a “pretty boy” veneer. He comes across as smug, self-centered, and smarmy. In reality, once the douche-y facade subsides, he can be quite charismatic. He is currently in school, earning an Masters in Business. On the side, he runs a homespun travel agency website. Due to his longstanding friendship with the protagonist, both exhibit a sibling-like rivalry. Raymond, though, appears to be unaware of the competition. Oftentimes, it involves women.

Clara Parks:

Age: 23

Clara can best be described as a recovering wild child, but a very skeptical one. Where most of her ilk have their heads in the clouds, here nimbus is particularly dark. She is shrewd, calculating, but surprisingly aloof. She also has more walls up than a barge bulkhead. Once someone reaches her mushy interior persona, though, they’ll never leave. Her devotion to her friends is without equal. That especially goes for her best friend, a dopey pet St. Bernard named Egan. (Yes, after the Ghost Buster.) By night, she is a goth club cage dancer; by day, a nursing student. She has known Ray and Sam since high school, but didn’t consider them friends until after.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sam and Clara are not based on anyone in particular. The characters were created roughly ten years ago for another set of stories, along with Ray. However, the roles they fill in this book are in substitution of actual people.)

The Phantom Women

Oasis Rousseau:

Age: 22

Oasis is an enigma. At 22, a college graduate, a teacher, a multiple homeowner, an accomplished cook, and an Internet radio phenom. If ever the title of “Renaissance Woman” applied to a single person, it would be her. She is the very embodiment of selflessness and self-sacrifice. Her sense of humor could best be described as slapstick and esoteric. While she may come across as innocent and naive, in reality she is more worldly than the average twentysomething-er. Within her tiny traditional frame, beats the heart of a liberal forward thinker. Oasis abhors her affluent upbringing and her strict father, yet adores all those close to her. If someone has a story to tell, she’ll shake off everyone else to hear how it ends. She’s also a bit of a clean-freak. She owns two beagles: Virgina and Woolf.

Origin: The girl that Oasis is based on I encountered on Myspace in January of ’06. For one outlandish reason or another, meetings got postponed by her. In April of that year, I suspected she was a fake. After some pleading and angry retorts from a “friend” of hers, I recanted and re-added her. It was on-and-off ever since. I finally stopped writing in April of ’08. However, recently, I received a birthday e-mail from her. I’m almost 75% certain she doesn’t exist. Even though her supposed hippie fiance is spread all over Google. Maybe that’s fake too. I’m not certain.

Madison “Maddie” Ayres:

Age: 25

The direct opposite of Oasis, Maddie is uncouth, ill-tempered, unsophisticated, and crass. Some might even say she’s simplistic. Despite her obvious chainsmoking outward presence, she can show a surprising amount of sharpness. How she and Oasis became best friends is a mystery. She has difficulty holding jobs, goes through men like toilet paper (she uses them), and has an odd obsession with sandwiches. She is also fiercely protective of Oasis, sometimes even taking on the role of bodyguard. Well, when she’s not passed out drunk.

Origin: Maddie is based directly on Oasis’s real right-hand woman. Believe it or not, I talked with this one more than I did Oasis, which is why I put the Oasis story from her point of view most of the time. I finally proved her lack of existence when I typed in her old e-mail address into Facebook, it came up with a “Lauren Chayne” from Salt Lake City or something. Not the person I was talking to.

Mireille Bristow:

Age: 24

Transplanted from Quebec, Canada, this half-Irish ex-pat stems from a rich upbringing. Shirking her duties as heir to a resort chain, she moved to the U.S. to pursue a career as a classical pianist. She eventually shrugged it off to study Law. When not immersed in legal theory, she updates a blog about unique beverages. To the untrained eye, she appears docile, polite, and amiable. Only the last two are true. Behind the primped smile lies a feisty female, a patient one at that. Her temper may be a slow burn, but when it shows, it leaves a mark.

Origin: Mireille is actually a fusion of four different phantom women – an 18-year-old French woman I encountered back in ’96 (but was probably, in reality, much younger), a 20-year-old hypochondriac I e-met in ’98, a Canadian I “iCourted” in ’07, and a beer fan I chatted with in ’07 as well. I never knew the four of them well enough to make them separate characters, so I stuck ’em in a blender set on puree. And, thus, Mireille was conceived.

Pamela Laird:

Age: 23

Pam came from a close-knit family, one that chose to remain distinctly urban and uptown. When she was old enough, she rebelled from this; choosing a life of solitude in the country. Okay, not exactly country. She still remained within spitting distance of the city, but just shy of the urban growth boundary. She took her trust fund and purchased a small cottage on an acre plot of land, content to remain a hermit. Part of this maneuver was to stave off the hustle and hassle of a fast-paced lifestyle, the other was her health. Her lungs were weak; pulmonary fibrosis. Stress, anxiety, pollution, cigarette smoke; all prevented her from maintaining a normal social life. She puts on a strong front – that of a solitary figure – but she yearns for more. Her relationships are often one-sided, investing herself more than her partner. She is a freelance web designer and telecommutes.

Origin: This one pissed me off the most. She actually surfaced the year after I met the Oasis-basis (hey, that rhymed!). Over the course of a few months, she cozeyed up to my real friends in an attempt to gain favor. Reasons she used for not meeting up ranged from sick family members to incurable diseases. Finally, after a brief hiatus, I said I would go down to visit her…in Klamath Falls. The address she gave me was to a trailer park/golf course, and she left a voicemail (voice disguised to act like a friend) saying she wouldn’t be making it. $200 trip!

Oh well, I got to see Crater Lake out of the deal.

Friday Spencer:

Age: 23

Born Freya Spencer, this stubborn redhead decided to change her name as an April Fools Day prank on her parents. Unfortunately for her, the name stuck. As a young girl, she was a bit of a tomboy; unrefined and underdeveloped. She didn’t come into her own physically until late in high school, by then, though, she was too far gone. Like “one of the boys”, she dated women. It wasn’t until college that she decided that men weren’t half-bad either. She also couldn’t decide which she preferred. As a result, her relationships were often shallow and open. She partied hard, but kept to herself. Wine flowed freely, but she never freed herself completely. Her true love was culinary pursuits, and she sharpened her skills (and knives) to become a highly-honed poissonier. She found her soulmate in an exact opposite, a woman with her “free love” attitude…but without the braggart. Friday is unorganized, boyish, prone to carousal (of either genders), but capable of unparalleled focus and determination.

Candice Fane:

Age: 26

Friday’s live-in “girlfriend”, a wedding planner by trade. While she wears the moniker of a practicing bisexual, her preference lies with women. She identifies herself as a “lipstick”. Where Friday is loud and rambunctious, Candice is calm and collected. She is also the one who cleans up after Friday’s messes, both within and without the household. Overnight prison fees, notwithstanding. She tolerates their open relationship, but hopes that Friday will come around to a more exclusive longterm arrangement. Occasionally, out of spite, she will find her way into the arms of another woman, but with strict guidelines and timetables – dating by dayplanner. Only Friday is exempt from her Rolodex relationship approach.

Origin: Both Friday and Candice have the same origin story. I encountered Friday in August of ’07. It was a random Myspace add. She seemed fun, cute, and quirky. My favorite! She was also really named after a day of the week, hence the moniker. I was introduced to her “girlfriend” around the same time, as well as friends of friends. One of them was a Canadian (1/4th the basis for Mireille). About three months in, I got an e-mail from the real Canadian stating the one I had on my friends list was a fake. It turns out she was a popular blogger in Vancouver. The day the Canadian’s profile vanished, so did Friday, Candice, and the rest of their friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across the Candice and Friday templates again. Their stories were slightly different, their star signs were changed, and so were their ages. Now they’re from Washington, DC.

Yeesh.

Tacey Jetters:

Age: 22

A recent graduate from nursing school, Tacey quickly landed a lucrative RN placement at a skilled neonatal facility. She is bright, often cheerful, and demonstrates a remarkable work ethic. Behind the staunch professionalism lies a dark vulnerability, however. A history of abuse looms in the shadows of her psyche. Also present is a family history of paranoid schizophrenia. She gravitates towards domineering and abusive men since that’s all she’s known. If she enters a relationship where none of these traits are present, she subconsciously invents a reason. The delusion of an abusive ex hunting her sometimes manifests. She is in denial of her fragile mental state.

Origin: I never dealt with this one personally. That “honor” goes to a friend of mine, which is why she’s a Sam story. The excuse she used for skirting a meet-up with said friend was an abusive ex. That and later pics she forwarded to him were shady at best. Horrible photoshopping. Using a bit of tracking software, my friend was able to determine that said woman was actually a 35-year-old mother of two in Estecada, OR.

Basic Outline

Prelude: “The Dual-ing Ms”

Setting: Victorian-style Tearoom

– featuring Maddie and Mireille

First Shade: “Human Soup”

Subject: A dinner party thrown by Friday and Candice

– featuring Ray, Sam, Mireille, Tacey, Clara, Friday and Candice.

Interlude: “The String-Along Quartet”

Setting: Tearoom

– featuring Mireille, Maddie…and the arrival of Candice and Friday

Second Shade: “A Woman Scorned”

Subject: Sam and Tacey’s relationship

– featuring Sam, Tacey, Clara and Ray

Interlude: “Five Cards, No Stud”

Setting: Tearoom

– featuring Mireille, Maddie, Friday, Candice…and now Pamela

Third Shade: “Turn a Cheek, Kiss the Other”

Subject: Pamela and Ray’s relationship

– featuring Ray, Pamela, Sam and Clara

Interlude: “Six Degrees of Celebration”

Setting: Tearoom

– featuring Mireille, Maddie, Friday, Candice, Pamela…and finally Oasis

Last Shade: “The Delivered One”

Subject: Ray and Oasis’s relationship

– featuring Ray, Oasis, and Maddie

Postlude: “As You Will It”

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Saturday, November 29th, 2008 Prose No Comments

Illusory

ILLUSORY

Irradiant,
Upon the shoreline
Before the rise
Of the sun.
Who goes there?

Incandescent,
Upon the streets
Before the noon glow
Of the sky.
Whom do I see?

Iridescent,
Upon reeds of grass
Before the afternoon fade
Of overcast clouds.
Who is she?

Illuminated,
Upon the foliage
Before stars take reign
Of the darkened shroud.
Why is she here?

Illusory,
Upon the mind
Before sleep grabs hold
Of the weary-eyed man.
Was she even real?

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Saturday, November 22nd, 2008 Poetry 1 Comment

I work for tea money.

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