Monday, March 12, 2012

Tara the Heroine, Detective

In which our Heroine goes Gumshoe.

 (Jazzy music plays softly in the background as city lights slant into the office.  The office is spare—containing only a desk, two moth-eaten chairs, and a double-locked filing cabinet.  Backwards on the door’s window in white letters read: Tara the Heroine, Detective.)

Tara monologues in a New York accent: There I was, sitting with my feet up on the desk, innocently and might I say successfully evading the periodic knocks of the landlord as I read the Times in the waning light of the sunset.  Rent was hard to come by these days.  I could hardly afford to keep my fedora, let alone my office.  I was hungry.  I wanted a pie from the diner around the corner and a job to keep me going another week.  Either that or I needed to get out of town—and quick.

(The door handle rattles as someone tries to push through into the office.  Tara jumps under the desk.  An older woman with short brown hair and sensible shoes walks in.)

The Lady inquires politely but determinedly: “Hello?   I’m looking for the detective.  I have a job and an airplane ticket for you.”

Monologue continues: Cripes!  This woman looked like my mother!  And she knew I was there too.  Well, nothing to do but come out…

“Ah…hello… I was just looking for my pencil there under the desk…”

The Lady quirks her eyebrow up and issues a cold smile: “I see.  Perhaps you’re not the person I was looking for.  I demand absolute honesty in all my dealings.  I’ll just see myself out.”

Tara, with desperation: “Look Lady, I’m not proud, but you can’t be too careful in this town.  Now why don’t you sit down and give me the score.”

She sits. The Lady’s eyes begin to tear up. “Its just… I’ve lost my daughter.  She can’t seem to find her way home—perhaps she doesn’t remember how? (Sniffle)  I need you to track her down.  There are some things in my basement that might help you—boxes of old junk, really—but you’ll be needing to see it if you have a hope of finding her.

Tara monologues: And just like that I was hired.  The next plane to Idaho left at midnight. 

By midmorning I was going through crates of STUFF.  Honestly, what good was all of this trash?  I was in for a long day.  It was in the girl’s box of old dolls that I found my first clue.  All the dolls seemed familiar—but especially the cabbage patch doll, and a little number with blue flower-print skin named Trixie. Good name.  I’d had a best friend with the same name once.  Despite the mess, I was beginning to feel quite at home here. 

I kept searching.  Photos of a cute kid with a mass of wavy hair and bad teeth, Barbie dolls with accessories still included, a slap-stick bracelet, a 2 inch model of a six-shooter, and 3 ½ inch disks badly organized and dubiously printed with the occasional: “My disk.”  It all seemed so familiar. 

Boy, the cogs were turning now, folks.  I was really detecting.  An idea popped into my head: Was this mine???  It had to be.  I distinctly remembered playing with these toys.  And that girl in the photos—well, big hair and all—that had to be me.  It was hard to believe because I felt so removed from it now.  I was hardly the same person.  Nothing for it, I’d have to go through the rest of the boxes tonight or I’s get no respite. I HAD to prove that all this stuff was the detritus of my previous life.  

The next several boxes were labeled “College Ceramics.” Piece by piece, I set them out in a row on the floor.  Here’s a curious thing, I hardly remembered half of them.  Maybe this wasn’t me at all.  There was a Raku piece that I swear I’d never touched before—it just couldn’t be me.  But when I turned it over, there was my name scored into the underside with the date, ’01.  Well, that would place me at Junior College.  Yeah, I still remember doing Raku at good old Ricks.  And there—I remembered that graceful vase—a bit of mastery if I do say so myself.  And my teacher at BYU, Von, grunting and saying that at least if I had to do a boring vase it was better than most of the designs the kids came up with.  I remembered that compliments were hard to come by when you did pottery instead of sculptural ceramics. 

Well, I had to admit it, it was all mine—even if I still had no memory of it.  You’d think after crafting it with my own hands, going through the shaping, bisque firing, and then glazing process, that some of this would stick a little better.

The Lady comes down to check on the detective, offering a plate of fried chicken. “Did you find her?  Yes?  Good, now you can help me get rid of all this stuff!”

It’s a queer thing trying to decide which piece of pottery to keep and which to throw out.  I must confess that some were pathetically easy because they were both ugly and apparently unmemorable.

Fiction?  Not entirely.  I really did got through my old junk down in my Mom’s basement while on vacation last month.  Many of the details, and all of the emotions are real.  I have often compared my mind to a double-locked filing cabinet with a bad organizational system.  However, I do not own an office in the city, nor do I owe rent to a grumpy landlord.  But my mother did feed me some excellent fried chicken.