Tess and Yeats: Chapter One: The Plot
I think I’ll publish something.
That, thought Tess after thinking the above sentence, has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever thought.
She smiled after that last thought left her mind as she sat down at the kitchen table in her tiny apartment, her typewriter in front of her apple red IBM Selectric II and a pen and a stack of paper next to her. She sighed as she pressed in a key.
A…and then a space.
A what? She hesitated. She didn’t know what she was doing, or how to go about what she was trying to do. A black cat with orange stripes named Yeats jumped onto the table surface and rubbed his chin against Tess’s pinky finger. He yowled and dashed across the table and over the keyboard and plopped himself onto the black and white checkered tile floor. He then looked at Tess and then sat himself down next to the radiator.
Tess shook her head at him and looked back at the paper stuck in the typewriter.
She sighed and took the paper in her hands, crumpled it up and tossed it at Yeats. “There you go,” she spoke at him. “Hope you’re happy.”
After replacing the ruined paper with Yeats’ signature printed on it, Tess took a deep breath and gazed at the yellow wall across from her. She then muttered, mostly without thinking, “What am I to write, Yeats? I’ve never done this before.”
The cat stretched and yawned and then yowled once more before chewing on the piece of paper Tess had tossed at him. Tess sighed and then got up from the chair, walked to the fridge only three steps away and opened the door.
The yellow light in the fridge flickered twice as she grabbed for a bottle of pale ale. She closed the fridge, went to a drawer, pulled it open and grasped at the bottle opener. She popped the metal cap off the bottle, startling Yeats and tossed back a couple of gulps.
“Ah,” she said with a great amount of refreshing pleasure, “Is just what I need.”
She stepped back to the table to resume her writing (if that’s what you call sitting at a table and typing in one letter and allowing your cat to write the rest). She took steps across the face of the radiator and stepped on something oddly furry. She picked up her foot when the furry thing growled and hissed and took a swing at her foot.
“Sorry!” Tess exclaimed at an angry Yeats. “You don’t have to be so nasty about it.”
The cat appeared to huff in reply and shake his head and lie back down in front of the radiator. Tess gave him a look of remorse as she sat down. Bottle of ale in her left hand, she put her right hand’s set of fingers on the keys of the typewriter. She blinked at the keys and decided to type in, “it”, except she had forgotten to press the “shift” bar, and so she huffed at herself and ripped out the piece of paper with such force, she almost surprised herself. Almost.
As she crumpled up the piece of paper, she groaned. “Yeats! We’ll never be writers.”
Yeats yawned and looked at her as if to say, “No, you’ll never be the writer. Did you see what I wrote earlier? Probably the best thing a cat’s ever wrote and there it is, sitting on the floor in a crumpled lump!”
Tess shrugged at the cat ad took another swig of ale. She set the bottle down right next to the left corner of the typewriter and then looked at the keys once more, wondering if first she should come up a plot. She looked back at Yeats. “Isn’t that what authors do? Don’t, don’t you think I should think of a plot first?”
The cat didn’t have a reply. He just stretched on his side, showed off his orange and black striped belly and then rolled around for a moment and soon fell asleep. Tess was puzzled. “No, maybe brainstorming a plot isn’t all that important. Maybe…maybe it’s a poem I could write?”
She started typing without thinking onto the typewriter. The clicks and the clacks of the keys resonated within her ears in a kind of satisfying way. She was finally writing! She was writing something!
After she was finished typing, she looked at her piece of art, read it and then frowned. The ‘E’ button had refused to work and the ‘L’ button appeared in places it should not have appeared. And, not to her surprise, the poem was so bad a first grader would have called it a “poetic disgrace so bad not even a cat would read it.”
She took the piece of paper, rolled it up in a ball and chucked it towards a sleeping Yeats.
Tess had begun to think she wasn’t cut out to be a writer. Maybe she could find that she was better at other things, like painting, or playing piano or something like that. She could even take up dancing. She then remembered kindergarten art class. Poor Tess’s painting of a butterfly was so terrible that even Mrs. McLag, the kindergarten teacher who believed that everyone should have a fair chance, that everyone who put effort and time into things deserved to be recognized, didn’t staple it to the wall with the rest of the children’s. And she recalled piano lessons when she was seven, and how she couldn’t remember which key was C and which one was G. And dancing was out of the question. She might meet a guy there.
A frown formed on Tess’s face. Maybe meeting a guy wasn’t such a bad idea. Of course, bringing him home might be out of the question after she had gotten to know him. Yeats would eat him alive when he got a chance, claw his way up to his neck, bite into his carotid artery and suck the life out of him.
Tess laughed. “You’d do that, Yeats, wouldn’t you?”
A pathetic mewl came through Yeats’s mouth as he rolled around into a more comfortable position.
“Yeah,” Tess said. “No dancing for me.”
Another swig. She was beginning to feel the effects of the beer. She put her head down on the kitchen table surface and looked at the yellow wall in front of her feeling as if she were a failure. She took a deep breath and then…
“Yeats?” she said, lifting her head from the table. “You think maybe that wall is looking a bit empty?”
No reply. Tess didn’t care. She was already set in her idea. She stood and walked out of the kitchen. Yeats perked his ears, but didn’t follow as Tess walked to the bedroom closet. She rummaged through the box covered floor and then, moments later, found what she was looking for. “Aha! Here it is!”
She went back to the kitchen table carrying a dark brown, worn bag. She thumped it onto the tabletop and looked at it.
“You know what this is, Yeats? I forgot I even had this.”
Yeats jumped onto the table wanting to get a glimpse of the new thing Tess had brought him, wanting to rub his face all over it to make it smell like him. Tess rubbed his head while she unzipped the bag and pulled out a huge hand-held camera. Yeats chirped as Tess inspected the lenses.
She used to take pictures, back when she was a teenager in high school, for the school newspaper. She suddenly remembered all those days she spent exploring the school grounds for things to take pictures of, of attending all those games, snapping pictures of athletes like Georgie Ferguson, Tim Sperry…she wondered if they still were playing sports now that they were all out of high school and college, working on graduate programs. She laughed. Graduate school. She wished.
Those were the days, those crazy hectic high school days. She smiled as she ran her fingers over the camera. A Canon AE-1 Program. She got it at a garage sale for ten dollars. The owner thought it was broken. One of the lenses had cracked. Tess remembered taking it to a repair man who fixed it for free, a friend of her father’s. She wondered if there was film in the bag.
She rummaged through the bag for a canister of film as Yeats slunk out the kitchen and went into the bathroom to drink out of the tub or something, as Tess assumed. Her fingers found a smooth cylindrical canister. She pulled it out of the bag, popped the lid open and found a roll of unused film. She grinned as she opened the camera and placed the film in it. She had just finished fiddling with the camera to make sure it still worked as Yeats appeared in the doorway. She spun around in her chair, camera against her face and said, “Smile, Yeats!”
The cat, who returned with a blue bath towel in his mouth jumped when the flash went off. He ran for cover under the bath towel and slid across the tile and into a cupboard. Tess laughed at him and took another picture.
“Silly, Yeats! It’s just a camera,” she said as she snapped another picture of him. She then looked back at the wall. “I think, Yeats, we’ll cover that wall with photos.”
Yeats, tail out from under the towel sneezed. Tess gave him a quick “bless you” and started searching the apartment for things to snap pictures of. Yeats followed her from a distance, watching the flash go on and off and sometimes not going off when she snapped photos. She used up a whole roll of film in about an hour and placed it back into the canister. She held it up to Yeats.
“Ok, Yeats. Let’s see how this turns out.”
Weeks later, after getting the film developed, Tess had taken a trip to the park, had taken pictures of the children playing in the fountains and on the swings, taken pictures of the birds and the flowers, of the ducks swimming on the lake. She printed the photos after developing the film and had begun to plaster them all over that yellow wall in the kitchen, and now had begun to fill the entire apartment with them. Pictures of flowers, of clouds, of her typewriter, of Yeats and ducks and the lake looked back at her as she sit at the table, gulping down a pale ale, sitting at her typewriter, thinking she could publish something someday.