Multiple Muse Disorder: 1970

Chapter Four: Out on a Limb

• 23 July - Wednesday morning - Smalton

I woke early the next morning, to the smell of coffee and baking. Risa and Resu were still asleep, or pretending to be, so I dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen.

"Good morning, Aunt Sarah! Anything I can do to help?"

"Oh, Lisa! You're up early. I just put the coffee cake in the oven. Would you like some coffee? I want to sit a spell before I wash up."

"That would be great. I was pretty exhausted yesterday, so I slept soundly. I'm usually up early, maybe from habit, to have some creative time in the morning before I have to interact with other people." We sat at the kitchen table. I waited for Aunt Sarah to speak.

"Are your friends still asleep?"

"Probably. They wouldn't want to come down, anyway. They're rather terrified now that they realize the mess we're in. Me, I'm on an adventure unlooked for, but they are afraid they may be trapped in a world that is very strange to them.

"If all else fails, I could hop a bus to San Francisco, put flowers in my hair, say I lost my memory on a bad trip, man, and somehow stumble along. Which I think they're worried I might do. They are totally clueless about this world, and I shudder to think what would happen to them without me.

"Not that I would abandon them. Aside from my feelings for them, they are the only people who know I'm not crazy, and who know anything about the time I'm from. I have to figure out what the three of us can safely do to survive here and now."

"Well, to begin with, you haven't finished high school, Lisa."

"Sarah, I mean Aunt Sarah. I finished high school with a D+ average. I finished college with a B+ average. I completed a masters degree in computer science in December of 1976, with a year and a half of study. I need to finish high school in Tulsa like I need a hole in my head. Come on, I know how you and Uncle Patrick feel about traditional schools. And you know I dropped out of high school twice, right?"

"Yes, but not all the reasons."

I sat a moment before responding, remembering what it has been like. "I was always a strange kid. I don't remember clearly now what all the problems were, but I didn't do well with other people. I was reading in kindergarten. When asked to draw a clock face to show what time it was, I turned the paper over and also drew the gears that made the clock work. The attention I received for doing that kind of thing made me real popular, you betcha.

"In first grade I was forced to use my right hand, which I'm certain really messed me up. I never learned to write cursive. I can only dimly remember small parts of second grade, but something happened to cause my parents to move me to a private school. There was a lot of psychological testing involved.

"Toward the end of grade school, I felt out of step with everyone. It's like suddenly all the other kids were playing by new rules that I didn't know about, with nuances and subtext that meant nothing to me. Kids in my neighborhood let me know that I didn't fit in by making fun of me."

Middle school, by Lisa Lees.  

"Then my parents forced me to change schools for middle school, which made things surreal. I went from having 30 people in my single-class sixth grade, whom I'd known for years, and who at least tolerated me, to being one among a thousand strangers in seventh grade. I spent the next three years trying to be invisible. Mostly I succeeded.

"But in high school for some reason people began picking on me, teasing me, calling me names, saying I was queer. I was beat up once when I tried to make it stop.

The bullying was relentless and the teachers were no help. One day I couldn't stand it any longer and simply stayed home and refused to go to school.

"My parents put me back in the private school, and I managed to finish out the tenth grade with the people who had been my classmates four years ago. The curriculum was totally different, of course, and I continued to do poorly academically. I know now that I have learning problems. I never could spell or do rote memorization. But back then the teachers just said I had an attitude problem and it was my fault I didn't study hard enough.

"When my junior year began, I realized that being surrounded by people who had known me since third grade was another kind of hell, and I just shut down and refused to go. When I continued my refusal, I was forced into counseling.

"I had resolved one day to open up to the psychiatrist about what was really bothering me when he began the session by essentially saying that he was convinced that I was just another mixed up smart kid with no serious issues, and shunted me off to a dork of a psychologist who I did not trust. I've often wondered what my life would have been like if the psychiatrist had just listened to me for one more session.

"After the year out of school, following my successful participation in a summer museum program in North American Archaeology and Ethnology, I returned to the private school to make another go of eleventh grade. Because of the year out of school, I was now in a different class, while the people I knew best were seniors. But at least my fellow students weren't teasing and bullying me.

"However, all the phys ed instructors decided it was their job to make my life miserable. This wasn't new; I had always been bullied by gym teachers. But in the private school it was worse; there's nowhere to hide in a small school. So when I realized that the public school system did not require phys ed for seniors, I threatened to transfer if I had to take it again, and they called my bluff. Which is where I'm at in this timeline.

"My future in Tulsa looks like a gaping pit of doom. There is no way in hell I'm going back to a public high school and go through what I know my senior year would be like."

High school, by Lisa Lees.

Twelfth grade creative writing
class in 1970, by Lisa Lees.

"Last summer you talked some about college," said Aunt Sarah. "Your mother just told me you're a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, and I know your Aunt Francis has some college money saved up for you. There are ways to skip finishing high school, since you're already eighteen."

"Yes, that's true. But I don't see how I could go to college. I know too much about the subjects that I majored in, though come to think on it, I would no longer want to major in philosophy or minor in psychology or physics, and I'd certainly have to stay away from computer science courses. I've always loved languages and literature, though, so I could go that route.

"But what would Anna and Maggie do? How could I explain having them with me? They have no identity, no history here, no skills; no common sense, in the literal meaning of the phrase."

"I don't think those are insoluble problems, Lisa. There are plenty of community and urban colleges where students live off-campus. Patrick and I have quite a few contacts in academia, especially in the less traditional institutions."

"That's a thought. I remember looking into some places like that, but my parents wouldn't let me go to any place unusual. I don't believe I had direct access to the money that Aunt Francis set aside for me."

"Perhaps Patrick and I can help with that?"

"That would be great, Sarah! I don't have anything now. All my retirement funds are lost in the future. Well, I'd best go and check on Risa and Resu. We'll be down for breakfast in a little while."

Sarah watched Lisa walk out into the hallway, toward the stairs. When I talk with her, it's like I'm talking with another adult, not a teenager. She's Lisa, yes, but not the Lisa I argued and talked with last summer.

— ∴ —

Note: a major revision to the story is in progress, and has reached this point, which is where I am currently working.

Breakfast was an awkward attempt at conversation in which everyone did their best to avoid talking about my weird backstory. Anna and Maggie were silent. I had glanced at the newspaper earlier and asked a few questions about current events, but it quickly became evident that this was only underlining how out-of-touch I was, so I also fell silent.

Nan and I helped Sarah clear away and wash the dishes. Anna and Maggie retreated to the bedroom. Sean was talking with his father about something, but came into the kitchen to help put away dried plates and silverware.

"What would you like to do today, Lisa?" he asked.

I looked at him, but didn't know what to say.

"You kids find something to do," said Sarah. "I have errands to run and your father has a meeting at school that will last all morning."

"Tell you what," said Sean, "it's a nice day, so let's do something outside. Get your friends and come down to the den in about fifteen minutes and we'll decide what to do."

Once we were all seated in the den, I said, "Do you have any questions? I feel like this is so awkward."

Nan and Anna, by Lisa Lees.

"I still find it hard to believe what you're saying," said Sean. "You look the same, you have the same voice, but what you say is not what I expect."

"And I," said Nan, "am willing to believe that you're all crazy."

"Does anything non-contentious ever come out of your mouth?" growled Anna.

"Neither of you is being helpful," I said.

"Okay," said Nan. "Just who are these two? You've dropped all kinds of mysterious hints. How about you just tell us?"

I nodded at Maggie.

"My mother leads an elite corps of warriors. I was trained from birth to follow in her footsteps."

"Oh, really?" laughed Sean. "Do you wrestle? I'm the regional champion. Think you can pin me?"

Anna covered her face with her hands. "Bad idea, dude."

"How about we arm wrestle?" smiled Maggie.

"Okay, to start with," said Sean, moving to the large oak coffee table.

Maggie took her place. I sighed and counted down. "Three, two, one." Wham! Maggie instantly slammed Sean's arm against the table.

"Ouch! Dammit!"

"Sorry," said Maggie, as she returned to the sofa to sit beside Anna. "I didn't think it would be so easy, from the way you were talking."

"Okay, you can arm wrestle," snarled Sean, rubbing his arm as he returned to his seat.

"And fight hand-to-hand, use knives, swords, spears and bows, on foot or mounted. Not, I gather, very useful skills here and now. But I will protect Anna with my life."

Anna glanced at Maggie, then at me. "Should I show them?"

"Can you?" I asked.

"Of course; it's what I am." She assumed her aspect and materialized the Hammer. Then Maggie took her place beside Anna and showed off her wings. (They forgot to incorporate their wardrobe changes.)

Anna with Hammer, by Lisa Lees. Maggie with wings,by Lisa Lees.

"I'm the Guardian, and Resu, Maggie, is my bodyguard," said Anna, returning to normal and resuming her place on the sofa with Maggie.

"Guardian of what?" stammered Sean.

"The Hammer."

"Cutting this short," I said, "it's the Hammer to break the Seals of Time and end or restart the Universe."

"I have seen the destroyer of worlds..." began Nan.

"Not worlds; the universe," said Anna. "Everything."

"Holy jumping jack flash," said Sean. "Either someone dropped LSD in the coffee pot, or, or holy crap."

"How did you do that?" asked Nan.

"It's just appearance," said Anna. "Like I can change my hair color." She demonstrated.

"You just think about it and it happens?"

"Basically. You don't have the words or concepts for me to explain it further."

"So it's magic."

"Any sufficiently advanced..." began Sean.

"Could you teach me how to change my hair color?" whispered Nan.

"Maybe," replied Anna.

"Absolutely not!" yelled Maggie.

"Nan! What are you thinking?" said Sean.

"Changing hair color would be cool," said Nan. "It could be a different color of the rainbow every day!"

"Both of you are freaks!" said Sean.

"Stop. Right. Now!" I said, using my crewhead voice. All eyes turned to me.

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