“Capturing Captain America”: Who’s Who

Tara Bender: A San Francisco vet who teaches at UC, Davis and is a pet blogger for various media outlets. In her spare time Tara supports various animal welfare causes and is a commissioned Vet for the SFPD. She is especially protective towards German Shepherds and hosts an Annual fundraiser for various breed rescues in California. Tara runs a successful vet clinic in Pacific Heights and has a tenacious, never say die attitude. She also has a strong creative streak and practices Kundalini Yoga to break down her ego. Tara attends a Religious Science Church in the city and runs a book club with her sister-in-law Natasha based on “May Cause Miracles” by author Gabrielle Bernstein. As she goes through the six weeks of lessons in the book, Tara begins to realize that her fears are causing her to experience the world in a negative way and influence behaviors that make for bad relationships. Her life begins to look brighter when she meets Cameron Paisley, an exiting British Polo player and Philanthropist. Not only does her relationship with Cameron cause Tara to reconsider her plans to have a baby through a sperm donor, it inspires her to retrain her brother’s retired police dog, K-9 Ruby, into a certified therapy pet.

Ronan Kiernan: On the surface he looks like Colin Farrell’s secret twin brother but his personality is all his own. A determined worker bee, intelligent, clever, and stick-to-it kind of guy, who is genuinely shocked to discover that Tara has decided to become a single mother through a sperm donor. Ronan is also stunned to learn that Tara has become involved with Cameron Paisley, a man who is the subject of his recent Federal case.  As his investigation into Cameron’s activities grows deeper, Ronan is dumbfounded by the strong and sudden feelings of protectiveness he feels towards Tara, so he decides to convince her of Cameron’s true guilt. In order to do so Ronan enlists his best friend Anthony to help him. When Anthony’s fiance Caprice assigns Ronan the task of duty dating to practice getting comfortable with relationships again, he learns how much he is hurting himself and making things worse for his love life by staying stuck on the past and his failed marriage. The only problem is that Ronan takes a detour with a Tantra teacher named Nicolette who is typical of the women he has known before and after his marriage rather than taking a leap of faith with the utterly compatible Tara.

Anthony Harmon: Ronan’s best friend since College and his former partner when they were both officers who specialized as Man Trackers. Anthony has since been promoted to a Section Chief and is the more sensible and matter-of-fact person between the two. He is glad to be working with Ronan again to build a case against Cameron. Anthony also agrees to Ronan’s request to anonymously help Tara find her biological father by sending reports to her vet clinic. He thinks Ronan is more afraid than unsure when it comes to how he feels towards Tara. Instead of just telling Ronan to confront Tara directly, Anthony decides to let his best friend figure it out on his own, but agrees to keep an eye on Tara. Anthony is engaged to Caprice, an Occupational Therapist who is attends Natasha’s Pilates studio.

Natasha Erikssen: Married to Tara’s older half-brother Jacob, Natasha is full of natural self confidence, discipline, and knows her worth and what she offers the world. A popular Pilates teacher, Natasha is also a Special Contributing Editor for a major San Francisco daily newspaper and a dance therapist with a growing following. Her husband is her biggest fan and their relationship is the kind that Tara aspires to have herself. Jacob’s encouragement and guidance adds fuel to Natasha’s ambition to become a leading expert in the field of mind-body health like Jillian Michaels. To avoid burnout, Natasha starts to realize that her struggle with energy is not physical but more spiritual, she needs to dance professionally again. With support from the likes of Tara, Caprice and Samantha, Natasha she miraculously becomes a professional dancer again.

Cameron Paisley: A Michael Fassbender doppelganger who shares with Tara a love of animals, particularly horses. Cameron is confident in his looks and talents and knows how to be charming without seeming insincere. His family are very close and live nearby in Marin County. Born in Florida and raised in England, Cameron is a professional Polo player, whose aristocratic family lost their fortune in the early 20th century when his grandfather’s father squandered it on his mistress. Cameron’s mission in life is to restore the family name and fortune. Unfortunately, Cameron’s greed is just like his great grandfather’s and he resorts to less than respectable business practices to keep up with appearances.

Samantha Heather: A clinical psychologist and the granddaughter of Perry, the famous San Francisco psychic who predicted to Tara on her 16th birthday that her true love would be “an American James Bond” whom Samantha nicknamed “Captain America”. Samantha is also a BodyTalk practitioner who works with women struggling with an eating disorder. Samantha is the only one who is adamant that Captain America does exist and that Tara is a fool to convince herself he was never real by becoming involved with Cameron. Samantha is also the only one other than Ronan and Anthony who isn’t fooled by Cameron’s charm. Samantha begins to realize that she is not here to save others and must balance being a healer with her unique writer’s voice. During her BodyTalk sessions with Tara, Samantha decides to finish her passion project: A folk album and a musical tour with her sister and fiance Scott for the summer.

Opal Brandt: Tara’s Tantra teacher from a rare lineage of Tibetan Tantrikas and Samantha’s old roommate when she lived in Hawaii for a summer. Opal returns to her native San Francisco just in time for her divine assignment to guide Tara back to her feminine side. Opal emphasizes a balance of yin and yang while stressing to her students the value of being their best inner lover to attract the same in another. Far from manipulation, Opal’s style of Tantra is first and foremost about healing and reaching union within the self. Between yoga intensive, Buddhist bowl chanting, and good old fashion pole dancing, Opal helps Tara heal from her old wounds of being the Ugly Duckling, perpetually “Friend Zoned”, and alleviates her once and for all from a lifelong “Elektra Complex“. On the lighter side, Opal gets Tara to let her guard down more often and dance again in time for Natasha’s second debut as a professional dancer.

Caprice Desmond: Anthony’s fiancee who ends up being Ronan’s unofficial dating coach and first leads him to Tara. She finds Ronan’s request of Anthony to keep track of Tara to be beyond strange but her romantic side thinks its oddly … romantic. Caprice encourages Natasha to dance again and becomes instrumental in helping her body recover to handle the physical demands of professional dancing again through her unique brand of Pilates and BodyTalk. Caprice is also Samantha’s BodyTalk mentor who is instrumental in being her lyrical mid-wife as she writes original songs for her debut album.

Nicolette Lane: Ronan’s live-in girlfriend who works as a Buyer for Barneys and an avid Tantra teacher after taking a series of weekend intensive from a former Hippie who backpacked across India. Unlike Opal, Nicolette’s lineage is a hodge podge of post-1960’s flower children inspired yoga aimed at manipulating the masculine. Her master seduction techniques keeps Ronan hooked until he learns about Tara’s baby plans, and starts noticing how empty the relationship with Nicolette makes him feel. Unaware that Ronan is having Tara tracked by his best friend for personal reasons he disguises as professional, Nicolette starts to feel neglected by his long hours at work. Eventually she begins a secret affair with a stockbroker at her gym.

 

 

©2013 Jackie Morrison, excerpt from “Capturing Captain America

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Keeping Score: $10K for a Perfect 10 (excerpt)

KeepingScore

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

She wore her hair up in a chignon while large hoop earrings contrasted against her sculpted oval face. In the right shade of natural sunlight her green-hazel eyes could seem violet in hue. The honey highlights in her hair, coral summer dress with its matching sandals created an image for a day on a yacht. Los Angeles was hot and less congested this early morning. Kaja wasn’t sure why she woke up so soon after falling asleep at 4:00am. Bleue Spinnakers had stayed open till 3:00am for a private function which made for a very good tip night. Today there was no school or homework to do. Freshman year  finals were over. Her internship at Ronan’s father’s company didn’t start for another two weeks. Why did she feel the need to show up today for this?

Ronan was done with the school year too and his summer began today. He was fulfilling his ROTC obligation and heading down to San Diego. This morning he was boarding a military bus with other ROTC recruits. Most were there with their families and girlfriends or wives. All were in their early twenties. Kaja wasn’t there to say anything but to watch as Ronan left.

It was Jayma, not Kaja, who saw Ronan off. Ronan wearing his gear and a newly updated buzz cut. Jayma hugged Ronan a long time. Naturally. He wasn’t deploying but four months of no physical contact had her gripping for every second. Jayma herself had a busy summer too. She would fly out to New York to try her luck modeling in various print and runway campaigns. The whole thing was cliché to Kaja. Just another Southern California beauty queen on Ronan’s arm whose letters and pictures he can show off in the barracks.

Kaja watched from a distance at the Coconut Grove Wine Bar across the street from the bus station. Usually Kaja only went to another bar to scope out the competition for Justin and Randall. This morning she was drinking a virgin cocktail as she secretly saw Captain America leave. Ronan couldn’t see her as she sat on the upper balcony wearing a large summer beach hat. Kaja had also dyed her nearly black hair a dark copper red. Justin and Randall had been urging her to try a new look thinking it would soften her. If she looked more approachable the owners felt Kaja would attract more patrons, make more tips, and ultimately increase the summer traffic with tourists and traveling businessmen.

Ronan and Jayma gave themselves a final kiss before his parents said goodbye. He boarded the bus and stuck his head out from a window.

“Call me when you arrive in New York. I need to know you’re there OK.”

“I’ll call you as soon as the plane lands at La Guardia.”

In 24 hours Ronan and Jayma will be three time zones apart, almost 3000 miles in separation, and one in the cosmopolitan world of Manhattan with another on a military base. Kaja pondered how Jayma could handle the separation without temptation. Jayme wasn’t a woman intimate with aloneness. Jayma with her clear skin smile would be one of those who would marry young and then retire. She would go from $10,000 a day for being a perfect 10 to being the spouse of either a trust fund victim or Investment Banker. Captain America may not be enough for Jayma if a titan of Wall Street came courting this summer. One more Dear John letter or email by August Kaja thought. I wonder what it would feel like for me if he wanted to know if I were ok, another thought passed Kaja’s mind.

Keeping Score: School Daze

KeepingScore

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Rosemary walked out of Kaja’s office toward the gym on the east wing of Padua High school. Rosemary was going to meet Erik. He would be at his locker as usual with an entire afternoon of free period to spare. Rosemary had independent study on the same afternoon so she could work with Erik and get credit for English for working on school newspaper stories.

Kaja didn’t know it but Erik and Rosemary had been dating since Thanksgiving. Mr. McGinty, the head of the English department, asked Rosemary to help Erik do a profile of the cheerleading team for not only the school paper but American Cheerleader magazine. Erik had been elected editor but was uncomfortable writing about dance routine and beauty tips for teenage girls.

Unlike Kaja, Erik supported Rosemary’s efforts to audition at the American Conservatory and pursue her acting ambitions. Erik himself wanted to make documentaries or produce the television news.

Rosemary found Erik at his locker sending text messages on his iPhone. He was in a deep text conversation on his latest story about the CalTrain station closures in San Francisco when Rosemary put her around around his shoulder.

“We need to get to the Conservatory on Geary.

”Erik looked up and left to see Rosemary smiling with mischief.

“Your audition isn’t till tommorrow.”

“I know but the selection committee is holding drop in try outs for the impatient applicants. Open auditions start at 2:00pm. We need to go now.”

“What exactly are you auditioning for?”

“The President’s full ride scholarship so I can study at the Conservatory for free. If I get this role of role of Ophelia for the stage version of Reviving Ophelia then the scholarship is mine!”

“Kaja is OK with that?”

“No. She told me to go to the libray but I’m going to text her that we’re going to work on an indpendant study project till 4:00pm. As long as I’m back for squad practice Kaja won’t question it.”

“What squad?”

“I made the cheerleading team yesterday. It’s my cover for all these acting auditions.”

“You have decided to follow in the footsteps of Gloria Steinem and go undercover on the cheerleading team? What would the staff at Ms. Magazine say?”

“They would say don’t wear those bunny outfits with the five inch heels.”

Kaja grabbed Erik’s hand and pulled him up from the floor. She wanted to go.

“What are you going to tell your mom when the Conservatory accepts you?”

“I’m going to have Ivan share the news with her.”

“You’re going to get your dad to do it? Are you kidding me?”

“Sure. He and I already talked. Ivan is going to sign the parental permission forms before he tells her.”

Erik had stopped being shocked by Rosemary’s behavior of playing her parents and guardians like chess pieces. It was the kind of mentality that made her a good reporter. Erik was still mildly surprised why Rosemary always referred to her parents by their first names or why neither Kaja nor her mother revealed to the students their actual relationship. I don’t understand the last half of this sentence.

An hour later Rosemary and Erik waited for the bus that would take them directly to downtown to the Conservatory. It would be another 10 minute wait so Erik waited while reading the latest news on his laptop. He knew that if they got questioned by Kaja about their whereabouts he’s need to prove they had done actual schoolwork.

Erik decided he would write a feature story during Rosemary’s audition about private for-profit post-secondary institutions being “mystery shopped” by the Department of Education as part of an undercover investigation on questionable admissions practices at for profit schools all over the country.

Rosemary looked impatient at the bus stop. She wanted to ace the audition and start networking for an agent. She and Erik were going to L.A. after graduation. Kaja couldn’t stop when the time came because the magic number 18 would mark her birthday by then.

Keeping Score: Scorecard

KeepingScore

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Tutoring and test prep companies prey on the scholastic achievement anxiety of students. Kaja had long believed that the Europeans had it right to keep the ivory tower free from the grasp of profiteers. Education is a privilege. It’s not for sale. You can’t buy intelligent or talent or genius. You can buy lessons. This was something Kaja felt Ronan never learned. Ronan after all had a grand plan to take advantage of the Department of Education and taxpayer dollars.

Kaja often regarded Ronan as a textbook example of what happened when you pay for privilege. Education is not a right. Ayn Rand was onto something. Some people really are just plain stupid. While Ronan’s education was earned it was his target market who were trying to buy a privilege that could only truly be earned. Kaja thought that college was not for everyone. Apprenticeships in trades were underrated. Kaja actually pushed some students to go to beauty school and take the CHSPE in order to leave high school.

SAT scores came with a price. The cost to learn how to take a test and the strategy to apply it to make the grade came down to a priceless variable: IQ.

Keeping Score: The only time 1 + 1 = 1

KeepingScore

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Peddling fertility. Zhara had become turned off by the prospect of children. When Rosemary was born the demands of an infant rendered Zhara and her family exhausted. The selfishness of Kaja in leaving for Japan further exaggerated Zhara’s alienation from motherhood. By the time she was finished high school, Zhara had decided to be one of those women who consciously chose to be eternally child free and loving it. Children took up time, resources, energy, reduced opportunity, decreased earning power in early adulthood, and were ungrateful later in life. Zhara knew she had great genes and took to peddling her DNA to pay for University. Rather than have children of her own, she opted to allow others to raise her genetic offspring. Her MCAT scores and athletic talents combined with an above average appearance made her a prime candidate to infertile couples seeking to make a designer baby.

The egg donation agency had a conservative policy after the 4th cycle for any donor. Once Zhara could no longer donate an egg she formed another venture to pay for school. By her senior year she had been asked to become a recruiter of other genetically in demand women. Zhara had been open about her experiences with classmates and friends. It was natural selection meets the free market. Zhara never felt an emotional or even spiritual connection with the 8 genetic children her DNA helped produce. Each cycle paid her $10,000 and that was lucrative seed money to invest in her own future. The agency said that donors with Northern European features were often paid the highest. Her offspring were born and raised in as many different states from one another. Zhara declined to receive picture updates or letters from the birth parents. The deal was done.

Recruiting donors was easy. College girls were willing to trade their genes for cash. The idea was especially lucrative for ambitious female scholars who wanted to live on in their genetic descendants without the hassles. Later in life they could say they weren’t childless without the financial or professional consequences of raising kids.

People also had no trouble believing someone who had gone through the procedure themselves. Zhara was naturally convincing. She had a keen awareness that the Bay Area was a ripe farming ground for egg donors. Mixed couples or those of racially diverse backgrounds sought hard to find donors. Asian and Middle Eastern DNA was rare but highly sought after by foreign couples. The only problem was when the kids got older and sought out their egg donor. Zhara resented the children’s demand to use the word mother to describe their genetic female parent. A mother is a function not just an X chromosome.

The earliest “mother-child reunion” came by meetup. An 18 year old college freshman sought out her genetic mother. The woman was now in her 30’s and a management consultant at a big 5 strategy firm. The teenager was the product of a recruiting event at Stanford University. In exchange for an MBA the egg donor helped an Atherton couple have a pair of twins. The older twin initiated the reunion. It wasn’t pleasant and resulted in a year of intensive therapy for both girls and the woman whose DNA contributed to their existence.

Keeping Score: Counting to 10

KeepingScore

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

The pain almost made her cry as Kaja felt the lactic acid build to a crescendo in her legs. She was hooked on The Bar Method classes at their headquarters. Too bad it was located in the Marina District. The entire neighborhood was like Orange County North and filled with spoiled brats like Ronan.

“Hold and count 1, 2, 3…”

Since turning 30 Kaja was aware how her body could betray her again. At 16 she saw to her horror how swollen her midsection got. Her natural tendency towards curves expanded her teenage self into a blimp.

Now, each day seemed like an extra millimeter expanded into her waistline. Her daughter had inherited an ectomorph body. One more reason to resent Rosemary. Rosemary’s naturally thin dancer like body was not the result of hours spent exercising in a studio.

“Push ups for 20!”

Kaja sometimes thought she would cry from holding ballet positions in between push ups. Sometimes she did break out in tears but the pain was meditative. Her endorphins came to the rescue making the workout addictive. It was worth it. For Kaja, to catch a perfect 10 one had to be an 11.

Keeping Score: Two’s Company

KeepingScore

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

“Who are that girl’s parents? Don’t tell me you’re on a leash with respect to your student interactions. Principal fearing a lawsuit?”

“No Ronan. I am not under censure. Her parents don’t intrude too much in her high school career.”

“Then why did you let her walk all over you Kaja? That was a first. She’s not some rebellious black sheep from a connected family who could affect your job security? Is she?”

Ronan sounded genuine in his concern. Now that was a first.

“Rosemary is a ticking time bomb. If I rattle her she will simply cause a disturbance. I’m an educator and not a social worker or school shrink. Not without a significant pay raise.”

“The first thing to go is control of the student”

“For what?”

“The commitment to the profession. When you no longer care.”

“I still care Ronan. Don’t assume you know me or my inner motivations.” Kaja snapped back just like he expected her to. Ronan noticed this was a more personal frustration talking back to  him instead of her standard combative automatic response.

“How I handle a student is not a benchmark or whatever rubric you are using to assess my professionalism. Just hand me the working manual you drafted and I’ll look at it. My conference call with Morrison and the board is tomorrow. They want to go over revisions. You and I both have to be on the same page with the material. I expect we will be Ronan.”

Ronan noticed that Kaja was more sad than angry underneath her stern expression.  A foreboding feeling came over him. He had crossed a boundary that he couldn’t pinpoint.

“It’s 1:30pm and you should leave now to get to North Beach for your 2:00pm.” She remembered.

“We’re not done yet Kaja. I need to talk to you again at 4:00pm.”

“Fine. Call me on my cell,” she responded as she took the dossier from his hand before walking out the door just seconds before the period bell.