By Travis Flatt
"Thema and Louisa is Hollywood trash." My grandmother told Netflix on the first documentary in 2008. He said we couldn't talk about her, my dad. That's why none of us were interviewed–why mom and I are talking now. My grandmother. I remember long, black hair draping off a woman who called me "Brother" when I was six. We saw Masters of the Universe at the theater.
My mother's best friend, Anne, my grandmother's girlfriend and accomplice, told us–and the court–she was frightened of her. I wish we could say they never hurt anyone, but the evidence seems contrary. Anne stayed with the bike, though. Witnesses testified on her account. She rode shotgun in the sidecar, literally.
This all in the early seventies, when women super-heroics were unfashionable. That, and the police couldn't catch them, though they acted in broad daylight. The movie got it wrong. It wasn't their Harley that could jump through time and space, and it wasn't another dimension, but something molecular to do with entropy, a word I've never fully understood.
Between the Susan Sarandon movie and the documentary, there's a lot of bullshit and exaggeration. Anne only served seven years out of a fifteen-year sentence when they were arrested. My grandmother died in prison, eight months before she was supposed to get the chair. They never spoke again, after the arrest. I don't believe in the death penalty. No one in my family does. My father did. The man my grandmother killed held a knife to the bank teller, not a gun. He was drunk, if that matters, and refused to put it down. Like most people at the time, he doubted her powers, despite the news footage, and had his mind blown. Literally.
Crazily enough, Anne became a third-grade teacher in the nineties. This would have been her fifties. She says the job was easier than sidekick, though more exhausting. She's not given to hyperbole. When I was eighteen, I asked Anne to teach me to warp, and she confided that she didn't know how, that that was all my grandmother. She had no powers, only organization and the ability to soothe my grandmother's rage, to keep her focused, to read maps under pressure, and was to thank for their escapes. Well, except the last time, on the chase down 1-11 outside Cookeville, when they popped out of the air, the bike's front tire sunk into the bed of a Ford F-150 pickup. My grandmother misjudged the distance. Thankfully, warping erases any forward momentum, or they'd have been hurled off the bike to their deaths.
When I started saying that, my father thought I was doing it on purpose and smacked me upside the head like that would stop it, but it only made it worse. The pills they give me make me sleepy, and when I become agitated, it still slips out. I wanted to show you all this: I found an action figure of my grandmother on eBay for sixty dollars but needed to steal my mother's credit card to order it. I'm going to pay her back when
I start subbing in the fall. They need teachers bad after the pandemic, badly enough to let someone like me watch the
Kids. I'm good with children. I actually have a bachelor's and a master's, but I've never worked for more than minimum
Warp warp warp
By Travis Flatt
Anne chews Juicy Fruit outside the Chattanooga Citibank. She's trying to quit smoking. This gum tastes like her first kiss in middle school. Kyle Lafever, bless his heart. His lips were so dry he couldn’t work his tongue out of his mouth. If only Lynn didn't smoke like Chernobyl. Anne’s debating whether to sit in the sidecar or stand by the Harley. She checks the shotgun again to make sure it's unloaded, just fidgeting, bored. Inside, Lynn's playing cops and robbers. No one's come out in fifteen minutes–that's probably a good thing? No police–that's a bad thing. Lynn runs out, the alarm screams from within when the door opens. Bright blood drips off Lynn’s black jacket. Very bad thing. "Get in," Lynn says as she runs around the bike and hops on. Stunned, eyes on the bank door, Anne falls into the sidecar, fumbles the shotgun onto the sidewalk. The bike's raging down the street. "What happened?" She tries to shout over the engine.
Drunk or high or both, the guy–he had a butcher knife–wouldn't let the teller go. Lynn warned him twice. He only laughed–Anne's getting this when they're stopped back at the apartment, Lynn in the shower washing blood and brains out of her long black hair. "I had to melt him."
"Melting" is what Lynn calls her telekinetic blasts. Anne says, “I'd hate to see the teller.” They laugh.
March 15, 1989
The Harley rips down Highway 1-11 in Putnam County, outside Cookeville, a town of 8,000. Four police cruisers chase. Lynn's yelling something. Anne thinks maybe, "Shoot the tires." She's definitely not trying that.
Roadblock up ahead, and Anne knows Lynn will try a jump; they've never attempted this anywhere except her Uncle Lane's farm. Her cheeks tingle, her lips numb, and her face feels made of teeth. She can see through the sidecar, watches the pavement grind past underneath. She turns her head to vomit on the police cars gaining behind them, and then–
–It’s the "rainbow," Lynn calls it. Anne thinks it looks more like space, blackness and stars--there's no air, wherever this is. Her ears pop, her breath is sucked away, and they're on the other side of the roadblock. She doesn't need to look back to know a cluster of highway patrol officers stand dumbfounded, watching them roar away.
December 1, 2005
Luck's run out. Too much security camera footage. Anne warned Lynn to wear a mask. Lynn blames Anne for dropping that shotgun back in '87, insists they traced it back to them somehow. The trial goes badly, to say the least. Anne figures they'll get the same sentence, but she’s dead wrong. Well, Lynn’s dead. Lynn’s serving life, no parole, and Anne gets six for evading arrest and even then reduced to misdemeanor. Anne's lawyer convinced the jury she'd been brainwashed.
During sentencing, Lynn’s fury is enough to raise the courtroom several degrees, even through that helmet they buckled over her. Anne can hear her shouting, “Brainwashed?” over and over.
She remembers Lynn washing chunks of real brains out of her witch-black hair in the shower that afternoon, turning the tub floor pink, both of them laughing off adrenaline, stupid kids.
She hopes she never sees Lynn again.
September 19, 2013
Lynn tells Netflix all kinds of crazy shit, clearly desperate for someone to talk to. For example, Hollywood stole their story for Thelma and Louise, Anne planned everything, that she speaks directly to God (Lynn does), and gives the filmmakers personal details about their lives and childhoods.
Anne's living with a new name in Florida as an elementary teacher’s assistant. It's more taxing than being a sidekick, and less fun. With all that personal information out, Anne's certain someone will track her down. She'll lose her job. She sells what little she owns for more plastic surgery.
May 30, 2019
Lynn dies in prison from lung cancer. Anne can't go to the funeral, obviously. Anne doesn't get out of bed for two weeks and almost loses her job.
When she got out of prison, it took four years to kick heroin, which is how she survived jail. There's hepatitis in her veins like a roommate. No significant savings and hardly enough money for food. Having cut all ties, no family. She can’t afford a cat. On her kitchen table she keeps a generic, bosom-y action figure she steals from a Dollar General and sharpies the hair black. She talks to it like a goddamn crazy person but refuses to call it “Lynn.”
She never meets another superhero.
Travis Flatt (he/him) is an epileptic teacher and actor living in Tennessee. His stories appear in HAD, Rejection Letters, Idle Ink, Heavy Feather Review, and other places.