The cloak of implausibility

Tell me how this happens:

I picked up my Chicago Tribune recently and the top headline on the front page included, in all caps, the words “FAST LANE,” while the most prominent feature on the cover of the business section was a photo of Hugh Hefner. Not that any of Fast Lane’s characters are based specifically on Hefner: I really don’t know much about him. But since Clay Creighton is a playboy (with a small p), comparisons are inevitable.

Here’s another recent coincidence: A few days after a member of my writing group wondered if it was plausible for one woman, Lara Dixon, to bring down a commercial enterprise like Fast Lane, an e-mail update from Writers Digest magazine listed this as one author’s favorite advice: “It doesn’t have to be probable, it just has to be possible.”

Is it plausible that Bernard Madoff could bilk a bunch of savvy investors out of billions of dollars? What if someone made that story up? How many intelligent people would say, “Couldn’t happen. Someone would figure it out long before it went that far.”

I’m sure I don’t need to include a spoiler alert here, but it did happen.

So, yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s possible—and therefore plausible—that one woman could topple a commercial empire like Fast Lane, which comprises a popular webzine, a Palm Springs resort and lines of clothing and exotic liqueurs. The company’s success is based on the notion that Clay is in charge in his relationships. If he’s not, he ceases to be the go-to guy for regular schlubs seeking advice on sex, cars and how much Cynar to mix into a Little Italy cocktail.

Fast Lane isn’t journalism. It’s fantasy. A fish-out-of-water story. An in-over-your-head fable. A be-careful-what-you-wish-for cautionary tale.

More important, though, is that Lara’s on a mission and believes she can do it.

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