“QUITE BY ACCIDENT” Chapter 1

The Paperback Edition…

PROLOGUE

THIS IS A TRUE STORY…KIND OF…

For as long as I can remember and that would be about 20 years…who really remembers the early years…I have always started my “sleep ritual” the same way…no matter how tired I was.

First I would lay on my right side for a couple of minutes, almost falling into the sweet bliss of sleep but…not quite…

Then I would slowly roll over on my left side, tuck my left arm under the pillow as I re-fluffed it a little more with my right hand and then lower my head and fall instantly asleep, waking only when my alarm buzzed in the morning.

Every.  Single.  Night.

Except…not THIS night.

THIS night…I did not fall instantly asleep.  THIS  night…for some inexplicable reason, I quickly flipped BACK over to my right side and in the oddity of bodily position change, my eyes flashed open and there it was in the corner of my bedroom…a 6-foot tall ribbon of blackness. 

I knew right away it was not smoke.  It was like a black, shimmering waterfall and it was about 3 feet wide.  It was swaying from side to side but then it suddenly stopped.

I was afraid to blink or look away…so I just laid there…and stared wide-eyed, completely forgetting to breathe.  The always reassuring night-light still beaming softly from my bathroom…

 

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 2

The Paperback Edition…

I was so tired that snowy, cold November night.  All I wanted to do was eat a very  unhealthy (read that very tasty) frozen something from my freezer, add a bottle of beer, some Cheetos Puffs (of course this is a plug for Cheetos Puffs…HAVE YOU NOT EATEN CHEETOS PUFFS?) and then collapse in front of my big screen TV.

I had worked an extra shift at The Book Shop.  I was the assistant manager.

Don’t be impressed by the title.  It only means I get an extra 5% discount on the books I buy and 20% commission on the books I sell.

And…it also means I get to fill in for those employees who fail to show up for work when there is a major snow storm…for instance…like the one we had tonight.

My name is Tobey Larson and I’m 24 years old.

Tobey Larson is not my real name, of course.  I’m not going to tell you my real name.  One does have to be very careful when sharing odd experiences.

Look what happened to all those people who reported seeing flying saucers…

I don’t remember…do you?

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 3

The Paperback Edition…

“It was a dark and stormy night”…see first paragraph, Chapter 2…

I had arrived home about 9:30…covered in snow flakes…and was greeted most lovingly by my devoted and scrappy little cat, Emma.

“How are you Tobey?  Are you well?  Are you going to feed me rather soon?”

Of course, she doesn’t really talk like that…I’m not crazy.

She is much more polite than that.

“Yes, yes, hang on a second.  Just let me get my coat and boots off.”

I lived very close to The Book Shop.  I did so because I have no car and have chosen to try to do without one for a while.

To say I was trying to “go off the grid” would not be completely true but I was trying to do something like that…but less drastic.

So now I watch very little TV.  Maybe the news on CNN…if  I’m feeling brave…and, of course, who can pass on “The Housewives of New York City” for heaven’s sake.

I browse the web about 30 minutes a day,  but I try to avoid it completely on the week end.

But much to my surprise, after doing this for about five months, I felt absolutely no different…which I thought rather odd.

I expected to feel more “Zen-like”.  Peaceful.  Centered.   But I did not.   And “Housewives” was wrapping up their season.

Maybe I needed to come up with a ‘new plan’…or at least a ‘better plan’.

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 4

The Paperback Edition…

I had graduated from the University of Minnesota this past Spring with a degree in English.

Considering that I had no desire to teach, it wasn’t very practical or useful but I enjoyed every minute of those five years.

For some inexplicable reason…people were so impressed when they found out I was shooting for a degree in English.

“Wow!  You’re an English major…Wow!”  And many times the conversation died right there.  Go figure.

I had lost contact with all school friends.   We had gone our separate ways, mostly to different states and even though we had ever so sincerely promised  to keep in touch…we had not.

I had no boyfriend and no prospects.   sigh.

Both parents were dead.  I had one sibling, sister Karlie, who was two years older than me.

She was delightfully married to George and very busy with a 1-year old toddler, Annie and a little mutt named Cantor.

I lived in a luxury (read that safe) apartment complex…in a luxury (also read safe) suburb…because even though it was very tragic and sad that my parents had both died ridiculously young…they had left a really sick amount of money to be shared equally between me and sister Karlie…but not until we BOTH turned 30.

However…in the meantime…we were given a “very nice” amount of money that very nice  lawyers doled out to each of us every month…to see us through to the “big payoff”.

Don’t hate me.

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 5

The Paperback Edition…

My parents, Iris and Rain, or “The Parents” as they later became known, loved the wealthy, carefree lifestyle that only piles of money can buy.   Apparently, “The Great Gatsby” had made a big impression on both of them when they were young and…well…impressionable.

Luckily for them, many dazzling but solid investments made by Rain’s father and grandfather, assured “The Parents” they would never, ever have to work at any job…but must always give generously to worthy charities…which they did quite happily and quite often.

They loved me and my sister so very much.  There was never any doubt about that and of course, we adored them.

However, they just didn’t like the idea of ‘parenting’…and unfortunately did not quite realize that until about 5 hours after Karlie was born.

Grandma Sylvia moved in before the next sunset and when I accidentally (go figure) appeared two years later…well…no worries…Grandma Sylvia didn’t blink an eye.

She drank red wine during the week and whiskey sours on the weekends.  She was also fond of those little sweet-smelling cigars and Maria Callas.

She was beyond brilliant, spoke French, Spanish and Chinese and most importantly loved Karlie and me to the moon and back.  She took pretty good care of “The Parents” as well…

Sadly, she died when I was thirteen.

“The Parents” earnestly tried but could not find one other adult relative they could trust completely to replace the irreplaceable Sylvia…

And…as odd as it may seem…neither could they find an adult relative that they could entice with extraordinarily large sums of money to become a “semi-foster” parent to Karlie and me.

So…they rashly decided “what the hell, let’s give it a go.”

“What could go wrong?” They told us…ever so confidently…

What indeed…

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 6

The Paperback Edition…

“The Parents”‘  first attempt at ‘parenting’ was to volunteer at my 7th grade “Welcome Back to School”  dance.  This was, incidentally, was my first foray into “socializing” on a grander scale than play dates with neighborhood kids.

Two weeks before the dance, “The Parents” descended unannounced upon a clueless Principal Nelson…he was such a nice, normal man.  I believe he took early retirement…

He had previously been informed when Karlie began 7th grade that the parents of Karlie and Tobey Carlson had been tragically killed on their third attempt to climb Mt. Everest.

“The Parents” had bravely tried to rescue their loyal Sherpa who had unfortunately fallen into a deep crevasse.  As the story went…all three bodies were never recovered…so Karlie and younger sister Tobey were now being lovingly raised by a grandma named Sylvia…so you can just call her if anything came up.

This compellingly sad tale had been created by our highly imaginative grandma Sylvia after a couple of glasses…perhaps more…of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both Karlie and I thought it was a very sound plan and we all heartily agreed that there was no reason whatsoever to mention this to “The Parents”…ever.

But now…“The Parents” told the puzzled Mr. Nelson, that “Yes!  Of course we’re Tobey’s  parents!  Who else would we be?”

And then they added for good measure, “We’re Karlie’s parents too!”  They figured this  further claim would seal the deal.

A hesitant and slightly confused Principal Nelson said he “would check and see if they would be needed.”  He then rose to politely show them the door…vaguely remembering a sad tale involving a sherpa and Mt. Everest…and he pondered this as he walked toward the door with them.

However...”The Parents” were on a mission and ‘parenting magnificently’ had become their Holy Grail.   They were not going to be turned away…

So they made sure of being ‘needed’ by donating $200,000 toward renovating the teachers’ lounge and also gifting the school library with another $200,000.

This generous gesture of goodwill insured that no more questions would be asked on whether or not they would be needed.

They were more than ‘needed’…they were now revered.

Imagine riding a roller coaster with no safety bar to hold you in place…that was my life for the next 6 years…

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 7

The Paperback Edition…

Those six years were almost epic.   And I say ‘almost‘ because no deaths or serious injuries could be directly connected to any participation by “The Parents” in any planned school activities.

It was, of course, no surprise that all of Karlie’s friends and all of my friends loved Iris and Rain.

Many evenings there were classmates (or non-classmates) eating pizza (or something else) at our huge kitchen table.

Many times neither Karlie nor I knew them..but somehow they knew Iris and Rain and had been invited over for “Pizza Night”.

It should be noted…we didn’t actually have a “Pizza Night”.

Shall I mention that in eighth grade Iris enthusiastically volunteered to be a confirmation teacher at our very progressive Lutheran church?  Sure, why not.

After the second week…kids who didn’t even go to our church…were clamoring to join her confirmation class…and I’m talking about kids from ALL religions.  Iris was a huge hit.  I was not surprised.

God had never been so much fun.

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 8

The Paperback Edition…

There is no easy way to say this…you know they die.

Three days after I had graduated from high school, “The Parents” crashed their brand-new, chili-pepper red Porsche into a large oak tree on Blake Road…four short blocks from home…

They had been at the ‘club’…perhaps celebrating or maybe even lamenting the end of this parenting phase of their life.  It was said  to have been “a spectacular crash”…the Porsche going well over 100 mph.  No surprise there…I guess…spectacular did describe everything they did..

Karlie and I were completely heart-broken.  Losing grandma Sylvia had been a  devastating blow…to be sure… but she had been ‘older’.  “The Parent”s were both only 50.

They had left strict instructions regarding any ‘death rituals or celebrations’.  There would be no funeral, no memorial service…nothing.

Karlie and I picked up a large urn from Woodrow Funeral Home with both of their ashes inside.  They wanted to be cremated together.  Of course.

And then we all went home.

In less than two days, “The Parents” perched on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room.  Together…forever.

Karlie and I spent over three weeks in that room, mostly crying but laughing sometimes too. ..because even though they had not wanted to actually participate in the ‘early parenting portion’ of our lives, they did want it documented…and they did so with their characteristic enthusiasm.

We ate there and we slept there and we watched every single home movie “The Parents” had ever taken…over and over and over again.

We had only had them as ‘Real Parents’ for six short years…we were not quite ready to let them go…not just yet.

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 9

The Paperback Edition…

Four years have passed since that tragic day and I am now tucked into my very own apartment that walks out to a courtyard with tall evergreen trees now beautifully covered with snow…watching the next to the last episode of “The Housewives of New York City”.

“The Parents” are sitting on a book shelf right next to my TV.  They are surrounded by all my favorite books and favorite pictures of them as well as photos of Karlie, George, Annie and Cantor…and, of course, my best friend Emma.

I have a “Family on the Shelf” as opposed to an “Elf on the Shelf”.

I keep “The Parents” for a couple of months and then they journey over to Karlie and George’s house where they sit in an equally revered place.  It seemed like a better idea than…you know…separating them…like eggs.

But now it was very late…scenes from next week’s episode were running.  I clicked the remote off

I stood up, stretched and turned off the lamp beside my chair.  I dropped the blinds but not before appreciating again how peaceful the falling snow looked.

I put the chain lock on my door even though I know in my heart of hearts that a chain is  not going to stop a crazed man from entering my cozy little abode and stealing my super swell TV…or worse.

But nevertheless…I would hear him and be able to stealthily pull my always fully loaded Glock out from my bedside table and blow him to smithereens…HAH!!  I have no gun.

But at least I would hear him…

I flipped the hall light on and walked down the hall.  The full length mirror at the end  was there for a purpose.  I gave myself a B+…which considering the events of the day was pretty damn good…in my world anyway.

I fluffed my hair like I always do when finding myself in front of any mirror and then walked into my bedroom and paused…

I clapped my hands twice and my bedside light went on.  Yes.  I have “The Clapper”.

Don’t laugh at  me…

 

 

 

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 10

The Paperback Edition…

My bedroom walls are covered with black & white blow-up posters of all the places I would like to visit but will probably not…Paris, London, Gloucestershire, anywhere in Scotland and  Stockholm.

Did I mention that I am just a teeny bit claustrophobic?   Oh.  Well, now you know.  Otherwise normal…very normal.

I also have huge posters of every animal I have ever owned…except for the 4 goldfish I once bought at Sam’s Club.  They actually died before I could come up with exotic names for them…

“Hello, Emma,” I whispered to my sleeping cat…most beloved cat…

She looked up at me from her favorite resting spot…the top of my bed pillow…and smiled.

“Are you going to have your customary glass of red wine tonight, Tobey?” she asked.

Do you think it’s odd to talk for your  pet?  I mean…to give a voice for your pet?Or…perhaps even to have a conversation with your pet? 

Well here’s the deal. If you ever move into an apartment building that has a lot of senior citizens who have pets, you will find that it is not odd at all.  It’s normal…very, very normal.

And besides…if someone asks you a question, it would be rude not to answer…right?

I turned on my bathroom night-light and politely answered Emma’s question.

“Not tonight dearest, I am exhausted.”

I was only able to read for about ten minutes which really ticked me off since the book I was reading was so exciting.

But my eyes were starting to close so I put the book on my night stand, turned off the floor lamp by my bed and cursed because I had forgotten to turn off the hall light.

I dragged myself out of bed and padded down the hall, hit the switch off and cursed again since I was now in almost total darkness…having also forgotten to turn on my living room night-light.  Using the light from the courtyard I went over and turned it on.

I literally staggered back down the hall to my bedroom.

As I sat on the edge of my bed, I apologized to God for being so tired as I said my nightly prayers.

“Dear God.  I’m sorry.  Thank you.  Please help everyone.  Amen.”

I put my head down on the pillow and rolled over on my right side…then I rolled over to my left side…almost unconscious at this point… but then…I rolled back over to my right side…AND THEN…

..here we go…