“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 15

The Paperback Edition…

I spotted an envelope lying on the bench on the other side of the carrier.  I reached for it and opened it without even thinking once…much less twice

Hey…I was in this…whatever this was. The note read:

“Her name is Stella.  I adopted her from this place two weeks ago.  She is about two months old.

“I did not know I  was severely allergic to cat hair until after I got her home.  I think she’s pretty smart.  She has been to a vet and she is completely healthy and has had all her shots.

“She is already litter box trained and she is very loving.  I am truly sorry.  And I am very sad.  Please give her back for me.  It’s just too hard for me to do.  Thank you for your trouble.”

And there were two brand-new $100 bills inside the envelope.

“HOLY CRAP!” I exclaimed…rather loudly, I’m afraid…and looked at Stella…who was now looking at me…

“What?  What?  Am I dying?” asked Stella, ever so quietly.

“No, you’re fine,” I told her.  “Let me read this again.”  I patted her head a couple of times as I re-read the note.

This must have been his plan all along.  Come to the shelter on a Saturday when they’re busy and just leave the carrier with the note next to someone who looks like a helpful person.

People have always told me I looked very helpful…

Well.  Now I had a situation here… 

One thing I was pretty sure of…this kitten would never want to jog with me around Lake Nokomis every morning…or, let’s be honest…ever.

But…I was also pretty sure that this kitten, now officially named “Stella”, was not going to be brought up to the desk and returned.

I looked around and everyone was busy doing their own thing…mostly filling out forms. 

Even my previous loud exclamation of surprise had not jolted them.  Perfect.  I too…will do my own thing.

I gently pushed Stella’s little head back into the carrier, zipped it closed, tucked the note and the money in my purse and picked up the carrier and headed for the exit…tossing the unfinished application in the trash bin by the door.

Well…I thought.  That was easy.  I didn’t even have to sign any papers  Plus, I vaguely remember reading somewhere that having a cat for a pet was much easier than having a dog.

“Welcome to my life, Stella.”  I said happily and pushed open the door.

“I think I’m cold.” said Stella.  “And really, really hungry.”

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 14

The Paperback Edition…

I put the forms down and knelt in front of the carrier and peered inside. 

I couldn’t see very much…a small black shape…that wasn’t moving. I bravely and…of course…foolishly…stuck  my forefinger into one of the narrow openings.  Hoping to appear friendly, I wiggled it a bit.

I was also hoping that whatever animal was in the carrier… was not rabid.

One little lick on my finger.  The tongue was small and rough, so I guessed it might be a cat…having been licked by a cat before. 

It was probably not a lizard.  I was pretty sure it was not a lizard…but then…I have never been licked by a lizard before…

I got up from kneeling, picked up my papers and sat back down on the bench.  I had to finish the application but now my reporter instincts were starting to kick in.  Who?  What?  Where?  When?

I put my application down on the other side of me and looked around the carrier for a lock or a catch.  There was one in the front but I didn’t want to completely open the carrier.

Images of children screaming in terror and parents loudly swearing…at me… floated briefly before me as I envisioned an “unknown” animal running wildly around the room. 

No.  That would not be good…not good at all.

But there was a zipper on the top and I unzipped it just a tiny bit…only a couple of inches.

Quicker than a wink, a small, black cat’s head poked out and meowed.

It looked right at me and smiled.  I swear to God.  Honest. It looked just like a smile. 

I smiled back and patted the head with my finger.  This was just a teeny kitten!

“Are you dying?” I whispered to the kitten.

“You better not be because I am not up to dying animals right now.  I am done with dying.”

I looked intently at two, little  yellow eyes.  They looked right back at me.

“What do you think?”

“I think you look pretty good!”  I said in a very cheerful voice.

I had absolutely no idea at all.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 13

OMG!  THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A TALKING ANIMAL!…

Nope.   The voice was my voice and I can assure you that I am not crazy.

I just have this nutty habit of giving a voice to objects that could not otherwise speak…if I did not do it for them.  I mostly do this for animals.  I do not speak for the refrigerator.

When I was a little girl, every one of my dolls or stuffed animals had a separate personality and a different voice. 

My mom started this crazy thing after I had been sick for a couple of weeks (for the fourth or fifth time that winter) and the whole staying in bed thing was getting really old…for her as well as me.

She was always trying to find different ways to make me feel better…and this definitely qualified.

One gloomy, winter day she came into my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed.  She pulled one of my brother’s white socks out of her apron pocket and put it over her hand. 

And then…she made it talk to me. It was a puppet with no eyes, no mouth, no ears no hair.  Just a white sock.  Over her hand.  And…I loved it.

The sock’s name was “Tudy” as in “Judy” and she lived next door to us.  She was constantly getting into trouble and hardly ever went to school…which is why she was always there when I was sick.

Both me and my mom would talk to her and Tudy talked back to us.  She was a polite little girl but in trouble a lot… for one reason or another…and because of that she always had quite a tale to tell.

That was the start of me talking for inanimate objects…mostly animals.

It drives Abby nuts.  So of course I do it whenever and wherever I can.  Hannah could care less…as you might expect from the care-free Hannah.

So…here I am…the day before Valentine’s Day…”talking to” and “answering back for” some kind of animal in a carrier at the Minneapolis Animal Humane Society. 

But doing so…very, very softly.

I looked around to see if anyone was watching and then I bent down to the carrier.

“Where is your owner?”  I whispered to the carrier.  I figured a soft, pleasant voice would make it feel better so I tried to speak softly and pleasantly. I am such a nice, normal person…not crazy at all.

Gone.”

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 12

The Paperback Edition…

An older man sat down next to me and placed a pet carrier between us.  We smiled and nodded at each other…Minnesota nice at work.

He looked old enough to be retired but these days you couldn’t really tell.  Half the bag boys at Sherman’s grocery store looked older than him…

“Are you getting or leaving?” he asked me.

His question at first confused me but then I realized what he meant.

“Oh…I’m getting!” I responded with a grin.  “I’m getting a puppy!”

He nodded his head slowly and then put his hand on top of the carrier and patted it a couple of times.

“I’m leaving.”  He spoke very quietly, almost a whisper as though he didn’t want the animal inside the carrier to hear him…if indeed it could.

“Ah.”  I said and looked down at the carrier to see if I could see any movement through the slots.  I could not.  So, I just smiled at the man again and then looked straight ahead.  So did he.

I suppose I should have asked a question or two.  I am a reporter after all.  But this did not seem like the right time to question an elderly man who was either dropping off a sick animal he could no longer care for…or worse…a dead one.

Instead I just closed my eyes and waited patiently for my number to be called…

“NUMBER 44!”  My eyes shot open.  That was me!

I got up and hurried over to the desk. The girl looked over my shoulder and said, “You forgot your carrier, miss.”

I turned around and there was the carrier still sitting on the bench…but the man who owned it was nowhere to be seen.

He must have gone to the bathroom, I thought.  I told the girl that the carrier wasn’t mine.  I was here to adopt a puppy.

She shrugged.  “Oh…okay.  You can fill out these papers and then come back up here.  You won’t have to wait again.”

“When do I get to see the puppies?” I asked eagerly.

“After you fill out all the forms, miss.  45! Number 45!,” she called and smiled at the next person coming up to the desk.

I thanked her and as I walked back to my seat, I glanced at my watch.  I had been sitting there for almost an hour!  No wonder the old guy had to go to the bathroom.

I sat down and began to fill out the adoption eligibility forms.  Holy Mackerel, there must have been over 10 pages!  I stopped whining and began reading, writing and signing.

By page five…the owner of the carrier had still not returned.  I looked around and then I bent over the carrier to look in one of the little openings.  I saw a very yellow eye looking right back at me.  It blinked.

It actually startled me and I may have said, “fuck”.  Okay, I did say “fuck”…but very quietly.

Then I said in a very low…almost apologetic voice to the little, yellow eye,  “I’m sorry.  You surprised me.  I’m just glad you’re not dead.”

Me too,” said a teeny, little voice.

“I Just Ate less…among other things…”

A Letter to George Floyd:

Hi. I didn’t know you when you were alive…but I watched you die.

I’ve never seen a man die like that before. I never heard anyone call for help with such anguish.

I heard you call for your mother. When I have nightmares, I still call out for my mother. I yell, “Mommy! Mommy!”…because when I am truly scared I know my mother will help me…even though she’s been dead for years.

Hi. I didn’t know you, but I know where you died. I used to hang out in that neighborhood when I was a kid. It was a great neighborhood…different now…but I bet it’s still great.

Hi. I didn’t know you but you must b so sad. Sad that you’re no longer alive to enjoy life. Sad to see that the neighborhood you lived in and loved is in rubble. Sad to see that people you knew and loved are in such pain.

Hi. I didn’t know you…but I know you now…and I wish I didn’t.

“I Just Ate less…among other things…”

A Letter to George Floyd:

Hi. I didn’t know you when you were alive…but I watched you die.

I’ve never seen a man die like that before. I never heard anyone call for help with such anguish.

I heard you call for your mother. When I have nightmares, I still call out for my mother. I yell, “Mommy! Mommy!”…because when I am truly scared I know my mother will help me…even though she’s been dead for years.

Hi. I didn’t know you, but I know where you died. I used to hang out in that neighborhood when I was a kid. It was a great neighborhood…different now…but I bet it’s still great.

Hi. I didn’t know you but you must b so sad. Sad that you’re no longer alive to enjoy life. Sad to see that the neighborhood you lived in and loved is in rubble. Sad to see that people you knew and loved are in such pain.

Hi. I didn’t know you…but I know you now…and I wish I didn’t.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 11

The Paperback Edition…

My head hurt so much!  I carefully rolled over again, making the first move in the sitting up process.

A rough, wet tongue licked my chin…twice…I focused my half-opened eyes on two golden ones staring at me…

Stella, my mostly black tabby cat was up as well…up and sitting so close to my face that I could smell her fishy little breath. 

Apparently someone had already had breakfast this morning.

Stella was a little over a  year old.  After mom had died and before Abby had moved in, the house felt really empty.  So…I took the advice of my well-meaning friends and went to the animal shelter to get a rescue dog…no $1,500 A. K. C. pedigreed pup for me.

I had great plans for that dog and me.  We would take brisk walks every morning.  I would eat a healthy breakfast…no more McDonald’s  breakfast bombs scarfed down on my way to work. I had a plan.

“Fido” (my as yet unnamed dog) and I would run miles together.  Maybe I would even train to become a marathoner…I liked to run…

…Well…I used to like to run when I was a kid.  I had BIG plans for that dog.  It would become my best furry friend!

So last year on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, I went to the Minneapolis Animal Humane Society. 

It was a very busy place.  A lot of parents were having second thoughts about their decision to buy their kids a pet for Christmas.

I guess sometimes…when two people work…it’s hard to raise a loving and well-behaved pet and keep it from destroying the gorgeous house that only two incomes could afford.

The end result for them was a trip to the Humane Society.  Their loss…my gain..

So.  It was busy and I had to wait.  The incoming/receiving area was packed, so the adoption people were helping them out.  I was okay with that.

I found a chair and began day dreaming of Spring and me and my furry friend walking around Lake Nokomis together…watching the morning mist rise up off the lake…

No matter how I begged, I could never persuade either Abby or Hannah to walk with me on a regular basis.  I hated walking alone.  Someone was always trying to talk to me.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 10

The Paperback Edition…

I didn’t sit up.  I wasn’t yet sure how my stomach would react to any movement…and I didn’t want to clean up last night’s “after-drinking, food frenzy”.

I’m pretty sure I liked it the first time and didn’t want to spoil the memory…

Hannah and I almost always closed the bars.  We never left while there was still loud music slamming against the walls and bouncing around our ears…we were “dancing fools”.

We didn’t want to miss a second of the night.  We both worked hard and right now we saw no reason not to play as hard as we worked.

We had both started working for the Journal at the same time…about two years ago.  Hannah had worked for the St. Paul Gazette for almost a year but left after hearing too many rumors that it was folding…it did.

The ink on my journalism degree was still a little wet as I sat down for an interview with the City Editor of the Journal.

Every week the newspaper held a mandatory orientation/tour meeting for all new newspaper employees before they actually starting working.

Hannah and I found ourselves sitting next to each other and as we waiting…began talking about our ‘nail polish art’.  She had little yellow ducks painted on her nails and I had shooting stars painted on mine…we clicked instantly..

Afterward, we both agreed that even though it was only 2:00 in the afternoon, greasy hamburgers and cold beers at The Little Pony, a favorite ‘reporter hang-out’ across the street from the newspaper, sounded like a great idea.  A friendship was born.

Hannah had been married for only a few months when she realized that “oh so foolish” husband Harry was having too much fun on the road as a clothing rep for Nike.  Marriage done and done.

She didn’t believe in second chances and when you saw Hannah…you totally understood why.

She was beautiful inside and out…from head to toe.  Men actually stopped talking when she walked by them.  She was sweet, friendly, bat-shit smart and shared the title of “best friend” with my new house-mate, Abby…who was now yelling at me from the living room.

“Charlie!!  Are you awake yet??  Her voice…even from far away…made my brain hurt.

“I’m going over to Jack’s for some cinnamon rolls…and other stuff….”  Abby’s voice was way too cheery for me this morning…not to mention way too loud.

“I’m up,” I whispered loudly toward my open bedroom door and then I hear the front door slam.  Ouch.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 9

The Paperback Edition…

No one…told anyone…anything…ever.  And I never had any more bullying problems and neither did my little “connected” friend Abby.

What a memory to have with a record hangover. ..but I did smile.  I always smiled when I remembered that story.

I started to roll over.  My head felt too heavy for my neck.  What time was it?  I knew it was Saturday.  Thank God I had it off this week.

But…if I had had to go into work…I would have gone into work.  That’s how it is when you work for a daily newspaper. 

You.  Go.  To.  Work.  Among all the changes in the newspaper business…that’s the one thing that has never changed…unless you could send in your stories digitally from home…but neither Hannah nor I had achieved that status…yet.  We would need a couple more years of seniority before we had that luxury…and privilege.

Right now we had desks and cubes and a computer.   Our editor expected to see us sitting there… at our desks…unless we weren’t out on assignment.

Just like old school…without, of course, the free-wheeling lifestyle enjoyed by most  newspaper reporters of the 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s.

Back then…when newspaper ink really ran in your veins…there were always 2 or 3 bars within walking distance of every newspaper, in every U.S. city…big or small.

The success of those bars depended on how much the reporters and…let’s be totally honest here… pretty much everyone else who worked at the newspaper drank.   

And…to be honest…everyone drank a lot back then.

A Bloody Mary and a cinnamon roll for that morning coffee break?  Of course.  Martinis at lunch?  Why not.  A couple of beers before heading home?  I am surprised you’re even asking…

The office Christmas parties were legend and mostly banned in the mid-sixties.  Actually banned…I wish I could have gone to at least one.  I heard they were outrageous…and great fun!  

Now…to celebrate the Holidays…we get a complimentary (alcohol free) luncheon buffet…and maybe a candy cane.

“I Just Ate Less…Among Other Things…”

Holding at 133.8…

and…damn happy to be doing so…considering…

Can you believe this mess we’re all in?  Sometimes I stop and think…this cannot be real!!

But..it is.

I called my daughter the other day and asked her, “Do you mind not shopping?”…and she said…”NOT AT ALL…I could happily become agoraphobic in a heart beat…”…

AND I…being the completely self-centered person that I am :)…thought…HOLY MACKEREL where did I go wrong?  Did I raise her incorrectly?  Who doesn’t miss shopping?  Is that even normal?  Is that even healthy?  

And then I answered myself..and said, “Of course, it is.  My daughter is absolutely brilliant (I DID raise her right) and is doing exactly what she should be doing…

…considering the situation…which is pretty frightening and horrible…and unknown.

DO YOU want to be that dumb girl who always goes down the basement when she hears a strange noise…even though she knows the power could go out at any moment because it’s storming and it’s  thundering and it’s lightning…AND…the light from her flashlight is really dim because the batteries are old (she tested it)…AND…she just heard on the television that there is a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from a nearby prison…and is on the loose…in HER … neighborhood..?

WELL…DO YOU???????

I didn’t think so.  Me neither.

Have a nice day…