Happy Halloween…!!!!! and…
Have a nice day…
Happy Halloween…!!!!! and…
Have a nice day…
NO MORE ‘CLEAN PLATE CLUB’ FOR ME
When I was just a wee little kid growing up on the mean streets of good old Minneapolis, Minnesota…I used to walk with my mom to the doctor’s office. It was only a few blocks. (Yes…even when I was sick…)
One car per family in “the good old days”. Plus my dad left for work at 4:00 a.m. and my mom didn’t know how to drive…
Dr. Peterson’s office was located above the neighborhood drug store…Peterson’s Drug Store…no connection.
The drug store was on one corner, Tommy’s Bar was on another corner and a hardware store and a gas station completed the intersection.
Surrounding these establishments was a smattering of other businesses…a grocery store, a bakery, a gift shop, a move theater, another bar…The Greenwood and an upcoming boat business that catered to all the Scandinavian fishermen in the area…
It was the 1950’s version of today’s strip mall.
Now as a kid…I was super skinny. I was all bones and I ran everywhere.
Apparently my mother was worried that maybe there was something wrong with me since I was so skinny, so she took me to see Dr. Peterson. Oh joy.
After a very cursory examination of me…he told her there was nothing at all wrong with me…I was just skinny.
My mom THEN said I never finished eating…I always left food on my plate…
Dr. Peterson turns to me, leans closer and looks me in the eye and says…very stern like…
“Don’t you belong to “The Clean Plate Club, Tina”?
I had no idea what he was talking about but not wanting this visit to go any longer…his nurse had picked up my file and was starting to open it…so I promptly said, “No…but I did hope to be a Girl Scout when I got older…” I thought that this would be an impressive answer and he would pat me on the head and we would be out that door.
But no…Dr. Peterson sat back in his chair…pulled out his desk drawer and took out a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. (OH I AM NOT KIDDING…).
He politely offered one to my mom…who politely took one. He grabbed a book of Peterson Drug Store matches and lit her cigarette first and then his.
Then he leaned back in his creaky wooden desk chair and started to tell me about all the poor, starving children in the world and how I should always finish my plate because those kids didn’t have enough to eat….somehow implying that it was all my fault…
I solemnly said that I would ALWAYS finish my plate from now on.
“Are you going to become a member of ‘The Clean Plate Club’, Tina?” He asked with a big grin on his face…smoke encircling his head.
“Yes, Dr. Peterson. I will. I really, really will!!”
I would have agreed to anything at this point since I noticed his very efficient nurse, Dorothy, was starting to flip through the pages of my file…probably looking to see if I needed a booster shot or two…and I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
As luck would have it…no shot. But as a reward for “being such a good, little girl” I did get a double-decker, French Vanilla ice cream cone in Peterson’s Drug Store to enjoy on the walk home. My mom smoked another cigarette. Oh those 50’s…
For about 3 weeks after that appointment, my mom tried to “strongly encourage” me to eat more and to “clean my plate”…to the point when one night I got so nervous and upset that I threw up spaghetti all over the dinner table.
And that…my friends… was the end of my membership in “The Clean Plate Club”.
How does all this tie into my current weight loss plan? Well…for the past couple of weeks, I have been purposely not “cleaning my plate”…just leaving a little…just eating a little less…and…
And…of course…it is working since I currently am still at #139!! Yay “Clean Plate Club” drop out!! C’mon #138…
Have a nice day…
“Okay…let’s all take a deep breath…”
My husband has fourteen million health problems...
Not really of course…but enough so that the Covid-19 vaccine will provide little if any protection.
He is an organ transplant. He has had rheumatoid arthritis (an auto-immune disorder) for 40 years. He has type 2 diabetes. He is frail. He… I could go on…but won’t. I have made my point.*
So his truly safe path is to continue isolation. There is no other way…since we all know he will probably if not assuredly die if he contracts this deadly disease.
And. Since I am in constant contact with him and since even though I could get vaccinated and go about my merry way doing all the fun things I love to do…as millions of vaccinated people are doing right now… I cannot in all good faith take that tiniest chance that I would bring home that virus to him. And kill him.
So. Whereas he is somewhat content to not see our beautiful apartment and gorgeous views as a “prison with big windows”…sometimes I do. There I said it.
So. Long story short. I have decided on a new weight-loss goal. Because I need to focus on SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
12 month goal of 130# to be achieved by June 1, 2022 .
6 month goal of 135# to be achieved by January 1, 2022.
*Incidentally there are millions of people in the world just like my husband for whom the vaccine’s efficacy is poor perhaps even non-nonexistent.
The brains behind the vaccine development in all cases purposely decided to NOT allow organ transplant recipients and others with auto-immune diseases to be part of the vaccine trials.
So…when that magic liquid was shot into the arms of those people no one really knew what would happen or more importantly…as it turns out…what NOT would happen. Just so you know…in case you are in that group of people and have gotten vaccinated.
Now…let’s get happy and talk about my homemade Betty Crocker “dinette” cake with homemade chocolate frosting—which somehow took away any desire I may have had to eat even a half Hershey bar… What the hell is up with that?
Have a nice day…
…sometimes…somethings don’t always go
the way you want…but…
As you may recall…I had a weight goal of 139.0# by December 25, 2020. That is 139.0..
A couple of weeks ago…I flirted with 139.2…for a couple of days….then I returned to 140.0…
BUT THEN I hit 139.2 again and stayed…
Picture happy me dancing around my apartment at 6:58 a.m.!!!
However, the sane, non-dancing part of me knew that Christmas Eve was coming…and I had a killer potato recipe that involved cheese and garlic pepper and I also had a new way to fix ham…AND…
Let us not forget…strawberry cream cheese pie for dessert. (There may have been a veggie or two but I can’t remember…)
Not only did I NOT move from 139.2 to 139.0…I went to 139.6!!!!!!!
SO I HAVE DECIDED…BECAUSE I CAN…TO ELIMINATE THE .#’s…as in no more .2, .4, or .6…you get the idea.
From now on…when I weigh in…I either weigh 138 or I weigh 139 or I weigh 892…again…you get the idea.
I never liked fractions in school anyway…so here’s what all this means…
I MADE MY GOAL!!! Merry Christmas and Happy New New!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have a nice day…
four days until Christmas goal of 139.0…
Yesterday…in the spirit of Christmas and baking and the Scandinavian genes that run amok throughout my body…I baked three different kinds of cookies.
Why would anyone desperately (and I do mean desperately) trying to lose weight…bake cookies? Am I completely mad?
Perhaps…or perhaps I am just a mother/grandmother who finds it hard to say NO to requests of this nature…
The cookies were nothing special…just the favorites of my eldest granddaughter, my youngest granddaughter and my only daughter.
And…because I feel it is the responsibility, as matriarch of this tiny family unit, to make sure that what I give them to eat will not…you know…make them sick or kill them…I had to… “taste test”.
Now…as any good or even mediocre cook knows…the “taste test”…is probably the most important step in the cooking process…AND…the most fun.
So yesterday…I thru caution to the wind (as I so often do) and taste tested to oblivion!!
I THOUGHT this morning’s scale encounter would show a weight gain…it surprisingly did NOT…
Has there been some sort of “shapeshifting occurrence” of which I am not aware?
I am very fearful for what today might bring.
Have a nice day…
If you are the 5-year-old sister of a sometimes really, dopey 12-year-old brother and one very cold, “soon to be Christmas” day in Minnesota, he asks you to assist him in a “TOP SECRET MISSION“, you jump at the chance…because even dopey brothers can have really, cool ideas.
I was the sister…and I jumped.
Later…much later…I vaguely remember him warning me about possible dangers…
…but let’s face it…I had stopped listening at “TOP SECRET…”
“Defining Moments…in MY life…
One Very Cold Winter Day…
It was December 28, 1958. The day dawned dark, dreary and supremely cold. Did the sun even come up? Oh, I guess so…it always does. But in my world it was a a perfect day for watching football…I was just getting hooked on this incredible sport.
(Did I just say hooked? Oh. My.)
Christmas? A memory. New Year’s Eve? A maybe plan. A football game? Why not…pop that corn and curl up.
The New York Giants, America’s Cinderella team, was playing the Baltimore Colts…the NFL championship game to be later crowned as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”.
The Baltimore Colts, artistically guided by the diminutive, Weeb Ewbank and led by the incomparable quarterback, Johnyy Unitas, who threw pass after pass to brilliant wide receiver, Ray Berry…secured a massive upset victory with only mere minutes left in the game… and in the process… led me down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole to years of football addiction….
I have stories…oh…I have stories…
BUT…today the story is simply this:
Eating not one but two Hershey’s candy bars and two popsicles and half of a donut in one afternoon (before a dinner of nachos) and then follow that the next afternoon… with pizza. hamburgers, homemade fries and just a sliver of Neopolitan ice cream plus, of course, customary Hershey’s and popsicle and you have…drumroll please…
I have no excuse. Well…”I don’t know how he missed that field goal…AGAIN!!!”
Today…I weigh 140 pounds and am just hoping for the best…and to achieve my Christmas goal of 139:)
Have a nice day…
I remember that day well…cue appropriate 1950’s music and allow the images in your brain to go all wavy…flashback…flashback…
…going back in time…going back in time…to the magical “Fifties”…when all things were wonderful and people ate bacon whenever they wanted…
“Look, Lottie,” said Durwood. “This year you’re the only one that can do this…I really need you…”
And by “this” he meant stealing one of the little red Christmas cookie tins that…year after year…held the much loved and supremely tasty cookies that our wonderful mother, Gee (as in Gee Whiz) Johnson, baked every Christmas and therefore were appropriately called “Gee’s Nut Balls”.
It was at this point that dopey older brother Durwood…in order to further emphasize his need of my help this year…held up both his arms so I could plainly see his two wrists…solidly encased in heavy, white plaster casts from his elbows down to and including the greater part of his fingers.
Absolutely Necessary Explanatory Note:
When movie goers saw “Tarzan” grabbing a vine and swinging over a creek that raged furiously 50 feet below him as he yelled a mighty warrior cry to impress “Jane, his lady-friend”…while trying to save her from certain death…
…it should be noted the vine Tarzan grabbed was in all probability a strong rope…or perhaps even a wire cable and…incidentally there was no creek…nor was there dangerous, rampaging water…
…to further burst the cinematic bubble…he was probably about 6 feet off the floor…which I am sure was suitably padded…
HOWEVER…for dopey Durwood…on a forbidden trek to Minnehaha Falls with four of his very best buddies, the vine he grabbed to do some “swinging” was very real…AND…it snapped midway over a shallow creek that ran from the falls to the Mississippi River…
Durwood fell about 40 feet…the whole time screaming in terror on his way to “two, really, badly, broken wrists”….the pain of which he had to endure in solitude as he slogged home alone since…
All four of his “forever loyal to the end” best friends had bolted in total panic…fearful that they would somehow be blamed for Durwood’s fall.
“I didn’t see a thing!! I don’t remember…” was the excuse they all settled on as they fled the scene…but not before…
…making sure that Durwood was not dead or in danger of dying any time soon.
They jumped on their bikes and hightailed it home…confident that they had done all that they could.
Later…every one of his friends agreed that they were very sure they would have stayed if Durwood had been…you know…dead.
It was during his lonely walk home, that Durwood forlornly pondered which was worse…the pain he was currently now suffering as he shuffled along or the unholy reaction he knew would be coming from his usually calm and easy-going mother…
“First the fire…and now this…” he muttered to himself. “She’s gonna kill me…”
He turned the corner on Longfellow Avenue and saw his mother raking leaves in the front yard…she appeared to be very happy since she was whistling.
It was only then that Durwood started to cry.
The intense pain apparently fogged his brain and prevented him from coming up with any believable or redeemable lie…so he was unfortunately left with telling his mother the simple yet profoundly stupid truth…”I saw it done on TV, ma…”
Mom had baked her “Nut Balls” yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon we had helped her roll these delicate little mouth-watering beauties ever-so-carefully in powdered sugar.
She had explained to us that the cookies needed to stay on the counter overnight…as she said… “to set”.
“But tomorrow I’ll be hiding them in a really good place!” she said.
She was laughing as she told us this and we laughed too. We also knew that tomorrow we would be getting up real, real early.
Next morning…thinking that we were still innocently asleep in our beds…and not secretly watching her every move from a “not-quite-closed” door that led from the kitchen to the living room…mom carefully began putting the cookies in two red cookie tins.
The tins were identically decorated with green Christmas trees and white snowflakes. I think they were about 50 years old, but they were only used at Christmas so they looked brand-new.
Then she got out a step-stool from the little closet in the kitchen, climbed up on it and put both the tins on the very top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.
She had chosen the cupboard that went all the way to the top of our kitchen’s 12-foot high ceiling.
Then she grabbed a wooden mixing spoon and pushed them both towards the back of the cupboard so they could not be seen when the cupboard door was open.
Mom worked quickly and quietly so as to not wake her two sleeping children…heh…heh.
“Gee’s Nut Balls” were famous…and were greatly anticipated by friends and family every Christmas. This year she had made a double recipe because she was sending some cookies home with everyone.
When she was done arranging the cookie tins, mom got down from the step-stool and started to walk to the closet to put the stool away.
She paused as if hearing something…but…as she turned…Durwood and I quickly and quietly tip-toed back to our bedrooms..
A few minutes later…Durwood and I pretended to stagger sleepily into the kitchen…plopping down at the kitchen table…as we did every morning…to wait for breakfast.
We both faked yawns, stretched and tried to look like we had just crawled out of bed…and that we were ready to eat our standard breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, glass of whole milk, orange juice, coffee, and a couple of Lucky Strike cigarettes…
(I’m just kidding about the coffee and the cigarettes…that was our Mom’s breakfast…this is the Fifties…remember?)
“What are you kids doing up so early?” Mom asked with a big smile on her face…she smiled a lot.
“Are you getting excited for Santa Claus? Only four more days!!”
She gave 12-year-old Durwood a “silencing look”…and then smiled encouragingly at me. She wasn’t quite sure if I still really believed in Old St. Nick…but hey…I wasn’t quite sure either.
Mom had been leaning against the counter by the sink. She had a cigarette in one hand and a recipe card in the other.
She put the card aside and put out her cigarette in the red and green ash tray I had made for her in kindergarten class last week.
It was supposed to be her Christmas present from me but I couldn’t wait until Christmas Eve to give it to her. It was so pretty I wanted her to have it right away. She used it all the time!
“How about I make pancakes instead of eggs this morning?” she asked. She knew full well what our answer would be…
“YAY!!!” We both cheered so loud…our dog Duke, who was sleeping under the kitchen table…woke up and barked once. Then he went back to sleep. Good old guard dog, Duke.
No one made pancakes like our mom…I think it was the bacon grease she put in the batter…but what did I know…I was only five years old.
“Actually,” she said as she got down her big “pancake” bowl from the cupboard over the sink, “It’s a good think you did get up early this morning or breakfast would have been just plain old corn flakes.”
“I’m making Rosettes this morning and you both know the rules when I make those…right? Hot grease is very dangerous…so no bothering mommy…”
She hesitated and looked over her shoulder at us sitting at the kitchen table and gave us her “very serious look”…which she only used when she was “very serious”.
“No coming into the kitchen, no talking to me and no asking me for ANYTHING AT ALL until I give you the All Clear. Got it?” She waved the recipe card back and forth for emphasis.
We both appropriately “seriously” nodded our heads…but then I turned and gave Durwood a dirty look.
Sure…it had only been “a small fire”...but let’s face it…he’s the one who had started it.
(You didn’t think I would forget to tell you about “the fire”…did you?)
Durwood had gotten a junior chemistry set for his birthday a few months ago and “young and carefree “Uncle Jack”, who lived downstairs from us in the duplex that our grandma owned, gave Durwood some gun powder to use in his experiments.
(Of course, young and carefree Uncle Jack had fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, so he probably figured a little gun powder was just…a little gun powder…and not a big deal.)
The day of the fire, mom and I were peacefully sitting at the kitchen table having so much fun coloring in my new Little Lulu coloring book.
We were drinking cherry Kool Aid and planning our bus trip to downtown Minneapolis that afternoon to buy me new school clothes…when suddenly we heard dopey Durwood frantically screaming from his bedroom…“FIRE!! FIRE!!”
Mom jumped up and raced into his bedroom. I was right behind her…holding my glass of Kool Aid.
Durwood was standing on his bed, jumping up and down and screaming hysterically as he wildly pointed to the window curtains above his desk.
The bottom half were completely engulfed in flames and they were spreading!
Mom reached over and quickly yanked them down…curtain rods and all and then turned and snatched the blanket from Durwood’s bed, sending him sailing to the floor and in one swift move she smothered the fire.
It happened so fast! I couldn’t believe it! I also couldn’t breathe!
When I had seen the flames, I had started to scream and I couldn’t seem to stop…even when I saw that there was no more fire…
Mom gently took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and gave me a little shake…
“Lottie! Everything is okay…the fire is out!”
I stopped screaming right away because that’s what you do when your mother tells you “everything is okay”.
But I was still shaking…and the glass of cherry Kool Aid I had grabbed to help put out the fire was spilling onto my hand.
I turned, looked at Durwood and threw the Kool Aid in his face.
Later that night, mom said she thought I had been in shock and that I probably didn’t really mean to throw the Kool Aid at Durwood.
Hmmmmmmm……that could be one reason…
The next day, Uncle Jack “very foolishly” tried to defend himself to my mom…who was his older and much wiser sister…by saying...
“It’s not like I gave him a gun, Gee. Just relax…”
It should be noted here…that after making that idiotic statement to my mother…Uncle Jack was ordered (by his mother) to turn over half of his paychecks to my mother for 6 weeks…so that she was able to buy new curtains and window hardware, new bedding, new rugs, a new desk and a new lamp for Durwood’s room.
She was also able to pay professionals to come in and repaint Durwood’s bedroom walls and ceiling and re-sand the hardwood floor.
Durwood…showing absolutely no brains whatsoever…had voiced a request for his own television set…which was met with a very dark look from our mom…and so…
Not only would there be no personal television set in his bedroom…
Durwood would not be watching any television for two months…which was too bad since a television series based on the movie “Tarzan” was just starting…and Durwood would miss the beginning…
After all the Rosettes had been made…we were given the “All Clear” and allowed back into the kitchen.
It was time for our morning snack and today it was 2 Rosettes each…but only after we had sugared the others.
Durwood and I sat down at the kitchen table…and began the delicate task of “Rosette sugaring: Gently placing the Rosette upside down on a plate filled with sugar and then twisting…twisting…twisting…”.
Mom sat down with us. “I’m beat.” She said as she lit another Lucky Strike.
She pulled my “Christmas Ash Tray” nearer to her and then gave me a big smile. (I was so proud…it was so pretty…)
“When I’m done cleaning up, I’m going to take a nap. After you guys are done with the Rosettes you can go outside and play if you want…it’s starting to snow. When I get up, we’ll have lunch.”
Durwood kicked me under the table and gave me a sly grin and a head nod…did he think I had forgotten that “mom taking a nap” was the key to a successful mission? Did he think I was an idiot?
“I still have a few Christmas cards to do…” Durwood said casually. “Lottie said she would help me.”
“Right, Lottie?” he said…glancing over at me and wiggling his sugar coated finger tips…the only things that actually worked on his cast-enclosed arms.
“Nope! I’m going outside.” I said ignoring him.
“I can’t wait to make a snowman!!” I really had no plans to go outside…I just wanted to see Durwood squirm a little…he shouldn’t have kicked me!
“But, Lottie…” Durwood wheedled. “Remember you promised you’d help me…?”
I finally looked over at him and he was moving his eyebrows up and down…apparently this was his way of sending me a “secret” message. Also apparently…he thought our mother was completely blind…since she was looking right at the both of us.
I gave Durwood a blank look as if I had no idea what he was talking about…but then after a few seconds I relented and said…
“Oh, yeah…that’s right. I forgot. Maybe the snowman can wait.”
Mom shook her head at our little drama and got up and walked over to the sink.
“Christmas secrets are so much fun, aren’t they?”
I didn’t look at Durwood. I just kept dipping Rosettes in the sugar and twisting.
I knew he was wondering if I could really pull this off. Well, don’t worry, Durwood…I could.
139.2 POUNDS!!!–WOO HOO!!
BUT NO CIGAR (as they used to say a million years ago)
Okay. Here’s the deal. I am fully confident that I will reach my goal of 139# before my Christmas Day deadline…I have ALWAYS had an abundance of confidence…perhaps occasionally TOO much abundance…if that is possible?… Trust me on this…it is.
But that is a tale for another day…
SO…if I reach my 139# goal…say on December 12th or…December 15th and then it stays for a couple of days…then what?
(I consider weight staying gone for 2-3 days to be the litmus test for success…because…
AS WE ALL KNOW TOO WELL…weight can mysteriously re-appear out of the blue…the very next day…after you have celebrated your loss by doing a rather joyful dance around your living room…NOT NAKED!!!)
SO…back to me…
Do I change my goal to 138 pounds? That seems harsh…right? I could just set a new goal after Christmas Day…right? Or on New Year’s Eve…right?
Yeah. I like that. I’m not changing my goal weight…but…I’m not going to eat more either or stop weighing myself…because then I would have to change the title of this blog and I’m definitely not going there…
Have a nice day…
WAY TO GO…YAY, ME!!!
Okay. Ten minutes have passed…which (in my humble opinion) is quite long enough to celebrate this current weight loss victory.
MY NEW WEIGHT GOAL: BY DECEMBER 25, 2020…drum roll please…is…
Now…I know there are “people out there” who may think that losing one pound in approximately 25 days is a ridiculous goal…but…
I would beg to disagree.
For all the countless people in this world…achieving a goal of any kind is awesome…
But if you are a person (like me) who struggles with weight loss or weight gain…you know, agree and understand the impact of losing just one pound…
…and more importantly…keeping that one pound “gone”.
The irony of this most recent move from 140.6 to 140.0…is that I can’t figure out how I did it…
Oh. Wait… 🙂
“I just ate less…among other things…”
Have a nice day…
140.06 pounds…two days in a row!!!
I wanted to tell everyone this fantastic news yesterday…but then I thought…some really deep thoughts…
“What if this is just some quirk in the universe? A miss-alignment of the planets? A black hole…whatever…?”
I personally blame the ‘black hole phenomenon’ for everything…good and bad…because…well…why not?”
So yesterday I decided to just stop eating…just to make sure the weight would stay off…
HAH!! Just kidding. I actually ate normally…and may I suggest the “thin” little chocolate cookies with the white stuff in the middle”? Okay I will. Just one. Dipped into coffee…so it doesn’t break a crown? So yummy!
However…back to the beginning…two nights ago I was SO DAMN TIRED!
Even though I have gotten just a “slightly bit older” (I have such a way with words, don’t I?) I don’t always know when to stop doing things and just take a little nap…
So…two nights ago I got into bed and because I was so EXHAUSTED, I skipped the small bowl of potato chips I now have (instead of the wheat crackers I used to have).
Will you quit yelling at me and let me finish?
Chips can be very good for you…mentally…and…and emotionally! I’m pretty sure about that…
And…WAIT!!!! I almost forgot!! This little bedtime snack actually stopped my acid reflux!!!
SO…ANYWAY…I read one page and my eyes started to close. My head started to droop.
And before I could even put one chip into my mouth, I shut off the light and went to sleep.
Weight in the morning was 140.6!
I danced around for about
10 seconds… make that 3… (you read the ‘slightly bit older’ part didn’t you?) and then wondered why my weight has gone down.
Being the unrecognized genius that I am…I then remembered that…
I had skipped the chips!
So…last night I did the same thing and this morning I ran…I am so funny…I dragged myself slowly to the kitchen, eyes still almost shut and weighed myself…
Don’t you just love science?
Have a nice day…
“I AM A TOTAL FAILURE!…AGAIN!!!
Well…perhaps not a total failure…
But damn close. I just weighed myself this morning and I weight 141.2 pounds.
I KNOW RIGHT? This is the result of chocolate cake, candy bar(s), popsicle(s) potato chips and thinking I was too busy to walk…and that was just the first day of my slide into hell.
However…I apparently was not too busy to gain weight:(
This is what happens when you become consumed…with things that you really cannot control. It doesn’t matter what those things are…the principle is the simple truth.
And, frankly and honestly I am way too far down my journey to “not know better.” I did know and now I have to face the consequences.
I have always lived by this rule: For every action there is a consequence. Not complicated. Not profound. Basic common sense.
So. Let’s keep this short. NOW WHAT…
Well…I begin again. Eating less and walking in the rain.
I have and I did.
Have a nice day…
but still hopeful…
My new media entry on the opening page of my blog is not meant to be pessimistic…
But rather…optimistic in that it shows spaces for possibilities…like if I thought really hard….I could fill them in and even add more!!
Not that there was a choice mind you…but still…
It’s Friday, October 30, 2020 and in a few short days we will have a new president/leader in this country…OR if not…I will begin having two candy bars after dinner and resume smoking…because…well…why the fuck not…life will be over…relatively speaking.
However…closing here on a positive note…I tried (BECAUSE I COULDN’T JUST LEAVE IT ALONE, COULD I???…) a trial run on our freeway system anticipating a return trip to the doctor’s office later in the week and MISSED the exit sign… “11C…11C…11C!!!!!!!”
I took 11B…
And…ended up incorrectly following the “light rail” construction site detour. JFC…
It was bad. I won’t lie to you…but it could have been worse. I could have ended up in Wisconsin…
This would have broken most people…but not me…
I obviously survived. Somehow I knew that my life was not going to end…either literally or metaphorically…on some fucked up freeway system in the heartland of America.
See? I filled in line one already…
Have a nice day…
“I can’t believe I didn’t just kill him…
So. My Husband needed to see a dermatologist for some odd growth removal on his jaw…don’t worry…it was nothing.
However, a consultation was needed in addition to the procedure so we were looking at two long journeys. The office was in an unfamiliar suburb several miles away.
Now…I personally like to take the non-freeway road option on my map app whenever I can.
Even though I know I am a very competent driver I also know that others are often times not…and they generally pass me even when I’m going 70-80 MPH…in a 65MPH zone.
Yes!!!! I do know that I am currently speeding at this point…but only a little…and these idiots are passing me anyway!!!!
Now this particular non-freeway road option was unusually complex and winding… with a couple of signage errors (not my fault)…so that I unfortunately made a couple of wrong turns. A couple of minutes were lost…whatever.
Things like this do not bother me at all… Husband, however…is another story.
Husband apparently had something important to do when we returned home that day.
Note: He had nothing important to do when we returned home that day.
However…in the interest of keeping Husband happy…see how nice I am?…I mentioned to Him that I happened to notice a sign to an entrance ramp for a major freeway that could get us home a tad sooner.
I did this before looking at my map app… THAT WAS MY SECOND MISTAKE. (My first mistake…involved wedding vows…but I digress.)
“Oh. YES!!! We MUST take this route home!!” He said gleefully.
While He is getting ‘consulted’ about his slice and dice procedure…I looked at our return trip on my map app…via freeway road option. Oh my…
I want you to now imagine 6 strands of cooked spaghetti, cut up into two or three pieces and then whimsically thrown on a dinner plate.
Detailed directions accompanying this “map photo” went something like this…
Go right, go left, go right, go right again, take the third left, go left, go back, go around, go left again, go to Hell.
(I should mention here that I have just a teeny, tiny vision problem…when it comes to reading signs…at a distance…going 70 MPH.
And also…sometimes I occasionally confuse…just momentarily mind you…right and left…but never red or green…okay there was that one time but that was all.)
Suffice it to say…as I was desperately trying to figure out where the hell the EAST entrance ramp was and which lane (there were 4) I needed to be in right nowin order to access it…(going 55 MPH) LIKE EVERYONE ELSE…yes…we ARE ALL EXCEEDING THE SPEED LIMIT!!!)
Husband says to me…in a tone that suggested that he had absolutely nothing else going on in his little mind) as I am frantically trying to read and recognize signs…and pay attention to…I don’t know…EVERYTHING…and NOW going 60 MPH LIKE EVERYONE ELSE…
“Can you spray the windows? I can’t see very good…there’s a little smudge here…right in front of me…” He points…
“YOU CAN’T SEE VERY GOOD???…
I AM SO CLOSE TO CAUSING A MULTI-CAR CRASH… KILLING US…OR AT THE VERY LEAST CAUSING SERIOUS BODILY HARM TO EVERYONE…SO I CAN GET YOU HOME 5 MINUTES SOONER…AND THERE’S A LITTLE SMUDGE IN FRONT OF YOU????”
There wasn’t a competent judge in this world who would have thrown me in jail had I just brained him on the spot…but then…the definition of competent these days is a little sketchy… right?
I didn’t want to take a chance.
Have a nice day…
“Okay… Here’s the deal…”
I am not dead!! Woo Hoo!!! Super!!!
That being said…what I have been doing is… writing/publishing my latest short story…“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…” which…
…is appearing…somewhere in this blog…
Do not even ask where…because I don’t know how to tell you how to just push a button and get there…because…because…I just don’t know…)
I (personally) think it’s just a miracle I managed to mentally, emotionally and spiritually figure out how to use the new BLOCK EDITOR! *
*(Okay, I am not really using it…I just push that little ‘classic’ square and go from there…DO NOT TELL ANYONE!!!)
And now before I begin my next story…which is Christmas (holiday) themed/cookie related…I am making a checklist of all the boring stuff I have to do before I can start writing again…and one of the items on my list is: LOSE
10 pounds…5 pounds…1 more fucking pound…
If you recall (or care) I was stuck at 140 pounds FOREVER…AND…I had been and am still refusing to give up my daily chocolate bar…and a couple of potato chips…(Oh…stop shaking your head…)
BUT in spite of all my horrible addictions, I somehow magically have lost one pound and now weigh… 139 pounds.! Yay Me!!
AND…this is not just some… “One day I forgot to eat!!!” deal...which I have done and really should never.. ever do again…but that’s another tale for another day…
So…without my “not-eating all day diet”…I am consistently weighing in at 139 pounds.
NOW…the next thing on my ‘TO DO’ list is:
Oh…I even hate to put it in print because then it becomes SO FINAL. Okay. Here goes…
I HAVE TO CLEAN MY HOUSE… There. I said it. Everyone happy now???
Have a nice day…
It was possibly the most beautiful day of my whole entire life…a life presently consisting of twenty (almost twenty-one…but not quite) years.
It was September in Minnesota and most of the leaves on the oak and elm trees had just started turning from their humdrum shades of green to the brilliant, intense colors of yellow, red and orange.
“I should still be back lying on the beach…enjoying these last few hours of summer,” murmured Cooper Malone to herself as she looked wistfully out the window of her best friend’s car. There were far too few of these beautiful late summer days left.
But no…instead I was sitting in the front seat of Franny Sherman’s brand-new, 1966 Candy Apple Red Mustang…chain-smoking one cigarette after another…trying to get up the courage to walk into the very popular neighborhood saloon…”The Friendly Inn”…knowing full well that I was not of legal age to drink. I took a deep breath.
“They will demand to see my ID and then…when they notice that I am underage, they will call the cops and I will end up in a tiny, little jail cell,” I complained to Franny who… as my best friend…seemed to be paying little attention to me…and my pathetic exaggerations.
“Cooper, be serious. This is just a little, nothing, neighborhood bar that serves 3.2 beer, cheese pizza and hamburgers to the families that live around here. My God you can’t even get french fries at this place!
“My parents have been coming here for years! I’ve been coming here forever. Everyone knows me…you’ll be fine.
“And on Saturday afternoons, all the really cool guys come in here to play pool and drink beer before they hit the clubs downtown which…as you have reminded me a zillion times…you will never go to before you’re twenty-one .”
I took another deep breath and said very calmly…or as calmly as was possible…considering I was potentially facing a stretch in the slammer.
“Franny. How old are you?” I asked, as I made a very obvious move to turn in my bucket seat and look at her as she was carefully tilting the rear-view mirror to check her make-up.
“Cooper…I’m twenty-one,” she answered quite patiently…ignoring my burning stare.
“You know that…remember? We all went out last March to celebrate at the River’s Edge Grill. Did you stay out in the sun too long today?”
Then she pulled a bright coral lipstick out of her purse and painstakingly applied it to her lips, not once letting her eyes leave the mirror.
I knew, of course, she was kidding about being out in the sun too long…and in passing…I must admit we both looked pretty damn great with our ‘fresh’ tans and slightly sunburned noses.
“Yes. I DO know that. And…I also know that I am NOT twenty-one. And this stupid fake ID looks so…so…fake! I don’t even look like a ‘Shelley Harris.”
“Oh my gosh, there’s Mike Shaw and Danny Wilson walking in…they are so precious! Stop whining, Cooper, let’s go!”
Then she carefully re-adjusted the mirror and dropped her lipstick into her purse and got out of the car.
“C’mon, Coop. Get a move on.” Franny called to me over her shoulder as she quickly walked around her car and over to the sidewalk where she almost ran down to the corner.
We had parked on the street because Franny didn’t want to park her brand-new car in the parking lot that The Friendly provided.
She didn’t want anyone carelessly opening their car door into the side of her new car. Can’t say as I blame her…that Mustang was awesome.
I finally got out…but at a much slower speed. One could even say I was dawdling….and one would be right.
Even though I didn’t really care what I looked like right now…I guess I had to consider the customary “mug shot” one gets after you’re arrested…so I bent down and looked into the car’s side view mirror.
The mirror’s tiny image showed a ruffled, Clairol-assisted, bleached-blonde, pixie haircut, in desperate need of a comb, hazel-brown eyes with green eye shadow (a little smudged…but who cared).
I smiled big…noting in my teeth. My…just a tiny bit crooked…nose showed the effect of hours of basking in the sun.
My slightly ‘bent’ nose was a result of me foolishly not wearing my catcher’s mask during warm-ups earlier this spring during a fast-pitch softball tournament that I was unfortunately unable to participate in…since I was sitting on an old, very hard, plastic chair in the ER of Minneapolis General Hospital.
Incidentally…broken noses really do produce an un-Godly amount of blood. Anyway…
I guess I looked okay. Good enough to be arrested at least.
Franny seemed to be speed walking as I slowly dragged along. I caught up with her at the corner…still unable to think of a way I could wriggle out of what I was certain to be a horrible disaster.
I had considered and then discarded my possible, upcoming promotion at work as an excuse. I was in line to be made assistant to the circulation manager at the Minneapolis Journal…the newspaper where Franny and I both worked.
She was one of the local advertising reps and I was slowly moving up in the circulation department. (No pun intended…)
However sad this sounds…I had to face the reality that most everyone at the paper had ‘liquid’ lunches and sometimes even ‘liquid’ afternoon breaks…so no one would bat an eye if I got nailed for underage drinking.
Most…including my boss, Mr. ‘party guy’ Ross Taylor…would probably consider it just a “rite of passage” into the wild world of adulthood.
As we waited for the light to turn green, I heard a roar of motorcycles coming up from behind.
I turned and noticed two guys on Harley-Davidsons who had also stopped at the red light.
Ever since I had seen the movie “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando, I had…for some odd reason…become a big fan of motorcycles. Don’t ask me why…I have no idea.
Even though they were both wearing aviator sunglasses, I could see they both looked pretty sweet! Oh, c’mon! Aren’t all guys on motorcycles sweet? You know…all that leather and… you know…stuff??
Being the friendly sort of person that I am, I sent a huge smile in their direction…you know…as in “Hey welcome to the corner of 34th Avenue and 51st Street.”
Don’t judge me! I am a very sociable person by nature. I smile at most people…and when I am out walking…I say hello to every dog I meet as well. As in…”Hi, dog!”
The biker closest to me pushed up his sunglasses and smiled back…may I say he had really incredibly vivid blue eyes? I will…he did.
His smile was just a tad inviting… kind of slow and lazy. Okay. It was slow, lazy and sexy.
He was wearing a white tee shirt that had seen better days and faded jeans. His scuffed, black, leather boots looked older than me. No matter…it was working.
He was really tan and his longish, blonde hair was sun-bleached almost white…just like I was trying to get mine to look.
He was, actually…if you must know…drop-dead, fucking magnificent.
He looked quickly over at his friend and then back at me. His friend had nodded what appeared to signal some sort of agreement…
“Want to go for a ride?” he asked me.
I think I stopped breating…no really…no intake of air was present for many seconds.
I was walking toward his bike before I even knew what I was doing…other than putting one foot in front of the other..and managing somehow not to trip and fall down.
Then he revved his bike’s engine…the sound was like a siren call.
“Sure…” I said, with not one single, intelligent thought floating around in my brain.
(And…I might add…whose voice was that coming out of my mouth? Certainly not my voice. My voice was perky and bouncy…one could even describe it as sprightly.)
This voice sounded like I had been drinking whiskey for the past twelve hours…during and after my job as a piano-bar singer in a smoke-filled nightblub while I was still recovering from laryngitis.
“What about your friend?” he asked and raised up his head in question…indicating, of course, friend Franny.
“What?” I said. (There was that strange voice again). I had a friend?
But then a sharp poke in my side quickly brought me back to reality.
“Oh, right!” I yelped. I turned to look at Franny who had left the curb and was now standing right next to me.
We whispered out a quick deal. We would both get on the bikes, go for a ride and then later I would go into The Friendly Inn with her. I would not quibble at all…not one quibble.
She knew that “Roger”…the guy she was really hoping to see tonight…wouldn’t be showing up until much later.
So, for her it was really a win-win situation…especially since the other biker…who had now also taken off his sunglasses…was also drop-dead good looking. That was a plus.
And…the deal was done.
“We can only be gone for a couple of hours,” Franny said to nobody in particular…because nobody in particular was listening.
“We’re meeting some people later at The Friendly.”
Then she walked over to “Biker # 2”.
“What’s your name?” Franny asked biker #2…giving him her customary, blazing smile…which suited her fiery red hair and dazzling green eyes. Franny was something to behold…and most everyone did.
“Bob Nelson”, he answered quite politely. “What’s yours?”
“Cynthia Zimmerman. You can call me ‘Zimmer’ or ‘Zim’ if you like…”said Franny Sherman who…being five feet eight inches tall…found it ridiculously easy to sling her long, slim leg over the seat of the bike and settle herself down behind Bob..
Franny getting on his bike was about as easy as her almost never telling the guys she would randomly meet in bars her real name. It was just her thing.
At some point either during the evening or at a later encounter…she would tell them the truth…if she felt like it.
You wouldn’t know it to look at her but…Franny could be…complicated
I looked up at my guy. I could see he was pretty tall even though he was sitting on his Harley-Davidson…tall with tan muscular arms that flexed every time he revved up the Harley’s engine. Okay…
I gave him my best smile and said, “So…what’s your name?”
Instead of answering, he moved his boot and flipped down a little chrome peg from the side of his bike.
“If you put your foot on that, you should be able to swing your leg over.”
I paused only for a second and then said super confidently…and…sprightly…
“Oh, I know…I’ve ridden before…hundreds of times. In fact, my older brother, Owen, has a Harley-Davidson…not like this one exactly…but still a Harley.”
Point of fact: I had never ever ridden a motorcycle before and I did not have a brother named Owen. But occasionally I stretched the truth a little…but only if absolutely necessary.
I put my right foot on the little peg and then paused…casually looking around for something to grab so I could pull myself up and over and onto the seat.
I wasn’t sure if I should grab…you know…him.
At five feet three inches tall…I did not have the ability or the agility to easily sling my leg over the bike’s seat as Franny had done.
He looked at me for a second…kind of waiting…and then asked me the oddest question.
“So then. You do know how to be a ‘passenger’ on a motorcycle…right?”
I glanced to the left and I could see Bob talking to Franny and gesturing a lot.
Franny was listening and nodding in acknowledgement. I couldn’t really hear what they were talking about…Bob kept revving his bike engine. I looked back at my guy.
“Absolutely! I’m good! I will be the perfect passenger. You will have no problems with me at all.”
Words were coming out of my mouth that made absolutely no sense whatsoever…not even to me.
But really…how hard could “being a passenger” be? I had ridden a “bicycle” for years when I was a kid…in fact, many times somehow steering my trusty, old Schwinn (don’t even ask) with no hands.
I actually remember cruising down the sidewalk…waving my arms wildly in the air…and shouting to anyone who cared to see…”LOOK!! NO HANDS!!”
I also remember “being a passenger” on my friends’ bikes…I just jumped on the handlebars or on the bike’s cross bar. See? Easy…
No…being a passenger on this motorcycle was not going to be a problem…provided I could actually get on it.
A few seconds passed as I continued to look around for something to grab.
Then…my “no-name biker”…flipped down the kick stand on his side, got off the bike and came over to me. (Jesus! What was he going to do?)
In one swift motion…he grabbed me around the waist, picked me up and set me on the back of the seat.
“My name’s Hank.” He said grinning, as he got back on his bike.
“You?” He asked, turning slightly around to look at me.
“Cooper. I just love bikes!” Oh my God. I sounded like I was five years old.
But Hank smiled at me and said, “Yeah, what’s not to…”
Then he looked over at Bob and gave him a head nod.
The light had changed a couple of times as the four of us had been talking, but now it was green and Bob took off. I saw that Franny had her arms around Bob’s waist so I did the same.
Hank looked back at me. “Ready?”
“Absolutely! I’m ready.”
“Well, Cooper, hang on.” And I did.
We went around the block and rode back towards Lake Nokomis, the lake where Franny and I had just spent the whole morning and a lot of the afternoon.
We circled it and then headed for the freeway which would take us south…thru the southern suburbs and then out to the farm fields that surrounded the city.
Obviously, we weren’t going to cruise around the ‘mean streets’ of Minneapolis. I was fine with that. The speed of the bike was exciting!
Before I knew it, we were whizzing through one yellowing corn field after another…no longer on the interstate.
Hank had passed Bob and Franny a ways back and then had abandoned the colorless freeway. He shouted to Bob over his shoulder that he was taking a more scenic route.
In the distance, I could see lots of hills vibrant with the early, bright colors of Fall. It was spectacular.
(Okay. Here’s the part when you, as the reader, might be saying…perhaps even out loud…or thinking…
“Hey! These two nit-wits don’t even know these guys!”…And…if you did say OR think that…well…good for you.)
Exactly what the holy hell were we thinking? Aside from how cute these two guys were…we were thinking absolutely nothing…zero.
Feeling so relaxed after laying in the sun all day…and then having a late afternoon, slightly chilly breeze blowing thru my thin tee shirt…my eyes slowly started to close and I just ‘ever so lightly’ put my head down on Hank’s back.
Before I knew what was going on…Hank had abruptly pulled over to the side of the road on the gravel shoulder. My semi-closed eyes flew wide open.
I quickly raised up my head and looked around…wondering if “we were there” or at least “somewhere”.
“What the hell were you doing? You can’t fall asleep on a bike! You want to fall off and hit that asphalt going 70 miles an hour?”
Hank was yelling at me and pointing angrily to the black highway next to us. Just then a car flew by us so fast, I couldn’t even see who was driving.
“Were we really going that fast?” I asked. “Wow!”
Yes. Yes. I know! I was obviously missing the point since Hank was not smiling…nor was he answering my question.
Bob and Franny had driven past us but now had turned back, circled around and parked next to us.
“What’s up, man?” asked Bob. Franny was peering out from behind his shoulder…she looked pretty happy. Well good for her.
She wasn’t getting yelled at…by a complete stranger no less.
“She started to fall asleep…” said Hank. He had gotten off his bike and was trying to light a cigarette. I could see his hand was shaking a little…
“Didn’t you give her the “passenger instruction” spiel?” asked Bob…looking first at Hank and then at me.
“Why would I?” said Hank…sounding totally exasperated and talking about me like I wasn’t even there.
“She’s ridden hundreds of times on her brother’s Harley!” He looked over at me…and shook his head in disbelief.
It was at this point, that Franny…my FORMER best friend…burst out laughing…and she really shouldn’t have done that.
“Oh my God!! Are you kidding me? Cooper hasn’t ever ridden on a motorcycle…and she doesn’t have a brother! She doesn’t even have a sister!” Franny was laughing so hard she almost fell off Bob’s bike.
Unwilling…at this point…to make eye contact with Hank, I gazed…with what I hoped was some degree of nonchalance…off into the distance at the bright, yellow, sugar maples that dotted the area where we had stopped.
How very pretty they look, I thought…trying to at least mentally absent myself from this situation that was becoming increasingly unfriendly.
I knew full well that Hank was looking daggers at me. I was surprised I wasn’t actually bleeding.
I also knew…it was probably not a really good idea to suggest to Hank that this would be a good time to show me the “ins and outs” of being a proper passenger on a motorcycle. I had some brains…
So…I kept that suggestion to myself and chose a different strategy.
As I made an attempt to get off this damn motorcycle…I indignantly declared with a voice full of totally, undeserved self-righteousness…
“Well then!! If you’re going to get so mad…forget it. Who wants to be here anyway? I’m going home.”
Again. Today. What the hell was I thinking?
Like a lot of my good ideas and intentions…I had overlooked a few facts. In this particular case…the simple fact that there was a considerable number of miles between “here” and “home”.
Also. I continued to find it extremely difficult…if not impossible…to get off of this fucking bike by myself…without falling flat on my face!
And I was surely not holding out any hope that Jake was going to lend me a hand any time soon…
So, there I sat…trying to ignore the now muffled laughs of my ‘former best friend‘…what’s her name…?
And, of course…trying not to bleed from the wounds I had suffered from Hanks’ disappointed looks and reproachful words.
No one said anything. As they say…”the silence was deafening”…except for the damning whoosh of cars speeding by us…
Yes. Yes. I know!! Going really, really fast.
“You know…I saw a sign advertising a restaurant just a ways back,” said Bob, starting his bike. “I think it’s just a few miles ahead off the next crossroad.”
“Let’s head over there and get some burgers and beers. We’ll all feel better then.”
I saw Franny pat his shoulder in agreement and without waiting for us to say anything…they took off.
“Well…aren’t they just the two little love birds,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath.
Hank looked at me and I saw the beginnings of a smile…
“Owen?” he asked.
“Well…” I said, lifting my chin up a little defensively.
“I read somewhere that if you’re going to lie…you should make it as believable as possible and Owen is a really believable name…”
Then I rashly continued…with just a trace of pride in my voice. “I’ve used that method before…:
“Oh, I just bet you have.” Hank said as he got back on his bike. The hint of a smile had turned into a full grin. I liked this look a lot better…it was ‘dagger free’.
So off we went…but not before he gave me a couple of motorcycle “PASSENGER RULSES” as in…NEVER fall asleep and NEVER grab the arm of the biker…while you’re in motion.
Well! That all made perfect sense to me…now that I knew.
In a couple of minutes, we turned off the main highway and headed down a smaller country road.
Ahead of us in the distance, I could see Franny…my ‘former best friend’ and Bob.
I was hungry…we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and then it had only been coffee and a…
Hang on…wait a minute…brain engaging...
Had Bob said “beers?” He had. He had definitely said “burgers and beers.” I remembered that very distinctly.
Dammit! I wonder what small town jails were like…
But…wait! Hold on! Bob had said a “restaurant”…which…’by definition’…was absolutely not “a cheap dive bar with naked, dancing ladies, an opium den in the back and a ‘neon sign flashing XXX’s over the front door”.
A “restaurant” was generally known as a place where families come to eat and families usually meant adults and children…so there.
I smiled and took a deep, calming breath. No jail time for Cooper Malone today. Awesome!!
I’ll order a Coke, I thought. I love Coke. Maybe I’ll order 2 Cokes…or a Pepsi. Pepsi is a good choice too.
Let everyone else drink beer and flash their fucking ID’s all over the place. “I’ll have a Coke…please.”
I planned the dialog in my head as we approached the town.
Opening Scene: Restaurant interior…Cooper speaks confidently to the waitress…
“You know, I don’t think I’m in the mood for a beer. I think I’ll have a Coke…” (and then all really polite-like) “with extra ice, please…”
The extra ice makes it really believable. Right? Right.
Like I could have a beer if I wanted to…but I don’t want to. I am over 21 but…I just don’t want to drink beer…right now…today…even though I could…if I wanted. Fade out…
And ‘former best friend’ Franny had better not say one damn word or there will be no “Roger encounter” for her at The Friendly when we get back.
That settled…I let my mind concentrate on Hank. He looked older than either Franny or me…maybe about 25? I wonder what he did for a living?
I knew for sure he was cute. Oh yeah…he was cute all right and pretty damn sexy…he also had a kind of presence, not an attitude really, but something else…whatever it was…I liked it.
As we pulled up to the “Three Oaks Restaurant”, I noticed a family of four sitting by the front window. Mom. Dad. Two little girls with pigtails…maybe 8 and 10.
Neither of the little girls were slugging down beers. Not that they would be…of course!
“Settle down, Cooper.” I said sternly to myself…as my thoughts ran crazily roughshod over any sensibilities that I may have had when this day had started.
Bob and Franny were waiting for us on a bench outside the restaurant.
They were talking a mile a minute and laughing…like they had been friends for years.
In my paranoid, self-centered world, I prayed Franny wasn’t sharing any personal information about me…like how old I was.
Hank got off the bike and then before I could make any attempt to get down…or should I say…before I wasted any more time trying to get down…he just lifted me off the seat and placed me on the ground…like I was three years old.
I swear…I though he was going to pat me on the head…as in ‘good little girl’…but he instead just smiled at me and then walked over to where Bob and Franny were sitting. I followed.
“This looks like a good place,” he said, peering inside the restaurant windows and then turned to me. “What do you think, Cooper? he asked.
He said my name so…so pleasantly. Much better than before…when he was yelling at me
“Looks great to me. Let’s go in.” I said.
Then I almost fainted when Hank grabbed my hand as we headed to the door…like this was an actual date.
There were booths along the back wall of the restaurant, tables by the front window where the family was sitting, a couple of tables in the middle and then a long bar than ran from the front to the back.
There were three men sitting at the bar and they all turned and smiled at us when we walked in the door. I just love small towns.
I bet their jails are nice too…not that I would be seeing one…but just saying…for the record…I don’t mean ‘a record’ as in ‘ a police record’…I mean…
(OH SHUT UP COOPER!!!) *
* As the author of this piece of fiction, I give myself full permission to yell at any character I have created. It’s just one of the perks of the job…along with raking in piles of cash…
The bartender smiled at us and motioned for a young girl who was standing right next to him to follow us and take our order.
Aside from the bar patrons and the family by the window…we were the only other people in the restaurant.
There were a couple of ceiling fans lazily churning the air around. There wasn’t any air conditioning…but that was okay. The fans kept it cool enough…even though I felt a couple beads of perspiration on my forehead…
Bob and Franny led the way to a booth in the back and Hank and I followed but then Hank veered off toward a sign that said “Restrooms”.
“Be right back,” he said to me.
No sooner had we sat down, than the girl…who was about 15, cute as a button and sporting a pony-tail and braces…placed four well-worn menus on the table and greeted us with a huge smile.
“Hi! I’m Nan,” she said proudly. “I can take your order and bring you food but my dad, who owns this place, will have to fill any drink orders since I’m only 16…if you all want beer, that is.”
I silently chuckled…
Then she pulled out an order pad and politely waited for us…to do something. I imagine just like she had been trained to do…not so very long ago.
“Well, I’m ready,” said Bob. “I’ll have a cheeseburger with fried onions. And a Budweiser.”
“Make that two,” said Hank who slid into the booth next to me.
His knee accidentally brushed against mine and I jumped a mile. (Yes. I was a little tense. My big scene was coming up…)
“Are you okay?” he asked. HIs voice had so much concern in it…how thoughtful…
“I’m fine! Just great!!” My voice was rising a bit.. “I’m fantastic!!! Let’s just get this God damn ordering over with!!”
It was at this point that everyone stopped cold and just looked at me. And can you blame them? Really? I sounded completely nuts…
I apologized profusely to sweet, young Nan…who had turned bright red but…had generously accepted my apologies…
And…after also apologizing to everyone else at the table and pleading temporary insanity…I quickly opened my menu and then slapped it shut. I was ready.
Franny was still looking at hers and also occasionally peeking over the menu at me.
I gently cleared my throat a little…not to hurry her or anything…but…I did want her to speak first…
It was “my scene”…and even though she didn’t know it…she had the opening line to this little drama playing out in my mind.
Franny looked up from the menu and said…”What are you getting, Coop”
Yes! I was “Center Stage”…
I glanced briefly at the menu again…just for show…and then I said, ever so kindly and politely to Nan, “I don’t feel like having a beer. I’ll have a Coke…with lots of ice, please…and a chicken sandwich with fries.”
Then I handed Nan my menu. I was so pleased with myself. I looked over at Franny for her reaction.
Her mouth had fallen open slightly in surprise at my clever move…or maybe (okay…probably) because…without really meaning to…I had given my order to Nan using a heavy (and completely phony) Southern accent…a la Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire”…my favorite movie…
“I’ll have the same as her,” Franny said…pausing slightly and then smiling. “Except…I do feel like having a beer. I’ll have a bottle of Grain Belt with a glass, please.”
“My dad will have to check your IDs before he can serve you guys any beer. He’ll be right over.” Nan picked up the menus and headed toward the bar.
Feeling like I’d climbed Mt. Everest in the middle of a raging blizzard…with my oxygen tanks long since depleted…I leaned back against the booth.
I put my tanned hands on the table and admired my new Revlon Orange Blossom nail polish that I’d purchased yesterday at Larson’s Drug Store.
Taking a deep, relaxing breath I smiled across the table at Franny…and Bob.
“I’m hungrier than I thought!” I said…with not a hint of a Southern accent…”I hope the food’s good.”
It never once occurred to me that we were sitting here with two strange young men…about whom we knew absolutely nothing.
Somehow it just seemed natural and perfectly fine.
I turned to ask Hank what he did for a living. He was pulling his wallet out of his jeans’ pocket so he could show his driver’s license to the bartender who was headed our way.
My smiling eyes fell down to his hands. They were even more tan than mine…
Except for a little band of pure white on the third finger of his left hand…you know…the ring finger…
“Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself. Not only was he married…he was trying to hide it by taking his ring off. What a complete idiot!! Didn’t he see the white band?
I tried to shoot a ‘look’ at Franny so she could also notice the tell-tale white circle but her head was down as she was digging out her wallet from her purse
“Hi, folks…got to see those IDs you know. Don’t want to lose my license serving any underage kids.” The bartender said all cheery-like…
I should have appreciated this moment…especially after my stellar performance…but now…not so much.
After checking everyone else’s IDs, the owner looked over at me.
“How about you, dear…” the bartender asked.
“I’m just having a Coke.” I said flatly.
“Oh. Okay then, I’ll bring those drinks right over. Enjoy your food and thanks for coming in…usually Saturday afternoons are pretty quiet around here.”
Polite chit chat with the owner filled the air for a couple of minutes and then he left.
Franny was all smiles and happy…apparently Bob was beginning to tell her some witty little story. She leaned in to listen to him and I couldn’t catch her eye.
“You know…” Hank turned to me and started to say something but I gave him a tight, even smile and put up my hand to stop him and then said to Franny…
“Come to the ladies’ room with me, okay?”
My tone was more of a friendly order than a request.
“Huh? Oh, sure,” Franny said, giving Bob an apologetic look since he was in the middle of his story.
Hank stood so I could get out…such a polite, nice…married man. I think he said something to me but I paid no attention. I just walked toward the “Restrooms” sign.
“What’s up?” asked Franny when the door had closed behind us. I checked to make sure no one else was in the stalls…then I whispered to Franny…I don’t know why I whispered…
He’s “married!” That’s what’s up.” I said…while looking in the mirror to check out my hair. “What a creep!”
“How do you know?” asked Franny…who was also checking her hair in the mirror. We were such “girls”.
“When we get back, look at his left hand and see the little white band of ‘non-tanned’ skin on his third finger.” I said while pointing to my left hand.
“Nooooo!!” I can’t believe it!” exclaimed Franny. “I’m so sorry, Cooper.” She put her hand on my arm.
“What kind of guy goes around picking up girls when he’s married! What a jerk! He probably even has kids!!” continued Franny.
Oh, that comment made me feel good…I hadn’t even thought about that…a little ‘Hank’ running around somewhere…waiting for his “ratty daddy” to come home…
“Well,” said Franny. “I’m pretty sure Bob’s not married…at least I hope not…I’m going out with him Tuesday night.”
“Dinner at Charlie’s Cafe and then we’re going to see that new film, “The Russians Are coming, The Russians Are Coming”. I heard it’s really funny. I’ll have to check his left hand when we get back, to see if he has any tell-tale ring marks…”
I looked at her reflection in the mirror and she was turning her head from side to side…admiring her new haircut…which was actually identical to mine. Franny was always so happy and positive. I was glad she was my best friend.
“Hey! What about your plans to hook up with ‘Roger’ later this afternoon?” I asked her. “Are you no longer interested in him?”
“Sure am! Absolutely!! But Bob is fun and super cute. I’ll see what happens. I just feel bad for you, Cooper. Are you going to say anything?”
“No…of course not. I mean…what can I say. I kind of picked him up…really…and we are just ‘riding around”…after all. But still…it is crummy.”
I put on some fresh lipstick…might as well look good anyway…and then we both headed back out into the restaurant.
“I hope the damn chicken is good.” I said and let the door bang shut behind me.
“Are you going to tell Bob your real name today or wait until Tuesday?” I quietly asked Franny as we headed back to our booth.
“Oh, I’ve already told him. He thought the whole ‘fake name thing’ was really a cool idea.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said. “Well good for old Bob.”
Yes, yes, I know…I sounded just a little bitter.
As we approached the table, Hank jumped up right away so I could get in and sit down…so very courteous. Whatever…
“Everything okay?” he asked, again sounding a little worried…
“Peachy…just peachy,” I said with a big (maybe a tad phony) smile.
The bartender had brought over the drinks while Franny and I were in the Ladies’ Room. I took a swallow of my Coke. I was so thirsty. It was icy cold…perfect. Who needed beer anyway?
I glanced sideways at Hank. You know…I could play games too. Maybe I would have a little fun with ‘my married date’.
“So…Hank…” I asked. “What are your plans for tonight? Franny and I were going into The Friendly Inn when we met you guys…want to come in with us when we get back? Play some bumper pool?”
I was trying to sound normal and friendly but I know I wasn’t carrying it off very well…but like I cared…right?
Hank looked at me and tilted his head…almost as if he was debating what to say…it was odd…but then he laughed a little and said…
“Well, actually…” and then Nan appeared with our food and Hank didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence.
The food was really great and nobody talked much while we were eating.
I popped a last fry in my mouth and said, “Wow, that was excellent!”
“I wonder what that sauce was the cook put on the hamburgers?” Hank wondered out loud. “I’ll have to ask Nan when she collects the bill. It was really different…but good.” Bob nodded in agreement.
I gave Franny a look. What an odd comment from a guy about his burger. It seemed strange to have a guy so interested in the food.
“What…are you a cook or something?” I asked Hank…a little bit sarcastically…for no other reason…than because he was “a married rotter”.
I wasn’t usually sarcastic to people…in fact I was never sarcastic to people…so it came out a little heavy-handed.
I instantly felt bad…but oh well…if you’re going to “cheat on your wife and abandon your babies”…you get what you deserve.
He paused…obviously feeling the sting of my remark…but then said…
“In fact, yes. I worked for a couple of years at the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis as a sous chef. Then I moved over to the Nicollet Hotel. I worked there for about a year.”
“It’s what I do. I cook.” He gave me a tentative smile…maybe wondering if I was going to stop him from talking…again.
So…when I made no move to stop him, he continued. “More recently, I’ve been working at a little restaurant in St. Paul…The Blue Onion…have you ever been there?”
I actually had heard of The Blue Onion…it was very popular now and everyone was talking about it.
“Yes. I have. I’ve never been there though…maybe we should go there sometime…”
I let the suggestion hang in the air for a couple of seconds as I looked Hank in the eye while smiling…just so he would think that I was possibly hinting for a future date…
And then…just as it seemed he might be interested…I quickly turned to Franny and very deliberately continued my question to her…
“…eh Franny? You’ve heard of the Onion, right?” I knew she had and she fell right in line with my little charade at Hank’s expense.
“Oh, yeah. We’ll have to go there sometime and see if this guy can cook.” And then she grinned at me…knowing that I had scored.
I turned back to Hank…gave him a slightly, mischievous smile…and went in for the kill…
“So…what’s it going to be? Want to come and play some pool with us later?” I also looked over at Bob to include him…I had a hunch it wouldn’t matter…but I wanted to appear polite.
“You know…that sounds like fun,” said Hank, looking very meaningfully at Bob first…and then back to me…
“But,” he said after a huge pause, “It’s my mom’s birthday and the whole family…including Bob, who is like part of the family, is getting together tonight.”
“We’ll have to take a rain check.” Apparently, Bob can’t speak for himself…since he didn’t.
What a swell lie. I was so impressed I almost believed him…mother…birthday…such a good son…such a good, loving, ‘married’ son.
Nan breezed by and left the bill. I put $10.00 on the table. I knew that would cover my food and my share of the tip. Hank pushed it back at me.
“My treat!” He said looking at me. Damn…he had the most amazingly, beautiful blue eyes. I hadn’t noticed them before…oh well. That’s life.
“Nope…I always pay my own way,” I said briskly…and I pushed the money back at Hank. I knew I didn’t sound too friendly…because then…
He turned to me and looked really puzzled at my sudden change in tone…
It was as if he was trying to guess what I was thinking. Well…good luck with that…
Then…getting no reaction from me other than a humorless smile…he just shrugged his shoulders, took my money and added it to the pile for Nan.
“Everyone ready to go?” Hank said…looking across the table at Bob and Franny…who were again deep in conversation.
We all got up and headed for the door. Hank held back a little and walked over to the owner. After a couple of minutes, he joined us outside.
“Cinnamon,” he said with a pleased look. “Good to know.”
And then we were all on our way home…
There was a decidedly different feeling between Hank and me now. Well. It wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t the one with the “little wifey and nine kids” waiting at home.
The ride back was not nearly as exciting as the ride to the restaurant. I was really disappointed and kid of sad that Hank wasn’t single…and available.
He was super cute and fun…and he seemed to have a good sense of humor which I especially like in guys…
And…he could have stayed mad at me for my stupid move on the motorcycle…but he hadn’t.
And…even though we hadn’t had much chance to talk…I felt a small connection…at least when he wasn’t yelling at me or when I wasn’t lying to him…
Then I remembered that little “happy feeling” I had felt when he grabbed my hand as we first walked into the restaurant. Now…surprisingly…tears stung at my eyes.
Oh damn. I blinked my eyes and focused. Maybe I would meet some great guy at The Friendly tonight.
According to Franny, half the single men in Minneapolis showed up there on Saturday afternoon…we’ll see…
I blinked again and looked at my watch…it was only 5:12…the night was still young and full of possibilities.
As we neared The Friendly, I realized I didn’t want to be done with ‘married Hank’…not just yet.
When we got to the corner where this hopeless misadventure had all started, Hank pulled the bike up close to the curb.
He shut it down, got off and again quickly picked me up and put me on the street. This time his hands lingered lightly on my waist.
“You know, Cooper…” he began…
I didn’t say a word. I didn’t even look at him.
I just pulled away and walked over to the sidewalk…ignoring him completely.
When I got there, I looked back at him. He hadn’t started up his bike yet…but was just watching me walk away.
“Hey!” I hollered back to him. “Don’t forget to put your ring back on…your wife might get a little suspicious if you’re not wearing it when you get home.”
And then…I turned around and quickly walked right across the street into The Friendly Inn.
I was absolutely and completely unaware of where the hell Franny was but…as it turned out, she was right on my heels.
She and Bob had parted ways, quickly exchanging phone numbers before he took off.
Franny and I stopped for a couple of seconds in the entryway of The Friendly to let our eyes adjust to the inky darkness of the bar.
“Cooper…” said Franny. “That was beyond cool! What a put down. I looked at Hank’s face right after you yelled at him and he was completely stunned.”
“I guess he thought he had you fooled.”
“Oh, look,” she pointed. “That booth is empty. Hurry before someone else takes it.”
Franny gave me a little shove from behind and I all but fell into the first booth. She didn’t want to sit on the side that faced the door…she wanted me to sit there…she took the side looking into the bar.
“Now. When Roger comes in, just kick me a little under the table…but don’t say anything.”
“And don’t be overly obvious, okay? I know that sometimes you think you’re so funny…” I interrupted her…
“Should we have a code word…like ‘Rumpelstiltskin‘” I joked. But Franny was dead serious.
“Cooper! I am dead serious. That’s why I’m sitting here on this side…if I see him coming in the door, I’ll get all crazy acting. You know me…So just do what I asked…please.”
“Oh. Here comes Stanley.”
“Hi, Stanley! It’s really crowded in here this afternoon.”
And that’s when my heart started beating so hard I thought I would pass out. A life of crime was definitely not in my future.
“Hey, Franny! Haven’t seen you in here for a few weeks. Find another place to hang out and steal a guy’s money while you break his heart?”
“Yeah, I guess it has been a while. Oh, Stanley, this is my best friend…” She smiled and turned to look at me…
And…that’s when Franny’s mouth stayed open…but no words were coming out…
She had completely forgotten the name on my fake driver’s license…tick, tock, tick, tock…
Oh My God!!! I was so screwed!!!
Franny shouted the name out so loud, two guys sitting at the bar near us turned around.
Franny composed herself and in a normal, sane voice…continued…
“Shelley…meet Stanley…the nicest bartender in the city of Minneapolis…and the lousiest bumper pool player. I’ve made a fortune off of him!“
I finally found the courage to actually look up at Stanley and I tried very hard to appear casual and…you know…over 21.
“Hey. Nice to meet you, Stanley.”
“Same…uh, it’s Shelley…right?” He said laughing.
“Yup.” I said confidently as I noticed him getting ready to take our order. Maybe he wouldn’t even ask to see my ID…could I get that lucky?
Franny ordered first.
“I’ll have a small tap beer and a small cheese pizza.”
Stanley looked over at me. I wanted to say, “I’ll have a Coke…” but I really did want a beer…so…in for a penny in for a pound…
“You know…I’ll have the same…and an order of onion rings, please.” I am so very polite.
“Okay, ladies, I will place your order and get your beers for you.” He ripped off the order slip and turned to walk away…but then…but then…
He turned back to us…
“Oh hey…we’ve got a new owner as of last month and he’s pretty careful about underage drinking here, so he’ll be over to check ID’s in a couple of seconds. I’ll be back soon with your drinks.” And then he left.
“Dammit! I thought you were good to go.” said Franny.
“That’s it, I’m leaving. I can’t do this, Franny. I’m a nervous wreck. I just want to go home…I’ll call a cab. No problem.” I made a motion to get up.
“Cooper, don’t worry! You’ll be fine. Your ID looks almost just like you…and you really do look twenty-three…especially in this light.”
“Just be cool…” Franny reached across the table and patted my hand.
“Hey…do you want to hear something funny? Bob asked me on the way back here if you had a ‘drinking problem’ since you made such a big deal out of ordering a Coke at the restaurant.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said…half listening to her as I was digging in my purse for my wallet…and… my fake driver’s license.
“So, what did you say?” I said.
“Oh, I just told him the truth…that you weren’t twenty-one.”
My head flew up and I reached across the table to put my hand over Franny’s mouth.
“Franny!! Quiet!!” I whispered loudly and looked around but Franny just ignored me, batted my hand down and kept talking…
“Oh, stop…no one heard me.” she said giggling. “I wonder what time Roger and his friends will show up…”
Nothing ever bothered Franny…she was always so happy and positive. It’s what I loved about her. It’s why she was my best friend.
I relaxed a little…glanced down at my ‘fake license’…I guess it did look kind of like me. And then I looked up to agree with Franny…
But her mouth had fallen open and her eyes had widened in horror as she gasped…
“OH MY GOD!! I’ll be damned!!”
I didn’t think twice. Whatever was going to happen next was not going to happen to me…I was completely done with this day.
I grabbed my purse, slid across the leather seat of the booth and started for the door. But just as I reached for the handle, a hand grabbed my arm.
“Excuse me, young lady. Are you even old enough to be in here? Let’s see some ID.” The voice was loud and angry.
Oh. Fuck!! I wrestled my arm free and without looking back I yanked open the door.
“I’m leaving! I’m leaving!” I yelled to the guy over my shoulder and I almost ran outside.
“Not before you give me your phone number!” he said and followed me out.
What was going on? Was this guy some kind of psycho?
In the dancing Fall shadows of a late September afternoon…and feeling safely ‘legal’ now that I stood on a street in Minneapolis and not in some bar that required me to be something I was not, I angrily whirled around.
I found myself looking into the very intense, laughing blue eyes of the new owner of The Friendly Inn.
Or…as I had come to know him just a short time ago…’Hank’…who was now wearing a white chef’s apron that said, “Yes, I AM the cook” over his raggedy white tee shirt and jeans.
Stunned…I, of course, swore madly.
“What the hell is going on? Who are you anyway?” I shouted at him, not enjoying the smirk on his face one bit.
“Well,” he said and pointed to his apron…
“I’m Hank Sullivan. And as of two and a half weeks ago…the new cook and owner of The Friendly Inn.”
He reached up to block the sun’s rays from hitting his eyes and I noticed his left hand where there was now a simple gold wedding band resting on his third finger.
“And…I guess you’re also still somebody’s “faithful” husband as well…” I said accusingly.
I knew who had the upper hand right now…and it was not Mr. Married Guy…no matter how cute he was when he grinned…and he was grinning now…from ear to ear.
“Cheating on your wife is not funny.” I said indignantly. “How would you feel if she was biking all afternoon with a strange young man?”
I was on a roll. When you’re right…you’re right. And I was definitely right!
“Plus…it’s not fair to women like me who…who…trust that you’re not married if you ask them to go for a ride on their motorcycle…”
I knew I was on shaky ground here since I had sort of instigated the whole “going for a ride idea” by kind of flirting with him in the first place…but still…
“Really? That’s the best you can do?” he laughed. “You’re trying to drink illegally in my bar which could cost me my license, a ton of money…which I don’t have right now…and possibly destroy me.”
I looked at him questioningly…”How do you know I’m not…”
Before I could finish…he said. “Bob called me.”
“Oh…” Well. He had me there. We were both wrong.
“Okay,” I said grudgingly…looking down at the sidewalk. “I guess we were both wrong.”
“Nope. Just you. You’re the only one who is wrong. I’m completely innocent…of all wrong doing.” he said smugly.
My head popped up.
“What! What the fuck do you mean?” I said totally dumbfounded.
“Well,” he said. “I’m actually not married. I only wear the ring to keep young women from hanging around the bar area and costing me business.”
“The previous owner suggested it…he was single when he bought this place 40 years ago…and it really does work.”
“Only I keep forgetting that it’s on when I leave here. It doesn’t take long to get a tan line when you ride a motorcycle.”
He slipped off the ring to reveal the tell-tale white band.
“I tried to explain that to you a couple of times back at the restaurant,” Hank continued, “but then you seemed kind of angry and not that interested in me so I thought what the hell.”
“I see…” I said softly…looking down. Feeling a little stupid…I was at a loss for words.
Hank, however, was not.
“So. How old are you, Cooper?”
“You mean today?” I said a little flippantly…”Or in December…when I will be twenty-one?”
I looked up at him…Oh…those eyes…
He gave me a huge grin…slowly shaking his head from side to side. Then he came over and threw his arm around my shoulders…pulling me next to him.
“C’mon back in, Cooper. You can hang out with your friend as long as you don’t order any beer…I’ve got an in with the ‘owner.'”
As we started walking back toward the entrance to The Friendly, Hank said, “It’s Sunday tomorrow and we’re closed. I hear it’s supposed to be another great day…”
“Want to go for a ride?” he asked.
I stopped for a moment and then said…looking up at him…
“Do I need an ID?”
…I am in BIG trouble…140#!!!
Holy Moly!!! I heard you gasp from all the way over there…wherever ‘there’ is…
I was doing so well…
I was almost to the 129# mark on a regular basis…125# by November was happening…
AND THEN… COVID-19 hit.
Oh, don’t get me wrong here…I was a full and compliant participant.
No one was forcing chocolate bars and potato chips down my throat while I was strapped to a chair and bravely refusing to share “very secret secrets” with them. …
(BY THE WAY…potato chips are my NEW addiction. Go big or go home, right? Wrong…)
“But weren’t you walking on a regular basis? I seem to recall you saying…” …
NO!!!! I STOPPED DOING THAT!
It was… just…TOO HOT AND TOO HUMID!!!!! And…because…”insert whatever fucking excuse you can think of.”
Basically…I just closed my eyes and flipped off the reality switch in my brain. Sometimes reality is so…REAL.
Now I have to go back to whatever sections in my little “I just ate less,,,” treatise that apply to me and start ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!! YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Incidentally. A small factoid. This is NOT an excuse for my total lack of self-control…but still…all roads lead to Rome…right?
I have dreams ALL the time that I have Covid-19. It is the damnedest thing…and not surprising… very unsettling….
Have a nice day…
I AM DEFINITELY ON THE EDGE…
…but it took me so long to figure out the new WordPress ‘block editor’ crap…I forgot why I’m on the edge…
I’ll keep you posted.
Have a nice day…
“How crazy is this???”
‘BTW…I’ve done worse…but that’s a tale for another time…’
Last night…about midnight…I was just about to turn off the harsh and mostly unforgiving bathroom light and head off to dreamland…when…
…I sleepily glanced in the ‘HUGE‘ bathroom mirror and noticed that my hair looked really awful…kinda straight and stringy…no snap…
Now…to be fair…the morning had been ‘hectic’…and I didn’t really get a chance to…you know…”style” my ‘bob length” hair.
However…I had run a comb thru it in the morning and…during the day I had probably ‘fluffed’ it every time I looked in any mirror (which was often)…but I had not officially put a curling iron or flat iron to an actual hair strand.
So…about 12:11 a.m….I got out my curing iron…and plugged it in.
Then I did a slow stroll out to the living room to look out the patio door window into the dark courtyard to see if there was anyone lurking out there…(there never is…but I continue to look nonetheless)…and then I returned to the bathroom…
…where I proceeded to completely curl and carelessly style my hair.
…SO… that I would look good (or hopefully less horrible) when I got up in the morning.
And…full disclosure…at 6:03 a.m. this morning…I looked pretty damn good!!
Have a nice day…
I keep hearing these little voices…*
It was 7:29 a.m. and I was just innocently sitting at my kitchen table…minding my own business…just looking out the window and watching the rain fall.
So very, very peaceful…and sane.
But then…I heard this little voice in my head…you know the kind I mean…they usually appear in a bubble over someone’s head in a cartoon…
The voice said, “It would be really, really swell to have a sugar cookie right now.” And the voice was exceptionally enticing.
And…because I always pay attention when I am talking to myself…I answered… “You know…it really would.”
However…I didn’t have any sugar cookies. My cookie jar was empty.
So in order to have a cookie…I would have to bake a cookie…or bake many cookies.
And so then I said…out loud…”Well, I guess I have to bake some cookies.”
So…if you happen to overhear someone talking to themselves…and it’s pretty obvious they are not on a cell phone.
Don’t necessarily assume that they are…you know…wacko.
It’s very possible that they just need a cookie.
*And that is why I still weigh 137.0
Have a nice day…
Wow…I forgot how hard this is…
I will never eat potato chips in the middle of the day ever again…pandemic or not. And I’m not even kidding.
Have a nice day…
There are no excuses…only a new plan…
A million years ago…on a 92 degree summer day…I shoveled 5 yards of black dirt. The dew point was in the upper 60’s.
It was a hot one, my friends…
I worked all day…smoked way too many cigarettes…but I got the job done…
Just like I will get the job done now…
NEW GOAL…….132.0 by August 10, 2020…..
Have a nice day…
P.S. I know you’re wondering…I will do this without giving up my chocolate bar…hey…it was bad enough I had to give up cigarettes 14 years ago…give me a break…
It was a bitter, cold December night in Minnesota…and even though I was not yet born…I remember very clearly every detail of that exciting winter evening because…
…my mother was an authentic genius with a tested IQ of 171 and could correctly remember absolutely everything that had ever happened to her and…
…because my father was a devilishly clever storyteller who could weave a tale that kept you listening…with your mouth hanging open…for hours.
Sometimes…in the middle of one of his stories that took place during my “non-remembered early life”…I would be holding my breath until my mom would gently tug one of my pigtails and say, “Lottie…don’t worry…you don’t die!”
So…as this particular story goes…it was on that cold December night when my “35 1/2 weeks” pregnant mother pulled a gun on a very nice policeman…who “as they so often do”…was just trying to help.
But…let’s begin at the beginning…shall we?
The 23-pound, golden brown Thanksgiving Day turkey had not yet even been carved…when Clive Johnson and his brainy and beautiful wife Gee (as in “Gee Whiz)…announced to all family and friends who had gathered together in Clive and Gee’s tiny apartment…to celebrate this most beloved holiday event…that they would be moving the following week from their cozy but crowded one bedroom apartment with their adorable, chubby seven-year-old son Durwood and faithful hunting dog named Duke.
Worth noting: My father did not hunt, had never hunted and would never hunt in the future…but had met some guy in a bar (of course he did) and the guy had been trying to sell his 6-month old purebred hunting dog…for a ridiculously cheap price.
Now my father really loved a good deal…but as he later told Gee, “His eyes just got to me, honey.” And I’m pretty sure he meant the dog’s eyes…”
When I was able to talk…I called Duke “Thido Thia” for some strange, unknown reason.
Could someone please tell me…*
How I can spend over an hour of my precious time writing, editing, writing, changing, writing…….and more…..to get one perfect sentence…
And then have absolutely NO willpower when it comes to blithely (as in having not a care in the world) getting up and walking four steps to the cookie jar and grabbing two (NOT ONE…but TWO) chocolate chip cookies and then eating them in like less than 3 minutes?
*Don’t really tell me…I don’t want to know…ignorance can be bliss. The cookies were homemade…by me:)
Have a nice day…
Our new home was an older two-story, with a screened-in front porch, a screened-in back porch, a couple of bedrooms upstairs…a nice back yard…a scattering of trees and a single car garage.
I drive by it occasionally…the screened-in front porch is still there…the now magnificent Bur Oak tree in the front yard is still there…and I’m sure the bullet…by now deeply embedded in its formidable trunk…is still there as well…
Because my father worked nights delivering oil for Midwestern Oil and Gas Company, he decided it would be a really great idea for Gee to have a gun…so she could protect herself when he wasn’t there.
Clive wasn’t exactly sure what Gee needed protection from…but still…a gun sounded like a great idea. My father…as I was to later learn…quite often had a lot of really “great” ideas…and this particular idea was prompted by the unexpected opportunity to purchase above mentioned weapon…very, very cheap.
One afternoon while Clive was perched on his favorite stool at “Jimmy’s Dew Drop Inn” some rummy wino lurched in the front door waving a silver, six-shooter gun…visualize a ‘cowboy’ gun…yelling “Ten Bucks!! Ten Bucks!!”
Of course, everyone in “Jimmy’s” ducked because they thought the guy was there to rob the place…even though as they collectively reflected later…they all thought it was odd that he was demanding such a weirdly low amount.
Clive, however, did not duck but instead turned on his stool and said, “I’ll give you $5.00 for it, Scotty. Does it have bullets?”
My father…as I was to also later learn…seemed to know an awful lot of people…
The deal was done…one gun…fully loaded…brought home to Gee who…
…picked it up rather haphazardly from the kitchen table where Clive had so proudly placed it…
…and…in her defense…being completely unaware at how surprisingly heavy a loaded gun could be…
…and…while asking Clive in a somewhat dismissive voice…”How the hell does this stupid thing work?” and not actually looking at the gun as she was talking…
…accidentally pointed it at my father and pulled the trigger.
Well…you will be relieved to know that she missed.
But…it was a tense night in the Johnson household.
The gun was summarily placed on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard next to the sink…with “vague plans” to “someday” visit a gun range for lessons from “someone” who actually knew what they were doing…and that “someone” would definitely not be “Scotty”.
A couple of weeks later…it was about 11:22 p.m. and Clive was at work. Gee was in the kitchen having a cup of coffee, laced with the addition of milk and sugar…a Scandinavian requirement. Then she lit a cigarette.
Hey…give her a break!!! This was 1943 for Pete’s sake. Pregnant women smoke and drank…and…there was a world war raging out of control!!! These were stressful times…
Back to the story…let’s re-focus…
Gee…in kitchen…Durwood…cozily asleep in his little bed upstairs…puppy named Duke asleep right next to him.
Outside…snow, mixed with sleet, was falling heavily and gusts of wind blew snowflakes against the single pane windows.
Suddenly, there was a sound on the back-porch steps. Then…a furtive scraping on the back-porch door. “What the fuck?” said Gee who never swore…except when she occasionally did.
She did not move right away…instead she put one protective hand on her stomach…or…you know…me. Then she heard glass breaking.
Well. What exactly does one do at this point? Do you scream? Do you faint? Do you call the police? Maybe…or…
…do you slowly get up and take three steps to get a loaded gun down from the kitchen cupboard?
You get the gun, right? Right.
More glass breaking and then as Gee is getting down the gun…she turned slightly and saw thru the back-door window someone whom she definitely knew should not be there.
Without one single hesitating thought…Gee completely turned toward the door and…because of “previous experience”…used both hands, raised the heavy gun, pointed it and…pulled the trigger…just once. The intruder screamed angrily and swore loudly.
Gee…whose fearless grip on the gun had not loosened one bit…shot two more times thru the now completely shattered glass window…whereupon she heard another scream and within mere seconds…heard a loud thud.
She then carefully walked over scattered shards of glass, into the hall between the kitchen and the living room where there was a convenient little “telephone nook”…a recessed area only big enough for a chair and a tiny table that held the household telephone.
Gee sat down, placed the still warm gun next to the phone…all the while keeping an eye on the back door…picked up the receiver and dialed the operator and said…in a remarkably calm voice, “I need the police.”
Mission accomplished…Gee returned to the kitchen where she sat back down at the kitchen table. She momentarily put the gun down to light a cigarette. (I know. I know. But let’s give her credit for not cracking open the bottle of Jim Beam that sat next to the toaster…okay?)
That done…she propped the gun on a turned over jar of grape jelly and just stared intently at the back door…wondering…were there more?
Gee…my gutsy, pregnant mother sat there…at the ready. The gun was in one hand and a Lucky Strike cigarette in the other.
Minutes later, there were a couple of loud knocks on the front porch screen door.
Gee calmly took one steadying drag from her cigarette, put it carefully out in the ash tray, picked up the gun and walked slowly into the living room.
She paused by the stairs that led to the second floor and listened to hear if either Durwood or Duke had woken up from all the commotion…they had not.
She unlocked the solid and very heavy wooden door that led to the screened-in front porch.
After opening it only a few inches, Gee flipped the switch that would turn the porch light on and clearly illuminate anyone standing on the front porch.
HOWEVER, the light didn’t go on because Clive...that lazy son-of-a-bitch…had forgotten to replace the burned-out bulb…a simple chore that Gee had reminded him to do several God damn fucking times…so she hollered…rather absurdly when you think about it…”Who’s there?”
A silent pause for about 3 seconds…then…
“It’s the police, ma’am. I’m Officer Daniel Nelson. Are you Mrs. Johnson? Did you call for assistance…ma’am?”
Now Gee was no fool. “How do I know you are the police?” she asked skeptically.
Officer Nelson…who was a VERY, VERY new police officer hesitated for a moment…and by doing so…completely destroyed any confidence Gee may have been building with him.
“Well, ma’am…” Officer Nelson said slowly, “If you open the door, I could show you my ID…and my badge?” And because he was only 23 years old, he unfortunately sounded like an extremely nervous 12-year old boy.
Gee hesitated and pondered her next move. But then…as I was later told…I kicked her…rather sharply.
“Fine…fine.” She said…somewhat distractedly. “Hold on a second.”
She tugged open the heavy mahogany door that led to the actual porch with her left hand…
…and because it was so heavy and because she was so pregnant…she used her right hand to help open it…
…and simply forgot (who could blame her…really) that she had a loaded gun in her right hand…and quite accidentally fired off a shot (obviously unintentionally) in the direction of Officer Nelson who was standing a mere eight feet away…separated only by a flimsy screen door.
“Son of a bitch!…ma’am…” shouted the always polite Officer Nelson..in a weirdly high voice…as he was sure a bullet had just sailed right by his ear.
He was absolutely correct. The bullet…it was later mentioned in the official police report…had lodged in one of the Bur Oak trees that the previous owner of the house had planted just last June…and which crime scene investigators subsequently determined could remain there…forever.
“I’m so, so sorry…I didn’t mean to do that.” Gee said very apologetically…because she really was sorry.
“Are you okay?” She asked as she walked thru the front porch area toward the outer screen door. But still on alert…she also asked…
“Do you now have your badge and ID out, Officer Nelson?”
And then…Gee sighed. She was suddenly feeling very, very pregnant…because she was.
She unhooked and pushed open the outer screen door with her left hand…and then she raised her right hand…again forgetting there was a loaded gun in that hand…at this point the gun almost seemed to be a part of her…
…and she started to use the barrel of the gun to push an errant lock of her long blonde hair from her face…which was now highlighted by the piercing beam of a flashlight held by Office Nelson…which he had produced to help her see his ID and badge.
It was unfortunate…and later, much, much later…some would say even amusing…that two other police officers, who had come to assist the rookie Office Daniel Nelson, saw the silver gun flashing in the light. They immediately took cover by falling to the ground…unintentionally sinking completely out of sight in a huge drift of newly fallen snow.
The very brave Officer Daniel Nelson, a member of the police force for only three days, swallowed hard and even though he was now looking down the barrel of a very shiny but deadly weapon…he resisted every instinct he had…to pull out his own gun and shoot this obviously demented woman…who could probably end his life and/or his career this very night.
But instead…he took a deep breath and somewhat calmly said…with only a slight quiver in his voice…
“Mrs. Johnson…would you please put your gun down?”
My mother was a sucker for polite young men…so she promptly did exactly what she was asked to do.
And then…from the backyard…Officer Roger Small, who was Officer Nelson’s partner, hollered…
“Hey Danny!! There’s a dead guy on the back porch! And he’s wearing a Halloween mask!”
It was the first time that cold, winter night that Gee smiled.
Here’s the deal. Today I was taking my daily walk…okay…my almost daily walk.
I had just purchased some really cool looking face masks…HELLO!!! COVID-19 (in case you were wondering)…..
So I decided on the black and white checked one. I also had to put on my large black (super cool Ray-Ban) sun glasses because it was……….sunny!!
Since I was starting my walk in an area with no people I just had the mask pulled down below my chin…covering the…you know… “jowls” area.
For those youngsters who may not know (yet) what jowls are…well good for you!!!.. But please allow me to enlighten you.
They are an area beneath your chin that you will almost assuredly get as you age and will also most assuredly
not like hate.
But guess what? No one could see them!!! HAH! (Important only to those who might care about that.) (I do..on occasion.)
THEN…a couple of people came strolling down the lane towards me…not wearing masks. Just so you know, I consider people who do not wear masks to be terribly unaware.
So…anyway… I flipped mine up and continued walking. I wasn’t sure if I knew them…it is a relatively small apartment complex where I live so…I might have.
However, when I walk I keep my head down when people are approaching…I’m not into the stop & chat bit..so we passed each other and no one said anything.
After they passed…it suddenly occurred to me that most of my face had been covered…I was basically unrecognizable. I could have been anyone…and…any age!!!
So where is all this taking me? I can now appear to look as young as I feel with no plastic surgery!!!
So there. Take that corona virus. I win.
Have a nice day…
P.S. Still rocking 134.4 and NO, I AMNOT GIVING UP THAT DAMN CHOCOLATE BAR!!! !!!!!!!!!:)
I AM A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FAILURE…
And I’m pretty sure it’s not my fault…
Here’s the deal. How is it humanly possible for me to gain weight by just eating only one lousy candy bar…one…that unfortunately I am totally addicted to…every night after dinner?
I really don’t want to eat one every night after dinner!!!!
I love that damn candy bar…what is it…213 calories?
OH STOP!!!!!!! I HEAR YOU…….
Getting back to “it’s not my fault”…I think that I should do an experiment.
I believe if I got up and only drank black coffee and water ALL day long for a month…I would still gain weight…if I only ate “my precious”* candy bar for dinner. I totally believe that!!
I KNOW I would also probably die…so I won’t be doing that…in case you were wondering…
There are a lot of other things “I totally believe”…but those are tales for another time.
*Did you catch the ‘Lord of the Rings’ reference? heh heh heh…
Have a nice day…
I slowly opened my eyes. A little sliver of light was trying to peek through the edge of the shade covering the window in my bedroom that over looked my back yard. Normally, it was a pleasant light, but this morning it hurt my eyes, so I quickly closed them again.
A few vivid images of a more than slightly out of control young woman dancing with abandon at Doyle’s last night flashed through my mind like a movie trailer…yeah, that was me. I winced…a bad movie trailer.
I remember pulling out the little notebook I always carried and then writing down my observations on all the drunken people around me.
They were dancing and drinking and…being mostly drunk myself…not knowing how pretentious I appeared and in fact…was.
But last night I did not care one straw.
I wondered what nonsense I had thought was so wildly insightful the night before when 4 (maybe more?) whiskey sours had given me such a false sense of importance. Whatever it was it would be in my notebook.
I carefully and slowly turned my head on my pillow. Lately I had had too many mornings like this one to know how painful a quick turning of the head could be.
I was…unfortunately…becoming very learned in the art of drinking…
And there it was…lying on my bedside table where I had thrown it last night.
I had read someplace or perhaps been told by one of my journalism professors that if you plan on writing “The Great American Novel”…which incidentally, I actually did…you should always carry a notebook or some other kind of recording device with you at all times in order to remember anything you may find memorable.
However…for the past year… weekend mornings had not proven to be very productive… or perhaps just not memorable.
Sometimes I was lucky to just be able to read the scrawls that I had “so importantly” jotted down the night before. I picked my notebook up and blinked a couple of times to clear my vision.
My little notebook was not the standard reporter’s notebook that I always carried to work each day…stuffed into my messenger bag.
That size notebook would be too bulky to carry into bars or restaurants plus it would attract a lot of attention.
My “little notebook” was small enough to fit into any of my handbags or even the back pocket of my jeans.
These days I almost always just wore jeans and a tee shirt. The color varied…black or white. In the winter I added a blazer or jacket. If I had a meeting…which was rare… I added a scarf.
It was pretty basic…some might even say boring…but it worked for me.
I flipped the notebook open and placed it in front of my half-opened eyes. Squinting a little, I saw that I had only managed to scrawl on two pages and neither page had any of my trademark exclamation marks…well, well…
Two pages were hardly worth the effort it would take right now to decipher. I was pretty sure it was just junk anyway…
I had been in a junk mood yesterday.
It had been the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. She had been killed instantly by a teenage girl texting a friend.
The girl blew a stop sign going 45 miles an hour and never even braked. My beloved mom was only 53.
She had been walking home from Peterson’s Java Cup with a medium latte in one hand and the latest copy of US magazine in the other.
The driver’s text said, “I know I’m late will hurry.”
That one short sentence…which wasn’t even a proper sentence…killed my mother instantly. Gone forever…my ‘mommy’, my teacher and my ‘forever always’ best friend.
That stupid text changed my life in way too many ways.
And so last night…in an ironic tribute to my mother who never drank…I had had too many whiskey sours. Four? Maybe 6. Too many for sure…
Even Doyle’s new bouncer was giving me looks and the bouncers at Doyle’s never give me looks. I’m the good one.
I seem to recall tossing out some drunken words of philosophy before faithful friend Hannah…ever so gently…pulled me toward the back door exit. I don’t know…
I actually can’t remember. But it seems like something I would have done last night. Crap night. Junk night.
Do I even remember his name? I think I met him…
Head clearing slightly…yes, of course, I knew him…but nope…couldn’t remember his name…but Hannah would.
Having just exited a crummy one-year marriage, she had become superbly single and made it a point to get to know all drop-dead, good looking single men.
Dearest Hannah…excellent co-worker and fellow enthusiastic bar attendee.
She always made it a point to become friendly with the bouncers. Occasionally…not often…but occasionally…Hannah could get a “little carried away”.
That was when the bar’s ‘friendly force’ was good to know…and if that ‘force’ happened to be handsome and single…it was a plus for Hannah.
Doyle’s new bouncer certainly fell into that category. He was tall and no stranger to the gym. He had dark, golden brown skin and intense brown eyes. There was a small scar on his right cheek. He also wore no wedding ring which, of course, made Hannah very happy.
But as good-looking as he was, he always looked so serious. Come to think of it, I had never actually seen him flat-out smile.
I had seen him frown though…even look angry…at me…like last night. Sigh. Crap night.
It was about a month ago that he had shown up at Doyle’s. Hannah always asked the new bouncers to dance…and so after a couple of weeks…she had approached him.
Very few men refused the beautiful Hannah…and yet…
“Bouncers aren’t allowed to dance at Doyle’s,” he politely explained to her. And that was a complete lie.
Most of them did dance at the beginning of the night. I think it was just to get the feel of the crowd and to blend in a little.
Then a little later…just for fun and because Hannah dared me…I also asked him to dance. He had paused for a couple of seconds and I thought he was going to say yes…
But then he said “No.” And he just walked away. No polite lie to me. Nothing.
Maybe it had something to do with my spotting him a couple of days earlier at the Minneapolis Court House where I was doing some follow-up on a story for the newspaper where both Hannah and I worked.
He looked really disheveled and was surrounded by 3 or 4 Minneapolis policemen. They were all talking and then he looked over and saw me standing there.
I was about to smile that ‘friendly little smile you give people when you don’t really know them all that well…but you don’t want to be rude and ignore them smile’…you know what I mean?
Then…all of a sudden they put hand cuffs on him and led him into the jail part of the Court House.
I quickly looked away. But he had seen me.
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!!
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..?
I didn’t think so. Me neither.
Have a nice day…
I wondered if being a bouncer was a good job for someone with a criminal record. Maybe Doyle’s doesn’t know. Maybe they don’t care as long as unruly customers are efficiently hustled quickly and quietly out the door.
No one likes to go to a club where troublesome patrons are not controlled. One thing I did know for sure…the bouncers didn’t last very long at Doyle’s.
Just so you know…aside from last night…bouncers for the most part do not need to keep an “eye” on me. However…my dear, sweet, friend Hannah was another story.
She was your “typical happy drinker”. And sometimes after her 3rd or 4th margarita she became everyone’s best friend…whether they wanted a new best friend or not.
And that is when a friendly bouncer would come over to help…since at this point Hannah would refuse to listen to me when I suggested it may be time to leave.
However, an understanding and sympathetic bouncer gently guiding her out the door worked every time. They all knew Hannah and loved her. Everyone loved the beautiful and charming Hannah.
They all liked me…I was the good friend and for the bouncers who were single, I was their link to Hannah and possibly her phone number. I was not above being bribed.
So on many weekend nights…the last thing Hannah heard was “That’s it Karla, time for you to go home.”
Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind. I know you’re probably thinking, “I thought we were talking about someone named Hannah.” And you’re right…we are.
The names Karla and Hannah refer to the same person. Also. I am called “Teddy” when in fact…my real name is…Charlie. Let me explain.
Hannah and I are both reporters at the Minneapolis Journal. Currently, we are assigned to cover the crime beat in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. Once in a great while we get a by-line for writing an extraordinary story.
In the past couple of years, both of us have had a few sketchy encounters with readers of the Journal who were pretty angry or upset with the way we had covered a story or…believe it or not…with the general philosophy of the Journal.
These encounters had always taken place in a “bar-like” setting and in all times the ‘upset’ people had downed a few too many ‘bottles of beer’…or whatever…
So last year, my long-time, very good friend Abby,…who is quite absolutely brilliant and devious came up with the idea of what she cleverly called a “protective cloak of anonymity” for Hannah and me…to be used at our discretion.
We both still worked for the Journal but…
“Karla” (Hannah) worked in circulation and “Teddy” (Charlie…me) worked in accounting. Throw on a title of “Assistant Manager” to these jobs and BINGO…two very boring jobs that did not encourage any further questions other than an occasional complaint to “Karla” about a late delivery. IKR…
So if “Karla” was asked to leave Doyle’s after one or two more margaritas than was prudent…she would do so…gliding peacefully out the door, into the night and down the block to the Minnehaha Grill.
It was our go-to late night restaurant on the weekends. Black coffee, pancakes, eggs and bacon…with an occasional side order of hash browns…was our standard order.
And so that is where we had gone last night…because we both knew how bad I would feel the next morning if we did not.
We pretty much had the drinking/partying ritual down to a science. I know what you’re thinking…not good at all…and…maybe you’re right.
But…regardless…last night was rubbish.
I sighed and flipped the notebook back on the night stand.
“I miss you mom,” I whispered. I closed my eyes but not quite fast enough to stop hot tears from running down my cheeks. I reached over to grab a Kleenex. When would this horrible pain go away?
Last year…after a couple of halfhearted attempts…I had finally decided to get my own place.
I had lived at home while I was going to the University of Minnesota in order to save money…and since my mom and I were such good friends…living with her was a pleasure and just pure joy.
But I knew that after I had been working for a while that it was time to get my own house…and…it would be a smart investment for me.
We had had so much fun looking around for places in the Hawthorne area of Minneapolis…the neighborhood where I lived now…where in fact I had been born.
I wanted to get a house close by so I would be able to walk to the same shops and favorite restaurants that I did now…or even walk to mom’s house if I wanted. Why venture too far away from the nest, right?
But then she had been senselessly killed and my life had been shattered.
I simply could not move. Dad had died when I was 7 and even though I had only vague memories of him, they were all connected to this house.
I saw a man raking leaves or shoveling snow or walking up the back steps. But then that quick puff of memory would float away.
My mom had been a passionate gardener and the yard and boulevard were filled with trees, bushes and flowers that she had raised from little sprouts…just like me.
No. I wasn’t moving…not for a long time. Maybe not ever…
So…let me properly introduce my best friend Abby…last name Jones…who has been my best friend since kindergarten.
Abby decided (and there would be absolutely no argument) that it was not a good idea for me to be living alone in this big house.
So…she told her mom and dad that it was time for her to leave the family nest. And she did.
She moved three doors down the block to my second bedroom…the one that overlooks the front yard…and an amazing crab apple tree.
Abby Jones. Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like Abby…
One day in fourth grade…during recess…two really mean girls pushed me down into a pile of dirty snow. My brand-new, beautiful, red winter coat was ruined; stained with salt and wet sludge from the street.
Now when you’re in 4th grade, you just don’t go crying to the teacher if someone pushes you down. Right? Right. So I told my mom (who most certainly would have gone to see the teacher) that I had slipped on some ice and fallen.
But Abby Jones was my very best friend and she wasn’t just mad at those bullies. She was fuming.
A couple of days later, she somehow managed to get those two girls alone in the bathroom before school began. I was the “look-out”…standing just inside the door so I wouldn’t attract attention.
I’m not exactly sure what she said…I couldn’t hear everything…she was talking very quietly.
But I heard the words “mob”, “not really Jones”, “call in a favor”, “not very pretty” and “you’ll be sorry”.
I looked back over my shoulder and the two girls were standing there with their mouths hanging open. Abby was a pretty awesome storyteller…she watched a lot of TV.
Then she did the classic “I’ll be watching you” bit and put two fingers to her eyes and then pointed them back at the girls…who were frozen in place.
Then…to my horror…I looked closer and saw that Abby had her father’s antique “Wild West” six shooter pistol strapped to her waist under her jacket. I had seen it hanging on the wall in their den for years…next to an autographed photo of John Wayne.
She pulled the gun out of its holster and did the classic gunslinger twirl…and a real bullet fell out and bounced on the floor. After one second…both girls threw up. Hell…I almost threw up.
Abby calmly bent down, picked up the errant bullet, turned on her little Mary Jane patent leather shoes, grabbed my arm and we walked out into the hall just as the bell rang for classes to begin.
“I thought it was empty!” she whispered to me…while grinning from ear to ear.
Introduction of best friend Abby Jones…complete.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“IS MY NIGHTLY CHOCOLATE BAR…
A GATEWAY DRUG TO…TO…
I don’t know….I have no idea what the future holds for me….
I have been thinking about hot, buttered and lightly salted (regular not sea) popcorn lately…
There was a time in my past when I had no control and started to have one regular size Hershey bar AND a bowl of hot, buttered and lightly salted (regular not sea) popcorn EVERY SINGLE NIGHT…but my beloved cat Lulu had just died…
I didn’t plan on her dying…I planned on her getting well from “something” that was causing a brief lull in her eating habits…she was not eating nearly enough…and chubby, little Lulu LOVED to eat more than anything.
So I was bringing her to the University of Minnesota Veterinarian School for testing at the highest level…
…unfortunately they found after hours of waiting and testing that she had a tumor the size of a softball on her lung that was pressing on her little throat and “we could put a feeding tube down her throat and she would last a couple more weeks…if that’s an option for you…” They said…
I said. “I love you Lulu. You are my best friend and sometimes I think you are my only friend and because I love you so very much I will not be bringing you home with me today…but I will remember…as per our discussion on the way over here …to take the Hoyt Avenue shortcut on the way home.”
That night (and every night for almost a year) I had a large bowl of hot, buttered lightly salted (regular not sea) popcorn and a Hershey bar. I gained almost 20 pounds…which is what Lulu weighed when she died…
Life is crummy right now and can be unbearably sad and fraught with anxiety…but then…I remember my little black cat named Lulu who was…very probably…my best friend…who loved to eat until one day when she couldn’t…
Have a nice day…
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.”
And…that was how Stella became part of my life. And…not so incidentally…how I was able to get a haircut, a manicure and a pedicure that week instead of having to wait until next month’s paycheck. I also gave $20 to the Minneapolis Humane Society. I am such a nice person.
Stella licked my chin again.
“Hello my furry little friend. I have a very bad headache this morning.”
“I waited up till ALL hours…maybe even till 9:30 to see if you would drag yourself home alive,” complained Stella in her very best teeny-tiny complaining voice.
“9:30!!! Wow!!! When you consider I left here at 8:30 to meet Hannah, it seems to me that you didn’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about me.”
“It was quality time.”
Even though I had turned my cell phone to vibrate-only, I could now hear it moving on my nightstand.
I looked at Stella who was still about one inch from my face.
She purred and then licked me again. Love? Maybe… or maybe leftover egg I missed with the wash cloth last night.
“Moving…” I said to Stella. And then carefully rose up on one elbow and grabbed my phone.
It was Abby. What was wrong now?
“Why are you calling me? Didn’t you just leave? Is your battery dead? Did you have an accident?” I quickly shot questions at her…not waiting for an answer that I was sure I wouldn’t like. I ended with a terse, “What’s up?”
“I. Am. Fine.” Abby said rather coldly and perhaps a bit too loudly for my tender state this morning.
“They only have one chocolate filled eclair left…which I know is your favorite but since I am the one who has ventured out on this freezing day, I am getting it for me..since it is my favorite also What do you want? They are also completely out of cinnamon rolls.”
“Fine…” I groaned…I was really looking forward to a cinnamon roll.
“You can get me a caramel roll with cream cheese frosting…and some of those mini donuts.”
I thanked her profusely and switched my phone completely off and then tossed it to the bottom of my bed.
“Was that Abby?” Stella questioned…her little black nose now up in the air as if searching for some faraway scent of goodness. “Caramel rolls? I just LOVE Abby!”
She jumped down and swished her way out of my very cozy bedroom, heading down the hall and into the bathroom. Soon I heard the scratching of litter.
Stella was beginning her day. It was time for me to do so as well. Perhaps. We’ll see how it goes.
I sat up completely and put my feet on the wooden floor…it was not freezing cold. To my delight…Abby had remembered to turn the heat up this morning.
You would think that after living in the frigid state of Minnesota for her entire life, Abby would naturally and even unconsciously realize the importance of heat when the outside temperature is struggling to reach -15 below zero…which was the forecast high for today. But…you would be thinking incorrectly.
Abby…like me…had spent her entire life…living in the comfort and security of her parent’s house and was not accustomed to the inner-workings of a wildly complicated heating/cooling system…as in…turn the heat on when it is cold and turn the air conditioning on when it is hot.
But…I digress…today the floor was toasty warm and therefore…I was happy.
I stood up. So far so good. I turned slowly and glanced at myself in my full-length mirror. I had hung that mirror when I…surprise, surprise… realized at age 12 I didn’t want to look like a boy any more.
Stella wandered back from the bathroom and sat down next to me. She also looked at the mirror.
“Even with the waviness of this cheap mirror, I don’t look too bad for a completely hungover 24-year-old,” I said optimistically.
Stella…with her head cocked to the side…seemed to be appraising me.
I smiled down at her, looked back at my reflection and then fluffed my short, brown hair, pulled my little side-burns in front of my just a bit too large ears and patted down my always errant bangs which would never…even in the best of circumstances…lay straight.
I patted my cheeks to add some natural color and looked a little closer at the mirror. Bloodshot eyes. For sure…sigh.
“Well, Stella…not completely horrible. But, I do think I should buy a new mirror.”
“Doesn’t drinking alcohol age a person?”
And with that little caustic comment on my lifestyle, Stella was out the bedroom door, gone in search of breakfast #2 or possibly #3.
Abby was in charge of Stella’s meals. I was in charge of the “result” of Stella’s meals.
Abby often forgot if she fed Stella so she would just feed her again and quite amazingly…Stella continued to look like a teeny 6-month old kitten.
Let it be noted I would kill for that kind of metabolism…
“Only dogs will eat more than they should,” Abby informed me one day as I commented on her opening a second can of Mighty Mouse cat food for Stella’s morning meal. “Cats know better and will space their food out.”
Stella spaced her food out all right…as much as she could get…whenever she could get it.
Since I had the day off, I had no firm plans except to try to recover from last night…and maybe think about where Hannah and I would go tonight.
That was actually a no-brainer. We always went to Doyle’s on Saturday night. Saturday night was “amateur night”.
For the first hour they encouraged and welcomed members of the early bird audience to come up on stage and sing with the band.
They gave you the words and let you sing your little heart out.
This was the real deal. They even gave you a live mike…hoping like hell you had a somewhat decent voice.
Every Saturday night…Hannah faithfully put her name in the wicker basket that the band placed on the stage.
Hopeful participants would put their names in and wait…full of excitement.. to be chosen.
Hannah had yet to be chosen…going on two years now…
Personally…I thought it was fixed. I had heard Hannah sing…and so had members of the band at a private, after-hours Christmas party a couple of years ago.
I had never…in my whole life…heard “Jingle Bells” sung so completely out of tune as I had that night.
“I don’t understand,” she would whine…week after week. “Who has this much bad luck?
“I know! I know!” I was always very sympathetic. “Maybe next week.” And I would pat her shoulder…just like I did every week.
“I should just give up…” Hannah would say every week…voice dripping with disappointment…
“Really?” I would carefully ask..
And then…because I loved Hannah so much…I would also always say…
“You know…you have such a…pretty voice…”
…which is why Hannah would be putting her name in the basket tonight.
For some reason (insert Stella The Cat here) my pillow ends up on the floor almost every morning. I bent down to grab it and my head started to seriously pound.
I quickly sat back down on my bed. The room was not exactly doing the infamous “drunk spin”…but I definitely felt better sitting down. Crap. I am such an idiot.
I tried to remember…did I take 2 aspirin before I went to sleep last night? Because if I did…I should not have such a bad headache.
This was a classic hangover prevention trick that one of the older reporters had shared with me and Hannah one morning when we were both miserable from a night of partying. He swore by it and it actually worked…when I remembered to take the damn pills.
“Maybe I have the flu…Jeez Louise… who hopes for the flu?” I muttered to myself.
“You are so pathetic,” Stella said as she jumped up on my bed. “The flu. Indeed.”
“You could be more sympathetic,” I challenged her. “I take such good care of you. You are one of my very best friends.”
“One of…? Well, that’s nice. I love…being qualified.”
I patted the little bit of golden hair on Stella’s head and then turned to look at my new hair cut in the mirror.
Back in the 60’s there was a geometric hair style called a “Sassoon” named after Vidal Sassoon, the stylist who had created it. The cut sported very short hair with sharp V sideburns and 2 deep V’s cut in the back.
It was really radical back then so of course every one had loved it.
And…apparently it was coming back in style..or so said Seth…my favorite stylist.
He has been cutting my hair for about 4 years, and he was not taking no for an answer. Seth said I had perfect “little sticky-out ears” that would look so awesome with this new cut.
“You’re gonna look just like Anne Hathaway…” he ventured…
“Whatever….” I agreed…you just can’t argue with Seth…and Anna Hathaway looked pretty good.
Seth was adorable and very persuasive. I loved him dearly. It was too bad he played for the same team.
I heard the back screen door bang and almost felt the blast of freezing air that came rushing in as Abby pushed open the inside door.
“I have breakfast!” Abby shouted from the kitchen.
Stella’s ears shot straight up at the word “breakfast” and she jumped off the bed and raced through my bedroom door.
“You just ate! You’re going to get so fat!” I hollered after her.
“Not me, kiddo…” she shot back…as she raced down the hallway at warp speed…sliding thru the doorway that led into the dining room…and then…
“Abby!!!! I’ve been waiting so long for you to come back!!!”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake” said Abby. “Stop talking to me!!”
I chuckled…even though it hurt…and knew it was time to get moving.
ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT…I’m on this.
I realize now that I had forgotten to allow for the “X” Factor” when I was doing my recent “Hershey” candy bar research…you know…the research that almost left me blind??? (What kind of scientist am I for heaven’s sake?) …
(Well, Tina…you are the “I Am Not a Scientist” kind).
I don’t know exactly what the hell the “X” Factor” is…I may have been partially blind at that point during my research…however…
It is possible that I am the “X Factor”…which would make sense since I have now discovered (I WORK SO HARD FOR THIS DAMN BLOG!!) that the definition of “X Factor” is:
“Telling yourself what you want to hear (or finding facts…however outrageous on Google…((I LOVE YOU, GOOGLE))!!!!) so you can feel really good right now…but will later come to realize that perhaps those ‘facts’ were wrong and that you are a completely idiotic person and you better now stop doing whatever you are doing to get yourself to this point (where you do not want to be)…like…
*This definition might be slightly flawed…or maybe a little incorrect…or possibly skewered a tad…and…’bat-shit crazy’ will also work here.
Have a nice day…
My house was built in the late 1940’s in the south Minneapolis Corcoran neighborhood. It was super old but mom had always made necessary renovations.
Abby and I had both walked to school and back…everyday single day…from those first scary days in kindergarten to graduation from Hamilton High School.
It was a great neighborhood with lots of little shops and restaurants that somehow had not been swept away by a minor gentrification program a few years ago.
On the corner of the block where I lived was the little flower shop that Abby’s parents owned and operated…soon to be solely run by Abby when her folks headed to Florida and a well-deserved retirement.
We even had a small movie theater…the original one built in the 1950’s…still showing first run movies…just two blocks away.
Mom and dad had bought the house when they were first married. Then they had me and never moved…I didn’t see myself moving for quite a while either.
Abby was a fantastic house mate…and I dreaded the day that she would move out.
Ralph Cooper and Abby Jones had been dating since 9th grade. He was now a fledgling lawyer and currently working day and night to pay off college loans. I’m thinking marriage is about 2 years away.
My front door opened into a 4-season porch and if you turn right and open another door you are in the living room..which led into the dining room with a swinging door (that I will never replace) that allowed access to the kitchen.
There is an eating nook in the kitchen that over looks the back yard. It’s a style that people are again finding desirable. I personally think the “open concept” is wearing thin.
Two bedrooms and a bath run parallel to the living room/dining room area…separated by a long hallway.
Upstairs there are two large rooms and a full bath…with a space for an outside entrance. I used to play up there when I was a kid. It was like having my own little apartment.
I thought…hint, hint to Abby and Ralph…it was a perfect place for a young married couple to live as they saved for buying their own home.
I very slowly stood again, took a couple of steps and decided the day was starting to look a little brighter.
I slipped on my favorite fuzzy bathrobe. It was like putting on a cashmere blanket. I had paid a fortune for it but it was worth it. I stuffed my feet into slippers and headed to the kitchen in hopes that Abby had left me some coffee.
After a quick trip to the bathroom I headed towards the kitchen. Then I remembered I had forgotten my little notebook. I turned and trudged back into my bedroom, picked it up and shoved it in my pocket.
It had become a ritual for me to share with Abby any notes I had taken during my week end, bar hopping adventures. That way she could vicariously enjoy “clubbing” thru my single state while still being faithful and loyal to her beloved fiance, Ralph.
With a little bit of luck, the jottings of the night before weren’t too insane…I just hoped I could actually read them.
I walked into the kitchen and the wondrous aroma of freshly brewed coffee gave me reason to live yet another day…
Abby was standing at our breakfast nook table, unpacking two white bags from Jacks. They were filled to the top with wonderfully smelling goodies.
Stella was already sitting…and patiently waiting…at her special eating spot on the table.
There was a squirrel racing along the railing of our back porch but right now Stella could care less. Food was too near her little nose and mouth.
When not eating, Stella would sit nearer the back of the table so she could look out at the squirrels running around the three oak trees that my dad had planted the first year he and my mom had bought the house.
She even has a little cat-bed there…in case she needs a little nap…between meals.
It was kind of cute the way Stella’s tongue would hang out when she was about to eat something really special…like breakfast…or lunch…or dinner…or whenever.
“I just love you so much Abby,” Stella moaned.
“Honestly, Charlie, that cat seems almost human at times when you talk for her. I could swear she was actually saying something with those meows of hers.” Abby said.
“I know…right?” It was odd. For the past three or four months Stella had started to “meow” whenever I would ‘talk’ for her.
It was kind of eerie…which is why I did it so much whenever Abby was around…it was fun to wind her up a little…
I looked over at the almost drooling Stella. I made an attempt to push her little black tongue back into her mouth. I wonder how rare it is to have a black cat with a black tongue…and a black nose.
“Yeah. She’s really something…that’s for sure, ” I said. Then I put a caramel roll on my plate and a tiny, little piece on Stella’s plate.
Yes. Yes. Yes. My cat has her own plate and she sits on the table in her own spot. It just happened to start out that way when she was a kitten.
Back then it was just me and Stella and I never had the heart to move her down to her regular dishes on the floor. Plus…it was much easier to have conversations with her if she was close at hand…
Abby sat down across from me…put a larger piece of roll on the now empty plate in front of Stella…which drew another small, seemingly delighted moan from her.
“So,” said Abby, anything catch your fancy last night?” She pointed to the notebook I had tossed on the table.
“It was an interesting night, that’s for sure.” I said thoughtfully.
“I think that I was part of the ‘interesting bit’ towards the end…”
“Well…let the adventure begin.” said Abby and she took a huge bite out of her eclair.
HERE’S THE DEAL…
I have done so much damn research on this I am almost blind…
But. I have double checked the results and I can report beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can eat one whole Hershey’s candy bar (no nuts) every day after dinner and it will be just fine.
I AM NOT KIDDING YOU. I WOULD NOT KID YOU!!!!!
Listen to me…I NEED that candy bar…now…more than ever!!
My daughter just informed me over ZOOM that I won’t be seeing her or my 2 AWESOME granddaughters and super son-in-law until…maybe…
NEXT THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!!!!!! AS IN 2021!!!!!!!!!!
IKR? WTF!!!!!!!!! 😦
Have a nice day…
“Older, white-haired man makes fool of himself trying to flirt with young girls. SO SAD…” He could be their father”
“Our oh so handsome bouncer gently removes slightly out-of-control female drinker quietly and efficiently. Five star to whatever his name is…”
“You aren’t talking about you or Hannah here…right?” asks a worried Abby…her coffee cup pausing halfway to her mouth.
I gave her a withering glance as I looked up from my notebook.
“Hey don’t get so huffy…I just thought I’d ask,” Abby said with a little smile.
“Hannah can get a little too ‘joyous’…as we all know. Please continue.”
“Two phony looking but very cute, guys about 21-25 enter the bar near closing, looking for a couple of mostly drunk young ladies they could quickly impress for a little action after last call. They look over at me and Hannah and we both roll our eyes. They move on and continue looking.”
“Bobby looks at me while he is singing a love song and then he winks at me when he’s done. I wish he would ask me out!.”
I hear a low groan from Abby. She is not at all fond of Bobby, lead singer in Doyle’s house band., The Continentals.
“Jake comes over and sits down. He takes my hand in his and is just about to ask me something when we hear a loud crash from across the room. Trouble somewhere and he leaves.”
“He’s married, you know…Hannah and I both agree.” says Abby very pointedly. “He is absolutely married and you are being a total fool…just saying…”
I ignore her comment completely.
“And that is almost it.” I pause and close the notebook and take a bite of my roll and glance out at our snow-covered back yard.
It was January in Minnesota and this year we have three or four feet of snow in the backyard. I was just about to explain the ‘almost’ part…when Abby started talking.
“I have two very important things to say,” said Abby.
“One. Doesn’t Bobby already have a girlfriend or maybe three? And…I agree completely with Hannah…who can spot a married man a mile away…Jake is married.”
“Well…” I argued, “Bobby is the lead singer of the band and also extremely good looking…and that means he has lots of girls…you know…like groupies…always hanging around the stage…and him”
“But…I think he really likes me. He always goes out of his way to say ‘Hi’ when Hannah and I come to Doyle’s for their Wednesday lunch buffet. Sometimes he even stops practice to come over to talk to us…you can ask Hannah!”
I knew I was sounding pretty lame…and pretty thirteen-oldish…but still…
Abby scoffed…and continued talking.
“And…and the second thing…Jake Marlowe …”
“Stop.” I ordered, holding up my hand to silence her.
“I know both of you guys have my best interests at heart, blah, blah, blah. But…just because Jake hasn’t really asked me out on a proper date and just wants to go for a drive down to the Lakes after closing means nothing.”
“I think it would be romantic. He doesn’t get a lot of free time and I have a job too. We could really get to know each other.”
I took another bite of my roll and looked defiantly at Abby…who countered…as I knew she would. She was Abby Jones, after all.
“And yet…you haven’t gone with him ‘down to the lakes’. Why?” Abby questioned, tilting her head to the side. She looked just like Stella.
“I’m not sure, ” I mumbled. “But I think I will…soon. I’m really holding out for Bobby. I know if I go out with Jake, Bobby will never ask me out. I don’t think they like each other much. Plus Jake is kind of like Bobby’s boss…so there’s that.”
“But when Bobby asks me out, I’m telling him my real name and where I work!”
I paused and looked out the back window. A bright red cardinal had landed on the porch railing and was trying to pick up a piece of bread one of the squirrels had dropped.
I turned back to look at Abby who had stood up to go to the refrigerator.
“Anyway…as I was saying before you interrupted me…just before we left Doyle’s last night, it got a little complicated.”
“Say what? What did you just mumble Charlie?”
Abby closed the refrigerator door where she had gone to get more half & half for our coffee.
“I missed what you said.”
“I said… that’s when the night got a tad complicated. Last night…someone said ‘Good-by Charlie’ or ‘Take it easy, Charlie’ or…something like that…I can’t remember exactly…”
“Hannah and I were starting to leave. Then I turned and waved a huge good-by to everyone around me.”
“You know the wave. One of those very tipsy, all encompassing waves that includes the whole room. It was just before last call.”
“How the hell does anyone at Doyle’s know my real name, Abby? Hannah and I have been so careful.”
Abby was still standing with the half & half container in one hand. She sat down, added cream to her coffee, stirred and took a thoughtful sip. Then she took a more thoughtful bite of her eclair.
“Describe how ‘happy’ you and Hannah were last night…on a scale of one to ten. Ten being really, really ‘happy’ but still conscious.”
She gave me one of those piercing “I am not in the mood for BS looks” that is going to work so well for her when she has kids. Her mom could do the same look. It truly was a gift.
“Well…Hannah was driving, so she was a definite one. I was a definite eight.”
“Earlier in the evening, Hannah was singing a lot…along with the band. She really got carried away a couple of times.”
“She was trying to impress the band…prepping for tonight’s amateur night…you know Hannah…”
“Oh…I know…not that practicing will make a difference with that voice. She is persistent though.”
Abby got up to get some tomato juice from the fridge.
“So…is it possible that Hannah may have said your real name at some point…maybe as she was singing, as in c’mon Charlie, sing with me.”?
Abby sat down and looked at Stella who had suddenly paused during one of her many mini baths to look at me. It almost appeared as if she was waiting to hear what I was going to say.
“I can’t wait to hear this story,” mumbled Stella.
“Why is Stella looking at you like that? sputtered Abby. “Honest to God, Charlie, I swear that cat understands everything we say.”
I ignored her comment.
“Are you actually expecting me to remember if Hannah used my real name last night?” I answered sarcastically.
“I was flat-out drunk and that’s being charitable. Of course she could have used my real name. Hell, I could have used my real name.” I reached over and scratched Stella under her chin.
I took a large bite of my second caramel roll, put it down and then…not thinking… pushed the plate with the half-eaten roll on it in Stella’s direction.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Stella doing a super, slow-motion, low crawl toward the abandoned roll, her tongue hanging out in wild anticipation.
“Oh, no you don’t,” I said and moved the plate out of her reach.
“Foiled!” Stella muttered…and then used her dangling tongue to quickly smooth some errant hairs on her front paws. With her tail twitching in annoyance, she returned to look out the window.
“You know, Abby,” I said. “This whole cockamamie fake name thing was all your bright idea.”
“I know, I know,” agreed Abby. “And I still think it’s a great plan…almost as good as my ‘fourth grade mob’ idea…” Then she grinned from ear to ear.
I also grinned and patted her hand.
“Nothing will ever top the ‘mob incident’…that was pure genius. You were brilliant.”
“I was, wasn’t I?” Abby agreed. “And to think I was but a mere child.”
We both laughed at that never to be forgotten event in our lives.
“You should come out with us once in a while,” I said to Abby. You don’t have to dance or anything. You don’t even have to drink.”
“Just sit with Hannah and me. It would be so much fun. The band at Doyle’s is great. Your name could be,” and I paused…thinking of some of my favorite names.
“Annabelle,” I said and slapped my hand on the table. “I love that name.”
“Okay…that’s never going to happen…” Abby said firmly. “However… you can remember that for my bachelorette party. We can all go to Doyle’s and I’ll be Annabelle Jones!”
I sighed…thinking of Abby leaving and pushed that sad thought to the back of my brain…
“So…back to me and my problem. How does someone know my real name, a name that I never use when I am out at the bars?”
“Do you think in addition to knowing my real name…whoever it is also knows I’m a reporter…and that I work for the Journal?”
“I’m still here…”
You know…I saw this damn virus thing coming around the second week of January…
There was this ever so tiny, two inch article…buried deep on page 5 or 6…in my local newspaper that caught my eye…something along the lines of … and I’m PARAPHRASING here…
MYSTERIOUS VIRUS IN CHINA WILL JUST ABOUT KILL ALL OF US!!!!!
And then I remembered noted University of Minnesota doctor of diseases…Michael Osterholm saying on PBS about a dozen years ago that “SOME HUGE PANDEMIC IS COMING AND DON’T THINK FOR ONE MINUTE THAT I AM WRONG BECAUSE I AM NOT!!!!”
I also remember looking over at my husband and saying…”Wow…who is this dope?”
So I was wrong…shoot me.
Anyway…back to ‘I saw this damn virus thing coming’...
There was something in those few words that led me to Google…Wuhan, China. (God I love Google…so beats the “Guide to Periodical Literature” for fact finding)…
And there I saw an interesting map with red, not so red, and pink circles, showing how many cases of ‘this new virus’ there were today…and…MORE IMPORTANTLY…how many there were.. yesterday…OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THEN…I Googled…:)…Japan…(Don’t know why..) and saw empty shelves on which toilet paper used to be sitting…and that scared the crap (no pun intended) out of me.
So…long story short…I started buying some “extra” toilet paper and enough food to last…for enough time.
BUT…I have not been able to “BE WHO I AM” and so…I have not lost any more weight…AND IN FACT…have gained A POUND!!!!!!!!!!
But…here’s the deal. You know how when you go to prison for doing some really horrible stuff?
And then they’re going to “gas you or electrocute you or inject you (not with disinfectant…I might add…lol) with poison? …you know…to kill you?
Well, they ALSO let you have your favorite meal the night before…right?
RIGHT??? You bet they do…
Have a nice day…
Abby was silent. This was a rare occurrence for her. Then…
“Was there anyone at Doyle’s last night that you ever see at the other bars? ” Abby asked.
“You and Hannah go out every weekend and most Wednesday nights. Do you always use the phony name/job bit?” she continued.
I answered quickly…”Always.”
Suddenly Abby slapped her hand down on the table. “By Jove, I’ve got it,” she said….using just a terrible English accent.
“Maybe…maybe it was someone who works at the Journal with you or Hannah…but neither of you knew they were there last night.” Abby said.
“You know…you could be right…that kind of makes sense. ” I took another swallow of my now very tepid and therefore unappetizing coffee.
My head was starting to scream at me and I got up to get two aspirin.
Just as Abby had finished putting yet another piece of eclair on Stella’s plate, the front doorbell rang.
All of us just froze in place. No one came to our house on the weekends…NO ONE. Even Stella had paused…tongue again hanging out.
Both Abby and I said in unison. “What the hell?” I know we were both thinking the same thing…this has to be bad news.
Abby was way more appropriately dressed than I was.. so she went to see who was disturbing our little Saturday morning brunch. I returned to my place at the table…headache momentarily forgotten.
“I wonder who it is?” whispered Stella. Never one to miss any action, she had moved over to be closer to me.
Stella was a very friendly cat. She always loved the few people who came to visit us…but this was Saturday morning on a frigid, cold day in Minnesota. I think even she thought something wasn’t quite right.
“I don’t know.” I said quietly. “Why are we whispering?”
I could hear Abby talking and then heard her say, “Hang on”. She soon appeared back in the kitchen. She had a puzzled look on her face.
“What’s up?” I asked…eager to have this mystery solved.
“I need a dollar for a tip.” She opened up the cupboard over the sink and took down the old Apple cookie jar where we kept change and dollar bills. It made tipping delivery people a snap.
“For what?” I asked.
“For. A. Tip.” Abby said evenly…and gave me a look of exasperation. She then went back to the front door.
I looked at Stella. “Well, that was rude.”
“You have a killer hangover. Everything will seem rude today.” she said knowingly.
I heard Abby say ‘thank you’ and then heard her shut the door. I could feel little trickles of cold air that had filtered back to the kitchen from the opened door.
She walked into the kitchen carrying a long, white, rectangular floral box. It was heavily wrapped in clear plastic to protect it from the freezing cold.
The label on the box said “Flora’s Fresh Flowers”. It was very skinny and looked like it could only hold a single flower.
“Who’s it for?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Abby said. “There was no name on the delivery ticket. Only an address. This one.”
“Well, well,” said Stella. “The plot thickens.”
Abby put the package down on the kitchen table. I got up and carried some of the dishes to the sink and got a scissor so we could open it up.
“I can’t see a card, can you?” I asked as I gently cut away the layers of protective cellophane.
“It would be just like Ralph to forget a card. Oh well, he’ll probably call me later this morning and we can know for sure.” Abby said confidently. Then she reached up her arms and stretched her back.
“That’s very good for you,” said Stella…who watched every move that Abby made…thinking…I’m sure…that another morsel of food could be placed on her plate at any given moment.
“Did you hear that Charlie?” Abby exclaimed as she quickly brought her arms down to her sides. “I swear to God she said good!”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Abby. Stella is just a cat. One I happen to talk for…on occasion. You do know that, right? Do you not see my lips moving?”
“Well, sure I do…but sometimes,” Abby said in a soft voice, “I forget…especially when she makes sounds…strange sounds.”
“I resent the phrase ‘just a cat’,” complained Stella…to no one in particular.
I had opened the box and finished unwrapping the soft white paper. I gently pushed some white tissue to the side.
Lying inside the box was one, beautiful yellow rose…and a small white envelope.
Abby had peered over the wrappings and had also spotted the envelope.
“Oh look!!’ she said. “There is a card,” and she started to reach for it.
But I was quicker and I grabbed it before she did.
“I got it.” As I picked it up and turned it over I saw just one word written on the front of the envelope. It said…”Charlie”
Abby…who had also read the card…sat down in her chair and took a bite from her eclair and said, “Well…this is interesting.”
“I can’t believe it!” I cried. “It’s for me!”
I looked over at Abby who was no longer so interested in the package and squinted my eyes suspiciously at her.
“Is this from you? You know, to make me feel better? Considering ‘the anniversary’ and all that?”
“Nope. And if you don’t open that envelope pretty damn soon, I’m going to.” And she made an attempt to grab it. But I was too fast.
I moved away and sat down opposite her at the table, holding the card in my hands.
I was almost afraid to open it. Could it be from Bobby? Or maybe from Jake? I would be happy either way…really. But neither knew my real name…or for sure…my address.
At least I didn’t think so. After the incident last night, I wasn’t so sure of anything.
“Open it or I’m leaving.” Stella hurried. “I have to take a nap.”
Abby looked from Stella to me and then back to Stella.
“I’m with her…open it!” Abby ordered.
“All right, all right,” I said. “Sometimes…anticipation can be fun…”
At this point…I didn’t really care what the card said or who it was from…as long as it didn’t say, “Charlie. Hand this rose over to Abby. She will be so surprised. Thanks. Ralph..”
I gently opened the flap and pulled out a white card.
It said, “Charlie. I hope this makes you happy. Seeing you always makes me happy.”
I immediately got tears in my eyes. I took a deep breath and exhaled a little shakily.
I handed it over to Abby who was impatiently reaching for it.
“NOT SIGNED!!! IT’S NOT SIGNED!!!. Abby yelped as she read the card.
“That’s it. I’m done.” Stella stood up, stretched quickly and jumped down to the floor. She headed off to the top of the living room sofa…to begin one of her many daily vigils of the front sidewalk.
“I can’t believe it’s not signed! What torture!” Abby disgustedly tossed the card back down on the table, got up and started to clear away the last of the dishes.
I looked at her with indignant shock.
“YOU can’s believe it!” I said. “YOU can’t believe it…how do you think I feel?”
“For the first time in months I have something… maybe kind of swell…happening to me and…it’s a secret!” I shook my head in utter exasperation.
But then I looked at that beautiful, delicate rose again. I picked it up and inhaled the unmistakable scent that only a rose can produce.
I smiled and carefully laid it back in the box.
“Abby…do you know if there’s a smallish vase around…” I turned toward the sink but Abby had gone.
I got up and walked over to the stove. I reached up and opened a seldom used cupboard.
“I think this is where mom kept some vases…” I said to myself…since no one else was listening to me…
I rummaged around and behind some larger ones…there was a small bud vase. It had little pink flowers on it that were kind of faded…but it was the smallest of the lot so it would have to do.
I took it down and checked for any cracks…finding none…I went over to the sink and filled the it with water.
“Why doesn’t he want me to know who he is?” I asked Abby…who had returned to the kitchen.
“Well…I hate to say this…but…maybe he’s a married guy and just wanted to do something nice for you…like maybe Jake? He probably would have noticed how much you were hurting last night.”
Abby was speaking very carefully, not wanting to upset me too much by using the word “married” and “Jake” in the same sentence.
I carried the vase over to the table, put it down and carefully added the rose and the greenery that had come with it. I gently touched a yellow petal.
“Or Bobby?” I mused. “He did seem to be paying more attention to me than usual last night…or at least I think so.”.
“I just hope it’s not from some creep who’s going to start stalking us!”
Abby looked at me and then looked towards the living room. Shaking her head, she said very calmly and without any emotion or even judgement in her voice, “I’m going to get dressed now…just like other normal people do on a Saturday morning. And I stress the word normal.”
She got up and left the kitchen without waiting for any more comments from me…or…from Stella.
After a few more minutes of “rose appreciation”, I carefully picked up the vase and headed towards my room. I put the vase on my dresser where I could see it from my bed and then went to gather my furry, little friend for some mystery solving.
“C’mon kiddo, we have to talk.” I picked up a sleeping Stella from the top of the sofa and slung her over my shoulder despite a few protesting groans.
People watching from the top of the sofa was one of her favorite activities. Naps were a close second. Since there weren’t a lot of people to watch in the winter…she was getting in a lot of nap time.
“I have no clue,“ said Stella. “You do know that I am really you, don’t you? I mean when we talk?”
“Yes. I’m not crazy…not yet anyway…I just need to talk out my thoughts and it helps if I can do that with you…me…you…whatever.”
I knew full well that Abby could hear me talking as I headed from the living room down the hallway and grinned when I heard a loud, expletive loaded groan coming from her room.
“Quiet down in there. We have to think.” said Stella in a very teeny yet somewhat loud voice.
And then Stella licked my neck…twice.
Complicated and drawn out conversations were not Stella’s cup of tea.
She tended to stare off into space if I talked too long…and in Stella’s world…too long was defined as one or two minutes. A yawn often escaped.
“I wonder,” I said, as I scratched behind her ears, “if this beautiful rose is connected to the someone who said ‘good-by, Charlie’…or whatever…to me last night?”
“And…how did that someone know my real name? We still haven’t figured out that mystery.”
“I should call Hannah and see if she remembers if anything out of he ordinary happened last night. Or…even better…maybe she even knows who shouted out my name.”
“She’s still sleeping, I bet,” said Stella.
“…because I’m so sure this rose has something to do with last night…”
“Of course, she had been pretty busy with that cute cop that wandered in around midnight. I vaguely remember he was pretty interested in her too.”
“You know she’s asleep.” persisted Stella.
“So you say. I should call her anyway to see if she still plans to go to that party tonight at that after-hours place.”
“I thought you were done going to those places…didn’t the cops raid one of them a couple of weeks ago?”
I ignored her comment…even though I knew it was correct.
I totally knew neither Hannah nor I should go to any after-hours clubs. If they got raided while we were there, we could lose our jobs. Hell… we would lose our jobs.
Sometimes it sucks to be young and have a really great job. You have to be so responsible.
“You weren’t very responsible last night.” said Stella.
“I know. I know. That…was the last time…for sure. I promise.”
“I’ll be keeping track.” said Stella.
I pulled her close and nuzzled the top of her little furry head.
What I really wanted to do tonight, was to just stay home with Stella.
I would curl up on the sofa…eat hot buttered and generously salted popcorn, followed by my favorite ice cream, Haagen-Dazs Belgium Chocolate…and…watch the ‘Gilmore Girls’. Again.
“I love the ‘Gilmore Girls'” sighed Stella.
Of course…bitter truth be told…I was also foolishly hoping that maybe tonight would be the night that Bobby would come over during the band’s break and talk to me. He was so damn cute. Picture Bradley Cooper with a guitar and a killer smile…
I had this stupid crush on him…it was so pathetic at my age… even though it did appear that he maybe had a girlfriend. I’ll give that to Abby.
There was this beautiful flight attendant from Delta…and yes…she often came into the club in her uniform…who was always sitting at one of the front tables with a couple of her girl friends…also decked out in their uniforms.
Her name tag…pinned right on the shoulder of her oh so cute uniform…read “Tiff”. Yeah…I’m sure that name was on her birth certificate…give me a break.
During his breaks, Bobby almost always went over and sat down with her and her friends.
But I thought that last night he was actually heading in my direction…until she raised her arm and signaled for him to bring her another drink and…so he did.
Some nerve. He wasn’t a waiter, for Pete’s sake. But before he had headed towards the bar he had turned towards me and had given me a super, dazzling smile…and a wink.
“Maybe he was trying to tell me something…like ‘I was going to come over to you but I have to do this to be polite…'” I pondered out loud. Stella raised her head.
“Wow. That was an amazing stretch…even for you.” Stella said.
I laid back against my propped up pillows and closed my eyes, trying ever so hard to remember last night’s smile from Bobby. He had been smiling at me, hadn’t he?
I. Am. Never drinking that much again. Ever.
Suddenly a vivid memory flashed like a bolt of lightning through my brain.
A voice. A man’s voice…
“You’re not driving tonight are you Charlie?”
And me, drunkenly oblivious to anyone but my own pitiful self, had waved a hand in the direction of the concerned voice and dismissed the question with what I had thought was a brilliant answer.
“Driving? Not tonight, babe. I’m flying home tonight….simply flying…”
And then…that was it…end of lightning bolt. End of memory.
“The doctor doesn’t want to see my husband until June 1…”
and I said…
“WHAT THE FUCK!!!”
Okay, okay…relax. I didn’t say that…exactly. What I said to the very sweet nurse was…
“How about June 2 at 3:30? Will that work?”… (see how polite and normal I can be?)
..and…of course it did work…BECAUSE THAT’S A VERY, VERY LONG TIME FROM NOW…..and I was the first person she called.
So, I’m thinking, if my husband’s kidney specialist…as in BIG TIME DOCTOR... doesn’t want to see patients until June 1…then that means HE’S ‘social distancing’…for more than a month from now…right? Am I right? Yep…thought so also.
Jimminy Cricket Christ…I’m not sure I can hold out that long…before I GO COMPLETELY CRAZY… Please note I said “completely” crazy…I know who I am…
I WANT A BIG MAC!!!! I WANT A QUARTER POUNDER WITH CHEESE!!!! TWO!!I WANT DOMINOS PIZZA…A LOT!!!! I WANT TAKE OUT FROM PERKINS, PANERA, BROADWAY PIZZA!!!! I WANT TO VISIT THE WHITE CASTLE!!! I WANT IT ALL!!!!
OH!…but you say…you can do that right now!!!!
“THEY” say it’s perfectly safe to eat food that absolutely complete strangers (but I’m sure wonderful people) cook/prepare and bag/box for you. It’ll be just fine. Don’t worry!”…(If you feel you must…you can wipe off the bag/box with a Chlorox disinfectant wipe…)
Yeah?? Remember when… “THEY” also said we didn’t need to wear masks…
Have a nice day…
Damnation! Whose voice was that…and how the hell did he know my real name?
I reached over and grabbed my phone to call Hannah…but then I hesitated…it was kind of early. She may not even be alone…she and that detective had been pretty cozy last night.
I’ll wait…maybe in an hour or so when I’m sure she’ll be up…and awake…and in an agreeable mood to talk..
Stella peeked her head out from under the covers.
“You look so cute under there.” I said. “I bet it’s really cozy.”
In the winter, Stella often burrowed under the covers on my bed, turned around and then just poked her nose and ears out from underneath.
And…of course I have several photos on Instagram to show everyone just how darling she looked…in case you were wondering…
I started to move the covers so I could slide in next to Stella. I kicked off my fuzzy slippers and carefully crawled in.
“Hey! Don’t squish me!” said Stella whose yellow eyes flashed open but then immediately closed again.
Before my head hit the pillow, I looked one more time at that beautiful yellow rose.
To think that someone…someone I didn’t even know…cared enough about me to let me know that they were thinking about me…and…even worried about me.
To my complete surprise, tears welled in my eyes…and I felt the deepest loneliness than I had felt since mom had died.
“Me. You have me, you know.” said Stella.
“Indeed. Oh, indeed.” I said and rolled over and meant to give some careful thought to all that was going on or not going on in my life. But then Stella snuggled a little closer and I fell asleep before one little thought could even appear.
LATER THAT NIGHT…
I was leaving Doyle’s a good twenty minutes after closing.
Everyone else had cleared out. I had sent Hannah on her way with her new boyfriend, reassuring her that I was right behind them. The “new boyfriend” was that cute cop she had met last night.
He was new to the Minneapolis ‘cop shop’…neither Hannah nor I had seen him before….and he was drop dead good-looking. Hannah was absolutely on fire about him.
She had talked of no one and nothing else all the way to Doyle’s…wondering if he would show up tonight like he had promised.
She had also told him that she would probably be singing with the band. Oh. My.
They had been inseparable since the minute we had walked in.
I never got a chance to ask her if she knew who had called out my name last night during my rather sketchy departure.
To be brutally honest…I was a little embarrassed to admit…even to Hannah…that I was drawing a blank about some of last night’s activities. It’s pretty scary when you don’t remember…
Just as we were all getting up to leave, I realized that I did not have my favorite pen…the one that I always use to take notes.
I told Hannah and her “little detective”…to take off since I was sure I would find it shortly.
I searched my purse again…for the umpteenth time and was not looking forward to pawing thru the rubble on the floor but I knew that was my next mission.
Even the bright white lights they usually put on to hurry us drinkers out into the forgiving darkness…had now been replaced by the bar’s glowing, red security lights.
At most clubs, when the last note had been played, people quickly left in droves.
There were after-hours parties to go to and “romantic” hook-ups that needed completing. But…I wasn’t going anywhere until I found that damn pen.
It was an old Peterson family tradition to give a 14 KT Gold Cross pen to your son or daughter at their high school graduation.
Even though my dad knew he wouldn’t be able to do this himself…he had died when I was seven…he had instructed my mom to to buy one and give it to me on the day I graduated from Hamilton High School.
I was not leaving Doyle’s without that pen.
As I was searching around underneath the nearby tables, I finally found it under a bunch of grubby napkins. Gross…
When I stood up from the floor, I felt a little dizzy so I sat down in a nearby chair and waited for my head to clear.
I had had only one whiskey sour tonight. After last night’s drinking fiasco, I figured one drink was plenty. But it had been a strong one.
When did I last eat? I wondered to myself…breakfast had been sweet rolls and coffee…but I had had no lunch.
I had been abruptly woken up from my nap, hearing a text alert on my phone, announcing a press conference at the Minneapolis Court House. I had had no time to eat…I barely had time to drive down there.
There had been a horrible drive-by shooting this past Tuesday and a little five year-old boy had been killed in the cross-fire between two local gangs.
The police had a suspect in custody and they had called a press conference.
I couldn’t miss this. Day off or not, hangover or not, I had dragged my body down to the court house.
This one was my story to cover…but what I did miss was lunch. Dinner had been a piece of cheese eaten on the way over to Hannah’s apartment.
What a life…the news never stops…and if you’re a reporter…neither do you.
I could hear the clean-up crew in Doyle’s kitchen so I knew I could go out the back door without setting off any alarms. They all knew me and Hannah. No one would be surprised to see me…or if they were surprised they surely wouldn’t care.
When you go to the same bar week after week…you pretty much get to know everyone who works there… and they get to know you…or at least…recognize you.
It was sad, right? But since both Hannah and I covered the crime scene in Minneapolis, we felt we had a justifiable reason to have fun whenever an opportunity arose…and that was usually on the weekends at Doyle’s.
Doyle’s also had a great house band…so there was live music and liquor. What could be better when you’re twenty-four and single…right?
Well…….what would have been better…was to have not seen Bobby…”potential love of my life”…and flight attendant Tiff sharing passionate kisses every time the band took a break tonight. Boy, I had that one figured wrong…
Oh well…life goes on. I was always so optimistic that I would meet someone. You know…a really nice guy. They had to go to bars too, didn’t they? I was nice…I was here…
Maybe I was just kidding myself. Maybe I should start going to church…join a book club…I liked to read…
I noticed the light was still on in Jake’s office…not that it mattered one damn bit to me anymore.
Something must have happened in the “Marlowe household” today…Jake was sporting a shiny, gold wedding band…with a diamond stuck on it for good measure.
He had been at the door tonight, checking ID’s and had greeted both Hannah and I when we came in.
He had given me a totally sheepish look when he noticed I had seen his ring. I gave him a smile. Hey, it’s who I am.
Hannah gave me a ‘look”…but did not say “I told you so…” It’s nice to have good friends.
I looked around the club…waiting to feel normal.
Wow. This place is really strange when it’s empty. Where’s the magic now?
Feeling better, I stood up and shrugged into my coat. Since I was so hot from crawling all over the floor, I didn’t think I needed to button up. I could handle 20 below zero for a couple of minutes. I was…after all…a hardy Minnesotan.
I reached into my pockets for my gloves and then realized that I had left them on the front seat of my car when I had paused to put on lipstick before Hannah and I went into Doyle’s.
“See you next week, Teddy.” one of the dishwasher guys hollered at me as I passed through the kitchen. I waved and pushed open the back door.
A blast of frigid air hit me and I immediately went into the bent-over, “huddle” position…familiar to anyone who has ever lived thru blistering cold winters.
I walked quickly across the parking lot to where my car was parked to begin my long trek home.
There would be no eating at the Minnehaha Grill tonight. No eggs. No bacon…and definitely no fun without Hannah. What a bummer. Oh, well. I was pretty tired anyway. It had been a long day.
The lot behind Doyle’s was huge and tonight we had no choice but to park way out on the perimeter since we had been running late.
Hannah had taken forever to get dressed. She wanted to make a good impression on the band…and on her new ‘cop friend’.
“Amateur Night, Charlie,” she had said to me…as I tried to hurry her along. Hannah was so beautiful she could wear a brown sack and look perfect.
As I walked to my car, I looked down to search around in my purse for my keys when suddenly a strong hand from behind grabbed my wrist and twisted my arm up behind my back.
Another arm came around my other side and a hand clamped over my mouth so tight I couldn’t scream and my struggling was useless.
As I looked up, two more men appeared before me. One of them had on a Grinch ski mask and the other one was wearing just a plain, black ski mask.
They swayed from side to side in an unsteady manner. They had obviously been drinking…a lot.
“You be good now,” said the Grinch. He was the taller of the two. They both reeked of alcohol as did the man holding me captive.
“Jus’ let go of that pursh,” he slurred. “An’ we’ll be on our way.”
I didn’t like the look of the long-bladed knife he had in his right hand.
I quickly let my free hand open and my purse fell with a thud to the ground.
I winced. It was my brand-new Kate Spade bag.
Please, I silently prayed… let them just want the money.
But the man holding my arm did not release it. He pushed it up even farther. Was he trying to break my arm? I tried to scream but only a muffled whimper came out.
The man in the Grinch mask walked over and picked up my purse, walked back and said something to his buddy that I couldn’t hear.
He looked back at me and then they both laughed…it sounded pure evil. Now I was glad I couldn’t see their faces.
“Get her over behind those trees,” the taller one ordered. And suddenly I felt my feet leave the ground. My toes skimmed the rough pavement as the one holding me started to drag me to the darkest part of the lot.
I struggled to free myself but it was no use. Every self-defense class maneuver I had ever learned flew out of my head.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! My heart was pounding so fast, I thought I was going to pass out.
Then suddenly I heard another man’s voice. It was deeper. Older. Coming from somewhere behind us.
“I think you boys are done here now. I’ll take over.”
But no one let me go. I was still being dragged. Was this a friend of theirs?
“Oh I don’t think so man. But we can share,” sneered the one who had his hand over my mouth. It was getting hard now to even take a breath.
Footsteps behind me got louder but I wasn’t able to twist around to see who was talking.
“I don’t share,” he said quietly. Now he was right behind us. “Let her go. Now.”
And then I heard the unmistakable cocking of a gun’s hammer. A big gun. I had been around policemen long enough these past couple of years to recognize that sound.
Whoever was holding me, let me go so fast my feet hit the ground and I stumbled and started to fall forward. I could hear the footsteps of my assailants running away.
New hands quickly caught me and kept me from hitting the pavement. But still terrified, I fought to get away.
Chapter Thirty-Six…The Final Chapter
“Charlie! It’s okay. I’m a police officer…I’m an undercover cop, MPD. My name is Mike. Mike Foster.” The words were clear and simple and strong…meant to be calming.
His voice…it sounded so familiar…and then it slowly dawned on me.
It was the same voice as the one who had asked me last night if I was “driving home”. I now remembered Hannah whispering in my ear…
“That Mike is sure a cutie.” Hannah had said, referring to Doyle’s cute , new bouncer as she had guided ‘my drunken self’ out the door.
I slowly turned around and looked up. It was him. My mind raced… no wonder he was with all those cops at the court house. Of course. He must have seen me and didn’t want to take a chance on blowing his cover.
“Mike…” I murmured under my breath. “Right…”
He let me stand free for a moment as he put his gun away. I swayed a little and he grabbed my elbow to steady me.
“Hey, take it easy.” he said softly.
Quiet tears of relief started to stream down my cheeks and I started to shake. Shock and the freezing cold began taking their toll on me.
Mike pulled me a little nearer and tried to close up my coat, saying soft, comforting words as he fumbled with the buttons.
Then he stopped and took his hands and lifted my face so he could look me in the eyes…
“Charlie. It’s all over. You’re safe now.” He spoke very slowly, carefully choosing his words… to be sure I understood.
But I was so cold. I couldn’t stop shivering and I couldn’t stop crying. I just stood there unable to speak or move.
Graphic images I had seen too many times from crime scenes I’d covered the last couple of years were flashing thru my mind.
I knew just how bad this could have been.
“So cold…” I managed to whisper.
Mike gently pulled me next to him. His jacket was open and he wrapped his arms and his jacket around me. I could hear sirens in the distance.
“Thank God I was still here,” he said, his voice ragged with emotion.
I sighed and sank into the safety and warmth of his body.
After a few minutes, my tears stopped and I was shaking less. But I didn’t want to leave the warmth of Mike’s arms. And he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to let me go.
I pulled back just a little, looked up and asked, “The rose?”
It was the first time I had ever seen Mike Foster smile. He had a great smile.
The Paperback Edition…
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…
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?
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’.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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…
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…
The Paperback Edition…
I slowly pushed myself up to a sitting position, keeping my eyes glued to the black form in the corner of my bedroom.
Emma was sound asleep at the foot of my bed…nestled in ‘her’ Bradley Cooper tee shirt… (it’s too long a story to share right now)…so I nudged her just a little so she would wake up. Nothing. She didn’t move.
“Emma!” I whispered and tapped her lightly on her head. “Wake Up!”
But she didn’t wake up. She didn’t even move. She was, as they say, ‘dead to the world’.
And then it quietly occurred to me that I wasn’t scared…not at all…not even a little bit…what the hell was going on?
I was, in fact, feeling a deep sense of calm. Remember that ‘Zen’ feeling I mentioned earlier? Like that. Then. It hit me.
“Holy Shit! I cried out loud. “I’m fucking dead!”
I hadn’t even felt sick! No one had even hinted that I was dying…
Of course sometimes…not often…not very often…I don’t always pay attention to every, single solitary word that people are saying to me…but still…
“I cant believe this!!” I screamed.
“Dead at 24! I had so many things left to do…. I’m pretty sure of that!”
“Bucket List! My bucket list! Crap. I haven’t even made a bucket list…”
I tapped Emma a wee bit harder on her head.
“Emma! We’re dead! We’re both dead! Can you believe that?”
“I’m not dead.” said Emma…using…NOT MY VOICE...
Things were starting to ratchet up a bit now…as my heart started to pound furiously…
Do dead hearts pound? I don’t know…I DON’T KNOW!!!!!
The Paperback Edition…
I slowly drew my hand away from the little head of my ‘apparently not dead’ cat.
“So,” I whimpered, “It’s just me…I’m dead alone.” My eyes started to burn.
But then, out of the corner of my now watery eye, I noticed the black ‘whatever it was’…starting to sway a little and change its shape.
It looked like it was extending a hand out to me.
“OH NO!! OMG!! IT’S THE HAND OF DEATH.” I shrieked.
As the hand appeared to move closer, I shrank back against my pillow. I felt like I should do something…like run somewhere to avoid this…death thing. Could I…? Should I…?
But, hey…I was not going to be the ‘classic dumb girl’ in those stupid horror movies.
You know the one I mean…the terrified girl who stupidly runs down the basement to hide…and then…to no one’s surprise…gets chopped into little pieces..
Does this building even have a basement?
“Noooo,” I whined loudly as the ‘hand’ moved even closer.
And then suddenly, Emma stood up, turned toward me and walked up my legs.
She put her two front paws on my shoulders. We were totally eyeball to eyeball.
“Relax, Tobey. It’s not death. It’s one of your guardian angels. It’s actually your main guardian angel.”
“And…by the way, the correct phrase is ‘the Hand of God’ not…’the hand of death.'”…said Jennifer Lawrence.
…since that is exactly who my cat Emma now sounded like…and…I noted…she had a slight Southern accent.
Emma then licked my nose, dropped her paws, turned around and walked back down my legs and again curled up at the foot of my bed…in ‘her’ Bradley Cooper tee-shirt.
“Not dead then…?” I asked in a trembly, squeaky voice.
“No,” said Emma…very firmly.
I exhaled loudly. “Okay good! Really good and great.”
“His name is Fred. Like in Rogers.” said Emma.
“Oh, Jesus.” I mumbled under my breath.
The Paperback Edition…
Fred? What kind of weird-ass angel name is that, I thought to myself…when suddenly ‘Fred’ spoke.
“I know, right? I would have preferred Mikko or Sebastian…but I’m not the…you know…’person’ in charge.”
Fred’s voice was thin, high and reedy…kind of like the author Truman Capote…or…Phillip Seymour Hoffman…playing Truman Capote.
“And may I just point out, so that we are perfectly clear…that… it is absolutely, unequivocally not my fault that you saw me tonight,” he said.
“I have been watching over you ever since you were born…for every one of your 24 years, day and night, night and day, through thick and thin, through wind and rain and sleet and snow…through sickness and other people’s deaths…even that date with Carl…what a complete dumbbell he was …what were you thinking there?…” continued Fred in a prickly, slightly complaining voice.
He paused as if to take a breath but no…of course…that could not possibly be…and then he went on…
“And you have NEVER, rolled back on your right side after you have rolled over to your left side…EVER!” His voice was becoming a little edgy now.
Poor Fred. He seemed really anxious and upset. I was feeling kind of bad for him.
I, on the other hand, was actually becoming more and more relaxed.
Of course, realizing you are NOT dead after thinking you ARE dead can be extremely soothing…and apparently…it also made you hungry.
Hmmmm…I wonder if it’s not too late to order pizza from Pizza Pantry?…
The Paperback Edition…
“Pizza Pantry stopped delivering 22 minutes ago…it’s 1:22 a.n.” said Fred.
I looked over at the black shape…okay…”Fred”…and it hit me…well, maybe I’m not dead. That was very good and very great…but maybe…I’m nuts? Just maybe I’ve slipped a cog or two…
“You are perfectly sane, Tobey. Don’t concern yourself with such nonsense. If YOU had just not rolled over again…none of this would be happening.”
“So…what you are saying is…that this is ALL MY FAULT?” I said indignantly and I sat up straighter and…because it is such a habit with me…I fluffed my hair in the mirror hanging on the wall at the end of my bed…still a solid B+.
(I feel it’s important to see just what you look like first thing in the morning. I know. I know…let’s not go there right now.)
“Yes. Of course it’s your fault.” Fred said, “It certainly isn’t MY fault. I’ve been at this job for thousands of years…I don’t make mistakes.”
“I am, as the young folks say…a GOAT.” Fred said proudly. (Yes. he actually said “young folks.”)
“Fine. Whatever. I am just a mere mortal. You are the great angel from on high.” I said sarcastically and rolled my eyes.
“Did you actually think that I could not see that?” said Fred. “And, I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.”
Suddenly, Emma sat straight up and held up her right paw. First she pointed it at Fred and then at me.
“Hold it…” she said, again using that super unnerving Jennifer Lawrence voice.
“Stop bickering. It is what it is. Deal with it. I need my sleep.”
As she was speaking, I unobtrusively brushed my hand against my lips…they were not moving. Emma was talking again…all by herself.
The Paperback Edition…
I looked from my dear ‘talking cat’ Emma to Fred my ‘no longer invisible guardian angel’ and then let out a huge sigh.
This was crazy…maybe not really crazy, crazy, according to Fred but…you know…crazy nonetheless. I mean…really…what was going on?
It appeared I had a talking cat…who was talking to my guardian angel named Fred…who also talked…and… and…my mind was spinning.
I glanced over at the clock on my night table. Crap! It was almost 2:00 a.m. and I had to be up at 7:00 to get ready for work. I had the early shift at The Book Shop tomorrow.
“No you don’t,” said the all-knowing Fred.
“Margo closed the shop because of the snow storm…remember? She called earlier…just before ‘Housewives’ ended.”
“Oh, right, right,” I answered quickly, remembering and then thought to myself, does he know everything?
“Yes. Yes, I do.” said Fred…and his voice sounded like he was smiling…if guardian angels can smile…that is.
“Well look,” I said in a very matter of fact manner, trying to remain calm, trying to wrap my mind around this completely nutso night.
“I don’t want to dismiss the importance of you,” I said as I nodded to Fred.
“Or you, Emma,” I said as I scratched my little cat under her chin.
“But…I do need to get some real sleep after this strange dream…so…good night, sleep tight all, sweet dreams…it’s been fun.”
And I quickly laid back down on my pillow…still not completely sure of my sanity…but giving it a try anyway.
“Not a dream,” Fred whispered very softly. “Not a dream.”
I took a deep breath and then another and then closed my eyes. After a few minutes, I ever so slowly opened them and peeked over my covers to the corner of my bedroom where Fred had been hanging out.
He was gone!!!! Fred was gone!!!! It was a dream! I knew it! Thank God!!!
“Shall I pass that on to Him in person?” asked Fred as he floated in from the hallway.
The Paperback Edition…
“WHY AREN’T YOU GONE?” I screamed as I sat bolt upright in bed and leaned towards him, hands waving in the air as if to make him go away.
“I never leave,” Fred said very calmly. “You are my job until you die. That’s the rule. I don’t make the rules. I just do what I am told. I am an excellent obeyer of rules.”
I sighed, completely and utterly exasperated.
“But…but…I can’t have you just watching me,” I persisted. “All…the…time. It’s already bothering me…”
I decided to try the sympathy approach. I’m sure a little wheedling will go a long way… I’ve been told I can wheedle with the best of them.
“Stop wheedling. It won’t work. I have to watch you. Watch OVER you is the correct term..to be precise.”
“You are going to drive me to drink!!” I shouted at him and then thought…hey…what a great idea!
I slipped out of bed, being careful not to disturb the now very sound asleep Emma, flipped the hall overhead light switch on and trudged slowly toward my kitchen.
I knew there was an almost full bottle of Jim Beam in the cupboard that I occasionally used if I was having trouble getting to sleep.
It didn’t happen very often…but still…I had the bourbon just in case…and now seemed like a very appropriate time…very.
I reached up and took the bottle down from the shelf over the sink and then turned to open another cabinet to get a glass.
“JESUS CHRIST!!!!” I yelled and almost dropped the bottle of whiskey.
Fred was hovering right behind the breakfast bar…not two feet away from me!
“I’m sure He heard that…by the way.” Fred said with a hint of reproach in his voice.
The Paperback Edition…
“WHAT are you doing out HERE?” I cried.
“And what part of guardian ‘watch over you’ angel…do you not get exactly?” asked Fred with just a hint of snippiness in his voice.
“I ‘watch over you’ ALL the time.”
I pulled out the breakfast bar stool and started to sit down and paused a bit to give Fred a not so friendly but rather meaningful look. He wisely drifted slightly away toward the patio door. He seemed to sense I needed some space…and why wouldn’t he?
I opened the bottle of Jim Beam and pored a couple of inches into my glass. I took a sip…it was AWFUL!
I got up and walked over and opened the freezer. I scrounged around and found some ice cubes in a bowl and tossed them into my glass. I returned to perch on the stool.
“Here’s to livin’ the dream…” I said and I raised my glass in a toast to Fred. He swayed a little. I nodded back.
“If I go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow…will I remember any of this? Will you still be here?” I asked.
Fred didn’t say anything for a minute or two. I sensed that he might be thinking…or perhaps not…
But then he said, “I don’t know…and…definitely yes.”
I took a bigger sip. It wasn’t that bad now…with the ice. I swirled it around a little.
“I’m not sure I can handle this,” I said hesitantly…and stared at the bourbon in my glass.
“Oh…you’ll be fine, Tobey. You’re pretty tough. You have to remember…I’ve seen you in action…during the good times and some very bad times…I’ve been with you your whole life.”
“…I hugged you when you cried…helped you create new swear word combinations when you were furiously angry…I tried to steer you away from people who were not good to you or good for you…and I even let little words of encouragement and love from your mom and dad seep into your subconscious when you were sleeping.”
“I even helped you get this job and this apartment. I could go on but I don’t want to brag…too much.” Fred swayed from side to side…obviously very proud of his accomplishments.
“Wow! That’s awesome!! And you didn’t need…like…permission to do all of that…right?”
“Oh, no,” Fred said confidently. “That fell totally under my job description. I can do a LOT of stuff.”
My glass paused on its way to my mouth…brain now seriously engaged in full speculation mode…
The Paperback Edition…
“You can ‘do’ things?” I asked quickly. Suddenly, I was no longer so sleepy.
“What kind of things? Can you perform miracles? Can you cure sick people? Can you grant wishes from…from really deserving people? Can you change things?” I rattled off my questions like machine gun fire .
Fred swayed back a little…
“Hey, hey! Don’t get too excited, Tobey. GA’s…if I may abbreviate…work in the background. Think of us like agents…like the CIA or MI6…we have many powers but we also have limits.”
“Oh…” I said with considerable less enthusiasm. “No miracles. No magic. No changing the world…right? ”
“Right.” answered Fred.
I thought for a few moments and then very hesitantly asked…
“Could you make it possible for a person as in…me…to visit Heaven to see Iris and Rain? Just a short visit…or could you arrange it so they could come down here? Just for a few minutes?” But even as I was asking…I already knew the answer.
Unwanted tears were forming in my eyes. I missed them so much.
“No, Tobey, I can’t do that.” Fred said softly and then I sensed a comforting warmth on my arms and back that made me feel less sad. It was like a very loving hug.
“Is that what you do? I asked Fred.
“That is what we do a lot. And…sometimes…we add an extraordinary amount of a powerful laxative to a very despicable and obnoxious boy’s cup of punch when he is being very unkind to one of our “people”.
“OMG!!!…do you mean Albert Simmons, my super creep date to the 11th grade Snow Dance? ”
“Precisely.” said Fred.
“He never lived down the embarrassment of that night. He had to have his parents come to the dance to take him home…he couldn’t even drive.”
I chuckled…thinking of that night so long ago…Albert thought he was so cute and so charming and God’s gift to all girls…
“He had to go to a different school for his senior year…someplace where he wasn’t called ‘Poopy.'” I smiled broadly and then yawned.
I finished off the Jim Beam, looked at my kitchen clock and saw that it was almost 3:30 a.m.
“I have to go to bed, Fred. I need to sleep.”
Imagine this, I thought…talking to my guardian angel at 3:30 in the morning…just like I would talk to my cat Emma…or even a real, live person.
“Sure, I understand.” said Fred as he floated across the living room and down the hall.
I followed behind, turning off the lights as we went…so abnormally normal.
The Paperback Edition…
Here’s a Snapchat cartoon of my brain at work…let’s make it animated…perhaps 3D…if that is possible…telling me what to do. I, of course, am the main character.
I am to follow my guardian angel down my apartment hallway to my bedroom where I will get into my bed with my now ‘not so normal’ cat, Emma,.
I am to fall asleep and said guardian angel…now named Fred…will watch over me until I wake up tomorrow morning…
AND…he will continue to watch over me for the rest of my entire life.
AND…I will see him in action…or inaction…and no one else will.
AND…if I tell anyone, they will either lock me up…or send me somewhere with…you know…padded walls and there will be lots of very friendly people there smiling at me .
AND…FRED WILL BE THERE WITH ME!!! WATCHING. OVER. ME…….FOR FUCKING EVER!!!!
OMG!!!! I will never ever sleep again…
And yet…and yet…I suddenly feel strangely peaceful and calm as I climb into bed and begin my normal “go to sleep” ritual.
First lying on my right side and then turning over to my left side where I fall asleep instantly…as I have done for 24 years.
“Tobey!!! Wake up!!! The fire alarm is going to go off in a couple of minutes. You have to leave now.”
The Paperback Edition…
My eyes flew open and I could hear Fred talking to me. What did he mean? The room wasn’t even smoky and there was no alarm…
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
Oh…there it was…my sleep-fogged brain was slow to function. Gosh that’s loud, I thought.
I’m always shocked how loud the fire alarm is…we must have at least 2 false alarms a month…some people never learn how to cook…
But…now there was a smokey smell in my room! No false alarm this time.
I shrugged on my slippers as I walked after Fred who was floating down my hallway and I followed him out the door into the apartment hall. It was super smoky. I’d never seen anything like this before…it was scary…
No one else was out there…just Fred wafting down the hall…almost blending into the smoke.
“This way,” said Fred. He was leading me toward a foggy light at the end of the hallway. WTF!…had I really died? Was this the “light” that everyone keeps talking about when they die? Was everything that had happened tonight just a ruse?
No, no of course not, I told myself. It’s just the apartment emergency light. WAKE UP TOBEY!!! I shouted to myself and shook my head and blinked my eyes. There was a lot more smoke now.
Then I stopped short…
“Wait! Where is Emma? Do you have her?” I hollered ahead to Fred. Now I couldn’t see him very well. He was hard to see with all the smoke. But then I sensed he was right beside me…seemingly touching my elbow.
The alarm was so much louder in the hallway…I could hardly hear my own voice…but Fred’s voice was unmistakable in my ear…
“She’ll be fine, Tobey. You have to leave now!” His presence was more insistent but he wasn’t actually grabbing me.
“No! Wait! I can’t leave Emma. I’m going back Fred!”
I turned away and felt his touch on my arm disappear.
I quickly made my way back down the now smoke-filled hallway until the dim glow from the EXIT sign showed I was at my door. It hadn’t locked when I had closed it.
“Thanks God!!” I said out loud.
I pushed the door open and then quickly closed it, making sure that Emma did not run out into the apartment hall.
I knew exactly where that little squirt would be…under my bed…where she always went when that damn alarm went off.
The smoke was creeping into my apartment and getting thicker. I ran into my room coughing loudly. I shut the door in case Emma tried to slip out.
I clapped for my light to go on. It did. But then all the lights went out!
The Paperback Edition…
I ran over to my bed and dropped to my knees. I started pulling out all the under-the-bed bins I used for storage…calling Emma’s name…but only hearing the deafening and increasingly irritating blare of the fire alarm.
Tears were streaming down my cheeks…my heart felt like it was literally breaking.
I sobbed, “Dammit Emma, where are you? I’m not leaving you! You’re my best friend, Emma!! You’re my…my only friend.”
Oh God, I thought…where in the holy hell is she???
I laid full out on my stomach so I could reach farther under my bed and then suddenly I felt that soft fur, so familiar to my touch, and I grabbed a bunch of it and held on tight. I scooted backwards and dragged Emma out from under the bed.
Her little blue eyes popped open and she looked at me and coughed.
“Did you burn dinner again, Tobey?”
“C’mon you little rascal, we’re blowing this pop stand.”
I sat up and put Emma under my tee-shirt and tucked it into my sleep pants and then pulled the drawstring tight underneath her.
I was only taking little breaths but they all felt like pure smoke. The only light in the room was from my laptop on my desk…thank God for battery mode….
With my left hand firmly under Emma, I pulled up the window blinds, climbed up on my desk chair and then onto my desk. Crouching low, I slid open the window and cold, fresh air rushed in.
I took a couple of deep breaths, backed up to the edge of my desk and then I ran…head and right shoulder down… full force through the screen!
There was so little resistance…I flew through the air! My butt landed with a smack on a snow-covered bush.
I looked up and there was Fred…shimmering on a snowbank…about three feet away.
“Well…I see you two made it.”
The Paperback Edition…
“What the hell were you doing?” I shouted at Fred as I struggled to stand up.
“Were you going to let us almost die and then perform some kind of ‘guardian angel’ magic crap and save us? Was this some kind of cockamamie plan of yours?”
“Well…actually miss,” said a deep voice from behind me. I turned around and found myself looking up at a very tall fireman holding a blanket.
“As I came down your hall, I heard someone…I guess that was you…screaming from your apartment. I thought someone was looking for a child or…” he paused and looked down and saw Emma’s head pop out of my tee-shirt.
“Then I saw you go flying out the window.”
“So, no…that wasn’t my cockamamie plan. Are you and your… cat okay?” He tried to put the blanket around the two of us.
I was starting to get really cold and shaky .
I managed to free one hand and brushed the tears from my eyes and looked up again at this tall man.
He was smiling at me and he was pretty cute. (Hey…it’s going to take more than a fire and a near death experience to stop me from appreciating a good-looking man…)
Married, I bet. Two kids. A dog, of course. And his loving mother probably lives with them. All one big happy family. Rats.
“I’m fine…now.” I said…a little too briskly, perhaps. “Thank you very much. Is the fire out?” I asked, trying to sound a little more normal…and less filled with rage.
“Yes. It started in the dryer right above your unit. The resident had left the building to go to work, so it went unnoticed for quite a while.”
“The other tenants are meeting in the lobby right now. I think management will have some kind of plan or announcement. They usually do in cases like this.” he said helpfully.
“Well…thanks again,” I said and I started to turn and walk toward the pine tree where I had last seen Fred wavering earlier.
“Oh here…” said the fireman. “I grabbed these for you. I hope they’re yours. They were sitting right by your front door.” He held out my UGG boots to me.
“I figured you might need them after I saw you jump out the window into the snow.”
I walked back to him and without even thinking twice, I just leaned against him and kicked off my wet slippers and put on my boots.
“Well, I better……” I started to talk but the horror of the night suddenly sunk in and no more words would come.
Fresh tears started to stream down my cheeks and I turned quickly away and headed off to find Fred…hugging Emma’s little warm body as I walked.
“Why can’t they shut that damn horn off!” I yelled to nobody in particular.
And then somebody did. Suddenly it was so quiet I could hear my heart beat.
“FRED!! Where the hell are you?” I yelled loudly.
And then from behind, I felt a slight touch on my shoulder. Finally!!!!
I whirled around, ready to give Fred a taste of my full fury…many brilliant swear word combinations forming in my brain…
“Actually, miss,” said my helpful fireman in a quiet and soothing voice, “I’m right here.”
And he pointed to his name badge.
It was hard to read since my eyes were so blurry from crying. I squinted but I couldn’t make it out. I looked up at him with a puzzled expression on my face.
“What?” I asked.
“That’s me…my name is Fred.”
“I don’t have a dog but I do have two cats. I’m single…my mother lives in Paris…and I have absolutely no idea why I’m telling you all this…”
And here’s the ‘partly true’ part that I referred to in the beginning:
One night about 15 years ago I did wake up unexpectedly and as I was rolling over I saw a “black ribbon, shimmering in the corner.”
I looked at it for a few minutes…and felt no fear at all. But I did know I wasn’t dreaming or ‘half-asleep’. I remember smiling and then I went back to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning I realized I had seen one of my guardian angels by mistake…it doesn’t happen often…but it does happen. You can Google it.
This has happened about 3 more times since then…
FULL DISCLOSURE…no real bulletin…
However…I feel that in these wretchedly crap times…I must confess to anybody or everybody…that if I wake up one morning in the future….walk out to my kitchen…pull out the scale and weigh myself …which I do RELIGIOUSLY EVERY DAY…
…and discover that I have cracked the 130.0 mark on my scale…I will do one of two things:
I will step off the scale, quietly walk over and open the curtains, pour myself a cup of coffee, step back on the scale and weigh myself again because I will absolutely not believe that the scale is telling me the truth…OR
Ever so carefully put the scale back in the corner and THEN do a silent although wildly effusive HAPPY DANCE all the way down the hall to my bedroom where I will retrieve and subsequently eat one whole Hershey bar for breakfast.
Gee…I wonder what I will do…
Have a nice day…
Well…that was perhaps…
THE dumbest idea I have ever had!
And trust me…I have had some righteously, colossal dumb ideas.
WAIT! HOLD ON! It appears that the dumb idea was so dumb it never made it into this blog. Well. I will correct that…tout suite.
Okay. Here’s the deal Now…because of the virus…when I order groceries online (as I now have to do because of the virus) … I can’t always get what I want…or NEED!
But…if you are one of those SUPER ‘addictive’ type people as am I…you have to figure out what you can buy to replace something you are SUPER addicted to in case that particular item is UNAVAILABLE!!!!!!!
Okay, Tina…settle down, settle down…
So. My current addiction is Popsicles. I have 2 or e after dinner (they…by the way…replaced my PREVIOUS addition of 2 or 3 cigarettes.) I used to smoke them afteer dinner but no longer do because of a stroke…but that’s a story for another day…
So. I spent literally hours trying to decide on a replacement addiction for my Popsicles in case they would not be available due to the virus. I came up with a regular Hershey bar…pretty close in all the numbers I consider important.
SO. I BOUGHT 60 BARS!!!
I figured I could have 1/2 bar every night after dinner and I would not be eating anymore calories than the 2 or 3 popsicles that I would normally have.
So…didn’t that sound like a great plan? I thought so as well and I had to implement that plan last week when there were NO popsicles to be found at my store.
But guess what? I am losing weight…only a couple of ounces so far…BUT STILL…OMG. I could really be on to something here…which is why I am drinking a coke and eating potato chips as I write this.
What the holy hell was I thinking? Who can eat only one-half of a Hershey’s candy bar? Who?
Was I completely out of my mind? YES! YES I WAS...!!! I WAS 100% out of my mind.
To think that I could do that and then…wait for it…and then…when I was able to actually secure one box of my beloved popsicles…but have only ONE…because I AM A POPSICLE ADDICT and wanted to make that box of 36 last forever…
…decide to also have one half of a Hershey’s candy bar as well…because…because…I have no sound answer to that question. Next question?
“Did you also have a piece of hot apple pie that you had baked solely for the enjoyment of your husband?
I do not believe I am going to answer that question either.
Have a nice day…
The world may be falling apart…
The VERY FIRST news story I chose to read this morning was…”Tom Brady is not going to quarterback the New England Patriots any longer…”
WHERE ARE MY PRIORITIES???????
THIS is what happens when you get so giddy after losing some weight…after not losing some weight for so long…as in…NOW I WEIGH…drum roll please…………
Have a nice day…
“I had a dream…”
…and it was about BACON…and then…sadly… I woke up.
So…good morning!!! I seldom write in the morning but this is a one-off because my dream was so vivid I had to share immediately…well, of course I had to have some coffee first…
My dream then segwayed into … why aren’t I eating bacon these days … and then my sleepy brain remembered…Ohhhhhhhh…… right….my stomach doesn’t always agree with my depraved desires…sigh…
However…I decided to throw caution to the wind, follow my dreams (lol) and move down that bacon path once again…and wondered (I am still in bed at this point…) if I could freeze bacon (more economical) since I had never done so in the past. It was then I decided to get out of bed. I had been given a mission and I had chosen to accept it.
YES YOU CAN!! And you can freeze bacon either raw or cooked and even though I have not moved into proper clothing I am soon going to do so…and then go to the store to buy,..
Don’t anyone wonder if I have a life…I do…mostly.
Have a nice day…
“BASICALLY…*#@* THE WORLD…”
Here’s the deal: Exiting an automated (my first mistake) parking ramp yesterday afternoon after taking my husband in for an MRI.
1, Doing so at ‘quitting’ time for all hospital employees…(second mistake).
2, There are “2” exit lines…one for EMPLOYEE CONTRACT PARKING and the other for us regular people…using cash or a credit card.
3, ONE of those lines is not working…but NO ONE KNOWS WHICH ONE until they are at the “pay” booth.
4. Lines get longer…lots of waiting…people upset…etc. etc.
5…BUT people allow the CONTRACT PARKING PEOPLE into the regular line…takes time but people are kind and decent…now…
6. THEN it’s my turn and this 8″ solid, metal bar is preventing me (and EVERYONE ELSE) from driving through without paying…IMPORTANT!!!! REMEMBER THIS!!!!
7. I am having some difficulty putting in the receipt…and PEOPLE START TO HONK AT ME!!!!!! Not just one honk. Many honks. Many, many honks
8. Do these people with an apparent IQ of less than 12 actually believe that honking their horn at me will ACTUALLY help me to figure out what to do? OR do they perhaps believe the vibration of their NOW LOUD horns will magically make the “8” solid, metal bar rise…without me paying?
9. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE????????
10. Obviously I made it through and one would think that I would weight less today… because…well…because yesterday I had a crummy day.
11. But there is no justice on the “weight loss court” scale. I had not lost once fucking ounce. But at least I didn’t gain anything…in spite of the fact that I had McDonald’s for dinner last night…so HAH all you stupid horn-honking people. I win.
P.S. The ‘bunny avatar’ is completely unaware of how life works…but who cares…she has lots of chocolate.
Have a nice day…
Happy Valentine’s Day…
And before you start thinking…”Oh that’s pretty pathetic…selfish…nutso…let me explain.
Even though I am still at 132.2…RATS…and have not (yet) returned to the glory day of January 25, 2020 when I weighed in at 130.6…I AM ALSO NOT AT 141.4 which was my weight LAST February 14…
SO…now what do you think…pretty swell, huh?
I thought you might agree…and I hope you also agree that I deserve a treat…one full-size Hershey bar that has been living in my top drawer for months…waiting just for me.
Have a nice day…
So it just now occurred to me…that beginning October 1, 2020… if I wanted to “flee”somewhere…I could not. And I’m talking FLEE!!
I would not be able to quickly get on a plane in Minnesota (or any other state in the USA for that matter) and just immediately…right now… “GO”.
Let’s just say that someone was chasing me…for whatever reason (not the police of course…let’s be very clear on that)…and I needed to get on an airplane and fly to Stockholm or Helsinki or Reykjavik or…or…Detroit.
I wouldn’t be able to do so. I would be trapped!!
I would be standing at some ticket place and the ticket person would…ever so politely… say to me, “Can I see your real ID, please?”…and I would say…panicked, of course, because someone is chasing me (not the police, of course)…
“WHAT THE FUCK do you mean, REAL ID?” I would shout.
And I would drag out my driver’s license and credit card and wave them around in the air and start to breathe faster and faster…because of course I was panicking…
And the ticket person would send some kind of ‘eye’ signal to someone else and I would be asked to either leave or ‘come with them’.
I don’t know what would actually happen…since I have never flown anywhere…ever…so airport protocol is not item #44 on my ”REMEMBER THIS” list.
I also have never felt the need to flee…but…NOW…if I want to flee…I can’t.
And this is when my quirky claustrophobia begins to kick in…
Normal claustrophobia means no elevators, no packed rooms with no visible red EXIT signs, no large gatherings out of doors with me somehow stuck in the middle and NO FLYING. …or caves…yikes…
AND THIS IS THE QUIRKY PART of my claustrophobia…I also have to be able to move WHERE I want…WHEN…I want…which is why we can’t vacation on an island. I can’t get there anyway…but still…if I could…think about it. A person can only leave when the airline people…say you can. So…choices…always choices.
I am choosing…TO FLY (somehow securing some really cool drugs) over not being able to flee…when I want.
…where the hell do I get a Real ID anyway?
Two things: You are 1. Now beginning to understand me…or…2. Now beginning to understand my insanity.
Have a nice day…
I can’t believe it…my heart is breaking…it’s done. I knew it was coming, but still…
It seems like only yesterday that everything was in front of me…a plan…a ritual…even dreams…
But now…IT’S OVER.
It started out so brilliantly…I was so full of hope and joy!
First came the crisp autumnal breezes blowing orange and red tinted leaves past my window…and then…white flakes of snow fluttering down.
There was Domino’s Pizza every week! And…dessert…with no regrets.
There wasn’t a day I didn’t think about you. Some mornings I would wake early…so excited to be with you that day.
It was all part of the experience…and I loved it. I’ve been down this road before.
I laughed. I screamed. Sometimes I was so still…I hardly breathed. And yes…I even cried…once or twice…just a tear or two.
But even so…week after week…the joy was there… the promise…ALWAYS THERE!!! ALWAYS!!
But now…GONE…GONE FOREVER…………………..well maybe not quite forever…
But at least until the 23rd of April……….NFL DRAFT DAY!!!!!!!
(OF COURSE THERE IS THE NFL COMBINE ON FEBRUARY 23…BUT WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT THAT CRAP…)*
Have a nice day…
*Okay…I’ll probably listen to all the recaps on the radio…but that’s it.
“Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play!“
I am sound asleep…dreaming ‘God knows what’ and at 8:00 a.m. my radio comes on to wake me. Perfectly normal…so far.
My radio is tuned to a “Sports Talk Station”…because I love sports and I hate loud, jarring beeps.
However, I don’t always wake up right away…
Sometimes I am mysteriously drawn into whatever sports discussion they’re having…like last night…when my unconscious brain made some alterations to the conversation…
“Its a really close game…there are only 13 seconds left…the coach is looking down the bench…looking…looking…”
“ME! ME!” I shout. “PUT ME IN! I’M READY! PUT ME IN, COACH!”
I RUN UP TO HIM. I WAVE MY ARMS AT HIM AND EVEN TUG ON HIS SLEEVE but…
He doesn’t hear or see me in my green & white basketball uniform…frantically jumping up and down!!
Because, of course, I WAS DREAMING!!!
So I slowly struggled to wake up…but I was also trying to get back into that great dream…but I failed.
So then I wondered…what I would have done if he had turned to me and said, “Okay, Nelson. Get your butt out there!”
Have a nice day…
I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT ON 1/1/20
I WEIGHED 130.6
It’s amazing…that sometimes I forget that the WHOLE WORLD does NOT revolve around me.
Have a nice day…
This number is for those of you who think that I have been just flitting around without a care in the world…discovering new recipes for chocolate chip cookies…and then…in the interest of science…testing those recipes.
And by testing…I mean…EATING THE RESULTS OF THOSE TESTS…
You would be 100% correct. A+. Go to the head of the class! Have an extra cookie.
Have a nice day…
I obviously had time on my hands tonight…
…because today I re-arranged my whole day so I could spend a ZILLION hours on the phone with
MY FAVORITE DRUG STORE… WHY? You ask politely. Well…let me continue.
IF you need insulin to LIVE……………….AND……
You get a text saying “We are out of stock…don’t worry…we’ll get back to you…”
THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR…
So…I thought that tonight I would do something really relaxing…like make my blog/post/site/whatever… prettier and smarter.
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING… (I wonder if there are any cookies left?)
Have a nice day…
I HAVE ALREADY EATEN 2 COOKIES…
…and I have only been up for an hour!!!!!!!!!!!…
Okay. The first cookie was just to see if they were still soft and as wonderful as they were yesterday…and the day before…kind of like a ‘scientific experiment’. Right?
Okay, let me log that in my scientific journal…not.
The second cookie was…was…I have NO DAMN reason for eating the second cookie.
I have less than 10 months to lose 5 pounds and I am sliding down a slippery slope so fast I am dizzy.
I am completely out of control…using ‘old age’ as an excuse for ‘seizing the day’ (and by that I mean eating more cookies). OMG What’s next?????
Well, let me tell you…
NFL FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SIX PLUS HOURS OF SITTING…PERHAPS SWEARING…PERHAPS GROANING…PERHAPS CHECKING TO SEE…
IF MY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES ARE STILL SOFT???…
I AM SO SCREWED…
Have a nice day…
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES….
Hear me out…please…
I am so, so serious about this…I’m not even showing a cute photo…
Even though I PROMISED NOT TO SHARE RECIPES…I am breaking that promise tonight.
And I am doing so because this is the BEST chocolate chip cookie I have ever made…and I AM REALLY, REALLY OLD.
…and the reason they are the best (for me) is that they are soft and buttery and so flavorful…like Sweet Martha’s. (Minnesota State Fair reference which might not be applicable to all people…) Only Better.
So. Go to: Very Best Baking by NESTLE Then: Go to ORIGINAL NESTLE TOLL HOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Do not waiver from the recipe. DO IT EXACTLY AS THEY SAY. Actually when they said “beat” I used my electric hand mixer and continued right up until the end when it got too hard…but I have a really old mixer…I should get a stand mixer.
I used a really small (golf ball size) cookie scoop–no bigger. Then I put them in the Cuisinart (non-convection) Toaster Oven (370 degrees) because I don’t use my regular oven…(THAT IS A HUGE STORY…but for a later date). I only baked them for 4 minutes.
I removed them immediately from the sheet and transferred to a cooling rack so they would stop baking quicker.
Now…if you want a crispy cookie…I have just wasted your time and I am truly sorry.
Have a nice day…
This is my goal for tomorrow…
DAIRY QUEEN…VERY DOABLE!!!
Have a nice day…
I will be so mad if I die before I lose 5 MORE pounds…
St. Peter will not be pleased to see me…
Well, perhaps that is a little strong but SERIOUSLY…I realize that last November 2019 when I had failed to reach 125 lbs….which was my original goal from November 2018… losing 5 more pounds before November 2020 seemed like a genuine, doable goal.
AND…don’t get me wrong…it is!!!! I mean…losing 5 pounds in 12 months…pretty easy stuff.
However, if you happen to reside in the +70 age range, the doability of that goal is a bit sketchy…in that I could “kick the bucket” (so to speak) at any moment. I feel fine…thanks for asking.
(COMPUTER…DO NOT SPELL CHECK ME …DOABILITY IS A WORD…I DOUBLE CHECKED…even though not used in most dictionaries…but still).
Every morning I get up and the numbers on the scale vary only an ounce or two up or down…but there doesn’t seem to be a downward trend.
Just a simple request…one tiny, little favor…
…and please understand that I am still very, very grateful that I know what time it is...ALL THE TIME…like now it is 10:09 p.m. CST.
Have a nice day…
Okay…here’s the deal…
Apparently I now have skinny wrists…YAY!!!
Well, hold off on the applause and cheering because my brand new Swatch watch keeps slipping to the outside of my wrist…and it is a real bitch to see what time it is without reaching over with my other hand and straightening it.
I wear my watch on my left wrist and DO NOT EVEN ASK BECAUSE I CANNOT WEAR A WATCH ON MY RIGHT WRIST. Okay. I feel better now. And for all I know it would slip to the outside of my right wrist as well!
So. I went on line and I FOUND A SOLUTION after only 45 minutes. TIME WELL SPENT…pardon the pun.
So if you send me $5.00 in unmarked bills I will sha
Hey…I wouldn’t do that. Here is the trick. Reverse the band from one side of the watch to the other…if you can. I have a Swatch so I can do that very easily. IT’S AMAZING!!!
FYI…I am also telling you…I think I am getting sick of knowing what time it is every single second…like…right now it’s 10:46 p.m. CST.
P.S. I couldn’t find a cute photo of a wrist watch so…this one had to do…
BYW…It’s now 11:01 p.m. CST
Have a nice day…
I’M JUST GOING TO DENY IT WAS ME…
You know…I found myself in a situation a few days ago that made me feel…sad, stupid and pathetic…
Yup. And in the past, when things like this have happened, I have just ‘walked it around’ the block a few times and changed the scenario or ‘softened the experience’ or filed it away…and that has worked for me and probably for a million other people as well.
BUT NOW…I have decided to JUST DENY THAT IT WAS ME…
Yes, that is correct. Because…”I” would not have chosen for that situation to have occurred. I. Would not have willingly put myself in a place where I knowingly would feel unhappy or upset.
I. Am not stupid. I. Am not playing.
You can play…alone.
Have a nice day…
AND…I may add…for a solid week…
GOOD BEGINNING TO THE NEW YEAR…RIGHT?
IF…that is what I want to achieve for the upcoming year…
I’ll get back to you…
Have a nice day…
Plus…other appropriate greetings to ALL those to whom Merry Christmas does not apply!!
Well…now that I have all that covered…I can share what’s going on with me…with my weight loss goal of losing 5 pounds before next November 1…that is…November 2010.
Since I was 5 pounds short THIS November 1…I gave myself a new goal.
I have gained one whole pound…NOT LOST…gained. It must have been the “food poisoning/bad deli food/bad…something that caused my body to NOT lose…even though I was not eating a whole lot for about 3 weeks.
Okay. I did consume: Sprite, jello (which we all know is pure sugar in a jiggly form), pretzels, crackers…did I mention Sprite? I believe I am addicted to Sprite now. Oh, sigh.
Anyway…I hope everyone who is trying to lose weight this year (and next) will not be too hard on themselves during the holidays…whatever your holiday may be.
One is okay. Ten is pushing it. Enjoy life for Pete’s sake.
I tripped over a picture frame last week (such a long, boring story) and as I was trying to “catch myself” as one does…I was thinking…really…well this is going to hurt like hell.
It did. But the fear of not being able to get up…moved me to immediately get up. A little blood on the kneecap and SORE body for a few days…was the aftermath of the fall.
So see? Life happens and if…unlike me…you hit your head and die…you are going to be SO SORRY that you didn’t have that one piece of homemade fudge. Really.
Have a nice day…
I have no clue…
Well…I’m still at 130.4…even though I had a stomach bug and didn’t eat for a day and a half…there was NO loss.
And…like any normal person…when I could eat I ate a lot. Sorry. Sad Truth.
NOT crap. Good food…mostly…
Also… just in casual passing…I have a teensy, weensy secret to share.
Yes…there are 2. And yes…it does appear that they are kind of hidden in my bureau drawer…because…they are.
I don’t know what came over me!!!!
It was like I was possessed!! It’s really the fault of the woman who was ahead of me in line at the grocery store. She was moving forward and then she stopped to reach back and grab a Hershey bar.
Well. What could I do?
Have a nice day…
P.S. Don’t tell.
At first I was sad…
…but then I smiled…
…it’s who I am…
Have a nice day…
NEW WEIGHT: 130.4…don’t holler at me!!!!!
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately…visualize the statue of “The Thinker”.
I think…when I notified my brain that I had another year to lose the 5 pounds I was not able to lose this past year and thereby reach my goal…my body slowed down.
My brain was probably thinking something like…”Hey, cool! What’s the hurry?…no worries, I have ALL YEAR.”
I also pondered this: “If I continue eating and doing everything the same as I am doing right now…will I eventually weigh 100 pounds!!! …before I die, that is…?”
Pondering is always a bad idea…I think my body went into ‘survival’ mode…thinking…”Yeah, whatever floats your boat, honey. Now I’m hanging on to whatever you’ve got…”
Have a nice day…
…Because I KNOW that my weight is the the MOST IMPORTANT thing in your life…right?
Okay, maybe not. I can see that. I’ll be brief. After one solid week of not weighing myself in honor of HALLOWEEN*, today I ran…well not really ran…at my age running is not something I will ever do again. So I more or less sauntered sleepily out to the scale area (kitchen) and…weighed myself.
TA DA!!!!!129.4…No CHANGE!!!!!
Have a nice day…
“I see you…”
“I’m not blind, you know.”
“Don’t think for one moment that I don’t see you…sitting there…all propped up and cute-like in your little silver and brown wrapper…tempting me…enticing me…
“You may not be aware…but there is a little dust on you…just a little…but it’s there.
“And I know what you’re thinking…’Just reach over and rip off my wrapper…break off one little piece of me at a time, let it melt ever so slowly on your tongue…'”
“NO!!!!!!!!” SAY I…
“I am not weak!!!!!
I am strong!!!!! I am kind of strong…I am kind of a little strong…”
And I get up, turn out the desk light…turn the desk light back on… because the room was completely dark and I couldn’t see shit…walk over to another lamp and turn that one on and then return to turn off the desk light again even though it was highlighting all your goodness and glory and wonderfulness…OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!
Have a nice day…
Did I forget to tell you that in honor of Halloween I am not weighing myself for 7 days?
Have a nice day…
Just when you think you have it all under control…
Picture ME looking at a crumpled Hershey Bar wrapper…in my left hand…
Have a nice day…
OKAY, OKAY, OKAY...
NOVEMBER 1 IS ALMOST HERE…
AND…I have not yet reached my goal weight of 125 pounds….which I set last October. I HAVE lost 18 pounds, 4 ounces…which is great!!!!!…but still…
Let’s just round numbers off and say I currently weigh 129 and thus (:)) need to lose 4 more pounds to be successful…
Well. I do not anticipate that happening…although miracles do happen. HAH!!
So. Here is my new plan. Today is October 20, 2019 and my new goal (in life) is to lose 4 pounds by November 2020.
Good plan, huh? I thought so too.
I don’t know what it is…sometimes these fantastic ideas just come to me like a lightning bolt shot out of the sky. Oh. My.
Have a nice day…
but who’s counting.
Me. I have less than a month to go and my goal of 125 by Nov. 1 looms. I like that word. LOOMS. Current weight: 129.4 and apparently holding forever…
Let’s go back 56 years…yes…I am 20 years old…sigh. That was a splendid year…if only I could tell more people. You know….there are things and events you can just never share…sweet memories and such…
But I digress. Summer 1963. I was 20 and I weighed 99 pounds.
And because of my extraordinary skills (okay, no one else would do it), I was the catcher for a fast pitch softball team. Read 70 mph…yup.
It was a hot July night in old Bloomington, Minnesota and we were playing a really tough, championship team from the mean streets of Minneapolis.
I was taking a few warm-ups from my pitcher who…incidentally…had a smoking fast ball that would drop a little just before the plate. Have I set the picture?
Let continue…I flipped up my catcher’s mask (I thought I was so cool) to quickly take a drag off my ‘lit’ Marlboro cigarette…which was conveniently nestled in the sand right next to me…hey…this was 55 years ago. Don’t judge me.
I looked down to pick up the Marlboro and just as I looked up to take a drag…my obviously non-aware pitcher threw a sizzling, fast ball, hitting my unprotected face, sending me backwards about a foot…no really…a whole 12 inches.
Not only did the lit cigarette cause a burn on my cheek, I couldn’t chew real food for about 3 weeks. I wasn’t wired shut…it was just too painful to do anything but drink fluids or very mushy foods.
There is no moral to this telling…just background to the fact that…I lost 5 pounds in less than a month.
Anyone looking for a 75 year old catcher?
Have a nice day…
Still a boring 129.4...
As the weekend stretches out before me and I contemplate which day I should visit Dairy Queen (and I am visiting Dairy Queen because…well…it’s there…) to enjoy a small, chocolate sundae…this random thought raced through my brain…
How many of us…who are trying to lose a few unwanted pounds (BTW…are there any ‘wanted‘ pounds?)…have sat in a doctor’s office for our annual exam, filling out those stupid forms…and have come to this question…
“Have you had any unexplained weight loss in the past 6 months?”
And you thought…with perhaps a small smirk on your face…or maybe even said out loud…very quietly to no one in particular…”I wish.”
Have a nice day…
Still rocking 129.4…!!!
and I had a thought today…
Let’s just say I was walking down the street and someone (a man) would come up to me and say, “Hey, good looking…what’s your favorite season of the year?”
Okay…the whole “hey, good looking” thing probably wouldn’t happen…but the question of favorite season just might…so…I’ll continue…
“Hey, good looking…: (You didn’t think I was going to let that go, did you?)…tell me your favorite season.”
AND…I would say…
“Well, thank you for asking, kind sir. As you are aware…I live in Minnesota. It is September 15 and I was just told the weather forecast for tomorrow has a “heat alert watch” wrapped around it…I almost threw up.”
“I just watched my Vikings football team lose to Green Bay today. I don’t want to think about having heat stroke in the middle of September!”
“I want to think of crisp mornings, chilly nights and brisk walks…wearing the new clothes I have recently purchased because I have lost so much weight!!! AND…I don’t want to sweat anymore. ”
Answer to the question: It isn’t summer.
Have a nice day…
What can I say?
Apparently the “world” is not up to me even contemplating some form of exercise other than…walking, strolling, sauntering, meandering in a line…you get the picture.
Good for you “world”.
Have a nice day…
NO “bleeping” CHANGE…
I could have said NO fucking CHANGE…but I thought I would refrain from bold, blue obscenities.
Here’s the deal: IF I HAVE TO START JOGGING AT AGE 75…THE WORLD IS GOING TO HEAR ABOUT IT!! And I am not even kidding.
OK? Just saying. I am warning you world. I don’t like the concept of jogging. I have NEVER liked the concept of jogging. I probably don’t even know HOW to jog…is it like running? Only slower? See…don’t know, care less.
Today is September 9, 2019 and my goal is to weigh 125 pounds by … what did I say????… end of October??? Okay. It was November 1. Grrrrrr…….
Tomorrow I walk A LITTLE MORE…That’s the best I can do…right now.
Have a nice day…
P.S. I am basically a calm, happy person…
I honestly feel like Dorian…spinning in place…IT HAS BEEN SO LONG!!!!! And the stupid scale does not change one little bit…very depressing.
So….to lift my spirits…I decided to ‘again’ use the tried and true cure for simple depression that my mother taught me decades ago when she said…
“Let’s color your hair platinum, Tina!!”
And I did.
Have a nice day… 🙂
So…here’s the deal. I cut my hair.
I figured “how hard could it be?”
I figured “just a little snip here…and…there…”
It’s the only explanation I can offer…since yesterday I took a hour and a half nap, did not walk because the dew point was…like 150…and I had an extra half popsicle because it was Monday.
Truth in Telling: My avatar is slightly exaggerated…
Have a nice day…
One would think…that after a week of liquid falling from my eyes and a diminished desire to eat…there would be some weight loss.
But…I guess sorrow hangs heavy…
nice safe day…
“Let’s hear it for ‘Bloodletting’!!!”
Here’s the deal…yesterday I had to go to the lab for…you know…lab work…which involved removing some blood from my precious body.
I DO NOT LIKE THIS ONE BIT…but you ‘gotta do what you gotta do’…so I went…head down…feet dragging…just like any respectable 3-year-old would do.
Then I did a couple of errands and decided to treat myself to 2 White Castle hamburgers…known to aficionados as ‘sliders’…and a small REGULAR coke.
I did a few more errands and was still feeling the need to treat myself…so I went to Dairy Queen and had a small chocolate sundae. Oh…so good!!!
I was really tired after all those errands…so when I got home I took a nap and then when I got up I did not feel like cooking so I had Domino’s famous pan pizza delivered…yummy!
Two popsicles for dessert…a few crackers at bedtime and I was done eating for the day…all the while completely understanding that perhaps there would be a slight rise…an ounce or two…in my morning weight….right? Right.
I wonder if those 14th century doctors and their “bloodletting” techniques as a cure for…anything & everything…were on to something…HAH!… just kidding…and apparently you can’t…on your own…order up miscellaneous blood draws…who knew?
Okay. Okay…really just kidding on that.
Have a nice day…
I knew it was coming…in my little heart…in my “less” little heart…
Have a nice day…
HOWEVER…every time I jump on the scale…I see the 130.8 & and then it settles on 131.0. I cut 3″ off my hair yesterday so I was REALLY…HOPEFULLY…expecting good news!!!! Oh well…there’s always tomorrow…of course, until there isn’t! HAH!!!
Have a nice day…
Drum Roll please….
I bow to your much appreciated applause…
Have a nice day…
Bad news. Good news.
Bad News: It wasn’t the batteries…I still weigh (and apparently very correctly) 131.6.
Good News: I now have some spare batteries and…really…who couldn’t use some spare batteries, right?
Have a nice day…
1. Apparently…I have pissed off someone in the Universe who has some kind of control over me…
2. BECAUSE…I am still at 131.6…even though…
3. As the “starting to REALLY annoy me” title of this “I just ate less…” post states…I AM EATING LESS, DAMMIT!!!! and there is no change…zip…zero…nada…nothing.
4. It has to be the batteries in the scale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I better have new batteries, dammit. TTYS.
Have a nice day…
I guess it pays to not eat at all for 2 days…JUST KIDDING!!!!! Last night, I had the best homemade roast beef with au jus…aka fat…on top and mashed potatoes with brown gravy for dinner. Also asparagus slathered (love that word) in butter and one half can of 3.2 beer. Three half popsicles for dessert and 4 buttery crackers as my bedtime snack. And yes…I did have lunch.
And no…I didn’t exercise yesterday…I had to go shopping:) …. To buy a pair of jeans…one size smaller!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!
Have a nice day…
132.2 and holding…
I could swear the scale flirted with 130.8 this morning…
So I ran up and down the halls for 10 minutes to see if I could get the number down…yeah…right. THAT’S never going to happen…:)
Have a nice day…
Just when you think it will NEVER change…it does. Woo Hoo!!!!!
And, you can tell by my excitement how important it is to get a scale that shows the ounces…
Have a nice day…
I TOLD YOU SO…132.8 pounds!!!!
Actually that was yesterday… (and today) but I bought a new laptop and they were transferring data…yada, yada, yada …So I was unable to connect with the world…BUT…there it is…on the downward trend again.
Have a nice
W. T. F. ???
Shocking trip to the scale this morning…and I couldn’t figure it out…
…until I realized that for the past 2 days I have been shopping for a new computer…
And…that’s it, folks. That’s all she wrote…
Stress…it affects every single thing we do…right? Right!
So,,,now I’m going to go out and run 2 miles…HAH!!! In my dreams…
Have a nice day…
“NOT A REAL BULLETIN…”
Just a Message…
So…another day of … 132.8… That’s the deal with this process…days will go by and the weight stays the same…but I feel that soon I will be moving down again.
I know that 130 pounds is out there…calling to me like distant Sirens…hopefully not to a watery doom… I’ll keep you informed.
Have a nice day…
Have a nice day…
Here we go…the “bottom line…”
The little more …
Last fall when I weighed 147.8 pounds, I knew I would reach 150 pounds during the winter if I didn’t do something.
I read weight-loss articles, did research on the different programs, ate some horrible diet food, seriously wondered about those diet pills and other junk out there that promised “QUICK WEIGHT LOSS” and knew I would have to figure out something on my own.
So what you have just read is what I came up with…and obviously, I am not done…I still have a way to go. I should weight 125 pounds by November 1…this year. I will let you know.
BUT…I feel that this is really a good plan for women over 60…but, of course, for anyone as well.
Most of us have worked really hard all of our lives and we shouldn’t have to go through this whole “weight gain/belly fat” bullshit.
We shouldn’t have to deny ourselves good food…or hot dogs…
(When I say “good” I don’t mean “healthy”…I mean…a cheeseburger with fried onions from Five Guys…and a small order of fries, please…to go…
We shouldn’t have to pay money to have other people tell us what to do at some club or weight-loss clinic…and maybe make us feel bad.
We shouldn’t have to start “running” or do “resistance training” or do “hot Yoga” (what is that anyway?) at age 60 or older…unless of course you’re partial to doing so…
In Minnesota, we have about 3 days when the weather is perfect for walking outside…so I have to gear up in the winter. I know I look like some 14th century Swedish field worker when I walk outside and the temperature is only 10 degrees…but hey…it’s who I am. Plus…everyone smiles at me. I know…I know.
When the weather is really awful…too hot, too cold, too icy, too rainy, too sleety…I just slap on my headphones and walk the hallways of my apartment building…up and down…up and down. This is really relaxing until people try to stop you to chat. Then I smile and point to my headphones and mouth, “I’m on the phone…” and just keep going…works every time.
If you live in Minnesota and own a home with no hallways…I recommend buying a treadmill. I had one when we owned a home and you can accomplish the same results as I do by walking the halls. There are some really inexpensive ones out there…I know…I bought one for my daughter who was into “training for something” when she was fifteen.
We shouldn’t have to be punished because we ate a few too many cheese burgers or doughnuts a few years ago. there should be a friendlier, more gentle way to lose those extra pounds and I believe my way will do the trick for most women…well, for everyone, really.
I have always loved food. I love to cook and I love to eat. I know that I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life (such as it is) passing on delicacies such as chocolate cake with fudge frosting or…say…lutefisk, swimming in butter…I did mention I was of Swedish ancestry, didn’t I?
I hope you give my way of losing a few pounds a shot. I truly believe it will work. It did for me and I am nothing special…trust me.
Thanks for reading. Now go have half of a chocolate chip cookie…and begin.
And, good luck!!
It really is amazing how quickly you can amass over 5,000 steps in a single day…which is my goal…not always achieved…but nevertheless…my goal.
Nike says, “Just do it.” I say…”Just move it…” It’s the best thing anyone can do at any age.
A note before I begin:
I’ve been poking around “weight-loss” and “dieting” blogs and I found out that a lot of people suggest that “just eating less” won’t do it…you have to do a lot of other stuff to lose weight…plus you are going to be hungry and not feel satisfied. Here is what I say: Do you want to lose weight or not? Okay, I’m done.
So…that’s the “eating” part of my weight-loss process.
I know it is pretty simple but it really worked and obviously is still working since I just lost more weight yesterday!
P.S. I am never hungry (except before dinner and, really, who isn’t) and I am so very satisfied…
The “Walk A Little Every Day” part comes tomorrow.
BULLETIN: Weight today #133.6..”Woo-hoo”!!!
Yup…I totally agree and am impressed with everything I just said…SO, HERE IS WHAT I DID.
To find out, send $25.00 in unmarked bills to…
HAH!!!! GOTCHA!!! I’m just kidding….
The Eating Part…Post #4 of “I just ate less…” comes tomorrow!!!!!
In the very beginning, I couldn’t lose any weight at all…WE ARE TALKING ZERO POUNDS.
I even skipped meals. Not a good idea…ever…okay…once in while we all do it.
I spent over a month trying to figure out what I was doing wrong because it was painfully obvious I was doing absolutely nothing right…when I gained 2 pounds!
And, of course, having a metabolism of dry paint (which is what you have when you reach age 75) doesn’t help.
Plus…when I was skipping breakfast and lunch in a wild attempt to lose SOMETHING…ANYTHING…my body thought I was stranded on a desert (not dessert) island and in danger of starving to death…so it decided to store my fat. Thanks a lot, body.
I tried counting calories. I used the “Lose It” app. It was fine and good but I really did have better things to do with my dwindling years.
Plus…everyone knows 10 barbecued chicken wings have more calories than one stalk of celery…UNLESS you dip the celery in lard.
I clearly had no idea what I was doing…but I wasn’t giving up. There had to be a way…and there was…BUT it wasn’t easy.
It was just plain simple.
P.S. I’ve looked at other weight-loss blogs and they have very pretty pictures and really great recipes. I apologize in advance (in case you hadn’t already noticed)…there are no pics and no recipes. (But I did put this notice in green…so there’s that.)
This whole series of posts (and I believe there are only six) are generally for older women (over 60) who want to lose less than 50 pounds. I imagine it would apply to all women…but if you are younger, you can try it also. It will just work quicker…
This is NOT a guide to eating healthy or a guide to “healthful eating/living”.
This is simply how I have lost almost 14 pounds in 6 months (beginning last October) and am still on track to lose 11 more pounds by November.
So, if you need to lose 100 pounds or if you are looking for emotional guidance as you lose weight or if you believe you can actually lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks…STOP READING!!
For everyone else…Let’s Go!!!!
One day last month (May) I was chatting with my 46-year-old daughter. I am 75 going on…
I mentioned to her that I had lost 13.5 pounds since last October.
She actually stopped what she was doing…she was eating a piece of her excellent homemade cinnamon roll…and looked at me.
I was really surprised because she normally doesn’t pay much attention to anything I say…you know how busy these young people are…
“How did you do that?” she asked me…in a TRULY interested voice.
And…she really wanted to know…
“Well,” I answered slowly, “I just ate less…”
“And I tried to walk a little every day.”
“Huh.” She said thoughtfully…and I was so encouraged by this outburst of interest and excitement that I thought that maybe I should share my weight-loss process with others.
My goal here is to tell you what happened to me and I don’t see why it can’t happen to you.
My blog is mainly for publishing my short stories…not for giving out weight-loss advice…but this is really good stuff…so I hope it works for you (it will)…and you can also search around and read some of my short stories if you wish.
So, as my delightful 11-year-old granddaughter said recently before giving a very impressive speech to a large group of people, “Let’s just dive right in and get started.”
For complete story go to https://prettyprettygoodshortfiction.com/category/remember-me/
I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL OVER.
I THOUGHT THAT I COULD COME HOME…
I WAS WRONG. DEAD WRONG.
Fall in Minnesota. Summer was gone…finally. I hate summer. I always have. Too much sun. Too hot. Too many bugs. And now…unfortunately…too old to wear really cute sun tops…sigh..
November on the other hand, is the perfect month. The sun hardly ever shines and when it does, it’s weak and getting weaker…almost dying…I’m okay with that.
The wind is chilly but not piercing…not yet anyway. November here is just like November in Winnipeg, Canada. I love Canada.
I lived in Canada for many years…beginning in 1969…yes…that date is correct…and whatever you want to wonder about that…go right ahead.
It makes no difference to me. I am way beyond that. But here is something you don’t need to wonder about…because it is true.
The Vietnam war was a horrible and tragic mistake.
And…more than 58,000 young boys and men lost their lives because of that mistake…and one of them was my very best forever friend, Johnny Taylor.
I met Johnny at an outrageous Halloween party in 8th grade.
From that night on, he was my only true friend in so many ways and later became my forever friend and then…my ever so sweet and delightful lover.
Johnny didn’t die in Vietnam…oh, he was there all right. He was definitely there…for 365 long, brutal, killing days and nights. He was there for every single one of them.
And then…he came back home…to die of a heroin overdose…in my arms…in the back of a speeding ambulance with me screaming into his beautiful, unseeing brown eyes.
“YOU CAN’T DIE!! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!! YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD NEVER LEAVE ME AGAIN! YOU PROMISED!!!”
It was 1967. He was 19. I was 18.
8th Grade Halloween. I meet Johnny.
There comes a time in every childhood when you are told…you’re “too old to go ‘trick or treating’ this year.”
No more free candy from strangers. No more running wildly around the streets in the deepest of darkness…screaming and hollering to your friends…stuffing candy in your mouth as fast as you can…yes, yes you heard right…even while you are running…and hollering. It was…after all…1960.
All gone. Forever…just because you got one year older.
In 1960, our suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota was new but growing fast. There were acres of new housing developments with miles of streets that we could dash up and down…filling old pillow cases with candy and money and whatever else strangers were willing to give us. Home-made fudge was the best. Remember…1960.
There were no parents standing in the streets with glow lights or flashlights to guide us…or umbrellas to shield us from the rain. If it rained, we got wet and we lived. If we fell down…we got up. And…we came home.
But this year…5 days before October 31, my mother said…
“Riley. You’re too old to go trick or treating this year. All of us moms got together and we decided that now that you kids are in 8th grade…you’re just too old. No arguments (and here she held up her hand for emphasis)…we have all decided.”
Oh…we knew it was coming. We had heard the whispers and had actually paid attention when the moms had dropped little hints…so we knew.
And we were ready.
When I say “we” were ready…I meant of course…Karla Johansen was ready. She was my excellent friend and self-proclaimed leader of our little gang of seven.
She…even in 8th grade…was ready for everything and anything at all times…and all of us just basically said “how high” when she told us to jump.
Her mother was an oddity for this time in history. She worked full time…and was consumed constantly with guilt…even though she was an elementary school teacher and home almost as much as the other moms of our little group…who did not work outside the home.
But this was 1960. Most moms stayed home…whether they wanted to or not.
So…because of her mother’s on-going guilt…Karla had an edge…and she had learned early in her young life how to successfully use that power.
Two years ago, in fact, she had managed somehow to convince her parents to build an in-ground, Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyard, even though they went to their summer cabin every weekend from June thru September. Yeah…they had some money.
Karla loved her gang but not one of them had a summer cabin by the lake like she did. But now they spent every hot sunny day splashing in “Karla’s pool”. No one could ever accuse Karla of not being a great friend. She was a wonder.
Even as my mother was delivering the Halloween bad news to me, I knew Karla was also receiving it from her mom…and responding with anguish, sobs and fake tears. She had practiced how she would react in front of me and she was pretty damn good.
“NO TRICK OR TREATING!!!!!” I could almost hear her screaming and I lived blocks away.
What I couldn’t hear was her poor mom, Liz Johansen (we all loved her, she was such a sweetheart) telling Karla how sorry she was for this terrible disruption in her life.
“Is there anything I can do, Karla? Is there anything you want? Please stop crying dear…there must be something that would make you happy…”
“Well…mom…since you’re asking…maybe a little Halloween party? With orange and black crepe streamers? And maybe you could (here, she told me, she paused for a little sob) make those fantastic brownies that everyone likes? And remember that scavenger hunt we had on my 10th birthday? The kids really loved that…” said Karla.
All of that was…of course…bull shit.
What Karla really wanted was a boy/girl party with food and pop and loud music and dancing and red lights and games like Post Office, Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven…and maybe a little Truth or Dare (if everyone was feeling risky)…and strict orders: to “not come down the basement and embarrass me”.
THAT was the party Karla wanted…and of course…got.
But Karla was a smart 8th grader…so her initial request for a small party was charming and innocent and sure to be granted and…it was.
As she told me later, “Riley. It was a piece of cake. I could have won an Oscar!”
The party was a HUGE success! There must have been 25-30 kids there…some even Karla didn’t know…but the word got out and kids…out “trick or treating”… just knocked politely on the door and sweet mom, Liz let them in with a welcoming smile…and sent them down the basement.
(Karla’s party was probably the first prototype of the fantastic open house parties to come as we got older. Those parties dotted the streets of our sprawling suburb every Friday and Saturday night in the late fifties and early sixties.
All you needed then was a car and maybe an address…or sometimes you could just drive up and down the streets looking for lots of cars parked in front of a house…with the lights blazing…a dead giveaway.
You just waked in, smiled nicely to the parent…who was usually sitting in the kitchen looking a little shell-shocked…and went wherever her hand pointed…usually to the basement.
Karla’s party had only walk-ins…no cars yet…and we all drank the pop, ate the sloppy Joes, did the little “scavenger hunt” Karla’s mom had organized and then about 9:00 Karla put red bulbs in the light sockets…and a ‘DO NOT DISTURB–THIS MEANS YOU MOM’ sign on the basement door. It was time to have a real party!!!
The plan was to start slow…this was, after all…the first time most of us had been at a party like this…but Karla and I had done a lot of reading…
Spin the Bottle was first and everyone got into a large circle and got very quiet. There was a lot of nervous laughter…from everyone…including me.
Truth or Dare would be last. I had played ‘Truth’ once before…at a slumber party last summer with a group of girls…four of the girls went home crying. It was pretty intense.
Karla, as hostess and most fearless of us all, went first and the bottle stopped in front of Ronald Simmons…the most quiet and shyest boy in our school…and Karla’s next door neighbor.
Everyone gasped out loud! Why was he here? Who invited him? He never even talked to anyone…I wasn’t sure he could talk…I had never heard him.
“Ronny!! I didn’t know you were coming tonight.” said Karla in a very friendly, non-threatening voice.
“I was #7 on your mom’s Scavenger Hunt list.” he said as he pointed to Brian Carlson, one of our gang…who was looking slightly embarrassed…making eye contact with no one.
“Very funny, Brian.” said Karla with a disapproving tone to her voice.
To Ronny she said, “Well, good to…see you, Ronny…” And then she gave him a big smile…and went to re-spin the bottle…but wait…
No one let Karla get away with that move…she and Ronny had to go into the storage area for a kiss…rules were rules.
They came out 30 seconds later…both of them with blazing red cheeks!
Later, Karla told me he refused to kiss her so she just grabbed him by his shoulders and kissed him anyway.
“I think he kind of screamed, Riley, honest.” she said.
(Side Note: Ronny Simmons became a many times decorated homicide detective for the Minneapolis Police Department…after working Vice for ten years…he never married.)
The game continued and very quickly most everyone had their turns at Spin the Bottle and were laughing and having a good time. Everyone was anxious to move up to something more daring. I know I was…I hadn’t gotten ‘chosen by the bottle’.
It was time for Seven Minutes in Heaven…where two people spent seven minutes in a darkened room doing whatever they wanted.
John Taylor, a really good-looking new boy who had just last week moved to Bloomington from St. Paul, Mn., had been smiling at me a lot and I had been smiling back. We hadn’t yet talked…only said “hi”.
He looked older and “exciting”. Maybe it was his all black Zorro costume…but what did I know…I was only 13.
It turned out John had missed a year of school because of an auto accident and had to repeat second grade…so he was older. He was…14.
When it was his time to spin …he reached out and stopped the bottle before it could go past me and looked right at me with a devilish grin.
I never went into the other room with anyone else all night…John’s turn always stopped at me …and he encouraged the spinning bottle to pass by me when the other boys had their turn…pretty heady stuff for an 8th grade girl like me.
John Taylor had an agenda that Halloween night and I was at the top of it…me and my Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume.
I will definitely explain my authentic (read very skimpy) Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume…a tin of dark brown body powder included with the rental price…but first…
…my life in a nutshell before this party.
My mom and dad didn’t always read the set of instructions that came with living in this world…which…if you don’t have children is workable…but they had me…
I was the first girl to wear lipstick, albeit pale, pale pink lipstick in 6th grade. My dad brought it home because he thought I would like it. I did.
This was scandalous in 1958. But mom and dad thought it was cool. And so did I.
I later wore it to my Wednesday confirmation class at some really strict (no-name) evangelical church (let’s not say cult, here).
A friend of a friend of my dad’s had recommended this church to him…one dark and story night in a neighborhood bar.
Someone had to have been very drunk at the time for this to have ever been thought to be a good idea. Again. Let’s not use the word cult.
I got banned and sent home on my red Schwinn bike because I was wearing lipstick.
I was allowed back to class after a very curt call from my mother who had just shelled out a ton of money for my expensive white confirmation dress with matching shoes. She had also just prepaid for a confirmation group photo in an oak frame. My mom was fierce when she was upset…
So…I was allowed to return to the fold…whatever…
But then I brought a nice Catholic boy to a confirmation class hay ride three weeks later and was then permanently banned from class…we were, however, allowed to finish the hayride.
However, the group picture had already been taken and paid for so it looked like I had actually been confirmed even though I had not.
“Screw it,” my dad said. “We got the picture!” And it hung ever so proudly in their living room for years.
My mom said she thought she was Jewish anyway…and so that was the end of my formal religious education.
I started using black eye liner in 7th grade but no one cared…
Now…about that costume…a friend of my dad’s…
“No trick or treating!!” shouted my dad when he was told of the “new Halloween rule”.
“Has everyone gone mad?” he exclaimed..
“It’s a terrible idea!!! Riley’s just a kid…she’s only 9…10…how old are your, darlin’?” he said turning to me.
“I’m thirteen dad and Karla’s having a swell costume party instead and I’m really looking forward to that!”
I gave him a huge supportive smile…because he seemed to really need it.
The next day he came home from work with a telephone number and an address he got from a guy he knew…who knew of a professional costume shop in Minneapolis.
My dad always knew a guy…or at least a guy who knew a guy.
“We’ll get you something really spectacular, Riley. So…you won’t be so sad,” Dad said.
“I’m not sad, dad.” I said.
Mom just smiled and put three Swanson chicken TV dinners in the oven…they were her specialty.
After dinner, my dad made a phone call to make sure the shop was open. We all trekked down to this really tiny (read kind of dingy) shop on Washington Avenue.
The costume shop was for adults…it’s okay to let your mind wander here…
I think he sold some other stuff as well…anyway…he had told my dad over the phone that he would give him a good deal…my dad loved a good deal.
Because I was thirteen and…you know…kid-short, I only had 2 choices of costumes.
A clown costume with blue and white baggy pants and red shirt…and a re-usable red ball I could pop on my nose…OR…a Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume–tin of dark brown body powder included with rental price. The clown costume was really never even considered.
The night of the party, it took my mom over an hour to cover my exposed skin with the dark brown powder but when she was done…I looked…like an 8th grade girl in a Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume…that was a little too skimpy…but…
“Oh, what the hell,” said my mom…putting some more powder on my ‘chest’.
My dad gave me two thumbs up.
“You look great, kiddo. Very…Hawaiian.” He sounded so proud.
I don’t know if he was proud of the way I looked, proud of the costume itself or proud of the fact that he had indeed gotten a good deal.
He then leaned in to give me a big hug. He pulled away and the front of his white tee-shirt was streaked all over with brown powder!
“Holy Crap!!” I said…not quite horrified.
My parents just laughed…and told me…”don’t go hugging anyone tonight!”
I thought…well, okay.
Do you remember Chapter 3…and my “Seven Minutes in Heaven”…with John Taylor and his black Zorro costume…many, many times?
John and his parents had moved into a big, ranch rambler right across the street from Karla. He had asked if he could walk me home…I lived about six blocks away. Of course, I said yes.
“But first I want to show you my pet snake, Waldo.” said John. “He’s super friendly.”
I was not FOND of snakes but I thought John was a pretty good kisser…so I pretended…
We left Karla’s party a little early and walked over to his house.
His parents were playing cards with some of their friends in the living room.
They were all dressed up and soft music was playing in the background.
It looked very elegant…with drinks and snacks scattered around on little side tables. No one was in costume…
The front door opened right into the living room so when we walked in…everyone immediately looked over at us.
John introduced me. “Mom. Dad. This is Riley. She’s a friend I met at Karla’s party. I wanted her to meet Waldo and then I’m going to walk her home.”
His parents rose slightly from the table, as if they were going to come over to us but then sat back down.
I gave them all a friendly little wave and a smile
No one said a word. Not. One. Word. They just stared at us…mouths literally hanging open.
My hand slowly rose to my chest, just to make sure nothing was…you know…hanging out. Nope. I was good.
John’s father looked a bit upset…his face was quite red and John’s mom looked a little flustered as well.
Finally, one of the men…obviously more fortified with alcohol than the others…said a little too loudly…
“Well!! It looks like Johnny and Riley have been having fun tonight…”
John smiled politely at his father’s semi-drunken friend and looked down at me…I also smiled and looked at John…and then I really looked at John.
Most of my body powder…if not all…was now all over the front of John’s black Zorro costume.
It was on his arms. It was on his legs. His whole fucking body was covered in dark brown powder. Even his face was streaked with brown powder.
It was fairly obvious that Zorro had indeed been rolling around somewhere with the little Hawaiian girl…
John saw the look on my face and then looked down at the front of his costume.
He just grinned at me and chuckled…like it was no big deal…because…to John…it really wasn’t.
I, however, was so embarrassed. I pulled at his hand and quickly edged back toward the front door. There would be no “Waldo viewing” tonight.
I waved a polite good-bye to the adults…only one of whom waved back.
Through the years, as I got to know John, I was to learn that nothing ever really bothered him…which is why…I think…I came to like him so very, very much.
And…from that night on…we were each other’s best friend.
And…I was the only one who would call him…”Johnny”…
Johnny and I didn’t date each other once in high school. That full body “kissing/hugging” session on Halloween in 8th grade was it.
From ninth grade on, we were always dating other people. Event though there was a strong connection between us…we never seemed to get together to actually go out on a real boy/girl date.
But during our four years in high school, we shared many classes, activities and lunch hours.
We became fearsome fast friends…talking on the phone almost every night…many times complaining about the girl or guy we were currently dating.
When we got older and had access to cars, we would meet at Ralph’s…the only drug store in Bloomington that still served Lime Phosphates…we were both huge fans.
Our friendship grew even if our love life didn’t.
Johnny was bat-shit smart but hated to study or take notes or pay attention in class.
I would often see him looking out the window at something he found way more fascinating than what the teacher was saying.
But I did study. And I did take notes…and I easily and with no conscience slipped my very best friend copies of my notes for tests.
Many hours were spent studying together…that is…when I could get him to stop talking to my parents…who adored him…and come into my bedroom where we could study.
But even that was hard. Johnny would always flop on my bed and gaze up at the twinkle lights I had hung from my ceiling.
“Turn off all the lights, Riley. I want to see the stars.”
I never argued. It was no use. Our study sessions always began with us laying side by side on my bed…looking up at “the stars” in total darkness.
Then we would talk…about anything and everything…as long as it did not have anything to do with algorithms or cell structure. Maybe later…we would study.
Sometimes I had to take his face in my hands and make him look at me, to get him to pay attention and listen to what I was trying to say to him.
He would smile and say, “Tinka. You have the prettiest eyes.”
Tinka was his pet name for me…I had no idea why…but Johnny said, “One day, Tinka, I will tell you…”
And then he would try to kiss me and of course I was always dating someone else so I would laugh and push him away. But sometimes…sometimes I wouldn’t always want to…
“Johnny!!! Pay Attention!! Do you want to graduate with honors or not? Your dad will kill you if you don’t…you now that, don’t you?”
And then, and only then, would he listen…at least for a little while.
He was very careful about what his father thought of him. It was so important for Johnny to impress him. I don’t think his father ever knew that…
Johnny and I were both atypical National Honor Society members who…along with twenty-four other ‘more normal’ kids went to Chicago one month before graduation for our 3 day, 2 night senior trip.
We basically just hung out together…just the two of us…because the other kids avoided us…we were like “the bad boys of NHS.”
We tried to get the room assignments changed so we could share a room…but no one was on board with that.
We were just friends, after all, so we didn’t see a problem…our advisor, however, didn’t agree.
Both of us smoked like chimneys so there were many very ‘intimate’ moments in the train’s tiny bathroom…sharing cigarettes…
There was also very little sleep that weekend…and sometimes it was nice to put my weary head on Johnny’s chest.
And…even nicer when he would put his arm around me and say, “Little, tired Tinka,” and kiss the top of my head.
One day, we ditched the other kids and went to the Lincoln Park Zoo instead of the ‘scheduled’ trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. It was a beautiful day and we wanted to be outside.
We ate hot dogs and ice cream and smoked two packs of cigarettes.
We tried to get this young guy with really long hair to buy us some beer at a liquor store we had scoped out…but that didn’t fly.
We thought we were so daring…
We thought we were so much cooler than the other kids. We really weren’t.
The other kids thought we were just plain nuts. We probably were.
Then one month later we were throwing our mortar boards into the air at the graduation ceremony.
“Let’s keep in touch this summer, Riley.” Johnny said and kissed my forehead…I was dating some jock at the time…who was hovering nearby.
“Call me anytime, Johnny and we’ll do something.” I said and I reached up to kiss his cheek. He was dating some blonde bombshell from Richfield…also hovering.
“Done.” He said.
But…summer flew by…and even though we talked many times on the phone we never got together.
Johnny took his full ride scholarship to the private and very expensive Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He had moved into an older one-bedroom apartment on Goodrich Avenue. He said he liked it because of the big windows that over looked the tree-lined street.
Johnny’s parents were bankrolling his apartment rent.
Plus they were giving him a monthly allowance as a reward for “studying so hard” in high school the he had earned a scholarship.
“They should be paying me!” I had half-heartedly complained to Johnny when he had told me about his windfall one day while talking on the phone this summer.
Johnny had paused…
“Yes…that may be true…but, Riley, I am a GENIUS….you know.”
He always jokingly bragged about his I.Q. It was like 152 or 160 or something nutso high like that.
“Yes…” I replied slowly. “But…I read somewhere…there’s a fine line between being a genius and being crazy…you know…JOHN!” He hated it when I called him John and I laughed and hung up the phone.
I was going to go to the University of Minnesota and living at home with mom and dad to save money.
I was waiting to hear if I had secured the highly sought after “weekend popcorn girl” job at the Campus Theater. I needed the extra money. My student loan hadn’t kicked in yet.
The pay was really good and you could study during the movie…and eat as much popcorn as you wanted…and butter.
Johnny and I had tried to talk every day during the summer and then when school began…it was harder.
College life was different. So much time…and yet…so little time.
We didn’t actually see each other for almost five months.
But then…one night at a ridiculously drunken party…in a ridiculously crowded tiny apartment in Dinky Town near the University of Minnesota campus…
“Johnny! What are you doing here? Are you slumming?” I said…and put my arms out for a hug.
“Tinka…give me a kiss.” And I did.
Both Johnny and I got blind drunk and were not dating anyone else…so…
It seemed appropriate…and about time.
It was a ratty little apartment but it had one bedroom with a door that locked…and we locked it.
When I look back now…I think I truly fell in love with Johnny Taylor at that 8th grade Halloween Party…and never really fell out…
He agreed…but then…he always agreed with me.
Within a week, I had moved into Johnny’s apartment.
It was like we had been together forever. Everything fell so easily into place. There was a bus line that went right down Snelling Avenue to the East River Road and into the U of M campus…no one wanted to drive a car to the U. if there was some other way.
I got a job as a waitress at Pierre’s Pizza, just a short one-block walk from our apartment and my student loan had kicked in so I could quite my other job as…
Yes, I had gotten the weekend popcorn girl job! Even after only a couple of weeks I knew I was going to miss that
butter I mean…popcorn.
Johnny, who had been close to failing ALL of his classes, cleared his mind, stopped partying and began to study…and not just to please me…but to please himself…to please us.
When we weren’t being in love, making love, working or studying, we spent every minute doing whatever we could to protest the Vietnam War. We marched. We made signs. We went to meetings and protest rallies. We wrote letters.
But still…more and more young men were coming home in body bags…shown in full color on CBS news.
Every night there was footage…showing young men…somewhere in Nam…either bleeding from wounds or shooting at the enemy. It was horrible to watch. But I felt I owed it to every soldier to do so.
One night…as we were drifting off to sleep…Johnny, holding me close to him as he did every night, softly whispered.
“I don’t think I could ever kill anybody, Riley.” And then…even softer…
“I don’t want to…”
Around the middle of June, Johnny got his Order to Report for Induction. He had been drafted.
“What about your student deferment, Johnny? What about that?” I cried.
Johnny sat at our kitchen table, shaking his head.
“You know, before you moved in, I remember taking this test…it was some kind of draft test…I don’t know…I didn’t pay that much attention.”
“I had been out the night before…didn’t get much sleep before taking it…I was a little hung-over…”
He looked up at me sheepishly.
“I should have had you there, Tinka, slipping me notes…”
I frantically paced around the small kitchen as Johnny sat holding the letter in his hands…looking at it in total disbelief.
“I never really thought it would happen.” He said quietly.
“I think I have about two weeks before I have to report.” He looked again at the letter and let it fall to the floor.
I picked it up and tore it in half. Then I tore it in half again.
“NO!!!! You’re not going!!! I won’t let you go!” I shouted.
“There must be something we can do! We’ve got to do something! Wait!!! Why can’t we get married, Johnny? They don’t take married men, right?” I said.
That deferment ended last August Riley. Apparently, Johnson needs the wisdom of the married man.” He said sarcastically.
“Canada….we’ll move to Canada. Lots of boys are doing it, Johnny. We can do…”
Before I could finish, Johnny was holding up his hand and shaking his head…
“My dad would disown me, Riley…and forbid my mom and Alec from visiting me. ”
I knew how close Johnny and his mom were and Johnny loved his little brother so much. Alec was just two years younger than Johnny…and he idolized him.
“You know how my dad feels about “duty and service to country”. He said glumly. Both Johnny’s dad and grandfather had served in the Army…and both during war time.
“If I went to Canada, I wouldn’t see my mom or Alec ever again, Riley.”
“Well if you die in some fucking rice field in Nam…you won’t see them ever again either…will you!!!!” I screamed at him.
At the airport…Johnny held me in his arms as tears poured down my face and my body shook with sobs.
“It took so long for us to find each other…” I cried.
“Please don’t leave me, Johnny!! I will die without you!! I will! I will die!” And my voice rose…causing others nearby to look away from the painfully sad couple…
Johnny pulled back…and took my face in his hands…as I had done to him so many times in high school…but this time he was forcing me to listen.
“I will never leave you again, Tinka…I promise! When this year is over…I will come home to you and we will always be together. I promise you.”
And then he kissed all the tears from my cheeks and held me so tight I could hardly breathe and then…before one more second passed…he quickly turned and walked away.
One year later…Johnny Taylor came home…as promised.
MANY, MANY YEARS LATER…
So…there I sat…in the restaurant section of Larson’s grocery store…watching dead leaves swirl around on their charming but now “Closed for the Winter” patio…leaves whistling by…like the memories from so many years ago…
I finished my coffee and looked out the window and wondered how soon it would snow…
I had been gone from Minnesota for a long time and had only returned a few months ago to help Alec’s wife, Cara, deal with the crushing burden of his unexpected illness and impending death.
Alec had joined me in Canada rather than register for the draft in 1969, secured a college degree, met the enchanting Cara, got married and then returned to the United States in 1977 after President Carter issued amnesty to those men who had moved to Canada rather than go to Vietnam.
He and Cara had visited me several times each year…they had no children…so we became a “family”.
Dearest Cara…confined to a wheelchair after a car accident several years ago…had reluctantly asked me for help…and I had come down with no hesitation.
I was pretty confident that enough years had gone by for any of the ghosts from my past to rise up and cause me any problems…I was pretty sure of that by now…sure that they were all dead.
I got up, grabbed my purse, turned and started to walk toward the grocery area of the store…when suddenly there was a slight tap on my shoulder.
I turned around and looked at a white-haired man…about my own age…maybe a couple of years past seventy.
He tilted his head a bit but didn’t quite smile. Then…in a low, gravelly voice…that is usually the result of years of smoking and drinking…or both..he said…
And…at first, I didn’t remember.
But then I looked a little harder…past the many years of living that can sometimes change a person completely.
I looked at his odd eyes. He was wearing bright, blue contact lenses.
I thought…how strange for an older man to do so…
But then he smiled…and suddenly I knew exactly who he was…
“I thought you were dead, Tommy.”
After Johnny died, I registered for Fall classes at the University of Minnesota because I knew I should.
I moved back home…partly to save on expenses…but mostly to absorb the healing magic that only parents can give you when you’re hurting…I needed a lot of magic right now.
I had packed up all of Johnny’s clothes and had given them all to the Salvation Army because I knew Johnny would like that…except for one blue plaid flannel shirt that I think I wore more than he did…it was ‘our shirt’…it still smelled of Old Spice…Johnny’s favorite after-shave cologne.
I had called Johnny’s mom and asked her if she wanted any of Johnny’s clothes or if she thought Alec would want anything.
“No, Riley. The Salvation Army is a good place for them. Alec is having a really hard time dealing with John’s death…he blames his father.”
“He says when he has to register for the draft in two years, he’s going to Canada instead…”
I didn’t know what to say…I wasn’t sure if Johnny had told anyone of my idea for us to go to Canada. But then she continued…
“John told Alec that he wanted to go to Canada with you…and would have…if it hadn’t been for their father being so against it.”
“I wish he had gone, Riley. I wish the two of you had just packed up and gone to Canada.”
More tears than I thought possible were falling down my cheeks and stopped me from saying anything more than a choked good bye.
I hadn’t gone to Johnny’s funeral. His father had planned a huge memorial for his first-born son…full of praise for the bravery John had shown in proudly fighting for his country.
If I had gone to Johnny’s funeral, this is what I would have said to his father.
“He OD’d on heroin, Mr. Taylor.”
“Maybe you’d like to read all the letters Johnny sent me. They rip my heart to shreds every time I read them.”
“I don’t want to read them…but it’s all I have of him now.”
“He was so full of pain and horror at having…even accidentally…killed innocent women and children…he couldn’t sleep…not without drugs…and sometimes not even with drugs.”
“His heart was broken after watching so many of his friends blown to pieces right before his eyes or bleed to death in his arms…crying like little kids…so scared…because they didn’t want to die but knew they were going to.”
“He was haunted by the blood that poured from the bodies of all the Vietcong soldiers he had killed…some who looked younger than Alec.”
“He wasn’t a brave hero, Mr. Taylor…he was just trying to survive…just like all the other boys around him.”
“They were all just trying to survive and come home…just come home.”
That’s what I would have said to his father if I had been at Johnny’s funeral.
And…that’s why I stayed away.
A few days after Johnny’s funeral, I marched with about 5,000 other protesters down Summit Avenue from Macalester College to the St. Paul capitol. There were a lot of speakers that day on the capitol steps and they were all very angry.
President Johnson had just announced a new troop deployment to Viet Nam.
He had earlier ‘leaked’ to the media of a withdrawal of troops, something he often did to appease the war protesters…but the ‘withdrawal’ was just another wretched lie that would send more heart broken families and friends to grave sites over the next days, weeks, months and even years.
As frustration with the war increased, protesters were becoming more militant. But they were passionately against the war…and that was all that mattered to me.
I was hurting and I needed to do something.
I needed to do more to help end this horror…to stop more young men from coming home in black body bags.
Johnny was gone…he would never hold me in his arms again…never! I could not get past my sadness…I missed him so much.
I wanted everyone to know the anguish and pain that this stupid war was bringing to thousands of people like me.
I wanted everyone to know and to care and to do something…
I wanted the pain to go away…
I wanted Johnny back.
One year had gone by…but I was still angry and frustrated. The war in Viet Nam was escalating and more and more young men were coming home dead…or like Johnny…drug addicts.
It was just after the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August, 1968 that I met Tommy Clark.
He was currently working toward a law degree on scholarship at the University of Minnesota.
As a student at Berkeley in California, he had been quite active in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), organizing many anti-war rallies.
He had just returned from Chicago and still had bruises from his clash with the police at the convention.
He didn’t try to hide them. He seemed to be proud of them as he was wearing only a raggedy, sleeveless tee shirt on a chilly Minnesota night.
He and a couple of other students were speaking to a very large group of anti-war protesters who had gathered in front of Coffman Union on the University of Minnesota campus.
Protests and rallies and marches were getting larger and becoming more organized…but still in America…in was pretty much business as usual.
President Johnson was still spewing lies to try to keep protesters happy…what did he care? He wasn’t even seeking a second term.
Civil disobedience was becoming the new catch phrase at protest rallies.
Tommy was calling out for ideas that might grab the attention of the press…noting that there was NO press at this rally.
I was at the front of the group and I called out a suggestion to have protesters chain themselves to the water tower on Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway…a heavily trafficked area of St. Paul.
Everyone cheered and I looked up at Tommy Clark who was also cheering and clapping.
“And a hunger strike!” I shouted out.
“This country may have become numb to seeing young boys bleeding to death ‘in living color’ on their TV screens…but no one wants to see young college kids starving to death on Snelling Avenue in Minnesota.”
Tommy began to speak again and everyone looked back at him…but he was talking to me.
“Hey! I like your idea. What’s your name?” He called to me.
I shouted out my name.
Tommy said as he pointed to me…”That’s a great idea, Riley, We need more ideas like that.”
“I think a hunger strike and chaining a few of us to that tower would get a lot of attention…but think…just think what would happen if we just blew the damn thing up.” And then he paused…
Shocked silence at first…but then quiet murmuring and a smattering of applause.
So far the protests on this campus had been basically non-violent…peaceful…but some colleges and universities…Wisconsin for example…had seen major conflicts between the police and war protesters.
But so far…not at the University of Minnesota or at any other locations around the state.
Tommy handled the reluctance and surprise of the crowd with ease.
“But…I wouldn’t want any protesters chained to the tower at the time…of course…” he joked and with that comment he again had the crowd completely with him.
Then he quickly shifted focus and stressed that civil disobedience like “hunger strikes” and “blocking roadways” would get massive coverage in the press…and that was the important thing.
He also mentioned again the “Snelling Avenue water tower idea” and my name…
And then after a couple more speakers… the rally was over.
Later…at a little bar in Dinky Town…I saw Tommy siting with a bunch of other kids I had seen at the rally. They were all sitting in a huge booth by the back wall.
I went over and introduced myself…just in case he had forgotten who I was.
I told him how impressed I was with his speech and told him I was eager to help in any way.
“Riley. Of course I remember you! Here sit down next to me.” He said and patted the space next to him and everyone slid over.
Tommy said he had been talking to other anti-war protest leaders on other campuses across the country and they had been sharing strategies.
He was flying to Washington D.C. tomorrow to plan the inauguration protest…if Nixon was elected..
We sat and talked that night for hours and over the next several weeks, we got together to plan strategies and share more ideas.
We were all students…so we had to fit everything in around classes…but winter break was coming.
It was the middle of January when Tommy brought up the water tower idea again…only this time the plan was to blow it up.
“It’s the only way to get the press to pay attention,” Tommy said. “And it will be safe…no one will be around in the dead of winter…I’ve checked it out many times and the place is always deserted…not one foot print in the snow.
“I talked with a couple of guys from New York and California and they all said…and I agree…we have to start making people sit up and take notice.”
“Blowing things up will do that…and we’ll get the front-page headlines we deserve.”
Everyone agreed with Tommy…but I did not.
“No. Sorry…no violence.” I said. “I’ll lay in the street. I’ll get arrested. I’ll chain myself to a building or whatever…but no violence that could possibly hurt innocent people. Absolutely not.”
Sheila Baxter and her boyfriend Gerald Michaels were sitting next to me. They were also working toward law degrees and had known Tommy when he was in California.
They also had come here on scholarship.
Another boy, Mikey Longwell was the organizer of a small group of kids who had been at the Wisconsin Dow Day protest…where there had been injuries…it was the first university protest to turn violent.
They listened to me and then turned back to Tommy. It was like I hadn’t said anything at all.
I sat for a few more minutes shaking my head in disapproval.
Finally, I had enough. I stood up and started to put on my jacket.
“I’m leaving. I’m not doing this.” I said and started to walk out.
Tommy got up and followed me to the door. He grabbed my arm so I couldn’t leave.
“You better keep quiet about this, Riley. Remember all those people at that rally a few months ago?”
“They heard one thing over and over again…that ‘staging a protest at the water tower’ was your idea.”
And then Tommy smiled and my whole body suddenly got so cold I shivered.
I knew then that Tommy Clark could be very dangerous if you made him mad. I think I just did.
I angrily pulled my arm away and walked out the door.
I immediately went home and told my mom and dad about Tommy Clark’s plans.
They called my uncle, Carl Andrews, a retired St. Paul homicide detective…and then..everything happened very fast.
Within twenty-four hours, Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all picked up for questioning by the St. Paul Police Department.
I, too, was questioned. Initially, I was being considered the “instigator” of this plot…since Tommy and his friends had all said it was my idea…but California police records showed quite a history of “trouble making events” for Tommy Clark and that lifted all suspicion from me.
But I did have to admit the “chaining” and “hunger strike” plans were my idea.
We then had to appear before a grand jury to see if there was enough evidence for a felony charge.
Unfortunately, the grand jury determined there was not enough conclusive evidence that a crime was actually going to be committed.
Instead, they determined it was more likely just some “bragging” by some college kids who had had too many beers to drink…
And that Riley Sanderson…who had also been drinking when she had heard of these “let’s blow up the tower” plans…had just misinterpreted the whole thing.
Since no charges were filed, our names were never released but everyone knew quickly who we were…and Tommy was a hero to the more militant side of the anti-war movement.
The University of Minnesota, however, looked at this incident differently and decided to use this as an example to other students at the University who may be planning acts of civil disobedience in protesting the Viet Nam war…
They placed a full-page ad in the Minnesota Daily…citing the University’s policy regarding protests and rallies and consequences for unlawful behavior.
We were all called into the Dean’s office and expelled without any recourse.
Tommy and his friends’ scholarships were rescinded…and everything went on our permanent record.
It didn’t matter to me. I was heading north as soon as possible. My parents would be joining me.
“Time for new beginnings…” my dad had said. “For all of us…”
But…just as I was leaving the building I realized that I had forgotten my gloves and walked back to get them.
Tommy, Sheila, Gerald and Mikey were all huddled together at a table quietly talking.
I could see that Sheila had been crying. I knew how close she had been to getting her law degree and how much she had looked forward to being a lawyer.
I grabbed my gloves and turned back to the door. Tommy spotted me.
“This isn’t over, ‘little girl’… far from it. You made a very big mistake.”
And…then he gave me that chillingly, cold smile that I would never forget.
I stepped back…I could not believe that Tommy Clark was standing less than three feet in front of me…smiling that disgusting smile of his.
My heart began to pound like a jack-hammer.
I had been wrong…all these years…I had been so wrong.
Not everyone was dead after all.
They say…that if you are ever confronted by a vicious animal, you should never run. They will instinctively think you are prey and chase you .
And when they catch you…and they will catch you…they will kill you.
Instead, shout as loudly as you can or grab a couple of rocks and bang them together.
Your chances are good the animal will be momentarily startled at least for a short time…giving you a chance to escape.
I had no rocks. My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow…much less shout. And what exactly would I shout? So I stood and waited.
“You look good, Riley.”
I suddenly felt dizzy and I swayed just a little.
“I need to sit down…” I said and made an effort to walk back to where I had been sitting.
But Tommy took my elbow and steered me out the door of Larson’s.
“I think what you need is a drink, Riley. I know I could use one. There’s a friendly-looking little bar a couple of doors down.”
It had started to rain ever so slightly…and still holding tightly to my arm…he led me down the block.
Maybe Tommy had mellowed. It had been so many years. Maybe this was just a chance encounter.
Maybe his frightening smile was just a…smile. Maybe this was a dream and I would wake up.
And maybe pigs could fly…
Two doors down from Larson’s was the kind of neighborhood bar that seldom saw strangers…especially in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.
Sure enough…when we walked in…the three men at the bar turned at the sound of the door opening…stopped talking and just looked at the two of us.
Tommy gave them a nod and then guided me to a booth way over in a corner by a window. It was stuffy in the bar and Tommy opened the window a little. The cool air felt good.
An older woman…perhaps in her sixties came right over and leaned against the side of the booth. I had a feeling she may have been the owner.
She gave us a cool smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…”Now…who the hell are you two?”
But she said pleasantly, “Nice rainy day, right?”
I returned her smile…and desperately tried to think of something I could say or do to get me out of this booth…and away from Tommy.
I had decided…pigs can’t fly.
“Where is the ladies’ room?” I asked.
She looked away from us and pointed to a neon sign on the other side of the bar…past a few tables.
I made a move to get up…but Tommy reached across and put a restraining hand on my arm…
“Riley, can you hold on for just a couple of minutes? Let’s order first. I’m starving.”
He gave the waitress a big smile and said, “We’ll need a second or two.”
He reached for the little menus propped up by the salt & pepper shakers. His jacket fell open a little.
That’s when I saw the holster…and the gun.
“Sure, blue eyes…I’ll be back.”
Tommy smiled at her again and then turned back…but there was no smile for me…he knew I had seen the gun.
“Oh, don’t be scared, Riley…I’m not going to kill you. The gun’s not for you. I always carry now…it’s legal in Minnesota, you know…or maybe you don’t. You’ve been gone for such a long time.”
But I do have a story to tell you and I want you to hear it. I want you to know how…” he paused, folded his hands together in front of him, took a deep breath…and then began again.
“I want you to completely understand the consequences of your foolish actions that night when you and your uncle decided to call the police.”
I made an effort to speak but before I could say anything…
“No…let me talk. I’ve waited a long time, Riley.” Tommy seemed very calm…not angry at all.
I relaxed a little.
“Fine. I’l listen to you, Tommy. But I read about Sheila and Gerald in the newspaper. I know what happened to them.”
“I read that about six months after we were all expelled from the University of Minnesota…they blew themselves up in an abandoned apartment building in New York City…along with four innocent teenagers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“…and Mikey…I can’t help it that his marriage failed…or should I say marriages…and that he felt that suicide was the solution to his problems.”
“That’s not on me.” I said, feeling more sure of myself now…
“I’ve even kept track of you…Tommy…but I thought you were dead.”
“I heard you went to California after the Kent State tragedy. But then I heard nothing more about you.” I said.
“You were so active in the protest movement…it was like you disappeared.”
“What happened…?” I asked.
Tommy didn’t answer but instead signaled the waitress over and ordered two whisky sours and two cheeseburgers with fries.
Apparently Tommy’s memory was still good. He ordered my favorite food and drink combination from our college days…and still today, as well.
The curtain was fluttering beside me and I was just about to close the window when the waitress quickly returned with our drinks.
Again…Tommy gave her a big smile…and I’m sure she was thinking…big tip. Well. Maybe…
“I’ll be back in a few…” the friendly waitress said.
I took a sip of my drink. Wow! It was strong…better go slow, I thought.
Tommy, however, drank almost half of his glass before putting it down.
Then he leaned to the side so he could look around me.
Instinctively, I turned to see what he was looking at…
A group of eight or nine young people had come into the bar…all laughing and talking and carrying prettily, wrapped boxes.
One of them was very, very pregnant. It was obviously a ‘farewell’ party for the beaming pregnant woman.
When I looked back at Tommy, he had the gun out and was attaching…what I knew from watching so many ‘cop’ programs on TV…a silencer.
My mouth flew open to cry out…but before I could even inhale enough oxygen to do so…Tommy very quietly said…
“If you say one word, Riley, I will kill everyone in this wretched hole in the wall bar…and first to go will be the cute, little pregnant woman.”
“Do. You. Understand?” He spoke each word so very carefully.
I could hardly breathe. But I nodded.
Tommy chuckled softly. “You really didn’t believe me when I said that I wasn’t going to kill you…did you, Riley?”
“Of course, I’m going to kill you.”
“I’ve waited fifty years to do this. Have you ever heard of that saying, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’? Well, this ‘dish’ is almost frozen…and will be all the sweeter.”
“When Sheila and Gerald died…I was supposed to be with them. I was the explosives expert…but I was dead drunk in some crap apartment I was crashing at with some crap girl I had met at a bar.”
“Do you know why I was drunk, Riley? I had just received a letter…from the American Bar Association telling me that no state in this glorious country would grant me permission to practice law…due to ‘lack of good moral character'”.
“No moral character, Riley! Me…who had spent the best six years of his life working to prevent the deaths of thousands of young men in that stupid war.”
“And poor Mikey…he never got over the deaths of Sheila and Gerald.”
“He blamed himself for not being there…blamed me too…used to send me pathetic letters…trying to make himself feel better.”
“Finally, after five years of guilt that he couldn’t handle…he hung himself.”
“But what happened to me…you ask? I ended up in California and spent the next forty years working under a phony name, as a paralegal during the day.”
“They didn’t even check my fake references…they just wanted me cheap. And at night…I drank myself to sleep in front of the television set…waiting…”
“I always hoped I would see you again, Riley. After I “retired”, I moved back to Minnesota…kept an eye on little Alec and his lovely wife…and of course I bought this gun.”
“But you were always just a dream away…until your angry Letter to the Editor last month in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the increase in suicide rates of veterans.”
“You shouldn’t have used your real name, Riley. That was very careless of you…very careless.”
Suddenly there was a change in Tommy…the calmness was gone…replaced by a quiet rage.
“Everything that happened to Sheila, Gerald, Mikey and me was your fault, Riley…you and your stupid, interfering uncle…but I got him.”
“Now…after years of waiting…I’m finally going to get you.”
My mouth fell open. “Uncle Carl was killed by…”
Before I could finish, Tommy interrupted me. He was almost gleeful in his telling.
“I enjoyed reading the cops’ investigation on his ‘ambush‘ murder…they thought it was some former ex-convict…perhaps seeking revenge. It was revenge all right…my revenge.”
“Bastard…” I whispered under my breath.
Tommy carefully lifted the gun off the table and pointed it at me. I looked right into his eyes and saw those hideously fake, blue eyes wince just as he pulled the trigger.
It was so quiet…I can understand why they called it a ‘silencer’.
But I felt nothing but a whisper of air that brushed by my head.
Tommy looked so surprised…and then his head fell to the table with a thud and one bright blue contact lens popped out.
Years of smoking, drinking and hate had finally caught up with Tommy Clark…or whatever name he went by now.
I reached over and checked for a pulse…I thought I could feel a soft, little beat…
I breathed slowly and waited a few more minutes. I took a couple sips of my drink.
I could hear our waitress still taking orders from the party group. She would be a while…everyone was laughing…having such a good time.
I shuddered…knowing that Tommy would have shot that pregnant woman with no regret.
I checked again for a pulse. This time I could feel nothing.
“Be sure, Riley.” I said to myself. “Be very sure.” And I waited just a little bit longer…and then I checked again.
Nothing. The life of Tommy Clark was over…probably a nice, clean coronary…no questions would be asked. Old people die all the time.
I reached for his gun lying on the table. The barrel had cooled enough to pick it up and I gently removed Tommy’s fingers from the handle.
I put the gun in my purse and looked down at Tommy.
“Well. You’re all dead now…aren’t you?” I said and then I smiled…just a little.
I turned to the window where the curtains were still swinging back and forth…letting in the cool air..
I could tell just by looking…they had probable not been cleaned for years.
I pulled a corner of the curtain to the side….
…and there was a neat, little hole right under the window sill…could be almost anything…could have been there for twenty years…or twenty seconds.
I let the curtain fall back into place…hiding that little hole as it fluttered in the breeze.
…and waved “slightly frantically” at our waitress…who was now heading to the kitchen.
I called out in my best “shaky, frightened old lady” voice…
“Can somebody help me, please? I think we have a problem here…”
(The Paperback Edition…)
You really can’t go back…can you?
They say you never forget your first love. I didn’t. But maybe I should have. Sometimes when you play with fire, you get burned.
He stood across from me and I wondered why we were in this strange, smoky place with all these odd people milling aimlessly around murmuring words but not really saying anything.
He had his usual self-confident, self-assured smile on his face. I loved that smile. As he leaned toward me, perhaps to kiss me, someone in the suddenly silent room whispered for all to hear. “She’s departed from her mind, you know.”
He hesitated then, tilting his head to the side, placing his hands lightly on my shoulders.
“I guess there will be no romancing tonight…” His smile had disappeared from his face.
“Not me. Not me,” I said softly.
Then he drew me to him, holding me so close…and safe…just like before…all those years ago.
“It’s not too late then?” He asked with a wondering that lingered in the air. His words brushing my ear so only I could hear.
“No,” I said quietly. “I’ve dreamed about you for so long. I thought I would never see you again.”
He pulled back a little, those dark eyes searching mine, and then…pausing slightly as he had always done…kissed me gently on my lips.
And then I woke up…cheeks wet with tears…
The Paperback Edition…
A long time ago…
Go back to a Minnesota cold November day. I am standing in the lunch line at Portland High School, waiting for my favorite hot lunch…roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes…giggling not too loudly with my best friend, Melanie Taylor. We were checking out all the cute, older boys surrounding us in line.
Mel and I had been best friends since 3rd grade and we had been looking forward to our entrance into 9th grade for every single moment of the whole, long, boring summer.
We were both fourteen and still too young for real summer jobs. I wouldn’t turn fifteen until December. Mel’s birthday was next week.
Baby sitting and walking back and forth to each other’s houses were the sum total of our summer. We were gloriously tanned but impressively bored.
I hung out more at Mel’s house than she did at mine. Unfortunately, it was neighborhood knowledge and gossip that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Katie Jones, deserved so much better and “Oh, that sweet, sweet Sam…it must be so hard for her.”
From age eleven on, I never knew a day when there wasn’t a lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach and a thin veil of sadness around me that never quite lifted.
But that was about to change…