“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”

Final Chapter…

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.

The End.

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”

Chapter Four

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.

 

 

 

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”

Chapter Three

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.”

 

 

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”

Chapter Two

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…

 

 

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”

INTRODUCING…

“The Johnsons”

“Where the Simpsons meet the Sopranos…sort of…”

Chapter One

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.

 

 

“YOU KNOW…LIKE THAT.”

A very small story about life.

You know how sometimes in life…certain events just unfold that massively affect you but you have absolutely no control over them?

Like when…

Someone sneezes behind you while you are waiting in line at the cash register at your local Walgreens to purchase a bottle of Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow nail enamel…and then four days later…YOU sneeze?  Like that…

Or like when…

You are sitting in your car at an intersection waiting…ever so patiently…for the red light to change to green, and then someone crashes into you from behind…and your nose gets broken from the air bag and as blood is still streaming down your chin and onto your brand-new silk blouse…the driver of the car that has crashed into you…who happens to be a very young girl…rushes up to you as you are dazedly trying to get out of your car…and tearfully confesses to you…

“I am so, so sorry, but…but I don’t have any car insurance.”

And then…later in the ER your husband…who is so very, very sweet but at times slightly addlebrained…confesses to you that…”He is so, so sorry, BUT…” he forgot to renew YOUR car insurance?  Like that.

Or like when…

You pull a pair of your “used-to-be” favorite, old jeans out of the dryer…having just washed and dried them because you have recently lost 7 pounds and you are now really, really sure you will once again fit into them and…you do!!

…and then…when you are very, very happily slipping out of them, you discover two forgotten $20 bills in one of the pockets…and it turns out that right now…today…you really need that forty bucks?  Like that.

Or like when…

You “impulsively and later most regretfully”…tell your high school sweetheart named Jake, who loved you more than life itself…that you want to break up with him.  And, even though you never tell him why…it is because your Freshman English 101 professor at University has been asking you to come into his office on Thursday nights for some extra ‘teaching’…and you desperately want to go…even though you know he is married but you don’t care…because he is so…INTENSE and ‘DEEP’ and…CUTE!!!

However, three months later, you realize that Professor Ames is a conceited, cruel and thoughtless bastard…not to mention a hopeless alcoholic and has been asking all the girls in his Freshman English 101 class to come to his office…and so, you drop the class and never see Professor Ames ever again.

Tragically however…you feel that too much time has passed…and you are too ashamed and embarrassed to call Jake and beg him to forgive you and take you back…because you now know what you did was completely and stupidly wrong…

But then…25 years wander by and…

…one night at exactly 12:16 a.m. (and you know this because you have just looked at your watch before) you turn the corner and enter the mail room of your very large apartment building where (unbeknownst to either of you)…you both now live…

…with spouses that neither of you love anymore or even like very much…and…

Jake is standing there looking at the cover of the current issue of US Weekly and he looks up and sees you…

And…you pause for only a split second and then slowly walk the ten feet that separates the two of you…hoping with all your heart that he will open his arms to you…and he does…and neither of your lives will ever be the same again…

And…that is a good thing…

…because suddenly…all the years have melted away and he is once again that handsome 18-year-old boy who loved you without measure and transformed your young life in so many ways and you are that enchanting 17-year-old girl who cherished his love and returned it in ways that knew no bounds…

…and now both of you are together again…forever.

You know…like that.

The End.

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Final Chapter

The Paperback Edition…

“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 End”

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 35

The Paperback Edition…

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.