“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 4

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.

 

“The Day After The Night Before” Chapter 3

The Paperback Edition…

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…

“The Day After The Night Before” Chapter 2

The Paperback Edition…

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.

 

 

 

“THE DAY AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE” Chapter 1

The Paperback Edition…

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.

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 14

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.

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 15

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.

Fuck.

 

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 16

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.

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 18

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.

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 19

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.”

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 20

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!