“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But doing so…very, very softly.

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

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

Gone.”

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 12

The Paperback Edition…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me too,” said a teeny, little voice.

“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.