If your best friend is a cat named Stella and you’re a crime reporter who’s looking for love…anything can happen.

Chapter Nine

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.

Chapter Ten

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.

Chapter Eleven

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.

Chapter Twelve

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.