“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 17

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?”

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 16

The Paperback Edition…

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.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 15

The Paperback Edition…

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.”

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 14

The Paperback Edition…

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.

“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.”

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 12

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.

“No…Fred.”

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 13

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?…

 

 

 

“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.