“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 31

The Paperback Edition…

Damnation!  Whose voice was that…and how the hell did he know my real name?

I reached over and grabbed my phone to call Hannah…but then I hesitated…it was kind of early.  She may not even be alone…she and that detective had been pretty cozy last night.

I’ll wait…maybe in an hour or so when I’m sure she’ll be up…and awake…and in an agreeable mood to talk..

Stella peeked her head out from under the covers.

“You look so cute under there.”  I said.  “I bet it’s really cozy.”

In the winter, Stella often burrowed under the covers on my bed, turned around  and then just poked her nose and ears out from underneath.

And…of course I have several photos on Instagram to show everyone just how darling she looked…in case you were wondering…

I started to move the covers so I could slide in next to Stella.  I kicked off my fuzzy slippers and carefully crawled in.

“Hey!  Don’t squish me!” said Stella whose yellow eyes flashed open but then  immediately closed again.

Before my head hit the pillow, I looked one more time at that beautiful yellow rose.

To think that someone…someone I didn’t even know…cared enough about me to let me know that they were thinking about me…and…even worried about me.

To my complete surprise, tears welled in my eyes…and  I felt the deepest loneliness than I had felt since mom had died.

“Me.  You have me, you know.” said Stella.

“Indeed.  Oh, indeed.” I said and rolled over and meant to give some careful thought to all that was going on or not going on in my life.  But then Stella snuggled a little closer and  I fell asleep before one little thought could even appear.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 26

The Paperback Edition…

Abby put the package down on the kitchen table.  I got up and carried some of the dishes to the sink and got a scissor so we could open it up.

“I can’t see a card, can you?” I asked as I gently cut away the layers of protective cellophane.

“It would be just like Ralph to forget a card.  Oh well, he’ll probably call me later this morning and we can know for sure.”  Abby said confidently.  Then she reached up her arms and stretched her back.

“That’s very good for you,” said Stella…who watched every move that Abby made…thinking…I’m sure…that another morsel of food could be placed on her plate at any given moment.

“Did you hear that Charlie?” Abby exclaimed as she quickly brought her arms down to her sides.  “I swear to God she said good!”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Abby.  Stella is just a cat.  One I happen to talk for…on occasion.  You do know that, right?  Do you not see my lips moving?”

“Well, sure I do…but sometimes,” Abby said in a soft voice, “I forget…especially when she makes sounds…strange sounds.”

“I resent the phrase ‘just a cat’,” complained Stella…to no one in particular.

I had opened the box and finished unwrapping the soft white paper.   I gently pushed some white tissue to the side.

Lying inside the box was one, beautiful yellow rose…and a small white envelope.

Abby had peered over the wrappings and had also spotted the envelope.

“Oh look!!’ she said.  “There is a card,” and she started to reach for it.

But I was quicker and I grabbed it before she did.

“I got it.”  As I picked it up and turned it over I saw just one word written on the front of the envelope.    It said…”Charlie”

Abby…who had also read the card…sat down in her chair and took a bite from her eclair and said,  “Well…this is interesting.”

“I can’t believe it!” I cried.  “It’s for me!”

I looked over at Abby who was no longer so interested in the package and squinted my eyes suspiciously at her.

“Is this from you?  You know, to make me feel better?  Considering ‘the anniversary’ and all that?”

“Nope.  And if you don’t open that envelope pretty damn soon, I’m going to.”  And she made an attempt to grab it.  But I was too fast.

I moved away and sat down opposite her at the table, holding the card in my hands.

I was almost afraid to open it.  Could it be from Bobby?  Or maybe from Jake? I would be happy either way…really.   But neither knew my real name…or for sure…my address.

At least I didn’t think so.  After the incident last night, I wasn’t so sure of anything.

“Open it or I’m leaving.”  Stella hurried.  “I have to take a nap.”

Abby looked from Stella to me and then back to Stella.

“I’m with her…open it!” Abby ordered.

“All right, all right,” I said.  “Sometimes…anticipation can be fun…”

At this point…I didn’t really care what the card said or who it was from…as long as it didn’t say, “Charlie.  Hand this rose over to Abby.  She will be so surprised.  Thanks. Ralph..”

 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 25

The Paperback Edition…

Abby was silent.  This was a rare occurrence for her.  Then…

“Was there anyone at Doyle’s last night that you ever see at the other bars? ” Abby asked.

“You and Hannah go out every weekend and most Wednesday nights.  Do you always use the phony name/job bit?” she continued.

I answered quickly…”Always.”

Suddenly Abby slapped her hand down on the table.  “By Jove, I’ve got it,” she said….using just a terrible English accent.

“Maybe…maybe it was someone who works at the Journal with you or Hannah…but neither of you knew they were there last night.”   Abby said.

“You know…you could be right…that kind of makes sense. ”  I took another swallow of my now very tepid and therefore unappetizing coffee.

My head was starting to scream at me and I got up to get two aspirin.

Just as Abby had finished putting yet another piece of eclair on Stella’s plate, the front doorbell rang.

All of us just froze in place.  No one came to our house on the weekends…NO ONE.  Even Stella had paused…tongue again hanging out.

Both Abby and I said in unison.  “What the hell?”  I know we were both thinking the same thing…this has to be bad news.

Abby was way more appropriately dressed than I was.. so she went to see who was disturbing our little Saturday morning brunch.  I returned to my place at the table…headache momentarily forgotten.

“I wonder who it is?” whispered Stella.  Never one to miss any action,  she had moved over to be closer to me.

Stella was a very friendly cat. She always loved the few people who came to visit us…but this was Saturday morning on a frigid, cold day in Minnesota.  I think even she thought something wasn’t quite right.

“I don’t know.” I said quietly.   “Why are we whispering?”

I could hear Abby talking and then heard her say, “Hang on”.   She soon appeared back in the kitchen.  She had a puzzled look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked…eager to have this mystery solved.

“I need a dollar for a tip.”  She opened up the cupboard over the sink and took down the old Apple cookie jar where we kept change and dollar bills.  It made tipping delivery people a snap.

“For what?” I asked.

“For.  A.  Tip.” Abby said evenly…and gave me a look of exasperation.  She then went back to the front door.

I looked at Stella.  “Well, that was rude.”

“You have a killer hangover.  Everything will seem rude today.” she said knowingly.

I heard Abby say ‘thank you’ and then heard her shut the door.  I could feel little trickles of cold air that had filtered back to the kitchen from the opened door.

She walked into the kitchen carrying a long, white, rectangular floral box.  It was heavily wrapped in clear plastic to protect it from the freezing cold.

The label on the box said “Flora’s Fresh Flowers”.  It was very skinny and looked like it could only hold a single flower.

“Who’s it for?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Abby said.  “There was no name on the delivery ticket.  Only an address.  This one.”

“Well, well,” said Stella.  “The plot thickens.”

 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 23

The Paperback Edition…

“Say what?  What did you just mumble Charlie?”

Abby closed the refrigerator door where she had gone to get more half & half for our coffee.

“I missed what you said.”

“I said… that’s when the night got a tad complicated.  Last night…someone said ‘Good-by Charlie’ or ‘Take it easy, Charlie’ or…something like that…I can’t remember exactly…”

“Hannah and I were starting to leave.  Then I turned and waved a huge good-by to everyone around me.”

“You know the wave.  One of those very tipsy, all encompassing waves that includes the whole room.  It was just before last call.”

“How the hell does anyone at Doyle’s know my real name, Abby?  Hannah and I have been so careful.”

Abby was still standing with the half & half container in one hand.  She sat down,  added cream to her coffee,  stirred and took a thoughtful sip.  Then she took a more thoughtful bite of her eclair.

“Describe how ‘happy’ you and Hannah were last night…on a scale of one to ten.  Ten being really, really ‘happy’ but still conscious.”

She gave me one of those piercing “I am not in the mood for BS looks” that is going to work so well for her when she has kids.  Her mom could do the same look.  It truly was a gift.

“Well…Hannah was driving, so she was a definite one.  I was a definite eight.”

“Earlier in the evening, Hannah was singing a lot…along with the band.  She really got carried away a couple of times.”

“She was trying to impress the band…prepping for tonight’s amateur night…you know Hannah…”

“Oh…I know…not that practicing will make a difference with that voice.  She is persistent though.”

Abby got up to get some tomato juice from the fridge.

“So…is it possible that Hannah may have said your real name at some point…maybe as she was singing, as in c’mon Charlie, sing with me.”?

Abby sat down and looked at Stella who had suddenly paused during one of her many mini baths to look at me.  It almost appeared as if  she was waiting to hear what I was going to say.

“I can’t wait to hear this story,” mumbled Stella.

“Why is Stella looking at you like that? sputtered Abby.  “Honest to God, Charlie, I swear that cat understands everything we say.”

I ignored her comment.

“Are you  actually expecting me to remember if Hannah used my real name last night?” I answered sarcastically.

“I was flat-out drunk and that’s being charitable.  Of course she could have used my real name.  Hell, I could have used my real name.”  I reached over and scratched  Stella under her chin.

“Good answer.”

 

 

“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 10

The Paperback Edition…

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.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 9

The Paperback Edition…

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.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 8

The Paperback Edition…

So…let me properly introduce my best friend Abby…last name Jones…who has been my best friend since kindergarten.

Abby decided (and there would be absolutely no argument) that it was not a good idea for me to be living alone in this big house.

So…she told her mom and dad that it was time for her to leave the family nest.  And she did.

She moved three doors down the block to my second bedroom…the one that overlooks the front yard…and an amazing crab apple tree.

Abby Jones.  Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like Abby…

One day in fourth grade…during recess…two really mean girls pushed me down into a pile of dirty snow.  My brand-new, beautiful, red winter coat was ruined; stained with salt and wet sludge from the street.

Now when you’re in 3rd grade, you just don’t go crying to the teacher if someone pushes you down.  Right?  Right.  So I told my mom (who most certainly would have gone to see the teacher) that I had slipped on some ice and fallen.

But Abby Jones was my very best friend and she wasn’t just mad at those bullies.  She was fuming.

A couple of days later, she somehow managed to get those two girls alone in the bathroom before school began.  I was the “look-out”…standing just inside the door so I wouldn’t attract attention.

I’m not exactly sure what she said…I couldn’t hear everything…she was talking very quietly.

But I heard the words “mob”, “not really Jones”, “call in a favor”, “not very pretty” and “you’ll be sorry”.

I looked back over my shoulder and the two girls were standing there with their mouths hanging open.  Abby was a pretty awesome storyteller…she watched a lot of TV.

Then she did the classic “I’ll be watching you” bit and put two fingers to her eyes and then pointed them back at the girls…who were frozen in place.

Then…to my horror…I looked closer and saw that Abby had her father’s antique “Wild West” six shooter pistol strapped to her waist under her jacket.  I had seen it hanging on the wall in their den for years…next to an autographed photo of John Wayne.

She pulled the gun out of its holster and did the classic gunslinger twirl…and a real bullet fell out and bounced on the floor.  After one second…both girls threw up.  Hell…I almost threw up.

Abby calmly bent down, picked up the errant bullet, turned on her little Mary Jane patent leather shoes, grabbed my arm and we walked out into the hall just as the bell rang for classes to begin.

“I thought it was empty!” she whispered in my ear…while  grinning from ear to ear.

Introduction of best friend Abby Jones…complete.

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 8

The Paperback Edition…

So…let me properly introduce my best friend Abby…last name Jones…who has been my best friend since kindergarten.

Abby decided (and there would be absolutely no argument) that it was not a good idea for me to be living alone in this big house.

So…she told her mom and dad that it was time for her to leave the family nest.  And she did.

She moved three doors down the block to my second bedroom…the one that overlooks the front yard…and an amazing crab apple tree.

Abby Jones.  Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like Abby…

One day in fourth grade…during recess…two really mean girls pushed me down into a pile of dirty snow.  My brand-new, beautiful, red winter coat was ruined; stained with salt and wet sludge from the street.

Now when you’re in 3rd grade, you just don’t go crying to the teacher if someone pushes you down.  Right?  Right.  So I told my mom (who most certainly would have gone to see the teacher) that I had slipped on some ice and fallen.

But Abby Jones was my very best friend and she wasn’t just mad at those bullies.  She was fuming.

A couple of days later, she somehow managed to get those two girls alone in the bathroom before school began.  I was the “look-out”…standing just inside the door so I wouldn’t attract attention.

I’m not exactly sure what she said…I couldn’t hear everything…she was talking very quietly.

But I heard the words “mob”, “not really Jones”, “call in a favor”, “not very pretty” and “you’ll be sorry”.

I looked back over my shoulder and the two girls were standing there with their mouths hanging open.  Abby was a pretty awesome storyteller…she watched a lot of TV.

Then she did the classic “I’ll be watching you” bit and put two fingers to her eyes and then pointed them back at the girls…who were frozen in place.

Then…to my horror…I looked closer and saw that Abby had her father’s antique “Wild West” six shooter pistol strapped to her waist under her jacket.  I had seen it hanging on the wall in their den for years…next to an autographed photo of John Wayne.

She pulled the gun out of its holster and did the classic gunslinger twirl…and a real bullet fell out and bounced on the floor.  After one second…both girls threw up.  Hell…I almost threw up.

Abby calmly bent down, picked up the errant bullet, turned on her little Mary Jane patent leather shoes, grabbed my arm and we walked out into the hall just as the bell rang for classes to begin.

“I thought it was empty!” she whispered in my ear…while  grinning from ear to ear.

Introduction of best friend Abby Jones…complete.

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 9

The Paperback Edition…

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.