Chapter Eight

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.

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 Fourteen

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.