“QUITE BY ACCIDENT” Chapter 1

The Paperback Edition…

PROLOGUE

THIS IS A TRUE STORY…KIND OF…

For as long as I can remember and that would be about 20 years…who really remembers the early years…I have always started my “sleep ritual” the same way…no matter how tired I was.

First I would lay on my right side for a couple of minutes, almost falling into the sweet bliss of sleep but…not quite…

Then I would slowly roll over on my left side, tuck my left arm under the pillow as I re-fluffed it a little more with my right hand and then lower my head and fall instantly asleep, waking only when my alarm buzzed in the morning.

Every.  Single.  Night.

Except…not THIS night.

THIS night…I did not fall instantly asleep.  THIS  night…for some inexplicable reason, I quickly flipped BACK over to my right side and in the oddity of bodily position change, my eyes flashed open and there it was in the corner of my bedroom…a 6-foot tall ribbon of blackness. 

I knew right away it was not smoke.  It was like a black, shimmering waterfall and it was about 3 feet wide.  It was swaying from side to side but then it suddenly stopped.

I was afraid to blink or look away…so I just laid there…and stared wide-eyed, completely forgetting to breathe.  The always reassuring night-light still beaming softly from my bathroom…

 

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 2

The Paperback Edition…

I was so tired that snowy, cold November night.  All I wanted to do was eat a very  unhealthy (read that very tasty) frozen something from my freezer, add a bottle of beer, some Cheetos Puffs (of course this is a plug for Cheetos Puffs…HAVE YOU NOT EATEN CHEETOS PUFFS?) and then collapse in front of my big screen TV.

I had worked an extra shift at The Book Shop.  I was the assistant manager.

Don’t be impressed by the title.  It only means I get an extra 5% discount on the books I buy and 20% commission on the books I sell.

And…it also means I get to fill in for those employees who fail to show up for work when there is a major snow storm…for instance…like the one we had tonight.

My name is Tobey Larson and I’m 24 years old.

Tobey Larson is not my real name, of course.  I’m not going to tell you my real name.  One does have to be very careful when sharing odd experiences.

Look what happened to all those people who reported seeing flying saucers…

I don’t remember…do you?

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 4

The Paperback Edition…

I had graduated from the University of Minnesota this past Spring with a degree in English.

Considering that I had no desire to teach, it wasn’t very practical or useful but I enjoyed every minute of those five years.

For some inexplicable reason…people were so impressed when they found out I was shooting for a degree in English.

“Wow!  You’re an English major…Wow!”  And many times the conversation died right there.  Go figure.

I had lost contact with all school friends.   We had gone our separate ways, mostly to different states and even though we had ever so sincerely promised  to keep in touch…we had not.

I had no boyfriend and no prospects.   sigh.

Both parents were dead.  I had one sibling, sister Karlie, who was two years older than me.

She was delightfully married to George and very busy with a 1-year old toddler, Annie and a little mutt named Cantor.

I lived in a luxury (read that safe) apartment complex…in a luxury (also read safe) suburb…because even though it was very tragic and sad that my parents had both died ridiculously young…they had left a really sick amount of money to be shared equally between me and sister Karlie…but not until we BOTH turned 30.

However…in the meantime…we were given a “very nice” amount of money that very nice  lawyers doled out to each of us every month…to see us through to the “big payoff”.

Don’t hate me.

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 5

The Paperback Edition…

My parents, Iris and Rain, or “The Parents” as they later became known, loved the wealthy, carefree lifestyle that only piles of money can buy.   Apparently, “The Great Gatsby” had made a big impression on both of them when they were young and…well…impressionable.

Luckily for them, many dazzling but solid investments made by Rain’s father and grandfather, assured “The Parents” they would never, ever have to work at any job…but must always give generously to worthy charities…which they did quite happily and quite often.

They loved me and my sister so very much.  There was never any doubt about that and of course, we adored them.

However, they just didn’t like the idea of ‘parenting’…and unfortunately did not quite realize that until about 5 hours after Karlie was born.

Grandma Sylvia moved in before the next sunset and when I accidentally (go figure) appeared two years later…well…no worries…Grandma Sylvia didn’t blink an eye.

She drank red wine during the week and whiskey sours on the weekends.  She was also fond of those little sweet-smelling cigars and Maria Callas.

She was beyond brilliant, spoke French, Spanish and Chinese and most importantly loved Karlie and me to the moon and back.  She took pretty good care of “The Parents” as well…

Sadly, she died when I was thirteen.

“The Parents” earnestly tried but could not find one other adult relative they could trust completely to replace the irreplaceable Sylvia…

And…as odd as it may seem…neither could they find an adult relative that they could entice with extraordinarily large sums of money to become a “semi-foster” parent to Karlie and me.

So…they rashly decided “what the hell, let’s give it a go.”

“What could go wrong?” They told us…ever so confidently…

What indeed…

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 7

The Paperback Edition…

Those six years were almost epic.   And I say ‘almost‘ because no deaths or serious injuries could be directly connected to any participation by “The Parents” in any planned school activities.

It was, of course, no surprise that all of Karlie’s friends and all of my friends loved Iris and Rain.

Many evenings there were classmates (or non-classmates) eating pizza (or something else) at our huge kitchen table.

Many times neither Karlie nor I knew them..but somehow they knew Iris and Rain and had been invited over for “Pizza Night”.

It should be noted…we didn’t actually have a “Pizza Night”.

Shall I mention that in eighth grade Iris enthusiastically volunteered to be a confirmation teacher at our very progressive Lutheran church?  Sure, why not.

After the second week…kids who didn’t even go to our church…were clamoring to join her confirmation class…and I’m talking about kids from ALL religions.  Iris was a huge hit.  I was not surprised.

God had never been so much fun.

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 8

The Paperback Edition…

There is no easy way to say this…you know they die.

Three days after I had graduated from high school, “The Parents” crashed their brand-new, chili-pepper red Porsche into a large oak tree on Blake Road…four short blocks from home…

They had been at the ‘club’…perhaps celebrating or maybe even lamenting the end of this parenting phase of their life.  It was said  to have been “a spectacular crash”…the Porsche going well over 100 mph.  No surprise there…I guess…spectacular did describe everything they did..

Karlie and I were completely heart-broken.  Losing grandma Sylvia had been a  devastating blow…to be sure… but she had been ‘older’.  “The Parent”s were both only 50.

They had left strict instructions regarding any ‘death rituals or celebrations’.  There would be no funeral, no memorial service…nothing.

Karlie and I picked up a large urn from Woodrow Funeral Home with both of their ashes inside.  They wanted to be cremated together.  Of course.

And then we all went home.

In less than two days, “The Parents” perched on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room.  Together…forever.

Karlie and I spent over three weeks in that room, mostly crying but laughing sometimes too. ..because even though they had not wanted to actually participate in the ‘early parenting portion’ of our lives, they did want it documented…and they did so with their characteristic enthusiasm.

We ate there and we slept there and we watched every single home movie “The Parents” had ever taken…over and over and over again.

We had only had them as ‘Real Parents’ for six short years…we were not quite ready to let them go…not just yet.

“I just ate less…among other things…”

 

“I had a dream…”

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…and it was about BACON…and then…sadly… I woke up.

So…good morning!!!  I seldom write in the morning but this is a one-off because my dream was so vivid I had to share immediately…well, of course I had to have some coffee first…

My dream then segwayed into … why aren’t I eating bacon these days … and then my sleepy brain remembered…Ohhhhhhhh…… right….my stomach doesn’t always agree with my depraved desires…sigh…

However…I decided to throw caution to the wind, follow my dreams (lol) and move down that bacon path once again…and wondered (I am still in bed at this point…) if I could freeze bacon (more economical) since I had never done so in the past.  It was then I decided to get out of bed.  I had been given a mission and I had chosen to accept it.

YES YOU CAN!! And you can freeze bacon either raw or cooked and even though I have not moved into proper clothing I am soon going to do so…and then go to the store to buy,..

BACON!!!!

Don’t anyone wonder if I have a life…I do…mostly.

Have a nice day…

 

“First Love” Chapter 27

The Paperback Edition…

How would I look to Bobby after all these years, I wondered…looking into the full-length bathroom mirror…instinctively tucking my short hair behind my ears.

Would he, like Russell, be disappointed in how I now looked?

Would Bobby expect to see me looking young…as I had over 30 years ago when we had last seen each other that day in Target?

And…would he see the cane and wince?  As Russell had done…many times…

Those searing, cruel words from Russ…spoken almost a year ago…about looking old and not being beautiful anymore…still cut deep.

But…most of the time… I knew I looked pretty damn good…even with a cane.

Every summer for the past few years, I had volunteered at a park near our house.  I helped with the kids summer school program.

Up until this summer, I could almost always keep up with those little squirts as they ran all over…and…get nice tan in the bargain.  This summer I was in charge of “The Craft Table”…and supervising the sandbox.

My light brown hair was streaked from the sun but I didn’t think a few blonde highlights would hurt…grey…can be so grey.  I was lucky to get an appointment at Chico’s Salon on such short notice.  I guess it pays to tip well…

Was I being stupid?  Of course, I was.  But…even in high school no one could understand why Bobby Flanagan had picked me to be “his girl”.  He could have picked so many others…

I had been nothing special…Scandinavian cute…that about covered it.

Wait!  Except for my ears…I had very special ears…a little too big for my face and they stuck out…just a bit.   That was my “outstanding” feature…and that had been Bobby’s best little joke…

I wondered what Bobby would look like?

The reunion information sheet had declared in CAPS that the dress code would be ‘Summer Casual’…whatever that meant.

For me…it meant a slightly short, black skirt and a white, cap-sleeved linen top…because I still could.

I didn’t wear jewelry as a rule, but I had put on the pink necklace that Bobby had bought me on his first leave home from the Navy…many years ago.  Yes…I had saved it.

Black and white low-heeled shoes and my cane completed the outfit.  The cane was black hickory and was the old-fashioned kind with a hook at the top.  I had found it at an estate sale shortly after my stroke. It was quite old but it did the trick.

I liked to use it when I was out and about…since I could easily hook it over my arm when standing or hook it on a shopping cart handle.

Everything was hanging neatly on the outside of my bedroom closet door…just waiting.

I checked the mirror and wondered again if I was out of my mind for doing this…out of my mind for even hoping that my strange dream of a few nights ago had been a foreshadow and not just a..dream..

Melanie had been really busy these last couple of days.  Janet had taken a turn for the worse and Mel was spending a lot more time at her house.

She had not yet had time to get more information from Mike about Bobby…not even if he was coming to the reunion.

Last time I had talked to her…which was…yesterday morning, I think?  Yes.  She had not yet shown Mike the copies of the important pages of my mother’s diary.

I knew those pages were the key to whether or not Mike was willing to tell Mel more information about Bobby.

 

 

 

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 1

The Paperback Edition…

A long time ago…

Go back to a Minnesota cold November day.  I am standing in the lunch line at Portland High School, waiting for my favorite hot lunch…roast turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes…giggling not too loudly with my best friend, Melanie Taylor.  We were checking out all the cute, older boys surrounding us in line.

Mel and I had been best friends since 3rd grade and we had been looking forward to our entrance into 9th grade for every single moment of the whole, long, boring summer.

We were both fourteen and still too young for real summer jobs.  I wouldn’t turn fifteen until December.  Mel’s birthday was next week.

Baby sitting and walking back and forth to each other’s houses were the sum total of our summer.  We were gloriously tanned but impressively bored.

I hung out more at Mel’s house than she did at mine.  Unfortunately, it was neighborhood knowledge and gossip that my father Victor Jones drank too often and too much…that his beautiful wife, Katie Jones, deserved so much better and “Oh, that sweet, sweet Sam…it must be so hard for her.”

It was.

From age eleven on, I never knew a day when there wasn’t a lost, lonely feeling in the pit of my stomach and a thin veil of sadness around me that never quite lifted.

But that was about to change…

“First Love” Chapter 2

“The Paperback Edition”

For some unknown reason, Mel’s and my freshman science class ended with a shared lunch hour with a lot of the sophomores and juniors.  Happily for us, many were drop-dead good-looking older boys.

So, every chance we had, we were looking at them and much to our delight…they were looking right back at us.  Were we innocent little lambs ready to be shorn?  Maybe, I don’t know.

So naive we were…and so dazed by all the attention.  And so very unprepared.

We had learned about dating and romance…and even sex…from books and movies…where no matter what happened, there was always a happy ending.

After all…it was 1957.

We were so very, very young.

We had tired weeks ago of the antics of the freshman boys…even the new ones from other schools in our district.  They couldn’t even drive a car, for heaven’s sake.

Suddenly, as we stood in line that November day, someone bumped into me from behind and my biology book flew out of my hand and skittered across the floor.

A group of older boys behind us in line laughed loudly and my face turned bright red.  I still blushed and hated myself every time it happened.

“You dropped your book,” one of them said, looking back at his friends, enjoying their approval and laughter.  He seemed so pleased with his joke.

I kneeled down to get my book and raising up, looked into the face of the most handsome boy I had ever seen.  His dark brown eyes were looking right at me and my breath was stilled for a moment.

He didn’t say he was sorry…because of course he wasn’t…I was just the random recipient of his stupid prank.

I tried to give him and his friends a big smile to show that I was cool and smooth and ‘not just some dumb, little, freshman girl’ but his look was so intense my smile froze crookedly on my face…not very cool at all.

His friends laughed even harder at my obvious embarrassment.  My cheeks flamed even more and tears jumped to my eyes.

He stopped laughing then and bent down to pick up a sheet of paper that had fallen out of my book.

“Here, I think this is yours too.”  He was almost apologetic.

He handed me the paper but my throat had closed and I couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t even say thanks.

I turned quickly away, brushing a stray tear off my cheek and willing my face to stop blushing.  He must think I’m a total idiot…still a child of the eighth grade, I thought.

“I am a total fool,” I muttered under my breath.

I moved up in the line, heart pounding from humiliation.

“Sam!  Do you know who that was?” asked Melanie.

I shook my head and stole a look back over my shoulder at the group of boys who were now admiring a very stunning and buxom teacher who had just walked by.

“No,” I mumbled…still feeling quite stupid.

“That’s Bobby Flanagan!  He’s the most popular boy at Portland!  All the girls are wild for him!  Even the senior girls and he’s only a sophomore!”  Melanie was all but jumping up and down.

“I think he likes you,”  she whispered to me…those magical words that best friends…no matter what age…say to each other whether they are true or not.

I turned back again and this time Bobby was looking right at me with a big grin on his face.

My heart literally skipped a beat…trite…but true nonetheless.

Samantha Jones…meet Bobby Flanagan…your First Love.