Chapter 3

It was a dark and stormy night.  (See first paragraph, Chapter 2)

I had arrived home about 9:30 and greeted most lovingly by my devoted cat, Emma.

“How are you Tobey?  Are you well?  Are you going to feed me rather soon?”

Of course, she doesn’t really talk like that…I’m not crazy.

She is much more polite than that.

“Yes, yes.  Hang on a second.  Just let me get my coat and boots off.”

I lived very close to The Book Shop.  I did so because I have no car and have chosen to try to do without one for a while

To say I was trying to “go off the grid” would not be true but I was trying to do…something like it…but less drastic.

So now I watch very little TV.  Maybe the news on CNN…if  I’m feeling brave…and of course who can pass on “The Housewives of New York City” for heaven’s sake.

I go on-line about an hour a day but try to avoid it completely on the week ends.

But much to my surprise, after doing this for about five months I felt absolutely no different…which I thought odd.

I expected to feel more “Zen-like”.  Peaceful.  Centered.   But did not.   And “Housewives” was wrapping up their season.

Maybe I needed to come up with a ‘new plan’.

 

 

Chapter 5

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.

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

They loved me and my sister 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 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 could not find one other adult relative they could trust or entice with large sums of money to become a “foster” parent to us, so they rashly decided “what the hell, let’s give it a go.”

“What could go wrong?” they told us confidently.

What indeed.

Chapter 6

The Parents’  first attempt at ‘parenting’ was to volunteer at my 7th grade “Welcome Back” school dance which incidentally was my first foray into “socializing” on a grander scale than play dates with neighborhood kids.   Some memories are best not shared.

Two weeks before the dance, The Parents descended unannounced upon a clueless Principal Nelson (such a nice, normal man).

He had previously been informed when Karlie began 7th grade that the parents of Karlie and Tobey Carlson had been tragically killed on their third attempt to climb Mt. Everest.

The Parents had bravely tried to rescue their loyal Sherpa who had fallen into a deep crevasse.  All three bodies were never recovered…so Karlie and younger sister Tobey were now being lovingly raised by a grandma named Sylvia…so you just call her if anything comes up.

This compellingly sad tale had been created by our highly imaginative grandma after a couple of glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both Karlie and I thought it was a sound plan and we all agreed that there was no reason whatsoever to mention this to The Parents…ever.

But now…The Parents told the puzzled Mr. Nelson, that “Yes!  Of course we’re Tobey’s  parents!  Who else would we be?”

And they added for good measure, “We’re Karlie’s parents too!”  They figured this  further claim would seal the deal.

A hesitant and slightly confused Principal Nelson said he “would see if they would be needed.”

It should have ended there but The Parents were now on a mission and made sure of being ‘needed’ by donating $100,000 to renovating the teachers’ lounge.  They were more than ‘needed’…they were revered.

Imagine riding a roller coaster with no safety bar to hold you in place…that was my life for the next 6 years…

 

 

Chapter 7

Those six years were almost epic and I say ‘almost’ since 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 and my friends loved Iris and Rain.

Many evenings there were classmates eating pizza at our huge kitchen table that neither Karlie nor I knew…but they somehow knew our parents and had been invited over for “Pizza Night”.

We didn’t actually have a “Pizza Night”.

Shall I mention that in eighth grade Iris 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 wanted to join her class…and I’m talking kids from all religions.

God had never been so much fun.

 

 

Chapter 8

No easy way to say this…you know they die.

Three days after I 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 and 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.

Karlie and I were completely broken-hearted.  Losing grandma Sylvia had been devastating but she had been ‘older’.  The Parents were both only 50.

They had left strict instructions regarding any ‘death celebrations’…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 were back home, perched on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room.  Together…forever.

Karlie and I spent over two weeks in that room, mostly crying but laughing sometimes too.  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…just yet.

Chapter 10

My bedroom walls are covered with black & white blow up posters of all the places I would like to visit but probably will not…Paris, London, Gloucestershire, anywhere in Scotland and  Stockholm.  Did I mention that I am a teeny bit claustrophobic?   Oh well, now you know.

I also have huge posters of every animal I have ever owned…except for the 4 goldfish I once bought at Sam’s Club.  They actually died before I could come up with exotic names for them…

“Hello, Emma,” I whispered to my sleeping cat.

She looked up from her favorite resting spot…the top of my bed pillow…and smiled.

“Are you going to have your customary glass of red wine tonight, Tobey?” she asked.

Do you think its odd to talk for your  pet?  Or to your pet?  Move into an apartment building that has a lot of senior citizen tenants with pets.  It’s not odd.  Normal.  Very normal.

Besides…if someone asks you a question, it would be rude not to answer…

I turned on my bathroom night-light and politely answered my cat’s question.

“Not tonight dearest, exhausted.”

I was only able to read for about ten minutes which really ticked me off since this book was so exciting.  But my eyes were starting to close so I put the book on my night stand, turned off the floor lamp by my bed and cursed because I had forgotten to turn off the hall light.

I dragged myself out of bed and padded down the hall, hit the switch off and cursed again since I was now in total darkness…having forgotten to turn my living room night-light on.  I flipped that light on and trundled down the hall.

I apologized to God for being so tired as I said my nightly prayers.

“Dear God.  I’m sorry.  Than you.  Help everyone.  Amen.”

I put my head down on the pillow and rolled over on my right side…then rolled to my left side…almost unconscious at this point… but then…I rolled back to my right side…AND THEN…

..here we go…

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

I slowly pushed myself up to a sitting position, keeping my eyes glued to the black form in the corner.

Emma was sound asleep at the foot of the bed…nestled in ‘her’ Drake tee shirt… (it’s too long  a story to share right now)…so I nudged her a little so she would wake up.  Nothing.

“Emma.” I whispered and tapped her lightly on her head.  “Wake Up.”

But she didn’t wake up.  She didn’t even move.  She was, as they say, ‘dead to the world’.

And then it quietly occurred to me that I wasn’t scared…not at all.  I even smiled a little…what the hell is going on?

I was, in fact, feeling a deep sense of calm.  Remember that ‘Zen’ feeling I mentioned earlier?  Like that.  Then.  It hit me.

“Holy Shit! I cried out loud.  “I’m fucking dead!”

I hadn’t even felt sick!  No one had even hinted that I was dying!

Of course sometimes…not often…not very often…I don’t always pay attention to every, single solitary word  that people are saying to me…but still…

“I cant believe this.” I screamed.

“Dead at 24!  I had so many things left to do.  I’m pretty sure of that!”

“Bucket List!  My bucket list!  Crap.  I haven’t even made a bucket  list…”

I tapped Emma a wee bit harder on her head.

“Emma!  We’re dead!  We’re both dead!  Can you believe that?”

“I’m not dead.” said Emma in… NOT MY  VOICE…

Things were starting to ratchet up a bit now…as my heart started to pound furiously…

Do dead hearts pound?  I don’t know…I DON’T KNOW!!!!!