“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 27

The Paperback Edition…

I gently opened the flap and pulled out a white card.

It said, “Charlie.  I hope this makes you happy.  Seeing you always makes me happy.”

I immediately got tears in my eyes.  I took a deep breath and exhaled a little shakily.

I handed it over to Abby who was impatiently reaching for it.

“NOT SIGNED!!!  IT’S NOT SIGNED!!!.  Abby yelped as she read the card.

“That’s it.  I’m done.”  Stella stood up, stretched quickly and jumped down to the floor.  She headed off to the top of the living room sofa…to begin one of her many daily vigils of the front sidewalk.

“I can’t believe it’s not signed!  What torture!”  Abby disgustedly tossed the card back down on the table, got up and started to clear away the last of the dishes.

I looked at her with indignant shock.

YOU can’s believe it!”  I said.  “YOU can’t believe it…how do you think I feel?”

“For the first time in months I have something… maybe kind of swell…happening to me and…it’s a secret!”  I shook my head in utter exasperation.

But then I looked at that beautiful, delicate rose again.  I picked it up and inhaled the unmistakable scent that only a rose can produce.

I smiled and carefully laid it back in the box.

“Abby…do you know if there’s a smallish vase around…”  I turned toward the sink but Abby had gone.

I got up and walked over to the stove.  I reached up and opened a seldom used cupboard.

“I think this is where mom kept some vases…” I said to myself…since no one else was listening to me…

I rummaged around and behind some larger ones…there was a small bud vase.   It had little pink flowers on it that were kind of faded…but it was the smallest of the lot so it would have to do.

I took it down and checked for any cracks…finding none…I went over to the sink and filled the it with water.

“Why doesn’t he want me to know who he is?” I asked Abby…who had returned to the kitchen.

“Well…I hate to say this…but…maybe he’s a married guy and just wanted to do something nice for you…like maybe Jake?  He probably would have noticed how much you were hurting last night.”

Abby was speaking very carefully, not wanting to upset me too much by using the word “married” and “Jake” in the same sentence.

I carried the vase over to the table, put it down and carefully added the rose and the greenery that had come with it.  I gently touched a yellow petal.

“Or Bobby?”  I mused.  “He did seem to be paying more attention to me than usual last night…or at least I think so.”.

“I just hope it’s not from some creep who’s going to start stalking us!” 

 

 

 

“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 7

The Paperback Edition…

I sighed and flipped the notebook back on the night stand.

“I miss you mom,” I whispered.   I closed my eyes but not quite fast enough to stop hot tears from running down my cheeks.  I reached over to grab a Kleenex.  When would this horrible pain go away?

Last year…after a couple of halfhearted attempts…I had finally decided to get my own place.

I had lived at home while I was going to the University of Minnesota in order to save money…and since my mom and I were such good friends…living with her was a pleasure and just pure joy.

But I knew that after I had been working for a while that it was time to get my own house…and…it would be a smart investment for me.

We had had so much fun looking around for places in the Hawthorne area of Minneapolis…the neighborhood where I lived now…where in fact I had been born.

I wanted to get a house close by so I would be able to walk to the same shops and favorite restaurants that I did now…or even walk to mom’s house if I wanted.  Why venture too far away from the nest, right?

But then she had been senselessly killed and my life had been shattered.

I simply could not move.  Dad had died when I was 7 and even though I had only vague memories of him, they were all connected to this house.

I saw a man raking leaves or shoveling snow or walking up the back steps.   But then that  quick puff of memory would float away.

My mom had been a passionate gardener and the yard and boulevard were filled with trees, bushes and flowers that she had raised from little sprouts…just like me.

No.  I wasn’t moving…not for a long time.  Maybe not ever…

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 6

The Paperback Edition…

Don’t worry.  I haven’t lost my mind.  I know you’re probably thinking, “I thought we were talking about someone named Hannah.”  And you’re right…we are.

The names Karla and Hannah refer to the same person.  Also.  I am called “Teddy” when in fact…my real name is…Charlie.  Let me explain.

Hannah and I are both reporters at the Minneapolis Journal.  Currently, we are assigned to cover the  crime beat in  Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs.  Once in a great while we get a by-line for writing an extraordinary story.

In the past couple of years,  both of us have had a few sketchy encounters with readers of the Journal who were pretty angry or upset with the way we had covered a story or…believe it or not…with the general philosophy of the Journal.

These encounters had always taken place in a “bar-like” setting and in all times the ‘upset’ people had downed a few too many ‘bottles of beer’…or whatever…

So last year, my long-time, very good friend Abby,…who is quite absolutely brilliant and devious came up with the idea of what she cleverly called a “protective cloak of anonymity” for Hannah and me…to be used at our discretion.

We both still worked for the Journal but…

“Karla” (Hannah) worked in circulation and “Teddy” (Charlie…me) worked in accounting.  Throw on a title of “Assistant Manager” to these jobs and BINGO…two very boring jobs that did not encourage any further questions other than an occasional complaint to “Karla” about a late delivery.  IKR…

So if “Karla” was asked to leave Doyle’s after one or two more margaritas than was prudent…she would do so…gliding peacefully out the door, into the night and down the block to the Minnehaha Grill.

It was our go-to late night restaurant on the weekends.  Black coffee, pancakes, eggs and bacon…with an occasional side order of hash browns…was our standard order.

And so that is where we had gone last night…because we both knew how bad I would feel the next morning if we did not.

We pretty much had the drinking/partying ritual down to a science.  I know what you’re thinking…not good at all…and…maybe you’re right.

But…regardless…last night was rubbish.

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 5

The Paperback Edition…

I wondered  if being a bouncer was a good job for someone with a criminal record.  Maybe Doyle’s doesn’t know.  Maybe they don’t care as long as unruly customers are efficiently hustled quickly and quietly out the door.

No one likes to go to a club where troublesome patrons are not controlled.  One thing I did know for sure…the bouncers didn’t last very long at Doyle’s.

Just so you know…aside from last night…bouncers for the most part do not need to keep an “eye” on me.  However…my dear, sweet, friend Hannah was another story.

She was your “typical happy drinker”.  And sometimes after her 3rd or 4th margarita she became everyone’s best friend…whether they wanted a new best friend or not.

And that is when a friendly bouncer would come over to help…since at this point Hannah would refuse to listen to me when I suggested it may be time to leave.

However, an understanding and sympathetic bouncer gently guiding her out the door worked every time.  They all knew Hannah and loved her.  Everyone loved the beautiful and charming Hannah.

They all liked me…I was the good friend and for the bouncers who were single, I was their link to Hannah and possibly her phone number.  I was not above being bribed.

So on many weekend nights…the last thing Hannah heard was “That’s it Karla, time for you to go home.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 4

Head clearing slightly…yes, of course, I knew him…but nope…couldn’t remember his name…but Hannah would.

Having just exited a crummy one-year marriage, she had become superbly single and made it a point to get to know all drop-dead, good looking single men.

Dearest Hannah…excellent co-worker and fellow enthusiastic bar attendee.

She always made it a point to become friendly with the bouncers.  Occasionally…not often…but occasionally…Hannah could get a “little carried away”.

That was when the bar’s ‘friendly force’ was good to know…and if that ‘force’ happened to be handsome and single…it was a plus for Hannah.

Doyle’s new bouncer certainly fell into that category.  He was tall and no stranger to the gym.  He had dark, golden brown skin and intense brown eyes.  There was a small scar on his right cheek.  He also wore no wedding ring which, of course, made Hannah very happy.

But as good-looking as he was, he always looked so serious.  Come to think of it, I had never actually seen him flat-out smile.

I had seen him frown though…even look angry…at me…like last night.  Sigh.  Crap night.

It was about a month ago that he had shown up at Doyle’s.  Hannah always asked the new bouncers to dance…and so after a couple of weeks…she had approached him.

Very few men refused the beautiful Hannah…and yet…

“Bouncers aren’t allowed to dance at Doyle’s,” he politely explained to her.  And that was a complete lie.

Most of them did dance at the beginning of the night.  I think it was just to get the feel of the crowd and to blend in a little.

Then a little later…just for fun and because Hannah dared me…I also asked him to dance.  He had paused for a couple of seconds and I thought he was going to say yes…

But then he said “No.”  And he just walked away.  No polite lie to me.  Nothing.

Maybe it had something to do with my spotting him a couple of days earlier at the Minneapolis Court House where I was doing some follow-up on a story for the newspaper where both Hannah and I worked.

He looked really disheveled and was surrounded by 3 or 4 Minneapolis policemen.  They were all talking and then he looked over and saw me standing there.

I was about to smile that ‘friendly little smile you give people when you don’t really know them all that well…but you don’t want to be rude and ignore them  smile’…you know what I mean?

Then…all of a sudden they put hand cuffs on him and led him into the jail part of the Court House.

I quickly looked away.  But he had seen me.

 

“The Day After The Night Before” Chapter 3

The Paperback Edition…

It had been the one year anniversary of my mother’s death.  She had been killed instantly by a teenage girl texting a friend.

The girl blew a stop sign going 45 miles an hour and never even braked.  My beloved mom was only 53.

She had been walking home from Peterson’s Java Cup with a medium latte in one hand and the latest copy of US magazine in the other.

The driver’s text said, “I know I’m late will hurry.”

That one short sentence…which wasn’t even a proper sentence…killed my mother instantly.  Gone forever…my ‘mommy’, my teacher and my ‘forever always’ best friend.

That stupid text changed my life in way too many ways.

And so last night…in an ironic tribute to my mother who never drank…I had had too many whiskey sours.   Four?  Maybe 6.  Too many for sure…

Even Doyle’s new bouncer was giving me looks and the bouncers at Doyle’s never give me looks.  I’m the good one.

I seem to recall tossing out some drunken words of philosophy before faithful friend Hannah…ever so gently…pulled me toward the back door exit.  I don’t know…

I actually can’t remember.  But it seems like something I would have done last night.  Crap night.  Junk night.

Do I even remember his name?  I think I met him…

“The Day After The Night Before” Chapter 2

The Paperback Edition…

I had read someplace or perhaps been told by one of my  journalism professors that if you plan on writing “The Great American Novel”…which incidentally, I actually did…you should always carry a notebook or some other kind of recording device with you at all times in order to remember anything you may find memorable.

However…for the past year… weekend mornings had not proven to be very productive… or perhaps just not memorable.

Sometimes I was lucky to just be able to read the scrawls that I had “so importantly” jotted down the night before.  I picked my notebook up and blinked a couple of times to clear my vision.

My little notebook was not the standard reporter’s notebook that I always carried to work each day…stuffed into my messenger bag.

That size notebook would be too bulky to carry into bars or restaurants plus it would attract a lot of attention.

My “little notebook” was small enough to fit into any of my handbags or even the back pocket of my jeans.

These days I almost always just wore jeans and a tee shirt.   The color varied…black or white.  In the winter I added a blazer or jacket.  If I had a meeting…which was rare… I added a scarf.

It was pretty basic…some might even say boring…but it worked for me.

I flipped the notebook open and placed it in front of my half-opened eyes.  Squinting a little, I saw that I had only managed to scrawl on two pages and neither page had any of my trademark exclamation marks…well, well…

Two pages were hardly worth the effort it would take right now to decipher.  I was pretty sure it was just junk anyway…

I had been in a junk mood yesterday.