“THE DAY AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE” Chapter 1

The Paperback Edition…

I slowly opened my eyes.   A little sliver of light was trying to peek through the edge of the shade covering the window in my bedroom that over looked my back yard.  Normally, it was a pleasant light, but this morning it hurt my eyes,  so I quickly closed them again.

A few vivid images of a more than slightly out of control young woman dancing with abandon at Doyle’s last night flashed through my mind like a movie trailer…yeah, that was me.  I winced…a bad movie trailer.

I remember pulling out the little notebook I always carried and then writing down  my observations on all the drunken people around me.

They were dancing and drinking and…being mostly drunk myself…not knowing how pretentious I appeared and in fact…was.

But last night I did not care one straw.

I wondered what nonsense I had thought was so wildly insightful the night before when 4 (maybe more?) whiskey sours had given me such a false sense of importance.  Whatever it was it would be in my notebook.

I carefully and slowly turned my head on my pillow.  Lately I had had too many mornings like this one to know how painful a quick turning of the head could be.

I was…unfortunately…becoming very learned in the art of drinking…

And there it was…lying on my bedside table where I had thrown it last night.

“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 6

The Paperback Edition…

“The Parents”‘  first attempt at ‘parenting’ was to volunteer at my 7th grade “Welcome Back to School”  dance.  This was, incidentally, was my first foray into “socializing” on a grander scale than play dates with neighborhood kids.

Two weeks before the dance, “The Parents” descended unannounced upon a clueless Principal Nelson…he was such a nice, normal man.  I believe he took early retirement…

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 unfortunately fallen into a deep crevasse.  As the story went…all three bodies were never recovered…so Karlie and younger sister Tobey were now being lovingly raised by a grandma named Sylvia…so you can just call her if anything came up.

This compellingly sad tale had been created by our highly imaginative grandma Sylvia after a couple of glasses…perhaps more…of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both Karlie and I thought it was a very sound plan and we all heartily 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 then 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 check and see if they would be needed.”  He then rose to politely show them the door…vaguely remembering a sad tale involving a sherpa and Mt. Everest…and he pondered this as he walked toward the door with them.

However...”The Parents” were on a mission and ‘parenting magnificently’ had become their Holy Grail.   They were not going to be turned away…

So they made sure of being ‘needed’ by donating $200,000 toward renovating the teachers’ lounge and also gifting the school library with another $200,000.

This generous gesture of goodwill insured that no more questions would be asked on whether or not they would be needed.

They were more than ‘needed’…they were now revered.

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

 

 

“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.

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 9

The Paperback Edition…

Four years have passed since that tragic day and I am now tucked into my very own apartment that walks out to a courtyard with tall evergreen trees now beautifully covered with snow…watching the next to the last episode of “The Housewives of New York City”.

“The Parents” are sitting on a book shelf right next to my TV.  They are surrounded by all my favorite books and favorite pictures of them as well as photos of Karlie, George, Annie and Cantor…and, of course, my best friend Emma.

I have a “Family on the Shelf” as opposed to an “Elf on the Shelf”.

I keep “The Parents” for a couple of months and then they journey over to Karlie and George’s house where they sit in an equally revered place.  It seemed like a better idea than…you know…separating them…like eggs.

But now it was very late…scenes from next week’s episode were running.  I clicked the remote off

I stood up, stretched and turned off the lamp beside my chair.  I dropped the blinds but not before appreciating again how peaceful the falling snow looked.

I put the chain lock on my door even though I know in my heart of hearts that a chain is  not going to stop a crazed man from entering my cozy little abode and stealing my super swell TV…or worse.

But nevertheless…I would hear him and be able to stealthily pull my always fully loaded Glock out from my bedside table and blow him to smithereens…HAH!!  I have no gun.

But at least I would hear him…

I flipped the hall light on and walked down the hall.  The full length mirror at the end  was there for a purpose.  I gave myself a B+…which considering the events of the day was pretty damn good…in my world anyway.

I fluffed my hair like I always do when finding myself in front of any mirror and then walked into my bedroom and paused…

I clapped my hands twice and my bedside light went on.  Yes.  I have “The Clapper”.

Don’t laugh at  me…

 

 

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 12

The Paperback Edition…

I slowly drew my hand away from the little head of my ‘apparently not dead’ cat.

“So,” I whimpered, “It’s just me…I’m dead alone.”  My eyes started to burn.

But then, out of the corner of my now watery eye,  I noticed the black ‘whatever it was’…starting to sway a little and change its shape.

It looked like it was extending a hand out to me.

“OH NO!!  OMG!!  IT’S THE HAND OF DEATH.” I shrieked.

As the hand appeared to move closer, I shrank back against my pillow.  I felt like I should do something…like run somewhere to avoid this…death thing.  Could I…?  Should I…?

But, hey…I was not going to be the ‘classic dumb girl’ in those stupid horror movies.

You know the one I mean…the terrified girl who stupidly runs down the basement to hide…and then…to no one’s surprise…gets chopped into little pieces..

Does this building even have a basement?

“Noooo,” I whined loudly as the ‘hand’  moved even closer.

And then suddenly, Emma stood up, turned toward me and walked up my legs.

She put her two front paws on my shoulders.  We were totally eyeball to eyeball.

“Relax, Tobey.  It’s not death.  It’s one of your guardian angels.  It’s actually your main guardian angel.”

“And…by the way, the correct phrase is ‘the Hand of God’ not…’the hand of death.'”…said Jennifer Lawrence.

…since that is exactly who my cat Emma now sounded like…and…I noted…she had a slight Southern accent.

Emma then licked my nose, dropped her paws, turned around and walked back down my legs and again curled up at the foot of my bed…in ‘her’ Bradley Cooper tee-shirt.

“Not dead then…?” I asked in a trembly, squeaky voice.

“No,” said Emma…very firmly.

I exhaled loudly.  “Okay good!  Really good and great.”

“His name is Fred.  Like in Rogers.” said Emma.

“Oh, Jesus.” I mumbled under my breath.

“No…Fred.”

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 15

The Paperback Edition…

I looked from my dear ‘talking cat’ Emma to Fred my ‘no longer invisible guardian angel’ and then let out a huge sigh.

This was crazy…maybe not really crazy, crazy, according to Fred but…you know…crazy nonetheless.  I mean…really…what was going on?

It appeared I had a talking cat…who was talking to my guardian angel named Fred…who also talked…and… and…my mind was spinning.

I glanced over at the clock on my night table.  Crap!  It was almost 2:00 a.m. and I had to be up at 7:00 to get ready for work.  I had the early shift at  The Book Shop tomorrow.

“No you don’t,” said the all-knowing Fred.

“Margo closed the shop because of the snow storm…remember?  She called earlier…just before ‘Housewives’ ended.”

“Oh, right, right,” I answered quickly, remembering and then thought to myself, does he know everything?

“Yes.  Yes, I do.” said Fred…and his voice sounded like he was smiling…if guardian angels can smile…that is.

“Well look,” I said in a very matter of fact manner, trying to remain calm, trying to wrap my mind around this completely nutso night.

“I don’t want to dismiss the importance of you,” I said as I nodded to Fred.

“Or you, Emma,” I said as I scratched my little cat under her chin.

“But…I do need to get some real sleep after this strange dream…so…good night, sleep tight all, sweet dreams…it’s been fun.”

And I quickly laid back down on my pillow…still not completely sure of my sanity…but giving it a try anyway.

“Not a dream,” Fred whispered very softly.  “Not a dream.”

I took a deep breath and then another and then closed my eyes.  After a few minutes, I ever so slowly opened them and peeked over my covers to the corner of my bedroom where Fred had been hanging out.

He was gone!!!!  Fred was gone!!!!  It was a dream!  I knew it!  Thank God!!!

“Shall I pass that on to Him in person?” asked Fred as he floated in from the hallway.

Fuck.

 

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 16

The Paperback Edition…

“WHY AREN’T YOU GONE?” I screamed as I sat bolt upright in bed and leaned towards him, hands waving in the air as if to make him go away.

“I never leave,” Fred said very calmly.   “You are my job until you die.  That’s the rule.  I don’t make the rules.  I just do what I am told.  I am an excellent obeyer of rules.”

I sighed, completely and utterly exasperated.

“But…but…I can’t have you just watching me,” I persisted.  “All…the…time.  It’s already bothering me…”

I decided to try the sympathy approach.  I’m sure a little wheedling will go a long way…  I’ve been told I can wheedle with the best of them.

“Stop wheedling.  It won’t work.  I have to watch you.  Watch OVER you is the correct term..to be precise.”

“You are going to drive me to drink!!”  I shouted at him and then thought…hey…what a great idea!

I slipped out of bed, being careful not to disturb the now very sound asleep Emma, flipped the hall overhead light switch on and trudged slowly toward my kitchen.

I knew there was an almost full bottle of Jim Beam in the cupboard that I occasionally used if I was having trouble getting to sleep.

It didn’t happen very often…but still…I had the bourbon just in case…and now seemed like a very appropriate time…very.

I reached up and took the bottle down from the shelf over the sink and then turned to open another cabinet to get a glass.

“JESUS CHRIST!!!!” I yelled and almost dropped the bottle of whiskey.

Fred was hovering right behind the breakfast bar…not two feet away from me!

“I’m sure He heard that…by the way.” Fred said with a hint of reproach in his voice.

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 17

The Paperback Edition…

“WHAT are you doing out HERE?” I cried.

“And what part of guardian ‘watch over you’ angel…do you not get exactly?” asked Fred with just a hint of snippiness in his voice.

“I ‘watch over you’ ALL the time.”

I pulled out the breakfast bar stool and started to sit down and paused a bit to give Fred a not so friendly but rather meaningful look.  He wisely drifted slightly away toward the patio door.  He seemed to sense I needed some space…and why wouldn’t he?

I opened the bottle of Jim Beam and pored a couple of inches into my glass.  I took a sip…it was AWFUL!

I got up and walked over and opened the freezer.  I scrounged around and found some ice cubes in a bowl and tossed them into my glass.  I returned to perch on the stool.

“Here’s to livin’ the dream…” I said and I raised my glass in a toast to Fred.  He swayed a little.  I nodded back.

“If I go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow…will I remember any of this?  Will you still be here?” I asked.

Fred didn’t say anything for a minute or two.  I sensed that he might be thinking…or  perhaps not…

But then he said, “I don’t know…and…definitely yes.”

I took a bigger sip. It wasn’t that bad now…with the ice.  I swirled it around a little.

“I’m not sure I can handle this,” I said hesitantly…and stared at the bourbon in my glass.

“Oh…you’ll be fine, Tobey.  You’re pretty tough.  You have to remember…I’ve seen you in action…during the good times and some very bad times…I’ve been with you your whole life.”

“…I hugged you when you cried…helped you create new swear word combinations when you were furiously angry…I tried to steer you away from people who were not good to you or good for you…and I even let little words of encouragement and love from your mom and dad seep into your subconscious when you were sleeping.”

“I even helped you get this job and this apartment.  I could go on but I don’t want to brag…too much.”  Fred swayed from side to side…obviously very proud of his accomplishments.

“Wow!  That’s awesome!!  And you didn’t need…like…permission to do all of that…right?”

“Oh, no,” Fred said confidently. “That fell totally under my job description.  I can do a LOT of stuff.”

My glass paused on its way to my mouth…brain now seriously engaged in full speculation mode…