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Our noses are touching.
“But, I don’t want to play golf,” I say.
“If you try golf, I’ll try skiing,” he says.
My mono vision has turned Sven into one giant uni-brow and a pool of blue and green eyes with little flecks of brown.
“Okay, I will try golfing.”
“Do you promise?”
I will do anything for Sven.
And then we kiss.
“I thought you were Norwegian.” I say.
“Then why can’t you ski?”
“I am from Dane,” he says.
“ROW LOW,” she said to my mother.
“ROW LOW,” she said again.
My mother just stared at her.
“ROW LOW,” she said, another time, a little bit louder and a little bit slower.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said my mom.
Her sister repeated it and this time she turned up the volume another notch and she slowed the word down even more.
Susie waited with her hands on her hips for a response.
“Susie, for Christ’s sake. If I don’t know what a ROW LOW is, it doesn’t matter how loud you say it.”
This conversation took place in the hospital waiting room, during a dark time. It seemed that my grandmother was soon to pass and to pass their anguished time, her adult children were, sitting, staring, pacing and going on occasional trips to the vending machine.
“Fine,” her youngest sister said. “Then, I’ll just go and get some.”
Susie returned a few minutes later and held up a package of Rolo’s.
“Millie Noe, come on down.”
Life is a game show.
I prefer stories.
And I don’t even care that all those people brought all that luggage on a three hour tour. Or that Giligan was a dweeb and Ginger was a slut.
And, just like all the other girls, I wanted to be MaryAnn.
But unfortunately, I am more like Lovey, now. Only, without all those fur coats and suitcases of money.
When I was in grade school, I loved math. Who didn’t like those multiplication flash cards? I would yell out the answer to six times eight, before the whole equation was even fully exposed. I was just like one of those annoying people you see on Jeopardy, who hit the buzzer before Alex Trebek is even done reading the question. If an adult were to ask me, “Millie, what is your favorite subject?” I would very firmly say, “Gym.” And then if they were to say, “Well, your favorite subject, after gym?” I would immediately answer, “Art.” And then if they were to continue with, “Your favorite subject after gym and art?” I would answer, “Math.”
And adults seemed impressed by this.
“Oh, she likes math. Did you hear that?”
But after having mastered the time tables, almost like a genius, came division.
They tried to make division look like it was going to be a lot of fun by drawing that big seven up on the chalk board, so we would think that we were going to play a game of hangman. For those of you who don’t know about the big seven, it was called long division. And for those of you who have not played hangman, I pity you.
One minute we were hanging upside down from the monkey bars with pigtails and pixie cuts, singing, “It’s about time. It’s about space. It’s about your, ugly face.” And then it was 1975 and the eve of our high school graduation.
Our class partied over night, beginning the day before the ceremony, in a park by the lake, where I slept on one of two benches that were set at a ninety degree angle. I was head to head with a guy I’d always had a little bit of a crush on. That was the last time I ever saw him and our final conversation, before we slipped into acoma, was about the big dipper.
The next morning I wandered into the house, looking like shit and my mother was all like, “Call Jason. He’s been dialing this number every half hour. And where have you been?”
“Sleeping on a park bench.”
Here is the thing.
In 1975 you were legally an adult at eighteen and I’d been eighteen for two and a half months. I was practically middle aged. So, if I chose to sleep on a park bench, I could sleep on a park bench.
Life then, was nothing like it is now. We all spent the night in that park and the only person who was upset about it, was my boyfriend.
Later that day. I met up with the rest of my class in the gym and all four hundred of us marched into the stadium with our headaches and our gowns. We listened to speeches. We walked up on stage. We shook hands with a bunch of men and women in suits and we were handed our diplomas. Back in our seats, we moved our tassels over to the left and then we threw our caps into the air, all at the same time.
He was five. He had freckles and he liked to climb trees.
I was five. I didn’t have any freckles. And I liked to climb trees too.
He was going to be a fireman and I was leaning towards becoming an astronaut.
We both liked boys and we were planning to marry and raise thirteen of them.
His name was Danny.
No. Not you, Danny.
And Danny was REALLY funny.
He was the first and only mime I have ever known. He could hold a nonexistent needle in one hand and no thread in the other and pull that invisible string through that imaginary teeny-tiny hole in that needle and then stick the sharp end of that fake thing into the outside of one nostril and then pull it through his nose and then out the other side of his other nostril. Then he would take what you could almost see in each hand and he’d pull it back and forth and back and forth and those nostrils of his would flare out one at a time, following whatever direction he pulled that nothing in.
It looks like it’s already starting in this photograph.
See how Louisa peers into the camera, but I don’t stop tying my shoe.
And what is up with her cheeks?
Every year our family would pile into the station wagon and take a trip to Red Goose Shoes. It was a BIG deal.
First of all there was a talking parakeet in the store.
Second of all, you got to pull on a rope which would then drop a golden egg into your hand and that golden egg had a prize inside.
And thirdly, when you walked out that door, it was with a string tied around your wrist and a helium filled balloon on the other end of it.
So, it’s no wonder I ended up with an addiction to shoes.
Never mind that we always had to get the same old durable, dependable, black and white, saddle bagged things.
I didn’t care.
Congratulations ‘Future Brown Noser’ on completing ‘Basic Office Safety’.
The new kid with peach fuzz has this certificate hanging on the outside of his cube.
BASIC OFFICE SAFETY.
Does that mean there are intermediate and advanced classes too?
I don’t recall taking this course when I joined the ranks.
That’s a pity. I could use a few more plaques, certificates and awards to hang on my barren walls and to display on my not so heavily trophied desk. And this one seems like it would be pretty fucking easy to attain.
I can almost hear the instructor.
“Now remember class, be sure to put your protective eyewear on when reloading your staplers. Don’t forget that paper has sharp edges. Respect your paper. Keep all food away from keyboards. Look both ways before merging into the hall. Slow walkers keep to the left. Secure your lids on hot and cold beverages when exiting the cafeteria. Don’t throw pencils. Do not lick the electrical outlets. Do not run with scissors.”
I’m positive I could ace that test.
There was a mandatory safety course included with the training I had before I stepped foot out onto the plant floor, where I spent ten accident prone years not only making a living, but also making a difference.
“Stop, Look, Listen.”
That’s what they taught us.
I think that might have been that CPR class.
The day I made reservations at Le Sofitel, I had no idea I would be making them in a foreign language.
When she answered the telephone I was caught off guard. But not a problem. I did study French in high school after all. And since graduating nearly a hundred years ago, I’ve even made up some of my own words.
So after the madame rattled on about, I have ‘non’ idea what she was rattling on about, I managed to hang up the phone with a confirmation number.
The hotel was located in Rosemont Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and my sister Louisa and I were heading there for a weekend, to help my son Rene with a video game tournament.
And or, also, to P-A-R-T-Y.
Now, unless you already know me, you don’t know about my driving skills.
So it was a big deal that I was driving the two of us to Chicago. Okay, Rosemont.
We took off in a hurry that Friday after work and just as we departed it began to sprinkle. Soon I was clenching the wheel because it was pouring.
Along the way we did our usual sister shit, talking about … I don’t know, just stuff sisters talk about.
And then the wind picked up and then sheets of rain were coming at us sideways.
And then, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, a toll booth popped up out of nowhere through the rapidly slapping windshield wipers.
“Millie, get in the right lane,” screamed Louisa.
“I can’t,” I screamed back.
Louisa is amazing. She can drive anything, a car, a golf cart a go cart, a minivan, a truck, a bus or a boat. If it has a motor she can drive it. Even if it has a clutch, she can drive it. But Louisa wasn’t driving now, was she?
So, we blew right through the toll booth in the I-Pass lane.
I have no sense of direction.
As in none.
So, it was not a surprise to me when I heard snickers while navigating my way out of a maze, just after a chair massage, which had taken place in an upstairs office. It was behind some offices and then I had to take a right, or perhaps it had been a left.
I’ve always been leery of massages. I don’t like awkward.
But, I’ve been sitting in front of a computer day after day, year after year, for years and it seems in the last decade that I have begun to turn into stone.
So sometimes for the greater good I just have to get past myself and let a little bit of awkward into my life.
That is why about five years ago I accepted a gift of a massage.
“You’re going to love it,” she said.
I was all butterflies on my way to the appointment, but the thought of somebody kneading my aching shoulders for ten solid minutes with no strings attached, got me to it.
My instincts had been right. It was awkward. But once we got past the introductions and I was all situated in the chair, things did start to improve for awhile.
At first it felt beyond words wonderful. But then the guy’s hands went below my shoulders and they were nearing my ribs. I am so freaking ticklish. Alarms started going off. All my brother used to do have to do was point to my side and I would run out of the room screaming. If I were holding a baby in my arms and someone poked me in the ribs that baby would go flying.
Panic set in. I didn’t know what to do. Do people laugh during massages? I mean, what exactly is massage etiquette?
The first time I ever saw her was more than twenty years ago. I didn’t like her. I didn’t have any reason not to like her, I just didn’t. She had the thickest pile of red hair that I have ever seen hanging almost to her waist. It was ninety degrees and humid as hell and we were standing in the factory. Sweat was dripping into my eyes and seeing her mane of fire made me so hot that I thought I was going to faint. She was wearing black clothes and black eye make up. I think she was Goth before Goth was Goth. After that day, I never gave her another thought.
It’s a shame that I did not write when I was young. That way I could have recounted that canoe trip ending with nothing left to eat but deep fried potato chips while dressed in very stylish, extra large garbage bags. Or the time we hitch hiked back to the car and were picked up by an Indian driving a station wagon so crammed full of his family that a little girl had to be placed on my lap and then he drove straight to a bar, cashed a check and bought us shots of whiskey. Or that time that a sudden onset of the munchies put Sven and I in a very precarious situation as we came upon a set of number two rapids with our little gas camp stove teetering between us in the canoe, sloshing around a boiling pan of Ramon Noodles. Or that time we set up camp in complete exhaustion after paddling for hours through Holcum Flowage on a fourth of July weekend where jet boats with matching 250 horse motors, towing water skiers, could not seem to see us. And then later realizing that our hammock, the one that I was lying in, was strewn across a public hiking trail. So we had to tear the entire place apart, pack up the canoe once again and go back out onto that same lake where people had been trying to kill us all day long. And then there was the time when Sven tried to kiss me inside an outhouse that reeked of outhouse, but just so happened to be the only dry place our shriveled bodies had been for two super soaker rainy days and nights and I said, “I don’t even like you.”
That was then. This is now.
Today I’m going to tell you about our road trip to sunny, sunny Florida where spring breakers and old people go to have sex on the beach, to party like it will never end and to watch the weather channel.
And it all started because of Sven’s ONE AND ONLY FACEBOOK FRIEND.
See: Must Be Strong and Must Be Strong II right here on www.millienoe.com for further explanation as to how someone has just ONE Facebook friend.
To this point in time, Fred, the one and only Facebook friend and his wife Grace live peacefully in Slidell Louisiana.
Sven and Fred became acquainted in the Coast Guard Academy when they were kids and were reunited a year ago, forty years later at a Coast Guard Academy Golf Tournament. Since that get together Sven has a new found interest in staying in contact with this poor unsuspecting man, Fred and now his innocent bystander of a wife, Grace.
Sven and I have been vacationing in really cool, faraway places in recent years.
Here is a picture from Jamaica two years ago. Doesn’t this look like fun?
In order to save money and to take care of much needed house renovations we did not travel anywhere last year. (The house renovations NEVER took place.)
When Sven mentioned something about going on a trip somewhere near Slidell Louisiana, I, me, Millie Noe, did not take kindly to the idea.
“What about Puerto Rico or The Dominican or Curacao? What about those all-inclusive resorts that are right on those blue-green Caribbean waters?” I screamed.
After a couple months of heated debates, spinning of the globe, one of us stomping around the house, a phone call to Fred, searching online for a place to stay, our trip was set. Destination: Six nights, Panama City Beach, Florida, one night, Slidell Louisiana.
That is called compromise. Congress should give it a try.
At this very moment I am sitting on the beach in front of the Sunbird where we have rented a sweet one bedroom apartment right on the water.
I cannot believe that tomorrow we will already be leaving these white sands and these blue waters and we will be making our way to Louisiana. Where did the time go? What did we do?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Our first night on the road I was a bobble head. I was excited before my alarm went off that morning and all through the hectic work day. I gobbled down a sandwich at my desk trying to tie up all loose ends which were unraveling as fast as I could tie them, because that is the way it is just before you go on a vacation. It’s a state law or something. One must suffer when one shows any sign of life outside of the gray walls and the fluorescent lights. But I made it through work. I raced home. Hunter and I sprinted around the trail. I zipped through the living room with the vacuum. I swooshed the mop around the kitchen. I gave last minute instructions to our house sitting grandson. I kissed him goodbye. I kissed Hunter goodbye. I yelled goodbye to Mai Mai, we jumped into the car and we sped away. Fifteen minutes later I was having trouble holding my head up. I do remember a guy in Illinois making some wild and undetected by Sven, gestures at Sven and then I woke up in Effingham, Illinois.
When in Effingham it is impossible not to call everything, effing. And everybody effing knows this.
We got the last effing room at a Best Western Hotel.
The next thing I knew it was Friday, it was cold, it was dark and it was gray, but no matter, we were headed to sunny, sunny Florida to have sex on the beach, to party like it will never end and to watch the weather channel.
As we were cruising along in our little KIA, I heard them say something on the radio about it being the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower.
Me: Doesn’t it seem like the Eiffel Tower should be older than 125 years?
Sven: That seems like an Eiffel long time to me.
Me: Oh my God. It sounds like you’ve been in Eiffing-ham. You should have your own comedy show on the radio.
Sven: There would be a lot of dead air.
Me: But when you are funny, you are hilarious.
Sven: I could call my show, The Monk .
Sven was referring to my favorite joke ever. In case you haven’t heard it, here goes. For those of you who know me and this stupid joke you might as well read it. You know you want to.
“You see, at the monastery the monks had taken a vow of silence. But every year one monk gets to say one sentence. The first year goes by in complete and utter silence, just working and praying and working and praying and then the day finally arrives where one monk gets to talk. He stands up at the breakfast table and booms out the words, “This oatmeal is too hot.” The other monks look at each other and all nod in agreement. Another year goes by and a second monk finally gets to break the silence. He stands up after breakfast and he declares, “This oatmeal is too cold.” The other monks look at each other and all nod in agreement. A year later another very lucky monk stands up to speak. He clears his throat and he says, “I am sick and tired of all the bitching about the oatmeal.”
It gets me every effing time.
Anyway, road trips can be tough. It’s hard to keep from going crazy while riding shot gun, God forbid the back seat, through gray, brown, flat terrain, not even a bud on a tree. So to keep from ending up in a straight jacket, I began to text, looking at Facebook and emailing on my cell phone.
My sister sent me a text that said, CALL ME. So I tried to call her, but she was already on the phone.
“What?” I said.
“You called me.”
“No I didn’t.”
“I’ve been listening to you two for a long time. I’ve been yelling at you because you called me and I’ve been trying to get your attention. Couldn’ t you hear me yelling?”
“No,” I said. “And I didn’t call you.”
“Yes, you did.”
This is when we tried to text each other during our phone call. “Okay,” I said. “Wait, I’m sending it right now. Did you get it?”
It’s too bad that we couldn’t make it work because who wouldn’t want to be talking to someone on the phone and have them say, “Wait a minute, I’m going to text you the next sentence. Did you get it?”
After our failed experiment I began to take a series of vacation photos from my view and I sending them to Louisa.
Do you by any chance remember where this story began?
In case you have forgotten, I was sitting in front of the Sunbird, on the beach, soaking up the sun, living the dream and writing this story. Well, just now, as in this moment, I looked up past my sunburned knees and saw two dolphins playfully swim past. They dove under the water and resurfaced twice. Nobody else around me seems to have noticed. This totally makes up for the time that I was on the air boat to the Keys with Sven and my parents and as we made our way slowly through a channel before switching to warp speed, everybody on board AND on shore were oohhing and aahhing at a bunch of dolphins, except me. No matter how hard all of the people pointed, I could not see them. By the way if you have ever fantasized about riding on the wing of an airplane instead inside in your crammed seat, I highly suggest you take an air boat to the Keys.
Fred, you one and only Facebook friend, you’d better be FUCKING awesome, because tomorrow we are leaving this beautiful place and by no fault of your own, to visit you and your poor, innocent wife.
But where was I with the road trip?
Oh yeah, Sven and I spent the second night in Dothan Georgia after all day driving and texting and we ordered Mexican takeout and we pretended the food was good.
We popped out of bed Saturday morning with less than one hundred miles to Panama City Beach. After having breakfast with a woman who was on her way to Milwaukee driving a van load of teenagers who’d invented a contraption to open a zipper in fifty eight steps, we got in the car and drove to our destination without a hitch. And even though all the forecasts on all the weather channels were calling for doom and gloom and rain for Saturday, Sunday, Monday and part of effing Tuesday, the sun was trying to come out when we pulled in.
We weren’t supposed to be able to get in to our apartment until 3:00 P.M., but damn it to hell, the very congenial owner called to let us know that we could get in early, just as we’d settled ourselves on the beach where the sun was making a CAMEO appearance.
We had to get moving. We had friends from Pensacola coming to stay with us on our first night there and they were in route. We had unpacking to do and supplies to pick up, quick.
So, we dropped off our stuff in the cute fourth floor apartment and made our way to the invisible Super Walmart that was on the other side of the million story hotel across the street.
The woman in the office of the condo said, “You can buy your groceries and walk back here with the cart. They come over and pick them up every day.”
Sven: I think we should just drive over there. I don’t want to push a cart back.
Me: No,we should walk. It’s too nice to drive and we won’t need a cart.
So, two beach chairs, a couple beach towels, chips, pretzels, salsa, salt, pepper, bacon, eggs, OJ, milk, bread, butter, yogurt, lunch meat, mustard, mayo, and shitload of beer later, we were pushing our worldly possessions along in front of us on the bumpy sidewalk that you wouldn’t know otherwise, slanted toward the road.
Along with our friends from Pensacola came the rain. But no worries, we spent the afternoon getting caught up over cocktails and snacks. Then we drove through windshield wipers for dinner. Karen pointed at a Saloon and said, “Look there’s Coyote Ugly. I wonder if that’s the place where they made that movie.”
I said, “What movie?”
She said, “Coyote Ugly.”
I said, “Never heard of it.”
Dressed in Red, we watched the Wisconsin Badgers get knocked out of the final four in the last seconds, by one effing point on T.V. that night.
The next morning after drinking enough coffee to make our teeth float and to pee every ten minutes, we drove to Pier Park where we shopped and then ate seafood at an outside café under an umbrella that kept three out of four of us dry, before Thom who’d picked the wrong chair, and Karen got ready to head back to Pensacola.
After that Sven and I then set out barefoot on the beach on that cool, overcast, breezy afternoon where we watched spring breakers drink out of funnels and stagger around in teeny, tiny swimsuits and beads.
A few hours later, we rinsed the salt off our skin, changed into street clothes and went to check things out. And there it was, Coyote Ugly.
It is very likely that Sven and I are the only two people in the world who did not know what was about to happen. I mean, how were we supposed to know that those two cute girls tending bar, dressed in cowboy boots, and very minuscule amounts of clothes that were ripped into shreds in very strategic places, exposing lots of cleavage and tons of skin would one minute be talking to us and then mid-sentence, on cue, look at each other, climb up on the bar and dance P-R-O-V-A-C-A-T-I-V-E-L-Y, in step with each other and then on their knees right over the top of and right in front of my poor Sven?
And remember, always practice safe sex.
It also caused the very cool and very effing sunny Tuesday not to be all that enjoyable. Sven went golfing in the morning while Millie went to the beach in a sweatshirt. And then we watched the weather channel and then we walked to a restaurant through gale force winds for dinner and then we went to bed to listen to the waves come crashing in. We were lights out before the middle aged dancing neighbor guy who lived on the bottom floor, always in shorts, an open shirt, a string of beads, a glass of bourbon in his hand and a sparkle in his eye, was even finished with some kind of a drunken, screaming, rampage. In the morning we weren’t sure if the yelling ended so suddenly because our eyes slammed shut or if someone just shot him. But I spotted him two days later. Same outfit. Same drink. No friends. I felt bad for him. That’s just the way I am.
Wednesday morning was beautiful. Even the flag that had been nothing but red warnings and sticking straight out in the wind since we’d arrived was yellow and it flapped gently in the breeze.
Oh yeah baby, that’s what I’m talking about. Sven went golfing and I immediately ran out and got myself a good old fashioned sun burn.
Our plan that night was to make a Red Snapper fillet and baked potatoes. But it was also time for a bit of responsibility. We had laundry to do. So, like any self-respecting baby boomers, we did it. And the only way to do your laundry while on vacation, is with a little help from your friends. Don’t look at me like that.
Anyway, I’m not sure if this is really that great of an idea, no matter how old of an idea it is. After throwing our clothes into the washer it turned the seemingly simple chore into something that was quite complicated. I ended up writing a note and sticking it on the refrigerator door since I knew we’d be in and out of there.
I also very cleverly hung my purse on the door knob so that we couldn’t possibly forget to take the the condo key with us even though we weren’t planning to lock the door. What we really could have used was a blinking, neon sign inside the elevator. Do you know that no matter how many trips you take up and down those four floors, someone has to push a button or you ain’t going to go anywhere? I’m serious. The counting out of the quarters is something I cannot possibly recount. But somehow we got our clothes all dried and back up to the room. Life was good and then Sven sat down right on top of the pile that I’d just folded.
The Red Snapper and the baked potatoes were out of this world, done to perfection. Unfortunately we do not remember how we made it.
We woke up with another beautiful, warm and sunny day in front of us. That is today. I will finish the rest of this story once I know what happens.
It was a rinse and repeat of the day before excluding the laundry but including another red snapper and baked potato which we tried to, but could not duplicate in taste. We fell asleep one last time to the sound of the ocean and the weather channel. And then it was time to pack up and go to see Sven’s one and only Facebook friend.
We arrived in Slidell close to 3:00 and were greeted with open arms and cold beers. As far as first impressions go, you can’t beat that.
Grace and I sized each other up while Fred showed Sven his back yard which is on the golf course. All of the really cool works of art in their seriously beautiful home are originals, by their extremely talented son. We learned a little bit at a time about each other as we made our way to the effing French Quarters! Now if you want to make an even better first impression on me than open arms and a cold beer, taking me to the French Quarters will earn you points that cannot be surpassed. Holy shit. What a fun afternoon that turned one out to be.
There is so much electricity in the air, urine in the streets and just plain old fucking awesomeness in New Orleans that my heart skips a beat just thinking about it now. We saw Captain America, a transvestite who was getting a little pissy because Grace couldn’t make my camera work for a picture of us together, a kid standing on the corner belting out the blues, a woman wearing nothing more than paint, two guys playing chess on the sidewalk, people selling shit, people walking around with instruments, people drinking, people dining at little tables half in and half out of restaurants spilling on to the sidewalks, the music, the jazz festival, the balconies, the flowers, a tap dancer, signs, signs and more signs and then, THE VOODOO STORE.
Now, I’m guessing that in order not to make a weird impression when you barely know somebody you probably should not jump up and down and say, “Oh, A Voodoo Store. Can we go in there?” Maybe it would be all right if you were into Voodoo and you wanted the other person to know that you were into Voodoo and if perhaps the other person was into Voodoo too. But if someone doesn’t know you from Adam, doesn’t even know how you effing landed at their house in the first place and then you blurt out Voodoo shit, I think it could freak them out.
But Grace, gracefully ventured in there with me and I scored some excellent research material for my project titled, Johnson Toast, Private Eye. That is, it’s excellent as long as I don’t get too scared reading it. Chapter One, so far is going well.
And then it was Oysters on the half shell, a ride back to Slidell and out for dinner where we shared lots of laughs and great food.
In the morning Fred and Sven were in a golf tournament. Sven doesn’t like to talk about it because apparently he hit the ball a lot of times. Well, how else are you going to show your stuff if not by demonstrating it over and over? Guess he hasn’t heard that more is better.
And then it was goodbye.
Sven and I found ourselves back on the road with a daunting trip in front of us that I was sure would take for-ucking-ever. But obviously it did not. Otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here and writing this.
By the way, did you know that if you drive 70 mph through Memphis where the posted speed is 70 mph, it is much like the parting of the seas?
Dan had explained to me at the same kitchen table how sorry he was. He didn’t know what had made him fall in love with Lucy. It had just happened, he’d said. Maybe he and I had been too close from too early on. Maybe we fell in love at too young an age and had smothered each other and kept each other from experiencing the world.
We both cried. I threw up. He left and I threw my favorite cobalt-blue vase against the wall. I couldn’t call anyone I was so devastated. I managed to get into my car and drove to Miller’s for a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of gin. I’d never smoked until that night, and to this day gin hasn’t touched these lips again.
The next day my family and friends came to my rescue and they have never really quit trying to save me since.
Dan has been very generous. I’m sure it’s purely out of guilt for breaking me in half. We never got a lawyer. He gave me almost all that we’d owned together. He and Lucy both made more money than I would ever come close to. The cottage was mine. He paid off my car and bought a new set of tires for it. All he took was the crappy Ford Escort that had the big dent from the deer I’d smacked into, and he drove off into the sunset with my life. For almost two years he mailed me a check for no other reason than to soothe his own conscience. I couldn’t touch that blood money. It’s still sitting in a separate savings account collecting interest on pain.
I watered not only the red impatiens in the front yard, but also the small flower bed off the back deck that was full of black-eyed Suzannes and the remains of daisies. I dead-headed the other potted plants on the deck and watered them too. It was eighty-two degrees by the thermometer and there were just a few puffy clouds in the sky.
The deck above the boathouse looked inviting as always under the shade of the oak growing next to it, and the short pier of just three sections, with the bench built for two, looked bright, sunny, and scorching hot. Being a Monday, the lake traffic was light. The water was calm.
An artist at heart, I knew I had to begin writing while my mind was reeling and my adrenaline was flowing. The boathouse deck was the place to go. Later I could clear off my desk, dust off my computer, start it up, and organize all of my writing paraphernalia.
It took a couple of trips up the steps to bring the necessities. I had my big white plastic bag from Books For You and a glass of iced tea with lemon. That was more for effect than anything. Next I grabbed my sunglasses, an ashtray, a lighter, a box of Triscuits, some cheddar cheese spread, my jack knife, and the little broom to sweep the cob webs that would start to come back as soon as I’d finish sweeping them away.
I chose one of the five new writing tablets and a pencil to begin. I needed time to ponder, so I lit a cigarette and placed it in the ashtray on the smaller of the two wooden spool tables seated to the right of my lounge chair.
I began to carve the perfect writing tip with my jackknife. It’s a drawing ritual that I use, and it seemed to be the right thing to do. Maybe Stephen King does the same.
I’d been in such a hurry after the initial scare of my loss of confidence at the turn of my car key that I hadn’t even bothered to change out of my work get up. Too late, I thought. Stay right where you are missy.
1976 – Misfit
“Everyone who lives here is a misfit,” Charlie said. He was standing in front of the dryer at Charlie’s Hotel, cupping his blotchy hands around a cigarette that he was about to light.
He was the closest thing to a father figure that I had in Gardiner. He had a calming voice, was witty and was pretty good at making me laugh. Sometimes he even got me thinking. I never saw him dressed in anything but jeans, button down shirts with rolled up sleeves and cowboy boots. Whenever he left the premises he wore a cowboy hat over his faded silver and strawberry woven hair and his knees were always bent to nearly ninety degrees whether he was sitting or standing. He was my boss and he was my friend.
His wife Jean had hired first me and then Louisa as maids. Every day we took a mid-morning break. Jean would signal to one of us that it was break time and then that maid would pass the news on to the other maids and then we‘d all gather in the little kitchen next to the office and drink fresh hot coffee and munch on cookies, brownies or coffee cake.
While we were piling on calories, Jean would sit back and sip on a cold protein shake through a straw swinging her free leg that was draped over the one that was crossed underneath her. I liked to study the intricate pattern of the day on her expensive boot as we swapped jokes and stories for those coveted fifteen minutes. None of us maids were in any rush to get back to scrubbing out toilets. Our breaks often stretched beyond fifteen minutes and into twenty.
The week that Charlie and Jean went on vacation, they left the business in the hands of their daughter, Ellie. That week our breaks ran especially long. Ellie was a good friend of blue and brown eyed Lucy, of the Corner Café. So, during our mid morning breaks Lucy would join us in the little kitchen. She of course never ate any food, saving her all of her Weight Watcher points for light beer and Ellie was following in her mother’s footsteps of sipping on protein shakes. So there were always seconds and thirds for us maids to eat while listening to the wild tales of the older girls who were in charge of the place. That was a fun week and Charlie’s Hotel was still standing when Charlie and Jean returned and then our fifteen minute breaks returned to twenty minutes.
Each day after the rooms were cleaned, I would join Charlie in the laundry room. Due to my exquisite work performance and just plain showing up every day, I’d been promoted to head maid and helping out in the laundry room was part of my responsibilities. It was the first promotion I’d ever gotten in my young life and along with the prestigious title came more money.
“Why do you say that everyone in Gardiner is a misfit?” I remember asking him as I pulled an easy to fold, warm pillow case, out of the cart.
“Do you see anyone in this town who you would call normal?”
“Well, if what you say is true,” I smirked. “Then that means that you are a misfit too.”
“That, I am.”
“Do you really think you are?”
“Of course I do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
“Then you must think I’m a misfit too.”
“Well, you are here.”
While I was pondering his accusation he said, “Millie, being a misfit isn’t a bad thing. It just means that you’re different; that you listen to a different drum. I would rather be a happy misfit than an unhappy fish out there swimming up a stream with a bunch of other unhappy fish who think they know where they’re going.”
“Do you know where you’re going?”
“Sure I do. Nowhere. I like it right here, in the land of misfits.”
I thought about what he’d said. The fresh smell of bleached air, the washer window filled with white suds and white towels, the steady beat of the dryer clinking and clanking, the warmth of the pillowcase in may hand and Charlie’s voice were all very calming to me. I decided that I liked it here too. I was never going to leave. I guessed he was right. I was a misfit. I was a proud misfit.
I dug around in the cart for another warm pillow case and pulled it out.
Charlie exhaled smoke and said, “You know you’re going to run out of the easy stuff at some point, right?”
The Yellowstone River was in the back of the hotel, down a steep bank. The rushing of it drowned out the noise we made as we traipsed along the sidewalk day to day, from room to room pulling the cleaning carts and vacuums along behind us. More than once Louisa and I were trapped inside a room and had to wait out a big horn sheep that had come a grazing in the yard.
“You take the high road and I’ll take the low road,” Louisa used to say to me on our way in the first room of the morning.
The high road was what we’d named, making up or stripping the beds and dusting the living area. The low road is what we’d named, cleaning the bathroom. God, we hated the low road and the pubic hairs that came with it.
It didn’t matter if you had the high road or the low road in the first room, because we alternated. It made it seem like we were going faster by working together, although I don’t think we actually were. We didn’t spend as much time per room, since we had two bodies working them, but there were still the same amount of rooms and the same amount of bodies no matter how you added them up. Whether one of you started on one end of the hotel and one started on the other and you worked your way to the middle, or if one of you took the high road and one took the low road in each room and you went from one end to the other, it still took the same amount of time. We were paid by the hour anyway, so it made no sense to see how fast we could finish, but that is exactly what we did, every day.
Charlie was very specific about how the rooms were to be cleaned. “This is a triple A place you know. Inspectors could show up anytime,” he’d say. “We always have to be ready.”
No toilet brushes for the maids. We used bleach cleaned rags and our rubber gloved hands. Charlie was certain that a person could clean more deeply with their hands than with any brush swishing around in there.
“Always wipe the faucets dry after washing them. Make them sparkle. Never leave a drop of water in the sink or on the counter. Dust everything in the room, even if there is no dust. Spray the Lysol Disinfectant into the air in an S-like motion, like this, all the way to the door before leaving.”
He was having a hell of a time with the newly developed waterproof mascara and the deep red shades of lipstick the guests were wiping off on his whiter than pristine snow washcloths and towels. He usually got them back to a crispy bright white by the time he was through with them. If he couldn’t, they became our new toilet cleaning cloths.
The week that we had to deep clean and spit shine the place because inspection time was approaching, we washed every window inside and out. We vacuumed and scrubbed every wall. We took apart every light fixture and dusted all the grates on all the heaters. We wiped out each drawer and dusted off every Gideon’s Bible. We were there all day long, every day that week and we made lots of money, but boy, did we work for it. The most awful job that still gives me the heebie jeebies was taking each mattress off each bed and vacuuming out the springs underneath. And that, my friends is where the term spring cleaning originated. It was at Charlie’s Hotel in Gardiner, Montana, in 1976.
“What happened to your sister?” Charlie asked me one afternoon. He’d seen me going from room to room without my side kick.
“Oh, Louisa? Yeah, she went home. She wasn’t feeling the best.”
“Uh , yeah, I think so,” I lied, remembering her slithering down the wall and sliding under the bed in slow motion, her golden blonde hair and freckles disappearing from sight and then her feet were sticking out on my side like the bad witches. We’d been taking the high roads together that day, each of us on either side of the bed stripping off the sheets. Louisa was sitting out the low roads completely. She thought if she had to deal with any pubic hair she would puke for sure.
After I’d pulled her out from under the bed she went home. Then I had to remake the thing. We’d been rolling around on top of it in total hysterics, laughing about her ridiculous condition. I was mimicking her. “I won’t be late Millie!”
I’d seen her at the K-Bar the night before. She was dancing in front of the juke box. Louisa wasn’t an in front of the juke box dancing kind of a girl. I’d said, “Louisa, don’t forget you have to work tomorrow. You can’t be late.”
“Oh Millie, don’t worry about me,” she’d snapped. “I won’t be late.”
She was right, she had not been late.
2010 – Steve McQueen
Mom and I decided to check out the Two Bit Saloon. The stone wall on the outside looked the same as it had, but the upstairs had been converted to a bar with a restaurant and a rafting business. The upstairs was in business, but the whole downstairs was no longer in use.
The girl in the restaurant let us pay the downstairs a visit. I’d explained to her that I’d lived in Gardiner thirty years ago, when the lower level had been the main hang out and a magnificent dance hall.
We descended the old wooden stairs and walked right into a time capsule after passing a bright red painted door leaning against the wall.
Training your dog, Mille & Sven style.
HOW TO STOP THE BEGGING
Give him whatever he wants, before he has a chance to ask.
The best way to keep your dog from begging is to give him food before he has time to beg. Hunter always helps with meal preparations. This way he is busy digesting while I eat my dinner. When I am finished with my plate, I will add another scoop, set it on the floor next to his dish and kiss his snout to signal permission. Then he licks my plate clean, which is perfect because his next duty is kitchen clean up. This daily chore along with guarding the house from sounds that only he can hear, (See: HOW TO STOP THE BARKING) are the way he earns his keep. It also makes him feel useful. A high sense of self esteem also prevents unnecessary begging.
Sven has a different but also very effective approach to the, keep your dog from begging, rule. He completely ignores Hunter, even as he licks his own plate clean right in front of those big sad eyes. But, between each trip that Sven takes to the oven for seconds and on occasion, thirds, there are plenty of food particles to be found on the floor next to where Sven’s feet had been planted. Hunter dutifully cleans this up.
WHEN TO WALK YOUR DOG
Whenever he wants to.
This is quite simple really. It’s just plain old common sense. For instance, when I get out of bed I take him for a walk. Or when I come home from work, or from shopping, or from a party, or from skiing, or from Jamaica, or from having oral surgery with a frozen mouth and a bag full of drugs (like right now). This would be the time to take my dog for a walk. It doesn’t matter if the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a perfect seventy-five degrees or 42 degrees below zero. What I am trying to say, without using a cliché, is, come hell or high water, whenever I walk in the door, Hunter and I must go for a walk. Because he wants to.
When I am sitting at my computer and trying to accomplish something, like right now and I hear the tapping of his overgrown nails (because he doesn’t care to have them trimmed) making their way toward me, like right this second, and he rests his head on my lap, as in this moment, I have received the seven minute warning. Dog minutes are just as screwed up as dog years. To a dog, seven minutes is really one. And one minute is really seven seconds. My advice at this point would be, heed the seven minute warning. If not, very loud barking will ensue.
Excuse me. I’ll be back in about a half an hour.
Sven on the other hand takes a completely different approach, as usual. To him it’s all about a pooping schedule. He also likes to take Hunter outside when the moon is full and the rest of the world is curled up in bed or snuggled under a blanket, watching a late night movie. He does this to make sure that Hunter understands that all hours are open for walking, day and or night.
EARLY MORNING BOWEL MOVEMENTS
Not for Millie & Sven.
There is one time of the day that no one in our house goes for a ‘walk’, except Hunter, that is. It is the quiet time just before the sun is up, between five and six, depending on the season. The coyotes have finished their yipping and the other wild critters are still sleeping. The neighbors and their dogs across the highway are inside and silent. The dump hasn’t yet opened and the gun club hasn’t started shooting up the place. The world is still.
Neither Sven nor I are willing to drag our asses out of bed to walk like zombies behind some idiot with a tail who sniffs God knows what until finally deciding to circle around and around and around just to take a dump. We prefer to complete our REM sleep. They say this sleep is important and we are very health conscious. So, Hunter is on his own for his early morning shit. One of us, the worst actor of the morning who pretended to be sleeping a little worse than the other guy, simply snaps his collar (the one with his phone number) around his neck, opens the door and wishes him luck.
He’s tall. He’s dark. He’s Johnson Toast, Private Eye.
Johnson Toast has been lurking around for more than a year. All I know about him is, he’s a detective and he is involved with voodoo. I know nothing about detectives or voodoo. I’ve written, The Beginning. Once you read it you will know as much about Johnson Toast as I do. I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. You wouldn’t leave me all alone with a private eye I don’t even know with an f’d up private life, running into God knows what out there in Voodoo Land, would you? This could get scary. Help me write this. All ideas are welcome. Thanks.
Chapter One – The Toasted Bagel
“Johnson Toast?” She said with a light hearted giggle.
“Ha-ha, very funny,” muttered the forty-something guy, not looking up from the newspaper spread out on the kitchen table, his Benjamin Franklin reading glasses on the tip of his straight nose.
“I’m serious,” his sister answered. ” I said, do you want some toast?”
“I’ll take a half a bagel.”
Johnson Toast went back to the article that had caught his eye. It was about a carpenter named Jack Bender, who’d gone missing. The man only lived a few houses away. He was on the same block, kitty corner in the back. Jack was the type of neighbor that Johnson waved to, but that was about it. As far as Johnson knew, it was just Jack and his dog, Ginger who lived there. Ginger was a mutty kind of a thing. Looked like a mix between a beagle and a Rottweiler. She was the more popular of the two. Although dogs were not supposed to roam the streets unattended or off leash in Cedar Cove, Ginger did. It was no fault of her own of course. It was that irresponsible owner of hers who had complete disregard for the rules, but that didn’t make Ginger any less likeable. As a matter of fact she was considered to be everyone’s dog. It was not unusual to see her walk out of any of the neighboring houses after having invited herself over for dinner. She was a regular at the Toast residence whenever Johnson’s sister was in the mood for stroganoff. Laney liked to cook and she’d thought that her brother was getting a little too gaunt after Angela had run off with that young guy she’d met at the coffee shop, after five years of what Johnson had considered to be a blissful marriage.
Laney, Johnson’s youngest sister had eased herself into his spare bedroom a little bit at a time after she and Carter had split a few years back. She was only going to stay until she could figure out what to do and then she did figure out what to do. She hired Jack Bender to finish off her brother’s basement while Johnson was away on a much needed two week vacation. The remodel was complete with two bedrooms and a family room down there, so that her semi delinquent sons would be more comfortable when they came to stay on weekends and for the summer.
Johnson was miffed with his sister and her surprise. She jabbered on and on about some big change at the house that he was going to just LOVE, all the way home from the airport. He never liked how she referred to it as the house instead of his house. Weren’t guests supposed to call it, your house? He knew it was all over when she’d put the blindfold on him and walked him to the bottom of the stairs. He was a private eye. He’d already seen the traces of drywall dust on his black tarred driveway when they’d first pulled in. He could smell the fresh cut two by fours, new paint and carpet from the top of the stairwell.
“Do you like it?” She’d asked when he’d removed his blindfold and surveyed the damage.
“Nice,” he’d uttered.
“I thought the boys could sleep down here and this would be a great place for them to play their video games and watch their own T.V. shows. This way if they want to invite a friend or two over they won’t all be underfoot. And of course this will only add value to your property when we move out someday. It’s a win-win.”
2010 – Making the Rounds
After lunch when I stepped out of the K-Bar Café and into the sunshine, Mom was there waiting for me.
“Well?” I said.
“Well?” she teased. “Are you talking about a hole in the wall?”
“Oh for the love of God,” I said, “Let’s go find the bakery.”
Highway 89 comes into the north end of Gardiner from Livingston. It becomes the bridge that expands over the Yellowstone River which cuts the town in half, then it turns right at the stop sign at the top of the road by the Sinclair Gas Station. Across the street from the Sinclair Gas Station are rolling hills and then mountains and Yellowstone Park. This section of Highway 89 is lined on the right with businesses and the left with mountains. If you were to continue on this road, it would veer back to the left and then it would lead you to The Roosevelt Arch, which is the gateway into Yellowstone Park. Electric Peak is part of this scene and it’s a mountain I remember well, after staring at it daily, sitting at a table in the front room of the bakery, which had been located in that very row of businesses.
They use to call my Dad Lucky and I still wear his old bowling shirt with his nickname embroidered across the pocket.
It was a spring afternoon and I was sitting at my desk reading an email that came with a trail that was a mile long. It originated in the shipping department, had made a full circle around the world, then it went back to the shipping department again, and then it came back to me. I was just about to forward the message I’d initially typed, “The wood samples from Mexico have not passed inspection and until they do, I will not sign my John Henry,” when my phone rang. It was Angel in Human Resources. She said she needed me to come to her office right then.
Angel was the girl with the long dark hair and big brown eyes. She was twenty-five and her ample cleavage made up for any shortcomings she may have possessed. I was old enough to be her father. But I wasn’t.
2010 – Livingston
Mom and I didn’t have far to drive that Sunday morning but a lot happened in the short distance. It started when an asshole came up behind us in a Hummer and rode my bumper like we were hooked together. I couldn’t move over to the slow lane just then. I had my cruise control set at eighty miles an hour and there was a car in the right lane that I was in the process of passing. All of a sudden the jerk behind me did the classic asshole move and weaved into the very narrow opening that only he could see and he sped past us on the right, right past Mom’s window before slipping in front of us by inches. In that split second Mom made eye contact with the man and flipped him off.
“What are you doing?” I yelled.
The spiders sat with fine hairy legs splayed in all directions. Some hung in the web. A few were sprawled on the floor, and two juveniles’ long legs stuck to the drywall. They were hypnotized by the sight of the long legged ancient story teller, nearly two weeks old, about to speak. It was New Years Day and they were in the loft of a big house located in the heart of the Midwest.
It’s the first morning of hunting season and I usually wake up to the sound of a gun-shot.
For years Sven and I have loaded up the dog, first it was Leonard, then it was Dakota and now we have Hunter, into the car. We drive a few miles to our cottage, park the car and walk the dog on a leash in a quiet neighborhood with nicely paved streets, mailboxes to piss on every twenty feet and plastic bags in our pockets to pick up the dumps.
Sven and I share a love hate relationship with dogs. We can’t live with them and we can’t live without them. We’ve been managing to live without them for more than a year until the other day when I heard a sad story about a dog in need of a home. Parents split. I mentioned the word dog to Sven and he said, NO WAY. I said, okay. Then he said, so what’s the dog’s story? So then I told him the dog’s story. So then we wrote down all of the reasons why we should not have a dog.
Sven: Did you just take a picture of the counter?
Sven: Why would you do that?
Me: To put in my evidence folder.
Sven: You have an evidence folder?
Me: Of course I do.
Sven: What else is in there?
Me: Mostly pictures like this one.
It is yellow glove season already. It’s here and I am not prepared. I don’t even have a yellow glove basket ready. The yellow glove basket is still down in the laundry room with a mix of winter gloves, hats, mittens, scarves and a stray sock or two.
I think it’s gonna be all right.
Yes, the worst is over now.
The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball.
Remember that song?
It was by the Cyrkle.
I was doing the dishes with my brother, Calvin. I was washing and he was drying. Only he wasn’t drying. He was too busy snapping me with his towel.
And we were singing along with The Cyrkle.
But we knew the words.
I was sitting on a chair holding a coffee cup the size of a thimble.
It was filled with black gold.
I took another sip.
My ears began to ring.
“Would you like some more?” she says to me in her thick Portuguese accent, long shiny black hair, dark eyes and bright white smile. She was holding a beautiful porcelain coffee pot in her hands.
“No, thank you,” I stammered.
I covered my doll house cup and saucer, containing what I later learned to be, espresso.
One Friday evening, not so long ago, Sven decided to change a light bulb.
It was the one on the fan in our bedroom.
The one that is next to the skylight, way up there on the cathedral ceiling.
Therefore he brought a ladder upstairs to do his handy work.
“Do not take that away,” I said.
One should never let an opportunity such as a ladder in one’s bedroom slip away.
There were four of us, my sweet Sven, Burt, Claudette and myself, staring into the yellow, orange and blue flames.
A car came down the road.
It pulled onto the grass out front and stopped.
A door shut in the distance.
“Hi,” says Jack rustling through the leaves behind us.
We turned around.
“What’s going on?”
He pulled up a metal lawn chair and opened a beer.
And then there were five of us staring into the yellow, orange and blue flames.
One Sunday, back when I was in sixth grade, I hopped on my bike and I pedaled my way to school.
It was located at the top of a very long and steep hill.
What I didn’t know until that day was that our school was not at the top of a very long and steep hill. Our school was at the top of just one of a series of long and steep hills, on a road that never really ends.
But I’d never had a reason to go beyond the building that held all those teachers who taught me how to sound out the words in the fun filled adventures of Dick and Jane.
How to add and subtract.
How to multiply.
And, well, they did their best with division.
Until that Sunday.
And now, will the third place winner, please step forward?”
Something went wrong out there in the universe when all those particles that were less than tiny were spinning and twirling and swirling around. Because at the end of it all, my dog came out of his mother’s womb, a cross between a German Shepard, an Italian opera singer, a storm chaser, a yellow lab, Mark Spitz, Rin Tin Tin, an ostrich and a chow.
So, it is not his fault that he is annoying.
He can’t help it.
As his human mother, I am very proud to say that he does not waste any of his God given talent.
He is a prodigy.
I, as his nurturer, understand why he spends so much time pacing around the house practicing his earth shattering, booming notes. If he could only get on a stage where he belongs, he would absolutely bring the house down with all his bellering.
He’d be famous.
A world renown opera singer.
A super star.
Move over Pavarotti.
Remember the operator on Laugh-In?
Back in my mother’s day that was how you made a call.
You went through Lilly at the switchboard.
My earliest recollection of a phone was a square, black, rotary one, sitting on a stand.
To make a call you had to pick up the mouth piece very quietly in case the neighbors were on the line. And you could only answer it if it was your special ring.
But the future came flying in fast.
By the time I was in fourth grade we weren’t on a party line.
By middle school the curly cord had grown to six feet.
By the time I was out skipping class and shopping for my homecoming dress there were super cool slim lined phones, with push buttons. And they came in all kinds of colors, including turquoise.
But even those fancy designer phones didn’t cut it.
They were too restricting for the modern times.
I miss the flowers.
Don’t you wish you could go back to a time when you read your newspaper, the one with ink on it, that turned your fingers black, with your cup of hot coffee in one hand and your cat traipsing back and forth across the portion sitting on your table, rubbing against the section you are holding up and trying to read?
And then just when you get to the part of the story where you have to switch over to section 11A, where you are going to find out the details of that love-triangle-triple murder, the one with blood everywhere, a woman stabbed thirteen times, a loverboy with an axe stuck in his forehead, and an estranged husband on the floor no longer breathing due to a frying pan with what had been sizzling oil, in his face and the unfortunate way he landed on a salad fork that was sticking straight up in that pile of silverware, because that drawer was spilled a little earlier, and your sweet little kitty-cat, pops her fuzzy little face to the inside of your newspaper and you can clearly see that she is going make a kink in it, which will make it a struggle to turn over to 11A, without refolding a map, so to speak.
So you try to catch it before that happens.
It was a Friday night.
Fall was in the air when Sven and I arrived home around eight o’clock.
Our oldest son, who was closing in on fourteen, was busy entertaining friends.
Music was was drifting out the upstairs window as we parked the car.
We looked at each other.
There was no TV in the loft.
So it was rare to ever find a kid there.
But on that evening there were four of them.
Two of which, were girls.
“Hi Mom,” says Marques when I got to the top of the stairs.
“Hi,” I answered.
And then Sven and I were introduced.
“We’re going to walk them home,” says Marques a little while later.
Here is the thing.
Our house is located in the middle of nowhere.
“Where do they live?” I said. “We can give them a ride.”
Sven pokes me in the back.
“Nicolette just lives in the Grove, Mom. We can walk there. We do it all the time.”
That was a lie. That kid had never walked to the Grove.
My cell rang.
I pulled it out of my pocket, looked at the name and let it go into voicemail.
“Please God, just let me listen to this message.”
All I have to do is look at a call and my phone dials the number.
I got to the part where I had to type in my secret password.
My secret password is so secret that I have a hard time remembering it.
But that morning I tried my birth date.
I listened to the recording.
“Millie, I want to thank you for saving my life last night,” I heard Big D. say in his slow and easy voice, right out of the deep dark yonder. “You have no idea what I might have done if you hadn’t come along. Someday I would like to buy you a cup of coffee. God Bless you.”