"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated"--Mark Twain
A couple of years ago, one of my retired coal miner friends was in a restaurant upriver and chanced to mention that he needed to get hold of me and get another copy of my book. The grouchy older man in the next booth turned around. "You can't," he said. "She got divorced and moved away a long time ago."
My friend was a little startled by that, but not nearly as much as he was when he was in the same restaurant the next day and the same guy (who hung out there almost 24/7) yelled "You can't! She's DEAD!"Fortunately, Dan decided to call and see who answered the phone, so he
figured out that Mr. Hangout was telling whoppers, but it hadn't stopped there. Over the next few months, an old friend didn't send a Christmas card, and when I ran into her, seemed really startled. Someone had sent her an obituary with my name on it. My editor thought I was dead, but couldn't remember who had told her so. The best one was a woman who mistook me for my cousin and asked how my husband was doing since he was a widower...and whether he was dating yet. I had to go around all that spring scaring people out of nine years' growth because Mr. Hangout was so busy with his wishful thinking.
After the initial surprise, I took to asking people what they'd heard happened to me. You know, you kind of expect to hear you shuffled off your mortal coil from some regular middle-aged disease or a run of the mill accident. Hoo boy, if I had the kind of life in the stories Mr.
Hangout told, I'd never run out of short story material! The first part of it never varied: I had dumped my husband and kid and run away to...at first it was a little town near here, then it was
Chicago, and eventually it was New Orleans. I got into all kinds of wild adventures, then got killed driving drunk in Hurricane....errrr...Ivan, or maybe it was Katrina, yeah, Katrina, and it happened because I was not only drunk but trying to rescue the contents of my business, which
was...uh, this is a family-type column, and we won't go into that (and I most likely wouldn't have gone into a business like that.)
The details varied, but all of the stories were a heck of a lot more interesting than the truth. Now and then, some of those stories sound like brief and wicked fun. Just think about barreling around the midnight city in a muscle car, wearing one of those outfits Elvira, Mistress of the Dark looks so good in. The rest of the stories always sounded cribbed from a soap opera, the kind where people get married every five minutes, run off to Europe with no apparent qualms about who is feeding their cats, and never have to stand in line at the airport arguing about whether a crochet hook is a deadly weapon. It was even a little flattering to think I could have made
money...errr...doing what he claimed I'd been doing.
But you know what? I'll take real life for as long as I get it. For those who haven't checked in on his column since we used to print the dead tree edition every Tuesday, I still live in the same place with most of the same neighbors, still have the same husband (the only one, 26 years and counting), still have the same offspring, even if he is a teenager now, and still definitely do NOT have the body for those Elvira dresses.
Good Lord willing and the creek doesn't rise (and if you know where we live, you know why we take that literally) I'll check in here every week with my usual train of thought, way off the rails, and I promise not to run off to Chicago with a traveling salesman.