On a typical street in a typical Midwestern town a man hides from life and his past. Read how a chance encounter leads a man on a path where he will eventually come face to face with the one person he fears the most...himself!
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House On Paddock Lane
Darkness surrounded me. Headlights. A car. My thoughts were confirmed
moments later when I peered through the window while on one knee. I saw a familiar
face get out of the vehicle and approach the house. It was Mary! But how?
Stunned and in shock I steadied myself and stood up. Groggy and shaking like
a freezing child, I made my way through the darkness and headed towards the door. I
fumbled for the light switch without much success. I did, however, find a half finished
glass of tequila. Within seconds, it was a finished glass of tequila.
When I looked up Mary was inside the house standing in the darkness of the
narrow foyer. I hit the light switch and nearly passed out by what I saw. She was
standing motionless wearing the exact same outfit that we had buried her in nearly two
months ago! Her face was badly decayed and a sickening stench emanated from her
rotting corpse. I looked her squarely in the bone filled hollows of what once were her
eyes. I became weak and queasy. I turned around and tried to run, but she grabbed
me and hurled me to the floor.
"Look at what you did to me, you selfish son-of -a-bitch! Then you go and
murder my baby!"
She stepped right over me and went upstairs. Moments later she came down holding a
limp and lifeless little baby. She bent over and grabbed me by the hair so that her rotted
face and a dead Angela were in full view.
"Look at us! Look at us!" She screamed at the top of her lungs.
I just lay there in terror not knowing what to do, wondering how my life had
gotten to where it was at this exact moment.
The sunshine, mild breeze and clean smell in the air made this day as close to
perfection as one could ever hope to get. Throw in Mary and perfection was found. It
was a Friday and I was spending my time and wasting my life at one of my newest
hideouts, the Firehouse Tavern in the O'Hare Marriott.
I first saw her through the bottom of my beer glass. I put my glass down to make
sure what I just spotted was real. When my original glimpse of her was confirmed, my
troubles seemed distant along with any desires of getting a refill. She was sweet
looking, yet businesslike. She had class and style, yet she seemed approachable.
So, without hesitating I walked towards her with purpose. And with the smug tone
of a game show host, I said, "Hi, My name is Gary Kohl." She slowly looked me over
and popped right back, "Hi, I'm Mary Sommers. Are you here for the medical
"No. I'm a local and I'm here for the drink specials." She looked at me for a
moment and laughed. Then there was a strange silence between us.
Moments later a crazy look came over her face. She laughed, paused and said,
"I was just about to order some dinner would you like to join me?" For the next five
hours we ate, laughed, talked and drank. It was a blend of spicy gestures and subtle
comments that when mixed all together, would produce a fantastic evening and lead to
a memorable weekend.
That chance introduction and impromptu dinner turned into a Saturday morning
breakfast downtown, followed by an afternoon spent at the top of Chicago's John
Hancock building. A romantic carriage ride through the heart of the Gold Coast and a
fun filled dinner at McDonald's where we fed each other French fries.
But what took place after that would alter the course of my life forever.
Take away the alcohol, I thought to myself, and Mary was still very much a person
I could be in love with. And as my luck would have it by the end of the weekend she
was feeling the same way.
"Gary," said Mary in a somewhat sad voice. "Last night after dinner I just hated
for the night to end. Tonight, I don't want it to end. Would you like to come home with
me?" I looked as deep into her eyes as was humanly possible. We kissed for the first
time. I paused and took in this wonderful moment.
"Mary," I said, "I could not think of a better way to wake up and spend my Sunday
than with you." We stood there holding and hugging each other on a beautiful spring
day in a big beautiful city. We slowly walked hand in hand down Michigan Avenue. I
thought to myself how the last fifteen years or so of my life had been peppered with
pain, shame and confusion.
Now, as I walked here with Mary holding my hand, it was if I had finally found a
way out of all of that pain. Things could only get better I thought to myself. I was falling
in love. It gave me a purpose.
Security filled my lungs with every breath I took and spread a feeling of calm
throughout my entire being. Life was at last...awesome!
Mary lived about forty miles north of Chicago in the town of Libertyville. It was a
beautiful community. Trees, families and parks along with spectacular homes were
what I immediately noticed about this community of about twenty-thousand.
Before we got to her house, Mary suggested we stop and do a little grocery
shopping. She wanted to fix me a special breakfast in the morning! As we walked
around the store I could tell that these were people I wanted to be around, well-dressed,
well-mannered, well-educated individuals.
Libertyville was the kind of town that I was looking to be a part of for as long as I
could remember. A strange feeling came over me. I felt selfish and shameful at the
same time. I was impatient and had little tolerance for people. As far as I was
concerned, this town and these people were it and Mary was going to be my vehicle to a
long and prosperous life.
Sunday started out as perfectly as Saturday ended. The breakfast Mary prepared
was fit for a king and that king was me. I truly enjoyed Mary's company. She was a
wonderful woman but sooner or later our conversation would take on a more serious
The fact of the matter is I have been around the block and beyond. I have woven
such a confusing bag of tales that even I do not know the truth about myself anymore. I
come from a good and decent family, I have enough education to get by but I have
always seemed to end up falling further and further behind in life instead of making my
mark and getting ahead.
Women, jobs, friends and addresses have come easy to me, but for some
strange reason they seem to dissolve just as quickly. Whether I am unable to fit in and
conform, or I just refuse to, seems to elude even my complicated thought processes.
But the truth is, women like Mary are a limited quantity. Sooner or later, the hairline gets
smaller, the belly gets bigger, and the wit along with the charm eventually becomes
That is what my dilemma was on this most special of mornings. I do not want to
lose this woman or jeopardize this unique town along with all of its perfect people. I
want to someday share the pedestal with those whom I idolize so much.
My abuse--or as I like to put it--my over-indulgence of alcohol, and my inability to
accept friends has not served me well. I do feel that something else besides all of the
booze is to blame. I can remember being messed up before all of the liquor took center
stage. Hell, as far as I'm concerned, alcohol got me through some of the roughest
moments of my life.
No matter what I think, the moment of truth between Mary and me was fast
approaching. I sat on the couch and finished my morning coffee. I stared straight ahead
and looked at the clock. I wondered if there was a way I could delay the inevitable.
I just hate surprises. But the surprise Mary hit me with that morning turned out to
be almost as good as stopping time.
"Gary," she chirped from the kitchen. "I have a confession to make. Last night
while we were on our way home I phoned my neighbor and asked her if she would mind
taking care of a little friend of mine."
"What?" I asked in a confused tone.
"I was going to tell you last night, but it truly slipped my mind. You see, Gary, I
have a four year-old Golden Retriever. Her name is Goldie. My neighbor, Beth, is
divorced with a couple of kids and she is always bugging me about taking Goldie for a
night, so I figured last night was the perfect opportunity to make everyone happy.
Goldie is a great dog but she can be a little possessive and can kind of get in the way. I
am afraid I am going to have to run up the street and get her in a couple of minutes Do
you forgive me? I mean, I am not sure how you feel about dogs."
"I love dogs Mary, I really do!"
"Great!" Mary said in a relieved tone. Within minutes we were off to pick up
Goldie. The truth is, dogs love me more than people. I felt a sense of relief, because
obviously, this pooch meant quite a bit to Mary. So, logically I assumed that if Goldie
and me hit it off, I would be a shoo-in with Miss Mary.
When Mary knocked on the door of her divorced friend Beth, I loved Libertyville all
the more. Beth was tall and had the sophistication of an English queen. Along with her
dark flowing hair she had matching eyes that sparked my curiosity and naughty side.
But enough of Beth. No sooner did I come to my senses when I was attacked by a large
moist tongue. Yes, I think it was safe to say that Goldie and I were going to hit it off.
When I looked and saw the expression on Mary's face I knew, at least for now, the
moment of truth would remain a mystery.
Once back at Mary's place, we all settled in for a quiet afternoon of television. It
turned out to be very quiet indeed. It took no more than fifteen minutes for Mary and
pooch to fall into a deep sleep. I could not help but be touched by the sight of Mary
sprawled across the couch along with man's best friend by her side.
With the sunshine splashing across the room and the birds singing cheerfully
outside, I nearly started bawling. It was a beautiful moment. A picture that normally
would come from the brush of a famous French painter who lived and remained true to
the meaning of love.
Life at its finest is a wonderful gift. Life at its cruelest is painful, devastating and
harsh, while all of the simple moments in between normally go unnoticed. I did not want
this moment to end. I felt wonderful and secure. I also felt I did not deserve this fine
woman and the fantastic lifestyle that came with her. I just lay there thinking. Minutes
later, I too, had nodded off into a deep sleep.
What seemed like twenty minutes was actually two hours when abruptly out of a
deep sleep the phone rang. Mary sprang up, fell backwards then sprang up again. I
slowly stretched and leaned over to give Goldie a little belly rub. I smiled at Mary and
then I was off upstairs to go to the bathroom. When I started back downstairs, I thought
I heard shouting. I stopped halfway down the stairs, not meaning to eavesdrop, when
my original suspicions were confirmed.
Mary was yelling at the top of her lungs. I sat down on the bottom of the steps for
a couple of moments and then, without warning, I heard Mary scream at the top of her
pretty little lungs "Leave me alone!! It's over!! Do you hear me?! Over!!!"
I was nearly stampeded when she tore around the corner to come upstairs. "I think
we need to talk," she said in a serious tone followed by a few tears.
The moment of truth, I thought to myself, has arrived. I followed her upstairs. If all
the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again, than all the
charm and all of the smarts in the world were not going to do Gary a damn bit of good.