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Katy Byed

by Charles C Cole

I was on the other side
Of no tomorrow
You walked in
And my life began again
— “Doctor Wu”
by Donald Jay Fagen / Walter Carl Becker

In my unsophisticated and astonishingly philosophical social circle in wooded central Maine, there’s a surprising and occasionally accepted rural folktale about an unknown, reclusive, supernaturally-powerful author who scribes compulsively and in such fits of excruciating detail that, well, life literally drives off the page and into our convenient town!

New neighbors or businesses show up one day to our otherwise quiet community with the consistently stagnant economy, and it’s the only reason that almost makes sense! Why else would total strangers uproot themselves from everything familiar and transplant their disparate existences to a cold, stark isolation from the rest of the modern world?

It could happen, I suppose. I mean, it’s not as fantastic as the fairly grandiose ideas I’ve heard from my traditionally spiritual friends. I’m just happy this paperback creator conjures benevolent slice-of-life entities, quirky fish-out-of-water flatlanders, and not speculative fiction tropes like an indestructible opportunistic monster who can disguise himself as a trusting friend just to get you alone to implant an alien larva in your ear. I digress.

My own origin story tends more towards the mundane, with a dash of proto-working class melodrama. I never knew my biological parents: I was told my father went to jail before I could walk and my mom left me for a swimsuit-perfect oceanside mulligan with some intensely handsome surfer-suitor she’d met on the internet, to languish where it’s a good deal warmer and sunnier, minus our heartwarmingly distinct seasons, without the additional hassle of raising a barely potty-trained toddler who was, admittedly, completely dependent on her for nurturing, sustenance, and clothes: existence. (No pressure, Ma.)

Flash forward roughly a decade and a half. Now that I’m sexually mature enough to co-parent the newest diapered demographics, and a few of my classmates have actually done so, though unintentionally, it would be monumentally insensitive of me to cast unwarranted aspersions southwestward at my distantly departed “uterine mother.” So I won’t.

Being a single parent is an everlong day’s toil with few formal breaks and inconsistent benefits, I’m told, even when you have the good fortune to live in the furnished basement of Grammy and Grampa’s saltbox, and the in-house daycare upstairs doesn’t charge (if you get my drift).

All my brief life I’ve roomed with the local “businesswoman” (village slang for “spinster”), who was once my mom’s oldest and best friend. (Now they don’t even interact on social media.) When Aunt Katy was a kid, she knew she would never have the tools to escape to somewhere better, so she adapted to her circumstances, by working at an independent pharmacy for four years before becoming a legal adult, then becoming a shift manager right after graduation and, finally, renting a politically-neutral one-bedroom downtown apartment at eighteen.

But, in addition to feeding the local feral cat population behind the lumberyard, the most generous gesture ol’ sentimental Katy did (“Katydid”) was embracing an accident-prone orphan child as a long-term housemate and eponymous charity, without breaking a French tip nail or missing a shift.

Katydid is the best thing that ever happened to me, and we both know it. I remember watching her, when I was back in second grade, with a nearly out-of-body state of profound awe, as she prepared our spaghetti dinner, listened supportively to a bawling girlfriend on the phone, and filled my bath at the same time, all while dog-sitting for the old-guy neighbor from downstairs, who was briefly hospitalized with some diabetes-related issues.

And so, it gives me little pleasure to announce that we are breaking up. Katydid is moving to Portland, over two hours away, for a significant promotion within her now-franchised pharmacy chain, as well as better opportunities for traditional life-partner relationships. Though not entirely by choice, I will stay behind to finish high school (so close!), restock greeting cards and baby food at the local office, and “keep the light on” for when she returns to recharge her soul or maybe even skinny-dip by moonlight in the nearby Sandy River.

Katy, I know I rarely say “it” except as pre-payment for an unexpected personal loan or as contrite public community service for those moments when I’ve let you down, so why start now? You got me through the rough years and gave me a loving, supportive home when I could very likely have become the longest-serving remedial resident at Long Creek Youth Development Center. Can you imagine?!

Simply put, thank you and good luck. Please know that if you get impatient with the high demands of big city life, or if you can’t find a man or woman to share your offbeat taste in French comic films from the 1980s, I’ll still be here, not far from the mystical life-rendering writer in the woods.

In conclusion, I never told you, but I’ve begun hanging out at the bowling alley with some of the newest kids “from away” and, though they have unusual accents, like weirdly pronouncing the optional “r” at the end of a word or making statements that always end on an “upbeat” like a question, they aren’t that different from us, which is completely unexpected as I always thought they were typed into existence “whole cloth” by an obscure John Irving wannabe.

My point: when you are ready to come back and settle down, when you’ve exhausted your grownup experiment, I bet the ideal person of your domestic dreams will one day show up right here. In fact, I know it. The other day, no lie, I was leaving work and I saw an exact replica of a young Harrison Ford, though blonde with a scruffy beard.

Katydid, I’ll miss you. Don’t forget: Mi casa es su casa, certainly per the legal documents with the landlord. We were lucky to be cast in a successful long-shot, real-as-life dramedy. Now it’s time for you to head east with the even-better spin-off. I’ll be watching. And cheering.

Copyright © 2019 by Charles C Cole

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