A funny thing happened tonight on my way out of my regular Friday night meeting. Standing outside afterwards, talking with Richard, I finally headed to my truck. Then a little SUV-ish looking thing went by with a license plate I recognized.
From 15 years ago.
QUOTE U was the plate.
Wow, thought me. I bet there's only one of those.
And so I took off after the car, in what could only be described as "lukewarm pursuit," meaning we never went really fast, but I did get cut off once or twice by tourists who lacked proper understanding of the importance of my quest.
Now, as I am tearing (at 35 miles per hour) up Route 3, headed in the opposite direction of my home, it occurs to me that the person I think the plate belongs to may have long since moved to a cheap trailer in a retirement community in Florida by now, and the plate may belong to some young whipper-snapper reporter who has never heard of me or my former editor.
As we passed all the bigger hotels and headed in the direction of "off-island" I resolved to stop my pursuit at Salisbury Cove, if not sooner. But lo! before that, the car turned left on a road generally reserved for local traffic. Few tourists find the singular thrill we do in driving a thing called the Crooked Road. The car between us turned as well. OK, whatever. I'll follow.
On and on we drove in the dark. At one point, the middle car in the line tapped her brakes and I backed off a couple inches then saw that my brights were on. Shit. Dimming them, I muttered apologies under my breath. Shit. I hate when people do that to me. Shit shit shit.
Aha! Brakes and blinkers ahead. Oh hell. Both cars turn. I follow into the subdivision. I've never been out this way in the daylight. I may never find my way out again at night. Again the two cars brake and turn, and again I follow. By now I am sure they are both on their cell phones to report the crazy person in the big Ford truck stalking them through the rural/suburban neighborhood.
Finally, they both turn into a driveway, with a mailbox at the end that had the last name I remembered from all those years ago.
Well, shit. Nothing to do now but drive on in after them.
I eased my truck into the dirt drive and put it in park as the woman in the middle car got out of her car and looked askance in my direction.
I rolled down both windows of the truck, turned on the dome light and said (I am not kidding) "I'm not a stalker, honest, but is that Terri X?" and I pointed to the other vehicle, the one with the plate I recognized.
After several back-and-forths of "what?" "Is that Terry X?" We finally established that I might be crazy, she might be deaf, and finally Terri said "Yes?"
"I'm Dawn Fortune" I shouted over my truck's engine.
Oh, for god's sake! Dawn! She came over to the truck to get a look. Yep, I was me and she was her.
"How on earth did you know it was me?"
The plate, I told her. I figured she was still the only one to have it. She smiled that I remembered.
It was late, and she needed to get in the house, but we exchanged numbers and promised to get in touch. She was in town to help out - her son's wife had just had surgery and there was a little baby that needed taking care of, so she's doing the grandma thing and looking very pleased, for certain.
Many, many years ago, I worked at a small daily paper in Central Maine. One of the editors was a woman named Terri. I liked her a lot, and she seemed to tolerate me pretty well. I was as green as green could be, and she was very patient as I learned by trial and error how to survive in the daily news business.
She had a weekly column in which she told stories. Often she told stories of families working hard, up against tough circumstances, trying to beat the odds. She told humorous stories of her battles with squirrels in the bird feeder, and stories about old-time remedies like using beer in a tun can to kill slugs in the garden or hanging Ivory soap on stakes to keep the deer out of the string beans. She told the quirky stuff and the funny stuff and the stories that made me laugh and sometimes cry.
She was one of my first column-writing mentors, though she never knew it. She modeled how it was done, and how it was OK to violate the rules of grammar for artistic effect.
She's since retired, I believe, but has kept the vanity plate. I hope to learn the story behind it sometime in the next few days. I hope we get the chance to get together for coffee or tea or maybe lunch so we can catch up.
But for now, we both have the story of how I chased her and her daughter-in-law home from downtown Bar Harbor, only to announce "I'm not a stalker, honest!" in the driveway. I came home and knew there was a post in that. If she's still writing, I bet there's a column in it somewhere, too.