I set aside the well composed letter and had a look about my surroundings. Still no sign of the Abernathy who actually belonged in this dimension with her lovely lake house, which I now absolutely must see from the water. If it is as spectacular a sight as the poor misguided, but articulate Abby who wrote that beautiful letter says it is, I simply must find time for a canoe ride with my easel and paints. Maybe I could give the painting to Lake House Abby. A bit of a consolation gift of sorts. I imagine she must be quite sore about the loss of her vehicle and fishing shack. Not to mention the fact that her home appears to be a vacation destination for other dimensional versions of herself. At least, that was the reason for my own visit to her luscious littoral estate.
You see, dear readers, I had recently made an honest attempt at r&r at a beachside resort somewhere along the Atlantic coast. There my efforts were met with a damnable delinquent of a boy tossing dynamite into my section of the oceanfront. It caused the devil of an uproar, as one would readily expect. I suppose one could see his actions as valiant, as he was defending the honor of his elder sister against an invisible shark. Still, the entire event left me rather worse for wear than when I arrived, so I elected to envision myself into this isolated lake home to recuperate. Presuming, of course, that my other self would welcome me with open arms. A presumption I was questioning after having read the letter.
Having no thoughts of what else to do, I decided to take a stroll through the grounds and get a bit of fresh air. Perhaps somewhere along the lake edge, someone will have left a canoe conveniently stocked with canvas, brushes and an assortment of colors of paint. Not likely, of course, but fanciful cheery daydreams do tend to enhance my enjoyment of light exercise. I was following a narrow walking path through a small patch of trees when I saw darling Abby on a bench nearer the water’s edge. She was snacking on a bagel, casually tossing bits of it to a few floating ducks and she appeared in general good spirits. I thought it would be safe to approach and engage, and did so.
“Good morning, Miss Abby! I hope you don’t mind my paying your dimension a visit, I’ve heard such wonderful things…”
“Ha! Nah, nah nah! I don’t belong here either, friend. Just dropping in for a quiet snack. Lake House Abby always has the best bagels! Made locally at some family bakery, I think. You seen her around?”
“Oh, uh..no, I haven’t, but I’m glad to see she’s welcoming to other selves in search of respite. Have you known, umm, ‘Lake House Abby’? For long?”
“Nah, I’ve never actually met her, but I stop in here pretty regular. She travels a lot, this one. Book signings and publicity whatevers all over the globe. Convenient for us, though, hey!” she laughed as she bit off another chunk of bagel.
“Do you mean to imply that she doesn’t actually know that you come here?”
“She might. She might not. Ha, I haven’t met her, so I haven’t asked. ”
During our amiable exchange, I took in details of this Abby’s appearance, as is my custom to do when I meet another version of myself. Mentally noting features that help me distinguish among other versions of myself has allowed me to keep track of those Abernathay Franklins with whom I have made friends. As well as those who may not be so keen on our interaction. This Abby, I have to say, is still the most easily distinguishable version of me I have ever met. Thin in a very muscular sort of way and scattered heavily with tattoos on her bare arms (and likely elsewhere about her person). Her demeanor, likewise, separates her quite definitively from other Abernathys who are often a bit more, how should I put it? Refined?
“So other me, what do you go by?” she said tossing the remainder of her bagel to the water foul and standing up to extend a hand. “My friends call me Frankie.”
I took her hand and shook it, “And I go by Bernie, pleasure to meet you, Frankie. Clearly, not the Frankie who left the letter then.” I said, wondering just how many of us might be coming and going about this particular iteration reality.
“On the kitchen counter? You must have seen it when you got your bagel, from another one of us to Lake House Abby. About the ice shack and the truck?”
Frankie shrugged, “I only pop in when the weather is good, not much for winter weather. But that must be what the insurance guy came about.” She nodded her head in the direction of the house as if to indicate where this “insurance guy” was.
“There’s someone in the house? I didn’t see anyone.”
“Huh. Guess he musta left. Gettin’ to be lunchtime soon, though.” Frankie smiled as she slapped me on the shoulder with the back of her hand. “What’s say we root around the cupboards for some grub?” And without waiting for my response, she made towards the house. I confess, I didn’t have any better ideas of what to do with myself in this dimension, and so I followed.
Frankie took no time in setting about her mission, reaching into cupboards and the fridge, pulling out this and that. She really must visit this dimension “pretty regular,” as she put it, for she seemed impressively familiar with where things were in this kitchen. She was fixing herself a sandwich, when I heard a knocking sound and voice call “Mr. Pennywagon?”
Frankie looked up briefly from spreading mayonnaise, but seemed otherwise undaunted in her task. Curious, I followed the sound around the staircase and looked down a long hallway. There was yet another me, knocking on a closed door. “Mr. Pennywagon, are you alright?” Then she spotted me and her eyes got wide.
“What are you doing here?!” she whisper screamed as she moved away from the door. I walked down the hall to meet her and, sensing she didn’t want whoever Mr. Pennywagon was to overhear, lowered my own volume.
“Hello, nice to meet you. You must be Lake House Abby? You can call me Bernie. Lovely place you have here.” I reached out a hand of introduction, which was promptly slapped away.
“You can’t be here right now! What if he comes out of the bathroom, I’m supposed to say you’re my twin?!” Abby said, apparently stirred by my presence. She shooed me further away from the door.
“Ah, yes, that must be your insurance guy, a claim for the ice shack and truck I presume. Is there a problem?” Abby’s expression changed from annoyance to uncertain concern.
“He’s….been in there a while.”
“Ah, well. I mean that’s awkward, but I suppose when nature calls…”
“Nature calls in an insurance client’s home and you help yourself to half an hour in the bathroom? Come on!”
“Half an hour?”
“I don’t know it feels like half an hour. What if he’s dead in there?! Had a heart attack or something?!” This version of myself was evidently a bit more tightly wound than the average Abernathy Franklin. Though, given the circumstances, who could blame her.
“Maybe you should check on him.” I suggested.
She threw her hands up exasperatedly and then back down to slap her thighs, “And what if he’s not dead in there and I just walked in on him?! That’ll go a long way to getting my claim approved!”
“Hmm…” I pondered thoughtfully, “bit of a Schrodinger’s cat situation.”
“Erwin Schrodinger. Quantum physicist, I believe, had this thought experiment involving cats. You put one in box with poison and you don’t know if the cat is dead or alive while the box remains closed, so theoretically, the cat is both alive and dead simultaneously.”
“There’s an undead cat in the bathroom? That’s kinda cool” Frankie said joining the party in the hall. Her hands were full of what appeared to be a two tiered turkey on pumpernickel, positively bursting with lettuce and provolone. Or was it Swiss?
“What the hell are you doing?!” Lake House Abby continued her strained whisper shouting, now in Frankie’s direction.
“Hey! Look who’s home! Sup, I’m Frankie.”
“SShhh!!! How am I supposed to explain three of me to Mr. Pennywagon?!” Abby gestured down the hall.
“Insurance dude’s name is Pennywagon?!” Frankie snickered and took a huge bite of her masterpiece. “Sucks for him,” she continued with her mouth full. “He’s got a cat in there?”
“We were discussing Schrodinger’s cat, the quantum physics thought experiment…” I interjected.
“Mmmm,” Frankie swallowed. “Open the box and you kill the cat.”
“Essentially, yes. Which is why Abby isn’t sure she should open the bathroom door.”
“This Pennywagon has a cat in your bathroom?”
“There is no god damned cat!!!” Abby forgot her volume for a moment, then remembered quickly and waved her hands wildly at myself and Frankie as if at a complete loss.
Intending to be of help, I tried to bring Frankie quickly up to speed. “It appears Pennywagon, the insurance man, has been in the bathroom for an extended time and does not respond to knocking. We were discussing whether or not to open the door, you know, as a sort of well being check.”
Frankie, about to take another bite, paused with her mouth open, then closed it and lowered her sandwich. She suddenly had a curious twinkle in her eye, as if she were having a thought unfit for present company.
“What?” Abby asked.
“What if he’s like….in there,” she side nodded towards the bathroom, “you know.” She gestured with her sandwich filled hands in the southerly direction of her person, which in the moment only served to perplex both myself and Lake House Abby. Our blank stares seemed to amuse Frankie, and her eye gleamed again indicating that she decided against propriety “You know, beatin’ it like it owes him money.”
I snorted out a short laugh, but stifled it almost immediately and cleared my throat. This Frankie may be crass and hard edged, but I couldn’t help liking her. Still, now didn’t seem the time to encourage further juvenile humor, for Abby’s sake.
Abby straightened her back and squared her shoulders, and took in a deep breath. “Fuck it.” She marched down the hall, pounded on the bathroom door and shouted, “Mr. Pennywagon?!” And she threw open the door.
Frankie and I stood rooted to the spot as she poked her head inside the room, then stepped in. We rushed down the hall instinctively and Frankie called, “Is he dead?”
We came to the open door to see Abby standing in the middle of the bathroom, which I must say was surprisingly spacious for a guest bathroom. Was it a guest bathroom? It had a full shower.
“He’s not even in here!” Abby snapped, thrusting her hands on her hips like an angry mother waiting for an explanation from her troublemaking brood.
“Huh, how do you like that?” Frankie mused, and took another bite her sandwich. Then we heard the sound of door closing elsewhere in the house.
“Miss Franklin?” Pennywagon. Abby scurried around and behind Frankie and I, unceremoniously and aggressively shoving us into the shower and pulling the curtain violently shut. “Miss Franklin, I’ve finished with my photos.” Pennywagon’s voice drew nearer, “I just have a few..Ah! There you are.”
“Yes, sorry.” Abby said, perhaps louder than was necessary.
“Miss Franklin, I just have some paperwork here for you to sign and then I’ll be on my way.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Do you mind if I use your restroom just quick, while you’re looking those over?”
Frankie and I looked at one another. This was a potentially problematic situation.
“Oh, uh, yeah,” Abby stuttered. “Yes, yes, of course, I’ll ah…just be out in the kitchen signing these.”We heard the door close and I braced myself for the inevitable discomfort of what we were about to overhear.
As Pennywagon…eh…took care of his business, I looked over at Frankie, who was slowly biting yet again into her sandwich. Our eyes met and I shook my head incredulously. Frankie shrugged her shoulders deeply and raised her eyebrows as if to say “What? Just cuz he has to use the toilet I have to stop eating my sandwich?” I rolled my eyes and put a finger to my lips as if to respond, “Very well, if you must, just do it quietly.” This bodily expression conversation was sufficiently engaging so as to prevent me from picking out the tune that Pennywagon whistled while he made water. Thankfully, that was all he did.
The toilet flushed and we breathed a silent sigh of relief as the door opened and the lights went out. I paused for him to walk further down the hall, then remarked in undertones to Frankie, “Ugh! He didn’t even wash his hands.”
“Ha, better tell Abby to wash hers in case she used his pen to sign then.”
We remained in statu quo, Frankie finishing her sandwich while I strained to hear whether Pennywagon had taken his leave yet. Suddenly, the shower curtain was thrown open, eliciting a gasp of shock from me and a jovial “Whoa! Hey!” from Frankie.
“He’s gone.” Abby said wearily, backing up and waving us out of the shower
We made our way out into the hall again and Frankie, hands now empty of the food stuffs, said “So, bonkers mini adventure like that sure gets you workin up an appetite, who’s up for a bite? I know this cute little…”
“Out.” Abby said putting up a hand to silence Frankie. “Both of you. Out of my house. Go.” She pointed to the front door.
“That’s fair.” said Frankie.
“Terribly sorry about all this,” I began as we made our way to the front door. “I do hope that we might get a chance to meet again. I would love to hear about your writing..”
“Out! Get out! Get out, get out, get out! Goodbye!” Abby slammed the door the moment we crossed the threshold and I did not get an opportunity to smooth things over. It would seem my second attempt at a relaxing get away had been once again thwarted by unforeseen circumstances.
“Well, how bout you then?” Frankie asked. “Grab a bite? I know this adorable underground cafe on Mars, it’s run by reptilians, but they’re totally chill.” She raised her arm and moved her hand in a circular motion out in front of her, and a glowing green portal appeared. Again, I didn’t have any better ideas of what to do with myself, so I said, “Sure, why not? I do feel a bit hungry after all that.”
“After you,” Frankie bowed and motioned for me to step through the portal like she was a high class bellhop holding open the door to a fancy building. I laughed as I stepped through the portal with Frankie close behind. As she guided me to our destination, I made a mental note to myself to write a sincere apology letter to Lake House Abby for the trouble.