Tag Archives: stories

A Simple Kindness Overpaid

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me:

I enter a grocery store (or any kind of store) to purchase one item and inevitably a fellow shopper careens into the only open check out line just ahead of me.  

Also inevitably, the shopper’s cart is loaded to the gills, heaped up high.

Just as predictably the fellow shopper pretends not to see me holding my one box of cereal.  Stares right past me and begins to unload their 487 purchases onto the little conveyer belt while I attempt to remain patient and not say something rude.

I’m the type who always lets people go ahead of me in line.  We all have things to do and places to be.  Why make someone wait when they’re just trying to get out of the store with a 4-pack of toilet paper?

I was at the grocery store the other day when I noticed a man enter the check out line right behind me.

 I asked, like I always do, “Would you like to go ahead of me?”

The man hesitated.  He was holding a single bottle of wine.  He looked down at the bottle in his hand, as if to remind himself  what he was standing in line for, and looked back up at me.  He accepted my offer of a speedier exit and I thought no more of it, after all, I was busy unloading my 487  purchases (okay, maybe not exactly 487, but you know what I mean).

When my cart was unloaded I looked up to say hello to the cashier.  There were four women standing there, staring at me.

“What?” I asked, feeling slightly paranoid.

The cashier asked me if I knew the man who had just paid for his bottle of wine.  I shook my head, smiled, and waited for the punchline.

The cashier looked at her three coworkers, confusion evident on her face.

She waved some good old American greenbacks in the air.

“He left this money to put on your bill.”

Okay, now I was confused.  I looked back and forth between the four employees who all seemed stunned by a perfect stranger who paid almost half my grocery bill.

Heck, if they looked stunned I can only imagine the shock on my face.

A simple common courtesy, something I never think twice about doing, was rewarded in a very big way.

I left the store and scanned the parking lot for a man carrying a single bottle of wine but he was long gone, as I knew he would be.

I’m assuming he was performing one of those random acts of kindness people talk about.  Maybe he was “paying it forward”…who knows why he did it, but did it he did.

Heck, a simple “thank you” would have sufficed.

I’m not much of a believer in coincidence.  Is there anyway this man could have known that my employer had laid me off not two hours before?

I didn’t think so either.  This perfect stranger performed an act over and beyond what common courtesy deserved.

 I bet he’s forgotten all about it, just another day to him.  For me, it’s something I’m not likely to forget for a very long time, if ever.

Sunday Morning Surprise

It was a balmy Sunday morning (well, balmy Downeast-style) and I decided to hit the beach with my intrepid little terrier, Molly. 

Molly loves to race up and down the beach, flinging up sand and chasing sea gulls  who never seem too concerned with her antics but this morning my furry little ball of energy was up to something completely different.

Molly sniffed the air as we walked past a wooded area and was off like a shot.  Too much barking to ignore, I assumed she was up to more of her bad business with a resident fox.  You see, Molly thinks of herself as part Rottweiler.  She was raised with them, so she’s got what I call “little big dog complex” and even a fox isn’t off limits in her imagination.

I called and called but there was no way Molly could hear me over the sound of her own yapping so down the embankment  I went, slipping and sliding on the ice.

It took me a few minutes to see what Molly was seeing but when I did, you could say I was more than a little surprised.  Take a look and see what Miss Molly found in the middle of the woods:

Female Harbor Seal

Female Harp Seal

Molly was beside herself with joy and I was beside myself wondering how I was going to convince Molly to get away from the seal.  I called and for once, Molly obeyed. 

The seal showed no fear but had a mild curiosity about Molly and me.  The seal rolled  onto her side as if asking for a belly scratch. 

Long story short, a man who lives near the beach has contacts with the University of Maine at Machias who referred him to another marine mammal organization. 

For now the assumption is the adult female harp seal is healthy except for a small cut that I’m guessing she received while dragging herself up the embankment from the clam flats into the woods. 

The seal showed no fear

The seal showed no fear

Whether she was caught unaware of the tide going out (tides move at astonishing speeds in Downeast Maine) or if she is sick, we don’t know.  The tide was dead low when Molly found her and there was no way she could get back to the water for another six hours.

It’s amazing to see marine mammals close up and personal but here’s hoping the bright eyed girl has gone back to where she belongs.

Update:   Our misplaced harp seal swam away with the high tide.  Once again, all is right with our corner of the world!

Of Travel And Contentment

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to travel.  Never content to sit at home, I was always planning a trip to somewhere. 

The travel bug may have struck when I was 17 and a friend was headed to Milwaukee to visit relatives.  She got a ride to the airport with a friend of hers and asked me if I wanted to come along for something to do.

I looked at the flight board and in a half-whine said, “Wish I could go.” 

My friend whipped out her credit card and egged me on.

With $1.49 in my pocket and no change of clothes, I boarded a plane to Milwaukee.  I was kind enough to fill out a postcard with a picture of a Delta plane soaring through the friendly skies and mailed it to my parents.

“Hi Mom and Dad!  Gone to Milwaukee!” (or something to that effect).  No wonder my father’s hair went gray early.

I still remember the names of the people I stayed with all these years later.  College girls who were too happy to loan me clothes and take me to dinner at Uno’s in Chicago. 

The travel bug had bitten me square in the backside; I was hooked and wanted more.

I never wanted to stay home.  Spinning like Mary Tyler Moore, arms outstretched, at  Place de la Concorde in Paris. Sunning on the white sands of Bahamian beaches.  Taking my grandmother to England for her first trip to Europe.  Trying my best to sample as much chocolate as humanly possible in Belgium.  Checking my shoes for scorpions in Costa Rica and climbing a volcano in Nicaragua. 

I was always scanning travel sites looking for deals, and short notice travel was never much of a problem for my sister, who is my favorite traveling companion.

When I first started plotting my move Downeast, my sister sensibly asked, “How far to the nearest airport?”

Two hours and forty five minutes, one way, to Bangor International Airport, but that was okay as I pointed out, “It isn’t as if I will be driving it once a week, right?”

In two weeks I am headed to sunny Florida to visit my 85 year old grandmother (known to all as “Gram”).  I haven’t seen Gram in over a year and miss her terribly.

As the departure date approaches, I find myself dreading it.  Nothing to do with Gram, of course;  I can’t wait to see her.  She is an amazing lady and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

The problem is, I don’t want to leave home.  I don’t want to leave Eastport and fly all the way to Florida (there’s that half-whine again). 

 I know as soon as I leave the island I will wish I was back home, where I belong.

This attitude has startled me.  I was the type who could have my bags packed at a moment’s notice.  “Get me outta here” was my motto.

My home is my castle and I have no desire to leave it.  What was I running from for all those years when I would be planning my next journey just weeks after returning from a vacation? 

 What is this about?  I have a list of must-see destinations, for God’s sake:  Egypt, Botswana, Scotland, Italy, Lithuania….

I  realized that aside from some of the hardships that come with living in Downeast Maine that I have become content.  At long last I am happy with where I am, and contentment is a beautiful thing.

So I will be flying the friendly skies in October with mixed feelings.  Certainly happiness to see my beloved “Gram” but also warm in the knowledge that I will come home again, back to Eastport, back where I belong.

Midge

Midge walking the beachMidge (noun):  biting black fly, some of which are carriers of filarial worms

There is something about pets that warm our hearts and give meaning to our very existence.  They need us, we love and need them.  Pets seem to know when we are blue, when we need to be amused or when we just need a little kiss to remind us all is right with the world. 

At least that’s what I thought until Midge entered my life.

Being dragged by my ever faithful and ever barking canine companion down the sea path is always a feast for the senses:  the tang of salt air, boats navigating the bay, flowers nodding their heads in the breeze, and the occasional fellow pet owner walking their well-behaved dog (their dogs are always well behaved).

Such was the setting one fine afternoon.  Straining at her lead (no graduate of obedience class), my terrier bounded under a bush.  Tail wagging, she refused all my attempts to lure her out of the shrubbery.  Peering under a mass of branches (loaded with sharp thorns, no less), I discovered a tiny black and white kitten, no more than 8 weeks old.

His eyes caked with goo and mysterious gunk issuing from his nose, I picked him up gingerly and walked to the nearby fish market where a half dozen lobstermen were gathered around the bed of a pickup truck talking amongst themselves.  I approached, holding the kitten while my well behaved dog leaped and twisted in the air, barking joyfully at the sneezing, sniffling, black and white ball of fur.

Holding the kitten up, I addressed the group of lobstermen, “Do you fellas have any idea who this might belong to?”

The men exchanged glances and one piped up, “Looks like he belongs to you now, deah.”  His companions laughed at the joke.

Looking into the green eyes of the homeless waif, I knew I couldn’t just place him back under the bush where I found him my faithful canine found him, so back home we went, with my dog still leaping and barking from the thrill of it all.

A local veterinarian agreed to see the kitten immediately and on our arrival I had to fill out the obligatory paperwork.

“You forgot to fill out the kitten’s name,” the receptionist stated.

I informed her I wouldn’t be naming the kitten as  I would find a home for the poor little guy as soon as I could.

Loaded with creepy crawlies and sporting a respiratory infection, the kitten weighed in at just under 2 pounds.   I felt like such a do-gooder as I drove home with a nameless feline who had already cost me $90 a pound.

Days went by and the kitten improved.  Weeks went by and all hell broke loose.  Toilet paper shredded, water bowls knocked over, plants torn to bits.  One day I returned home to find him hanging from the diningroom curtains, the fine weave of the fabric giving way under his weight. 

Exasperated, I told a friend about the kitten’s shenanigans.  “Are you looking for sympathy?  You won’t find it here,” she said, “you really need to name that kitten.”

Of course I reiterated I certainly would not be keeping the little wretch and I fabricated a story about how diligently I was working to find a home for him ( I have been known to tell a white lie or two).

One night I lay in bed, reading peacefully when I heard the distinct pitter-patter of little kitten feet coming up the stairs.  The kitten made his way, ripping, clawing and tearing, onto the bed.  He purred with pleasure, curled up next me and bit me on the arm. 

I shooed him away and shook my finger at him.  He did what all cute kittens do:  he batted at my finger in that cross-eyed way and made me laugh.  He nestled into the side of my neck and bit down for all he was worth.  

“You are worse than a swarm of midges!” I shouted.

There is a moment of truth is everyone’s lives, when you can no longer deny the facts.  This time the fact was:   I was keeping this kitten and  had named him “Midge”.

As the months passed, Midge grew bigger and my patience wore thin.  There wasn’t anything Midge wouldn’t shred, chew or mangle.  Family and friends laughed like hyenas everytime I started a conversation with “You will not believe what that cat has done this time!”

Midge and my pooch got along famously from the start.  They chased one another around the house, wrestled together and napped together (kittens need plenty of sleep to gear up for the next round of havoc).

One fine afternoon I came home and noticed immediately my furry fan club hadn’t greeted me on arrival and then saw the good sized tear in the window screen.  A tear big enough for a cat but thankfully not big enough for a terrier.  Frantic, I hooked up my dog and we went in search of Midge.  Up and down the streets we went, and left not a stone unturned.

As I rounded a bend in the sea path and approached the fish market, I spotted an elderly couple standing outside a parked motorhome with Florida plates.  The husband and wife were feeding smoked salmon to Midge.  No wonder the cat didn’t want to come home.

I smiled as the wife hugged Midge and said, “Isn’t he precious?  We’re taking a piece of Maine back to Florida with us.”

I admit, my heart leapt for joy.  These people wanted the destructive little beast!  I smiled inwardly as I thought of the money I would save on toilet paper alone.

“Midge is my cat.  I’m sorry, but you can’t take him with you.”

What?  Did those words just come out of my mouth? 

“He tore a hole in the window screen and escaped,” I explained as my dog barked happily at Midge who was purring up a storm, cradled in the woman’s arms.

I took Midge home and wondered what had just happened.  The little devil had made a disaster zone out of my house and I had taken him back.  There’s no explaining it.

The torn window screen was replaced but Midge escaped again and again.  He’s a wanderer at heart, I guess.  I always knew just where to look for him because the women working at the fish market had taken to feeding the poor kitty tidbits of lobster, fish, whatever was convenient.  No wonder Midge loved it there.

I gave up trying to keep Midge indoors and when I gave up, I made the most incredible discovery.

Midge follows me everywhere I go.  He keeps pace as best he can while I am being dragged around town by my overexcited terrier.  A walk to the post office?  No problem.  A journey to the beach? Count on Midge because he refuses to be left behind. 

People around town always enjoy the sight of Midge following along side a woman and her dog.  If I get too far ahead of him, Midge will let out a yowl to curdle your blood.

“Is that your cat?” a man sitting on his porch asked.

“Oh yes, he follows me everywhere,” I replied with pride.

The man shook his head and said, “Now isn’t that something!”

And yes, it really is something.

Ghost Stories Downeast

It seems as if everyone in Downeast Maine has had a run-in with ghosts.  In fact, you’re considered odd if your house isn’t haunted.  From strange voices coming from a falling down old fish cannery to closet doors that fly open, it seems as if everybody’s got a story to tell….myself included.

The odd noises started shortly after I moved in to my new home.   Loud crashes but nothing knocked over or out of place.  My dog would wake up and wildly bark at nothing. 

Now I am the type who has an explanation for everything but as the weeks passed it became harder and harder to explain away the things that were happening.

One evening last July,  I had six people over for supper and as we all sat around the diningroom table, we clearly heard what sounded like someone walking down the stairs.  We all sat quietly, eyes wide open, as we heard what can only be described as the front door slamming shut.  The door slamming shut would have been easy to explain if it had been open in the first place.   I looked at my guests, shifted uneasily in my chair and asked, “Did anyone else hear that?”

The mystery “person” coming down the stairs didn’t happen once or twice.  Over the summer it was a fairly regular occurrence.  Sad to say, I almost became used to it, but it was always interesting to watch the reactions of those who hadn’t before experienced my “ghost”.

My father spent a week here and woke up one morning to discover all his keys had been removed from his key ring and all the keys laid neatly on the bedside table.  I was certain I hadn’t touched the keys, and judging by the look on my father’s face, he didn’t think it was too funny.

Almost shamefacedly, I began telling some of my new Downeast friends about the goings on and much to my surprise they didn’t laugh or poke fun.  Instead, they looked at me with that blase Downeast expression and asked me what made me think I wouldn’t have ghosts.  As one friend put it, “We’ve all got them”.

One friend gleefully told me about the “man” who lives on the second story of her house who she calls “Sam”.  Apparently one  evening she had a friend over and was showing this friend how she was remodeling the second floor bedrooms. 

 As the visitor followed along, she started having difficulty breathing and blamed her difficulties on a cat allergy.  My friend being the understanding type, suggested they go back downstairs where her visitor wasn’t having any issues with the cats and their never ending supply of hair.

The next day, my friend received a phone call from her visitor who was very freaked out because she had bruises, like finger marks, around her neck. 

I can’t help but wonder what would make Downeast Maine a hotbed of paranormal activity but around here ghosts – or ghost stories – abound.

Thankfully, my house has quieted down for the most part, but every once in a while someone will ask about my ghostly housemate and relate to me another eerie story of spirits who don’t seem to want to give up their homes in Downeast Maine. 

I am hard at work compiling ghost stories from Downeast Maine.  Many of these stories will be told by different owners of the same houses (my house included), so stay tuned….