My parents divorced when I was 9. By the time I was 11 I was a professional latch-key kid and was very confident about being home without a parent around. And I was oblivious to the fact that I could have been pigging out on pop-tarts and watching cartoons instead of doing my homework before my mother got home – that came later.
Those afternoons were all very uneventful until the first time I forgot my key. Mom worked almost an hour away at that time and there was no way they would have just let her leave to drive home to let me in. Plus how could she know? No cell phones and I couldn’t get into the house to call her. Most of my neighbors were working families, one next door neighbor worked in New York City and never got home before dark. My only hope was to go to my other next door neighbor, the Quinns – which kind of scared me.
See, the Quinns were a little…different. Mr. Quinn was a heavy drinker. He liked guns. The oldest son was one of those tough kids who smoked pot and worked on his car while blasting the Eagles “On The Border”….”Life In The Fast Lane” was his favorite song at that time. The younger son was my brother’s best friend so I heard a lot of stories about how volatile it was over there. Mrs. Quinn scared me the most of all: she had wild black hair and dark flashing eyes and always seemed angry. [Looking back I kind of see why…], but if I caught her eye, she’d smile and wink at me. Utterly desperate about being locked out, I screwed up my courage and went next door.
Mrs. Quinn opened the door and I explained what happened and I asked if I could use her phone. She told me she had a better idea and went into the depths of her house, leaving me on the front step. Minutes later she came out with a giant butcher’s knife. One shouldn’t wave a butcher’s knife around a girl who reads too much and has a wild imagination. She must have seen the look on my face because she just started laughing. “Come on, Laurie.” she said and headed back to my yard.
A note: I don’t let ANYBODY call me Laurie. My grandfather called me that, and that was okay — and sometimes my husband will call me that (also ok), but my name is LAURA and even at a young age I made sure that “Laura” is what I was called. However, if a scary lady holding a huge knife wanted to call me “Laurie”, I wasn’t going to stop her!
Mrs. Quinn stomped around my house looking at all the windows. She jiggled the back door. Finally when she got to the front door she saw that the screen on the window to the right of it was pretty old and only held on with a hook and eye. She used the butcher’s knife to pull the window out a fraction of an inch and then worked the knife under the window until she was able to unhook the latch. “AH HAAAAAAAAA” she cackled!
“Kid, you’re seconds away from being inside.” she said. Then she stopped and asked, “When’s your birthday?”
“May 31st” I told her
“Gemini!” she said. She stared right into me with her black, black eyes. “Geminis make the best gypsies, liars and thieves,” she said, “I….am a Gemini.” With that she pushed open my window. She then helped me clamber into my livingroom over my mother’s desk and as she was helping me close the window she said, “If you ever want your fortune told, come see me. Geminis are also excellent at fortune-telling and reading cards.”
I thanked her profusely and went about my day. When I told my mom what had happened she flipped out. She was far more concerned about anyone seeing how easy it was to break into our house than about me being stranded outside.
That weekend, I took my weekly trip to the Franklin St. Bookstore with my Dad and my allowance and instead of buying a Nancy Drew book like I usually did, I bought one of those Sydney Omarr books about “Gemini”. He didn’t say anything about gypsies or thieves but he did mention prevarication which I looked up in the dictionary and saw it was a fancy word for lying.
I still defend my Gemini brethren and choose to say we are creatively verbose rather than liars. I mean our whole society is knitted together with the kindness of white lies, so really, “lying” is kind of a gift. Right? Right! Besides, nobody lies like a Scorpio.