Fall 2009, #16
       "Woodchuck vs. the Hank Williams Zombie"

Lost and Found

     by Joan Gelfand

Party season had wrung me out.

By New Year's Eve, I was ready to screw the cap back on my life and hide the bottle. Plans were underway to stay home with a smooth pate, a roaring fire, and our last split of champagne, when we got an invitation from our neighbors, Carl and Francesca. So at nine o'clock we walked across the street to party calmly while waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square. I don't know how we got onto the subject of loss, but I do know we were two and a half sheets to the wind when it came up.

Carl and Francesca were small, compact people. Carl had the square jaw and wide set eyes of a movie idol, and I was sure only his lack of height had kept him from a more glamorous career. I think the soccer moms must have coveted having him as their kids' coach. From where I sat, he added a lot to the neighborhood on Saturday morning in those black ref shorts! Francesca's Italian roots showed up in her sharp nose, her pitch-black hair. Ex-pat Aussies, their accents lived in that pleasant space between severe Brit and relaxed South African. Their two very likable kids (coquettish, learning disabled Emily, and surfing, oversexed Andrew) still lived at home. Francesca and I went running every Tuesday at the lake.

Carl was pouring Margaritas when David and Celia arrived. David was ruddy as a Scotsman and Celia was a dark café au lait. I didn't know these people but for some unknown reason, I trusted them.

We soon found ourselves discussing the less-than-enticing topic of computers. David was stressed. He'd spent the whole day testing software because his company was doing a software change over. Pretty soon he wound us back to New Year's Eve, 1999. "We thought the world was going to collapse. Something about all those zeros."

More margaritas.

"1999, " Henry mused. "We had a trip planned to Mexico that Christmas," he said wistfully. "We were going to be away until after New Year's, so I took a bunch of money out of the bank just to be sure we'd have cash when we got home. In case the bank computers did crash and all.

Yeah? We waited expectantly.

"Four thousand. I never found it."

"Four thousand? Lost in your own house?"

"Who knew it was there?"

"Oh you found it alright, but then you went to Vegas," Carl teased.

"OK, so this is weird," Francesca joined in. "I'm walking home from the dentist with my favorite scarf from Florence - the only souvenir I bought - I was on such a tight budget. I'd had it for twenty years. Twenty! And when I got home, the scarf was gone. Just gone."

"I lost my favorite diamond bracelet," I tell them the story I had told no one. "Adam gave it to me for Valentine's Day. Gone."

"OK. How stupid is this?" David asked. "I lost 10k on a buried treasure scam!"

"And I lost 20 on a 'secondary mortgage fiasco," Carl said sheepishly.

"OK," Celia, the quiet one blurted, "I lost a piano! I put it into storage and when I went to get it out they didn't have it. Gone. My grandmother's piano!"

And there we stopped, suddenly, cold and collectively sober. For myself, I never wanted to add to people's databases of bizarre things that happen in life, so I just kept quiet. Still, there was Francesca's stillborn, my husband's lost business in the dot com bust, so many investments gone south, not to mention the lost wives, and husbands, lost fidelity, parents ... the daughter in the car crash in Florida, the son in Oberlin, the no-time-to-say-goodbye deaths of friends.

Ten nine eight seven six five ... The ball dropped.

Adam and I kissed.