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The Night the Owl Spoke
By Shawn Everett Jones
Editor's Note: Josephine Stone was Quail Bell Magazine's Managing Editor. She died on this day last year in Richmond, Virginia at age 23. We will always love and remember our kind, quirky, and talented Josie.
As Halloween looms, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with thoughts of Josie. I guess if there is any time to feel a little melancholy, this is it. And I guess I have to disclaim, that I am a glutton for a beautiful little melancholy, as opposed to any other kind. But now melancholy is deeper than just my love misadventures (which I used to so joking tell Josie all about, we would laugh so hard at and make it seem trivial) and quips about my perpetual pauperism. Now my melancholy knows that gasp and struggle for breath that has your hand over your mouth by reflex, that sinking feeling while looking around to see if everything else in the world is crumbling away, too.
I had a dream of an owl. It was trying to communicate something to me. I woke with the need to go to Maymont Park and see the owl there. It didn’t tell me anything. Later that day I met John Stone. We packed up the last remaining items in their house. He, Josie and I were moving into a new place in a few days. Theresa came by and cracked us up talking about her new job and her new uniform to go with it. I took all of Josie’s Halloween stuff to my house to add to the Halloween decorations because we planned to hang out there and pass out candy before the Halloween parade. So I Halloweened the fuck outta the place.
He and Brent and I went to pick Josie up from work. She gave me an Abe Lincoln Cracker Jack prize that was on her desk because I was working on the Spielberg film and all stoked about it. John had some free fast food coupons and we ate and stopped by the Halloween store. Josie and I were in the back section with all the creepy two headed demon babies and decapitated and severed limbs and she asks, “Isn’t this cool?,” and I was like, “Well, I dunno if I would call it that, but yeah, I guess, but no." She really liked the gore of it all. I am a fan of the melancholy and the camp if it. So, we appreciated it for different reasons. But we were the greatest Halloween fans I knew.
She was driving terribly as usual and I thought she would kill us on the way back to her place. She kept mentioning that we would probably die before we got home. I was raining and frightening. I tried to lighten the mood by talking about Theresa’s visit earlier and she got a kick out of that. There was something about Josie, that very few have ever gotten my sense of humor as she did. I could crack her up all day long. She was hilarious too and a good deal of our friendship involved laughter.
John Stone, Bean, Robby and I moved to Richmond, Virginia in 2007. They all moved in before me at the end of the summer. I had to finish up some work and moved in that October. John found a job at Penny Lane Pub and got me on there as well. It’s where we met Josie. There were few people in Richmond who weren’t too involved in their own scenes to accept outsiders, to take someone in. Josie was one of them. She invited me to see Hot Lava, or to a dance party at Rumors, or what ever but it was always total good time and lead to a long, fun relationship between us.
John was mad about her, they were mad about each other. John used to say, while he was dating someone else, “Someone in Red Love outta snatch her up," and talk about how awesome she was. Once they finally did hook up and then soon hitch up, they were the cutest couple you can imagine and always entertained and had folks over and it was awesome that two of my best friends were together. We all did so much together, we reveled in going out, living life and doing any number of rad things such as going to the community pool EVERY day or dressing up like hippie zombies to see Dead Meadow, or having her wedding with John Stone at the Halloween parade.
I worked at Penny Lane on and off since I’ve lived here and each week that I was there I would check the schedule to see if she was working with me because that would mean it would be a fun day. A self-proclaimed fowl-mouthed bar wench, she had a knack for spreading joy. She would impersonate customers until you had tears in your eyes. She would say things like, “I’m going to start saying, “Oh me” more and would try to create new fad acronyms such as “b.e. and b.t.” (bright-eyed and bushy-tailed) to see if it would catch on.
Josie was also so very gullible. I couldn’t help but constantly play pranks on her. You could get her without trying because she just never suspected even on April Fools' when you could just fool her over and over again. One day I was hanging with John and she sent him a text asking him to come up with an excuse so that she could get off of work. So he texts her back, “Nola was hit by a car, you need to get home immediately." And she believed the text and was all freaking out about the cat.
One of the last things I remember her saying is, “Isn’t Nola the most beautiful cat ever?” I looked down and there was a severed plastic finger in with her cat food bowl. We had stopped by their place so she could change. They were off from work for the weekend and ready to celebrate their two year anniversary. I dropped them off at Penny Lane.
I had to work super early in the a.m. but had a girl texting me. She had me making bad decisions and so I rode my bike to Church Hill from Oregon Hill to go to a party. I danced all night, the girl flirted with me a bit. Late, late, I tried to leave but it was raining. So I smoked a cigarette on the porch realizing the rain probably wasn’t going to stop.
While I was out there a girl turned to me and asked if I had heard about someone getting run over. I said no and immediately thought that I could be one of my friends but didn’t know who. I looked at my phone, it was a little after 2:30 and John had called, I called him back. He said, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” and, well, that was weird that John didn’t want to chat or at least stay on the phone long enough that one of us laughed.
The rain never eased up, I eventually left the party and rode my bike home to change and go into work at 6:00. All day I felt there was some kind of disturbance in the force. Then someone called work and asked if I was working and got cut off. My boy Chris told me about it so I answered when they called back. Brent was asking what time I got off and I was like, “What’s up, dude?” and he said he’d see me after work.
I couldn’t answer when Bean called, but I knew what it meant. I knew someone was dead but I was busy at work and I had no idea who it could be. I knew it was someone close, I knew the dream owl tried to warn me, tried to prepare me. I was not prepared. When I got off work I called Bean and I told him I knew something was terribly wrong, to please tell me what it was. And I lost it. Oh me, did I die inside too. Woe.
I have had relatives die. I had grandfathers pass a week from one another. I have had friends die. But nothing like this, not a best friend. I was lost. We were all lost, confused and waiting for it all to be some prank. Waiting for her to come back and “Ha, ha,” and we would say, “Oh dern, you really got us." Nope. And so we mourned.
I missed the formal service, glad I did. I worked all day on set. I had to work for 12 hours and blank it all out. When I got off I made it to the hill as the Halloween parade was coming up Pine headed to Pleasants Park. I kept seeing girls with glasses and going, “Oh, there she is.” I did that about three times before I lost it. Heidi came up to me and said there was going to be a vigil for Josie as a balled Lily came around the corner of Albemarle and led the parade to its conclusion and we danced and held candles in honor of our friend.
Afterwards, all friends were invited to the Red Love house for a proper service to pay our respects. John stripped and burned all his clothes in the bonfire. We chanted, we sang, we shared stories. So many stories, we had so many plans, so many accomplishments and adventures ahead of us and here we were all of us paying our respects. Into the wee hours of the morning we celebrated Josephineween!
As that special time is upon us when the veil between the living and dead is thinnest I know all of us who knew and loved Josie will continue to celebrate Josephineween and hopefully catch a glimpse or three of her.
Josie talked to me extensively about Quail Bell and always wanted me to contribute to it. Better late than never I guess.
All my love,
Shawn Everett Jones