Posted on September 29, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair9.29.2014 Journal Prompt Photo by André Kertész September 29, 2014: The night wrapped around him. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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He was having trouble sleeping. He thought it was an age thing. The woman at the desk of the library suggested that he drink some hot milk and that he read a long and dull book, and he tried that. Around him he heard the click and clack of the house cooling and the scuttle of mice under the floor, and the dripping of the tap in the kitchen, muffled by a cloth he’d purposely left in the sink. He breathed slow and yawned and turned the pages of his book. Still he could not sleep.
‘Turn all the lights off and lie back in your bed and empty your mind of all thought. If you catch yourself thinking, gently bring yourself back to nothing.’
The clock showed three when he got up again. It was cold in the room and he hurriedly dressed against the chill, feeling for the buttonholes of his shirt and fumbling with the laces of his shoes in the dark. He ran his fingers through his hair, combing it back from his face.
He moved through the house without any light. He moved slowly, as a thief moves, as one who does not know the house he moves through. He kicked over a cup and he heard a crack in the sound that it made and he swore against his own untidiness. He hoped it was not the cup with the cockerel on it. Tea tastes different in different cups and the cockerel cup gave tea its best taste.
At the front door he put on his coat and his scarf. Then he unlocked the door and stepped out into the street.
‘I sleep like a log,’ she’d said. ‘Like a baby. Sound as a bell.’
He turned up the collar of his coat and walked away from his house. The street was lit up yellow and all the windows of the houses blind. He did not notice the flashing wings of a white owl in the air above him, or the sharp green stare of a fox from the shadows between two houses. He walked with his head down and he walked away from the centre of the town.
‘G’dmorning Mr Settle,’ she said when he was the first to enter the library each day. ‘And how are you this fine Tuesday? And how did you sleep? Better?’
He never could tell her that the warm milk or the dull book or the emptying of his thoughts had not worked. He nodded to her and thanked her for her help and he gave his book over to be stamped again or to be registered as returned.
With the dark wrapped about him, he stood beneath her window, out of reach of the street-light. Her window was open – always it was.
‘The air in the room must be clean and new if you are to have a good night, if you are to wake up refreshed and clear-headed.’
He strained his ears to hear her sleeping – like a log or a baby or a bell.
Some nights he heard her turning and turning in her restless sleep and he smiled to himself. Some nights he caught her talking in her dreams and he searched through the broken bits of her words, looking for something familiar or something lost.
Once, a way back, he found the widow Tripp asleep at her desk in the library, her head resting on a sweater balled into a pillow. Then she slept soundly and the sunlight was on her face and everything golden and soft.
‘Sleeping like the angels sleep,’ he thought.
He leaned in close to the widow Tripp, as though he might kiss her in her sleep, and he gave her back the words he had taken from her in the night, whispering them into the shell of her ear and looking to see if she smiled.