IT TOOK ALL NIGHT
It took all night. I couldn’t sleep none and couldn’t get comfortable in the goddam seat. That’s right. Bitchin. Me and I can sleep anywhere, and didn’t mom once say that I was the one could sleep on the edge of a butcher’s knife and she was something proud when she said it, like it was some special accomplishment? I never really knew why it had to be a butcher’s knife, but she was right, I could sleep anywhere and anytime and often did.
Do you recall? In the middle of Principal Goode’s speech at my graduation and I fell into sleep and fell off the stage. There’s pictures to prove it and pictures of me in odd places and always sleeping. And didn’t I have the nickname ‘Dormouse’ for all my school years, and sleeping through some of the big events like the moon landing and pops got us up specially and there was popcorn and fizzy cola and I fell asleep a little before the Eagle had landed? And when Lennon got shot and the Berlin wall came down and the twin towers got hit and I woke up days afterwards not knowing that history had been made whilst I’d slept.
But on the bus home, on that long night bus back to Tipton, well I couldn’t find comfort or sleep nowheres. I was worried, I guess. About mom and about pops. I was worried about what was waiting for us at home. Pops’ telegram just said to come quick and it said that it didn’t look good. Nothing more than that.
You got the same telegram and we compared them word for word over the phone, and they was exactly the same. And so we agreed it must be serious and, without knowing exactly why, we was making our way home from our different far-flung places.
I got to talking to this girl on the bus. She couldn’t sleep neither, leastways not at first, and she gave me her whole life story, every small detail. Her name was Sue. We found that she went to the same high school as me, and the same as you, and I didn’t know her. I thought I knew every girl in Tipton, but I didn’t know her. She was running from something, she said but she didn’t say what. I figured there was a guy and she was running home to where she could be and be safe.
We shared a few beers and a bottle of Jack and maybe that made her talkative. She said how she missed the quiet of Tipton and the dirt on her shoes and the cracks in the sidewalk. Said she missed the smell, too, you know, and missed being so close to horses and men that cussed and drank in the middle of the day. The way she said it, well, I sorted of missed it then too.
We talked about everything, like we was lovers-in-waiting and we was laying all our best gifts down for to be inspected and measured. When the bus stopped to give the driver a rest break we got out to stretch our legs and we stood under the wide expanse of the Kansa sky counting the thousands of stars. And we smoked a joint that Sue pulled out of her purse, and we found a place of shadow and dark and we just held each other, gently swaying, like we was dancing and there must have been music in our heads.
Sue slept the rest of the way after that and I didn’t. I watched her and I looked real close, searching for the girl she had been in Tipton, wanting to recognize her. But she was a stranger to me.
Then I got out Pop’s telegram again and read it over. And I got the shakes of a sudden, thinking the worst. I suddenly thought of mom and I could see her in that old bed, as clear as if I was home already, the bed with the carved back board. She didn’t look good and her eyes was closing and her face looked creased like she was in pain. I thought again of that butcher’s knife and being able to sleep on its edge, and there was mom sleeping through sharp pain and I knew. Then and there and for no reason other than I could not sleep, I knew, and I cried and couldn’t stop.
→Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me bring this work to you. Want more? Go to Lindsay’s site: “Just a Writer’s Page.”- And Happy Holidays, everyone. May your new year bring many new stories to tell, to read, to write, and to share. -PMc←