Thursday, December 27, 2012

Insomniac, Part 13

There was no soap.  He yelled for Victoria to get him a bar and he thought she should be able to hear him.  When the volume of her music went up, he was sure. No luck. There were three ambulatory people living in this house and he was the only one who ever replaced anything.  Toilet paper, paper towels, soap, antibacterial soap, sponges, or tissues.  It was always him.  He was the only one who ever wrote the grocery items on the white board.  He was the only one who returned library books, the only one to bring dirty dishes from the coffee table in the living room, and the only one, it seemed, who ever flushed toilets.  You'd think that Victoria would be too prissy to leave her poop lying around for everyone to see, but no.

Harold turned off the shower and stepped out without bothering with a towel.  The bath rug was a sodden mess pushed up against the toilet, so water pooled at his feet.  He leaned over to find a bar of soap in the bottom drawer.  Nothing.  He dug through the other drawers, finally coming up with a tiny, furry bar of hotel soap in the back of the top drawer.  How the heck did the dog hair get into drawers in the bathroom? He never came in here unless he was dragged in by the collar to get a bath.  Yet the back of the drawer had dust bunnies filled with fur. 

Hotel soap. 

His skin would be dry tomorrow.  He'd have to go out to the store this afternoon.  He'd hoped for a day, just a single day, when he didn't have to go to the grocery store.  As it was, Hilly and Hork drank about a gallon of milk every day. 

He stepped back into the shower and turned on the water.  He'd been out for less than a minute.  How could it need to warm up again.  Somebody flushed the downstairs toilet.  He danced out of the water just in time to avoid being scalded.  He was awake now.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Damn Holidays

There are ways that Christmas is a bitch. 

I still have to walk the dog, but I have to make two dozen pumpkin muffins on top of it.  Make that three dozen.  I have to make another gift basket for Christmas eve and these people like our muffins after dropping in this afternoon and polishing off four or five of them.

I hate having to package each muffin in red cellophane and tying it off with a cheerful green bow.  What a fucking waste of plastic, the earth is going down, I'm telling you. But have you ever just dumped the muffins into a basket wrapped in plain foil?  They look like shit. They're going to be in a million tiny pieces when the package arrives anyway.  I don't know what I'm worried about. 

As it is, there are two dozen cookies, or rather the crumbles from two dozen cookies on my counter top as I cook.  Don't these people know after seven years of diabetes that I can't eat sugar? Okay, Mike can and Jack shouldn't, but it's killing me, just killing me. 

And the smell, that cinnamon smell, is driving me absolutely insane.  Who wants to eat salad when that smell is in the air?

Then, there's the post office.  Now, we have a great mail man and all the people at the post office are friendly and efficient.  Still, that line is just deadly.  There's no music, nothing to look at except harried people.  There is always one unfortunate child doing pull ups on the counter.  I remember the time I stood there with a wiggly, bored toddler on one hip and five heavy packages that needed wheels on them as we shuffled forward.  That was nine years ago and watching that mom struggle is still agonizing.  You can't help them either.  If you even talk to them, they look at you as if you're a stalker wannabe.  Hell, I remember looking at interlopers with that same venom. 

I blame the perfect-mom issues that our culture harbors in this era.  We can't be aggravated. Our perfectly good muffins have to be individually wrapped in pretty cellophane, and we can't look as though a sweaty half an hour waiting in a line with a bored child attached to us is making us crazy.  Twenty years ago, the kids would have been playing a puddle in the parking lot or pulling errant stuffing out of a cigarette burn in the back seat of the car.

Thanks for listening, jules 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Insomniac, Part 12

At 4:55 am, Harold sat at the edge of his bed and turned the reading lamp on.  He farted loud and long.  What the hell had he eaten?  It didn't even smell like him.  Harold wondered how people in nursing homes could share a room with a total stranger without being revolted by the smell of each other.  He hated how he had actually begun to smell like an old person.  He flossed his teeth.  He didn't eat any differently than he had before.  What the hell was that smell?

Harold didn't need to get up for an hour.  He'd stopped wondering why.  He knew the kind of day it would be, busy with a chance of falling asleep in a meeting. He got up on his feet.  They hurt. Why the hell did his feet hurt now? He hadn't been on them for a whole five hours. He looked at the way his toe nails had begun to look like claws.

He went into his bathroom and turned on the light, squinting as his eyes got used to the changes.  His image stared back at him.  The horseshoe of hair on his head, the furry man boobs, his sagging belly, limp penis.  It had been a while since he'd woken with a woodie.  Was that normal?

He missed his hair the most.  He'd tried shaving his head the way many men had done, but he had a large, lumpy head with a crease on the left side as if he was a brain tumor patient.  It was not a good look.  He envied Patrick Stewart. 

He turned on the shower and looked in the mirror as it steamed up.  Better.  He looked mysterious and suave in the fogged mirror.

"Oh, that's disgusting," Victoria said as she grabbed his razor from the sink and slammed the door shut.  That seemed to be all she ever said to him these days.  He thought about how, in forty years, she'd probably be sleeping with a man that looked like this. That was disgusting.

He stepped into the shower without testing the temperature of the shower. The confidence, he thought, and grinned. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, December 7, 2012

Insomniac, Part 11

It bothered Harold when Hilly and his best friend, Hork, danced together, taking turns at being the girl.  It also bothered him that this scrawny kid was nicknamed Hork and both boys let it stick.

Hork and Hilly.

Hilly and Hork.

There they were, spinning around in the den as Harold heated up a frozen pepperoni pizza for dinner.  They actually held hands in between whacking each other in the head.  Harold thought of his own best friend from middle and high school.  His name was Sam, but everybody called him Dog. 

Hair and Dog.

Dog and Hair.

Was there some kind of rule that guys couldn't be decent to each other?  He didn't expect them to be nice, just decent.  Even when he met Dog at the Library, the pub where they stopped after work, the guy would practically knock him over and spit in his face before they settled down to drink a beer together and shoot the shit.

Tonight, even though it was Friday, he was apathetic about going out.  Even Hilly and Hork were heading to a middle school dance in about an hour.  Harold had been too worn out to meet Dog for at least a month.  He couldn't remember when he saw him last. He couldn't remember when he'd last gone anywhere unless he was required to go.

He sat down on his recliner and watched the boys spin.  Anne had bought fancy green pillows for over a hundred dollars apiece when Harold had ordered the leather couch. They were taking a beating as the boys danced the 'Cotton-Eyed Joe,' whacking each other each time they spun around.  They were screaming and laughing.  He couldn't keep his eyes open.  It was only 5:13 pm.  He knew it was a mistake to sit down.  Once he was off his feet, he was a goner.  At work, he'd been trying to finish his project on his feet, even taking his laptop to the top of the stairs  where he could balance it on the banister and stand up to work and stay focused for a little longer.  In the recliner, with his feet propped up, his eyes rolled back as if he'd been drugged. 

His iPhone chirped.  It was Hork's mom texting a novel to ask what time the dance started.  She was very happy about this dance.  Harold imagined her, standing at the door to the gym, chaperoning with a grin on her face as she watched the kids mill about.  He was going to let them walk to school, even though it was already dark.  Hork's mom assumed he was driving them.  Harold knew the boys would never say anything. He sent a reply.  He'd just nodded off again when she sent another long text wanting to know how much it cost to get in.  It was the same amount that it cost last time.  He texted a short reply.  The boys were still spinning, laughing and falling onto the couch with their dizziness.

The yelling became part of his dream.  There were too many people in his house.  He didn't know any of them them, except that his mother was there, telling him that he needed to rearrange the cabinets.  He opened a cabinet door and green goo spilled out onto the floor.  Everyone in the house was yelling and pointing.  The green goo was flooding the den and began to chirp at his ankles.  Harold woke with a jolt, arms and legs flying as a pillow landed on his face. 

"Sorry Dad," Hilly said even before Harold could figure out what was real and what was dream.  His phone beeped again.  Harold smelled something burning.  The pizza. 

He hopped up and ran to turn off the oven.  A cloud of smoke poured out when he opened the door.  The smoke alarm went off and Harold reached for the fan over the stove and a pot holder.  He burned his finger anyway.  The boys danced around him laughing about calling 911 and still spinning each other around in circles. 

The pizza was overcooked, but still somehow edible.  By the time the boys were done grabbing their slices, there was only one piece left with half the cheese pulled off. 

Dinner with Hilly and Hork. 

Harold looked at the clock.  They didn't have to leave for another twenty-three minutes, not enough time for him to fall asleep again. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Insomniac, Part 10

In fact, people who managed to be privy to Harold's troubled relationship with sleep invariably told him about the magic cure.

Drink 16 ounces of water after dinner.

Take large doses of melotonin.

Exercise is your cure. Get a dog. Get a personal trainer.

Take antihistamine.

Avoid drinking any water after bedtime.

Go to bed at the same time every night.

Get up at the same time every morning.

Don't watch TV.

Sleep when the baby sleeps, in otherwise, whenever you can.

Try watching the movie 'Australia.' It's long, has good music, and can lull you to sleep.

Try hypnosis.

Don't eat sugar.

Drink warm milk with brown sugar at bedtime.

Don't keep a clock in the bedroom.

Keep a sleep journal with information about how much sleep you got with what you thought interrupted you.

Don't live near power lines. Harold wondered where you'd have to live to do that.

Don't eat more than six ounces of meat a day.

Sleep in a dark quiet room.

Get a white noise machine.

Avoid exercise within five hours of bedtime.

It's adrenal shock.

It's cortisol.

It's sleep apnea.

You might have a pituitary tumor.

It's contaminants from generic medications.

It's subliminal messages. Hadn't he ever seen the breasts hidden in the ice cubes in the liquor ads?

Oh Harold had heard them all. Harold was tired of hearing them all. Harold was simply tired. Mostly, he got the impression that if he just tried hard enough, he would get enough sleep.

He must not be trying, he thought, as he sat on the edge of the bed at 2:17 am, his head in his hands.

Thank you for listening,

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Insomniac, Part 9

I'm sick of Harold and his ridiculous dilemmas.  He's boring himself, let alone the rest of us.  He needs to get a life, get some exercise, get a dog, for God's sake.  I mean, really. 

Thank you for listening, jules


A lady from church wants me to write a Christmas pageant in time for Christmas. Nick and Mike are watching new 'The Three Stooges' movie. As a veteran stooges watcher from the 1960s, I can tell you that they have totally nailed this one.

So, here's a new and revised Christmas story:

Joseph and Mary were hiking through the desert, having an argument.
"It was a metaphor, Mary," Joseph said. "I didn't really hear voices."
"So you're telling me that these "voices,'" she did the quotes in the air, "told you to marry me even though I'm already pregnant? So you were going to dump me, Joseph? You didn't just marry me because you love me? Is that it?"
"I didn't say that, Mary."
"So what did you say?"
"I said that an angel came and told me ..."
"Was she pretty, Joseph? Was the angel prettier than I am? I'll bet she didn't have this huge bulge for a belly and fat ankles. Did she have fat ankles, Joseph?"
"You're beautiful, Mary. It's just going to be hard for you in this last month. Remember, Sarah told you that the last month would be hell, remember that?"
"But I just feel so fat. Does this toga make my butt look fat?" She turned and her backside looked as if it was three sizes bigger than it was just moments before.
"Uh, well, um ... Hey, what are we going to name this little peanut?" Joseph asked.
"I was thinking about naming him Leslie."
"You're kidding, right?"
"What about Milford? My grandpa was named Milford," Mary said.
"Oh God, I've got a headache," Joseph said and he rubbed his eyes.
"Joseph, I'm really hungry.  Can you get me some ice cream, and maybe some spinach with barbecue sauce."
Joseph shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, rubbed his eyes again and looked confused. 
"That's strange," Joseph said. "My headache's gone. It just vanished."
"I thought I was supposed to be the one who was favored by God, but you know if I were really favored by God, I wouldn't have such a bad case of indigestion right now." Mary rubbed the top of her belly as Joseph took out his iPhone. In the background, you could hear a mechanical voice that said, 'recalculating destination.' He poked at it a couple of times, turned it sideways, then back, and then got a surprised look on his face.
"Hey, Mary, look," Joseph said. "We're here."  Then he looked around and spotted a well and a couple of low buildings in the distance.
"Where? I don't see anything."
"Bethlehem. See, it's right here on my map." He held out the iPhone for her to take a look.
"That thing just drove us into the Dead Sea again. It's the third time this week. Let me look at that." She took the iPhone from him and tried to zoom the map. Joseph walked toward the well.
"No, see the well? See the inn? This is Bethlehem."
"This place? There isn't even a camel crossing. Are you sure."
"I'm sure, Mary," Joseph said. He turned around and pointed. "I was born in that hut, right over there."
The innkeeper came out of the inn, took one look at the dusty duo, and crossed his arms across his ample belly.
"Where you two bozos headed?" he asked with a Brooklyn accent
"Um, here?" Joseph said smiling in a goofy way.
"I don't think so. You can just get right back on that camel of yours and get outta here." He laughed.
"My wife ... she's pregnant."
"Yeah, and that means what to me?"
"Well, we could use a room and maybe a beer and a sandwich."
"Got any money?" the innkeeper said rubbing his fingers together.
Joseph pulled a handkerchief out of one pocket. Sand fell out of it. The innkeeper took out an oversized Mag light and smacked it repeatedly into the palm of his hand. Joseph pulled out a squashed roll of Mentos from the other pocket.
"Mentos?" Joseph said leaning in, Mentos extended. The innkeeper shook his head. Joseph pulled a bouquet of fake flowers from the sleeve of his toga. The innkeeper laughed.
"Eh, what the hell. You kids can shack up in the stable around back, second stall on the left," the innkeeper said, eyes softening. "Now, get outtta here, before I change my mind."
Mary and Joseph opened a creaky barn door.
"Joseph, watch out for that .... oh, that is so disgusting." She held her nose as Joseph scraped his shoe on something. It was one of the feeding troughs for the sheep.
"Joseph, I think it's coming," Mary said, grabbing hold of her sides.
"Yeah, I think I got most of it off." Joseph was still looking at the bottom of his sandal and continued scraping his foot on the manger.
"Joseph, Joseph?" She sank onto a hay bale, holding her belly.

And then there's an intermission.

When the picture faded back in, there was a crowd of onlookers and farm animals around Joseph, Mary, and the new baby.  Three wise men did a three stooges poking and slapping thing and each of them ended up with manure on their togas. The animals shuffled around, farting and dropping loads of manure.  Except for Mary, Joseph, and the baby, there was mayhem in the barn.
"Oh Joseph, look at him. He looks just like your uncle Manuel."
"He's an ugly little bugger, for all that work. I was thinking, before, that we could call him Virgil," Joseph said, as he wiped dirt, blood or manure or both, from his hands onto his toga.
"We'll call him Extra Manuel, E-Manuel for short," Mary said.
"E-Manuel?  Is that what you think, Mary, that we should call him E-Manuel, as if he's some kind of a text message?  What the hell kind of name is that?  You think we should call him E-Manuel?  You gonna send him out like a spam email to the whole world now?  Is that it, Mary, because if that's it, I think you're onto something there."
"Calm down, Joseph."
"You're telling me to calm down?  We've been walking in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.  We have no food, no money, only a half a calf-skin of wine left before we die of dehydration. And now you're telling me to calm down?  Then we end up in a barn and suddenly you have to have your baby this very instant, surrrounded by all these pigs and their crap?  I've spent the last three hours with my hand in a vice as you screamed into my ear and you're telling me to calm down? I've stepped in manure more times than I can count in the last four hours and you're telling me to calm down?  Then, these three bozos show up, our so-called wise men, with totally useless gifts.  It's not like we can eat myrrh or anything.  They give us gold, but the innkeeper only takes silver because of the gold embargo.  These wise men start burning incense and singing 'Kumbaya' like a bunch of hippies and I'm supposed to calm down?  And the whole time, I'm hearing voices in my head saying that everything is going to be alright, that I should stop and breathe and you're telling me to calm down?"
"Maybe you should listen to the voices, Joseph." 
Joseph took a deep and ragged breath.  Then, he took another, just a little more slowly.  Then he started to laugh. He laughed so hard that tears stream down his face.  Then Mary started to laugh too and she smiled as she looked down at her baby, E-Manuel, and the tiny knowing baby, he smiled too.

 No, I don't think this lady really wants me to write them a Christmas pageant.

Thank you for listening, jules