Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Insomniac, Part 18

Harold was at home, but he couldn't remember much of what happened in the three days he was in the hospital. He remembered waking up, but he seemed to always be alone in the room, yet Hilly and Victoria kept talking to him as if they'd been there with him.

Now, he was home, not working yet, but at home, where life was familiar. He knew things still were not right. He had a good idea, but forgot it before he could put it on his list of things to do. He stood in his kitchen with the list in his hand, wondering what it was. People always said that they'd remember it eventually, but he wasn't sure he would.

He was making his usual omelet as though it was a Saturday breakfast, broccoli, cheese, and bacon, with a dollop of sour cream on top.  His doctor had told him to give up eggs because of his cholesterol, or at least the egg yolks, but he hadn't listened. He even used butter.

Things hadn't been going well. He had put in a load of laundry, but when he'd gone back to throw it in the dryer, the socks were still furry and only the towel was wet.  He had shut the washer door and pressed all the buttons again, making sure he had clicked the big one again at the end. He'd waited until the water began to run. The cat - what was his name? - had jumped up onto the washer and pawed at the lid where you were supposed to put in the soap. He had obediently opened the lid and the cat stuck his paw down into the running water and shook it.  It hurt to laugh still. After that, he'd wandered around the house until he'd found himself in the kitchen, looking into a half-empty refrigerator. That felt normal.

He nearly put a pat of butter in his tea, but stopped himself. Could he make these eggs for himself?

Hilly and Victoria were at school. Harold felt abandoned. He didn't feel old enough to be left at home alone.

Thank you for listening, jules


Monday, January 21, 2013

Insomniac, Part 17

Every time Harold woke up, a new plate of half-eaten food sat on the tray in front of him. His head still hurt the same way, that fluffy hangover kind of headache he always got on Sundays when he was in college. He looked at the table, still out of reach. It was unnerving that the tray changed from pale pink to pale blue to pale green and then back again as if there were some code he was missing. He thought there should be more to the code than three colors.

The TV was on still. Animal planet. Some cat was scratching an owner's boyfriend. He knew the answer to that problem - a squirt bottle. Why didn't this crazy cat guy ever use a squirt bottle to stop the nasty behavior of a jealous cat? It was the tattoos, he thought. Tattoos changed the way a guy's brain worked.

He thought about that for a while.

When Harold opened his eyes, the congealed food lay on a pink tray.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Insomniac, Part 16

Harold woke up in a hospital room. He couldn't remember falling asleep again in his bathroom but he couldn't remember getting where he was either. His head hurt. He thought maybe it was the pale teal walls and the pink cabinets that hurt. It should hurt, that color, even if there was something else that was going on with his head. He closed his eyes.

Harold woke up in a different hospital room, more upright than he'd been before. This room was pale yellow and blue, nauseating, but at least it didn't make his head hurt. The television was on. SpongeBob. Even in the hospital, he couldn't escape SpongeBob.

His phone rang. It was lying on a little table holding a tray with turkey, congealed gravy, and little gray pieces of broccoli stems and carrots. Someone had eaten part of it. Harold looked at the ringing phone and thought, for about the hundredth time, how the ringtone ruined Stevie Ray Vaughn no matter how much he loved that song.

He couldn't reach the little table with the used food and the phone. Something held his neck straight so he had to move his eyes in exaggerated ways. It felt to him that he was in a silent film, trying to express some deep desire, yet no one watched. Charlie Chaplin, with his black eye-liner, was dead.

Harold lay still for a minute. The phone went silent. He couldn't hear anything from another room because of the commercial for the scooter.

"Are you having trouble getting to the bathroom by yourself?"

'Yes, I am,' he said and fell into a deep sleep, like drowning in cotton wool and warm water.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, January 14, 2013

Insomniac, Part 15

Harold looked around. There were suddenly faces hanging above him like big ornaments. He squeezed his eyes closed for a second, but when he opened them again, the faces were still there and looked just as strange, kind of blurred at the edges. He was suddenly cold, shivering in fact. Who were these people in his bathroom? Why were they yelling at him, calling him Mr. Westminster?

Hilly's face came into his vision, sideways instead of upright. Harold couldn't turn his head. The other faces receded for a moment but he felt someone's hands on his bare ankles.

"Dad, are you okay?" Hilly asked. Harold didn't point out that people had appeared in his bathroom, their heads looked like globes, and he couldn't move his own head. Was he still naked from when he got out of the shower? When was that? He didn't quite feel naked, but he couldn't move his head to see. None of it seemed okay.

"No," he said.

"Dad, you're going to be okay," Hilly said. That sounded as ridiculous as asking if he was okay. How was any of this okay? Just as Harold was about to say that, the boy was gone and people were rolling him onto his side. He didn't even try to stop any of it though and with the wash of cold air on his butt, he knew, without a doubt, that it was naked.

Just what he needed. The vision of his furry butt exposed to the six or eight people in his bathroom made him groan. How could so many people even fit into his bathroom?

"Sorry, Mr. Westminster. We'll get you all packed up here in a jiff. Just bear with us. Can you remember what happened to you, Mr. Westminster?"

Get him talking. Harold could tell by the too-cheerful tone of the man's voice that it was a ploy. Get him talking and maybe he won't notice his ass is hanging out of his wet towel. He could suddenly feel it, the wet towel grinding into his right hip and the cold air hitting his butt.

"Oh God!" It was Victoria's voice he heard, but he couldn't see her. He tried to see where she was so he could explain why he was lying here, half naked on the bathroom floor. He knew she would be disgusted.

"Stay still, Mr. Westminster. We're getting the board," someone said. He couldn't see the face who went with the voice. What the hell was 'the board' and why were they getting it?

It figured. It was already one of those days and it wasn't going to get any better than this, lying on the bathroom floor in front of six or eight strangers with his ass hanging out. Someone needed to call his boss. He was going to be late for work.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Insomniac, Part 14

Harold decided that, being Saturday, it was a good day to use all of the hot water.  He took stock as the water washed over him. Yesterday, he'd bought the big box of chews for the dog but this morning, when he opened the box, it was already half empty. What the hell was up with that? It was the same thing with the containers for his rice protein. The containers were barely half full when he took off the multiple safety seals. Did they really think people were that stupid? Well, yeah, they did.

Harold picked up the soap.  It was a hockey puck. No lather whatsoever. They even did it with hotel soap. Whoever thought of these things must be rich by now. He wanted that job. He wanted to be the guy companies hired to dupe people into thinking they were buying more than they got, the one that thought to make packaging twice the size it needed to be, the one that put a waxy hockey puck inside every bar of soap so that it looked as if you were buying a bigger bar. There were gallons of milk now that weren't quite a gallon. Even lumber yards did it. A two-by-four wasn't really two inches by four inches. It was a conspiracy. Refrigerators were designed to crap out after ten years instead of forty. Dishwashers only made it seven. They were made of plastic parts, yet they cost more. Plus, even the deluxe models were made with the same crappy parts. Then you were supposed to spend another $1200 on a service plan. Then you'd lose the paperwork for it within the first two years of service. It sucked. It all basically sucked.

What the hell was he taking a long shower for anyhow? It didn't help. He turned off the water, reached behind the shelf for his towel and, as usual, knocked a couple packages of stuff nobody ever used into the farthest corner. He held his towel with one hand while trying to reach the fallen packages with the other. The corner of the towel dragged across spilled green conditioner and came up smeared with a flowery fresh scent. He used the long handle of a scrub brush to poke at a white box and three half-used blister packs slid out of it. He accidentally jostled the shelf with his shoulder and a spent tube of toothpaste also fell just out of reach. It left a blue smear of furry toothpaste on the vinyl. Saline from an open bottle dripped onto the floor as he tried to grab the bottle. It rolled away from him twice before he bounced it off the far cabinet and caught it on the rebound, sending a jet of spray across the wall. Eventually, as usual, he slid the whole shelf back from its recess so he could pick up the three half-used blister packs, the soggy white box they came in, and the empty toothpaste tube. Why did he do this every day? Why was it his towel that had to hang behind the shelf? Why couldn't anyone throw out their spent toothpaste tubes?

He managed to get everything off the floor, to wipe up the spills with his towel, and slide the shelf back into place without knocking anything else off. He knew, as he threw his damp towel into the laundry basket, that he'd be stuck without a towel in the morning and would resort to drying himself off with the damp hand towel. He stepped out of the tub, intent on getting a fresh towel for himself before that happened again.

And he slipped on the wet spot he'd created, looking for soap, and hit his head on the tiles. He was down and he was out.

Thank you for listening, jules