One sheep, two sheep
Things that go bump in the night don’t scare me. Not in the least.
At any midnight hour when Dearest Duck bolts upright in our conjugal bunk and says, “Harry, did you hear that?” I spring from the sheets to see what is the matter. I’d rather confront a congested furnace hack-hacking in the duct work, or an overweight rodent absconding with our wheel of cheddar cheese than face the alternative.
The alternative — lying prone, pestered by various nocturnal demons and scrinching my eyes as tight as bellybuttons in an effort to force a return to dreamland.
But those witching hour demons are not gargoyles and imps prodding me towards hell’s flames with pitchforks, eh b’ys?
No sir. They are the demons that keep me awake fretting about mundane matters — like the tallied up Christmas charges that appear on this month’s VISA statement; or the nuisance of arranging for an oil change on the car; or the chances of a lengthy power failure causing the freezer to defrost and allow hundreds of frozen chocolate chip cookies to thaw and crumble.
If I toss and turn instead of remaining supine on my spine, Dearest Duck is likely to root me with an elbow and say, “Harry, my hag-ridden honey, try counting sheep,” or words to that effect.
And so I have. Counted sheep that is. Thousands of them — bucks and ewes and flocks of wee small lambs.
Sometimes cotton ball baabaas blithely bounding over pasture fences lure me into slumber. More often they haven’t because as they frolic they morph from a fluffy-fleeced flock to the sheep of my bay-boy childhood.
The sheep of my youth were not pretty. Sure, a spring lamb gamboling in the garden could be cuddlycute, I s’pose, but their fathers and mothers, their sires and dams, were an unappetizing bunch.
Yes, unappetizing. I was half reared up on mutton, a meat that when roasted still smelled of lanolin and tasted of wool. Even with nose pinched and eyes shut, when I lifted — ‘ cause Mammy made me — a forkful of mutton towards my chops, I couldn’t avoid the image of clusters of grapelike clinkerballs festooning the tails of shittyarsed sheep.
Bouncing clinker-balls always pulled me from the arms of Morpheus back into my twisted sheets.
“Harry, for God’s sake, knock off rooting around,” Dearest Duck has said more than once when I trounced about like an addled shepherd.
One night, the sheep fold empty, while curled into a sleepless knot, pillows clutched between elbows and knees, I thought of an exercise that might slide me into slumber. It was as simple as A, B, C.
“I have an idea,” I said to Dear- est Duck after shaking her to make sure she was awake to marvel at my ingenuity.
“Harry, for…,” she said, lashing out with an elbow and yanking the comforter around her shoulders like a cocoon.
“I’m going to make alphabetized lists,” I said to a pillow, as if mumbling a prayer.
And so I did. Make alphabetized lists, that is. First a list of movies. A is for Angel Eyes. B is for ABeautiful Life. C is for Captains Courageous. D is for Darling Companion. E is for The Exorcist. The Exorcist! The scariest movie ever! My eyes flew open and I wished for dawn. Maybe even daylight wouldn’t help. Forty years ago, that friggin’ movie frightened the bejabbers out of me. It bedeviled [!] my subconscious and, despite therapy, I still haven’t recovered.
Another night I tried books. A is for Alas Babylon. B is for Baby Cakes. I itemized C and D and E … and felt all sleepy-woozy by the time I fumbled in my nodding noggin for a book whose title started with S. S? S? S? The Stand! Horror master Stephen King’s magnum opus of dystopian fiction. Nothing less than a yarn about a disease-induced apocalypse!
Eyes wide open I dared to cuddle in to the protective warmth of Dearest Duck’s broad back, albeit outside the comforter.
In the meantime, demon-tormented, I’ve suffered through dozens of restless nights. But tonight, demons be buggered. Tonight I’ll make a list guaranteed to be soporific. I’ll list possible ingredients for a boiler of soothing new-age vegetable soup.
… and so I lay me down to slumber. A is for Asparagus. B is for Broccoli. Broccoli! For frig sake, broccoli! “Dearest…? Wake up.” Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at email@example.com.
Sometimes cotton ball baa-baas blithely bounding over pasture fences lure me