One sheep, two sheep

The Compass - - OPINION - Harold N. Wal­ters ed­i­tor@CB­N­com­pass.ca

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.

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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 gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com.

Some­times cot­ton ball baa-baas blithely bound­ing over pas­ture fences lure me

into slum­ber.

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