Feel­ing in the Night

Pasatiempo - - HONORABLE MENTION - by Daniel J. Donoghue

From the start, he did not like work­ing the swing shift. It seemed as if the hours be­tween four and mid­night should be filled with some­thing else. Maybe the time would be bet­ter spent with his fam­ily, or read­ing, or lis­ten­ing to NPR. Maybe just re­lax­ing. There should be some­thing to those hours other than work.

Af­ter a few weeks, he be­gan to enjoy the ride home. Still not the work, or the hours — just the ride home. The first night he felt it was af­ter a hard rain. It was one week be­fore Christ­mas and it had been blis­ter­ing cold when he had ar­rived at work. When he got off and went out to the park­ing lot, it was wet and quiet and cool. The freez­ing rain had made the park­ing lot shine with a fresh glaze. The small grass di­viders be­tween park­ing lots glowed a fresh green that they could not muster in the day­time. Ev­ery­thing looked so clean.

As he drove out that night, on the ac­cess road that led to Route 1, the lit­tle road that hardly any­one used ex­cept for the peo­ple who lived in the lit­tle box houses to one side, he rolled down his win­dows. It was about 12:30 in the morn­ing. Ev­ery­thing was quiet. Cars were in the drive­ways … street­lights were on … front porch lights were on. Ev­ery­thing was so or­derly. This was the time for ev­ery­thing to be in its place.

The night was clear now and the moon was out full. The moon and the or­ange lights and the white lights and the large park­ing lots look­ing freshly painted made for a pretty pic­ture. It seemed that he could think clearly now. That he could think about things with some per­spec­tive.

It got so busy dur­ing the days, be­ing a fa­ther, be­ing a hus­band, be­ing a worker, pay­ing bills, try­ing to keep track of ex­penses, keep­ing up with all the health care bills and pa­per­work and crap. He had so lit­tle time to think any­more. Day to day to day, just an end­less suc­ces­sion of de­ci­sions made on the fly. Ev­ery­thing was by the minute now, the in­for­ma­tion age was a timely age, ev­ery­thing had to be done quickly. Speed was more im­por­tant than qual­ity now. One had to be on the ball, both at home and at work, there did not seem to be any down­time th­ese days. It was all up time, time on the move, time to get some­thing done. If you were done pay­ing the bills, fin­ished record­ing the ex­penses, com­pleted the health care pa­per­work fil­ing, logged on to your email, dealt with your voice­mail, read your postal mail and the news­pa­per, got your stock quotes from CNBC, well, then, it was time to take care of your in­fant daugh­ter while your wife went to work. Break­fast to be made — lunch to be made — di­a­pers to be changed — clothes to be washed, dishes to be washed — and you to be washed. Jump in the shower. Then it was time to go to work.

But now, it seemed that all of it made sense. There was a clar­ity in the night. The ca­coph­ony of the day and the work­place had given now given way to a fu­ne­real calm. And he could think. Clearly think, not rushed thoughts. Route 1, that rot­ting route of day­time death, was al­most empty. He made all the lights. Even the Belt­way was al­most a magic car­pet ride.

Pulling up to his street, he looked at his watch and saw that the ride home had taken a full fif­teen min­utes less than the ride there. His street was quiet, too. He saw his house, dark, ex­cept for the front porch light. It shone like a bea­con over his front door.

He parked the car and stood by the Christ­mas lights, glow­ing, twin­kling and smil­ing. He looked around and heard noth­ing and saw noth­ing. Ev­ery­thing seemed ... so ar­ranged. He thought of his sleep­ing wife and baby and he was happy. Things ap­peared dif­fer­ent now. It was all good now.

He went down­stairs with an old John Stein­beck novel and sat in the easy chair and be­gan to read. He de­cided he would start driv­ing home slower af­ter work. Make it take a lit­tle more time. He had got­ten a lot done on the ride home tonight.

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