by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith
It was around noon when I paused for another unscheduled dream. In the dream I was a comedian who only performed for people who were under two years old. It was a nice comedy club with the requisite brick wall behind the performer and an area for drinks along the right hand wall. They had a two bottle minimum.
The audience members were dressed nicely, the young men wearing short ties and Overnight Huggies, the young ladies wearing snap-together big-bead necklaces and Dora the Explorer sleepwear.
My act was simple... I’d go from patron to patron and rub my nose on the bottom of their feet saying, “Who’s got stinky feet..? Do you got some stinky feet..?” And the crowd would burst out in laughter... except for one baby in the back of the room.
I did my Barney impression and still he cried. I told the joke about Buzz Lightyear, don’t ask don’t tell... I used some of my best material... and still there was a loud wailing cry coming from somewhere out in the distance.
I shielded my eyes from the spotlights and tried to determine where the heckler was sitting, and I squinted real hard and saw... a truck. Coming right at me. They were headlights, not spotlights.
I pulled the wheel hard to the right and the truck whooshed past me like a factory... so close I could feel the magnetism of the lost air swirling between us.
For the next whole mile I was awake. Or at least I felt like I was awake. I knew that just because I wasn’t asleep. That didn’t mean I was really awake.
I knew I’d reached my limit. If I didn’t get sleep soon, there’d be some kind of consequences.
I’d known about my problem for a while. A month earlier I’d gone to the sleep study my doctor recommended, the sleep study in the hospital annex. The woman who put the wires all over my head and neck and fingers and toes said I was an unusual case. I wondered why she thought so... Was it because I was a male and wore pink curlers in my hair? Was it because of the bunny slippers? Was it because I was over fifty and carried the Boxed Rainbow Edition of the Silver Tinted My Pretty Pony Stallion under my arm
But those weren’t the only reasons she called me an unusual case. She said I stopped breathing over ninety times in under an hour. A record for that annex. She said I had such bad sleep patterns she was surprised it hadn’t compromised my health. I hadn’t heard her entire spiel because I kept nodding off.
She fitted me with a mask that supplied constant air pressure and kept the air moist and warm. I also tasted a hint of aroma therapy happening.
I pulled the mask up a little. “How did you know I liked bacon and tuna? Those are my favorite things. You guys think of everything.”
The nurse made a note to remind her to clean the mask between patrons. She pushed down the mask and she turned off the lights and left the room.
I slept. I actually slept. I counted only three small sheep and my eyes closed. I raveled up the narrow sleeves of care. I watched as the forest neared the castle. I was untimely ripped from the uterus of day. I slept a sleep of pine forests and unicorns.
When I woke it was a freshening that I hadn’t felt since I was ten years old. I could have run the bases and still have daylight left to jump around on the way to the dugout. I could have scaled a mountain.
I looked at my mask. “Wow, this thing works.” I thought I’d be taking it home. She took it from my hand.
Now I was having issues with my sleep, which means I wasn’t sleeping. I’d been waiting for my new equipment for almost thirty days. A doctor changed his address; the insurance company hadn’t received a voucher; a secret handshake hadn’t been given to the right person. I was even told I couldn’t buy the machine without a prescription.
The dream about those stinky feet had almost been my last. I was heading over to the building where the sleep study had been performed. I was going to obtain a step by step procedure or actually steal a mask. And I was going at night because that’s when the studies were performed.
The parking lot was closed but I didn’t care. I drove over a couple of orange cones, scraped past a lowered barrier, and parked at an angle right in the center of town.
I got out of the car. There were thirty cones all spaced the same distance apart. I think they were placed to indicate where stripes were going to be painted or parking meters installed, or where lamps or graves or stoves or cattle were going to be planted. I didn’t care.
I went over to the nearest cone and kicked it so hard it flew solid into one of its brethren and both of them fell in a heap with one bleeding from its ears and the other with a broken shoulder. All of God’s tin soldiers fell before me.
When I left the parking lot it looked like the end of geometry as we know it. The loss of one of the world’s basic shapes and the institution of reason and discourse.
The three buildings that comprise the medical center all face an inside courtyard. The buildings are all about ten stories tall. When I got to the door I used a code on the keypad. I typed in 666. I was surprised when the code still worked.
Inside it was dark and quiet. As I traveled, the lights followed. The lights came on in front of me and turned off as I left. I was walking the long corridors and changing floors and taking the elevator down and then up because I couldn’t remember exactly where the sleep study had been performed. From the outside it must have looked like someone was playing Pac Man with the building.
I stumbled on a sleep study door and opened it. A man was inside sleeping quietly. I kicked him in the crotch to gently wake him up. “Where’s my damn mask?”
“What..?” he said.
“Say what again,” I said.
He started pushing me out the door. I did an imitation of James Arness and growled and swung my arm about trying to shatter the doorframe the way he did in the movie The Thing, and the man pushed me out and started piling furniture against the door. I don’t know if he went back to sleep. I hoped I hadn’t been too forward. I hoped his biometric readings hadn’t been affected by our little interruption.
When I got to the end of the hall I heard a phone ringing. I stood in front of it for a long time. I picked up. “Dr. Howard,” I said.
“What are you doing?” someone asked.
“Dr. Fine,” I said.
“We’re watching you on the security system.”
“Dr. Howard,” I said.
“Stay right where you are.”
When they got there I tried to explain my complaint. “What if you were told you need dialysis and then you couldn’t get some for almost a month?”
“You have to follow certain procedures,” they said.
“I haven’t slept in days.” I said. “I’m not even sure you guys are real.”
One of them did something that pretty much convinced me he was real. I’m sure there’s never been a dream that incorporated a headlock and noogies and a criminal citation.
We went down to the ground level and they walked me over to the emergency room. “Maybe they have something that can help you sleep,” they said.
I stood in line and when it was my turn I explained things. The nurse asked me to wait. On my way over to the waiting room a man came up to me. He was wearing a hat that said Laclede Gas. He was holding his arm level and his face looked intense. I noticed the bloody towel.
“I’m kind’a busy,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “It’s just that... well... what did you say was wrong with you?”
“I can’t sleep,” I said.
“You can’t sleep?”
“True, that,” I said.
He pulled back the towel. A metal rod had bent its way through his forearm and continued into his jacket and out through his yellow striped safety vest. In the back it looked like there was a tent pole holding his shirt up off the ground. It had probably spiked right through his shoulder blade.
“What..?” I said. “What..?”
“Nothing,” he said.
I sat in one of those chairs and all around me ran the turmoil of careless men. Bacteria thrived. Razors settled arguments. Guns barked and pit bulls didn’t. They carried in strangers and neighbors and children and death by expiration date. And slowly my eyes grew weary.
To the sounds of doctor’s names interrupting Christmas carols I drifted off into a sound sleep. Seventeen hours later I awoke. My wallet was gone, my pants were unzipped, and there was vomit on my shoes, but I felt renewed. Mankind wasn’t a lost cause. The flowers were going to bloom in spring. The Earth would spin as it always had. Sleep made a new man of me.
I walked out the doors and could actually see my car getting towed away in the distance. I didn’t care. The man from Laclede was outside taking a cigarette. He hadn’t been helped as I had.
“Nice meeting you,” I said. Even though it caused the hole in his shoulder blade to grind and spit blood I shook his hand.
“Friendly bloke,” someone said as I moved away.
“Bright-eyed he was,” someone else said.
“We may never see his kind again.”
I was singing, when last they saw me leave.
Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith