Sleep Aids Guaranteed

by Channie Greenberg


Again, I had that urge to eat my own fingers. Pulling the cuticles away from my nail beds gave me some small measure of somatic relief, but left me far from comfortably drowsy. On one occasion, after nicking my thumb against a screw protruding from a light switch and instinctively sucking at the drop of released blood, I felt a passing sensation of released tension. Moments later, though, I was strung out, again.

When I tried licking my elbow, I couldn’t reach it. Working at gumming my upper thigh rewarded me merely with a salty, oily taste. In addition, my attempt to take a teeny, tiny bite out of the underside of one of my arms got side railed by the dirt and grime, which lingered there from my day’s work in the shop.

So, I surfed. I played popcorn bingo. I called friends that lived in other time zones. Nothing, though, brought my lids to anything resembling a place of meeting.

I folded laundry, washed dishes, swept the floor, emptied garbage cans, and even made an effort to polish the cat. Ralphie hissed at my rag and spat at the window cleaner. He left through the pet door faster than a skateboard-riding teenager high on weed and then he deigned to stay out for a few days.

The newest mark, which I made on my wall, for yet another sunrise greeted, brought my tally to two hundred and seventy-eight. I was getting suspicious that I might be suffering from insomnia.

Later, while I posed over an open chassis, my brain propped up by green tea, random energy drinks, and the fear that Josie might fire me, Sam wandered in. She held the local chronicle in one hand and a new pack of smokes in the other. Almost smiling, she swung her feet up on the hood of the Rolls-Royce Phantom docked for a transmission job. Josie preferred us to service exotic cars rather than ordinary ones; the profit margin on the former was “oh so wonderful.”

That the expensive cars’ owners could be considered less than exemplary samples of humanity was Henrietta’s, the customer care manager’s, problem. Henrietta’s graduate degree was in abnormal psychology. Her thesis had been “Effects on Cardiovascular Reactivity and Recovery of Self-Soothing Techniques Compared to Cattle Prods.”

Regardless, I had already eyeballed my task’s planetary gear sets and torque converter. As well, I had pulled the electronic widgets into my bay that would check for problems with the hydraulic system. Our computer could quite capably direct electrical solenoids to modify oil flow among shift points.

When it was time for a break, I pulled a section out of Sam’s hand. She grunted, puffed and turned a page. Her record coffee time was nearly two and one half hours.

Opening at random, I came to a column-wide ad for Webberg’s Sleep Aids. Pulling up my own chair, I studied the print. For the cost of a large pizza with pineapple and green peppers, I could purchase assistance. Quicker than Captain Kirk, I palmed my communicator out of my pocket, fished out my credit card, and ordered one. Plus, I surreptitiously took a picture of Sam; Josie might come trolling to see why orders were being processed slowly.

I regard myself as chief in charge of elucidating meaning from my conscientious rendering of personal thoughts, words and deeds. When the plain package from Webberg arrived in my physical mailbox, I jigged across my apartment and didn’t stop until Ol’ Mr. Gemry banged on his ceiling/my floor with one of his cross-country ski poles.

Ralphie, who had since returned, ran, in response to all of that banging, like a burning soy field. He disappearing for a few more days. I turned up my speakers to compensate; I had just bought Buovo d’Antona by Traetta; Gemry’s tastes are more Grateful Dead.

Hours later, after playing Soliman, La Fante Furba, and Zenobia and ignoring the banging on the floor, at my door, and the suddenly incessant ringing of my phone, I decided to try bed. Utility knife in hand, I carefully extracted my Webberg purchase from its box. In the morning, for a change, I would be able to limit myself to a single glass of jasmine-infused green tea.

A users’ guide came with the doohickey. On that manual’s cover was a woman with her face mashed into her keyboard. Zs were coming out of her mouth, comic-book style. Besides the users’ manual, the box contained only a small, empty, glass jar. “For sunshiny thoughts” its label said. I shook the box. A wee ant crawled out.

Whereas I considered throwing the vessel against a wall and using one or more of the resulting shards to cut myself, I desisted. It had been a long time since I tried to collect anything resembling “sunshiny thoughts.” What’s more, the most consistent and predictable elements in my life were my sleep disorder, Ralphie missing his litter box, and Josie yelling at me. Maybe a little playfulness, in the least, would separate me from my taste for my own flesh and let me get to sleep.

The corner gym had a Zumba class. Two high school friends had been bugging me to have snackies with them after work. They sent many emails. The air temperature was rising outside, the trees were budding, and the small creatures of the world, as evidenced by the prizes Ralphie had recently presented, were repopulating.

During the weeks subsequent to my collecting “sunshiny thoughts,” Ralphie still pooped on the carpet, Josie still urged us to bill dishonestly, and I still bit my nails. I was, however, falling asleep before midnight more often than not, had made headway on both soca and mambo steps, and had met a rare example of a less-than-hostile, nearly cute postal worker. He even had red hair! For the time being, my jar is half full.


Copyright © 2012 by Channie Greenberg

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