Rob Taylor " Wanted: A simple Mary Ellen goodnight … or not
December 22, 2008
Some find security in knowing that December’s full moon is fading. Some do not.
Goodnight Irene, Saigon, Sweet Darlin’ – all you sipping tea with long-lost relatives, executing superhero duties flawlessly, reliving childhood … all you aboard the REM
Sleep Train. It’s pushing 2 a.m. and you sleepmongers are getting fat and happy.
Not me. Turns out I’m nocturnal – lying here on the couch, remote in hand, surfing for the Insomnia Channel (which for some reason I think is a PBS affiliate), trying to sleep like the rest of humanity.
As luck would have it, I catch Mary Ellen blitzing John Boy, Elizabeth, Jim-Bob and the rest of the overalls with NyQuil-grade “good nights.”
“Niiiice!” I snap.
My kids stir in their bunk beds at the outburst, then, gradually doze off again.
“C’mon, Mary Ellen. Throw me a bone,” I say, softer this time. As flippant as she is
with goodnights, would it kill her to toss one my way? It’s not like I’m trying to squeeze a goodnight kiss out of her, just a simple goodnight for someone who really could use one.
Exhausted, I contemplate a sleeping pill, but stop myself. I have to hit the grind in 4 hours. Too late for a sleeping pill; the zombie risk is too high. If only chamomile tea did something more than exercise my bladder.
Why me? Why tonight? I don’t deserve this. I exercised. I showered. I read (a chapter of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” … which reminded me to lock the front door). I smoothed the sheets. Fluffed the pillow. Turned off the lights. Relaxed my tongue. My bedtime routine was textbook.
But shortly after closing my eyes, The Bangles concert fired up in my head: ” … the school kids so sick of books, they like the punk and the metal bands. When the buzzer rings, oh-way-oh, they walk like an Egyptian” … 25 words that incite educators, sensible parents, “Dancing with the Stars” addicts and all of Egypt. Twenty-five words and a voodoo-like melody that encroached upon my sanity from 10:30 p.m. until 1:50 a.m. when, finally, I threw off the covers, found the CD and torched it in the fireplace.
Now, as if on cue, Mary Ellen appears on my Sylvania.
“Goodnight, Mary Ellen,” I say, turning her off, turning on the lamp and finding “Dracula” again. Like me, he’s a night owl. Like me, he fancies himself in a cape. Like me, he doesn’t like to be disturbed when sleeping. The coincidences are sobering.
Like Dracula, I never bought that Ben Franklin “early to bed, early to rise” crap. If boot camp hours are Utopian, why then do most heart attacks occur in the a.m. shortly after the alarm clock jolts the Sleeping Beauty in us? And why do roosters taste like chicken?
I wander to the bathroom, hit the light and search for meaning in the mirror.
My un-dead reflection stares back, looking anemic, iron deficient, like I need a red meat transfusion … or a Geritol tablet. But it’s chicken, not steak on the brain at 2 a.m. Why? Before I can connect the dots, the poultry pangs give way to something stronger … the urge to Google Mary Ellen.
What happens next is fuzzy ” images of a suffocating mist, boxes of unclean earth, releasing the hounds. Sometime later – how long I don’t know – the alarm clock pierces the fog and echoes down the hallway. Why is Mary Ellen on my computer screen? Why do my house slippers have mud on them? And why am I clutching a Geritol tablet and a blood sausage?
Disturbing, but there’s no time for retracing steps. I have to get ready for work.
Minutes later, I cut my neck shaving. The sight of blood triggers something: a simultaneous dreading and yearning for the night, the full moon, my primordial self. I shake off the chill after noticing my reflection in the mirror; the fact that I still have one is comforting.
Mary Ellen is safe … for now.
On my way out the door, I open the freezer. The chicken thighs jump out at me. That’s dinner, I decide, tossing the package into the sink to thaw. After dinner, after sinking my incisors into dark meat, I promise myself a long, hot shower. Hopefully, that does the trick. I better nod off tonight before Mary Ellen stiffs me again at 2 a.m. or, heaven help us all, even if the moon is half-empty.
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