Incident at 2 a.m.

– a memoir As I opened my eyes, becoming vaguely aware of first myself, then the bed around me and wife next to me, her breathing rhythm and that of the room in which we slept, and finally the house that contained what we had become, I started to regret that can of Wild Cherry Soda gulped heroically right before bed. I knew at the time of popping open the tab on the can that it would wake me up later with its urgings and demand for release once it was done flooding my body with addictive sugar-like chemicals. Still, I had downed the can with a swagger more fitting of a young man about to enter the playing field of some sport. Well, it mattered not. The age I am was beginning to teach me how to stumble halfasleep to the bathroom, how to make sure I left things acceptable for my wife, and how to get back to bed and asleep without really waking up. So I absently got out of bed and in some fashion of an automaton made it to the door and opened it, softly turning the handle and swinging the wooden plane on its whisper-quiet hinges. The light of the living room blinded and startled me out of my practiced and self-assured mode of operation. Sheesh! My youngest spawn had left the lights blazing and the dogs were running up and down the hall in some circus of canine fun, balls and ropes being carried in quick little mouths and deposited everywhere, mostly at my feet with a wag of tail. I quickly pulled the door shut so my wife would not be disturbed and took a deep breath. Whatever…I would take care of this and talk to my son in the morning about how to properly put the house to bed when he was the last one awake. I corralled the dogs – three of them, one Welsh Corgi and two smarter than they look Dachshunds with big alert eyes and ears - to the kitchen and put up the barricade, murmuring something like “good pups…good pups…now go to sleep.” I half-turned when my eye registered the situation with the blinds. They were not pulled shut, which would translate to inappropriate puppy activity at 6 am, as they would begin to notice the world moving and start to shout taunts at the squirrels and birds moving about. Or perhaps it was the squirrels and the birds which taunted the dogs with their unrestrained freedom in the early morning, making fun of my dogs stuck behind the invisible barrier of glass, only able to press a wet nose to the glass and watch, leaving behind their greasy imprint of their misery for me in the morning to clean. So I turned back and began to step over the barricade, left foot first, something I execute successfully without incident countless times. However, this time the Corgi has seen fit to lie right next to the barricade, exactly at its foot so that in mid-air my own foot must change course and land slightly to the right of its intended placement. My trailing right foot does not, however, make the same successful adjustment. The big toe is not high enough, and it catches the top of the barricade, dragging it forward and onto the Corgi with a crash. The Corgi is moving faster than lickety-split out of this whole symphony of

percussive mis-steps and this causes me again to have to adjust my step in mid-air as I am still dancing to get away from the “can it be a little louder?” barricade myself. From their basket, the two Dachshunds are watching with the same big eyes and big alert ears. I can imagine their thoughts. As my feet start to find solid purchase on the kitchen floor I bring my right foot forward one more time to gain the final steady stance I need to gather my wits. I notice, with regret, that this step has brought my right foot into something wet. Sighing, I do that odd walk where you only walk on the heel of a foot that has gotten into something untoward and you don’t want that untoward spread further on the floor so you keep that part of the foot up in the air, creating this odd uneven walk that the Dachshunds cock their heads at, wondering if this is a signal to play. I hope they know it isn’t. My hand finds the light switch in the kitchen and I see that the puddle I have stepped in is yellow. My eyes roll up and I begin to wonder how long it will take for my adrenaline to subside after all of this, so I can get back to sleep. I have to work in the morning, and this does not bode well for being alert at work. Being a grown man, I of course lay all the blame for this at the dry feet of my son. Speaking of which, the dry feet of my son have appeared at the entrance to the kitchen. “Dad, what are you doing?” the part of him attached to the dry feet ask, innocently and bewilderingly. My look to him is not that of the bemused Dachshunds. He follows this up, however, with, “Look, I’ll clean this up in here. I am still up you know. You didn’t have to put the dogs away, yet. I was just downstairs getting something.” Again, I look at him. Indeed. “Thank you,” I manage, heel-walking my way to the bathroom. Once there, I turn on the cold water in the tub to wash my foot off and ponder what psychological damage the sight of a father in his underwear, heel-walking stubbornly out of the kitchen at 2 a.m., will cause in the fragile mind of a 20 year-old young man. Believing that he will somehow find a way past this, I turn my attention to the water and the yellow that had been on my foot. Thinking that the water is not enough to clean my foot satisfactorily, and not wishing to go looking for much to clean it better with, I grab a shampoo bottle and pour a bit in the puddling clear water at the end of the tub by the drain, next to my cooling heel. I then waddle the foot under the water stream to get the shampoo suds off, thinking briefly that I now have the cleanest toes on the planet which have in fact been soothed by some concoction of grapeseed, pomegranate, and Vitamin A which will be sure to make any hair on my toes shiny and manageable for the next day. It’s a small consolation, to have the toes of a model, but I have decided it’s worth hanging my hat on. Drying my foot off on the shower rug, I breathe deeply, and turn off the bathroom light

on the way back to my bedroom. My hand on the doorknob, I decide I should have the good sense to half-yell, “Good night, dude. Thanks for helping with the cleanup on aisle six.” “No problem!” is what I hear as I shut the door to the world. I slip into bed as quietly as I can, thinking to myself, ‘Really? She slept through all that? She is paying me back for pretending to sleep through the baby’s crying 20 years ago, no doubt.’ I reach down to my big toe, which is throbbing a bit from its encounter with the barricade, despite being shiny and manageable. I pray that sleep will return quickly.

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