Interrupted Nights

Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, Whose Line Is It Anyway?

I’ve fallen into the habit of dozing near bedtime in a recliner in front of the TV. Going to bed at 11 feels like giving in to old age, so I try to stay up till 12. I sometimes make it through Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue at 11:35, but often nod off during the sports segment of the local news. An info-mercial wakes me up around 2:30. I stagger back to the bedroom on stiff legs, use the facilities and realize that I’ve become wide awake.

I sit on my bed and stare at the alarm clock. Anxieties and regrets surface as the day’s events parade before my inner eye. I wonder why I’d been so insensitive to Judy, impatient with the cashier at Publix, way too blunt with a woman at church. I link these transgressions with past moments of folly and see a dark, dark pattern running through the course of my life.

A few voices of protest ineffectually interrupt. My wife still likes me. I can’t be all that bad. Most dogs let me pet them. Folks don’t cross the street when they see me approach…

I play solitaire to reroute my thoughts. A novel sits nearby. I read a few chapters and yawn. I consider snapping off the light, but a moment’s pause in activity allows the negativity caravan to start marching again. I turn on the laptop and go to YouTube. Colin Mochrie on Whose Line makes me laugh. The little devils retreat into the shadows and I nod off to the sound of laughter.

I sometimes wake up the next morning with the laptop lying on the bed beside me. It’s turned itself off. My wrist is stiff from holding it in a viewing position during the night. My neck tightens up when I try to turn and flex it. I feel like a hung-over addict as I switch the computer on again. A few more videos will wake me up and lighten my mood before I make an appearance at breakfast. The laptop flickers briefly to life to present the following message: CRITICAL LOW BATTERY.

I plug it in to the charger and trudge off to the bathroom. I wish the outlet near the sink had an attachment that could recharge my brain.

Insomnia: A Cure for Viewers Like You

My wife is a retired biologist and is fond of dialing up nature shows done in the PBS style:  a narrator speaks…slowly…with a dignified hush that lends…solemnity and import…to what…he’s saying.  In the background you can hear birdsong and the rush of water over rocks in a burbling stream.  A local guide recalls some folklore associated with the animal being studied, and then another expert wearing a safari outfit (khaki shorts, cotton shirt, boots and a wide brimmed hat) adds some scientific background about the wider ecosystem in which the creature lives.  Snoreeeeee!  After five minutes, even if I give a damn about lemon orangutans living in the New Sudetenland who have taught themselves how to ferment wine from grape seeds partially digested by Indonesian otter spit, I just can’t keep awake.

It occurred to me that this could be a big money maker.  I could simply make a recording of a randomly composed nature story, recite it in a calm and clear voice, and sell it on Amazon as an insomnia remedy. There would be no overhead as there wouldn’t be any expenses associated with travel, photography and research.  I could softly gargle and whistle to imitate a brook and bird song.  An no one would stay awake long enough to be offended or to question the validity of the nature report.  Win win!

Here’s a sample script.

(gargle, gargle, gargle)

The pileated wood stork of outer Patamongolia builds its nest on the back of the great occidental humpbacked moose and guards its eggs against all intruders.  It chose this moose quite carefully after noting the prevalence of a north/south orientation in its grazing pattern, thus ensuring that warm thermals sifting through the Achuwatana Pass would keep the eggs at a proper temperature.  She has also chosen this particular moose because its back and sides are one of the most diverse habitats of occidental humpbacked moose parasites to be found in this hemisphere.  Small mice,  intransigent mites, northern temperate wolf slugs, nine legged ticks and brown spotted microtoads provide a varied diet for our mother bird to be.

But all is not well in this gyno-ornithological realm.  The stork’s greatest enemy is the bovine snake, an seven foot mouth breathing serpent that is vaguely related to the incontinent anaconda of Ethiopia.  Look there!  One such slithering ova-larcenist insinuates its coils on the moose’s rack and waits for its chance to steal an egg.  But the wood stork is onto him and pecks at the snake’s nose until he slithers away down the moose’s front leg and off into the veldt.


But what’s this?  Just as the mother has a moment to relax she discovers that she has another unwelcome visitor.  It’s yet another male who wants to court her.  She knows that the minute she turns her back on her nest her new paramour will kick the eggs off the moose’s back and attempt to mount her.  She decides to defend her clutch even though the male’s mating dance, a combination of the rumba and the chicken dance, is hypnotizing in its many feathered, erotic grandeur.  When he sees that she is refusing to respond to his ardent advances, he adopts a male rejection body posture (sullen eyes, hunched up wings, pronounced slouch) and flies away with a partially damaged ego.

(air blown over the open mouth of a soda bottle)

But suddenly a storm rushes forward from behind the dark Atchapalpula Mountains to the east.  The dreaded tornadosoon season has descended upon the moose and stork without warning.  The moose sniffs the scent of rain and disaster in the rising wind and canters away.  Our plucky mother digs her claws into the moose’s back while desperately holding onto her nest with her beak.

A semi-transparent leopard crouches in a bobalong tree beside the trail and waits to leap on the moose’s back.  He is doubtful that he will be successful in taking down the lumbering beast, but decides to take a chance.  Who knows when he will have an opportunity to make a kill once the storms have passed? The pileated wood stork leaves her perch and pecks at the leopard’s translucent, silver eyes and drives him back.  She saves the moose, but in doing so loses her nest.  The moose continues on its way unaware that his life has been saved by the sacrifice of a mother bird.  The semi-transparent leopard watches the stork as it pensively pecks at the broken egg shells lying in dusty moose tracks, but does not attack.  The stork has taken the precaution of spreading an oil found only in gaoboana fruit along its wings and belly.  This oil gives the bird the scent of a rasping hippopotamus, an animal that the leopard despises because of its ambivalent position concerning  the transmigration of souls.

(inspirational kazoo music)

Our plucky little mother stork will survive to breed again due to her botanical foresight and knowledge of latest trends in comparative theology among the fauna of the  Palpula Plains.  She and her descendants will continue to find shelter on the backs of moose and will follow their yearly trek from the Bucocoaraaaahgo River to the swamps of the Atchapalpulan plateau. But for now our brave, little heroine needs to find a mate, a moose, and perhaps a stiff drink of lemon orangutan wine.  It’s been a long day.

(gargle, gargle, whistle…)