ELEVEN

BOOKER

Local Burger w/Swiss, Pork Belly, Sweet ‘n Spicy Sauce, Tomato and Onion

 I blame this all on my son, Charlie. When he was a very little boy, he used to sleepwalk at night. I would find him standing in the bathroom taking a pee into the wastebasket, or trying to get outdoors, dressed in his little one-piece footy pajamas. With his eyes open. Fast asleep. I learned to carefully herd him back to his bed and tuck him in, all without waking him. This sleepwalking gave me nightmares. I envisioned various scenarios like him going into the basement and deciding to tackle a building project, one that required the use of a power saw. All while he was fast asleep.

I learned to lay in bed with one fist under the side of my head, so my ear wasn’t pressed against the pillow, so I would be sleeping with both ears functioning, so I could hear him the second his tiny feet hit the floor and he began his peregrinations. Charlie left home for college pretty much for good more than ten years ago, yet I still sleep so I can hear out of both ears, with my fist under my head; if a mouse farts in the living room a floor below, I wake up. Once I’m awake I feel impelled to get up and investigate. I have trained myself well; too well. I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in more than 25 years.

The thing is, if I slept soundly, I wouldn’t be aware of any of this. I wouldn’t have the slightest clue that there was something going on under my house. No lights, no digging, no children falling out of the sky.

For the last week I have made it a point to stay in bed, every night, all night long. I get up to go to the bathroom and resist any urge to take a stroll around the house to see if any animated dolls with cut-off noses and sewn together lips are in evidence, maybe sitting in the family room in the dark, staring at the turned-off TV. I can see, in my imagination, that little rag doll head swiveling toward me, and those sad lips attempting to twist into that ghastly smile. No, I have stayed in my bed where I lie awake for hours, but where I am safe. I am safe there, aren’t I? I tell myself that I am.

I’m sitting at the bar, at the Penny, nursing my drink of the evening, a pour of Booker, a bourbon that runs anywhere from 120 to 130 proof, which makes it strong, which is what I like. I should throw in some water to calm it down, but I’m not into such niceties. I’m looking for some mind-numbing this evening. This is number 21 of my 69 drinks. I’m alone, Mark having gone off on a trip to Boston where he is attending a bookseller’s convention. Mark has a business selling rare poetry books that he operates out of his house, which means he’s out of town for weeks at a time over the course of a year. So I’m drinking my drinks, writing my blog entries, trying to stay in bed all night, trying not to think about what’s under my house, wanting to know, not wanting to know.

I still haven’t told Sherry. It’s funny, she could simply read this blog and she’d know what was going on under her nose, or rather under her house. But she stopped reading my blogs years ago; they don’t usually have anything that’s of interest to her or her friends. I would ask the rest of you from refraining from contacting her and saying, hey, you want to know what’s living, if living is the right word, under the floorboards of your office? If you feel the urge to do so, please don’t, because knowing what seems to be going on would drive her nuts.

Or maybe I’m the one who’s nuts. There are only a few distinct possibilities: one, I’m mentally unbalanced and have been having visions; two, I’m a drunk and have been having visions; three, it’s all happening just as I’m reporting.

I don’t think I’m crazy, and I don’t think I’m a drunk. Yes, the evidence on the second possibility is mildly damning. After all, I write a blog about my systematic drinking at the Penny, and I’ve logged plenty of instances of my overall liquor consumption, which is significant. But do I stagger around at night running into the furniture, hallucinating goblins and gremlins, lying on the floor listening to unusual goings-on under my house? Well, yes to the last one. But I’m not drunk when I’m doing so.

I’m not the sort of guy who normally would believe in the supernatural. I’m a science guy. I deplore religious thinking, both the good and the evil aspects, meaning both God and the Devil. I’ve never been faced with the kind of eyewitness “evidence” that I have been seeing. My recent coping strategy is to push it all to the back of my mind and very carefully not consider it. And stay in bed all night long. But, alas, that no longer seems to be working, at least the not-thinking-about-it part.

What to do, what to do?

I’ve decided to tackle this just like I deal with any of the subjects that arise when I’m starting to write a book: I’m going to research the hell out of it. I’ve been mooning around all week; it’s time to take a more proactive approach. I’m going to work the Internet, and I’m going to get out of the house and ask some questions and see what turns up.

I’ve thought about closing down the blog. Obviously the 69 drinks have morphed into something else. And what is this “something else?” An investigation, I guess. For what purpose? Maybe just to see if I’m going crazy. I don’t think I am, or at least it doesn’t feel like it to me. Which is probably a symptom of being crazy. During my 72 years I have had friends who did exactly that — went nuts. (I know, there are better, kinder, terms for this condition.) Some of them ended up killing themselves. Some of them heard voices, some of them saw “ghosts,” many of them were under the care of trained professionals, all of them seemed, well, crazy to me. And there was nothing I could do to talk them out of their convictions.

What I’ve noticed over these years, is that they all had one thing in common: they stopped washing their hair. I’m not kidding. So, do me a favor, if you see me on the street, or more likely down at the Penny and I’m looking kind of rough around the edges, in particular if my hair is long and greasy, tell my wife it’s time to take me to Duke Medical and get some professional help.

One more thing. You know how private detectives and investigative journalists always, when involved in something dangerous, package up their research and send it to their lawyers or The Washington Post with instructions to Open only in the event of my death. The blog will be my contingency plan, my fail-safe. If there is a sudden silence from my end, if there is no entry for a week or two, call my wife and ask her to alert the authorities.

Thanks.

3 thoughts on “ELEVEN

  1. I believe you are not crazy or drunk ( but keep that lovely hair coiffed ) I’m sure you ‘ll find a suitable explanation be it science or not. What amazes me is how Sherry sleeps so well. I wait with bated breath…………………………..

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  2. She’s a good sleeper and sometimes spends the night in the old room in the inner core where sleepers inexplicably sink into a deep and dreamless sleep. It’s also the guest room.

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