by: Darryl Mockridge

It’s dark, almost black in here. There’s the quiet ticking of an old clock. Did I say it’s
really kinda peaceful? And chilly too. The dim light of an open window reveals two
people huddled up closely in a bed, with blankets up to their chins, sound asleep,
comfy. There’s a cat, of course, curled up in the curve of the woman’s folded legs.
There’s a dog at the foot of the bed. There are the sounds of sleep; occasional
quiet little yearnings come from the woman. From the male comes what could be
seen by some as snoring, but not the irritating sort, not the raucous house rattling
sort, acceptable snoring, not enough to destroy their marriage.  

Is it too soon to introduce the fact that this man loves this woman? Henry thinks he’s
the luckiest man in the world. And well he may be. At any rate he’s one of those rare
men who not only loves his wife but remains IN LOVE with her. It’s been many years,
and he’s still in love with her. And there’s good reason; as someone noted at their
wedding: Sylvie is well-traveled, well-read, extremely well-educated, young and
beautiful and French.

Then, of course, there’s Henry.

Henry’s a good and honest man and so he sees the point. He summed it up himself
quite nicely on that same wonderful day, while speaking to his best friend: “I don’t
think anyone was ever able to come up with more than three or four thousand
reasons why Sylvie and I should not have married. I could only come up with about
2600 myself.”

Though a college instructor and a published book-length author—along with every
other human being on earth, as Henry himself puts it—at age 58 Henry feels he
hasn’t accomplished all that he should have. Or at least he hasn’t accomplished the
things that he’d like.

He secretly harbors three unfulfilled wishes. Most importantly, he’d like someday to
surprise Sylvie by reciting her favorite poem in its entirety in flawless, properly
nuanced, French. For himself, he’d also like to become a worthy cellist, skilled
enough to play, at the very least, one of the Bach suites. In his dream that event
would take place in front of a crowd of previously doubtful, completely dumfounded,
friends. And, for reasons which will explain themselves in time, he’d like very much
to beat his father-in-law RESOUNDINGLY at ping pong… just one glorious time.
These things I state in the order in which Henry most desires them.

Henry has failed continually in his attempts to make any of this happen …such is
Life. So, Henry’s feeling a little sad, not at the moment, of course, but in general.
For the moment however, he lies asleep, beside the woman he adores, on his side
with his head pressed against a devoted, all-forgiving, ever-accepting pillow. He
smacks his lips a couple of times, groans softly, and shifts so that now he’s on his
back with his mouth open. Don’t look in there—Henry’s teeth are not all that pretty,
and who knows what the man’s breath may be like at this hour.

From somewhere there’s music. “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” comes up, slowly within
the darkened room. We don’t have to explain these things… it’s enough to know it’s
there. Perhaps it’s in Henry’s head. Take a moment here to run through The Teddy
Bears’ Picnic once or twice in your own head. I’ll wait.

(Dah..dum dah-dum, dah dum dah-dum…)

The music fades as Henry begins again to snore. It’s a little louder this time. Anyone
would admit that THIS is snoring. On the pillow next to him, in the dim light, is…
what? A small stain? A shadow? A breadcrumb? For the delight of the younger
reader, or the still-childish-at-heart, I toss in the idea that it might be something
disgusting, you know, something icky.

Enough guesswork. It’s a bug, an earwig. It’s an earwig.

The music comes up a bit to contend with the snoring until the snoring and The
Teddy Bears’ Picnic settle in together, in sync. (Work that out in whatever way you
can.) The earwig crawls toward Henry’s ear and the tone of The Teddy Bear’s
Picnic turns ominous. The song and the snoring build upon each other as the
earwig climbs up the lobe, hangs for a brief moment upon that little bit of cartilage
there which, like Dumas, I can neither describe nor name, tips suddenly, somewhat
awkwardly into the cavern below and begins to enter the ear. There it goes now.

The bug disappears slowly inside. After the creature is entirely out of sight, the
song ends, and the snoring is disrupted as Henry unconsciously rubs his ear with
the palm of his hand. He then rolls over to his other side. He smiles as he places
one arm on his lovely wife’s hip. She, still asleep, but always aware of their great
love (and by that I mean their wonderful, fulfilling, exhilarating love), places her
lovely white hand on top of his. If you choose, she pats it.
Author’s Note:
This piece has nothing whatsoever to do with my refusal to
walk around prattling like a five year old in French.
It has even less to do with my questionable skills as a cellist.
There are deeper wounds, concerning ping-pong.
About Darryl Mockridge