A Night in the Life
by Craig Davis
Many people have a certain time they truly love. For some it is the soaring discovery and artistry of the Renaissance; others wish for the adolescence of western thought, the Golden Age of Athens; still others dream of the adventurous American Old West.
Mr. and Mrs. Meagre truly loved eight o'clock.
At eight o'clock, 3-year-old Rachel and 5-month-old Andrea went to bed.
Mr. and Mrs. Meagre truly, truly loved eight o'clock.
A dreary, wet December day had come to an end, and Rachel wore her brand-new teddy bear nightgown, bought especially for Christmas.
"It's time for bed, honey," said Mr. Meagre.
"You know," said Rachel, missing the point and needing to address an issue about her nightgown, "Christmas morning Santa will see me and say, 'Why did you buy that?' And I will say, 'It's for Christmas!' And he will say, 'Oh! Good!' "
"That is good, honey, but it's time for bed."
"Will you snuggle with me?"
"Not tonight, honey."
"Daddy, are you dead?"
"Uh – no? At least, I don't think so."
"Then will you tell me a story?"
"About Whitney and Rachel?"
"Those are Mama's stories. I don't know them."
"What do you know?"
"Right now, I don't know what I know."
"Then say it, Daddy."
"Say what?" said Mr. Meagre, playing dumb.
"All right, all right ... now how does that go? ...
'Good night, good night,
turn out the light,
before I give you
a great big fright BOO!!!!' Too late.' "
Mr. Meagre increased the urgency in his voice for just the right soothing effect. Rachel giggled and squirmed under her covers. "Now go to sleep. Love you."
"Love you too, Daddy."
Meanwhile, young Andrea had firmly fastened herself to Mrs. Meagre's nipple. It was a deep bond, sometimes painfully deep, between mother and child. A thoroughly modern mom, Mrs. Meagre was a firm believer in the oldest traditions: breast feeding, rocking to sleep, total exhaustion. Twisting and whining, Andrea finally made herself comfortable and suckled herself into happy oblivion.
Mr. Meagre sank into a chair. "I want to go to bed. I want some time to myself. I want these children to be five years older."
Mrs. Meagre lifted her head towards him, too tired to think of a sarcastic retort. "I think Andrea's asleep," was all she could think of to say, so she did.
Gently she lurched from her rocking chair, clutching Andrea closely to provide as smooth a ride as possible. She softly padded past Mr. Meagre, who graciously moved his feet, draining his last ounce of energy, and sneaked into the girls' room. As slowly as possible she eased Andrea into her crib, patted her lovingly as she removed her arms from around the babe, looked down with gratitude and slinked out of the room.
Andrea jerked awake and cried.
"Mama! Please feed Andrea now!" cried out Rachel, aroused from near-sleep.
"Five-ten-fifteen?" Inquired Mr. Meagre of his wife.
"I'm taking a bath," returned Mrs. Meagre.
"You'll just have to listen to her cry for awhile, Rachel," Mr. Meagre called out in the most sympathetic way he could. "And so will I." Not wanting to be left out, Rachel cried too.
In five minutes Mr. Meagre went in to check on Andrea. She cried a little harder to register her displeasure, and she kicked her chubby legs violently.
"It's all right, settle down, go to sleep." Mr. Meagre turned her in her crib so her toes would no longer peek from under the bumper pads, unwrapped her blanket from her middle and turned away.
He checked on Rachel. Her snoring was a good sign.
In ten minutes, decked out in nightshirt, he checked Andrea again — still crying, but less convincingly. Again he rearranged her, comforted her, and left. Passing the bathroom door, he called rudely to his wife, "Are you ever coming out of there?"
In fifteen minutes he checked again, and Andrea was whimpering but mostly contentedly sucking her thumb.
Mrs. Meagre emerged from the steaming sauna of the bathroom and decided to make a quick check on her children. She lightly pulled Rachel's blanket up over her chest and adjusted Andrea's hand, curled nicely around her nose.
Mrs. Meagre sprinted in a tip-toe position out the door and into bed.
Andrea awoke with a squeak just as the clock struck ten.
"Right on time," Mrs. Meagre grumbled as she lurched out of bed. Holding her breasts as if trying to determine which weighed more, she said, "I'll never get her to sleep. I've got no milk."
Mr. Meagre lay awake in bed and listened to the rocking chair's rhythm. It had its desired effect on Andrea, if not on her father. Mr. Meagre padded into the girls' bedroom to check on Rachel. Propped up on two huge pillows, head slung back, Rachel was fast asleep. Mr. Meagre brushed her hair out of her eyes and remembered the night she was born. It had been remarkable only in that she had come into the world. Andrea, on the other hand, Andrea had been welcomed into life with headlines – two no-hitters on the same day.
As he left he crossed paths with Mrs. Meagre, who, as it turned out, didn't need any milk to lull Andrea to sleep. Avoiding eye contact, they both groped their way back to bed.
"Go tell her to go back to sleep," Mrs. Meagre whispered hoarsely at Mr. Meagre. Rachel was his responsibility just as Andrea was Mrs. Meagre's.
"Go back to sleep, Rachel!" Mr. Meagre called out.
"Waaaa!" First it was Rachel, then Andrea joined in.
"Nice one!" Mrs. Meagre seethed as she climbed back out of bed to get Andrea again. Mr. Meagre swung his feet down to the floor and slumped on the edge of his bed before going back into Rachel's room. Rachel still sobbed and sniffled.
"What's the matter, honey?"
"I don't know."
"Well, try to go back to sleep again, OK?"
Rachel rolled over on her side, sobbed quietly a couple of times, and went back to sleep.
Before long a snoozing Andrea was back in her crib, and Mrs. Meagre again took her place in bed, her back very pointedly turned to Mr. Meagre.
The minutes crept by and gradually grew to an hour, two hours. Mr. Meagre lay awake, wondering at the irony of it all. Here he was, unable to sleep late in the morning, unable to sleep late through the fuss and frenzy of the girls' wakeful times, unable to sleep even when all was quiet. And the one thing he wanted most in the world was to sleep.
His mind drifted to his work, where he was the only young father. In the morning he would walk in dreary-eyed, the target of cheery "Good morning!"s, and the best he would be able to reply would be a grunt. At his desk his head would bob and his eyes would alternate from opened wide to tightly shut. And his fellow workers, those fortunate owners of uninterrupted nights, would snicker loudly.
Thoughts turned to his family, the recent outing to the beach. Rachel had run up and down on the sand, racing against the churning tide, laughing gloriously every time the lapping waves had licked her feet. With a scream and wide-open arms she fell onto her back, splash, into the shallow water. Andrea, so excited she couldn't hide her little baby emotions, kicked furiously with glee, until she had dug a hole in the sand and virtually disappeared into it.
Mr. Meagre’s mind drifted to his work. The deadlines, the papers, the files, the data. Did he put that decimal in the right place? Tomorrow was coming, sweeping down upon him like a wounded kite. Coffee. He must make his coffee plan now. He would need coffee like plasma in the morning. And what was that knocking sound the car made today? Oh, yeah, coffee.
Soon his thoughts meandered to the lawn, those bare patches in the yard. He should have turned on the sprinkler today, he thought; he had laboriously reseeded that powdery dust two weeks ago, and he should remember to water it. The sprinkler cut wide swaths through the air in his brain, back and forth, back and forth. Coffee. The streams of water glistened in the sun, then the moon caught their misty sheen. Great billows of fog rolled off the hill-bound heath, and swallowed him up in its gloom. Silently he lay, as hounds bayed in the distance. Gradually a voice arose, far on the horizon, thick with brogue, beckoning him off the moors: “Laddie! Laddie! Daddy!”
His eyes started open.
"Daddy! I'm ready to get up ..."
The glowing clock read 1 a.m.
"Go in there and get her back to sleep," Mrs. Meagre hissed at Mr. Meagre. Still cowed, he slunk out of bed and went in to discuss the situation with Rachel.
"Daddy, I'm ready to get up," she repeated her traditional morning announcement.
"Rachel, it's not time to get up yet. It's still dark out. It's the middle of the night."
Rachel looked at the window directly above the head of her bed. She got up on her knees, pulled back the shade and saw that, indeed, the backyard was still dark.
"Please, oh please ..." thought Mr. Meagre.
"OK," she said, and lay back down.
Mr. Meagre quietly exulted in answered prayer, and all was again quiet in the Meagres' night sleep. For a while. Two o'clock lurked on the horizon, waiting to sneak up and tickle Andrea awake again.
The hunger pangs gradually crawled into Andrea's tiny belly, finally pulling up and poking her out of her sweet infant dreams. With a start and a squirm, she conjured up a cry capable of awaking Mama.
Mrs. Meagre's face appeared over the edge of the crib, sleepily smiling at the youngest of her family. Lifting Andrea out and cooing softly, she again made her way back to the trusty rocking chair.
The milk flowed amply for Andrea this time, and it put her in a playful mood. Eyeing Mrs. Meagre out of the corner of her eye, she gave her nipple a playful nip and kicked her feet in glee.
"You monkey!" Mrs. Meagre scolded her with a smile. "You keeping Mama up. Yes you are. You a mean baby!" Andrea gurgled contentedly.
This went on for a good half-hour, Andrea not getting any more tired. Mrs. Meagre nodded off a few times, each time awaking surprised to find herself in a chair holding an infant. The baby squealed with delight.
"This has got to end," Mrs. Meagre finally decided. "You're on your own."
She took Andrea back to her crib and lay her down on her back. Andrea smiled back up at her and kicked her feet as she left. Mrs. Meagre crawled back into bed and snuggled up to her husband, who snored in return.
Sleep slowly returned to Mrs. Meagre as she listened to Andrea's soft singing and a tiny scratching noise on the baby's bumper pads.
"Daddy, I'm ready to get up!"
Mr. Meagre looked with horror at the clock, knowing that this time sunlight bathed the backyard and Rachel was indeed ready to get up. The clock read 5:30, fully an hour before he would have to arise for work.
"Shh, honey, don't wake Andrea. Will you come snuggle with us in bed?"
"Do you want to go watch television while I sleep a little longer?"
"What do you want to do?"
"I want to go play outside."
"Rachel, it's too cold to go outside this morning. The rain froze last night, and there's ice on the ground."
"Well, will you play with me then?"
"All right, sweetie, are you sure you won't let me sleep a little more?"
"Say it, Daddy."
"Oh, Rachel, I don't really want to ..."
"Say it, Daddy. Say it."
Mr. Meagre gave up on all fronts.
"I sat up in my bed,
and shook my scruffy head,
'I don't want to get up in the morning!' "
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