Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Digital Detox (04/24/14)
TITLE: Who Needs Free Cell?
By Carol Sprock
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It was only 1:00 A.M. ‘I’ve slept three measly hours,’ she thought. She begged herself, ‘Go back to sleep. Relax. Don’t think.’ A tactic that, of course, made her think.
Cathy groaned, turned over. She started counting to eight once, twice. The third time her fingers slightly trembled in synchronized movements that reminded her of playing her sax, which reminded her about jazz-band practice.
She then realized she’d forgotten to email Jeff’s parents a list of uncompleted homework. ‘Oh, and I need to talk with Nancy about the devotional writing project. Then I have to update the school’s weekly exam report. Shoot, there’s that essay I haven’t graded yet…’ The to-do list and possible interruptions and what to do just in case bushed into a giant, tangled shrub, more brambles than anything. In the next moment, it flipped up and shredded as her racing thoughts churned into a tornado, churning her stomach where acid lava bubbled. Her eyes crossed so she couldn’t see the time even if she’d wanted to. Her body was rigid, her neck ligaments screaming with pain that throbbed in uneven beats, her fists clenched.
A few deep breaths, Cathy told herself. They made her realize she was panting slightly, which brought her back to the tornado, which made her think. No, she realized, sleep would not be forthcoming. ‘Better take some ibuprofen and Tums®.’ She grabbed her glasses from the nightstand where they sat on top of her clock. 1:07. A.M. She sighed; she had to get up in four hours. Propelling herself to the kitchen, she took the medication and decided to play a few games of Free Cell until it took effect.
At 2 A.M., thirty-one games later, she clicked “Play again” thinking she didn’t want to play again; she wanted to sleep. One more game, Cathy told herself. She was addicted to the blank mind of no thought except solving the puzzle, moving the cards here, there, precisely. No bushes, no tornadoes, no race track, no more struggling to sleep. Just click “Play again,” one more game. Yes, one more game would eliminate any lingering thoughts so she could sleep. And, one more game….
3 A.M. She really should go back to bed. Allow herself enough time to fall asleep before her husband got up, to sleep at least one ninety-minute cycle. Her eyes drooped, though her neck barked and bit sharply into her shoulder. Just one more game.
Cathy jerked, her heart pounding. Her husband’s dark form filled the doorframe to the office. A half-finished game splayed across the nineteen-inch computer screen.
“Cath, what are you doing up? You know you need your sleep.”
Cathy didn’t know whether to allow herself to be soothed or follow the irritation spike from hearing the obvious stated.
“Couldn’t sleep,” she grumbled.
“Come on. Get back to bed. It’s only 3:30. We’ll skip our walk, and I’ll wake you at 6.”
“Let me finish this game,” she compromised.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” he chuckled and walked into the bathroom.
Cathy finished the game in seconds, her right index finger hovering to click “Play again.” Did she have time before he returned? Could she fit in one more game? She clicked and the cards reshuffled.
“Stop,” her husband’s voiced boomed into the soft shadows. “Remove your hand from the mouse. Do it now and nobody will get hurt.”
Over her startle reflex and “But,” Cathy began to grin. She laid her hand in her lap even as her eyes continued to drink in the game.
“Move away from the keyboard. That’s it. Slow and steady. Now stand up. Let’s go.” He grabbed her elbow and escorted her to the bedroom while they giggled like ‘tweens. He carefully removed Cathy’s glasses, set them on the dresser, away from the clock, then helped her climb into bed. Tucking the covers tightly around her, he kissed the top of her head in a gentle benediction.
Still sniggering to herself as the scene played in her mind, Cathy fell asleep, slept hard, and woke at 6 to her husband’s warm kiss on her forehead, his arms hugging her.
Who needed Free Cell?
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