It’s 3:23 in the morning. I know that because my left eye is staring at the glowing red numbers of the alarm clock that’s staring back at me from my nightstand. My right eye ain’t seeing anything. It’s buried in my pillow.
At 3:22 in the morning I was in the midst of a ferocious battle with some kind of blobby, blackish maybe-alien thing that apparenty wanted to kill me or eat me, not necessarily in that order. Waking up had abruptly ended the fight.
I was half awake and fully annoyed. I could’ve kicked that thing’s ass. As soon as I located its ass.
I wake up a lot at night. A great sleeper? No. A great candidate for a sleep apnea study? Oh, yeah. Poster boy material.
In any case, at this early-morning moment I’m not doing anything but staring down the alarm clock. It hasn’t blinked yet.
The bedroom is dark. The room is at full occupancy. Three dogs, at least two cats. Oh yeah, and two people. Almost forgot. It’s dark and semi-quiet. The at-least two cats are curled up somewhere on my wife. They know better than to take up residence on me. If I’m awake I’ll push them over to her. If I’m asleep I’ll probably thrash them over there. Two of the dogs – the bulldogs – are fervently playing a heavy-breathing, lightly-snoring duet. Their usual virtuoso performance.
The third is awake. It’s Zoe, my bull mastiff. I know this because I can hear the sharp, constant beating of her tail on the floor. Even without looking I know she’s sitting at the end of the bed, on my side and staring at me. Happily beating the crap out of the floor and every now and then whacking a good, solid clang out of the baseboard next to her. If I turned my head I’d see her – just a big blobby, blackish thing, slightly darker than the dark.
She was asleep and on the other side of the room not 30 seconds ago. How the hell does she always know when I wake up?
No sense in wasting time trying to figure it out. I’m awake, she’s awake, why don’t we call the whole sleeping thing off. We get up. Walk down the hall to the kitchen. She’s leading the way and I’m stumbling and bumbling behind. That alien blob was a better fighter than I imagined, I guess.
I hit the lights in the kitchen and there she is, in the same spot she always is at these moments. Standing and facing the sliding glass doors, then looking back at me with big brown eyes that say, “open-says-a-me.”
The door is opened and she goes out. Doesn’t matter what it’s doing out there – raining, snowing, fiery-meteor shower – she goes. Waters half the lawn and then comes back. I let her in, she goes by me and straight to a corner in the kitchen counter. Where the “family-size” bag of Pup-Peroni treats sits. Standing and facing the bag, then looking back at me with big brown eyes that say, “open-says-a-me.”
“How do I know you actually did something?”
Thump-thump-thump. She knows I was watching.
“You do know that I don’t have to give you one of these things?”
Thump-thump-thump. She knows I’m bluffing.
Treat paid, I walk out of the kitchen, turn the lights off and say, as always, “c’mon girl, it’s still bedtime.”
It works sometimes … actually hardly ever. I’m halfway down the hall but she’s not behind me. I sigh, turn around and go back. Turn on the lights.
There she is, in the same spot she always is at these moments. Standing and facing the sliding glass doors, then looking back at me with big brown eyes that say, “open-says-a-me.”
Round two. She fertilizes half the lawn, I let her in and she goes … well, by now you know where she goes. And what she’s doing.
“How in God’s name do you pull off doing one and NOT the other? How did you learn how to compartmentilize doing that?”
Thump-thump-thump. She’s not talking.
Now, there was one night when I didn’t get up. Not that I didn’t wake up, but the night when Zoe thumped that tail so loudly it woke my wife.
I laid there, very still, as if sleeping. I know Zoe wasn’t buying it, but my wife did. They went down the hall. I heard the door open, then close, then open, then close. I heard the bag rustle. And then “What, you need to go out again?”
The door opened, then closed, then opened, then closed. I saw the lights go out, heard my wife’s footsteps coming down the hall and then …
The footsteps went away, the light went back on, followed by some muffled words I couldn’t quite make out. Sounded a little angry, though. Lights out again, louder footsteps and as she got back into bed, I feigned coming to.
“What was that?” I mumbled.
“Why’d she bark?”
“I let her out, two times in a row.”
“She barked because you let her out twice?”
“No, she barked when I was coming back to bed after the second time. I went back and she was sitting there, waiting for another treat.”
“Really? Strange. You give it to her?”
“She’s not barking now, is she?”
“Huh,” I grumbled as I rolled over. “You sure spoil that dog.”