Anyone who travels for work—book tours, corporate sales, what have you—knows the exhaustion of sleep in strange beds. Each city this book tour has taken us to—New York with its taxi honk operas, Philadelphia and the late night peace protest sing-alongs, Charlotte with that steady humming undercurrent of Big Money—we’ve hunkered into provided beds, covers pulled around our ears, and reached for the dubious slumber of country mice away from home.
So we were delighted when a three-day break let us sleep in our own little beds again. We arrived back at the bookstore, admired Andrew the Shopsitter’s latest innovations (this guy is a gem) and fell into bed.
Then Jack began to cough. And cough and cough and cough, the kind that medical professionals would call “unproductive,” what moms call “dry tickly.”
Or just bloody annoying. The sound of one’s spouse hacking up a lung in small pieces is heartrending, but for someone having her first night in the ol’ home place since Oct. 5th, it’s also bad timing. He tried NyQuil, extra pillows, throat lozenges, as I lay by his side in supportive wife mode, hoping. About 3 in the morning, Jack turned to me. “Go sleep in the living room. Your patient, understanding silence is getting on my nerves.”
The next day Jack announced that after I’d left, he’d stopped coughing. “Which means the cabin will be okay.” I had a media interview in the early evening, but then we planned to flee to our two-room shack in the woods—so far back that Internet and phone service are not available, and if we hear a motor, it’s coming to us—until time to leave for Asheville Sunday.
The interview ran long because Kim (a writer for the paper in Southern Pines, NC) and I really hit it off, so we got down to the cabin about 9 pm—or, as my friend Heather says, about half an hour past my bedtime. We spooned into slumber beneath the comfy duvet…
…and woke at 1 am to a noise reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project.
“Dafuq?” my husband more or less mumbled, snatching up a nearby hardback and preparing to defend me to the last page. Book in assault position, he traversed the perimeter.
A homegrown girl, I knew. “It’s a mouse.” Locating the noise, I banged on the dresser and began opening drawers to reveal the (now empty) nest. We crawled back into our home turf bed.
The mouse crawled back to hers. And began to install a bowling alley. I got up and banged the dresser. Silence—and then a single acorn came spewing over the top of a drawer, as if fired from a cannon.
I went back to bed. The mouse invited friends over, one of whom played saxophone. There was also a bagpiper, and I think an electric keyboard player. I rose, banged the dresser, and shouted, “Lissen, if you little bastards don’t stop, I’ll call the law, do you hear me? There are noise ordinances! It’s 4 in the morning!”
My husband switched on the bedside lamp and peered at me closely. “What?” I snapped.
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” he said, smiling in a don’t-hurt-me way. “Come back to bed, darling. You’ve had a long couple of weeks.”
At 5 am the mouse partiers headed home. We heard their car doors slam, the loud farewells, the final blasts of the party horns and noisemakers.
That afternoon Jack and I carried the drawer with the cozy nest outside, turned the drawer upside down and watched a large, sleepy field mouse surface, blinking in the sun. “Dafuq?” it mumbled, staring bleary-eyed at us before racing into to the woods.
I’m not proud of this, but at that moment, if I’d had a saxophone, I’d have played it in triumph. But Jack and I then carried the sheet nest over to the rock whence the mouse had fled and left it as a peace offering. Sleep and let sleep.