I lay on my back in the sleeping bag, head pillowed on crossed arms, no tent between me and the sky. The meteor shower was supposed to peak around four in the morning, but I wasn’t so sure I could make it that late. Early? I never know how to talk about the time between midnight and sunrise.
I know how lucky I was to find that clearing. After a long day of hiking, it was a godsend to find somewhere tailor made for watching the night sky. The moon was the merest sliver of light; only a new moon would have made for better viewing.
I snuggled a little deeper into my bed under the stars, the soft rustle of nylon and polyester singing me a sweet lullaby of peaceful, warm comfort. I smiled to myself as I saw my third double meteor of the night. I don’t know why two shooting stars at the same time make me feel that way, but they do. Like it doesn’t really matter how much we’ve screwed up, that things will still be okay in the end.
I dozed off for a little while, but when I checked my watch upon waking, and it was a little after three. I felt rested enough to stay awake for a while, so I felt around to my right until my hand touched my water bottle. I took a slug and looked at the sky.
Frank picked up his phone and called the pet store. The empty aquarium had been bubbling in his living room for far too long, and it was time to do something about it.
Some punk kid answered the phone with disinterest, and Frank simply ended the call. There was no way a part-time teenager would know anything about tropical fish. No way.
He pulled on a pair of jeans, shoved his feet into some sandals, and grabbed his keys from the table by the door. It was only a couple of miles to the pet store. He flip-flopped his way in and paced back and forth in front of the wall of fish tanks for nearly an hour.
All four of the employees had stopped by to check on him, more than once, but he waved them off, a fierce look of concentration on his face.
Finally, he froze.
“That’s him!” Frank announced to the whole store at the top of his lungs. Three of the employees immediately trotted over to find out which was the magic fish. Frank’s finger was following a beauty of a yellow tang, lazily flicking its tail as it circled the tank.
The pony-tailed girl wearing a name tag that said Deloris quickly snatched up a net and a plastic baggie for the lucky fish. She deftly scooped it up and tied the baggie before handing it to Frank. He cradled it lovingly and headed straight for the registers.
Frank nestled to bag into the crook of his elbow to use one hand to open the drink cooler and snag a blue Gatorade, which he placed on the conveyor belt. He paid and brought his new friend home.
Frank never took a break from the upkeep of his saltwater tank, so he popped the fish right on in there and stepped back to see how it liked its new home. He gasped, appalled that he’d nearly forgotten the most important part. He unscrewed the Gatorade bottle and used an eyedropper to collect a bit.
And then he counted four drops into the aquarium.
Frank wasn’t quite right in the head.
I can’t tell yet if I’m dreaming or just waking up. The feeling of comfortably floating is the most prominent sensory input I can process right now.
I feel the footprints of awareness pacing through my head, slow and muddled like a tortoise in quicksand now, but they’ll catch up.
They’ll catch up.
I”m still floating, but in my bed now, my big comfortable bed. I’m floating among the big fluffy comforter and the heavy feather pillows and the soft cotton sheets. I snuggle in a bit deeper and cross my fingers that I’ll simply fall back asleep so I won’t have to make any decisions today.
I open my eyes.
My dream of dreaming was not meant to come true today. It’s time to get up, get dressed, get ready. I’m not sure what I have on my schedule for today. Maybe a lot, maybe a little.
I roll out of bed.
I groan slightly with the effort; standing is a much a shock to my relaxed muscles as the blinding sunlight was to my sleep-adjusted eyes, but once I’m up, I’m up and at ’em. A few quick tosses and corner twitches, and my bed is made.
I rise on my toes.
Reaching my arms to the ceiling and rolling my shoulders provides a satisfyingly deep stretch, and I lower myself to my heels slowly. I glance left, and the key on my dresser reminds me of the mission I set for myself today. Time to get a move on.
The clock chimes seven.
I’m not sure how early the locksmith opens. I google it while brushing my teeth. He opens for business at eight. I brush a little bit slower. No point in loitering in the parking lot when I can loiter at home.
I’m out of sugar.
This does not bode well. My morning was going along swimmingly until the extremely light heft of the sugar bowl let me know that something is very wrong.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
I tip up my mug and power through the dark bitterness of black coffee. Not my favorite thing to do, but it’s nearing time to get the heck out of Dodge.
My shoes wait next to the front door.
I jingle my keys in my fingers as I slip into ballet flats for the short trip to town. I trot down the front porch steps and hop in my car, and try to crank it.
I try to crank it.
But the damn thing’s dead. Too bad I couldn’t get back to sleep this morning. I guess I’ll get a spare key made tomorrow. Or the next day.
Cubing the Stories at TBP
See, I told you those ‘rules’ were optional. Rules schmules.