Short: 3 AM

by Penny Freeman

1am:  Unable to concentrate, I close my book, turn out my lamp, and settle in for sleep.  Dallas turns down the volume on the BBC documentary he is watching on Channel 8.2, the marvels of metal.  Doesn't bother me, as his lamp does not.  I'm used to it, and I'd rather have him here, in bed, than snoring in his office chair, sitting up in front of his computer.

2:20am:  Dallas starts making grunts and other inarticulate noises at the TV.  Groggy and put out, I huff, roll over, and pull a pillow over my head.  I spare him the tongue lashing as I'm too asleep to bother.  It's just a soft murmur now and again.  He should get the hint.  He doesn't.  The intermittent babbling continues as I fade in and out of consciousness.  I think, if you're going to talk to the TV, at least take it in the other room.  PBS has moved on to the wonders of plastics.

2:40am:  The babbling has increased, but now his soft voice is sweetly holding a conversation in nonsensical words.  Wondering if he's a lunatic, I wake up enough to decide he's actually asleep.  The TV and glasses need to go off and the CPAP on so he can settle down into restful slumber.  Getting up and walking around the bed don't quite wake me up, but his glassy-eyed stare does.

Pale and clammy, Dallas is flat on the bed, staring up at me and babbling.  Drenched through, he looks like he stepped into the shower in his pajamas, then came to bed.  His feet are cool—too cool—as are his hands and face.  But, it's not the worst I've seen him.  The worst I've seen him, he was as cold as death.  I had to check his breathing to make sure he wasn't.  That time, I couldn't wake him up with shaking and slapping.  I mean, really slapping his face, like you see in movies.  That time, two of my sons were there when my panic set it.  It was his second ride to the ER in an ambulance.

"You're in trouble, aren't you?"  I say softly.  It's not a question, more like me trying to calm myself with the sound of my own voice.

Beware the Kindle!

" . . . but wealth is luxurious and daring, and some of hers found its way to a circulating library.  She became a subscriber; amazed at anything in propria persona, amazed at her own doings in every way, to be a renter, a chuser of books!"  — Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

I grew up surrounded by books.  Love of reading is imprinted on my DNA.  As a child, my family moved around a great deal, but ever and always, no matter the house in which we lived, the first thing to go up was the bookcase.  We always had a wall in the living room completely covered in books.  There was always something to read in my house.  Books were as necessary as breathing.

As an adult, we have bookshelves scattered throughout the house.  After 32 years, I still haven't talked my husband into building me a bookshelf wall like my dad did for my mom, but I'm certain we have more shelf space and a much wider variety of books.  If I had any ambition, I'd institute the Dewey decimal system, but, since I don't, I settle for computer and medical books in the office, non-fiction, biographies and histories in the bedroom, and a bookcase in the living room chock full of all the paperback classics my three sons had to read in high school.  The story books overflow from two wicker baskets on the floor beside Nana's reading chair.

I am a keeper of books.  I know people who will buy a book, read it, and then pass it on to a friend or trade it in for something new.  They don't like to have them laying around collecting dust.  But, I can't quite make myself do that.  Even the paperbacks have to be coverless and disintegrating before I'll part with them.  My books are like old friends.  I may not see them or think of them for years, but when I return to them, growing reacquainted is always a pleasure, and gaining new insights a delight.

Midlife Crisis

Well, I'm back.

This past year has been . . . difficult, to put it mildly, and life has been careening wildly first one direction and then another, with teeth-chattering lurches in between.  The long and the short of it is, I've been looking for meaningful employment (which I have to have) and have suffered a couple of career "disappointments", as my oldest son so diplomatically puts it.  These, my current jobless state, and the mountain of job applications I have submitted in the past few weeks have left me rather dazed and glassy-eyed.  It's difficult to work up enthusiasm for another day (after endless days) of filling out online applications, attempting to wrench professional skills and 30 years of experience to fit posted job requirements.

Round holes.  Square peg.

Languishing by phone, awaiting the positive results of "promising" job interviews is the most disheartening of all.  For every reason I know I'm perfect for an advertised position, my mind finds at least two others which would toss my resume into the reject pile.  Obviously, the powers that be have done so as well.

Lately, I feel like I'm trapped in a room, knowing I have to get out, get moving, and get on down the road, and yet, where there should be doors or even windows, there is nothing but — nothing.  Stupor of thought.  This has been especially difficult for me because the Lord has always provided a way for our family.  We have never truly known want.  We have never been affluent, by any means, we've had some tight times, and my sons out of school are making more than Dallas' highest salary ever was, but we always had adequate for our needs.  I know the Lord will continue to bless us, if I could just find that blinketty-blink-blink door.

Tidbits: Piper Reports

Excerpt: Piper Reports at the Horse Guard

by Penny Freeman
Piper reports to Sir Alistair the results of his murder investigation.

    Weary and worn after a long evening of political wrangling in the Privy Chamber, with the slam of his chamber door, DuLac loosed the buttons of his coat, flung his hat on a sofa, and flopped in the high-backed chair behind his large mahogany desk. He tugged open his cravat, rested his head against the sumptuous upholstery behind him, and closed his eyes. However, a moment later he opened them to stare at the sealed note sitting squarely in the center of the otherwise pristine surface before him.

     “Greenwood!” he barked, and his orderly immediately appeared at the door.
     “Had I any messages or visitors whilst I was out? Any post?”
     “No, your lordship,” the seasoned professional announced confidently. DuLac thought better of bringing the missive to the man’s attention. The single symbol of crossed and sweeping strokes would mean nothing to him, and DuLac saw no need to rattle his well-deserved confidence. He required no explanation, and no level of security would keep out that particular shadow—not when he was determined.
     The Kanji symbol on the front caused the general to sigh. The lad could cut to the quick when he had a mind. That single word was as good as a full report for DuLac. Even so, he forced himself to break the seal.
     “Burn in hell.”
     DuLac bent to the grate and fed those four biting words to the flame. Perhaps it was time to engage. 
—A Chaotic Mind