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Not Tonight, Dear, I Can't Feel My Legs


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by Douglas PageŠ

Winter is here again. Damn. You know this because of the blankets. The electric blanket and storm comforter have come out of storage. You hope it will be different this year. Last winter  you nearly froze to death. The blankets didn't help. They never do. They may as well be magic carpets. In the middle of the night they will disappear. But only from your side.

You wonder how this happens. You suspect her. She has forecast their need. No doubt she is the Circe who can charm them away.

One of these nights you're going to fake sleep and stay awake to see how she does it, how she manages to get all the blankets on your side of the bed to vanish, then reappear on her side. Physics alone does not explain this phenomenon. Gravity does not operate like a spatula.

You don't understand it. You start out with the blankets evenly distributed across both sides of the bed. You know this is true because you make the bed yourself - just to be sure. You tuck them so tightly under the mattress you could dribble a basketball on your side, the way they taught you in boot camp.

At bedtime you slip in carefully and secure your area from the inside: you wrap the blankets under your arm and pin them to your chest. You squeeze them between your knees. You anchor them with your feet. You are stronger than she is and you weigh more than she does. You are confident, once again, these blankets are going nowhere. They aren't moving. They can't. David Copperfield couldn't move these blankets.

None of these tactics will matter, of course, because during the night, when you are sound asleep, somehow the blankets get doubled-up on top of her. They aren't scrunched or scrambled or piled over there as if the larceny happened by the armload, the way clothing is gathered from a line. No, it's as though they've been folded neatly in the middle like an omelette and flopped over on her side, leaving you as uncovered as a boat rope.

Sometime just before dawn, exactly when it is the coldest it will get in the room that night, the shivering will wake you up. The shivering is yours. You are dreaming you are swimming in Hudson Bay. Your body is numb. You see if you can feel your legs. The only thing protecting you is a sheet. This is like trying to stay warm under a handkerchief. The blankets on your side of the bed are missing.

You discover them nearby, as always - on top of her. You begin to rake and tug them back to your side, flailing in the urgent, spastic panic of a man clawing his way out of a bad dream. The burrowing activity wakens her and an eye appears from the folds, squinting at you. She's dreaming she's in bed with a badger.

"What are you doing?" she whispers from the depths of her warren.

"GIVE ME SOME BLANKETS!" you explain.

"Are you cold?"

This is the same touching insouciance she displays when she wonders if you have a headache whenever you ask if she has any aspirin. You wonder if this could possibly be the sweet, wonderful woman you married, because the thought strikes you - just for an instant: if you could feel your hands you believe you would smother her.

Instead you make the Sheet Speech.

"Cold? Me? Cold? How would I know? I can't feel anything. I think I'm freezing to death. I'd call 911 but there is no feeling in my fingers. Look. They don't even move. There is no feeling in my fingers because there are no blankets over here. See? They're all gone. All I have is the sheet. I'd be warmer under a Kleenex. You could keep meat over here."

You have lost her, of course. She's heard it before. She has disappeared back into her cozy den. Why would she risk exposure listening to you rail against the elements?

You are alone again in the darkness, which you do not notice. You are fully awake now. A calmness descends over you, the smugness of the righteous, the tranquility of the doomed. You rattle on, chattering like joke-store teeth.

"Ever hear anyone ask for a sheet to keep warm, or see people with sheets on airplanes? Ever cover a horse with a sheet? Ever hear of an army sheet?"

There is no answer, of course, only muffled grunts that sounds very much like "I'm not cold, Dear."

"Of course you're not cold. You've now got two electric blankets and two comforters on top of you. You're nice and warm. A grilled cheese sandwich is not that warm. You could make toast in there."

-end-

 

Comments? Questions? Assignments? douglaspage@earthlink.net
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