One morning, at precisely six fifteen and forty-two seconds, Dale Rodgers woke up. The alarm clock sitting on his dresser across the room had been going off for forty-two seconds without waking him, until it did. Dale was known to be heavy sleeper.
“Dale, you could sleep through anything. You sleep like a frog!” his Grandma Greta used to say.
What she really meant to say was that he slept like a log, but Grandma Greta, in her old age, was always bungling up her idioms. No one ever dared correct her. She was a feisty woman. But honestly, it was more interesting that way. She created puzzles with words, riddles, for people to figure out what she meaning to say.
One time when Grandma Greta was at the grocery store she tried using the self-scanner to purchase six tomatoes. But when she couldn’t figure out how to type in the code for the tomatoes on the computer screen, she called over a teenage employee to help her. Grandma Greta said to the teenager, “I suppose you can’t teach tricks to dogs.”
What she meant to say was “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But Grandma Greta didn’t realize her mistake.
Timmy Eubanks, the teenager helping her with the codes on her tomatoes, didn’t understand what she meant and assumed she had dementia or something.
“You have a nice day, ma’am.” Timmy said, and then gave her a pity smile.
Dale was in the middle of a dream when he was woken up by the progressively loud alarm clock he had sitting on his dresser. Dale’s therapist had suggested he purchase an alarm clock that gradually got louder because he was a heavy sleeper and he often slept through his alarm as if it weren’t even going off at all. So Dale ordered one that looked nice off the internet one night. The alarm clock was $45.99. Dale thought that was expensive for an alarm clock, but then he saw there were other alarm clocks that were $129.99, and so he told himself he was getting a good deal. Dale had a habit of telling himself he was getting good deals even when the deals were not very good. That was another thing he was working on with his therapist.
There was a neat setting on Dale’s $45.99 alarm clock. If you had not turned off the progressively loud alarm after about two minutes, bright LED lights would start flashing sporadically. Dale had only used that setting twice and both times he woke up in a panic when the LED lights started flashing. Bright lights and alarms early in the morning are disorienting, especially for deep sleepers. And both times that Dale was woken up by the bright flashing lights and the very loud alarm, he thought that his house was on fire and that his alarm clock was his fire alarm.
Both times that the alarm clock had made it to the flashing setting Dale quickly rolled out of bed and onto his hands and knees. Immediately, while taking short, shallow breaths, he looked up at the ceiling for smoke. Both times Dale crawled over to his bedroom door and touched the doorknob with a tap, to test if it was hot.
But both times there was no fire. Dale had just overslept. So Dale stopped using the flashing light function on his $45.99 alarm clock. Dale reasoned that it was worth the risk of oversleeping to not use it anymore.
If there had been a fire, though, Dale thought it was good he had the right instincts for how to properly respond.
“I might be a heavy sleeper, but at least I have survival skills.” Dale thought.
The dream Dale was awoken from was a particularly disturbing dream. In his dream Dale was a child again, maybe ten or eleven. He was ten or eleven again because Dale looked ten or eleven, and because both his parents were alive in this dream. In reality, Dale’s dad had died in a motorcycle accident just outside the county line when Dale was twelve years and two days old.
But dreams often don’t align with the timelines of reality, so perhaps Dale was twelve or even thirteen in this dream. Who could know?
In the dream, Dale’s mom and dad were fighting in the kitchen of his childhood home about overdue bills. Dale hated when his parents fought about things like bills or where to eat or why his dad was out so late.
Dale’s mom would always be yelling things like, “I can’t keep on living this way! You can’t expect me to keep living this way, Joe!”
Joe was Dale’s dad.
But in Dale’s dream, Dale’s dad was the one saying these things.
“I can’t keep on living this way! You can’t expect me to keep living this way, Lor!”
Lor was short for Lori, which was Dale’s mom’s name.
In Dale’s dream, ten year old Dale had a lot more courage than he ever had when he was actually a child. In anger, Dale ran into the kitchen to tell his mom and dad to stop arguing with each other and to grow up. But when Dale ran into the kitchen his parents were both monsters, like those monsters from the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.
Dale was not expecting to see monsters when he ran into the kitchen. He was expecting to see his mom and dad. Dale realized that both his monster mom and his monster dad did not notice him run into the kitchen because they were so engaged in their argument. They were yelling things like, “You can’t say things like that to me! I’m your wife!” and things like, “Yeah, well I’m a grown man, you can’t tell me what I can and cannot say!”
Dale was frightened to hear these things come out of his mom and dad’s monster mouths, who were both now even uglier monsters, like the monsters from those Alien vs. Predator movies, but more grotesque.
When Dale saw that his parents were both now grotesque monsters he ran back out of the kitchen and into his living room where they couldn’t see him. Twelve year old Dale could still hear them clearly though, and as the argument continued Dale’s monster parents were getting louder and louder, and their argument was becoming more of an exchange of growls and shrieks and noises rather than words, phrases, or sentences. There were even some loud hisses.
This frightened thirteen year old Dale very much, and so he decided to run to the Stephenson’s house. The Stephensons were Dale’s neighbors. The Stephenson’s house was a place Dale already spent a lot of his time because the Stephenson’s had seven children. Three of the Stephenson children were close to Dale’s age and he played with them almost every day.
Dale knew the Stephenson’s front door would be unlocked because they never locked the front door. The Stephensons had teenagers who were always coming and going at all times of the day and night, and instead of giving each one of them a key, the Stephensons decided to always leave the front door unlocked.
Eleven year old Dale ran out the front door of his house, not looking back to see whether his monster mom or his monster dad noticed him leaving. Dale ran as fast as he could to the front door of the Stephenson’s house. But when he got to the front door, the door had no doorknob. So Dale ran over to the front window and pounded on it as loud as he could, and when he looked into the house he saw that Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson were also monsters, hissing and spitting and snarling at each other.
Ten year old Dale shrieked, “Oh no!” and as he began to run away, the Stephenson’s front door swung open and an alarm started buzzing. He kept running, but the alarm got louder and louder and louder.
Thirty-seven year old Dale woke up. He looked over to the alarm clock on his dresser across the room.
The alarm clock read 6:15:42.
Dale swung his feet out of bed, put on his slippers, and walked over to his alarm clock. It had gotten loud, but had not made to full volume yet. That would have happened at 6:17:00.
Dale then zombied into the kitchen to turn on the water kettle for his morning cup of tea. As Dale was pouring the hot water over his tea, he thought to himself, “I feel more tired than usual. I wonder why.”
As Dale sipped his tea he thought through his routine from the night before. He hadn’t had too much to drink and he had gone to bed at a normal hour. He hadn’t woken up before his alarm that he could remember. It was a normal night by all accounts. He shrugged to himself.
As Dale changed into his clothes for work, he briefly thought, “I wonder if I had any interesting dreams last night.” But he didn’t think about it any deeper than that.
The thing about being a heavy sleeper is that you often don’t remember your dreams.
Dale got onto his bicycle and biked the 2.88 mile route to his work. He worked at a local used bookstore called “Buy the Book.” He liked working there.
As Dale biked past “Parties Galore & Costumes,” the local party and costume store at the 1.47 mile mark of his route, Dale thought to himself, “I haven’t talked with my mom in a while. Maybe I’ll give her call today.”