There was when the sun disappeared, of course, the matter left of when the sleeping should begin. The time of the
darkest times seemed to be most appropriate. However, it appeared to him that
there was no time more appropriate than, in fact, no time. Or rather, that
sleep would come regardless of what time and in no time at all, as though no
matter what happened, the day would turn to night and in that, there seemed to
be either no choice or alternative other than to simply wait for it to take him
away, to another place where he could dream. Or not dream. Maybe all that would
happen this time would be another endless stretch of darkness, unending, until
finally he awoke. This matter presented itself, repeatedly, to Leonard Thomason
as he tossed and turned, the search for rest presenting an elusive goose for
which no trap could yet be set. It was at the peak of desperation that he
decided upon getting out of the firm mattress and setting for himself a rather
different goal. Putting on his shoes and coat, Leonard opened the front door to
his dingy one floor, two bedroom apartment, took a deep breath of cool memory
filled nighttime air, and began upon a walk to the nearest pharmacy in hopes of
finding an aid to his problem.
Upon entering the establishment, Leonard glanced at an older clerk who, after
realizing that, at this time of night, a man had materialized himself out of
either the muddy ground or something else and had been staring at him for what
seemed like two thousand years, proceeded to abruptly discontinue his own set of
affairs and ask how can I help you?
“I’m having trouble trying to sleep.” Leonard shrugged the wetness of his coat. The drizzle
outside chilled him to his bones, but that was not the most of his concern.
The old man spoke to him slowly, drawing out the words in order for him to
really hear every syllable, “That there’s a common thing for people such as me
an ya. Sometimes you just gotta let it hitcha, ya know?”
Leonard understood the man, or at least he thought he did, but that didn’t change the fact that here he was, standing
right here in front of him, quite obviously not yet sleeping, although perhaps
the old man had plenty of customers in this late. So, not wanting to seem impolite, Leonard asked him,
“Well, what medicine do you usually take?”
The old man stood behind the counter, the simple round clock
above his station ticked the minutes away as he thought for a moment. Leonard
observed his somewhat longer hair and beard as he stroked it considerably;
probably a hippie at one time, he said to himself, but quickly dismissed the
thought. It was too late at night and he was getting seriously tired. The old
man smiled suddenly and proudly, like a child does when he finds out the
answers he has given on a test were correct.
“There’s all sorts of medicines son, but let me ask ya, which do ya prefer?”
Leonard was confused. He had come here, in the rain and through who-knows-what in the dark only for this old geezer to question him?
“Shit, I don’t know. I’ve got a splitting headache, think I may have heartburn, and on
top of it all, I can’t get one bit of peaceful sleep to save my life! Got anything that’ll fix all that sir?”
The old man looked athim really hard all over. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but
instead went back far into the depths of his brightly lit office. On his return, he brought with him a bottle of wine and some crackers.
“Sorry son, ain’t got no cheese and ma job don’ permit me to drink anything stronger’n this. Mind keeping me company
‘til my shift’s over?”
Leonard had walked into this place to find something to help him sleep, now, he thought, how do I get out of this mess without being rude?
“Sir, I really only came here to find a solution to my restlessness, could you please just point me in the
direction of that sleepy cough syrup with the giant Q on it?” He really just
wanted to leave the store, hell, he wanted to leave it all behind, maybe he’d
just slip back under the covers and hope for the best, but something deep
inside him though knew that wouldn’t be enough to sedate him.
“These days all anyone’s lookin for
is the fancy Scientific way out. Sometime’s we gotta get back to the old ways
of thinking. Ya know how we used to be, old gramma teachin’s and stuff like
that. Them older books of curing life’s problems were what the world used to
run on ya know. Couldn’t live without em, cause we had faith in em.” The old
man sighed at these words and something seemed to sink in his heart, his
shoulders sagged and his forehead wrinkled, as though he were straining real
hard under a heavy weight.
Leonard decided that, as he could find no sleep at home
anyway, he might as well have spent his waking hours here, under the luminous light
beams with a crazy old man.
“I am not sure if you’ve noticed sir, but we
aren’t exactly dawdling around in the Stone Age anymore. We have all these,
‘machines’ and ‘technology’ to fix what those old wives tales couldn’t even
dream of.” He spoke the words slowly, as if explaining a wrongdoing to a young
“I know, I know. Hell, we been known that. Who didn’t know that? I’m saying that the real important ones, the
hardest diseases, the roughest and toughest of all of em always been solved by
a little bit of belief in the older ways of doin things. Ever try an fix a
broken heart with all ya fancy ‘technology’? Betcha there ain’t one cure in any
of dem ‘machines’ ya been so keen on preachin to me. Only the older medicines,
them testaments of goodness from men and women who know how to mend a tender
love and make it somethin great afterwards can provide ya with a cure for that.”
Taken aback by the old man’s sudden fervor, Leonard
recomposed himself. This old man just didn’t understand the miracles that
today’s science could do, however if he wanted his sleep, Leonard prepared
himself for a counterargument. He was just going to have to force this man to
see things his way.
“But there are no broken hearts, only heart attacks and diseases. Emotions can be cured by the science of
psychology remember?” Leonard thought that this was indisputable.
“Psychology, hah! Them wing nuts wouldn’t know an emotion if it bit em in the back side! I don’t doubt some of
there intentions, I’m sure theys tryin their damned hardest to find out why
souls can get so messy, but the truth is they ain’t never gonna figure it out.
Not unless they start hittin them books yessir!” The old man laughed, a cheery,
heartfelt laugh, but Leonard also noted a hint of sadness in his voice; some
kind of empathy or compassion for those men who couldn’t seem to locate the
problem according to him.
“Listen, you can’t just…deny all the years of scholarly learning and training they’ve done! They are
professionals, that means they know what they’re doing and that they are professional in what they do. How can a
bunch of old stories possibly stack up against the facts?”
“By God, who do ya think taught all them? How do ya think they learnt all them so called theories and whatnots?
Their elders passed on the basics, like no doubt yer lot’ll pass some things
down to yer little ones, and yev’e all but warped things out of what they used
to be.” The man seemed miffed at my outburst, but smiled at me all the same,
his eyes were full of understanding.
Decidedly at a loss for words at this point, Leonard gave up trying to reason with the old clerk.
“Sir, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d really
like to just find my medicine please. I have a very long week ahead of me and
if I don’t get my sleep I’m not sure I’ll make it to Sunday.” Leonard pinched
the section between his eyes, on either side of his nose as he spoke.
The old man sighed again and returned to his office to retrieve
the bottle. He returned slowly as though the time would assist in changing
Leonard’s mind. It hadn’t. Leonard tapped his foot impatiently as he waited, anxiously with his hands together, for the cure he had so longed for. The old man rang up the bill on his register, six dollars and seventy-seven cents.
“Now son, I can’t help ya if ya can’t help yourself. If you don’t know what’s wrong then son, that fire ya got in your heart’ll keep on burning forever. As for that headache, ya thinking somethin that’s a mighty bit beyond whatcha head’s ready to take. Ya say ya can’t getcha no peace in ya sleep? Maybe, son whatcha need ain’t a life that requires saving!”
At this Leonard paused a moment and he turned toward the now drying streaks of rain on the sliding glass doors of the shop. Looking out into
the darkness and then towards the garbage can that sat just inside the doors,
he threw away the small brown bag he had clenched in his hand. The sun began to rise as he left the shop and the old man smiled behind him.