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John Longbottom

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Michael’s Bag

In the stillness of the morning before a million coffee-makers began to burble and perk, before a million showers began to spray and splash, before millions of cars began their daily commute and before the early morning mist began to float above the dew sodden grass, Michael was wide awake. He lay there, uncomfortably scrunched up on his side, only to feel his hip begin to ache so he rolled over onto his other side and tucked the covers under his chin. Why do they call it “wide” awake? He thought. There’s nothing “wide” about it. It must refer to the eyes being “wide” open. But mine are closed and I’m still “wide” awake.

He lay there for a while hoping his mind would find a thread to follow that might lead him into a dream and thus back to sleep. No such luck, the gods of dreams were not responding, his mind was blank, his eyes were closed and he was thoroughly awake. His hip began to ache again, so he rolled onto his back and opened his eyes. The room was dark, except for the little green light of the smoke detector on the ceiling above the door. When he looked off to the right there was no light seeping round the window blinds and Michael wondered what time it was but he didn’t want to look and closed his eyes again. If he looked at the clock and it was almost time to get up, he would be annoyed because he did not feel like getting up just yet but, if it was really early, still in the middle of the night, he would feel highly frustrated and would have to try to force sleep upon his body and brain.

No better way to wake the brain up than to force it to do something it does not want to do, he thought which pulled another mental trigger. The (brain) child is father of the man. And his mind was briskly walking down a different path, merrily on its way to full wakefulness. Which was the very last place Michael wanted it to be.

He rolled over onto his other side and felt the pressure in his bladder. He had felt it a while ago and had tried to ignore it. It was back now with more urgency and another internal debate began when all Michael wanted was peace and more sleep.

If I get up now to pee it might wake me up completely and I’ll never get back to sleep. If I get out of bed now and see that it’s very close to getting up time, I might have to stay up which would throw the start of the day out of balance. And if I don’t get up to pee and fall back to sleep there is the possible danger of leakage or my bladder will just keep applying pressure until I answer the call, thus preventing further sleep.

Michael got up to pee and without looking at the clock got back into bed, rolled over on his right side, pulled the cover tightly around himself and tried to breathe deeply and slowly.

Where’s my bag?” He looked into the back of the station wagon where the other bags were stashed and didn’t see his own.

“Perhaps it got loaded into another car,” said a female voice. He stood in the center of a large room with a brown colored travertine-tiled floor. The space was empty. He turned a complete circle and his bag was not there.

“What am I going to do? My money’s in my bag. I’ll have to get to the American Express office in the morning to get more money.” He looked around but no one seemed to be listening to him. “I wonder if they’ll give me a toothbrush and tooth paste?”

He rushed out of the front door only to see his bag being loaded onto a bus bound for the airport.

He was having dinner with a crowd of people that the dream Michael knew but the wide-awake Michael did not

“Wait a minute. How can that happen? How can I be asleep yet also be a voyeur of my own dreams, a third person looking inward? Am I dozing and thinking , or sleeping and dreaming?” And that thought dissipated like cigarette smoke in the air.

“Christ, I want a cigarette.”

“Where did that thought come from?”

He kept walking in circles.

He went to a deserted airport where there were five battered bags randomly strewn around the baggage claim area, looking forlorn and forgotten like refugees looking for a country.

He had a nonsensical conversation in a bright, glass and white granite bank where the people looked like characters from the TV show he’d been watching the night before.

He was back in the station wagon again.

Michael woke up with a start. Was I dreaming? That means I had fallen asleep. He tentatively opened one eye and looked at the window. There was a faint light showing around the edges of the blinds which meant the sun was rising and the time for getting up was drawing near.

“Shit,” he said out loud as he turned the other way, facing the door to the bathroom. Good job I went when I did, he thought, as the tendrils of the dream still clung to his mind.

“Where’s my bag?” he said to himself, resignedly wide awake.

September 2021

One comment on “Michael’s Bag

  1. PRPAL says:

    Great story, John. It’s redolent of many a half-waking/half-sleeping early morning where my most memorable dreams are forged. Including the sore hips and demanding bladder…..!


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