The Timer

Photo by *hiro008, via Flickr

It’s 1:15 when the last door upstairs closes. I hear her patter down the stairs, one to fourteen, landing lightly on Pergo. Afternoon sunlight glows on dirty dishes; the floor at my feet is a mine field of plastic bags, the spoils of the morning’s Target run. She surveys the mess, then looks longingly at the office…and the couch.

Come on, girl. You know you need this. I heard how many times you were up last night.

She picks her way among the bags, and I cheer. Reaching across the glass surface, she presses a button, and I obligingly begin counting upward. At twenty, her finger lifts.

No way. That’s not nearly enough.

She makes a face; she knows that as well as I do. But there’s so much to do–the assignments that tap out from beneath her fingers, the music that’s due in a week, the mess in the kitchen… I watch her waffle; at last, she punches in another thirteen minutes. Thirty-three minutes. Three to fall asleep, thirty to nap.

I start the count: twenty-nine. Go on. Get over there and lie down. You don’t know when that baby’s gonna wake up again.

She takes a drink from a big hospital mug, grabs a few sheets of paper and tosses them in the recycling–halfhearted attempts to split the difference between rest and housecleaning. Then she flings herself across the couch, burying her eyes beneath a pillow.

Twenty-eight minutes. She’s having trouble getting to sleep; the breathing is all wrong.  She’s thinking about what she’s going to do when she gets up.

Twenty-six minutes. The phone rings. She punches it on and back off without answering–must have been one of those 800 number calls. Twenty-five.

At twenty-four minutes, her breathing slows; the house settles into a quiet it rarely sees during daylight hours: the soft ticking of the wall clock, the refrigerator’s hum, the low rumble and tumble of the dryer upstairs. I wish I could slow the relentless countdown, but I can’t; my reliability is the only reason she trusts me. Twenty minutes. Fifteen. Ten. Upstairs, a child rolls over, its feet thumping the walls. I tense, but the slow, even breaths don’t change. She must be tired. Five minutes. Three. One. Now we’re counting seconds…three…two…one..

Beeep. Beeep. Beeep.

She takes a deep breath, stirs, and groans. Nap time is over.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

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To my regular (non-Write-On-Edge) readers, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this prompt; it seemed pretty far outside of what I would normally write. But Christian encouraged me to try, and since the heavyweight stuff yesterday didn’t seem as interesting, I figured, What the hey? Hope you don’t mind. 🙂