It is a truth universally acknowledged that I need a solid eight hours of sleep, and if it is not universally acknowledged, it should be. Were it not for that universally acknowledged fact, nothing would please me more than to be awoken at 1 AM, as we were 2 nights ago, by flashing lights and voices in the driveway and the dogs barking at the excitement. You may well ask, What crisis prompted this intrusion upon our slumber? What imminent tornado, or census emergency, or political scandal, or fallen tree, or terrorist threat?
It seems someone across the street called the police to complain of the noise of barking dogs and alleged our dogs were the guilty ones.
But no, our dogs were fast asleep under our bed, inside our house. It was only when the police arrived, all a-clamor, that Daisy and Bruno set about barking. The local constabulary apologized but declined to tell us who it was that so glibly and wrongly accused our dogs of disturbance, and succeeded in disturbing us.
Then I couldn’t go back to sleep, because I was feeling persecuted. What so-called neighbor was falsely accusing us of harboring annoying canines? Had I done something to offend whoever it was? There are several other dogs around here, any of which could have been barking – though I had heard none. What made our accusers place the blame on floppy & benign D & B? And then, because it is a truth universally acknowledged that in the middle of the night small problems can inflate like a soufflé and multiply like fruit flies, I worried whether people who cause us to be awoken by the law in the middle of the night are the sort of people who find poultry objectionable. In the middle of the night, this does not seem so much a question as an implacable fact, and sleep was further postponed as I bemoaned the fate of poor Alonso the rooster. Currently, Alonso’s crowing is a mellow alto and allows me to fantasize that we live on Old MacDonald’s Farm. But soon it will grow into its full heavy-metal baritone, and I imagine that the neighbors will call out the National Guard.
Once I had imagined all the terrible things that could happen to the chickens, I started considering the problem of poison ivy. Then I began to itch, and of course the worse thing to do when your poison ivy itches is to scratch it, so I scratched it, because it was the middle of the night and I desperately wanted to fall back asleep. The scratching did not help. I have a pharmacopeia of putative remedies for poison ivy, including, but not limited to, Calamine lotion, Caladryl lotion, tincture of jewelweed, Zanfel, Technu, oatmeal baths, fermented llama urine, and Prednisone. And I considered them all as I lay awake. But the truth is that nothing works completely except almost boiling water. In fact, it is almost worth getting poison ivy to stand under a very hot shower and arrange for the water to hit the body parts afflicted with poison ivy. I am not sure how it works, but this not only relieves the itching but the hot water sets off a feeling of total pleasure, euphoria really.
It’s the sort of thing that makes me understand what it must be like to shoot heroine. Or makes me think I understand what it’s like. Or makes me imagine I understand, though it is unlikely I do.
After euphoria in the hot shower I returned to bed and read Barbara Pym.