The Morning After (From Thereby Hangs A Tail)
I barked, but not too loud; the poor guy. I knew what he needed, had seen the whole routine plenty of times – a lot more sleep, then Advil, coffee, cold wet towel on his forehead. Knock knock knock. There wasn’t time for any of that. I barked again, louder this time.
“Uh,” said Bernie, his voice weak. “Gah.”
I moved to the side of the bed, pulled at a corner of the sheet. From down inside the twisted covers, Bernie pulled back. Bernie was a big strong guy, but not at the moment. I ripped the sheets right off him.
Bernie, arm still over his face, groaned, “Chet, what the hell?”
Somehow I’d got all tangled in the covers. I couldn’t see – and that’s a thing I hate. I struggled, clawed, rolled around – nearby something came crashing down on the floor – and burst free at last. Bernie was sitting up now, one eye open. It had turned red overnight.
“Sleep,” he said, his voice a bit stronger now, maybe what you’d call a croak. “I need more – “
Knock knock knock.
Bernie’s other eye opened, this one even redder. “What?” he said. And then: “Who?”
“Someone’s at the door?” He turned to the bedside clock, maybe a painful movement because he winced and said, “Ow.” Then he squinted at the clock, rubbed his eyes, squinted again. “But it’s only – “
Knock knock knock knock – and even more knocks. That sharp ratta-tat-tat was driving me crazy, and maybe Bernie, too. He put a hand to his head, rose, leaning sideways slightly as though the room was spinning in the other direction, and staggered into the bathroom. Then came peeing sounds – which reminded me I had to go too, in fact pretty soon – running water sounds, and the interesting clitter-clatter that happens when a bottle of pills gets spilled. Not long after that – and meanwhile more knocking, plus Iggy’s muffled yipping – Bernie emerged wearing his polka-dot bathrobe, face scrubbed and hair combed, except for a small stick-out horn-like thing on one side, not very noticeable. Then, holding the robe together with one hand – the belt, I remembered, had been part of a fun tug-of-war game we’d played on Charlie’s last visit, me, Charlie and Bernie ending up in a heap on the floor (but I had the belt, meaning I was the winner, right? Wasn’t that the point of tug-of war?) – then – where was I? – oh, yeah: Bernie moved toward the front door.
Knock knock knock. “Christ Almighty,” Bernie said. “I’m coming.” He turned the knob and pulled – maybe more forcefully than he’d intended – flinging the door open; Bernie lost his grip and the knob thumped hard against the wall. At the same time, he also lost his grip on the polka-dot robe, which fell open.
Tags: Thereby Hangs A Tail
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