Lake Effect, Spring 2006, Volume 10: from Giraffes and the Unspeakable Beneath

Curtis Smith


from Giraffes and the Unspeakable Beneath

Am I dreaming? I lie still and listen to the sounds from another room. My two-year-old is speaking, a lilting soliloquy of random syllables fitted with a recognizable refrain. I leave my wife, our warm bed, and shuffle to the hallway. Pretty, the window-view of moonglow across our yard's trampled white; pretty, the sight of our snow-family trio amid the stark terrain of bare trees and smothered flowerbeds. The floorboards' chill radiates into my bare feet. Standing by the crib's railing, the two of us painted in a nightlight's grainy hues, I study my son. He's asleep, his mouth puckered and slack as if he nodded off in a struggle to utter one last word. I cover him, allow myself a stroke of his blond curls. Precious, the sleep of children, precious…but back in my bed, I toss and fret, hostage once again to adult anxieties, my woozy thoughts ambushed by worries of workplace politics and checkbook registers, college funds, the weird mole on my back. The night's quiet magnifies the radiators' hiss, the furnace's rumble, the creaks and sighs of our house melding into a John Cage-ish symphony for this audience of one. The red digits of my nightstand clock plod toward five-thirty, and I turn off the alarm a minute before it's set to ring. I shower, eat, write, and at seven, as I'm about to step out the door, my wife stirs. She brews her day's first cup of coffee, and I tell her about our son's night-chatter. What was he talking about, she asks. Giraffes, I tell her.