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Musing: 2 A.M. Shriek
The shriek pierced my dreams and ripped me from my slumber. Shrill. Urgent. Alarming.
I pried open my eyes and scanned the bedroom. Ambient light cast shadows on the walls, but the windows remained dark. Dawn was far away. The phone on my bedside table confirmed the news. The displayed time read 1:50.
Maybe a dream—a nightmare—shrieked inside my head, not something real. Nothing stirred as far as I could tell.
Or perhaps the noise came from outside. A wild animal caught unlucky prey. Or a pair of cats squabbled over a stinky treasure. Or a car screeched its brakes. All possibilities outside the safety of my home.
I rolled over on my side and closed my eyes, praying I would return to sleep. As a long-time sufferer of sleep-maintenance insomnia, I rarely succeed after I awake in the middle of the night. The more time passed, the less likely I would, so I wasted no time investigating the noise. I vowed tonight would be different and sleep would come again.
I drifted, sinking, floating.
Or maybe a squeak. A high-pitched noise. Familiar. Horribly familiar. Please, no.
I glared across the room and into the shadows. “Typhoon, go to sleep.”
One of my Siberian Huskies came to us a decade ago with the name Ty. As a fan of two syllable names for dogs—easier to enunciate, so the canine knows he’s being called—we played with many possibilities. Tyrus. Tyrex, short for Tyrannosaurus Rex, which would have been fitting. Tybee, an island in South Carolina, but the word means salt in Euchee, so no.
And then a reader of the dogs’ blog came up with the answer. Typhoon.
We laughed at the name. Two syllables. Unique. Catchy. We didn’t think about how we tempted the fates by naming him after a natural disaster, but saddled him with the moniker that day. He’s lived up to it ever since, leaving a wide path of destruction in his wake.
As all my dogs do, the nicknames piled on. Typhoon Phooey, a play on the old Hong Kong Phooey cartoon character, a comically inept crime fighter, came after one of his many disasters. We added the Little Prince because of his expressions of disdain when we tell him to do something. Today, he’s generally known as His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey. Or the Little Curmudgeon for short.
What do his nicknames have to do with his shriek? This trip down memory lane serves a purpose. His forceful personality means he rarely yields without argument. If I say yes, he replies no. If I tell him not to do something, he does it anyway.
Tonight was no exception. In response to my demand for slumber, he shrieked again. And again.
I wondered if he would wake my Ever Patient Partner In Life. That would be bad. Unless, of course, EPPIL handled whatever complaint Typhoon voiced, and I got to go back to sleep. Wrong of me to hope for, but it was 2 a.m.
Alas, EPPIL didn’t stir.
Once upon a time, I was the one who could sleep through anything. Like a hurricane. For real. I slept through Hurricane Hugo. EPPIL never lets me forget that.
This moment belonged to me. EPPIL dealt with a hurricane. I would handle a Typhoon.
By now, I was awake enough to realize Ty might have a genuine emergency. He suffers from an enormous range of food allergies. We’ve struggled over the years to identify foods he can eat and limit what he consumes. He is, though, a dog, so will sometimes pick up something to eat on walks. When he does that, the result isn’t pretty. A 2 a.m. shriek might indicate a digestive eruption is imminent.
Of course, a 2 a.m. shriek might also indicate a desire to venture outside and sniff the night air. The challenge, as a mere human, was determining which it was.
Ty and I began negotiations.
“Do you really have to go?”
“Can it wait until sunrise?”
“Are you 100% sure this is an emergency?”
For those of you who don’t speak Siberian Huskies—say you have a Labrador that barks like an actual canine—a shriek can mean many things. It’s also quite effective.
With an exasperated sigh, I did the only thing possible. I got up. I padded downstairs. I tiptoed quietly so as not to disturb EPPIL. Typhoon noisily raced me through the house and skidded through the kitchen.
When I reached the backdoor, I made Ty wait. He has a long and disturbing history of snagging snoozing rabbits in the yard at night. They are a particularly tasty and digestive-disrupting treat for him, so I have to prevent him from catching any or extract its carcass from his clenched jaws. Trust me, that’s not pleasant.
Once I determined the coast was clear, I let him outside.
The minute he stepped into the yard, his urgency waned. He trotted to a favorite spot and peed. Halfheartedly. Walked around and sniffed. Rolled in the grass. Explored every crevice.
No digestive discharge happened. The shriek was not an alarm. It was a sign of boredom. Once again, I’ve been outsmarted by a canine. Granted, my brain doesn’t work at 2 a.m., so he had the advantage.
Exasperated, I shooed him back inside and locked the door. Maybe, if I got back into bed, sleep might still come to me. A long shot, but I had hope. All I needed to do was get Typhoon to the bedroom.
Oh, sure, some of you wonder, why bother? Why not let him stay loose in the house? I need only remind you he’s named after a destructive force of nature. It’s an apt description. Experience says the price is too high.
I motioned for Typhoon to follow and stumbled through the house to the steps. When my foot hit the bottom stair, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Sitting in the den. With a wicked grin on his face.
“I mean it.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Typhoon took off and circled the kitchen island. What could be more fun than a game of keep-away at 2 a.m? To him, at least, if not to me.
I stepped into his path. With a clacking of claws on the hardwood floor, he spun and raced into the dining room. The good news was the other entrance of the dining room comes out at the base of the stairs. All I needed to do was wrangle him in the right direction. I reversed course and trotted through the house, arriving at the doorway before he did. I grinned in success.
The clack of paws back in the kitchen tells me he expected my attempt. He had circled the dining room table and returned to his starting point. I spun on my heels and jogged back to the kitchen. The room sat empty. Paws echoed through the den and into my study on the other end of the house.
I pursued. He cut through the foyer and into the kitchen. I returned to the dining room thinking he wouldn’t pull the same trick twice. Wrong. The snicker I heard was him knowing I fell for it. Again.
Den. Study. Dining room. Kitchen. Repeat. Scramble. Twist and turn.
I grew dizzy and lost track of him. Which way did the little trickster go?
Without him in sight, I slowed and walked through each room. Looked under furniture. Checked his favorite hiding spots. When I finally returned to the foyer, I glanced up the steps I’d been trying to herd him to. He sat at the top, watching me. Right outside the bedroom door. With an expression that said, “Are we going to bed or what?”
Trudged up the steps. Went into the bedroom. Closed the door to keep him inside. Stretched across the bed. And listened to Typhoon’s gentle snores. Of course, he fell back asleep. Canines don’t suffer from insomnia.
Me? My heart pounded. Sweat trickled down my face. Any chance of sleep had disappeared on the second or third lap of the downstairs.
I picked up a book from the bedside table and read until dawn.
Interesting Links: National World War II Museum
Seventy-eight years ago today—D-Day—allied troops landed on the beaches of France as a prelude to the march to Berlin. Last week, I mentioned listening to a veteran talk about his experiences on that beach.
The museum I referred to was then known as the National D-Day Museum but, today, is official called the National World War II Museum. If you find yourself in New Orleans and haven’t been, consider spending a day there. It’s an amazing experience.
You never quite know who you’re going to run into on the greenway through our neighborhood, but this stranger sure caught the attention of the dogs.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Funambulism
Technically, funambulism refers to tightrope walking. It traces back to the Latin funis (rope) and ambulare (walking). In fact, the sport dates back at least as far as well as funambulists were celebrated in ancient Greek and Roman societies. You can tuck this one away for the next time you are at the circus.
Better yet, the word has an alternate though similar meaning. Someone who shows a strong mental agility can also be referred to as a funambulist.
Books Read: One Last Step
I read 100 novels a year and share the best with you.
Rooke FBI Agent Tara Mills is partnered with veteran agent Frank Warren to pursue a serial killer hunting young women on the Appalachian Trail.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
My story today is about the Little Curmudgeon, better known as His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey. Why did he give a 2 a.m. shriek? Because he wanted to stretch out in the grass. I didn’t catch a photo then, but here is one from yesterday. You get the idea.
Have a terrific week. Hope you sleep through the night—every night.
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