Wake Up Steven by Quinn Tyler Jackson
November 10, 2011 Comments Off on Wake Up Steven by Quinn Tyler Jackson
— That horrified screaming you hear is the sound of a book you once read as a child. The one that always haunted you.
No, I never should have read that book. Evil creatures, hangings, and descriptions of things that couldn’t be shaken for some time. That screaming is that?
— You were too young and horrified to scream then. But if I am asleep, how can I hear you?
— Who am I to be heard at all?
— Steven, can you tell me if you smell anything?
— Anything else?
The faint … what is that? The faint smell of horse shit.
— Steven, wake up.
* * *
Plastic tubes. Cigarette tubes. My nose is dry. Steven, when did you last take a piss?
“Three blind mice,” Josephine said.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Contrariness is perspiration under milk lodgings,” she answered. Her lips aren’t moving right to the sounds I think I’m hearing.
“Perfunctory,” she then insists. Again, it’s those eyes doing the insisting, the way they’re wont to do.
Door slamming. Horseback riding. Applecart upon applecart upon applecart.
Steven is wide awake.
—You say that like you mean it.
Josephine, how many fingers am I holding up?
—Wake up, Steven!
I told you I am already.
Playing dead in front of the mirror. Playing. One note at a time. The play is the thing. Curtain! Exit stage up!
“Steven you’re really starting to scare me.”
—Am I? What is it about me that is scaring you? Can I make it clear, or can you hear a word I am saying at all? When I say, “I don’t want to do that,” do you hear “Applecart?” When I say “that really pisses me off” do you hear “horseback riding?”
—Steven, do you know where you are?
I’m in a book I read as a child that I was too young to understand, and now I am lost in the screams I was too young to scream.
—No, you’re horseback riding.
I don’t want to do that.
—It’s not up to you.
* * *
—Steven, are you awake?
* * *
—Are you awake, Steven?
“What day is it?”
* * *
“Sunday? Then what made me think it was Saturday?” I ask Josephine as she purrs beside me under the sheets of our bed.
She laughs, glances over at me with those beautiful eyes of hers, and says, “I’ve no clue, silly love. Saturday has come and gone already.”
I lean over to her smooth forehead, kiss her, and say, “That is has, sweetie. That it has. Why did you want to know if I am awake?”
“Just because I am and I was a bit lonely here beside you. Wanted some company.”
I put my arm around Josephine, breathe in, and then exhale, and then whisper, “Well, here I am. Half-asleep, but here with you.”
“Half-awake is good enough,” she assures me.
© 2011 Quinn Tyler Jackson
Quinn Tyler Jackson is a poet, novelist, musician, visual artist, and computer scientist. His work has been published online and in print internationally. He lives a quiet but passionate life in Canada with his wife and two cats.