THIRTY-TWO - Milk and Whiskey

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January something...I don't even know...

Normally, I am a good sleeper. Nothing wakes me. Not even the time I was twelve and we had an earthquake, and two dishes fell off our kitchen shelf and smashed to smithereens on the floor.

     But last night, sleep eluded me. I tried to meditate, but it didn't work. I got up and had some cereal (unfortunately it was  Raisin Bran because I'd eaten all the Captain Crunch. Gross), but that didn't make me sleepy either. I got my flashlight and shone it at Peterson's face, but the glint on his glasses was freaky and did nothing to calm my already frazzled nerves.

     Eventually, I got up, put on a sweatshirt, and went outside. The sky was really clear and there were a million stars out, and somewhere in the distance, an owl was hooting. I sat on the front porch for a long time, the crocheted afghan from our couch wrapped around my shoulders. Not exactly a rugged mountain man look but there was no one around but me.

     I sat there thinking about Dad, and Misty, and the fact that they are seemingly, in love. Then I thought about Mom and Jocelyn, and the fact that seem to have a pretty good thing going on, too. And while I am happy for my parents, it also made me feel a little lonely. Maybe things would be different if I had an older brother, or a kid sister. I'm sure if I had a sibling, I wouldn't be as tragic or self-involved. I was probably over-indulged as a kid. I mean, I never had to share a room or fight for the bathroom or put up with a sibling who stole my Halloween candy. I'm sure those kinds of challenges build character during one's formative years.

     Damn. I wish Mom were around. She would know what to say. She always knew what to say. But maybe that's different now. Maybe her parenting days are officially over. Her new life is way more exciting than her old one ever was, so I can't really blame her.  I mean, sleeping in tree yurts among howler monkeys in Costa Rica has got to be infinitely more stimulating than listening to a scrawny fourteen-year-old kid whine about his virtually non-existent love life.

     Dad means well, but he's so starry-eyed about Misty, I don't have the heart to bring him down with my petty concerns. He deserves some fun for once in his life. Pretty sure being a chartered accountant doesn't rate super high on the fun-o-metre.

     After I was done feeling sorry for myself, I cocooned myself in the afghan and wandered over to the paddock fence. I could see Desmond near the water trough, and when I clicked my tongue at him, he came right over and nuzzled my arm, which I found quite touching.

      Then a light went on in the barn and seconds later Norm shuffled out in a striped terry towel housecoat and rubber boots. He said he'd seen someone lurking around by the fence, but I told him it was just me and that I was suffering from a bout of insomnia and just needed some fresh air.

     I thought he would go back inside after that, but instead he said, come on, kid, and I followed him into the barn. He told me to sit down on a hay bale, and then he went to a little bar bridge in the corner of the barn and took out some milk. He poured some into a saucepan, which he then set on a hotplate. A couple of minutes later he poured hot milk into two blue chipped camping mugs and handed me one. Then he shuffled over to a wooden box, pulled out a bottle of whiskey, shuffled back and poured a little into each of our mugs. Magic ingredient, he said. Don't tell your dad or Misty. 

     So, we sat on the hay bales and drank our hot milk. I told him about Ivy and he told me about how it took him three years to win over Misty's mom, and that I shouldn't lose any sleep over my situation because you just never knew what was lying around the corner.

     I asked him what happened to Misty's mom and he said she died of pancreatic cancer four years ago next Monday. I told him I was sorry, and he said, it's OK, Myles. What we had was special and I was lucky to have had her in my life because she was a much better person than I am. For an old gruff guy, Norm is pretty sensitive, I think.

     After that, neither one of us said anything for a while; we just sat there and drank our milk and whiskey and listened to the Desmond, Snowflake and Audrey snuffling around in the hay, while that owl hooted in the tree outside. It was nice, and I half expected Norm to offer me a cigar to go along with our nightcap, but  he didn't.

     I'm not sure if it was the whiskey or the conversation, but when I finally went back home and climbed into bed, I went straight to sleep.

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