A nighttime visitor

I was reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It isn’t a properly scary book – not like scary movies, anyway – though I suppose I wouldn’t know since I don’t watch scary movies – but it is vaguely terrifying. It’s about being a child and, well, let’s call it “menacing”: no jump scares; lots of tense terror. Whatever it was, I could not put it down because I was too afraid to stop reading.

Sometime after midnight, I gave myself a stern talking to – I was a grown woman with children for heaven’s sake. I gave myself a little leeway since my husband was away on a trip, leaving me alone in our bed, but my visiting in-laws were asleep in the guest room right next to my room. They would expect me to wake up tomorrow at a normal hour, and I needed to get some sleep.

I turned another page. And another. I could not look away from the darkness that wormed its way out of the book and into my mind. Eventually, my eyes drooped closed. I had just enough consciousness left to reach up and turn off the reading light.

As my mind slipped fretfully towards slumber, the pocket door that led into our bedroom scraped open. My eyes flew open and the rest of my body shut down: I could no more move than scream. A tall, pale figure came slowly into view, almost stumbled – just there! – hovered for a moment, then turned and glided away, scraping the door closed as it left.

My lips had gone numb; so had my fingertips. I remained paralyzed in the bed, listening for some indication that what I had just seen was real, afraid that what I’d just seen was real. After seconds, minutes, hours had passed, I raised a trembling hand to the chain above my head and pulled. The light came on, though it now seemed nearly powerless against the dark. My hand groped towards the bedside table. I found the book and opened it again.

I read all the way to the end. I cannot remember when I was finally able to sleep, when the characters were as safe as they were going to be, when pure exhaustion overtook my fear.

I stumbled down to the kitchen the next morning. Everyone was chipper, everything was bright: Grandpa Jim’s beard practically glowed white; Grandma Shirley hummed and sang while she made breakfast. Hollow-eyed, I watched, wondering if I should say anything about last night’s visitation. Would they believe me? Had I imagined it?

As we settled in to eat, Grandpa Jim started to talk, “A funny thing happened to me last night.” My head snapped up; my sense were wildly alert. Had he seen it, too? “I got up to go to the bathroom, got turned around and walked right into your bedroom before I realized it. I’m just glad I didn’t wake you up.” He returned to his granola and I stared at him for a full minute before I burst into hysterical laughter.

Not a ghost; just a grandpa.

I’ve never forgotten the book. You could do worse than to read The Ocean at the End of Lane as Halloween approaches – or anytime, really.

Many thanks to TwoWritingTeachers.org for hosting this weekly gathering of writers.

I might have a problem #SOL19 7/31

This is on my bedside table


I just finished Son of a Trickster last night, and I really enjoyed the way that that Indigenous narrator’s voice makes sense of his actions, which from the outside definitely look like those of a druggie kid failing out of school, and reveals the motives behind the appearance. It’s the first of a trilogy, and it felt like it – much of the real action doesn’t come until right at the end and it feels a little unfinished.

That book is sitting on top of these two. A Velocity of Being was a gift, and it is perfect in

img_8230many ways: it’s beautiful and has amazing illustrations, it has a nice heft to it and is a bit oversized without being as unwieldy as a coffee table book, and it comprises letters from all sorts of amazing writers. I am nibbling away at it steadily. Near that is Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine. I was about halfway through this lyrical, thoughtful contemplation of the intersection between science and religion, our desire for permanence and our experience of change, when I had to return it to the library because someone else had it on hold (sigh). Now I have it back, but I feel like I need a bit of a slower pace in order to really appreciate Lightman’s prose. I have it until the 15th and March break starts tomorrow afternoon, so I should be good.

The thing is, that those three are sitting next to theseimg_8231










which looks like this up close

So now you see the problem. I’ve kind of written off the ones in the right hand picture because they are holding up my alarm clock – so I’ve decided that they are more furniture than actual choice at the moment. And I’ve read almost all of the book on dyslexia; I just like to have it nearby in case I start freaking out about my child and many of my students having dyslexia, which I do on occasion. Four of the ones on top of that have been borrowed and I really need to give them back (sorry Tara, Debbie & Anthony) but I also really want to read them first. Anyway, they’re furniture now, so they have to wait.

Five of those in the left hand picture are library books. The EA who works in my classroom says that I am not allowed to check out any more books until I work my way through these. This makes perfect sense (which is one of the many reasons she is amazing), but my library hold list is pretty long, and I didn’t dare tell her that another one has already arrived at my local branch. Plus, they all look so good. And they come recommended. And they are so different! How am I supposed to choose which one to read next? Sometimes I nibble at a few and make a choice, other times I just pick up the one that looks right and dive in. Right now, I’m a little overwhelmed. I might have a problem.

The overwhelm is why my nightstand rarely gets this full. Usually the guilt overcomes me and I have to clear the decks. I get to feeling bad for the books sitting there forlornly, begging to be read, and I have to start returning them, whispering promises that someone else will come for them, someone will open them, turn their pages, love them. Sometimes I put them right back on my hold list, promising that I will take them back when the time is right.  But today this is my nightstand – any suggestions for which book I should start with tonight?