She once went without sleep for three weeks. Her sleeplessness followed the shock of hitting a turkey with her car. The turkey was a female and for some damn reason she was running across Little Grove Road with her babies and Willie plowed through the little family. She pulled over, got out of her truck and ran back up the road to find the mama turkey broken and torn—her babies standing around her peeping and as big as hens. Willie put the babies in the dog crate in the back of her truck and took them to the feed store. “Earl, can you take these turkeys? I just killed their mama.”
“Willie, what am I gonna do with bunch a wild baby turkeys?” He peered into the dog crate and squinted. He was thinking and then he called to Manny, “Manny! You want these baby turkeys? Willie killed their mama with her truck.”
Manny came over, “Yeah, I’ll take ‘em. Can I have the dog crate too?”
“Yeah, Manny, take all of it, the crate and the turkeys.”
That night Willie had a dream that had nothing to do with turkeys or bad things—it was Sting and he was a figure skater. He skated and skated. Willie hoped he would sing Roxanne as he skated, but the Sting of her dreams was mute.
She woke up after the dream. It was 2:55 a.m. and she didn’t sleep again for three weeks. She’d lay down in her bed with her husband by her side and her old hound curled up at the foot of the bed and the world went sound asleep without her. After an hour or two of just laying there, she would get up and go out to the kitchen. She made tea, herbal tea, the kinda tea that was supposed to make her sleepy. She wanted to call someone, just to talk until she was sleepy, but everyone she knew was asleep. She didn’t tell her husband for the first few nights, but after six days, he saw something was wrong with her, “Willie, honey, you don’t look so good.”
“Well, Ronnie, I haven’t been sleeping.”
“Nope, not a wink for six days.”
“That ain’t right. Maybe you should go to the doctor.” Ronnie said and put on his coat. He went out the door and left Willie standing in the kitchen holding a cup of tea. She had quit drinking coffee. She felt as thin as a flower and she noticed there were halos around the kitchen lights. She moved her hand across the counter and it left a trail of what seemed like twenty hands...she hadn’t seen anything like that since that one time she ate acid in the mountains when she and Ronnie were first dating. He took her camping and tripping...she liked the camping.
Two more weeks went by and Willie just waited for sleep. She sat in bed in the dark while Ronnie snored and the hound twitched with rabbit dreams and hoped for sleep. She gripped her sides for fear that her soul was leaving her. When the midnight hour would come she would give up and go watch t.v. in the living room. She lay on the sofa, old movies setting a fire of black and white halos to the darkness. One movie seemed to be part of another movie, they were just chapters in one big movie book—cowboys killing gangsters robbing Fred Astaire while he was dancing with Clint Eastwood who dove into a pool with Esther Williams and they swam and swam for hours, til the sun came up.
Ronnie came home one night with a six pack of Mexican beer. “Willamena, honey, maybe this’ll make you sleepy. You always said you hated beer cause it made you sleepy.”
Willie could barely speak anymore. If she did speak, the words that came out of her were not her words and they seemed to get stuck in the air in front of her and Ronnie would just look at her, and the hound would just look at her. So she just pointed to the counter and Ronnie read her mind and put the beer up on the counter. “Willie, I gotta mow the lawn, so you just sit in here with old hound dog and have a beer, okay.”
But Willie wanted to empty the dishwasher. She inspected the beer, she even took one out of the cardboard carrier and she swept it across the face of the kitchen window and it fanned out into a hundred amber colored beer bottles befor her, held by a hundred pale arms tattooed with a hundred little green images of a Scythian on a horse. She put the bottle down and opened the dishwasher and just like the day before and the one before that she heard a bird sing. And there it was again, a bird singing in the dishwasher. She closed the dishwasher and looked at the hound, “Ca’meer dog” and the hound came, “Sit right here dog.” And the hound sat by the dishwasher. Willie opened the dishwasher again, and out came the bird song, like a warbler of her childhood singing just as pretty as Joni Mitchell. “Do you hear that dog?” But the hound just sat and looked at Willie. If he had heard the bird, he would have tilted his head and surely, he would have gone after the bird. Willie closed the dishwasher real fast and opened it real fast, and again, out came the bird song.
She emptied the dishwasher to the sound of the little bird. The dishes were all put away by the time Ronnie came back in. She cooked a little supper for Ronnie, but not for herself, because she couldn’t eat anymore. She couldn’t sleep and she couldn’t eat.
That night she got into bed, just like all the other nights before, but this time Ronnie sat up with her and watched her drink her cold glass of beer. Then Ronnie did something he hadn’t done in a long time, he held Willie in his arms and the hound curled up against her back, and Willie went to sleep. She went into the deepest sleep, like she was dead.
The skill of sleep returned to Willie and her soul fit inside her body again. The halos around the kitchen lights were gone and she could wave her arm across the sunlit patio door and only see one arm again, not a pattern of arms like the shuffling of cards before her eyes. But the bird was still singing in the dishwasher. So she stopped opening the dishwasher. She started washing the dishes by hand. “Willamena, how come you don’t use the dishwasher anymore?”
“I think its broken Ronnie. Maybe you could have it taken away. Maybe we could get a new dishwasher?”
“Willie, that’s a perfectly fine dishwasher. Its only a few years old. Let me look at it.” and he opened the door and the bird song came out louder than before. It sounded like three or four birds were caught up in the silverware tray. “So Willie what’s a matter with it?”
“It makes a noise.”
“What kind of noise?”
“Don’t you hear that?”
“Well no, why don’t we turn it on and see what the noise is.”
“No, it don’t make the noise when its running. It makes the noise when when...” Willie realized that Ronnie couldn’t hear the birds. She quietly walked over and shut the door. And Ronnie looked at her. She wanted to cry, but she knew if she did then he would know that she had lost her mind.
“I’ll get you a new dishwasher tomorrow mornin’, okay?”
Next morning Ronnie pulled that dishwasher out from under the counter and he pushed it out the front door and down the steps it rolled and crashed on to the walkway. The door fell open and it lay there, quiet and dead. Willie sat at the kitchen table and stared at the hole where the dishwasher used to be. She put on the radio and she mopped the floors. She made lunch, cause she was eating again and she shared her sandwich with the hound.
Ronnie came home that night with a brand new dishwasher. He wheeled it into the house on a hand truck and he installed it all by himself. Willie watched him hook up the plumbing and the wiring and then he opened the door—Willie leaned forward and cupped her ear—all was quiet. Ronnie looked up at her, “This one’s quiet Willamena, they promised me at the store that this was the quietest dishwasher made.” And indeed it was, the birds were gone, all gone.