The Great Bear: pt 5

by jamesmerolla

Allan is lying in bed, the soft glow of the lamp chasing shadows from his face. He’s listening to Laura’s delicate whispers hide just beneath the cover of the television.

He falls asleep every night listening to those whispers. They are rain on a rooftop, the methodical snore of a lover, or the winter air rattling the windows. It sends him into a bottomless sleep below the dream line, and every morning he wakes up, Laura’s warm body beside him, feeling as if the previous day had never happened.

But, he can’t sleep this night, on the edge of the bed, craning to hear her.

“What will she do to me if she knows?” He wonders, a book he’ll never read on his lap.

He creeps to the door holding his breath until he reaches the stairs. There he dips his feet into the warm flickering from the living room. He rests his head against the banister, slipping deeper into the whispers, listening, trying to piece together words.

Sleep has begun to cradle him when the distinctive screech of Wayne and Margo’s garage door cuts through the house, and throws open Allan’s eyes.

He can hear Laura stand and peer out the window.

Slowly he gathers himself, dusts off his sleep, and stomps down the stairs as if he were a normal man awakened in a bed.

     Did you hear that?

He has a quick, but ginger pace into the living room, where he finds Laura bent, and spying through a sliver in the curtains.

     Who the hell is going in the garage at this hour?

     It was Wayne, I saw him.

     *sigh* What’s he doing now?

     I think he’s looking for something.

     Like what?

     Something to tell him what to do.

     Oh come on, the man has no idea. He’s lost.

     He might be lost, but he’s okay.

     You know, this could be it. This could be Wayne…finally—

     No, he’s fine.

     Then what’s he doing making racket in his garage at this hour?

     It’s his garage.

     Yes, and he’s doing strange things with it.

     Like entering it, and looking for things?

     In the middle of the night, exactly.

     You should go talk to him.

     I’m not—what about you? He talks to you more than me.

     Allan, dear, Wayne hasn’t spoken to me in five years.

     But you say you always talk to him.

     I do.


Allan bites his tongue, and strains his neck to look out the window. The look of an inevitable decision creeps over his face.

He looks at his wife, then at the ceiling, where he takes a troubled breath.

     Fine, I’ll do it. It’s better than having the conversation with you to convince me to do it.

He sulks out of the room.

At the back door he pauses for a moment, just a moment to fear the worst.

He gently tugs at the old warped door. It slides open with a nasal moan.

He leans out the doorway, his breath like smoke in the cold. A few clangs of metal, and the sounds of shuffling feet are coming from the garage.

Cautiously he leaves the doorway, tightening his robe as he steps across the yard. The sounds get louder, and then Allan hears Wayne’s whispers. He feels ashamed for hearing them.

He finds Wayne, yellowed by a dim light carefully examining a work bench. Allan gently taps on the wall just inside. Wayne turns, trying to hide being startled.

     Oh, hey buddy, didn’t see you there.

     Everything okay? Laura and I were—

     Oh, no, I’m fine, really. I…just having a hard time sleeping. You know how it is.

     Yeah, I was having a hard time sleeping tonight too.

Wayne, while still facing Allan, turns his head back toward the work bench.

     Looking for something?

     Yeah, it’s just one of those things. Ever remember having something, and then not remembering where you last put it?

     Sure, all the time.

     I have this buck knife. I’ve never hunted or needed a knife before. I think someone gave it to me for Christmas one year…anyway, I’m upstairs, I can’t sleep, and I remember this dumb knife, and then I remember, that I can’t remember where I put it. It’s just one of those habits I have when I can’t sleep, searching for lost things.

     Yeah, I’ve been there.

Silence, interrupted by the wind.

     Well, it’s getting a little cold out here. We should probably be getting inside.

     Good idea. Let me know if you find that knife.

     Will do, you let me know if you find any sleep.

He peers over his shoulder at Wayne.They nod at each other with tight lipped smiles.

Allan’s hands are still cold as he enters the living room, where Laura waits.

     What’s he looking for?

     He said a knife.

     A buck knife?


     It’s probably the one I got him for Christmas two years ago. How was he acting?

     He seems alright, maybe a little skittish, but that was definitely Wayne out there.

     I told you, he’s fine.

    Then why did you think it was important for me to talk to him?

     First, you didn’t let me say why it was important, and second, I wanted to know what he was looking for.

     You know…..I’m going back to bed.

     Yes, you’re very tired.

     Don’t stay up too late.

     I never do.

He thoughtlessly kisses the top of her head, and goes back upstairs to listen.

continued in part 6.