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"I prefer to think of eternity not as some pearly-gated community …"

When I was about eight years old, I enjoyed no higher privilege than one I created for myself. I'd head for bed at the prescribed hour, feign almost immediate sleep until the bed check passed, then pull my bread-loaf sized radio under the covers with me and listen in to a live broadcast from The Big Y, a turnaround point on the long Main Street drag frequented by high school kids out dragging the gut. The program featured popular music punctuated with news alerts. One unforgettable night, the DJ announced the escape of a kinkajou from a traveling circus. Several nights, someone had escaped from the state penitentiary up on the hill at the far end of thirteenth street. I laid there, warmed by the radio's etherial glow, feeling as though I was situated near the center of the universe. I fell asleep satisfied sometime in the uncountable early morning hours.

A few years later, I took an early morning paper route and over the following several years, transferred that StayingUp reflex into a GettingUp one, finding them both equally satisfying, for both provided that bounded solitude I seemed to crave.
At eight or ten, a kid might as well be serving time in a youth detention center, as overseen as every waking hour seems. After and before hours, though, when a kid's up without adult supervision, a certain freedom reigns. Permissions cannot be sought before taking action because there's no advisor available to seek permission from. I believe that these solitary hours provide critical latitude when a kid's constructing their adult personality. Without them, a kid might learn to take direction but fail to develop the sense to make their own decisions and live with their results.

Now, I no longer consider StayingUp a perk but a nigh impossibility. I'm pretty much ready for bed by nine but usually hold out until a quarter past ten. I strongly favor the other end of the wee hours now, still reveling in the unobserved and unsupervised time. I rarely awaken groggy. My eyes open and I'm ready to be up and about, even if up and about amounts to no more than the more modern equivalent of cuddling up next to a glowing, bread loaf-sized radio. Now, it's the internet of course, and the breaking news seems considerably less concerning than an escaped kinkajou. I still feel as though I'm hunkered very near to the center of the universe and revel in the time reflecting back at me from my laptop's muted flat screen.

Sleep's always been my mortal enemy. I can more than get by on only a few hours of it each night, but the wonder isn't how I can get by with so little of it but how I find the self discipline to submit to the four or five hours of it that I do consent to submit to. Dreams aside, sleep seems like the most colossal waste of time, serving primarily to prevent calendars from confusing one day from another. It's a handy boundary marker but little more. I hope to remain defiantly opposed to sleep until I enter the big sleep, which seems like one heck of a consolation prize. I prefer to think of eternity not as some pearly-gated community, but as a nest of blankets, warmed and lightly backlit by a bread loaf-sized radio, tuned to a broadcast originating from The Big Y in the sky.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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