Your husband tells me you can’t sleep.
I explained to him--Is his name Frank? I explained to Frank that it’s not that you’re not sleeping. It’s that you’re not sleeping well. You’re getting some sleep here and there whether you know it or not. The trouble is that it’s of no quality. Sleep is like food--there’s the good kind and the bad kind. You’re getting potato chip sleep. You need carrot stick sleep. Did you ever show your children the food pyramid when they were younger? Not that it’s any of my business what you did or didn’t show your children. I never had children. I told myself if I was going to have children I would want nine girls. If I couldn’t guarantee myself that I’d have nine girls, I wouldn’t bother at all. So I never bothered. I got a lot of sleep though.
That’s just a little joke.
My mother used to beg me not to joke. She’d say “Crystal, you are my golden child. My gem. My Faberge egg. But you are not funny and never will be.”
She had a talent for honesty.
Now your husband, Frank--Is his name Frank?--He’s at a hotel tonight. It’ll just be you and me. I brought some yarn, because I’m working on--I work on all kinds of little projects. I hope you don’t mind. I’m making some blue. Isn’t blue a lovely color? Everything I do, I opt for blue. Blue sweaters, blue blankets. I never had enough blue growing up. I didn’t see colors until I was fourteen. It broke my heart. I’d look at a fresh strawberry and it was no different than looking at a newspaper in terms of the aesthetic. On my fourteenth birthday, I was helping my father fix something on our roof. I had to help him, because both my brothers were scared of heights. I wasn’t scared of anything. While I was up there, I felt a dizzy spell come over me. The next thing I know, I’m down on the ground. My mother saw me come down right in front of the kitchen window. She screamed bloody murder. The scream was what woke me up. I opened my eyes, and what did I see?
These beautiful blue skies.
From that moment on, I could see any color I wanted. My mother and father said it was a miracle. What a tiny miracle, I thought. Some girl who saw the world as dull and gray could suddenly see maroon and aqua. I thought miracles were supposed to be all about healing those who couldn’t walk or saving the souls of the damned. I felt selfish. An entire miracle wasted on me being able to appreciate a blue sky. My mother told me not to question it. Who knows what would happen now that I’d been made better? Maybe that meant I was supposed to do something with all these colors I was seeing. Become a painter or a writer of some kind. I never did either, but I did pay attention to the little ways people can be assisted when they’re struggling. When I turned eighteen, I started posting little notices all around my town.
Potential Miracles - Free of Charge
Potential meaning--I don’t know if I can actually do miracles. It seems to me that if someone’s had a miracle bestowed upon them, it might have rubbed off a bit.
I found out pretty quickly that I have no skill at healing the injured. I can’t make ignorant people worldly or hateful people kind. I laid hands on my cousin Sherman, who could never remember anybody’s birthday, and his bad memory stayed bad.
When I had no luck with people, I tried animal and mineral. The family dog was missing an eye, and no matter how hard I prayed over him, the eye never grew back. Dead plants remained dead. I tried to turn a head of lettuce into a cabbage--a simple enough miracle, I would think. Nothing doing.
“It’s all right, Crystal,” my father comforted me as I held the leafy green, “I never did like cabbage too much anyhow.”
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I discovered I could do miracles after all. My roommate, Rhonda--I think her name was Rhonda?--She had trouble getting that carrot stick sleep. She’d toss and turn all night. Finally, one night, I said to her, “Rhonda, I’d like to try and perform a miracle on you, if you’re up for that.”
Rhonda looked at me like I was a talking pentagram, and I guess I don’t blame her. She came from a family of atheists and Communists, and people were always trying to show her Jesus in their cornflakes in the mess hall at breakfast. I let her know I wasn’t trying for a conversion. Just wanted to contribute to the positive energy of the Universe.
The poor thing was so exhausted, I think she would have let Ivan the Terrible sing a lullaby to her if it would have helped. Ivan was probably a better singer than me, so I didn’t try anything like that. I just sat across from Rhonda--I think her name was Rhonda. Rhonda or Rhoda like from The Mary Tyler Moore Show--I sat across from her and I told her I’d be right there, sitting awake, if she felt like sleeping.
Now, she must have thought that was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard, because what good does somebody sitting across from you do when you’re trying to sleep? If anything, it should make you self-conscious, shouldn’t it? Somebody staring at you? Eyeballing you while you’re trying to give your beleaguered body some respite? But something in my soul told me that was what Rhonda needed, and you know what?
She passed out in two minutes flat.
Well, once word got out that I could put people to sleep, I was loaded with requests. It turns out college students live and breathe off potato chip sleep, and if I could help get them to the higher plane of REM, they’d have more energy for studying--or partying. That’s how I ended up sitting across from someone every night until they went to sleep. Two minutes was all it took--sometimes less. Nearly all of them offered to pay me, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I was so excited to finally have a gift, there was no way I was going to risk losing it by using my ability for selfish reasons.
Not to mention the fact that as soon as I found my first gift, my second one came along right behind it. You see, once I started helping other people sleep, I noticed I didn’t need any sleep of my own.
Oh sure, I’d try.
As soon as my nightly charge was awash in slumber, I’d retire to my own bed--but nothing would happen. I’d just lay there. The wild part was that it didn’t affect me whatsoever. Every morning I’d get out of bed feeling as revived and refreshed as if I’d slept like Van Winkle under his tree. I told my doctor about it, and he explained to me in a very slow-moving voice, that I had to be getting sleep. That there was no way I could exist without it. He said I’d die if that was the case.
That was nearly forty years ago.
I haven’t died. I haven’t slept. And I can still get anybody to sleep in two minutes or less--free of charge.
Once somebody asked me if I miss sleeping. I couldn’t lie and say I didn’t. I used to have wonderful dreams every night about flying over the great mountain ranges of the world. Soaring through the blue skies--especially once I knew what blue was. Then again, you have to sacrifice if you want to do good in this world. I lose some sleep, and somebody else gains the sleep I lost. Seems like a fair trade to me. And all that extra time comes in handy. For one thing, I always get my taxes done early.
Most of the time I’m there when somebody wakes up. To see the realization on their faces that they’ve been asleep when they thought they were going to be eating potato chips forever? It moves me every time. The doctor who saves your life may be like a god to some people, but the woman who tells you she’ll be there if you feel like letting yourself go for a few hours so nobody comes along to harm you might just be an angel.
Oh yeah, that’s how I think of it. Maybe the reason people can’t sleep is because we have it conditioned in our bones to never be vulnerable. Never weak. Never at risk of having somebody or something hurt us. So as much as we tell ourselves to give in to rest, another more primal part of us fights back. It might go back to the Stone Age days, I bet. Chances are, nobody got any real sleep until we started sleeping in packs. In communities. One person always stayed up with the fire to make sure nothing bad happened. Even then, I bet some people had a hard time. Why wouldn’t they? Good sleep is a matter of trust. It’s hard to trust these days.
Some people think of me as a kind of Sleeping Angel, but I don’t see it that way at all. I just think something about me is easy to trust, and this is one of the benefits. You see me sit down across from you, and that part of your brain that’s been keeping you up says--
We’ll be okay with this one here. As long as she doesn’t try to tell us any jokes.
The next thing you know, you’re flying through those blue skies just like I used to do.
I’ll admit it’s not much of a miracle, but--
Oh, would you look at that.
And I didn’t even have time to sit down.
Well, some are easier than others, I suppose.
Better go call--
Is it Frank?
You know what?
I’ll ask you when you wake up.
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This is fabulous, it may be a one sided narrative but it is so full of depth. You can identify with characters who aren't even there. I have a picture of Frank in his hotel room and Rhonda besieged by Catholics. Love it
Thank you so much, Wendy.
A miracle worker with a name-recognition problem. Yep. Another Broccoli-original. The potato chip vs. carrot stick sleep was genius. Felt that.
Thank you maestro!
I loved reading this! What amazing characterization we get of Crystal in so few words.
This is a clever take on the bedtime story tag. I know many for whom a miracle worker would be someone who helps them to some shut eye. A fun ending too; I stayed happily wide awake for this one.
Thank you so much, Rebecca.
A pleasant read :) And the elusive bedtime tag, no less. There's a wholesomeness to it, but it also raises an interesting point about the lack of trust, and the "we have it conditioned in our bones to never be vulnerable". Good ending, and, "potato chip sleep" – I like that.
I saw that category and thought, Oh! I've never used the bedtime tag! Haha Glad you enjoyed it.
When I was younger, my parents always talked to me like an adult. Not using baby talk at all. But since I've always followed the example of my biological father (who I tend to have a special bond with than the other), I've been a dad joke making machine. This very line: "We’ll be okay with this one here. As long as she doesn’t try to tell us any jokes." Appealed to me so much. Thank you for writing such an amazing story.
Thank you, Ace. That's very nice of you to say and I appreciate you reading.
Potato chip/carrot stick sleep- I think this should immediately be made a new Fitbit metric. What a brilliant, creative take on the miracle prompt.
Thank you so much!
Kevin! This is glorious.
Thank you, Jay!