CHAPTER 4 – Behold a Horse
Barkley soon settled into the routine of my little household, although those first couple of weeks of getting up during the night to take him outside, sometimes more than once, was wearing on me. I knew that soon though, he’d be able to sleep through the night.
When I went to bed tonight, after a busy week, I was hoping that tonight would be one of those nights.
Severe thunderstorms had been stalking the area. After listening to the old fashioned stereo for a while, I went to bed, leaving it on, noticing the light on the console near the bed but deciding just to roll over and sleep. About in the morning, the power went out, and then came back on immediately. Then there was a small click sound, the drawer with the CD in it opening and closing, played on the cold air. The sound, unusual in my sleep, brought me up from a deep slumber, but just barely. As the ground shook and the sky boomed, the bedroom windows lit up with lightning. My eyes still closed, I was not yet aware of where I was, the sleep still lingering. Then a deep voice filled the room.
“And I heard as it were
the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying come and see
and I saw
And behold a white horse”
From my somnolent state all I could think was “It's GOD, and He sounds just like Johnny Cash!”
Some voices just stay with you, for you to recall in an instant, a memory.
But the voices we really remember come with memories of more than the TV set, but times and places in our lives. One such memory was a favorite science teacher in high school, his voice competing with the clatter and clink of glass, the hoarse cough of the Bunsen burners and the animated chatter of aspiring geeks, his voice a calm direction among chaos, as we attempted to blow the whole experiment up.
Being teens, we tended to ignore him. Yet it was his voice I heard, years later, exhausted from two jobs and college, poring over books that I read not so much in that I wanted to read them, but knew that I must. For I was too aware that I must somehow absorb the words in these brief evening hours, measuring the turning pages against the fleeing strokes of irreversible time, ticking with the measured precision of that library clock.
It's not just voices you remember, it is sounds.
I remember Christmas Eve as a small child. I'd sleep on a folding cot that was placed next to my big brother’s bed. Mom would tuck us both in while Dad went to "do some last minute chores" (probably cursing up a storm during the assembly of the Barbie Dream House). We'd lie there in the dark, my brother, from his grown up bed, speaking to his little sister in that soft whisper of childhood, under the glow of big 1960s Christmas lights outside the window. We'd left cookies and milk out for Santa though Dad suggested he'd prefer pretzels and a beer. Then we tried to stay awake as long as we could, hoping to hear Santa’s arrival.
The clock ticked later and later, the house quiet. "Do you hear it?" Big Bro would quietly exclaim. But the clattering sound we heard was not reindeer on the roof, but the dog's toenails on the hardwood floor as she patrolled the hall, checking on her two legged pups.
So many sounds we remember. I remember the sound of bat meeting ball as I played with him out in the yard. The CRACK as aerodynamics and physics greet one another, the ball just a spherical dream of speed heading out into the trees as the dog raced to recover it before we did. I remember the sound of the piano, as I practiced hour after hour as a child. Beethoven, Bach, Debussy. The sounds of the music filled the house, filling me, the opening chords of Rhapsody in Blue awakening something in me I was too naïve to articulate.
I remember the sound of taps played at a funeral of someone I cherished, the wreckage of duty crashing on the ears of those who are left. But it was a sound that fell without lasting damage for we were raised to be fighters, stronger than wreckage, taller than fear. Honor the fallen and continue the fight.
The thunderstorms tonight still fill the sky with their own sound show. The stereo turned off, I hear the click of Barkley's little puppy toenails on the hardwood floor of the hall, a steadily measured sound, as strangely comforting as a clock. He settles down on his little bed by mine, happily able to sleep through the night without going outside and happy to be free of the crate.
I look at a folded flag there atop the dresser; I listen to a house that has been empty for such a long while.
I almost wish he'd wake me to go out just so I could hold him for a moment. But with a smile, I roll over and go back to sleep.