December 2, 2009

Matt Hlinak

A Good Night's Sleep

I don't know what time it is. All I know is that I have to roll over, that if I lay in this same position any longer, I'll never fall back asleep. I may even lose the use of my arm. I feel a tingle in my fingertips that dances up my forearms until it hits the elbows that curl around my loved ones. My wife dozes peacefully with her head on my right shoulder, her small body pressed against my larger one to ward off nightmares. My cat has flopped down on my left bicep, where he sleeps with his four legs splayed out onto my chest.

If only one arm were trapped, I could probably extricate it without waking my bedmates. But with both arms pinned down, I will need to jerk one out first, which will wake the one sleeping on it. If I wake my wife, she will huff at me before rolling over to her side of the bed to dream mean things about me. If I wake my cat, he will bite me.

I decide it's better to have my cat mad at me than my wife. I jostle my left arm a bit to wake him so it won't be a total surprise when I yank my arm out. This is a mistake, however, because he is immediately irritated, inching his tiny black face with its four hypodermic fangs closer to mine. I shoot my arm down fast, tucking it to my side like I'm making a snow angel.

My cat topples onto his side before lurching forward to clamp his teeth onto the tip of my nose. One of his lower fangs slips into my nostril and punctures the tender flesh inside. I let out an expletive and shove him to the floor, which wakes my wife, who huffs at me before rolling over to her side of the bed to dream mean things about me.


Matt Hlinak is an Academic Coordinator and Lecturer for the School of Continuing Studies at Northwestern University where he teaches English and law. His work has appeared in Birmingham Arts Journal, NewCity Chicago, and Mississippi Crow Magazine. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.

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