My father never seemed to sleep.
No matter what time I came home, he would be awake. I’d get up in the middle of the night and he’d be astir, often peering out the window at something or just coming in from one of his perimeter patrols.
Sometimes I think I’ve inherited his nocturnal tendencies and his need to keep an eye on things. I’ll sleep a few hours and then be awake a few hours, listening to the sounds that an old house makes when its inhabitants are ostensibly asleep. Or I’ll lie awake puzzling over the noises of the city that drift up to my bedroom.
On nights when there is a storm with wind, the noises are more mysterious. A loose and flapping shutter is magnified at night until it sounds like a door being slammed repeatedly by wind gusts, and I’m compelled to get up and patrol the house to make sure that everything is latched.
Some nights I know in advance I’m going to have a tough time sleeping because of earlier events. On New Year’s Eve, our Neighborhood Watch leader sent a message to Stockade residents advising them to avoid the usual holiday pitfalls — like drunken driving — and to have a safe celebration. Some hours later, a postscript arrived that said something like “And no firing guns, people!”
That’s right, someone was ushering in the new year not with sparklers or even firecrackers but by shooting off a gun.
It’s not easy to slumber when you’re wondering if an errant bullet might be headed your way. (I’ve always thought if you’re going to be shot, it should be on purpose.)
More recently, as we were leaving the house in the morning, we discovered what I took to be a bag of trash on our front sidewalk. We later discovered it was part of the loot taken from a car burglary a block away, and we alerted the owner, whom we knew, to tell her where her stuff could be retrieved.
That night, I lay awake listening for car burglars. Every creak and crack, every disembodied passing voice was a car burglar, or so I thought.
I got up twice to check on things in response to noises that I was certain indicated malefactors at work.
A couple of nights ago I heard a car pull up, its door open and then a loud and obviously inebriated man muttering angrily.
“Inappropriate!” he said indignantly in response to a label he felt was unfair. And then his retort, “YOU’RE inappropriate!”
Only in both cases he pronounced it “in-a-pwow-pwiate.”
I kept imagining a drunken Elmer Fudd (who you may recall kept guns for hunting) and that kept me awake for a while.
Last weekend I noted with approval a strapping young police officer walking the beat in the Stockade.
It was a reassuring sight, one that is likely to promote a restful night.
By that I mean I should sleep all right tonight, once I’ve done my perimeter patrol. Thanks so much, dad.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.