A Good Night's Sleep
by Steven A. Yockim

Struggling to remove his worn work boots and coal stained coveralls, Jake sat down on the bench in the break room, weary from the 12-hour shift, but relieved it was done. His relief worker called in sick last night and Jake had to work over 4 hrs to cover the shift. Typically getting off at midnight from the swing shift, it was now 4:00am and Jake had to be back at noon to cover the shift once again.

Arriving at home, the alluring bed beckoned to him. Jakes wife was asleep and barely stirred as he slid between the cool sheets. Jake glanced at the clock across the room, 4:15am; I'll get a good 8 hours of sleep. He smiled contently to himself as his thoughts turned away from the job and towards a long and necessary rest.

5:06am, Jake noticed the clock as the first rays of sunlight began to break through the window blinds. Taking longer than usual to wind down and fall asleep, thought Jake, as he tossed his arm and legs across the bed. He rose, stumbled to the window and shut the blinds tighter, thinking now the room is dark enough to sleep. Laying there, the clock now at 5:18am, Jake began to drift off when a noisy tap, tap, tap broke the morning silence. Ugh, now what, sounds like a tree branch hitting the rain gutter. I'll have to take care of that later today.

Drifting into unconsciousness, startled by the sudden tap, tap, tap, Jake sat up and stared at the clock. 6:10am, and he hadn't slept at all, what is that damn noise? There it was again, tap, tap, tap, only louder and longer than before. Earlier, he hardly noticed the noise, but now, it pounded in his head with each tap, causing his eyes to blink and head to throb. Finally, it stopped, and Jake lay down once again to delve into peaceful respite.

Moments later, 6:29am, there it was again, tap, tap, tap, continuously for what seemed an eternity. Head pounding, temples bulging in agony, eyes bleary from lack of sleep, Jake jumped up, pulled on his jeans and sprinted out the door. I'll fix that noise maker now, or I'll never get to sleep. Looking around the house, the early morning light casting shadows on the roof line, Jake peered into the darkness, trying to find the source of his nemesis. To his consternation, nothing seemed out of place. No errant tree branch, no unfastened shutter, nothing at all, not even a loose piece of siding. Just then he saw it, sitting ominously on the peak of the roof, next to the chimney stack, a wood pecker, and then tap, tap, tap, there it was, the source of his misery. Fighting through the strain in his eyes and the throbbing in his head, Jake mustered enough fortitude to yell loudly and harshly at the sinister critter. It barely looked up from its task, tap, tap, tap. In desperation, Jake picked up a chunk of firewood and threw it mightily at the bird. Watching the woodpecker fly away in fright pleased Jake.

Returning to bed, ah so comfortable, Jake turned his gaze to the clock. 7:18am, I'll still get a good 8 hours. As the darkened room and the peaceful quiet poured over him, Jake immediately fell into a much-needed state of unconsciousness.

8:23am, tap, tap, tap, Jake awoke, staring at the ceiling, eyes red and bloodshot, exposing his unstable state of mind. In determined agony, Jake leapt from bed, ignored the jeans, grabbed his shotgun and dashed out the door. I'll kill that little peckerhead once and for all. Standing on the deck, bare feet and boxer shorts, he fired at the woodpecker. Damn, crossed Jakes mind, missed, as the chimney stack fell over from the blast. The woodpecker barely moved, but a few yards from the carnage, and gazed in contempt at Jake. Jake fired again, feathers flew, and the evil demon-bird vanished. Blown clear back to Hell thought a satisfied Jake. Just then, with the morning light breaking over the peak of the roof, Jake noticed the gaping hole from the shells' explosion. Chuckling to himself, it was a small price to pay for a good night's sleep.

9:05am, once again and for the final time, Jake laid his head on the down pillow, enjoying the cool softness, and dozed off.

10:05am, tap, tap, tap.

© 2018 Steven A. Yockim