We are falling down
down to the bottom
of a hole in the ground
— mr. john prine
3 a.m. was always the hardest.
During the day, Mister Pants would alternate between pretending things were normal, going for his daily run and eating Rice Chex, and banging away at editing for nine hours, pretending the madness he was reading about was somewhere else.
It worked OK, until 3 a.m.
He would fall asleep at 10 or so, watching bad television or reading a forgettable book, hoping to drift away for a while before starting Groundhog Day all over again.
But when we woke up startled at 3 a.m., things were different.
It was dark, silent, eerie. Mister Pants had always enjoyed the silence, until now. There was too much time. The blackness provided a screen for the mind to show short stories of where the world might be going. He had thought of chaos merely as a metaphor for something less sinister. That was then.
The gun sales were relentless. Would he and Mo be the only people left not packing? What would happen when people got hungry, desperate? Mister Pants had always worried about homeless guys because they had nothing to lose. What if a third of the country landed in the same boat? We’d need a bigger boat.
He looked at the little baseball bat at the doorway, his self-defense device of choice. Could he really hit an intruder? In high school, he couldn’t hit curve balls, feeling sorry for them. He thought back to the time the guy was trying to kick their apartment door in and all he could do was lean against it in an effort to stop him. What could he really do if berserk intruders decided they would help themselves to the ice cream? Those Heath squares can make you do crazy things.
What was ahead? Would their jobs last? Their savings? Their health? The numbers were becoming increasingly bleak, both for the vermin and unemployment. What were the chances of surviving both? What would they do when the curtain opened on the second act?
Those were the things Mister Pants thought about at 3 a.m.
The cat looked at him warily. What will I do for food, she asked. Mister Pants explained they had bought a huge bag of dry food and a case of the good stuff before the craziness. Satisfied, the cat went back to sleep, not particularly worried about Mister Pants’ fate as long as her dining habits were uninterrupted.
The owls had returned outside, breaking the silence with a language he didn’t understand. Surely there was an app for that. He would investigate later.
Mo thought she might have symptoms, but Mo was a worrier. But what if?
He remembered the days when 3 a.m. was a treasure trove of new songs, of unbridled creativity, a magic that floated in the air between dusk and dawn. Now it was just a nightmare from which there would be no waking up for a long, long time.
Exhausted, he finally said good night to Ricky and Lucy and drifted off to sleep again, eager for the next day when Mister Sun would warm his spirit and Ernie Pook would cheer him on.
Things would be OK.
Unless 3 a.m. came again the next day.