Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A long night

After struggling to get to sleep through a fitful cough and a pounding headache, Tony woke up this morning at 2 AM, his pajamas damp with sweat even though his blankets had been flung onto the floor sometime during the night. He spent a few minutes trying to get comfortable in his own bed, then stumbled into the kitchen for a cool drink of water. As he passed the bird cage next to the pantry, his parakeet chirped frantically at him and banged against the metal bars of the cage. Tony let out a small shriek and jumped away, banging into the kitchen table and knocking over the empty cups left their from earlier in the night. One of the plastic cups fell from the table and banged loudly on the floor.

Tony cringed, his head throbbing again. He scanned the silence of the room and continued to the sink, the bird still chirping shrilly. As he filled a cup with water, his body shivered involuntarily. He rubbed his hands over his bare arms to warm them, his skin cold and clammy, covered with a thin sheet of sweat.

Through the large windows of the kitchen, light and shadow played tag with each other between the swaying branches of the trees. Occasionally a branch scraped against the siding of the house and knocked against the glass. Through the trees, Tony saw a half moon hanging bright and yellow in the cloudless sky. Another chill ran over his body.


The voice from the silence behind him made Tony jump, the water from his glass splashing over his arms and chest. He turned to face his mother.

"Sorry hon. I didn't mean to scare you." Even in the flickering shadows of the moon between the branches, Tony could see the concern in her face as she walked towards him.

"Is everything okay?" She held out a towel from the stove as she moved beside him. Tony began to wipe the water from his arms and shirt. He stared wordlessly at his mom, still in a sleepy stupor. She held her hand to his forehead.

"Feels like you have a fever. Grab some medicine and get back to bed. You've got a big day tomorrow. Don't want to be sick for it."

Tony nodded idly, his eyes following her through the dim light as she disappeared down the hall, the bird flapping wildly as she passed the cage. A moment later she reappeared with a couple of different medicine bottles.

"I'll be fine mom. Thanks."

He reached out and took the medicine from her. She looked at him, opened her mouth to say something but stopped short as he smiled at her and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Go back to bed mom. I'll take some meds and head back myself in a minute. Thanks. Love ya."

He smiled at her again and then turned to the sink to refill his glass. He opened one of the medicine bottles and dropped a pair of pills in his hand. He heard his mom sigh softly behind him then turn and shuffle off into the darkness. The sound of her retreat was muted by the sound of the parakeet frantically chirping at her. Tony swallowed the pills, poured a dose of the liquid medicine she'd brought, drank it down and then stared out the window again.

He felt sweat dripping down his back again. His head felt thick and heavy. His legs suddenly felt rubbery and he leaned against the counter to regain his balance. He was definitely sick with something. But he knew he couldn't afford to be. In another 6 hours, he had to be at school. And this was a very important day for him to be at school. He had a meeting with the Commander during his 2nd period class. If he missed it, he likely wouldn't get a second chance. He had to be there promptly and with a clear head.

A sudden gust of wind thrust a branch hard against the window in front of him. His head jerked up with a start. Much harder and the glass surely would have broken. Tony felt his breathing speed up and noted the heaviness of each breath. He could feel the weight of his chest upon his lungs. Rubbing some cool water on his face, he tried to shake the heavy, sick feeling from off his body. Then he took a deep, but beleaguered breath and walked back to his bedroom.

He stared blankly at the ceiling for 20 minutes. His mind raced over the possible events of the next few hours. He tried to imagine the interview with the Commander. His brother assured him it was just a formality, but Tony was still nervous. He wish he had some idea of what to expect. He wished his head didn't feel so cloudy. He wished many things. Then he finally drifted off to a dreamless medicine induced sleep.

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