A Good Night’s Sleep

David turned again, trying to find a position that was comfortable, or at least that lessened the pain.  He lay on his left side and felt his right arm drop awkwardly from the shoulder.  No, that was worse.  He lay on his back again.  Just to sleep, that was all he wanted, to sleep for eight hours uninterrupted.  Okay, seven.  Six would do.  He wondered who he was negotiating with.  Whoever it was, they weren’t giving him a second, let alone six hours.  It was no good, he would never be able to sleep like this.

David sat up and carefully got out of bed.

“Wassup?” mumbled Sylvia.  “Shoulder?”

“No, I’m thirsty, that’s all.  I’m going for a drink”

Sylvia muttered something incomprehensible.  David crept from the bedroom and down the dark stairs to the kitchen.  His bicep cramped and he stopped, sitting down suddenly on the stair and massaging his arm until the pain became a little less acute.

One night’s sleep, that was all he wanted.  One night pain-free.  Was that too much to ask?

He hauled himself upright with his good arm and continued his descent.  In the kitchen he screwed his eyes up and switched on the harsh light.  He peered at the clock.  02:10.  What a God-awful time of the night.

Why was it always the night-time?  He could cope with it during the day.  He could throw himself into work, or lose himself in a film.  He could jump into a near-scalding hot bath and keep it topped up all day.  But during the day his shoulder merely nudged him from time to time, just enough to make him dread bedtime.  It was the inactivity, probably.  David worked his arm back and forth, as far as his damaged joint allowed him.  Get it mobile, that was the answer.  Work it, use it, until the pain went away.

But that drove sleep away as well, and when he returned to bed the pain would return long before sleep did.  David opened the fridge and stared unseeing into it.

 Time.  That was the only cure the doctors could offer.  Time and stupid exercises.  How much time?  Three months to two years.  It depended on so many things, it was impossible to predict.  Oh God, another two years of sleepless, pain-filled nights.  He lent his head against the edge of the open fridge door.  Two years, and he felt sick at the prospect of another two nights of this.  Two years!

 He stood upright and pulled a bottle of orange juice from the shelf.  Do something, anything.  Just keep his arm mobile.  He deliberately used his right hand to shut the fridge door, place the bottle on the table, get the glass, pour the juice.  He was using his right arm.  See?  Moving it in exaggerated arcs to exercise the shoulder joint.  So why did it still hurt?

He opened the cupboard and regarded the pharmacy of boxes and tubes in there.  Sylvia was a vitamin junky.  More cod liver oil, she’d told him, like that would help a collar bone wrenched from the shoulder joint.  He reached up as far as he could with his injured arm, but the chronic ache suddenly jumped to acute as he reached horizontal.  It was not getting any better.  No worse, it was true, but he still couldn’t lift it any higher than when he had stupidly agreed to the water-ski lesson.

 David admitted defeat and with his left hand pulled down the paper bag that contained the drugs the doctor had prescribed.  He arranged them in neat rows on the kitchen worktop.  The anti-inflammatory that made no difference whatsoever.  The antacid to counter the side effects  of the useless anti-inflammatory.  And the painkiller, the blessed, industrial-strength painkillers.

 They had to be used at least six hours apart, no more than three times a day.  The maths was too hard at this time of the morning.  He counted forward.  He’d taken one at eleven, so twelve, one, two.  Three hours since he had taken one.  Another three before he could take another, and that meant he would be rationed to only one more for the rest of the day.  Three hours.  That would be five o’clock.  Could he take this for another three hours?  He certainly wouldn’t be able to sleep till then.  If he stayed up, Sylvia would notice his absence and come looking for him.

 He briefly considered creeping upstairs, snuggling into her warm body and distracting himself for half an hour.  No, it wouldn’t be fair on her; she had to get up for work in the morning. Besides, he doubted he could perform, this tired, the nagging pain always there and the threat that one wrong move would send hot knives coursing up his arm.

 He rubbed his upper arm vigorously.  It helped.  The pain was replaced by the warmth of the friction, but as soon as he stopped the pain returned.  Could he sneak back into bed and rub his arm until he fell asleep?  Fat chance.  It didn’t work with gentle rubbing, and what would Sylvia think he was doing?

 Would a painkiller now be so dangerous?  The earlier one had worn off, so that meant he had metabolised it, right?  And if he had metabolised it, what harm could another do?  He turned his back on the array of drugs and worked his arm back and forth, lifting imaginary weights.  Please, please, please take it away, just for tonight.  Oh God, for one night’s sleep.

 It was working.  The pain had lessened to bearable, but it was still too much to let him sleep.   The trouble was, he was awake now.  If he went to bed, the gentle nagging would advance on him faster than sleep, until after twenty minutes he would be awake and in pain again.  Maybe he could risk it.  After all, he was just so tired.  Maybe he would fall asleep in seconds, numb to the pain, anaesthetised by exhaustion.

 As if in answer, another pang of cramp shot through his arm, causing him to whimper.

 He whirled to face the counter again.  Stuff it.  What could possibly be worse than this?  He fumbled open the packet and pushed a painkiller out of its blister pack.  He threw it into his mouth and swallowed hard.  He downed the remains of his juice just as savagely.  There, done!  Maybe now he could get some damned sleep.

 The pill left a nasty taste at the back of his throat, despite the orange juice.  He needed some more.  He turned and regarded the refrigerator.  Next to it stood the table, the bottles huddled together, waiting for Christmas.  Maybe a whisky, just a small one, just to take the edge off.  Okay, so officially he wasn’t meant to drink with this medication, but it just hurt so much.  Just one, a small one, just to take the taste away and dull the sharp edges.

 He unscrewed the cap and poured a small nip into his empty glass.  As he did so a pang of pain shot through his arm.  He jerked, and sent a shot of whisky into the glass more generous than he had intended.  Oh well, waste not, want not.

 He took a sip and rolled it around his mouth.  He wasn’t a drinker, not really.  The only time they had whisky in the house was for Christmas.  It was Christmas, for crying out loud.  Well, almost.  If he couldn’t have just a wee dram at Christmas, what was the point?

 He tossed the rest of the glass back, eyes watering as the spirit hit his throat.  He felt the warmth spread down his gullet and into his chest.  That’s what they should be prescribing him, something that would spread a gentle comforting heat through his shoulder.  Maybe intravenous alcohol dripped directly into it.  He smiled at the thought.  Yeah, prescription whiskey, painkillers on tap and a new shoulder, something bionic.  Dave Austin, the six dollar man.

 He put the bottle down before he realised he’d poured himself a second glass.  Whoops.  It must have been a reaction, you know, Russian name.  He tried to think of the term.  What was wrong with his memory nowadays?  Come on, his body was breaking down, please God leave him with a working mind.  Pavlovian!  That was it.  A Pavlovian reflex.

 “Pavlovian,” he said, then shushed himself hurriedly as his voice broke the silence of the sleeping house.  “Pavlovian,” he repeated in a whisper.  He smelt the whisky, breathing in the fumes.  Well, he’d poured it now.  He took a sip.

 Wait, wait.  There was something he had meant to do.  He looked around the kitchen for inspiration.  Forgetting for a moment, he reached out to place his glass on a shelf and almost screamed with pain.  He cursed in a virulent whisper, words he’d not used aloud for years.  He emptied his glass.  Painkiller, that was it.  He’d meant to take an extra painkiller, just to tide himself over.  He staggered over to the pills and fumbled another pill into his mouth.  God in heaven, it tasted foul.  He needed to wash it down with something.

 One more whisky wouldn’t hurt.

 Across a floor that pitched and rolled like a ship in a gale, he made his way towards the whisky bottle.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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