Somewhere in the small hours of the night, Athena slew another mouse. She then played with the body for a good hour, with the bounce-bounce-scuffle-scuffle-bounce thing, right next to my side of the bed. The process by which I understood what had happened was sort of like how petrified wood gets made–infinitely slowly, in the stone forest of my brain, a molecule of comprehension would leach in and replace a molecule of sleepy ignorance, until eventually my entire brain was an exact replica of my sleeping brain, but now armed with the vital knowledge that a mouse corpse was being flung about like a limp frisbee a few inches from my nose.

At 6:05 am, finally, I staggered to my feet, turned on the light, and since misery loves company, said “Jaaaames…what’s our mouse corpse disposal protocol?” He mumbled something about garbage bags, and I sent Deader-mousie off to his final repose.

Then I went back to sleep and had a hideous nightmare about being pregnant and in labor, in the same room with my maternal grandmother, who was dying. (She died when I was eleven or twelve, and cancer treatments being what they were in the eighties, it was not a good or dignified death.) She couldn’t die until I’d had this baby, and it was just a nasty situation all around, particularly if like me, you have less than no desire for kids in the first place.

“Wait wait wait,” I thought, “this is so awful, I bet it’s a dream!” At once I felt more relaxed–obviously it was a dream. But I still had to get out of it. “Okay,” my brain said, “you have to find the piece that doesn’t belong, and follow it out.”

At that moment, my stepbrother Brad walked by. He was from my mother’s second marriage, and since she got a divorce, we’re technically no relation–he was ten years old than me, a tall, quiet boy who promptly joined the Marines to get away from his father, and for whom I have enormous sympathy in retrospect. I haven’t seen him in twenty years, and he was definitely out of place in this dream. While I watched, an owl swooped in, buzzed a few of us, and then landed on his shoulder. (Northern saw-whet owl, if anybody’s interested, although rather red-orange in tinge. Not yet on my life-list, nor likely to be, as they’re supposed to be very hard to spot, but there it was.)

“That’s DEFINITELY not right,” I thought. “I’ll follow him out!” And so I concentrated on my stepbrother and this owl, and the world kind of fragmented (I thought “Oh, thank god, it really WAS a dream!”) and then I woke up. It was sort of interesting–I sometimes wake up if I realize something is a dream, but I’ve never had to follow something inside the dream, like chasing the white rabbit, in order to wake up before.

So then I got coffee and a hug, which between them cures all nightmares, and all was right with the world.

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