Sep 21, 2023, 05:55AM

Sleep Attempts

Nobody had ever explained how to turn her mind off.

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Becca rarely got to sleep easily. The bed was comfortable enough. She was exhausted. It was her imagination and anxiety that plagued her. Nobody had ever explained how to turn her mind off. Or at least turn it down. She usually read until one of her eyeballs fell out. Sometimes, she fell asleep holding a book in front of her and then the book would knock into her glasses. She hated hardcovers.

On this night, in her grandpa’s house, Becca was sleeping soundly. Then she heard Jules. It was a mournful moan. Not exactly crying. More like a distant whale song. Becca wondered if she dreaming again, as she sometimes dreamt of dolphins and whales. As an eighth grader, Becca was obsessed with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

She rubbed her eyes, yawned, and rose out of the bed, tip-toeing out of the guest room and over to her grandpa’s room. The moaning got louder. 

“Ohhhhh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Becca cracked his door open, with a slow, stealthy hand. She saw Jules asleep and dreaming. The moans seemed to be coming out of his chest, like a ventriloquist keeping his mouth closed while making the noises.

Then, he stopped, seemed to recognize himself in the bed, and turned to the other side. He let out a sigh. Becca waited, peering in through the crack. Gradually, his snoring came on. The moans were gone, and she retreated to the bathroom, before going back to sleep.

The next morning, Becca was up at seven. She moved carefully through the house. Made coffee. Drank it on the back porch, looking out at the hillside and mountains in the distance. She loved that porch. She left for a run. Becca had stamina. She’d run cross-country and played tennis in high school. She was in great shape. Running helped keep her motivated to study and kept her from dwelling too much in her negative thoughts. Like she swept clean some of the debris… until she went to bed.

When she came back through the front door, she saw Jules sitting at the dining room table. He held his coffee mug up as if to say, “Cheers and Good Morning!” He was in the middle of an English muffin with peanut butter. “Hi Grandpa! Let me take a shower and then let’s get that Monopoly going!” Becca shouted.

“Okay, honey.” Jules replied.

Ten minutes later, Becca sat down at the table her long brown hair dripping wet. It straightened after a shower, then began to wave as the day went on.

“Can I let you win again?” Jules asked, as he sorted out the money.

“I can slip you a few bucks this time,” Becca chuckled.

Jules struggled to remember the denominations.

“How many of each? It’s been a while,” he said.

“Two of each for the $500, $100 and $50s.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.” Jules said. “And five $20s and $10s and $5s.”

Becca caught herself. She was about to correct him, but wondered to herself, Why? Five 20s or Six 20s. Who cares? Her mom was worried about her dad. But his mind was sharp. He was just 83, that’s what Becca thought.

They began to play. Jules had some trouble handling the game tokens. He liked the shoe. She chose the horse. His fingers weren’t quite nimble enough. Becca moved him around the board and picked up the Chance and Community Chest cards for him.

Becca’s instincts were competitive. Her older sister had beaten her too many times at too many things. She was always ready to compete. As the game went on, and her Grandpa got monopolies on the oranges and then the greens, she started to feel a pinch of annoyance. He’d always helped her win, and now it was just the two of them, and he clearly wanted to win himself.

Finally, Becca landed on Park Place and got her own monopoly. The game evened out. The money was running low. Becca checked her phone. Three texts from Marisol. Two texts from Reva.

“Oh shit, Grandpa, its 11:30! I need to be back by two for class. I should leave in 15 minutes!”

“Okay, okay, but let’s finish this up first,” Jules replied.

Becca rolled the dice quickly. She landed on St. James and he had hotels on the oranges.

“Arggh! F’n A!” she blurted.

Jules checked his deeds.

“St. James! Is that it? $950. You out?” Jules’ eyebrows popped up with intensity.

“Let me check,” Becca said.

She shuffled through her fake bills.

“Yep. I’d have to mortgage everything. I’m out. You win, Grandpa J.”

“Good game, honey.” Jules extended his hand to his granddaughter.

“Good game,” she replied, recognizing how ridiculous it was to get worked up about a random game of dice and luck.

“Okay, I’ve gotta run,” Becca said, as she got up to give him a hug and kiss. “Great to see you again. I’ll be back next month. Love you.”

“Love you, Becca. Be safe.” Jules felt the sadness of his granddaughter’s absence as she grabbed her bag and left. He’d won the game, but now what?


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