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I woke up around 5:00 Sunday morning. At first awareness, I began to pray, thanking GØd that I’d woken again and that my life is as good as it is, with three blessed children, a good job, and a loving wife. We have a good life; it’s worth remembering that.

After a little while, mind focused and awake, I got out of bed and went downstairs. I turned on my coffee, and let the cats out. I went to my computer, checked email and the current news – the Cats had won again, and there was an interesting piece on a new engine to be manufactured not far from home.

When my coffee was ready, I poured a cup, adding a touch of cinnamon for the holiday season. The sun was just starting to lighten the sky – I thought I’d seen a flash of lightning, but I think it must have been one of the smoke alarms running a silent self-test. It was a joy to appreciate the quiet, miraculous world.

Going back to my desk – a cherry workdesk, a gift from my wife – I started a performance test. I suspected a flaw in the networking code I’d been working on.

Collecting the data, measuring, finding a spot where resources were being released too slowly… that occupied the next few hours. There was some code that wasn’t what I’d expected, unfamiliar, strange, but that was easily fixed with some analysis.

I heard stirring upstairs; that would be my wife, or one of my children. I went upstairs quietly – we’d all been busy and needed rest – and checked our room first, to see my wife stretching, going through the same version of the same waking ritual I’d performed.

Not wishing to disturb her, I went back downstairs, to pour another cup of coffee. With that done, I went back upstairs, slightly more loudly, to let her know I was there.

When I got to the doorway, my first thought was that she had gone back to sleep, but instead she smiled and looked at me.

“Good morning, dear,” I said, and smiled back.

“Well,” she said brightly, “I feel well, and hungry. What do you think of my making some cinnamon rolls?”

I told her that I didn’t think we had any, but that I might be able to put together some cinnamon toast, an idea with which my youngest, emerging from her room, eagerly agreed.

I told her she could help – and she audaciously corrected me, saying that I could help her, as she made cinnamon toast better than I.

We went downstairs, where I reached for the pans, and she directed construction. A few minutes later, she triumphantly took the pans from the double oven, and I washed them after she transferred the breakfast to serving dishes.

My wife was watching, sitting by the island. I poured her some orange juice, and she picked up a piece of toast – the three of us were enjoying the quiet and togetherness, and waited for the scent of breakfast to wake up the other two children.

It struck me, looking from the shining eyes of my youngest to the gentle smile of my wife, that it would be difficult for life to be any better.

And with a sensation like poison, or the taste of acid, I snapped awake. I was downstairs. My wife was likely to still be asleep, or trying to – unable to rest in earnest, nearly bedridden from the pain and weakness. Breakfast might be a piece of toast. I’d forgotten to pray, and my life would snap away from pleasant and necessary fantasy to cold, dead reality.

And I’d have no choice but to endure.

Fiction, December 15, 2012

Incidentally, just in case anyone gets confused: this is fiction, art. There are elements drawn from my own life – I like a touch of cinnamon in my coffee, for example, and I really do wake up pretty early, before the dawn.

But make no mistake: it’s fiction. One of my favorite songs is the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime;” this story is a gentle adaptation of the whole concept of dispossession-in-living…

Except I’m a pessimistic writer, so naturally instead of the protagonist imagining things being dramatically different, he imagines things being dramatically better than the crap he endures in his daily life. He is trying to cope with enormous grief, over a long span of time; this is his answer.

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