Ludine Mawbry could hear her phone buzzing in the bathroom but she was not about to get out of bed to answer it. She’d put the phone in the bathroom the night before because she’d read an article that Manford Cluck had posted in his status update about how keeping electronics out of the bedroom was the sure fire way to improve one’s sleep.
Ludine didn’t know why Manford Cluck would be posting an article about improving one’s sleep, Manford never had a problem sleeping that Ludine was aware of; it was staying awake that Manford needed help with. Mona, his wife, swore that Manford had been in a semi-conscious state their entire married life. Everybody around Marked Tree knew that to be the Gospel Truth. Manford slept through Pastor Keel’s sermons every week, even on Easter Sunday. And if he was at home, he was usually asleep in the tattered old recliner parked in front of that big screen TV that took up half the living room in their single-wide, even though the Clucks had the extra space of a tip-out.
Mona had insisted on that tip-out after Manford refused to buy a double-wide, claiming that since they wouldn’t be having any children, they didn’t need all that extra room. Mona knew that was just Manford’s way of punishing her for being infertile, like she had any control over it in the first place. She’d done everything in her power to get pregnant, including standing on her head for a whole half-hour after intercourse but gravity hadn’t done anything but make her boobs slap her upside the face. It was humiliating, hanging in the corner of the bedroom like a bat, praying for Manford’s sperm to make a pathway to procreation. He’d be snoring within in the first ten minutes, jay-bird nekkid and spread-eagle, so that the entire time she was hanging on her head, Mona had a bird’s-eye view of Manford’s manhood.
That vision alone would have kept Ludine up all night for the rest of her life, but thankfully, Mona never revealed all those details to nobody. Ludine was loathe to hear about anybody’s sex life and especially that of her Marked Tree neighbors. She’d grown up in a different time, a time when privacy was something of a treasure. Ludine still didn’t like nobody getting up all in her business and she sure as heck made no efforts to get all up in their’s. She had enough trouble sleeping without worrying about everybody else’s problems.
Whoever was calling her finally give up. Ludine rolled over and stared at the ceiling. Something she’d been doing since 3:30 a.m. even without the electronics in her bedroom. She felt the tension in her neck and flipped her pillow over to the cool side. She’d heard some ESPN fella call it that – the cool side. It was true. After laying on a pillow for any length of time, Ludine would start to sweat underneath her thick brown hair. If she flipped the pillow over, she’d stop sweating. She wished there was some way to flip the entire mattress over like that. If only her home was automated like that of Judy Jetson. She could have some robot arm drop down and lift her up while another robot arm flipped her mattress to the cool side. Maybe that would fix her sleeping problem.
Ludine grabbed her watch from the bedside table: 7:37 a.m.. Back in June, Ludine read that Janet Marie Waldo, the woman from Yakima, Washington, who had been the voice of Judy Jetson had died from an inoperable brain tumor. Ludine took that as a bad omen even though Ms. Waldo had been 96 when she died. So Ludine wasn’t at all surprised when Donald Trump won the election. She’d been expecting the rest of 2016 to turn to shit and sure enough it had.
She had been the only person in all of Marked Tree to put a Clinton-Kaine sign in her yard. She took it down the day after the election but replaced it with a giant metal chicken that she’d found at the Feed and Grain store the next week. The chicken had a comb that wickedly resembled Donald Trump’s own comb-over. The chicken amused Ludine as much as it angered her Marked Tree neighbors.
Ludine didn’t hold her neighbors in much regard, given that most of them voted for Trump. She tried to tell them that they would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces but her neighbors had always been the easily persuaded kind, especially if it was a fast-talking man doing the persuading. They had been, after all, the same people who kept electing the county Sheriff who was crooked as a country road. And they was the same people who sent $100 checks off to Franklin Graham every Christmas for his shoe box ministry, even though Ludine tried to tell them that Franklin was nothing like his daddy and besides what did a child without shoes in Africa need with a pair of socks anyway?
Ludine was just glad her neighbors didn’t know all her business. They probably would have lynched her had they known that during her college years, she’d worked part-time at Planned Parenthood in Blacksburg.
There was a lot that her neighbors didn’t know about Ludine, and it was that not knowing that kept Ludine awake at 3:30 a.m. while Manford Cluck slept soundly, his arm draped over his infertile wife.
Had her neighbors in Marked Tree known the things Ludine knew, they probably wouldn’t be sleeping either, but that was the gift of being an American, wasn’t it? The ability to be distracted and to at least pretend like you didn’t see nothing, didn’t know nothing, that had you known the disaster on the horizon you might have done something differently, you might have prevented the tragedy altogether.
Like when Syria called that ceasefire claiming that they had victory, when what they really had achieved was a genocide, a slaughter of unarmed civilians, and Americans just went on returning Christmas gifts and buying gym memberships for the weight they swore they’d lose but never would.
Throwing back the covers, Ludine gave up. She probably wasn’t going to be able to sleep for the next four years. Or at least not until, the nukes put everyone in Marked Tree into a state of eternal rest.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer University Press) and the forthcoming CHRISTIAN BEND (MUP).