My wood shop calls out to me like a haunting voice across the moors. “Mi-ike. . . Miiii-iiike.” It’s three in the morning, and I wake up in a cold sweat, shaking. I throw of my CPAP mask, unrestrained air barges from the flexible tubing. I whip off the covers and fold them back neatly against my pillow.
“What’s wrong?” She’s not really awake. I could say anything here, and she won’t remember. Oh wait, strike that. There was that time I woke up and told her I imagined a spider was hanging over the bed. We flipped on the lights and had to strips the sheets off the bed until we were sure there was no spider. I learned from that.
“Nothing, honey. Go back to sleep. I’ll be fine.” I grab the flashlight that magnetically clings to the bottom of my bed rail. My wife has already fallen back to sleep. I ease the door closed behind me, inch down the stairs, and creep through the kitchen.
I twist the knob on the basement door, and hear the hum of a distant table saw echoing up the stairs. At the bottom, a beam of light oozes from beneath the door. “Mi-ike.”
Cobwebs cover the doorknob, and cling to the door frame, stretching in front of me as the door swings wide. Foolishly, I walk through them anyway, and then claw at my face to get the cobwebs out of my eyebrows and off my lips. The faint image of an old man laughs at me from behind the ShopSmith.
“Have I always looked that clueless?” he says to me. “Ha ha HA! Ha huh huh huh HAAA!” Then, he disappears, leaving a twinkling outline of his body—sawdust, that falls to the floor a second later.
For a moment, I’m excited. Did he finish the blanket chest? You know, like those elves made all those shoes while the shoemaker slept? Nope. I sift through the pile of incomplete projects resting on the sawhorses and pull off the boards I glued up a few months ago. Warped. Damn you, evil, incompetent, eerie, dusty shadow of myself! Now I’ll have to cut it apart, re-joint the edges, re-glue, and re-sand it! I’ll get you!
That’s when my wife smacks me on the CPAP mask. “That thing’s making that stupid noise again!”
“What?” Oh. I’m still in bed. I readjust the mask so it doesn’t make that fart sound, and seat it against my face in such a way that it doesn’t force cold air under my eyelids. “That better?” My voice is muffled under the mask.
“Yeah.” Then she rolls over and goes back to sleep. I spend the next hour awake, wondering if that board really is warped.
It is, by the way. And I still have a blanket chest to make.