Night after night for forty seven years that repetitive sound resonated through the otherwise quiet night to assault her ears. “Ribibibibi–ga-a-ga-a-ga-a–screeee.” The bed seemed to vibrate each time the gurgling sequence began.
“Ribibibibi.” A sound like a hipcupping frog causing the mattress to shudder beneath him and ripple out toward her as he took in a breath. Like a goose and hawk were calling out to each other his exhale disturbed the quiet atmosphere above with the following “ga-a-ga-a-ga-a–screeee”.
The first five years of her marriage to him had been a battle to withstand the assault to her eardrums each night. Several times they had arguments about his snoring resulting in one of them ending up downstairs on the couch in the living room. But they never stayed angry with each other for long and the mornings always found them back together again, side-by-side in bed. He agreed to get some help with his infliction and it had helped. His snoring had lessened and wasn’t as loud. But as the years wore on the potence of the sound returned. Eventually she became accustomed to the low volume rattle and even found it difficult to sleep without it while he was away on a business trip or gone with his fishing buddies.
She lifted her head slightly from the pillow to squint at the bright red digits of the alarm clock on her night stand. Two seventeen in the morning. She needed to get her sleep for the busy day ahead. She needed to be well rested to show everyone her best face. Tightly closing her eyes she tried to force herself into sleep, hoping it would sweep her away and take her to a more peaceful place.
Early in their life together, when his snoring had caused her to lie in bed with her anger seething just beneath the surface, she would elbow him in the ribs, lightly at first and then more aggressively for a more sustained effect. This action only succeeded in stopping the unbearable sound for a few minutes after each of her assaults. She began to drift through the events of those early years and all the sounds around her faded into the background.
Aside from the conflict over the snoring, their relationship was strong and intense. And their love grew and deepened as the years went on. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for each other and nothing nor anyone that was more important to the other. They both knew they had been made for each other and worshipped the life they had together.
Thoughts of the strong bond she had with him put a lump in her throat. Tears welled up in her eyes, running over the bridge of her nose and down the side of her face. She squeezed her eyes shut. Memories of their life together filled her thoughts as she drifted off through the darkness and fell asleep.
Her feet sank into the lush, dark green lawn as she looked out upon the calm waters. The sun was peeking over the horizon directly ahead of her, orange glowing through the maples, oaks and birches that encircled the large oval shaped lake. She could see lines of yellow light slowly dancing upon the glass top surface, reflected from the kitchen lights of early risers in the cottages scattered along the shore. In front of her to the left was a long wooden dock bobbing casually on the water.
Slowly she turned to her right, examining the horizon until a cedar planked cottage appeared before her. The flowers were all in bloom tucked in neatly kept gardens that surrounded the back of the small two bedroom bungalow. The morning sun had risen up over the treeline now and was shining on her back and the smell of coffee swirled through the air from the screened back door.
It was the same cottage they had bought each other for their tenth anniversary. Unfortunately they had to sell it four years later, during those lean times, when he had been laid off. All the good times of those glorious four years streamed through her memory bringing a smile to her face and a tear to her eye.
The midday sun was beating down upon her as she continued turning in a circle, smiling at the impeccably kept grounds she had maintained. Again she came around to face the lake, now populated with small boats and swimmers enjoying the warm afternoon sun.
Slowly she strolled through the grass in her flowered summer dress to the dock that stretched out over a small sandy shore. It continued thirty feet out into the water where it was deep enough to dive in without the fear of hitting bottom. Careful not to get any slivers in her bare feet from the graying boards, she strolled to the end. A water skier, enjoying the late afternoon sun, waved at her and she waved back smiling from the memories of all the friends they had made during those precious summers.
Looking down into the deep water she saw her refection staring back at her. Her white hair looked orange in the setting sun, outlining the glowing features of her aging face. Memories of a younger woman enjoying the water with her two young children and wonderful husband flooded her with emotions.
She looked up into the moonless night sky to see the Milky Way emblazoned overhead. A faint orange glow was evident on the dock from the backdoor light of the cottage behind her. She pulled her white cardigan tightly around her to keep out the cool chill of the night air.
“Ribibibibi.” On the other corner of the dock sat a frog looking up at her with the gray-blue eyes of her husband. “Ribibibibi.” It blinked slowly at her. She bent down to pet the top of its head. Suddenly it jumped up, startling her as it landed on the back of her hand. She brought down the palm of her other hand for it to climb onto. She stood back up as it looked deep into her eyes. Again it blinked its expressive eyes at her.
“Ribibibibi.” A smile appeared on the frogs face. Slowly it turned around in her hand and jumped high into the air, shattering apart to become hundreds of brightly lit fireflies that rose up into the sky to mirror the constellations. She squealed with delight, clasping her hands together with glee as she brought them to her mouth.
“Ga-a-ga-a-ga-a.” A funny low moaning cackle came from behind her. She spun around to find a goose with a head encircled with a fringe of gray hair, waddling toward her down the dock. The goose’s hair hung down on one side of his partially bald head, much like her husbands did. He liked to comb it over his bald crown to give the appearance of a full head of hair. He wasn’t fooling anyone.
“Ga-a-ga-a-ga-a.” The goose flapped its large wings and jumped into her arms, nestling in.
“Ga-a-ga-a-ga-a.” Its beak rose up on its ends to produce a broad smile as it stared up at her. Rising back up onto its brown webbed feet it lifted off and flew over the cottage roof, its white under-tail turning into a glowing harvest moon left hanging in the sky.
“Screeee, screeee.” From the newly placed moon a hawk flew out past her and over the lake. “Screeee, screeee.” She turned to watch as it flew to one end of the lake and then swooped down to brush the top of the still water, only to rise again at the other end.
“Screeee, screeee.” Again it came down, this time soaring up into the night sky directly in front of her. She could see its silhouette against the thousands of stars in the Milky Way.
“Screeee, screeee.” It came to a summit and started to dive. Gaining tremendous speed it swooped once again, this time directly toward her, burying its beak into her chest just over her heart and burrowing deeper in until it totally submerged itself inside, with no evidence of its entry.
Quickly she sat up in bed gasping desperately for breath, clenching a fistful of her sweat soaked nightgown where the hawk had entered. Tears streamed down her face. Sobbing, she lay herself down, facing the alarm clock. Two forty in the morning.
The room was quiet. Disturbingly quiet. Deathly quiet.
Turning on her back, she cautiously stretched out her arm across to the other side of the bed.
The odd little lullaby that had put her to sleep for so many years had ended. She smiled, remembering the odd trio of creatures from her dream while tears poured from her eyes. She needed to get some sleep, it was late. Tomorrow would be a busy day and she had to look her best to greet all their friends and relatives.
© Stephen Chiarelli 2006