SLEEPING • by Daniel Austin Warren

I asked her where her father was and she said he was sleeping.

Really?

Yeah, he went to bed after the Earth Day Festival and hasn’t woken up yet.

Earth Day was last week, Caitlin.

That’s true. I’m still waiting for him to wake up.

I didn’t want to tell her that the proper term wasn’t sleeping. The term was comatose. She seemed like a smart girl. She’d figure it out soon enough.

Instead I told her her father was probably dreaming about her, right now, about his beautiful, highly intelligent daughter.

Boy was she sharp, though.

No I doubt it, mister, she said.

Doubt it? Why?

Well it’s more likely that he’s exhibiting characteristic metaphors for his insecurities.

You’re seven, who told you that? Who?

I read it in a book. Mommy was mad afterward.

What book?

Freud wrote it.

You’ve been reading Freud?

Yes, and my daddy is probably dreaming of a woman who is not my mom and they are probably next to each other in a dream bed somewhere.

Where’s somewhere?

In my dad’s mind.

I didn’t tell her that last night I dreamt I was fondling an old friend I used to travel with.

She knew I was married. I was wearing a ring last night in my dream. We fooled around anyway.

Mister, you’re married, did you dream of your wife last night?

No.

Then why did my dad have to dream of me?

He didn’t.

And mister, why are we pretending that my dad’s asleep?

That’s what you said.

And I can’t believe you believed me.

I didn’t want to make it harder.

Harder?

I didn’t want to make it harder.

Mister, I am a smart girl.  I’ll figure it out.

I know you are. I want you to know that anytime you’d like to talk my office door is open.

Thank you, Mister.

I can be like Mr. Spenser from Catcher in the Rye. You’ll end up a lot like Holden Caulfield.

Thanks. She looked at me querulously.

Have you read Catcher in the Rye?

Yes.

You know the title is based on a Robert Burns poem, right?

It’s still dry. Salinger is really dry. You can’t save the kids, mister.

Just because something is dry doesn’t mean it lacks nutritional value. What’s so bad about trying?

She closed her eyes.

Then I told her, you’re a smart girl.

Thanks mister.

I’m sorry about your dad.

It’s okay, so am I.

Can’t we just say that he’s sleeping for you, for everyone’s sake?

That’d be a lie, but sure, if it makes you sleep better then yes.  Maybe you can actually dream of your wife and daughter, too.

I hope so.

So do I, mister.  Or maybe you should just take off your ring and stop pretending everything just goes around and around forever.

Should I?

Yes.

I pulled the ring off my finger.

My daddy is dead.

And what do I do now? If you put up a dam you’ll spend the rest of your life with a finger in the dike.

So I let her cry. I held her till she came to and then her mother picked her up.


Daniel Austin Warren grew up in West Los Angeles. Educated in San Diego, dragged around the United States in a Ford Econo Van as a musician, and now a copywriter for a toy company in Playa Vista, Daniel lives a quiet life of desperation. He is the only member of one-piece experimental collaboration called A Seahorse. His name translates to “judge of others” in Hebrew and despite vapid traces of Judaism, Daniel is rather judgmental.

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