A Good Knight’s Sleep, Rudely Interrupted.

It is the wee hours of the morning and although another hour of sleep would make a vast improvement in motor skills and clarity of thought, this is not an option. Thirty-six inches of sleep-matted hair must be untangled and washed before 6am; no small feat. I leave Galahad snoring contentedly, go through my morning preparation process with decades of practiced autopilot technique, and am soon in the shower, head upside-down. This is when I notice the quick movement behind me.

It is an established fact that couples who have been together as long as we have need few words for communication. This is significant because I would normally be incoherent at that hour of the morning, but under the present circumstances I have only one means of self-expression.

I am a singer. My voice has been taught and trained to reach listeners in the back seats of auditoriums. In the dark bedroom, the first thing my husband registers is that an air raid siren has gone off in the tiny, acoustically-enhanced room on the other side of the bedroom wall.

Spider.

My eldest son once had a wolf spider crawl up his leg. He was only seven or eight years old when it happened, and it was a terrifying experience. Years later, he decided to write about that event for a school essay on “My Most Frightening Experience.” He wrote that “a big spider crawled up his leg” — I told him he wasn’t really sharing the experience yet: “big” wasn’t enough. I told him to remember that spider on his leg, how it seemed to dwarf the houses nearby and block out the sun, just by claiming ownership of his limb and racing upward toward his soul. In his rewritten essay, the spider became “the size of Chicago.”

This morning’s spider is that one’s vengeful granddaddy, and I give him the scream he deserves.

Kevin cannot teleport, but he executes the 50-year-old’s equivalent, stumbling on newly-wakened legs, squinting against the brilliance of the bathroom lights after the pitch dark of the bedroom. I babble; he says nothing, but looks in the direction I am pointing. A few seconds later, he is squashing something into the floor of the shower with a nearby object.

This is true love, nurtured over 25 years of marriage: that I can waken my Galahad from a sound sleep and know that he will come immediately to slay my spider-dragons, and even give me a reassuring kiss before he returns to the land of Nod.