The Sleeping Sickness

Me? I was a prize baby. I lived with my parents and infant sister in the yellow house on Leicester Street, where we kept a little pea-patch in summer. My father was an electrician and my mother stayed at home. I was a neat, clean boy, affectionate and sensitive, with a nasty run of luck. First came the car that broke my leg and knocked my eye off-kilter when I was six. When they brought me back from the hospital—where the leg hadn’t set properly—I was nervous, afraid of thunderstorms and being alone. I was afraid my father might be burned, that my mother might be dead, that my baby sister might fall and crack open her head. Then came the long fever of the sleeping sickness. There had been stories in the newspaper that year—rumors of a strange epidemic, charts with lists of numbers. Although it was never explained to me, I understood there was some vague connection between those numbers and my own unrelenting torpor—the sleep from which I’m not sure I have ever really awoken.


User Fiction Cover 12

First published in New England Review.