“The Sleeping Quartet” by Jason Sizemore

“A Thousand Little Deaths”

Jack Taylor’s wife tells him that hearing him struggle with sleep apnea night after night is “like listening to you die a thousand little deaths.” It is this statement that leads Jack – one of probably millions who fear going to see doctors – to schedule an appointment at a sleep clinic. How bad could that be? The reader will soon find out.

White_deck_3_of_spadesI read this story for week 19 read of “Deal Me In.” I own it as part of the author’s dark collection “Irredeemable,” which I have been looking forward to exploring. When it came time to come up with my list of stories for my annual Deal Me In short story reading project (explained here), I added a couple tales from it to get my feet wet – this story and another, “Yellow Warblers”; how scary could that one be, right? If “The Sleeping Quartet” is representative, I’ll be in for a treat when that one comes around later in the year.

Jack’s visit to the clinic starts out in a fairly ordinary way. In the waiting room with three other patients, he spends his time checking out the others (we’ve all done that, yes?), noting their peculiarities and physical features with disgust. Things take a turn for the worse when they’re led to the “lab” by a nurse that tells them they’ll have to pose any of their questions to the lab technician. When this same lab technician later responds to their queries dismissively, “Sorry, any questions you had should have been addressed by the nurse,” you begin to suspect this “clinic” isn’t what it appears to be on the surface.

Is what follows (probably the longest night of Jack’s life) only an extended nightmare, or do the events we read of really take place? Maybe some of them were real and some not? One physical manifestation is explained away the next morning when he is released, making you wonder further. I think this decision is purposefully left to the reader, and I like that. My favorite feature of this story is that it plays upon a fear many of us have – that of surrendering control to others. Something hard enough to do in normal circumstances but even harder when in your most vulnerable state – sleeping.

If you’re interested, this book is available at Amazon. The kindle version (the format I own) is currently only $3.99 http://www.amazon.com/Irredeemable-Jason-Sizemore/dp/1937929590

So, how did you sleep last night? A staple of Comedian Stephen Wright’s (below – remember him?) act used to be when he would say “Someone asked me, ’Did you sleep good?’ I said ’No. I made a few mistakes.’” 🙂