Chapter 29: The Mystery of the Unmade Bed

SA = snorers anonymous – a glamorous ENT – the dangers of swazzles – advice given and depressingly received – Stanley as life model – an abstract soundtrack – the mystery of the unmade bed – submarine or robot? – dr jekyll and mr stanley

I snore.

Okay. Good. It’s out there. We can all move on. (If not sleep).

It’s probably my most unattractive feature (although you no doubt have to cross-check that with the people who know me). And why do I snore? Who knows? I even saw an ENT consultant, who put a nasopharyngoscope down my nose to have a look round and see if there was some structural explanation for the horror. The scope is a camera on a flexible tube they thread in through your nostril, down your nose and back as far as your larynx, descending like a potholer with a lamp, looking for stalactites, or polyps, or cave bears. But she was happy everything was in order. No untoward growths and so on. No swazzles (Google it. I mean – how do they NOT swallow those things?).

‘You could afford to lose a stone or two,’ she said, writing out her notes. ‘No big meals before you go to bed. Cut down on the alcohol. But other than that… I don’t know.’ She smiled at me, impossibly glamorous, her sunglasses still pushed up into her hair like she’d wandered in from the shopping mall to browse noses instead of shoes. ‘We all have our thing,’ she said. I couldn’t imagine what hers was.

So why am I confessing this abomination to you? And what on earth has it got to do with Stanley?

Well. It’s true that Stanley is a bit of a snorer, too. In fact, ‘snoring’ doesn’t even begin to cover the symphony of nasopharyngeal expression Stanley is capable of producing in his sleep. Whenever he’s dozing on the sofa – one ear flapped up, the other down, one paw flopped over the side and one crooked under his muzzle, like he’s modelling in a life class and the teacher said give me something tragic – he produces a work of abstract sonic art so modulated and expressive and downright strange, you could score it and sell it as the soundtrack to a film. I don’t know. A mood piece about a grumpy Icelandic fisherman dreaming of escape. Something black & white, anyway. Gritty. Heartfelt. Volcanic.

No. The reason I mention the snoring is to do with something that happened earlier in the week. I was up really early to get ready for work. On the way to the bathroom I noticed that Martha’s bedroom door was open. Martha has gone to university so her bedroom’s empty these days. I glanced inside and noticed the bed rucked up and a dent in the pillow. So I thought I must’ve been snoring so badly last night Kath came and slept in here.

It’s a thing we’ve talked about. I wouldn’t have minded if she had bailed and gone somewhere else to get some sleep. I would too, if I was the kind of person who could be kept awake by anything.

I mean – no doubt a factor in my snoring is the way I sleep. I fall asleep quickly and decisively, like a submarine. I might salute from the conning tower, sometimes, but mostly I just slam the hatch shut, plunge to forty metres and stay there, gliding through the shimmering deep, my propellers chopping the water with a gentle snoring noise.

I wake up just as quickly, too, which can seem weird. In fact, the way I suddenly sit up, swing my legs over the side of the bed and march off to the bathroom is probably grounds for concern that I’m actually a robot. But if the ENT saw any circuitry or rivets I’m sure she would have said something. Or pressed a panic button.

The point is, if Kath had left the bed in the middle of the night, there’s no way I’d have known. So when I saw that Martha’s bed had been slept in, I thought it was entirely possible. She was still in our bed when I got up to shower, so I just assumed she’d come back to bed after a few hours relief.

‘I’m sorry I was snoring so badly last night,’ I said that evening when I got back.
She shrugged.
‘You snore badly every night. It wasn’t any different.’
‘Yeah – but you don’t usually go and sleep somewhere else. Which is fine, of course. I completely understand. I’d do the same.’
‘But I didn’t go and sleep somewhere else.’
I described Martha’s bed, how it looked like someone had slept there.

Stanley.

You see, just lately, Stan’s been taking a great deal of trouble rearranging the cushions and blankets in his basket. You’ll often see dogs do it, turning round and round on the spot, a bit of pawing here and there, much like they’d do on the prairie a few thousand years ago, flattening the grass, rearranging the gophers, making things right for the night. But lately Stan has turned it into yet another performance piece. He’ll pick up a cushion in his mouth and carefully drop it overboard. He’ll paw the blankets into extraordinary shapes. He’ll use his muzzle to lever things into arrangements no sensible creature would think comfortable, standing back now and again to take an overview, as if he’s thinking okay – if I ruck up the crochet blanket just a TOUCH more there, and drape it over PORT side, that’ll give me enough leg room to flop over to the STARBOARD… And so on, and on, until you reach distraction point, and shout out for him to ‘settle the hell down’ so we can carry on watching Vigil, a tense thriller about a snore-powered submarine.

So now I picture Stanley taking himself off upstairs. Jumping up onto Martha’s bed. Pawing the duvet aside. Wriggling in. Pawing it back over himself. Sighing. Checking the alarm clock. Flopping his head down onto the pillow. Falling instantly asleep – and then jumping up a few hours later to go to work.

No. Sorry. That’s me.

My God!

Have I been Stanley all along?

AM I STANLEY NOW?

(Checks hands for hair and claws.
Goes to the bathroom to look in the mirror.
Hurries downstairs for more coffee.)