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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  Overcast
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Nightmare on Rutledge Street
In which Peggy's broken wrist is a harbinger of bad times to come
on
The invisible man makes a terrible roommate.
The invisible man makes a terrible roommate.

When Peggy kicked me out of our bedroom, banished me across the hall to our college boy's now vacant crib, I knew the invisible man thing was going to be a problem.

The room itself is cool. Three walls of windows open to a second-floor peek at Lake Monona. By day, it's a cut-rate writing studio. But this is night, with dark skies over ink-black water. And there's the invisible man thing.

Last year college-boy-slash-artist Riley, together with his friends, encased his naked body in cellophane packing tape, then cut him out of it. The headless, transparent life form now sits, like he owns the place, on a stool of stacked LPs.

"Behave," I told him as I covered myself up in the single bed.

The nightmare came quickly; the most terrifying of my adult life. There was a high-rise hotel. There was undefined tension buzzing inside a room that Peggy and I rented on an upper floor. A helicopter, one with housefly appendages, rose in and out of view outside the window.

You may ask why I'm in bed in a room other than the one that belongs to my wife and me, nightmaring away about insect helicopters in the presence of the invisible man. Good question.

Not that schoolteachers are busy or anything, but in between transitioning out a student teacher, training a new one, preparing 26 report cards and completing a new unit on Mexico, my third-grade-teacher wife took a relaxing lunch period on the playground to help supervise 70 eight-year-olds. There, she slipped on the ice and fractured her wrist.

Because she is a badass, she spent the rest of the school day teaching with ice bags duct-taped to her busted arm. The cast was plastered on that night.

Peggy is a light sleeper to begin with. And apparently, even in the best of health, spending the night with me is like sleeping next to a guy doing cannonballs off the high dive. I understood when she showed me the door.

There was an industrial-size elevator in the nightmare. The kind you see in warehouses. It had a cage door that yowled shut behind us. Should we have taken the stairs?

There was levitation. Back in the hotel suite, a table floated up between us and hung there idly, as if sad about it.

A child's baby doll entered the room. She was fleshy looking, and had a pretty plaid dress on, like a Catholic school uniform, and she possessed tremendous speed. One moment she was traipsing around across the carpet, the next she swooped through the air right into my face, where her tiny red lips whispered important, threatening things, the soul-destructive meanings of which I perfectly understood.

I screamed when she put her little hands into my mouth, wriggled her clammy fingers around in there.

The scream carried over into being awake. I know this because I recognized my voice when my eyes opened. But the room wasn't familiar. Not at all. I propped myself up on one elbow and looked. The invisible man was there. He appeared to have been patiently waiting for the baby doll to complete her work.

Until you feel your skin crawl it's like any other mysterious saying, like "happy as a lark." I ran from the room with my arms out in front of me like Shaggy from Scooby Doo.

"WHAT?" said Peggy when I pulled down the bed covers. "It's me," I said.

"You woke me up! Dammit! You're waking me up!" she groaned.

"I had a terrible, awful dream, honey," I said.

"What are you DOING in here?"

"I can remember it all. Please let me be in here," I pleaded.

"Get out! You woke me up! GOD!"

I promised to lie still, awake, all night, if only I could stay. No deal - and fair enough. She was the one who had to get up and teach, with one arm, 26 kids.

Is there anything sadder, in any circumstance, than a middle-aged man on the couch? It's its own kind of nightmare, when you think about it. My change of venue took me away from the headless stare of the invisible man, but sleep didn't come. The memory of a mouthful of those squirming, squishy dolly hands made sure of that.

The next morning and throughout the next day, and hell, even now, I remember the harshest bits of the nightmare. I also remember how safe I felt in our room, if only for those few minutes, with my badass wife by my side. That, brothers and sisters, is a dream come true.

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