A Bedtime Story
Sanford Tweedie

O nce upon a time, more than two decades before air conditioners were first available for residential use, a couple was trying to sleep in their apartment. Simmering heat awaited the rain. They lay in bed. His eyes were open to the darkness; the depthless ceiling mocked him. She slumped against the heaviness of humidity and sleep. A group of people talking among themselves walked by on the sidewalk below. The man turned over several times but never touched the woman.
After a long silence outside, he said, "Tell me a story."
"Don't know any," she murmured after another pause.
"Your parents never told you stories when you were little?"
"Welcome, stranger, to my world. They were religious in their not-telling."
"Make one up then," he insisted.
For a moment, she was less tired: "Let's see. Once there was a man who believed that no matter how much he. . . ."
"I know that one," he interrupted.
"How about the one where the man and woman. . . ?"
"Don't want to hear it. I know how it ends."
"Which one do you want to hear?" she demanded.
He hesitated. "If you don't know a good story, tell me a secret."
"Which one?"
"How many do you have?"
As her dreams eddied against the levee of sleep, she waded through her secrets, alert for even one she might share.
"I have many secrets," she said finally. "I have more secrets than even I can know."

First published: February 2001
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