My wife has taken to barking in her sleep. At first I thought it was the dog. Lucy has always laughed, argued, shouted, or talked. But barking! Should I call the vet?
"Do you know you were barking in your sleep last night?" I say to her. She looks astonished.
"It must have been that television program," she says. "Those hyenas."
I'm used to the laughing. In fact, it's not unpleasant to be woken up by laughter, no matter how it's caused. Still, if we have some special reason for wanting to sleep through the night, we avoid "Fawlty Towers," Mr. Bean, or Alec Guinness movies just before bedtime. A little P. G. Wodehouse read aloud is safe - but nothing heavier.
It's the political dreams I could do without. "Who were you arguing with this time?" I asked her after one such occasion.
"Newt Gingrich," she said. "Mrs. Clinton was there, too, and so was Michele." Michele is our married daughter. "Mrs. Clinton was playing tennis. Michele was crawling around on the floor - digging in the sand. And Mr. Gingrich was getting ready to make dinner. We were arguing about how to cook the broccoli."
"What was President Clinton doing?"
"He was mowing the lawn."
My wife and I live in rural Maine. In winter, we don't get out much. A rich fantasy life can be a plus.
About a week later, Lucy's barking woke me up again. It was a high, dry bark. More like a seal's than a dog's. She was thrashing around a bit as well, so I woke her up. We were in Jamaica, she said - swimming. She wasn't happy about being brought to shore.
Later that night, she barked again - several times.
Was it related, I wondered, to the place or the season? If we lived in Switzerland, would she yodel? I gazed out at the starry night and listened to the house creaking in the cold. The refrigerator made a distant hum. A puff of smoke from the wood stove downstairs tingled my nostrils. Our old poodle, on the floor, began banging a leg rhythmically against the side of the bed - chasing a squirrel.
If she started to howl, Lucy might just join in.