Larry felt worse than usual when he woke. It wasn’t just his aching back and knees and shoulders; his brain seemed muzzy. Going back to sleep was an attractive prospect, but he looked at his bedside clock. It was already past seven. This was amazing, unprecedented. Without fail, he woke each morning just before six. He sat up slowly and swung his feet over the side of the bed, then paused. Something was wrong.
His slippers were missing.
He shuffled down the hall to the bathroom but they weren’t there. He was a man of habit; he sat on the edge of the bed each night, removed his feet from the slippers one at a time, eased his upper body down onto the pillows, followed by swinging his legs up and pulling the comforter to his chin. The slippers stayed on the bedside rug, ready for morning. He didn’t get up in the night, not since he started taking the sleeping pills.
After washing and shaving, he returned to the bedroom and crouched, knees popping, and peered beneath the bed. The slippers weren’t there. Nor had he broken his routine last night and put them in the closet. Why would he? He was 81, his body was falling apart but his mind was still good. And yet, the slippers were missing.
He dressed, putting on socks before going to the back porch to see if the slippers were there. He vaguely recalled a dream, walking in the yard in his pajamas, feet bare, his heart pounding. Something in the shadows had frightened him. Had there been a scream? Suddenly he’d been floating but it wasn’t one of those wonderful flying dreams, instead it was as if his soul was departing from his body. This scared him even more and he’d woken abruptly, in his bed, warm beneath the comforter, heart pounding as strongly as in his dream.
Now that he recalled the dream, he understood why his brain felt strange. He didn’t dream much these days, no doubt due to the sleeping pills, and now to have such a powerful dream. A dream like that could get a hold on you, make real life seem unreal, leave you with a compulsion to return to the dream and the unfinished business of your dramatizing subconscious.
Trying to put the dream out of his mind, he continued to search for his slippers.
He kept the floors of his small house clean, as Emma had taught him in the final year when she could no longer perform her housewifely duties. Still, he hated to walk around in sock feet, it felt dirty. At the back porch, he gave up and put on his gardening clogs, silly plastic things that were unexpectedly comfortable, easy to slip into and easy to wash clean with the hose before he brought them inside. Not that he’d ever worn them in the house. Emma had never allowed outside shoes inside the house.
The coffee was perking; the bread was toasting; he’d poured his glasses of juice and water; he’d set out two day-of-the-week pill containers with all his meds and vitamins when he recalled something else from the dream. He’d been standing in their daughter Mandy’s old room, which had become the sewing room after Mandy left and was now, in his mind at least, Emma’s room, the place he stored the things of hers he hadn’t been able to bear to get rid of.
Larry found his slippers neatly placed in front of the window in Emma’s room. He must have been sleepwalking, something he’d never done before. Well, at least he had his slippers back. He stepped out of the gardening clogs and slipped into the familiar morning shape of the plaid slippers. He would never allow himself to be one of those old men who scuff around in slippers all day, but after all these years, he owed it to his feet to ease them into the day, something soft to start out with. He leaned down, bending knees and back as little as possible to snag the clogs with his fingertips. When he straightened up, he glanced out the window.
His car wasn’t there.
Larry hurried to the back door, pausing out of habit to step out of his slippers and into the clogs, but he’d dropped the clogs somewhere between here and Emma’s room. His lace-up shoes would take too long to put on, so he slid back into the slippers and went out onto the porch, down the steps and around the side of the house to the driveway.
His car was gone.
“Still looking for your car, hey?” It was his neighbour, Stefan, on the other side of the lattice fence. As always, the man looked the quintessential university professor—tweed jacket (albeit without elbow patches), dark mane of hair going grey only at the temples, tasselled loafers that looked more comfortable than Larry’s slippers. As always, Larry felt a vague dislike for the man.