GS Davis lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. He's currently a middle school social studies teacher at a very small school in northern Kentucky, and a part-time freelance sports, wedding, and travel photographer (www.gsdavisphotography.com). But "when he grows up," he wants to become a novelist. His non-fiction articles, photography, and illustrations have been published in nationally syndicated magazines and in three newspapers. GS Davis and his wife are anxiously awaiting their first child sometime around the first of the year.
Can you die from lack of sleep?
Disentangling himself from the sheets, Ben struggled from bed. He glared at his bedside clock—4:15 AM. He rubbed his eyes that burned as if he’d used Visine laced with hydrochloric acid.
He paused to gaze for a moment at his wife’s peacefully sleeping form, then placed a single rose and a card on the nightstand, hoping it’d ease his missing their second anniversary today. Unfortunately the years hadn’t been the affectionate ones typically experienced by newlyweds. His employer forced him to work a minimum of sixty hours a week, each and every week—often far more.
He didn’t want to wake her, but he couldn’t resist running his hand over her slightly swollen belly. Her delicate frame had recently begun to show. Ben stooped to kiss her gently on the abdomen, and murmured, “I love you. Both.”
She stirred, mumbled, and rolled over. Even at this early stage, her hand naturally slid to cradle their unborn child as she slept.
He hadn’t been with her at the first ultrasound. As usual, he had been at the office. The best he could manage was to listen with his cell phone nestled between his shoulder and ear, typing a report, as his wife giggled. “The baby looks like a peanut.”
He had to do something about his working conditions before his child arrived. He didn’t want him or her to say, “Mom, who’s this strange man rooting around in the refrigerator?” If he continued to work for Scott Simpson, whom he referred to as “Adolph,” or simply “Der Führer,” his child would certainly see him only on Sundays.
Over a bowl of corn flakes, Ben sent a prayer heavenward. “Lord, please help me do well in this job interview today. Help me find a better job.” Then as an afterthought, as he envisioned falling asleep at the wheel, he added, “Please keep me safe.”
He knotted his tie, donned his suit coat, grabbed his laptop case, and eased out the door.
Ben drove to Long Island, trying to rehearse answers to questions he might be asked in the interview, and trying to figure out a tactful way to shorten it, in case it went long. The last time he’d been late for work, “Der Führer” had threatened in front of his office peers to fire him, and he couldn’t very well tell Adolph he’d been late because a job interview went longer than anticipated.
As he made a turn, Ben caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and noticed how bloodshot his eyes were. His prospective new employer might think he was on drugs if he saw his eyes looking like this. Driving with one hand, he rummaged in the glove compartment for his Visine with the other.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something dash into the road. Ben jerked upright and slammed on the brakes. His knuckles whitened on the steering wheel as he saw a little boy staring wide-eyed at the car, apparently frozen in fear.
“Oh, God, no!”
The tires screeched, but still the car shot steadily forward. Ben’s heart pounded, and he clenched his teeth as he tried to push the pedal even farther. The boy seemed to disappear beneath the hood before the car finally stopped. The engine stalled.
Ben burst from the car and raced to the front, expecting to see carnage that would forever haunt his days and nights. Soon to become a father, he’d taken another father’s son.
Ben’s legs almost buckled when he saw the boy.
He stood there, trembling but otherwise unharmed.
As Ben rushed to the boy, he noticed the boy’s fear didn’t seem focused on the car. Ben followed the boy’s gaze and spotted two bigger boys glaring at both Ben and the small bespectacled boy. For a moment, the perhaps twelve-year-old bullies appeared to assess whether they could take Ben before finishing what they’d started with the boy. Ben stood to his full six feet and glowered down at the two young thugs.
The boys reconsidered and scampered off.
The child who Ben had nearly hit hugged him around the waist and ran off in the opposite direction of his tormentors.
Ben steadied himself on the fender while he tried to get his heart calmed to a more normal rate. A cacophony of car horns reminded him he’d blocked the road.
He slipped behind the wheel and turned the key.
Ben glanced at his watch and pounded the steering wheel with his fists. He was supposed to be at his interview four minutes ago.
It took the tow truck an hour to arrive. Just before the driver hooked up the car, Ben tried to start it one last time, and it roared to life as if brand-new. The tow truck driver frowned at Ben before demanding payment for his time.
Once he arrived at the job interview, Ben pushed the intercom and introduced himself. Before he could explain why he’d arrived an hour late, a disembodied voice cut him off.
“Why should I hire anyone who can’t show up for an interview on time?”
In a perfect world, Ben thought, the little boy he’d nearly killed and saved from the bullies would be the son of the man who was to interview him. The boy would say, “This man helped me.” Ben would get the job at double the pay.
New York was far from a perfect world.
As he headed back into Manhattan, a five-car pile-up brought traffic to a standstill. Ben turned on the radio, only to hear Sinatra crooning, “I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps . . .”
He hammered the OFF button.
Ben watched with a sinking heart as time ticked away. He could see his building, but knew he could never arrive on time for work. He’d be at least a half hour late.
“Why me, Lord? I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to be a better father to this child you’ve blessed us with.” Then he remembered his early morning prayer. “I thought you’d keep me safe.”
As Ben gazed at the spot on the building where his office was, wishing he could teleport there, a large passenger plane came out of nowhere and slammed into the building, spewing fire and raining glass.
Ben stared open-mouthed at the sight. Within this life-changing instant his problems seemed microscopic. He figured his boss was dead and regretted spending time hating him rather than praying for him. He was both happy to be alive and ashamed of himself.
Despite his grumbling, God had given him a second chance. With shaking hands, Ben picked up his cell phone to call his wife.