“A train runs through it,” my Realtor explained, “but these track-side tract homes are chic. The train brings the quaint noise of country life. You won’t even hear it after a few months.”

So far, the past eight months have been the longest “few months” of my life. I’ve been told I’m a bit gullible. That might be why I’m not a prison chaplain. I’d probably be in the warden’s office each week, saying, “Honest warden, I believe him this time. I’m sure he didn’t do it.”

I think gullible people sleep better and maybe that’s why I’ve been sleeping well lately. Of course, it helps that I have a pillow over my head, 4-inch foam in the window and a white-noise machine playing a babbling brook. Oh yeah, the sleeping pills seem helpful, too.

Still, on occasion, my sleep can be interrupted by a bad dream. My theory is that vivid dreams can be prompted by winter chills, so it doesn’t help that I’m one blanket short this winter. (See previous columns on dog’s aging bladder.)

My bad dream begins with a blissful melodic train rumbling through the countryside. At first, the whistle serenades me, but as the train approaches, the harmony transposes into a minor key. I resist it. I accuse it. I threaten it. I command it. I try to control it, but still it comes.

Now faster, the train morphs into a menacing tornado threatening to upheave my pastoral dreamscape. Walls are collapsing. I’m spinning through a whirlpool of nightmarish darkness that lures me yet deeper. I’m suffocating in a silo flooding with grain. My lungs are being robbed of their screams when, suddenly, a voice pierces my dark place.

“Norris. Norris.”

I’m not alone. My wife is here. It sounds like her loving voice or is it a voice of deception — fear’s double agent.


Her voice is urgent and synchronized with rhythmic strokes over my furrowed brow. Her hand shapes empathy and healing like a potter at her wheel.

One more call.


It’s like a jackhammer breaking the last wall of rock separating trapped cavers from rescuers. Hot, stale air is quickly exchanged for a cooling breath. My silo shatters and the walls peel back as a deluge of cascading light dilutes my darkness.

Finally, my rescuer draws my hand to her face and the warmth of her compassion compels my fright to melt. It’s 3 a.m. I burst through the dream’s deep waters like a whale breaching the ocean surface. I’m drawn to the silhouette of her body formed from the heat of her aura.

Lying on my side, our hands clasp over her heart as if to confirm our mutual pledge of 23 years. There, in the cavity of a benevolent heart, she creates a peace that returns me to the rewards of sleep.

With the morning alarm, I recall the nocturnal struggles.

“Thanks for being so sweet last night.” She responds on cue with a painfully amnesiac look.

“Oh, did you have a bad dream?”

“Yes,” I confirm, familiar with her twilight amnesia.

“You were sweet.”

“Oh, I’m glad, but I’m sorry I don’t remember. What did you dream about?”

“Not sure I remember.”

“That’s nice,” she says, as she rolls over to await the snooze alarm. The passing nightmare and the love expressed feels like the exchange described in the Song of Solomon 2:10 between the writer and his lover.

“Rise up, my love, my fair one. And come away. For lo, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the Earth. And the time of singing has come.”

Later, after my “winter is past,” she’ll ask if I was hurt by her lack of total recall.

No, I’m not offended, because I know I have a wife who has so much love to give that she easily gives it away in her sleep. Besides, whatever dreams may come, I also know a train will most certainly run through it.

I just have one remaining problem — the sound machine. Since I started playing that babbling brook, it seems like I’m making a few extra midnight bathroom trips.

You think that might be my dog’s problem too?