Insomnia is awful. I have been having trouble sleeping, even before I was sent off to self-quarantine upstairs last week (a lovely little coronavirus scare to keep me on my toes), and so I couldn’t employ my go-to coping mechanism of going into work at 2:30 in the morning and writing, whether it be one of these posts—which I know have been few and far between—or any of the panoply of novels, short stories, or legal articles that I begin only to get distracted by another idea or topic like a young racoon chancing upon his first shiny bauble. (Apologies for the Faulkner-length sentence.) It sucks. (There, some Hemingway to balance it out.)
As a consequence of my insomnia, I got out of bed, perfunctorily showered, and dressed for work. I must have been feeling a bit plucky, because I chose a golf shirt rather than a button down and a tie. (Mind you, I haven’t seen an actual client in months, but I like to keep up appearances.) My office is both a greenhouse (on account of all of the plants) and a meat locker (on account of the schizophrenic/bipolar air conditioning in the building). I throw on a sweatshirt, thinking nothing of the embroidered “University of Florida Law School” emblem just over my heart. This, it turns out, in hindsight, and with the gift of retrospection, was somewhat of an error in judgment.
I tiptoe out of the bedroom, lest I wake Anna, get in my car, and realize that I still have the ambient music playing that was supposed to lull me to blissful sleep. (Lies.) Let me tell you what—if you have never experienced cellos and formerly-soft synthesizers decibel levels higher than front row at a Kiss concert, because the last music you played was Social Distortion unnaturally loudly, because you were at the office until 9:30 working on an appellate brief, because the boss is a procrastinator. But I digress.
I arrived at the gas station to get my coffee, as I am wont to do. I always enjoy getting to the gas station before 3:00, because that is, apparently, when the shift change for the sheriff’s office happens. So here I am, likely with a caked line of drool down my chin, at 2:45 in the morning, in the company of seven large deputies.
“Morning guys,” I say, recognizing some of them from my previous pre-3:00 AM trips. In unison, almost as if they had trained for this exact moment, they all nod at me slightly, in sort of an acknowledgment that yes, I may pass without incident.
Unfortunately, they were bogarting the coffee station, and I did not feel like further disturbing them (the nods were enough), and so I made my way to my old crutch—the energy drink. I bought one (read three) and before the door to the cooler even shut, one of the employees, who is a bit slow on the uptick, approaches me, rather sheepishly, I might add. I think nothing of it until Carl opens his stubbly lips.
“Do I remember you saying you were a lawyer?”
Shit. Why am I my mother’s son, who must make friends with everyone? Damn you cordiality.
“That’s right,” I say with a smile on my face, which was 67% genuine, which counts for something.
Carl proceeds to tell me that he inherited a bar from his mother. (Let me tell you, this context made Carl’s character a whole lot rounder and believable in the pantomime that was my pre-dawn frolic and detour to get coffee.) We go through the steps of recording of a promissory note (there’s really only one step…you hand it to the clerk and pay $5), and I thank God I took the Virginia Bar as well as Florida’s, because in Virginia, the sadists they are, the Bar examiners test secured transactions. Without that knowledge, I would have been lost.
Carl shakes my hand, genuinely appreciative, and I feel a bit schmucky for my inner monologue being so glib. With Carl satisfied I make my way up to the counter with my one (read three) energy drink, and that is where I meet Kyle. Kyle is about seven and a half feet tall and not narrow. (I happen to be a subject matter expert in want of narrowness.) I hand my drinks to Kyle, he scans them, but before the kindly, pasty young ogre hands them back to me, I apparently must pay a toll or solve a riddle.
“You went to UF Law?” he asks, staring at my chest.
I look down and see that this, indeed, is my post-grad sweatshirt. Shit again.
“Yep.” Ok, now give me the drink, I think to myself. Transaction complete. I don’t need my receipt. I don’t need to show ID (or empathy). Give. Me. The. Drink. And then Kyle says the single most unexpected thing I have heard in some time.
“Is it illegal to steal ducks from the park?”
“What’s that?” I ask genuinely. Yep, wasn’t ready for that one. Hell, perhaps the ambient music worked, and I am dreaming.
“Ducks. From the county park. Is it illegal to take them? I mean, they’re just sitting right there.” They’re just sitting right there. That sentence will be etched in my brain until I take my last breath.
I crane my neck to look Kyle straight in his duck-thieving eyes, and I tell him that if he has to use the word “steal” it’s probably not a good idea. In my most judicious voice, I tell him that I would advise against it.
In the back of my mind, though, I’m thinking to myself. Well, hell, if your lumbering butt can catch a duck, it’s yours. Abscond with the sucker. I guarantee you that no one’s going to believe the provenance of that duck when you tell them the story of how you, with agility and aplomb, caught a duck with your bare hands at the park.
And then I think to myself, is it really any less conceivable than what has happened to me in the last seven minutes?
But seriously, insomnia.