By Keith Hoerner
PROMPT—No one noticed ...
When I was a kid, I would sleepwalk. I remember having a recurring dream. Today, it seems to be such a mature dream, intuitive and analogous for a boy of about eight years old. I dreamt I sliced an orange. And nature would whisper to me that when one slices an orange, it displays 13 sections. Always 13. Only 13.
But the orange I sliced had one section more—or less.
I would begin to sleepwalk, the gauze masking Lazarus’ eyes bound tight around my own—making me maneuver the furniture in our house as if by radar, blindly gliding past hard corners and pointy objects.
My siblings, Mom, and Dad were used to my meanderings. I would find a presence, sense a group of my brothers and sisters as they sat watching Johnny Carson hee hawing at his stand-up comedy routine. I would stand there, mumbling, asking them for help in a language only the desperate can understand.
“Why,” I’d ask simply, pleadingly. “Why is my orange different? Why am I different?”
I would feel an arm drag me to the side or a kick in the butt almost take me to my knees.
“Go to bed, Keith!”
“Stop blocking the TV.”
“Mom, Keith’s at it again...”
A hand, assuredly my sister, my surrogate mother, Kathleen, would gently guide me on my precarious walk back to the orange grove and the knowledge even then, on some subconscious level, that all was not right with me; something was wrong, because my surroundings told me so. I was witness to Mom’s beatings on Kathleen. Just a kid, I was already sensing the dread to be caught up in Mom’s manic moods. I had begun wetting the bed and being punished sarcastically by Mom on each occurrence. And the dream came slice after slice after slice.
One night, it took me to the place of the big “orange ball” we kids played with ... when around two in the morning, my twin, Kenny awoke and went looking for me, finding me standing at the free-throw line staring blankly at the basketball hoop in our backyard.
I would surely shoot and miss.
I relate still to this image, me standing outside in the dead of night, head cocked slightly upward, blind eyes unlit by a phantom moon, while my mind connected stars like dots, hoping to map out the answer to my riddle through some astrological means. I could sense the half-horse, half-man archer, Sagittarius, lull me in my trance with the moral principles and laws of the universe ... pointing his bow and arrow in the direction I was to follow, however far, however near.
Keith Hoerner lives, teaches, and pushes words around and in Southern Illinois. A survivor of child maltreatment, he no longer sleepwalks, but still looks to the night sky for direction. His memoir, The Day the Sky Broke Open, was published in April, 2021. Keith writes from Murphysboro, Illinois.