Off the Shelf
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It Was Late

It was late, but she was still awake.  Her mother had long since put her to bed and gone to sleep, but she was still awake.  She crawled out of bed and tiptoed gingerly down the stairs.  She didn’t turn on any lights, not wanting her mother to find her out of bed.  She remembered to be especially careful on the last stair; it was creaky, and her mother’s bedroom door was only a few feet away.  Walking quietly into the living room, she curled up in a blanket on the couch and sat motionless watching the front door.  She did not sleep but just sat and waited.  The gentle glow of the street lamps wafted in through the windows, settling on her quiet form.

It was late for him, too.  Later, in fact, if only because he had gone to sleep the last three nights after everyone else, and had woken up before they’d risen in the mornings.  Later, because the majority of the sleep he had gotten in those three days had come in the form of a few furtive catnaps on the couch in his office between cases.  He was exhausted.  When he came home, he too did not turn on any lights, not wanting to disturb his sleeping family.  But by the street light’s glow he saw her sitting on the couch, waiting.  She looked asleep, but when he went to pick her up, to carry her to her room, she wrapped her arms around him.


He folded her up in his arms, and just as quietly as she had tiptoed down the stairs, he walked with her back into the hall.

“I’m not tired.”

He went into the den, where his favorite chair was.  It was the chair where he liked to do crosswords in the evening that he hadn’t been able to finish at breakfast, and where he would read his journals and newspaper.  He set her down at the foot of the chair, and turned on the soft lamp next to it before settling into the comfortable seat.

She glowed.  One of her toys was nearby, and she picked it up.  She played, much the same as she had played when she had gotten home from school that day, in front of the same chair.  But it was different now.  A slow smile creased his lips, and crinkled the corners of his eyes.  They half shut.  He desperately needed to sleep, but she was playing.  She did not go on too long; she could see that his heart was fighting a losing battle against his heavy eyelids.  She put down her toy and crawled into his lap.  She nestled her tiny feet next to his on the stool, and tucked her head beneath his chin.  He wrapped one arm around her, and breathed deeply.

It was late.  And they slept.

Mark Kashtan Mark Kashtan (3 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Medical College of Wisconsin

Mark was born and raised in Sacramento, California and grew up backpacking in the High Sierras, a place from which he still draws inspiration. He attended college at UC Berkeley before heading east to study medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He has an older brother, also in medicine, and two dogs that live back home with his parents, a retired vascular surgeon and registered nurse. He wants to be a pediatric surgeon when he grows up.