We have heard of binges: sleep-eating, sleep-driving, the result of grandiose moods. Well, all these can be explained away; they are part of the larger underlying grandiosity that is the Town of Slumber itself. This place appears neither wakeful nor somnolent (nor is it completely filled with creaky rope-beds or cloudy white eiderdown feather-beds). In fact, the Town of Slumber has some being simply from a few fundamental lacks that counter its wild egotism. Yes, everyone’s chin is set, everyone’s noticed the orchard-keeper in his coral robe, but everyone also makes careful note of the tens of thousands of books that must be organized, packed into boxes, and shipped. The state of the books is a lack: they lack packing, they lack situational congruence. Yet the packing methods to be used are so controversial, so slippery and contentious. There are cultural protocols and mores. Endless meetings to plan what one does and to do battle over it all. One doesn’t pack Jane Austen with Madame de Stael. The few Emily Dickinson fascicles bound with green thread rather than brown are coveted and believed to bring luck to the box in which they are shipped. There are personality clashes: Don’t let Mike the Mind cross Eric the Erd’s path in the packing process, for Mike and Eric have their own subset of communicative hand gestures, signs, looks, anagrammed text messages. They are huge pals when happy and furious when angry. When most joyful they play practical jokes, sometimes very involved ones with dry ice and smoke powders, in the large, tumblingly large rooms we all inhabit and that give onto one another until you scarcely know when you are about to blunder into some symbolic game using large ceramic spheres to indicate tendency of mind and then to roll the spheres along the ground to create allées that gesture like a long pointing arm toward your distribution center and incidentally run over your apples and peaches. Or peaches or apples. Sometimes the allées lead to disaster: a horse track, ruined races, cracked ceramic spheres, random apples and peaches to do the rest of bringing horse and rider down. The lacks. The residents are not unhappy about them, exactly; it is unfortunate, no doubt, but to trace the causal chain back…is it the fault of the box-packers? The alleée-creators? The orchard-keeper? Horses ruined, fresh fruit ruined, boxes filled with books but unshipped, ceramic balls cracked or lost. And not one of the original gamers persists after it has been made clear that the spheres are rolling where they listeth. Everyone backs away, disavowing real or imagined part, and in this way deepen the lacks of the poor Town: they raise hands that round the sphere-paths into tunnels in which we all fall into half-sleep under eiderdown, hearing the soft medieval creak of the rope-beds, feeling the wheels of our beds begin to turn and then turn more quickly until we are racing through enormous halls redolent of the smoke of recent explosions.
Danielle Alexander lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, where she watches the marsh and thinks about shipwrecks.