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I’m lying abed in this small plaster-ceilinged bedroom I share with brother Ronny.

The time is longer ago than you might remember, or maybe even before you were born.


It is just after sunrise. I am slowly drifting back and forth between slumber and wakefulness. Dreams are fading into daydreams. Reality is creeping in to take over.

My ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s are turning into snorts, then into eyes wide open…

Downstairs, the Sunday newspaper comic strips await.

The comics are everything on Sunday morning. That’s where I learn what those ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s mean. They are shorthand for Sleeping Soundly.

When a comic strip cartoonist wants me to know that a character is asleep or dozing, a row of ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s informs me. When a cartoon bubble hovering above Little Orphan Annie’s head is dripping tiny closed circles, I know that this is what Annie is thinking, not what she is saying aloud. And so on.

But I’m lying here in my bunk bed, now fully awake but hoping that if I can visualize those ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s floating above my head, I can convince anyone peeking into the room that I am still asleep. Can’t they see the Z’s?

It doesn’t work, this attempt to make palpable a cartoonist’s Morse code. I try to pretend sleep, but sister Barbara opens the door a crack to call me to breakfast. “I see your eyelids moving. You’re awake!” she grins gleefully. I can never fool Barbara.

I swat away the floating ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s and dangle my feet over the side of the mattress. I’m on the top bunk, so part of becoming fully awake is the jolt to the system that I feel when I leap into the vast space between here and hardwood floor.

Time to pretend I’m awake for another day. Time to do little kid things that little kids do on Sunday mornings.

Time to find the Sunday paper and discover what Dagwood is doing—is he asleep on the couch under ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s? What about The Phantom—does he ever sleep? And Snuffy Smith? I know he knows all about Z’s, as does Pappy Yokum. As does brother Ronny on the bottom bunk. They are my kind of people.

To this day, many decades later, I envy those people, real-lifed and cartooned, who know how to catch a few ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s any time they please. Or at least any time their cartoonist so deems.

Or any time sister Barbara isn’t looking


© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.




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