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              The students at The Art Institute of Heavenburg were given two days off for Thanksgiving plus the weekend, a four-day break just in time to provide a brief respite before finals. But Paolo’s family lived too far away for a visit home to be worth the time and effort, especially with Christmas break only a few weeks out. Paolo had intended to spend Thanksgiving break on campus getting ahead on a few final projects, especially the enormous, grotesque collage he had begun with political intentions but which had recently taken a disturbing personal turn which he had finally decided to embrace. But then Chip, the roommate Paolo knew least of the three, had come back to the apartment after 11 p.m. on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, pulled a suitcase out of the hall closet, and thrown it open next to Paolo on the living room couch, ferrying clothing and toiletries to it from his room in many inefficient trips.

               “I thought you were already gone,” said Paolo.

               “Nope,” said Chip. “I thought you were already gone.” He was six inches taller than Paolo and wore his hair long and unbound.

               “I’m not leaving,” said Paolo.

               “You’re staying here for Thanksgiving?” asked Chip as he zipped his suitcase shut. There wasn’t much in it.

               “Yeah,” said Paolo. He didn’t want to go through the whole explanation.

               “You should come to my family’s house,” said Chip. “It’s just over in Multioak.”

               “How far is that?” asked Paolo.

               “Like an hour,” said Chip.

               “That’s OK,” said Paolo. “I was planning on getting some work done.”

               “You should come,” said Chip. “You’ll do better work if you get a few days’ rest. You’ll come back energized and inspired.”

               This point rang true to Paolo. Even though he had decided to embrace the disturbing personal turn his collage project had taken, deciding to embrace was not the same as embracing. It was just a preliminary step toward the eventual embrace. It was easier, for one, and less final. Maybe it would be best to step away from the collage for a while, get a change of scenery, ponder it in a new environment, and then return to view it with a fresh perspective. Then Paolo could embrace the collage’s disturbing personal turn. Or not!

               “So?” asked Chip. “You coming or not?”

               “Yeah, sure,” said Paolo. “I think I will come along with you. If you really don’t mind. And you don’t think your family will.”

               “No one will mind,” said Chip. “We’ll be asleep most of the time anyway.”

               “Sounds nice,” said Paolo. He lived in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation. “Your family is big on the Thanksgiving afternoon nap, huh?”

               “Oh yeah,” said Chip. “Big time. It’s the tryptophan.”

               “Is that the chemical in turkey that people say makes you tired?” asked Paolo.

               “Yes,” said Chip. “That’s it.”

               “I heard it’s in lots of other stuff too, though,” said Paolo. “And that you’d need way more than what you actually get from a few servings of turkey to make you fall asleep.”

               “That’s not accurate,” said Chip. “Get your stuff so we can go. Make sure you bring comfortable clothes.”

               Paolo went to his room, dumped his books out of his backpack, and filled it with clothes, all of them comfortable. He always preferred to wear comfortable clothes, and didn’t think that was strange.


               Paolo slept in his clothes in a borrowed sleeping bag on the floor of Chip’s bedroom, and was shocked to see that it was almost noon when Chip woke him up on Thanksgiving morning. It was the deepest sleep he’d had in months.

               “Dinner won’t be ready until 1:00 or later,” said Chip. “But I figured you might want to shower and change clothes and meet my family.”

               “Yeah, of course,” said Paolo. Other than a little stiffness in his back, he felt good bordering on great. Without the back stiffness, he would have felt great. He enjoyed his shower in the upstairs bathroom and put on a pair of comfortable jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt featuring a screen-printed illustration of a possum drawn by one of his friends at school, and thick gray hiking socks. Downstairs, Chip introduced Paolo to his dad, his mom, his older sister, his younger brother, and his sole surviving grandparent, a straight-backed elderly woman who told Paolo to call her “Late June.”

               Paolo didn’t ask the question, but Late June must have seen it on his face. She said, “You’re thinking that makes it sound like I’m dead.”

               “It does a little,” said Paolo.

               “It just means that my name is June and it’s now late in my life,” said Late June.

               “Is there an Early June?” asked Paolo.

               “There was,” said Late June. “But then I got old.”

               Chip’s mom called everyone into the dining room where the enormous rectangular table was set and laden with food. A circular dish of carved turkey divided into hemispheres of dark meat and white meat dominated the center of the table as favored sides crowded close in their idiosyncratic containers. So impressed was Paolo at the sight of this bounty that it took him a few moments to notice the small pillows on the table to the right-hand side of each plate. The pillow cases, covered in a colorful fallen-leaf print, matched the napkins.

               As everyone took their seats, Paolo asked what the pillows were for.

               “Do you not usually have turkey at Thanksgiving?” asked Chip’s brother, PJ.

               “No, I do,” said Paolo.

               “So you just rest your head right on the table?” asked PJ.

               “Why would I do that?” asked Paolo.

               “When you fall asleep,” said Tara, Chip’s older sister.

               “Why would I fall asleep?” asked Paolo.

               “From the tryptophan,” said Tara. “It’s a chemical in the turkey that makes people fall asleep.”

               “I’ve heard of tryptophan before,” said Paolo, recognizing that everyone at the table was now listening to him. “But I heard that it’s pretty common. It’s in lots of other stuff too. You would need a much larger amount than you get in a few servings of turkey to actually have any effect on you.”

               Chip’s family chuckled, even Late June.

               “He gave me this same speech before we came,” said Chip, earning another round of chuckles from his family. “I told him he was misinformed.”

               Chip’s dad shrugged. “Well, who knows? Maybe Paolo’s immune to tryptophan.”

               The chuckling turned a little derisive, Paolo thought. “Well, I’m not an expert or anything,” he said. “The food looks great, though.”

               “Agreed,” said Chip’s dad. “Let’s eat. But a quick tip, Paolo. If you’re especially excited about any particular side dish, make sure you try it before you eat your turkey. You know, on the off chance that you’re wrong. Wouldn’t want you to fall asleep before you can get a taste.”

               “Ha ha,” said Paolo. “OK.” He didn’t want to keep talking about the tryptophan and the pillows since it was pretty clear that everyone was against him, but he was starting to wonder if something more was going on, if something had been done to the turkey to make its sleep-inducing power more potent. But it seemed rude to ask, like it might be construed as an accusation. And as he watched Chip’s family pass the dishes around the table, everyone else was taking generous portions of turkey, both dark and white meat, so Paolo decided taking some for himself wouldn’t be too much of a risk. The worst case scenario seemed to be that he would be proven wrong, made drowsy by the turkey, and would take a little nap on the table along with everyone else, which didn’t seem like too grim of a fate. He would just be participating in Chip’s family tradition, strange though it seemed and skeptical though he was.

               The conversation around the table was relaxed and cheerful. Every family member seemed happy to be there and eager to chime in. Late June was quick-witted and everyone enjoyed her sharp opinions about extended family members, local politicians, and elderly acquaintances. Paolo ate a lot, sampling a little of each side along with turkey helpings of both white and dark meat. He was sopping leftover gravy from his plate with half of a dinner roll when PJ covered a yawn with a cupped hand, pushed his plate aside, arranged his pillow in front of him, laid his head upon it, and went to sleep. Paolo watched this display with interest, then looked around at the rest of Chip’s family.

               Chip’s mom smiled and said, “PJ’s got the right idea. You feeling it yet, Paolo? I know I am.” As she spoke, she pushed her plate aside and pulled her pillow into place just as PJ had done.

               “I’m not tired at all,” said Paolo. “But I got more sleep last night than I usually do.”

               “You don’t need to try to impress us,” said Chip’s dad, his eyelids drooping as he fluffed his pillow. There was still a half-eaten helping of potatoes on his plate as he pushed it away, clinking it against one of the two gravy boats.

               Late June’s head tilted upward until the back of her head came to rest on the back of her chair. “Tara,” said Chip’s mom as she put her arms around the pillow on the table and lowered her head onto it. “Put your grandma’s head on her pillow so she doesn’t wake up with a stiff neck.”

               Tara complied, gently easing Late June into place before turning her attention to her own pillow. On Paolo’s right, Chip raised a spoonful of green bean casserole toward his mouth with his eyes closed, but before he could deposit the food, the spoon trembled and fell from his hand with a clatter that caused his eyes to flicker open again.

               “Shh,” said Tara, and her shush faded seamlessly into the breathing of one asleep.

               “You’re not tired?” mumbled Chip as he cleared his pillow area with the slow, clumsy movements of the groggy.

               “Not at all,” whispered Paolo.

               “You will be,” said Chip. “Soon.” He was down, now, the right side of his face sinking into his pillow, the fallen-leaf print swallowing half of his facial features as the remaining half slackened.

               “I don’t know about that,” said Paolo. “How long do you usually sleep? How long is the nap?”

               “A few…” said Chip. He snorted and cleared his throat.

               “A few what?” asked Paolo.

               Chip mumbled something incoherent.

               “What should I do while I wait for you all to wake up?” asked Paolo.

               No one answered. Everyone was asleep except for him.


               Paolo stayed at the table for another ten minutes waiting for someone to stir, waiting for drowsiness to descend upon him, allowing himself another small helping of sweet potato casserole. Eventually, though, the atmosphere turned eerie. He began to feel like the only survivor of a poisoned banquet, the dead pitched forward onto their faces all around him. Chip’s family wasn’t dead, of course. Paolo could hear them breathing, occasionally stirring or smacking their lips; PJ began to snore. But even so, the sleepers collectively made Paolo feel as if he had been left behind, stuck on the mundane mortal plane while they winged off to some pleasant flavor of afterlife.

               Paolo scooted his chair back from the table and stood. He considered nudging Chip on the shoulder, but no, that wouldn’t be right. Chip had told Paolo about his family’s intention to nap after dinner. Just because Chip hadn’t mentioned that the nap would occur on the table, did that give Paolo the right to interrupt? Probably not. Paolo needed to be patient, to let them celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way. He retired to the living room, flopped down on the couch, and began a slow perusal of various social media platforms on his phone. Part of him wanted to leave, but who could he call for a ride? He knew no one else in Multioak, he was an hour away from campus, and no one who might have been willing to give him a ride was on campus anyway. They were all at their own families’ gatherings, or, like him, stuck at other families’ gatherings.

               Outside, the day was both bright and cold with a steady wind that rattled dead leaves across any hard surface it could find. The curtains in the living room picture window were open and a square of focused sunlight lay across the couch like an afghan where Paolo sat. He was warm, he was wearing comfortable clothes, the couch was itself comfortable, and he had just eaten a large, satisfying meal. A meal in which at least one of the courses had contained tryptophan, which, well, it certainly seemed to have an effect on Chip’s family. Why wasn’t Paolo tired? Why was he not remotely sleepy? It was because he had slept too well on Chip’s bedroom floor the previous night. After any other night of the last few years – especially any other night of the last few months – Paolo would have been as sleepy as anyone else in the house. Sleepier. He would have been the sleepiest of all. And while he doubted his ability to sleep sitting in a dining room chair with his head on a small pillow next to the plate from which he had just eaten, surely he would have found his present circumstances on the couch amenable to a good doze, at least.

               But no, he was wide awake. Paolo returned to the dining room and stood behind PJ at the foot of the table with his hands on his hips, again surveying the scene. He did not notice any changes since he had last seen the sleeping family. Well, if he wasn’t going to be able to participate in their nap, the least he could do was be a good guest. He set to work clearing the table, not trying to wake Chip or his family with the sounds of dishware lightly colliding, but also not trying to not wake them. If Paolo happened to wake one or some or all of Chip’s family while performing this service for them, then so be it. They couldn’t be mad at him for making noise if he was doing so because he was cleaning up the entire Thanksgiving dinner mess all by himself as a guest.

               They didn’t wake up, though. Not one of them. Not even when, in search of containers in which to store leftovers, Paolo caused an avalanche of plastic cups from a high cabinet in the kitchen. Even he was not certain how intentional it was. Could he have reacted faster? Probably. But it didn’t matter; the noise woke no one. Paolo put all of the cups that had made it as far as the floor into the dishwasher along with everything else. Having finally found a cupboard of containers and their accompanying lids, he stashed the leftovers in the fridge. He even wiped down the dining room table, gliding damp paper towels around the pillows and heads and arms of Chip’s family. When he was finished cleaning up, Paolo was not tired. A nap sounded enticing only in theory. His body, though, was actively rejecting the idea, and Paolo knew an attempt to force one would only result in a bitter train of thought emerging from the tunnel of his frustration in a cloud of black coal-smoke.

               Better to wander the house. He had snooped in the kitchen in order to clean up the dinner remains, had he not? Benevolent snooping. Which now eased Paolo’s way into the less benevolent kind of snooping for which the goal was entertainment, or to hasten the passage of time with distraction. He would not, he told himself, do anything creepy according to his standards. He would not look in dresser drawers or open closets. He would not go through medicine cabinets. He would not do that kind of stuff. He would simply wander and see what caught his eye. For example, were he to find a framed diploma in Chip’s dad’s office (if Chip’s dad had an office), he might read that diploma. Or he might turn his head sideways in order to better peruse the spines of books on a shelf. Or he might look at a family photo from a vacation from five years ago and note the physical changes in each of those pictured whom he had today met.

               Paolo decided to begin upstairs and wander his way down. He concentrated on tuning his mind to a receptive frequency, preparing it to be engaged by an experience of minimal natural allure. Barring an unforeseen discovery or two, Paolo knew he was going to need to find interest in the unfamiliarly quotidian if this activity were to have any hope of occupying him. If he set his expectations even one notch too high, he’d be right back on the couch and cursing his good night’s sleep in a matter of minutes.

               He climbed the stairs to the second floor of the house and began in Chip’s room, which seemed the least like a violation. Some of Chip’s high school paintings were tacked to the wall over his bed. They showed little of the promise that had gotten him accepted to The Art Institute of Heavenburg. Paolo wondered how old the paintings were. Maybe they were the work of a 7th-grader. If so, then Paolo was impressed. But if Chip had painted these in high school, then no, not impressive. Paolo was boring himself. He knew better than to check the time on his phone. He was sure less time had passed than he felt. Maybe wandering into a different room would be more diverting, a room belonging to someone less like himself.

               Paolo followed the hall to the end and the door to the master bedroom where he assumed Chip’s parents stayed. But upon opening the door he found that while it was the master bedroom – at least twice as big as Chip’s room – it did not belong to Chip’s parents, but rather to PJ. The master bedroom was PJ’s! The posters, the scattered clothing, the video game detritus, the empty energy drink cans: all hallmarks of a young teenage boy’s living space. Paolo’s excitement at this discovery flared, flickered, faded, and was finished. It was too pathetic to live. He could not fool himself into being pleasantly scandalized at finding out that Chip’s younger brother had been granted the master bedroom. This was not an interesting family. Or rather, the only thing interesting about them was that they were all asleep at the table while Paolo was not.

               How long were Chip and his family going to sleep? “A few…” what? How had Chip intended to finish that sentence? A few minutes? A few hours? A few days? Paolo thought back to the night Chip had invited him for Thanksgiving. “We’ll be asleep most of the time anyway.” That’s what Chip had said. Paolo had taken it as an exaggeration intended to communicate how relaxing the celebration would be. But what if Chip had intended it exactly as he’d said it? What if his family was really so susceptible to the tryptophan in turkey meat that they would all be in chemically-induced comas until Sunday? But wouldn’t that be dangerous? Couldn’t they die of dehydration?

               Paolo didn’t realize his worries had carried him back downstairs until he arrived again at the dining room. Chip’s family slept on. At what point would lack of water become dangerous? It seemed to Paolo as if they had all done this before, so surely they knew the risks. Maybe the fact that they hadn’t taken any precautions against dehydration meant that they weren’t planning on sleeping for a few days. It must have been “hours.” That’s how Chip had meant to finish his answer. He’d meant to say that he’d be asleep for a few hours. Paolo suppressed the urge to call 911. Chip’s family was asleep and he was not. Why was that so troubling for him? He suffered from insomnia. Surely an insomniac should be used to being awake while other people were asleep. The only differences were the fact that it was happening during daylight and he was in someone else’s house. Not a big deal. No reason to freak out.

               “I’ll just watch TV until you wake up,” said Paolo to the unconscious family. He went into the kitchen, filled six glasses to the brim with water, and set them in front of each of the sleepers. That way if they were dying of thirst when they woke up, their salvation would be close at hand. Courtesy, again, of Paolo, their guest. It was probably for the best that the tryptophan hadn’t had any effect on him. If it had, the leftovers would have sat out, the food remnants would have solidified on the plates, there wouldn’t be glasses of water at the ready whenever people started to wake up. There would be no one to watch over the sleepers. What if a burglar broke in? What if the house caught fire and there was no one to drag their limp forms onto the front lawn, arranging them for the emergency workers by either height or age? What if the heater stopped working and there was no one to drape blankets over them and build a small fire in the center of the table so they wouldn’t freeze, their dead eyelashes frosted white? Paolo walked around the table and patted each sleeping member of Chip’s family on the back. “Rest easy,” he said. “I’m looking out for you.”

               In the living room, the square of light coming through the window had moved to the far wall. So time had been passing. More of a herky-jerky passing than a smooth one, but nonetheless. Paolo returned to the couch and picked up the TV remote. He wasn’t a big TV-watcher, but if it was an effective time-killer for some, perhaps it could at least maim some time for him. But as he pointed the remote at the TV, Paolo noticed another painting hanging on the wall just behind it. This painting was more recognizable as the work of the artist that Chip now was. It was abstract. And violent, but flippantly so. Seeing it reminded Paolo of his collage back at school and how he had justified this trip by allowing himself to believe that he would return to his work reinvigorated. That reinvigoration now seemed unlikely. Not because he wasn’t napping right now, but because he couldn’t see any sleep on the horizon either. There was only so much sleep to go around and Chip’s family was hogging all of it. There wasn’t any left for Paolo. They had shared their home, their hospitality, their food. Paolo had even gotten a taste of their sleep, one hearty swig, just enough to know what he was missing. And now look what had happened to him: he’d gone from guest to domestic hireling. And when he got back to his collage, would he be in any kind of state to embrace its turn from the political to the disturbingly personal? Or even to reject the personal turn with confidence and forge ahead with his original political intent? No. There was no way. He set the remote on the coffee table and returned to the dining room.

               “Wake up!” he shouted. He pounded the table with his fist causing small waves in the glasses of water to splash over their rims and puddle around their bases.

               No one woke up. It was their home and they could do what they liked. They could meekly surrender to the soporific power of tryptophan for as long as they wanted, and what harm could befall them? A question they didn’t even think to ask because the answer was so obvious. They didn’t even know what they were doing to Paolo. They were oblivious. They were in dreamland and they assumed he was there too. They had laughed when he had speculated about it not being accessible to him. Paolo looked at Chip’s sleeping family with his arms folded across his chest and fumed. He knew that these wild emotional swings were not rational, but he was conscious and this was what being conscious was like. This was classic consciousness, and Paolo was all too familiar with it.

               In a drawer in the kitchen, Paolo found a black magic marker. He drew on Chip first, little dots and scribbles and blobs on the backs of his hands, up his fingers and across his wrists along the edges of his sleeves. Then he drew on Chip’s neck, the cheek not buried in the pillow, what he could access of Chip’s forehead. All Chip had to do to prevent it was wake up, but he didn’t, of course. He wouldn’t. Paolo drew on PJ next, then Tara, then Chip’s mom, then Chip’s dad. He experimented with different styles on each person. Tara had turned out the best so far, he thought, but when he prepared to draw on Late June, the potential consequences of what he was doing struck him and he threw the magic marker away from himself in a fit of regret. Then he hurried through each of the house’s three bathrooms until he had assembled a bucket of warm, soapy water and a few clean washcloths.

               Paolo set to work on Chip first, scrubbing vigorously at the drawings on his exposed skin. The scrubbing didn’t wake Chip, and it didn’t fully erase the marker from his body. After 15 minutes of work, the shadows of Paolo’s prank, if that’s what it had been, were still faintly visible on Chip’s hands and face. But Paolo needed to move on, he needed to clean the rest of the family as best he could before the drawings set in. After another hour and a half of work, including a return to Chip once he had refined his technique, Paolo decided he had done all he could do and gave up. In the right light and from a distance of ten feet or so, he didn’t think someone would notice the drawings on the faces of Chip’s family. The drawings on their hands and arms were more obvious since he had focused his washing on their faces. The stronger evidence of his decisions over the last two hours was the family’s scoured-red skin. He wondered if they would feel soreness when they finally awoke. Maybe, if they were still asleep the following morning, Paolo would give them another scrubbing, maybe with a coarser cloth. He was glad he hadn’t written anything obscene or insulting on Chip’s family like he had seen done to blacked-out kids at the two fraternity parties he’d been to.

               What could Paolo do to make up for the magic marker incident? Cleaning up the dinner and providing the glasses of water was probably not enough. Did Chip’s family hang Christmas lights after Thanksgiving? Paolo knew that his own father hated wrestling with the ladder, sliding around on the roof, trying to keep the strings of lights untangled while the wind whipped at him and Paolo’s mom yelled that something didn’t look right.

               There were no Christmas decorations in the garage, nor in the shed in the back yard that Paolo investigated in his socks. He went upstairs and looked for a pull-down door leading to an attic, but couldn’t find one. Paolo decided Chip’s family must keep their decorations in a storage unit somewhere in town. Did that mean his plan had failed? He didn’t think so. Chip’s car was in the driveway, his keys were on the desk in his room. Paolo just needed to find information about the storage unit, which was probably in a drawer somewhere in the house. He would go through all the drawers until he found the storage unit information or evidence that the Christmas decorations were actually somewhere else.

               Paolo paused at the top of the stairs and thought. Was he going too far? Was this plan foolish? What if he strung up the lights wrong and ended up creating more work for Chip’s dad because he had to take them down and then re-hang them properly? Preoccupied with his uncertainty, Paolo stepped out an inch too far as he began his descent and his heel slipped off of the edge of the first step and sent his feet out from under him. As he fell down the stairs, Paolo’s head bounced off of the steps, the wall, and the railing, each blow hammering him further into darkness until he came to rest two-thirds of the way down and felt, at last, a sense of community and acceptance, a familial belonging, for he was asleep.


               When he woke up, Paolo did not know how much time had passed. It did not seem much later based on the quality of light in the house. Even in his woozy state, he knew not to check the time on his phone. It would not be as late as he wanted it to be. It never was. He took stock of his injuries and was relieved to discover that nothing was broken. Although if something had been broken, a 911 call would have been fully justified, and maybe the EMTs would know some good medical reason to wake Chip’s family immediately and would have the means to do so. Something to counter the tryptophan. An anti-tryptophanic smelling salt, or put it right into a syringe and right into their necks.

               In the dining room, Paolo gazed at the sleepers in bleak silence. He had been with them for a minute or two. He hadn’t been aware of it, but that had made it even better. The residue of that glimpse lingered in his body. He went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, popped the lid off of the turkey leftovers, and began to devour them cold. White meat, dark meat, it didn’t matter which. But no, nothing. He was not sleepy, not even moving in that direction, not even leaning that way. He closed his eyes and tensed his neck muscles, clenched his jaw as if to force the tryptophan into his brain, but it only made his aching head ache worse. How had Chip’s family come to be so vulnerable to this innocuous chemical? What sort of charmed history had their ancestors lived to render their brains so responsive to such a mild incursion?

               Paolo was not built that way. He was built like a normal person: defensive, resistant, alert. But he was smart, too. He could overcome these strengths with strength.

               In the garage, Paolo found the hammer he’d stumbled across while searching for the Christmas decorations. He carried it into the house, sat down at his place at the dining room table, and arranged his pillow in front of him. Then he took the hammer in both hands, held it in front of him with the face pointed at his own forehead, and with every ounce of force in his wide-awake arms, beaned himself between the eyes.


               When Paolo awoke this time, his head throbbed in true agony. With blurred vision, he saw that Chip was eating breakfast next to him at the table. Paolo lifted his head and saw that the rest of the family was there too, eating waffles, drinking juice, smiling at him.

               “What day is it?” asked Paolo.

               “It’s Sunday morning, sleepy-head,” said Late June. “Almost 11:00. The rest of us have been up since 9:00.”

               The family chuckle was back. Everyone indulged except Paolo.

               The glasses of water Paolo had set out for the family were gone. He could not focus his eyes well enough to discern if the drawings on the family’s skin were visible or not. There was no mention of the clean-up, of the leftovers he’d saved.

               “And you said you might be immune to tryptophan,” said Chip’s dad. “You out-slept all of us.”

               Paolo touched two fingers to the wound on his forehead, and gasped in pain. The skin was split open and his fingers came away red. He knew it must look grotesque, but no one appeared to notice. He looked down at the pillow and saw that it was soaked with blood. He looked around for the hammer and saw that it had fallen on the floor next to his chair. “It wasn’t the tryptophan,” said Paolo.

               “Oh, now, don’t be like that,” said Chip’s mom. “You can admit it.”

               The pain in Paolo’s head was birthing a little nausea in his stomach. He held his palms against his temples and closed his eyes. Beneath the suffering, he spotted the departing gleam of what he’d sought and what he’d had.

               “Don’t you feel energized and inspired?” asked Chip around a mouthful of yolky egg. “I always wake up after Thanksgiving ready to create.”

               “I just want to sleep,” said Paolo. But he knew he shouldn’t. He’d read somewhere that with a head injury like his, even a nap could be deadly.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you know of any couples who have ceded their master bedroom to one of their children? If so, why did they do that? Was the child blackmailing them?

  • The prospect of being drawn on while asleep horrifies me. How could this statement be turned into a compelling discussion question?

  • Do you believe in the soporific power of tryptophan and bring it up whenever possible to the delight of all? OR do you disbelieve in the soporific power of tryptophan and bring it up whenever possible to the delight of all?

  • What’s the polite amount of sleep to allot to a guest during holiday nap time?

  • How long do you believe you could nap after a nice Thanksgiving meal before dying of dehydration?