Friday night was almost unbearable. Sleep was a gazillion miles away, give or take a few parsecs. I lay on sotted, sopping sheets sweating like a racehorse after a 5-mile jog and shaking so badly you could have used me as a cuisinart. Whenever I closed my eyes, movies played on the theater of my eyelids, movies about pit-wolves with huge, razor-sharp fangs dripping with blood – my blood – and marriages to black widow spiders with huge, razor-sharp pincers dripping with blood – my blood – and trophies that came to life sporting huge, razor-sharp needles dripping with – Well, you get the drift. It was horrific, worse than being down front at a Britney Spears concert.

What am I saying? It was worse than being down front at a concert featuring Britney Spears, Barry Manilow, and Kenny G playing Beethoven’s Third Symphony on, respectively, a nose flute, a zither, and a pair of Xavier Cougat’s cast-off timbales.

Morning came slowly, and when at last the sun rose it was blood red, the sky dripping with– I sat up with a jolt. I had to stop this. I was working myself into a state of marginal panic. No, strike that. I was working myself into a state of flat-out, full-bore, all-cylinders-pumping panic. All that blood and gore was sapping my strength, weakening my resolve, and ruining my sheets. Get a grip on yourself, I said to myself, as if I were someone else (which was at that moment my dearest wish – an Eskimo, say, or Marv Alpert, which shows you how far gone I was). I tried to tell myself there was hope but I knew I was lying (which demonstrates how difficult a 2-way conversation can be when only one of you is in the room).

With the sun up at last, I went into the kitchen and made pancakes with peanut butter. I didn’t eat them. I made coffee with the shards of a broken cup. I didn’t drink it. For all I know, I hung a string of bowling balls from the ceiling and played pin-the-tail-on-the-wapiti. I don’t remember. My entire being was subsumed with the consideration and visualization of the forthcoming catastrophe, the impending cataclysm, the imminent doom, the blazing, boisterous bathysphere of blood and–

“Stop it,” I said out loud just as Aunt Harriet wandered into the kitchen in search of her morning beaker of boiled baby seals and bunny brains barbecued in bloody– “Stop it,” I said again.

“Stop what?” she asked. “Are you talking to me?”

“No,” I mumbled.

“Then who on earth are you talking to?”

“The Angel of Death,” I said gloomily.

“The what of what?” she asked, rattling a cup against her saucer so that it rang like that bell you shouldn’t bother to ask who it’s for, buster, it’s for you.

“I’m telling you,” I said patiently to show her how I was bearing my final life-trial – for which she was responsible – stoically and without bitterness or audible complaint. “The Angel of Death sits on my shoulder and weeps for all of doomed humanity.”

“Are you cracked all the way around or just in the front?” she asked, chopping an orange in half with something that looked like the Black Knight’s broadax, only bigger. “What in the name of St Agnes of Moorehead are you gibbering about?”

“I am NOT ‘gibbering’,” I said, stung to the quick. “I am ruminating, philosophizing, meditating on the very deepest meanings of life and death as I stand on the brink of– What in the name of St Norman of Mailer’s pet pug Pinkerton have you got on?”

“What?” She looked down at herself. “What happened? Did I spill something?”

“That,” I said, pointing and shading my shattered eyes from the horror. “That thing you’re wearing.”

“What?” she asked again, pretending to be puzzled. “You mean my bathrobe?”

“Is that what it is? My gawd. It looks like something Elvis threw out after Buddy and Jerry Lee had a puking contest on it. It’s awful. It’s so awful it raises the ante on awful to the house limit.”

“You don’t like it?”

“Don’t like it? You ask me if I don’t like it? Is that what you asked?”

“I thought it was. Maybe I’m wrong….”

“Beloved aunt, light of my waning life and bane of all you survey, it isn’t that I don’t like it. I hate it. I loathe, despise, abhor and abominate it. It is the single most awful thing I’ve seen since Nancy Reagan wore her old table-cloth tied with a Wal-Mart ribbon to the Second Inaugural Ball and told Bill Safire it was a Givenchy just so she could watch him swallow his own adam’s-apple pretending to believe her. If you sent that bathrobe to Bathrobe Hell, you’d have to give it its own room for fear the rest of the customers would flee the joint as soon as they clapped eyes on it. It is a monstrosity. It does not deserve a place in polite society. I doubt it deserves a place in the Bowery. It is the Adam Sandler of bathrobes. It stinks.”

“Oh,” she said. “Then I’d better change it.”

As I watched…it…leave, I felt, suddenly, unaccountably, much much better. I banged my fist on the table, breaking only one or two small, unimportant bones. “Bring on The Brutus!” I cried. “By God, I’m ready for him.”

What I Forgot in My Moment of Triumph: Carolyn. Oy.

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