IT IS AN UNREWARDING THING
It is an unrewarding thing to wake up in the middle of the night and complete a crossword puzzle that you would’ve normally completed on your train ride to the city. The thrill of the a perfect board and its accompanying self-satisfaction are diminished by the very activity you have chosen. You have chosen not to fall back to sleep.
Because before then at 3:30 am you woke up in the middle of a dream about Prairie Woods, a golf course in Emerald Grove, WI that cost only $22 to play 18-holes on a well-manicured actually pretty lovely course, relatively speaking, for Emerald Grove, at least. It was the restaurant inside the club house where you had your first job as a dish washer, and you showed up on a Friday night to be trained by the attendant dishwasher on duty, whose name and demeanor seem irrelevant. It was Friday-Night Fish Fry, a famous Wisconsin meal, which meant that every plate was smeared with tartar sauce and little flakes of cod. You can’t remember much, save for the steam from the giant hot box that seeped into your mouth and seemed to lay on your tongue for too long.
At the end of your shift, you were given a large plate of fried cod, the same one that you and your nameless trainer scraped into the garbage all night. It was garnished with a lemon wedge and tasted like steam. You drove home late after the staff meal, 20 miles back to bed. You never went back to work there again, you never picked up your paycheck from those six hours of work. It was the first job you quit when you were 15.
Weeks later, you did show up to play golf there at Prairie Woods, and now in bed you remember that one hole that took you into the light forest and the smell of the trees there: pine juniper mixed with the rest of soil and leaves. You remember one day when there was some recently chainsawed trees it smelled like savory meat, almost like fast food; specifically Hardee’s.
Which is when you decided that doing the crossword would send you back out of this parasomniatic stroll down olfactory memory lane, but, whereupon the puzzle’s completion, a small dose of adrenaline shot out of some gland and it was just enough to wake you up, spur you to make coffee hours earlier than usual, and ride the train into the city, suddenly with nothing to do.