1 Amos Awake Because he believed in leading a disciplined life, Amos Townsend tried to go to bed at the same time every night, eleven o'clock, or close to it. Some nights he fell asleep right away, and even as his grip on consciousness slipped he felt a flood of gratitude for the loss. Most nights he lay awake an hour or more, enduring the contours of his pillow and the fact of his bones pressing into the mattress. Sleeplessness bred in him the most desperate irritation; he realized he hated flannel sheets (although he loved them earlier in the day, or at least the thought of them), and that the length of his legs made him furious (length and knobbiness inherited from his father), legs that consistently tangled in the ridiculous flannel sheets and kept him from sleeping. What disturbed him most was simply the hour of midnight, and the dark bedroom, and the waves of fatigue and pity that stole over and seemed to steal something from him. Amos believed that both discipline and grace were muscles he had to keep exercised, oxygenated, in order that they might be called upon in an emergency, and nights for him were often an emergency, and sometimes he muttered low and exasperated, "Dear Lord, please just let me fall asleep already," and then waited for grace to descend on him with a shadowy nod. A single thing gnawed at him at night, an idea he had no name for, although if anyone asked him he could have written a book, as they say, on the subject. Perhaps he was even called to write it, but he was vexed by the how and the why. Amos knew as well as anyone what went into writing a book, having written a master's thesis, and he considered the process to be akin to having one's nerves stripped with a curry comb. A ghastly experience, not to be endured. He imagined the tower of reference books clotting his study, and the notecards he would use to try to keep his thoughts straight, and the inevitable architectural work that would need to be employed, and the hours spent in the overstuffed chair facing Plum Street, lost in thought and picking at the threads in the upholstery; and most of all, the way writing a book makes a person feel that he'd rather be anywhere than inside his own skin. He'd rather be on Plum Street, that's for sure, kicking along in the tangle of fall leaves or stopping to pet one of the litter of mountain cur pups born next door (beautiful little dogs that would be feral in the blink of an eye--he knew he should pet them quickly, before he lost his chance). But if he were on Plum Street his mind would be drawn to his own study window, and he would think with longing of the work he could be doing and how work is the only thing that saves the soul, the only thing that makes a man a man, as he remembered Emerson saying, or something like it. Writing a book brings a single, irreducible truth right out to the edges of a person: there is no place to be, there is no place in this world, it is impossible to be happy. And why? Why another book in the morass of Self-Improvement and the self-published, all those elegant novels remaindered and shelves of poetry unread? Why Amos Townsend's ideas, when there are such game and handsome exegetes for the world's mysteries as Richard Feynman and Brian Greene and that bald man with the big glasses who can connect everything in the world into a single theory? Psychics and expatriates and musicologists and postmodernists, not to mention Harold Bloom, or Updike with his fifty novels (good ones, too), all typing away while the world sleeps, or is sleepless: no. A book by Amos would be unnecessary. At 11:47, thinking of Updike, Amos smacked his own thigh in frustration and performed the fourth-quarter of what he thought of as his Human Drillbit routine, in which he turned from his right side to his stomach, and from his stomach to his left side, and from his left side to his back, and from his back to his right side, on and on, drilling himself clKimmel, Haven is the author of 'Solace of Leaving Early' with ISBN 9780385499835 and ISBN 0385499833.