His thick buried stoppered call

Photo from The Bert Show

Late morning, and the gray cat is snoring on the end of the sofa. I’ve never before had a cat that snored. It’s not earplug-needing snoring, fortunately, just a soft growly/raspy noise that I can’t find a source for and then realize it’s coming from her.

Among snorers I have known, the worst was a man my husband and I went to Yosemite with one year. He had his two kids with him, and we had our three, and we stayed in a two tent cabins with wooden floors and canvas sides and tops, divided in the middle by a rather flimsy panel.  The kids were in one, the adults in the other.

The first night, we got the kids settled and we three adults sat outside by the campfire, drinking and talking, finally went to bed late in the evening, our friend on one side of the panel, us on the other, snuggled in our zip-together sleeping bags. We were just drifting off when there was a stentorian roar–it was like the death rattle of a tyrannosaurus. My husband and I looked at each other in horror. “Did you know about this?” I hissed. He shook his head, trying not to laugh. The silence extended.  We settled back down…another roar. Unbelievable!

It went on all night: the roaring, then a long silence, then more roaring. There was no rhythm to it, no pattern, nothing you could adjust to. Sometimes the roaring turned to violent snorts. I pictured hippos, rhinos, elephants–large animals with congested airways. I tried pounding on the wall, heard him mutter and groan, then…snore. Maybe, I thought, we could take our sleeping bags out under a tree, get away from the noise. I got up and peeked out the screen door. It was snowing.

The next morning, we got up, gray with exhaustion and made coffee on the cook stove.  Our friend appeared from the other side and asked brightly, “Sleep well?” I wanted to punch him in the stomach. “Oh dear,” he said, “was I snoring? I guess I should’ve warned you.” Yeah, think so?

We solved the problem by moving his kids to our beds, figuring they had to be used to it, and we moved in with our kids. It worked after a fashion.  Though every night as we went off to sleep we could hear the crescendo building, it was far enough away to mingle with others campground sounds–loud motorcycles, crashing bears, raucous laughter, for instance.

I’m told that alcohol can contribute to snoring. Also, being overweight, sleeping on your back, eating right before bed, and having a flaccid tongue that slips back in your throat, which drinking contributes to.  One folk remedy I liked was putting a bowl of water under the bed and having the person sleep with his hand in it.  They didn’t mention putting little biting fish in it, but I wouldn’t have hesitated.

We never went camping with him again. In fact, we rarely saw him after that. I understand that twenty years and two wives later, he had a surgical procedure that cured the snoring. Maybe it’ll help him find lasting love and happiness, you never know.

The final say-so belongs to poet Sharon Olds:


Deep in the night, I would hear it through the wall—
my father snoring, the great, dark
clotted mucus rising in his nose and
falling, like coils of seaweed a wave
brings in and takes back. The clogged roar
filled the house. Even down in the kitchen,
in the drawers, the knives and forks hummed with that
distant throbbing. But in my room
next to theirs, it was so loud
I could feel myself inside his body,
lifted on the knotted rope of his life
and lowered again, into the narrow
dark well, its amber walls
slick around my torso, the smell of bourbon
rich as sputum. He lay like a felled
beast all night and sounded his thick
buried stoppered call, like a cry for
help. And no one ever came:
there were none of his kind around there anywhere

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