The sound came out of nowhere; dreams are like that. One moment you are surrounded by quiet, the next by incessant rap-a-tap tapping from somewhere nearby at least you think it's nearby.
I've never been much of a night owl, so I was sleeping. Dreaming, and I did what any of us would do in a similar situation: incorporated the sound into my dream. Wrote it in, so to speak. The tap-a-rap tapping and rap-a-tap tapping became a sparrow pecking at the window or perhaps at the door. You know how dreams play out; things are never quite for sure. The rap-a-tap tapping continued. There was only so much noise my dream could logically absorb. The rapping and tapping eventually pulled me back into the world of wakefulness, where I found the rap, tap, tapping to be even louder than in dreamland. I'd hear a number of raps and taps in quick succession followed by a pause. Maybe someone knocked at the door. Pounded on it: like my heart pounded at the thought of someone a friend, or worse yet a stranger at the door at a time when everyone was sleeping, or should be sleeping. Tappity, tappity, tap, tap, rap. The noise seemed to originate from downstairs. As I listened closely, the taps sounded less like door knocks and more like banging. Bang-it-a, bang-it-a bang perhaps someone with a hammer and nails. I half sat up in bed. My husband opened his eyes. "What's that sound?" he asked as the tapping continued. I looked at him, he at me. Our eyes locked as we came to the same conclusion. The kids! I glanced at the clock: 5:13 a.m. the perfect time for one of them to be taking the furniture apart, or perhaps attempting to nail it back together. Our youngest son has earned the nickname Rooster because of his early morning exploits. "What are they doing?" my husband asked. "I don't know," I said. "But I'm going to find out."
I heaved myself out of the bed (the only way you can get out of bed at 5:13 a.m.) and made my way to the door, where I paused, waiting for the next round of tapping or banging or whatever the boys were doing this time to keep us from sleep. Tat-a-tat, tat, tat-a-tat. The beats came in rapid succession, but not from downstairs. The sound was behind the doorway, not in front not from inside the house, but from outside. I felt like I'd entered a bad, backwards horror movie where I had the starring role of babysitter. I returned to bed. "It's outside." I said. "Outside?" For so early in the morning, my husband sure was quick with the questions. "Some early bird is doing a home improvement project at 5 a.m." I said. "Talk about a loon." The ratting and tatting and banging continued, louder than ever. I couldn't believe any of our neighbors would be so rude. I said goodbye to any notion of furthering my good night's sleep. We lay there in the quiet that wasn't so quiet, in the early hours of the morning, my husband and I listening, but trying not to, to the drilling, pounding or whatever, trying not to consider acts of violence toward the loony, early bird neighbor who couldn't wait until 7 a.m. to grab his hammer. Five minutes and countless hammer-strokes later (or maybe it was 25 minutes, who can be sure at 5 a.m.) my husband turned and looked me straight in the eyes. He was wide awake. "That isn't hammering," he said. "It's a woodpecker!" Sure enough, my eagle-eared spouse was right. And, in a way, so was I. It was an early bird that woke us up this morning. I only hope he got his worm.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" at booklocker.com. She also offers writing and design services at marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com