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Pitiful Dreamer

Joe Quartlow looked tired and gaunt. We were in a coffee shop in Sun City. He was telling me about the sad turn his life had taken, and the weird phone call he’d received from his brother Larry.

Joe said he used to be a big man in Scottsdale. His stock brokerage, Quartlow & Coldtrail, was prospering. Joe’s home in Paradise Valley was valued at $2.7 million. It was the scene of many a charity bash arranged by his wife, Tangent. Joe Jr. was at Harvard Law, and daughter Stacey was at Oxford, studying the fusion of this thing and that.

Tangent said Joe’s snore was always gentle, and she didn’t mind it. Then, one night about two years ago–just before the markets tanked–the snore changed to a fearsome thing.

For a few minutes, Tangent thought an asteroid had come too close to Earth. She said the snore started with a low rumble, like a big Cummins diesel starting to move an eighteen-wheeler. The noise grew in volume and increased in pitch until it was a deafening whine, as though the crew of a 747 was running up its engines in the bedroom. Then it faded, and paused, and started up again.

Tangent made Joe turn over onto his side, but soon he flopped onto his back again, and the noise resumed–low thunder at first, then the roar of impending calamity, and finally the whine of desperation as Joe fought to escape the pull of gravity.

On her way back from the bathroom, Tangent noticed cracks in the walls. Had they been there before? She went downstairs to the den, turned the TV up loud, and slept fitfully.

Next morning, Tangent tried to talk to Joe about seeing a doctor. He said she was being hysterical.

That night, she slept in a sleeping bag on the lawn, with swim plugs in her ears. About 3 a.m., blue strobe lights washed over her.

An apologetic policeman, shouting to be heard over the racket of Joe’s snoring, told Tangent that some strange, supersonic vibration was opening garage doors and scrambling traffic lights all over Paradise Valley. The police department’s computers were suddenly in charge of a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire, but the cops were having a hard time communicating with each other.

Tangent awakened Joe, and explained to the policemen. The cop warned Joe that if he had to come back, he might have to charge Joe with disburbing the peace.

Joe agreed to look for medical help, but you know how long it takes to get in to see a specialist. Within days, Joe was out of his home and out of his business. Tangent divorced him, and his neighbors filed a class action suit, claiming structural damage to their homes.

The Audubon Society sued Joe for endangering a native bird, the Steel-Toed Cactus Pecker. The Sierra Club
said he was intimidating coyotes.

Only one good thing came from Joe Quartlow’s affliction. He won the World Snoring Championship during Raise The Rafter Days in Meridian, Mississipi. On the flight home, however, Joe dozed off and his snoring scrambled the airliner’s warning systems. The plane had to set down at Dallas-Forth Worth, and air traffic backed up all over the country.

Joe came from Dallas to Phoenix on a Greyhound bus. The driver said that between Lordsburg and Tucson, it sounded as though another bus was trying to pass him.

Joe moved out to a shack on the desert at a place called Hassayampa Harbor, west of Surprise. It’s what you might call a gated community–an old barbed wire gate keeps the cows out.

Joe Quartlow lives alone there with his dog, Rogaine. Their nearest neighbor is 600 yards away, and deaf as a post. Authorities are watching Joe because they suspect his snoring turned a communications satellite around in mid-orbit, but they can’t prove a thing.

Night before last, Joe went to bed just before midnight. Immediately, he began snoring. Rogaine, driven to distraction, went to the edge of the property and began to howl.

That set off a pack of coyotes, who sang eerily to yet another pack beyond the next hill.

Dogs at a ranch in the Harquahala Valley heard the commotion and chimed in. At a gold mine farther west, the watchman’s dog joined the chorus and relayed the word to a German shepherd in a trailer park at Ehrenberg.

That dog was heard by dogs in Blythe, California, who relayed the message from ranch to mobile home to farm, until it alerted the dogs in Desert Center.

And so it went: Indio, Banning, Riverside. In West Covina, Joe’s brother Larry heard his two Dobermans barking.

Larry sat up in bed, picked up the phone and called Joe. When Joe answered, Larry said, “Joe, your snoring
woke up the dogs again. Roll over on your side.”

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

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