I know this sounds unfair, making my wife Carrie and our dog Gretchen, a forty-pound Finnish Spitz, cram themselves on one-third of the bed while I splay myself on the other two-thirds, but this isn’t about me being a bed hog. This is about Carrie and Gretchen being protected from my flailing arms during my nightmares.
These horrific dreams tend to focus on Burt Lahr in his role as the Cowardly Lion. Since childhood, I have never been capable of looking at the Cowardly Lion directly in the eyes. Framed with forlorn pouches beneath and crenellated brows above, those eye slits are especially suggestive of Satan or some other tormented demon. The bald pate and ruffled hair, tied in parts with ribbons to mock the pampered grooming of a Shih-Tzu or some other cuddly lapdog, only add to the terror. Then there are Bert Lahr’s growls, not the feral sounds of a lion but of a soul writhing and languishing in hell.
When I suffer my Cowardly Lion nightmares, Burt Lahr will chase me, getting closer and closer, until I wake myself up with my own growls that sound, eerily, like his. Carrie and Gretchen often endure my moving violently in bed while I growl, louder and louder, until Carrie or the barking Gretchen wakes me from my night terror.
Sometimes these Cowardly Lion dreams are especially bad and after awakening I feel an evil presence in the room and must turn the light on and watch TV for a while until I sense that the evil presence has departed. I have another measure that helps drown out the evil presence and this leads us to my next rule.