He began to read himself children’s books to cure his insomnia. Pooh and Christopher Robin and he wandered through the Hundred Acre Forest. His bedroom housed objects from fairy tales: a magic lamp, glass slippers, cold porridge, a pea beneath his mattress. His father’s voice sang in his ear: ‘And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.’ But when he slept, there were still nightmares. His dad in the dugout, pale-faced, with wise eyes underlined with dark circles as if he were wearing the under-eye grease of a ballplayer.
“Dad,” he said from the mound. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in bed? They said you need your rest.” And he’d wake up shivering in his cocoon of wet sheets as if spun up in Charlotte’s web or Rumpelstiltskin’s golden thread.
In those moments he would get out of bed, smoke a cigarette or two, and return to his book. He walked the bridge to Terabithia. He went to the moon with the Little Prince. He would read until he was tired, lost in Neverland with a big friendly giant and a curious monkey. The final pages always terrified him. What would he read next? He was running out of favorites. He’d soon have to return to his old methods: Valium, alcohol and marijuana.
One time he tried them all—the drugs and the literature—and for a moment he was comforted, his father sitting on the end of his bed, a pale yellow light on his face. ‘Dad,’ he slurred. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘What are you doing?’ his father said. ‘Stop it.’