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photo by Meme Binge

Nestled peacefully under my blankets, I heard my bedroom door swoosh open with a sense of urgency. A second later, inches from my head, I heard, "Honey!" It was my husband's aggressive whisper. The kind that's meant to be in a hushed tone but comes out louder than a normal speaking voice.

I was in that perfectly-aligned-body-parts guaranteed-deep-glorious-sleep position. My limbs were at the melting-into-the-mattress stage. My mind was not far behind my body, already in a half-doze. The timing was crucial. I couldn't move a muscle, lest I wake myself up. That included my mouth. Responding to my husband would be limited. A grunt was all I could offer.

He took the grunt as a sign to converse. "There's a parental lock on one of the TV channels. What's that about? When did we have a parental lock? What's the code?"

He was in semi-panic mode. The energy diffusing from him was too much for me. It was permeating my sleep aura. Why did I grunt? There was no turning back now. I would have to engage. More grunting would not cut it, however. I'd need to legitimately move my mouth. But that was all, I promised myself. Just my mouth.

First, I groaned an injured-whale-cry; then I exhaled, "Geez." He was asking me to think. Now I'd have to align brain/mouth functions. I'd have to excavate facts, words, numbers maybe, from the recesses of my brain. This would not come easily. I was at REM's doorstep for Pete's sake!

"Uh... I don't know." Was this really happening? Was I being awoken out of a sleep, for the passcode to our TV? Did I put a parental lock on some of the channels? Yes. Yes I did. For good reason. But remembering the code? That was near impossible. I never watch TV. Mostly because I can never get my hands on the remote! More on that some other time.

"Why'd you lock down FX? When did you do that?" He was crouched over, talking fast. Too much energy.

I couldn't remember when I did it. "Have you seen all those 'adult titles' when you scroll the guide? That's why!" Now my head was officially off the pillow. But I was determined to keep my shoulders downward immobile.

"Okay, whatever. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I need the code."

All I had to do was give him the code and he'd leave and watch his show and I'd drift peacefully off to sleep. But I had no idea what the code was. All these codes these days. You need a code for everything! Why? "I don't know. I can't remember. Did you try our birthdays?"

"Yes. Yes, I tried our birthdays." He stood straight up; his arms moved wildly, "And the kids' birthdays! Of course I tried all our birthdays!"

"Okay, okay. I don't know; our phone number? The first half? Maybe the second half? Maybe backwards?"

In a flash he was gone. Without a word. My head flopped down on the pillow. It was still warm. All was not lost.

Woosh, the sound of the door again. "No. They didn't work. None of them. Think."

Oh geez. "Umm, uh..." I would need to engage my brain again. It was a struggle. "What could it be," I thought, "Did you try Apple's birthday?"

"Apple? Gwenyth Paltrow's kid? Are you serious?"

"No. Not her. Apple, the kids' first goldfish. Remember?"

"Well, no, I don't remember. The kids were five. That's eleven years ago. You mean the fish they won at the Pumpkin Fair? Didn't it die the day they got it?"

"Yes, but we still named it! We didn't know it was gonna die that day." My head and shoulders were now elevated off the pillow.

"Okay, I didn't remember we named it Apple."

"The kids wanted to name it Orange, but that's so cliché, so we ended up with Apple."

"You mean, Goldie."


"Goldie is cliché. I don't think Orange is."

"Goldie? Oh yeah, you're right. That would've been cliché. Orange would have been cute, I guess. You should try Apple's birthday."

"She was a goldfish; how did we know her birthday?" My husband's energy changed. His body sagged; he put his hand on his head.

"Since they won her at a Pumpkin Fair, we used Halloween as her birthday."

His hands flew into the air. "Really? You couldn't have said 1031 five minutes ago? I'm missing the beginning of the show!" He was exasperated, but a second later he had his hand on the knob of our bedroom door.


He whipped his head around. "Or, what?"

You could try the numerical equivalent of the name 'Apple.' You know, A is 1, B is 2, etc."

"What's P?" He didn't miss a beat.

"You have to count. But it's two digits, so add those together."

He shook his head. His shoulders slumped forward. He turned back toward the door. "I just wanted to watch the season premiere of Justified. Was that too much to ask?" He lumbered out into the hall, mumbling. "What are you the C.I.A.? It's just a TV."

The next day I asked my husband if he was able to watch his show.

"Yeah. Half of it," he grumbled.

"So it was Apple's birthday after all." I was proud of myself for remembering.

"No. And it wasn't that other clever puzzle you suggested. I tried a bunch of numbers and finally got lucky."

"Well, what was it?"



Eva Lesko Natiello is the author of THE MEMORY BOX, a psychological thriller about a woman who Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn't remember.