ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"World's Strongest Man Called Upon to Lift Sleep," a story by E.M. Schorb

The world's strongest man was in the great tradition of Sandow, and so was intelligent as well as strong.  He thought in terms of leverage and balance, not merely brute power.  He would size things up, then think out a strategy for a lift.  He resented being thought of as a mere freak of strength.  He had studied engineering.  This, he admitted, was to be his greatest challenge, and he thought for a long time before taking it on.  The proposition posed many questions.  Sleep has no handles.  How do you get a grip on it?  How do you train for such an event?  Do you practice with naps, as you might with dumbbells for a barbell lift?  And how many naps would be the equivalent of one sleep?  Indeed, how long is a true sleep?  And what of rem sleep?  Do dreams and nightmares add to the weight?  What does the average sleep weigh, and where can be found its specific gravity?  He asked himself, "Are they asking me to lift the sleep of the world, or of just one person?"  The rules must be made clear.  His manager said not to worry, that lifting sleep sounded like a leadpipe cinch.  "All you do is wake everyone up."  But the world's strongest man replied that it would not be an easy task to wake everyone up at once, all over the world.  It took more than sheer brute strength to be the world's strongest man; you had to have brains as well.  You had to understand exactly what you were getting into.  "You don't just lift things," he said.  "But you have a point," he added, after a few minutes of thought.  And he thought, lifting sleep is the same as waking the sleepers.  So I must find a way to wake everyone at once: and he decided to shake the Earth until everyone was awake.  "That's my angle," he said.  "I've got it."  He had decided to push against the sky and run until he turned Earth's rotation backwards, causing such an uproar that everyone would wake up at once, thus lifting sleep the world over.  He began pushing against the sky and running, digging his spikes into the soft earth, and lifting his knees like pistons.  Then the world's strongest man's wife shook him and said, "Wake up, dear, you're having a nightmare."  And he knew that he had lifted sleep from at least one person.  Then the clock radio went on and he heard people talking, indicating that there were more from whom sleep had been lifted.  "I think I've done it," he said, running about the house and pushing the sky in front of him.  "We've overslept," said his wife.  "You must hurry off to work."  "Yes," he said, grabbing his briefcase, and he heeled out the front door—forgetting the car, which waited in the driveway, and down the block of suburban houses, and into the slow rise of the mountains, pushing the sky as he vanished into the distance.  

 Schorb's most recent works are Life and Opinions of Doctor Bop the Burnt-Out Prof (Kelsay Books, 2018), reviewed in the June issue No. 73, and his noir novel, Needleneck (Hill House New York, 2018).

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