For years, a group of insomniacs have gathered at each other’s homes in the middle of the night to read together. Conversation is optional; some members arrive, read, and leave without a word. The members are united in wanting to be awake with another person when it’s the middle of the night and everyone else in their lives is sleeping. Dubbed The Insomniacs Book Club, the invitation-only group has shifted and evolved — and is about to have the biggest change of all.
Bernice and Sam never share how The Insomniacs Book Club (IBC) started all those years ago. Pressed for an answer, they drop their eyes and gaze mutely at the floor. Recognizing a plummet into unspeakable heartache, the questioner inevitably snatches a cookie from the chipped platter and prattles on about their book.
There was no heartache associated with the initial meeting. Since neither woman remembered it clearly (it was the middle of the night after all), they’d settled into sweet evasion.
The first meeting was on a frigid night in early spring. Bernice was wide awake in the middle of the night as always. Fifty pages into a must-read debut, she decided that the book was crap. She eased her way out from under the throw blanket so she wouldn’t wake her snoring dog. Padding to the shelf of books from the library, she searched for another book.
There was nothing. Tomorrow was the day that she went to the library. She’d already read all ten books. Magazines, newspapers, and catalogues were neatly stacked in the recycling bin for tomorrow’s pick-up. She’d read her own books so many times that she could recite them from memory.
Now what? Cookbooks? Cereal boxes? Appliance manuals?
She sneered at her laptop. Sam once talked her into reading an electronic book. What a disaster that had been! Words slid sideways, the plot got tangled, characters made no impression — all of that mess and she had no idea where she was in the story. Worst of all, there was no warm heft of a real book.
Sam answered her phone immediately. Of course she did. It was three in the morning and she wasn’t sleeping either.
Bernice explained what had happened. Sam gasped. “I’ll be right there.”
Half an hour later, they sat in Bernice’s kitchen with mugs of hot chocolate made with real milk and chocolate shavings and a pile of books from Sam’s house.
“I’ll stay for a little while, until you feel better,” said Sam.
“I feel fine,” said Bernice. “I just needed something to read.”
“Of course, dear,” said Sam, opening her book at the bookmark and starting to read.