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“Sleep? I don’t need sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” Penny said with a grin.

“If I don’t sleep, I feel dead,” I told her. Penny, the newest member of my department at work, is a walking contradiction in terms. She’s a fashion-conscious Pentecostal fitness freak, a scary good liar, and wicked prankster. Before I met her, I had no idea that a person could be all of those things at once. She gets up at 4 AM to go to the gym each day, works a full 8 hour day, attends church twice a week, raises a daughter on her own, and still has time for friends and family.

As for me, I work full-time, raise a child with the help of a spouse, and don’t have time for much else. All I want to do is sleep lately. I don’t have time to write or do much of anything else. I am drained. I’m not even sure why I’m so drained. The house is in shambles. My son eats way too much pasta, but I’m a big fan of dinners that can be boiled and served in less than 10 minutes (fortunately, so is he).

I like the people a work with; they are a good team to be a part of.

Kat is the leader of the pack. She has been in the department longer than anyone else, which is about a year. She is perky and upbeat and positive, which makes her nice to be around. She is a year younger than me, a single mom with a ex husband someone should write a book about (maybe he’ll write his own book now that he’s headed for the federal penitentiary for scamming scores of people out of their life savings – I’m sure he’ll find himself with plenty of time on his hands to write it).

Mr. Massachusetts started a month before I did, but he and Kat (who grew up in Oklahoma) used to work at the same company in the Northeast for a few years before they drifted back down to Texas at separate times and were surprised to find themselves working together again. Mr. Massachusetts is in his early 30s and followed his wife down to Houston when she got a job offer. He likes it down here and says he doesn’t plan to go back. He limits himself to a handful of facial expressions: disinterested, mildly amused, mildly irritated, and mildly incredulous. I do not claim to see auras, but if I was a psychic and could see auras, I’m pretty sure his would be beige.

The Kid just turned 20 and works part time. He started out as an interne during high school, and now works around his college schedule. He joined our department a little after Kat did. During the summers he is in 5 days a week; during the spring and fall semesters he is usually at the office 3 days a week, plus a few hours here and there when he can work them in.

Penny rounds out the group. She wears no makeup, but at first glance you think she’s just confident to go without it. Then you notice only wears skirts and doesn’t show cleavage. She loves high heels and strappy shoes, and her outfits and well put together. I’m used to seeing frumpy-looking Pentecostal women; Penny is as close to a fashion plate as has ever come out of a Pentecostal church. She is also one of the most talented practical jokers I’ve ever met, and has a real knack for looking at a person’s desk and coming up with just the thing to throw them for a loop when they come back after a day out of the office. She only needs 4 hours of sleep a night. That amazes me more than anything else about her.

Kat and The Kid and Penny are all devote Christians of various evangelical denominations. Mr. Massachusetts is a nominal Episcopalian married to a Catholic; he is trying desperately to come up with some sort of compromise between those two branches of Christianity before his first child is born toward the end of this summer (he doesn’t want his child raised Catholic, his wife isn’t keen on the Episcopalian church). I am a spiritual seeker, a quasi-Gnostic Christian who wears my beliefs close to my sleeve. I get blessed from all kinds of directions whenever I sneeze, but I don’t mind that. It is good to be blessed, and if sneezing is what I have to do to get blessings in my life I don’t mind missing the occasional dose of allergy medicine to rake them all in.

The one blessing I would kill for right now is sleep.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do right now.

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