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Harry couldn’t sleep. His wife told him to try drinking a nice warm cocoa before coming to bed, but it gave him indigestion. Then he really couldn’t sleep. His grown-up son told him to try counting sheep. “But I don’t like sheep,” said Harry. “Why would I want to count them?”

“Just try counting something you do like instead.”

Harry’s daughter recommended a “nice hot bath.” It was her answer to everything and she repeated it regularly, both in words and in deed. Harry wasn’t too sure what could be nice about lying down in water but he tried it anyway. His skin turned red and pruney but Harry still stayed awake.

“Read a book,” said Harry’s brother.

“Switch that light off,” said his wife.

“Suck a cough drop,” said his elderly aunt.

And, “Write a book,” said Harry’s sister.

“What? In bed?”

“No Harry. Get out of bed. Give your wife some peace and quiet and go write something somewhere else.”

“But I can’t read my writing.”

“Harry. That’s not the point.”

“Of course it is.”

It was, in fact, true that Harry couldn’t read his own writing. As a consequence he woke his wife up at 3:00 a.m. to ask if his sentences made sense. She answered that Harry himself didn’t make sense. Then they could neither of them get to sleep.

One day Harry’s nephew gave him his old laptop. “Try writing on this Uncle Harry,” he said. “It corrects your spelling and your grammar and all sorts of things. And you can print out what you’ve written on this printer.”

“It’s great Uncle Harry,” said Harry’s niece. “It connects to the internet so you can find everything out without having to search in your basement for the right book. And when you’re not using it, you don’t even need to switch it off. It just goes to sleep.”

Harry wondered if computers have any trouble sleeping. If not, he felt jealous. But he obediently plugged the strange black machines into the wall in his bedroom. The laptop screen made its own pale light, a ghostly bluish green, so he was sure it wouldn’t keep his wife awake. But unfortunately the keys made their own noise too. In the end Harry’s wife was awoken again and got up to see what he was doing.

Harry was sitting upright in front of the computer. His eyes were closed. His mouth was open with trickle of drool and a gentle snore quivering on his lips. And his fingers were typing “XYZ XYZ XYZ” forever without end.

Harry’s wife wiped his mouth and led him gently back to bed. She tucked him in. When the snoring grew louder she rolled him onto his side. Then the computer started whirring and clicking, its screen flashing and flickering, its motors muttering and moaning, probably for lack of sleep. The printer began to print rows of XYZs. And Harry’s wife gazed wide awake at the ceiling and counted sheep.

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