The talks have gone from frank to four-lettered. At issue?
She is sleeping with the television.
His position: He isn't. He can't. He won't.
Her stance: She is. She must. She will.
Not much room for movement here. Both sides are dug in. May be time to put the in-laws on alert.
Just why he is unable to doze off with tube on is perplexing. He has, after all, slept so soundly during blaring Sunday-afternoon football games that mirrors have been brought in to detect signs of life.
Just why she cannot visit the land of nod without TV in tow is equally puzzling. This is a woman who has managed to maintain a coma-depth level of obliviousness to every suspicious middle-of-the-night noise since the union was founded.
The short explanation of her sudden need for nocturnal transmission is this: Quiet keeps her up.
This makes him want to scream.
Which would probably make her drowsy.
The dispute is taking a toll on his health.
There are blue forehead veins.
There are alertness levels that would have to climb several notches to reach zombie.
There are bouts of cheap scotch.
But it isn't all physical.
At night, in the hazy, half-awake state that passes for slumber, he tosses and turns and tries to determine:
What is real?
What is Nick at Nite?
Was it a dream or did . . . he and the Beaver and some guy named Fonzie really steal Uncle Charlie's brother's car and go joy riding with his three sons?
Was it a dream or did . . . they really seek to have their problem mediated by Jerry Springer? And did tempers flare, and chairs fly, and some big-haired woman named Morpheus charge the stage?
There is also the matter of the constant barrage of subliminal commercial messages.
What, he wonders, taking stock of his latest impulse buy, is he going to do with all this feminine hygiene stuff?
He offers a compromise.
ESPN. All sports, all night. He could live--not to mention sleep--with that.
She is sorry, truly sorry, but ESPN just won't do. The din of sports is the only thing she finds as distracting as the sounds of silence.
He thinks she needs help.
She thinks she needs more premium channels.
He calls her irrational.
She suggests he go off by himself and attempt an anatomical first.
Does Kofi Annan make house calls?
* Shea is a columnist at the Hartford Courant. To reach him write to Jim Shea, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.