One person’s bed of nightmares is another’s utilitarian dreamland

Nikki Giovanni’s "When I Nap" is one of my favorite poems. Short and vivid, this is the entire poem:

when I nap
usually after 1:30
because the sun comes
in my room then
hitting the northeast corner

I lay at the foot
of my bed and smell
the sweat of your feet
in my covers
while I dream

Beds are such personal things. Our beds have smells and memories of people (and pets). Our beds are places where our minds wander, where we have dreams and nightmares. We worry and wake up wondering whether we’ve done the right thing. Or we fret with anticipation about what the right thing might be. Beds are where our imaginations run wild, one of the reasons I have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms.

If I see a spider in a corner in my bedroom, I rid myself of self-same spider. But when I try to fall asleep, I feel the spider’s friends and family on my legs. Usually it’s just dry skin, but in my mind, it’s revenge-seeking spiders.

A close friend recently told me: "The average human eats eight spiders in his/her lifetime while sleeping." I doubt his factual assertion, taken straight from a Snapple bottle cap, yet it kept me awake that night.

This all leads to Kathy Augustine’s $60 bed.

No way could I sleep there. No way would I want to buy it.

Memories of her death would haunt me.

I’ve thought about what authorities have said about death by succinylcholine, a powerful drug that can paralyze. The state controller might have been awake and aware of what was happening to her, yet helpless to do anything. How horrible.

Prosecutors said her husband, Chaz Higgs, a nurse, injected her with succinylcholine while she lay on that bed July 8. Three days later, the family took her off life support. She was 50.

On Friday a jury convicted Higgs of first-degree murder.

The bed was brought from her Reno home to her Las Vegas home for an auction of her personal effects last week.

I didn’t go; the thought was too creepy, and I was no fan of the ethically challenged politician. But the Review-Journal’s David McGrath Schwartz was assigned to cover it, and he wrote about the bed selling for $60: "Auctioneers respected the wishes of the family and did not advertise the history of the bed where Augustine was last conscious. The mattress and box springs were thrown out, and replaced."

Perhaps not explaining the history of the bed kept the ghouls away, but afterward, through news reports, the couple who bought the bed’s headboard and frame, Michael and Laurie Tanner, learned the bed came with deadly memories.

All week, people I talked to said they couldn’t sleep in that bed.

But Michael Tanner, 52, is a practical man. "It’s just a piece of furniture," he said Friday. He and his wife will have no problems using the queen-size bed frame and headboard, now in storage, once it’s in the home they have yet to find. They spent $500 that day, buying the $60 bed (without the mattress and bedsprings), bed clothes, afghans, a bottle of wine signed by actor Fess Parker, a mirror and miscellaneous items. Some items were gently used, others were still in original packaging. "The bed clothes were worth more than the bed itself," Tanner said.

They didn’t know Kathy Augustine, but Michael Tanner said that from what they saw and what they bought, "she liked fancy things but was a discount shopper."

The Tanners have lived in Las Vegas for eight years. He’s a truck driver; she resolves disputes for Expedia, an online travel company. They’re hard-working folks happy with their purchases. Neither has any reservations about eventually sleeping on that bed or using the afghans and throws that once belonged to Augustine. And he had no problem that the auction officials didn’t disclose the history of the bed, saying they had no obligation.

They bought it because they needed a bed, not because of any associations with murder. They’re not ghouls. However, his son has advised them to get rid of it, saying it has bad karma.

Personally, I’d rather sleep in a bed with a tarantula.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call 383-0275.


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