Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dream of Horses

Dream of Horses

Graham House dreamed of horses in a field of tall grass. Dusty, ragged smells, earth and dung filled his senses. The small group of horses ran in circles around him, kicking up dust, running at a slow canter, heads bobbing and heaving up and down, foam lilting from mouth to ground. Trembling, he stood in the middle of the small herd in his Covington Men's Plaid Flannel Pajamas he’d purchased at Sears and one by one pulled them into his inner circle by an invisible lead. He held their necks, smelled their briny aroma, and ran his fingers against the hot wetness of powerful equine necks. One by one he pulled them in, the palomino pony, the little pinto, the standard, the Morgan, until he reached for the Arabian, it’s strikingly sharp features alert and asking. The Arabian came toward him, towering in agile form, reaching the middle of the circle, her long white head, sleek mane and black eyes at once unapproachable and soothing. When he took her neck, she flung him upon her back and he settled down clinging to her lean frame with the grip of his legs. She wandered down beyond the banking of tall grasses and into the thickly wooded area. The trail was covered in grasses and foliage. The sky broke through fingered openings in the trees. The trail was narrow but soon opened to a clearing that lead to a small pond and fast moving river beyond. He stayed on her as one, feeling each muscle and joint move in harmony with his contracted frame. At the river, she drank from the frigid water. House was entranced by the sounds she made. The chug, chug, chug of her long esophagus pushing liquids to her belly, splashing happily, digging her snout into the water and then jolting up, searchingly, her ears moving in each direction as if testing for predators. She was sinew, bone and power under him, strong, agile, and omnipotent in her surroundings. And as she drank, he could feel her belly expand. The more she drank the darker and heavier she grew, until he could no longer fit on her and he slid off to the muddy ground. She drank and expanded until she resembled an engorged tick, white, bloated beyond countenance, spindly legs sticking out from her sides, her head submerged to her girth until she split open spilling a torrent of water. The flood took him off his feet. Rivers of water carried him as he struggled to keep his head above the sway. He lay gasping on the banking. Eyes closed, his head pounding, soothing warmth swathed his cheek. He opened his eyes to see the Arabian licking his face, and he awoke.

Graham lay trapped in sweaty sheets, curling them tighter around his body as he sat up. Looking over at his wife, Penelope, he tried to make out her face, but could see nothing in the shadows of their bed, she but a bundle in the dark. He pulled the sheet as he sat up, knowing that she wouldn’t care, because she hadn’t slept with covers for about two years. She was always too hot, couldn’t have a warm body next to her, just couldn’t stand the heat of it. The balled-up sheet fell to the floor as he walked slowly to the bathroom, feeling the walls in the dark as he went.

Splashes of cold water numbed his face in the dim light of the bathroom. The dream came back to him then, in vivid pictorials, the Arabian staring at him with her intense black eyes. Horses? Why horses? He hadn’t ridden a horse since he was fifteen. Carefully drying his face near the darkened closet where she kept the neatly stacked towels, the sounds and smell of the Arabian were more than memory. He inhaled deeply attempting to capture the essence of the beast, but his senses were dull and he couldn’t even smell the fresh towel. House kicked the sheets back over his body and slowly let his right arm fall on Penelope’s side. His hand slipped down and he palmed her hip bone. She grumbled and turned onto her stomach. He tried to make out her dirty blonde hair, the line of her form, but he could see only a dark lump. He was alone again, in the same bed as his wife, her flesh radiating like hot coal next to him. How could I have married a person who can’t cuddle? How did I, the cuddle king of the entire world, end up with someone like that? Laying still, trying not to disturb his wife, he conjured visions of the horses to take him back to the lazy fields, but they would not come and he fell into a restless sleep.

In the morning, House could tell he was alone without looking. The empty bed felt lighter and freer than when she was there. He looked at her clock, 10 AM, set ten minutes into the future, and decided he could sleep a few more minutes. The smell of horses came to him then and he closed his eyes to ride back to the golden fields. He was in the circle now, holding out his hand toward the flowing beasts. The Arabian walked slowly toward him and circled him, just out of his grasp. The circle grew smaller and tighter as he reached for them all, his fingers stretching out never quite far enough to reach them. As the heat and the movement intensified, he could smell the dust and the horse hair warming in the sun. The blue sky above was bright white with heat. He spun and turned in circles, reaching his hands out to the horses as they slowly cantered around and around until he lost his footing and he fell to the dry earth in a cloud of dust, his legs spread out before him like a twisted rag doll, his chest heaving, head still spinning. The horses stopped and looked at him, their heads down, ears flopping back and forth with gentle alertness.

House’s job had nothing to do with horses, and everything to do with computers.
In fact, he hadn’t touched a horse since he was fifteen years old, that time on his birthday, when they went to the horse-riding camp on Cape Cod. He remembered the nag they gave him: A nasty black and white pinto. The thing had bucked all over the place. Wouldn’t put out when he had encouraged it. “Give it a little kick,” the guy had said. And the bucking started and didn’t stop until he returned the evil thing back to the wrangler a half hour later. That was his only memory of horses, except for the dream. Throughout the day, all he could think about, all he saw, was horses; Horses on TV, horses on billboards, horses in the park. He supposed they had always been around, he’d just never noticed them. But now, with this dream, this hot, sweaty, aromatic dream splendid of languor, it was fresh in his thoughts. And he knew that the Arabian especially had something on her mind.

After a solemn day of fighting traffic, plucking keys on his computer keyboard, eating lunch at a cheap fast food deli and then fighting traffic for an hour returning home, all of it almost feeling like a dream, House couldn’t get the horse dream out of his mind and he almost willed the night to come so he could get into bed. He dutifully complimented his wife on dinner, carefully watched the clock as his favorite TV shows ticked by, commercials on mute, his trusty clicker in hand. Finally, at 10 o’clock, with Penelope long asleep (she being the early riser in the family) he wrapped himself in the cool sheets, anticipating meeting the herd. A vague feeling of loneliness hung on him, his plump body shaking and bouncing on the air springs until at last he drifted off into a tintype dream of horses.

The arrived slowly, one by one, passing ever closer in a circle, each appearing in turn as if from a mist. The pinto moved in close and House could smell candy canes and mint. The palomino moved in close and he could smell his wife’s perfume. The Morgan moved in and he sensed his childhood and playing games with the neighborhood children, the smell of his leather football and baseball glove. He reached out and took the Morgan by the mane. He inhaled the smells and wrapped his arms around the horse’s neck. The Morgan flung him up onto her back and started to trot out into the field.

Heat rose in waves from the brown grasses and he could feel the sun bite the back of his neck. Muted colors glowed all around and as the horse moved closer to the river. A feeling of nostalgia overtook him. Gradually, rising out of the swaying grass and the scrub, the idea of his childhood home found shape. In front of him were the muted yellow of the clapboards, the umber of the back yard fence, the carousel close line white with linens. On the right, a slab porch and a green bulkhead leading to the dirt floor cellar. A barefoot boy of about seven came out the back door and, as the screen door slammed, sat on the porch and smiled up at strange rider.
“Hey mister, where’d you get that horse?”
House looked carefully at the boy, the short dirty-blond hair, the round pudgy face. A rush of adrenaline exploded in his chest and steamed into his head. The Earth seemed to be spinning faster. And in a flash he saw all of his childhood: The crying and sucking on a teething cookie, learning to walk, the football games in the back yard, his friends running to and fro in heavy pursuit each other, his mother, her light brown hair falling partially over one blue eye, wet pie crust in her hands, his high school years.
“Hey, Mister, can I ride your horse?” the boy called.
House focused on the boy and suddenly recognized himself. He remembered that he had seen a rider come to his back porch, through this same field, long ago, and he remembered the rider sitting in silence, staring down and saying nothing.
House turned the Morgan and kicked at its belly. They rode out into the field. The whole time he could see himself sitting on his old back porch, and knew everything he was thinking, everything that he did, had already done, and will do and there was nothing he could do to change it. It was as if it were inevitable, him doing the things he was doing, fulfilling a prophecy, the purpose of which was lost to him. He turned to face his old house and it faded into a dull ball of yellow and white, and suddenly exploded into a million small dots until there was nothing, and he awoke.

House sat up in bed gasping for air. Penelope reached out to him.
“Graham, what is it?’
“You scared me!”
He took her arm, heaving deep breaths and said, “It’s okay. A dream is all.”
“You said, ‘horses.’”
They lay back and he moved close to her, wrapping his leg over hers, spooning her in the middle. His heart danced wildly in his chest. The young boys smiling face stayed clear in his mind, (he could count the freckles on his cheeks) but soon faded and nothing was left but the cool darkness of the room. Soon a profound sadness overtook him.
“Weird, thing is...” he whispered.
But she was half asleep and showing signs of discomfort from his body heat. He knew better than to try and talk to her now. Rolling onto his back, he pulled the sheets up to his chest, thinking of his old house, the back porch and the strange man that had ridden up, the man he knew now to be himself, on horseback, that hot summer day. And he slipped into a listless trance-like state, staring off into the dull nothingness that surrounded him. As he drifted off to sleep, muted yellow dots danced, oscillated in formations before him and coalesced into his childhood home. A sated feeling ran through him. Helpless to control his urge for more, wanting to delve deeper and stay longer in his strange dream, he began to weep. He wept for the boy on the porch, for his lost potential and for future that promised nothing more than what he already had.

On his way to work the next day he saw horses in a trailer and followed it off the wrong exit. Realizing his error too late, he found the nearest turn around and headed back in the direction of work. When he finally sat at his desk, he typed “horses” into a search engine and spent the day picking out horse screen savers. He found a web site devoted to horse stories, but found them unsatisfying, preferring to remember his own experiences. And suddenly it dawned on him that he had momentarily thought of his dreams as real experiences. Startled, he turned his attention to a project he’d begun the week before.

Traffic was heavy on the ride home and when he got to the “horse” exit, he found himself turning off the freeway and into an area he’d never been. He could almost see that same horse trailer he’d followed in front of him as he made a left turn off the down ramp. The languid feeling from the night before fell upon him like a fog, and he stared straight ahead, out at the road, turning left, then right, then right again, traveling for several minutes before stopping at a gated fence. He got out of the car and stood, silently staring off into a field. He looked down past the scrub brush and the small wooden barn, to a pretty palomino pony grazing on clumps of wet grass. As his world stretched into this long, lost moment, a light drizzle began to mist and he wiped his face with his sleeve. He coughed and cleared his throat. The horse’s head popped up, her ears reaching toward the sound. The chill of the afternoon dug through his thin coat and he walked back to the car. He sat in the driver seat, turned the key and kicked up the heat. After a few minutes, he turned the radio on low and, as if waking from a dream, realized he couldn’t remember how to get back to the freeway.
He turned toward the field and the horse stood close to the car, her head straining through the fence, motionless, her liquid eyes targeting him. He stared back at the horse, feeling dreamy and calm, thinking: What? What are you trying to tell me? A loud commercial sprang from the radio and it sent a jolt through him. He turned it off, thinking: No, no, I’m not dreaming. Am I? I’m awake, aren’t I? And for a second he wasn’t sure. He touched his puffy cheeks and swore they felt numb. Then rubbed his forehead red, hoping to feel that and he did. His heart jumped and pushed his racing pulse as he turned the car back onto the road and sped away. He turned off the heat, fighting the numbness of his despair, telling himself to pull out of it, that this was sinking too far from reason. But even as the adrenaline raced through his body, fighting the narcotic lure of his fantasy, he could feel the horse dream pulling him back. The thin veil of desire wafted over him, filled him, calming, pulling him back until at last, he sat sated, quiet, heading home on the dark road.

It’s not that Penelope didn’t like children. She just had a problem with being pregnant. She had a hard time taking two aspirin for a headache, never mind having her stomach grow uncontrollably, hormones raging through her body. She liked things just the way they were. Normal. It was always good when things were normal: Early to bed, early to rise. Eat at seven, noon and five, shower everyday at the same time. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. Normal. So when House started to question her about why they didn’t have any children again, saying that an empty spot touched his heart, she was silent. He pressed her and started talking about the horses, how the Arabian, he was sure, was giving him a sign of childbirth. That it was natural and right to drink from the stream of life. To breach and let life flow out from her body. He explained how the Morgan had reminded him of his own childhood, the blissful, happy times when he would run in the fields and laugh and jump and play ball, the lovely feeling of freedom. She sat stony-faced at the kitchen table holding a piece of white fish on her fork, staring over the light-blue rim glasses on the end of her nose. Her lips pursed and puckered, as if giving weight to her thoughts.
“You know what the doctor said. If we try again, you could lose both of us.”
“But it wasn’t an absolute,” he said, smiling. “It’s not like it’s written in stone: ‘If you get pregnant, this will happen!’”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now, Graham. I’m tired.” She scrapped off her plate and began loading the dishwasher.
“We could try again, is all I’m saying.”
She held her stomach, turned toward the sink and started to run the water.
Petulant, groggy from the meal, Graham laid himself out on the living room sofa and stared up at the shadowy corners of the darkening living room. He remembered the awful day Penelope had bled so much. She’d shaken him awake, her hands cold as ice, staring at him dumb struck. Her face pasty white, eyes sunken and red, shaking involuntarily, stuttering what the matter was. He’d wrapped her in blankets and carried her to the car, his mind only on saving her, to hell with the baby. He remembered her frightened looks, the bone white of her cheeks, her trembling. The Doctor had been very concerned, stating only, “she’s so very far along,” as they wheeled her into the operating room. Those hours waiting, the longest he’d ever spent slipped by as a rock through flesh. On the cell phone one minute, crying the next. Drinking coffee and vomiting it up in the men’s room, until at last the doctor came and told him it was done. The child was gone.
“Was it a girl or a boy?”
“A girl. But your wife is going to be all right.”
And he burst into tears, profusely thanking the doctor.
Graham opened his eyes, shifting his weight on the couch. Darkened tree limbs danced and swayed near the window above his head, casting shadows on the walls. He followed the moving shadows for a while, thinking of them as his horses, wild, beautiful, free. Then he drifted off.

As the dream took shape, he saw himself jumping through the tall, pale grasses beyond his childhood home. The warm wind licked his face as he turned to see the huge horse before him. Twelve feet tall, the monster horse stood snorting and grunting, masterfully shaking its mane. House lunged for its neck, but could not wrap his arms around it. Frustrated and a little frightened, he looked down at the massive round hoof near his foot, the weight of it digging into the ground. He felt it would be rooted there forever if he didn’t get it to move and he looked back up at the snorting beast.
“How do I ride you?”
The horse glanced at him with a bored eye, winked and trotted off toward the stream.
Graham ran after and soon found himself in the circle of horses, the dust beneath their hooves rising high in the air as they trotted round and round. Faster and faster they galloped. The huge horse stood hands taller than the rest, its proud eye staring at Graham, daring him to come forward and ride. Suddenly, he was snatched back to the sofa and he found himself staring up into the face of Penelope as she stood over him, whispering into his ear.
“Come to bed, dear. Come.”
And as he got up to follow, he touched her thigh and gave it a squeeze. She didn’t say a word but trotted up the stairs and disappeared into the bathroom. Graham climbed into bed fighting the ether veil of sleep. He reached for Penelope’s leg and she gave a sigh, mouthed a few incoherent words and turned onto her stomach. Remembering her naked body, her smooth thighs and flat tummy as she had walked naked from her shower, admiring how youthful she’d kept herself, he longed to feel her now. He reached for her again, pulling back her hair, kissing her face. She smiled and said, “I love you, Graham.”
“I love you, too, Penelope.”
He pulled the sheets up to his neck, feeling his fat stomach rub against bed as he turned onto his side, then stillness, staring into the dark. Soon his eyes grew tired and he closed them.

Graham stood bright eyed and fixed upon the white Arabian, her snout opening delicately contoured above her dark muzzle. The musculature of her body was sharp and beautifully modeled. He felt her strong back, dark legs, held her snout in his fingers.
“This is my very best work.”
“What dear?” Penelope leaned over the counter, browsing the Sunday Paper.
“This one. The Arabian. It’s my best one, don’t you think?”
She turned and glanced over her blue rimmed reading glasses and smiled.
“Very nice,” she said.
Graham took the six-inch wooden model and lightly brushed some white latex paint onto the eye. It looked startled, he noticed. Not at all like the strong Arabian he’d seen in his dreams. Perhaps he needed something more off-white, something comfortable, perhaps a tinge more beige so it wouldn’t upset the balance of color.

Upstairs standing next to her side of the bed, he placed the beautiful model on the alarm clock facing his wife’s pillow. The suitcase behind him in the closet was already packed. All he had to was pick it up and walk away. Holding the heavy suitcase in both hands, he stared at the king size bed for a long time. The boy he’d seen from horseback was a distant memory now, and the gnawing need to hold him, to never let him go, tell him what he must do overwhelmed him. But he knew the boy wouldn’t listen, to anyone, let alone a man unknown to him and he began to weep. Great sobs heaved from his chest. He dropped the suitcase with a thunderous boom.
“Are you all right?” Penelope called.
“Just fine, Dear,” he managed to say.
After a while he walked downstairs and placed the finished horse on the top shelf of the study and stood back to admire his work. There was a Morgan, a palomino, a standard and now the Arabian. His “circle of horses” was nearly complete. They had become his passion, his playmates, and his hobby. And even as the memory of the horse dreams began to fade, the horses brought him great joy and comfort in the long nights he spent carving and painting them from mere blocks of wood.

The End

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dream State (Continuation of a novel)

My cell phone buzzed and rattled itself off the nightstand and onto my shoes. I looked down and saw the name, FRANK, brightly lit on the screen.
“Shit!” I said aloud, and rolled over for a few for hours more sleep. This self employment gig was gonna be a pain in the ass. I mean, desperate people do desperate things, especially when they can transfer some of that raw energy onto someone else. Frank was no exception. He called two more times in ten minutes, no doubt wanting answers I didn’t have. My head started to fill with ideas, things I could tell him. Your sister is fine and will live a long and happy life. Unfortunately, she will die, someday at the hands of, or rather, the fangs of an ill tempered water moccasin down on the pond walk at the retirement home in Celebration, Florida. Your sister is healthy as a horse; it’s you who has to be concerned, Fat Man. No, of course I couldn’t say that, it wouldn’t be ethical. Besides, I hated to tell Frank anything like this, besides I had feeling I’d get some answers in those boxes of magazines.
I leaned over and pressed “return call.”
“Frank!” I said shaking off a sleepy voice, “I just got out of the shower.”
“I need to see you,” he said in his usual calm, mannered voice.
“Certainly. What time?”
“As soon as you can.”
“Is anything wrong?”
I heard the cat purring on the line.
“Okay, how about…” The alarm clock burned an amber 11:00 AM. “In an hour?”
“Very well. I’ll see you then.”
“And Gus?”
“Bring, Peanuts.”
Before I could get up and hit the shower, the phone rang from “CALLER UNKNOWN.” I pressed the answer button.
“Hello, is this, August?”
I cleared my throat and tried to place the voice.
“August Chase?” The voice asked again.
“Who’s calling?”
“You don’t know me, my name is Carla Donati. I think you knew my sister?”
“Oh?” Immediately, I tired to place that name, Donati.
“Her name was Emma.”
I froze. “Emma?”
“Emma Donati. You spoke with her several times last month?”
“Did I?” It raced back into my brain like yesterday’s nightmare.
“I need to see you.”
“I understand it’s kind of awkward, but could you meet me at the Boat House CafĂ© in Central Park?”
“Sorry, I meant to say at about three o’clock this afternoon?”
“This afternoon?”
“I’m sorry for the short notice, but it’s the best time for me this week.”
“Okay. I guess. What’s this about?”
“I think you know.”
“Is it about the mugging? Because really, I had nothing-“
“I just have to ask a few questions…please, meet me?”
Her voice sounded edgy, like she was about to crack. I stared out the window wondering if this was some extended version of the “Emma” dream, a warped kind of epilogue to her life story.
“Carla, I’ll meet you, but I can’t stay long. Got a lot of things going on today,” I lied.
“Thank you.”
Still holding the phone, I caught sight of a man standing across the street from my apartment. He seemed to be looking right at me. The camera he held flashed a few times. I got closer to the window in time to see him walk around the corner. I noticed he wore a dark leather motorcycle jacket and black jeans, but he didn’t mount a bike. Then a motorcycle zipped past my window.
“Hello? Are you still there?” I asked, not aware she’d hung up. I didn’t hear the click at the other end. Why did I agree to see her? What could she possibly want from me? Unless she thought I was some kind of nut fulfilling a deadly prophecy? I was sure she’d have the cops there waiting for me. Already things were turning to shit and I hadn’t even had my coffee yet.

I’ll Do That.

Peanut fit snuggly into a plastic shopping bag. I’d take him out before I got to the fat man’s apartment. Didn’t want him to think I was disrespectful of his little buddy. Just as I turned the corner onto Frank’s street, I saw motorcycle jacket guy walking toward me. I stopped short and pressed my back against the building as he got buzzed into Frank's building. An hour late and look what I find; Frank dealing in dirty little secrets. This guy was starting to scare me. Stepping into a nearby coffee shop, I ordered a cup and sat at a small table near the window. I typed Frank’s name into my phone search engine to see what popped up. Frank Cosh didn’t show up anything. I typed in Frank Cosh, New Hampshire, his place of birth, and that came up another blank. Did Frank send him to spy on me? Why would he do that, some sort of test? Was he a control freak and wanted to check me out? The hell with Frank and his scary Motorcycle Jacket spy, the Lantern had a burger calling my name, and I had a few question for my friend Millar.

A half hour later as I sat perched at the bar, sipping a Bass ale, received a call from Frank. I apologized and told him a friend had died unexpectedly and that I had to be there for the family. Saying he understood, we arranged to meet at six o’clock at his place. Then I turned back to Millar.
“So you’re telling me you only know Frank through this online astronomy site, Manhattan Observers, and you’ve never met the man or know what he does or how he gets his money?”
“If I knew the Fat Man, then I’d be complicit in a spy operation centered on your doorway and I have no interest in your doorway,” Millar said.
“Come on, Mill, you’ve got me mixed up with a freak.”
“Hey, you’re the Dream Detective, just tell him you didn’t dream anything and go on your way.”
“I’ll do that.”
“Yeah, good, the guy's a freak show.” I said and finished my pint of Bass.
Millar got up and put a few coins in the juke box and waited for the buttons to light up. Nothing happened.
“Hey,” he shouted, “What the fuck, Al?”
The bartender walked over to the jukebox and pulled the plug. “Sorry, forgot to unplug it. It’s been eating money all day.”
“Well, shit! Thanks for the warning.”
“Here, I’ll give you your money back, yah big baby.”
Allen santered behind the bar and slapped a few quarters down in front of Millar.
“Fucking joint,” Millar started to walk away, I took his arm.
“Why do you think the Fat Man would be interested in me? Is he a writer of some sort?”
“How the fuck should I know? You’re the Sleeping Detective.”
“Nice. Is that going to be your retort to all things relating to me from now on? Dream Detective, Sleep Detective, what the hell?”
“Got a nice ring to it.” Millar smiled. “I gotta pee, Sleeping Detective. Sir.”
“Great, Mill. Thanks ever so much. I knew I could count on you.”
I sat sat ruminating on the Fat Man's spy and possible motives for checking me out.
When Millar got back to the bar, he sat hard on his chair and turned to me.
“I think he’s got something to hide and wants you…”
“Wants me?”
“He wants you to find something for him?”
“But he was so vague. He said he was worried about his sister, who I assume is still in New Hampshire. That’s not very specific.”
“Exacty! He wants to see how safe this secret is.”
“That’s nuts,” I said.
“That’s right. It is nuts. Fuck it.”
Millar downed the rest of his beer and we both ordered a burger.

The park seemed almost empty in the late afternoon. I was feeling bit skittish after seeing Motorcycle Jacket taking pictures of my apartment, and wasn’t feeling very brave approaching the Boat House. I sat on a high wall on the back side of the property, kind of out of the way, and watched people as they came and went. Of course, I was an hour late, but hey, if she really wanted to see me, she’d still be there, right?
After a while I was starting to feel a bit guilty for standing her up, so I walked sheepishly into the restaurant and stood in the entrance. A dark haired woman, about thirty five and carrying two brightly colored museum bags, walked toward me. Instinctively, I covered my face and started to turn away, but held my ground as she approached.
“Carla?” I asked.
The woman gave me a sad nod and kept walking out of the building. I followed.
“Sorry I’m so late." I called after. "But I’m here now if you want to talk.”
She kept walking. I chased. “Look, things are a bit messed up right now and I’m sorry, okay? But I didn’t kill your sister.”
The woman half turned, a panicked look in her eye.
The woman walked faster still.
A strong female voice hit me from behind. I turned and saw a tall, light skinned woman with dark hair. I turned back and saw the other woman scurry off, her shopping bags flapping against her knees as she tried desperately to run up the small hill.
“You have a way with women,” she said.
“Look, I thought she was you.”
“Are you going to chase me up the hill, too?”
“What? No, I –“
Her smile stopped my plea.
“Okay, you got me. I’m a deranged stalker. You’ve nailed it.”
A look of sadness came over her. We just stood there avoiding eye contact for what seemed like a minute or two but was probably only seconds. She seemed to be thinking about what she already knew she was going to say. An extremely attractive woman, her even features, full lips and dark shoulder length hair were instantly alluring.
“How did you know my sister was going to get killed?” She asked finally.
I looked away. What was I going to say? There was so much to say, so much I could tell her. So much I should never tell anyone. The hair flopped around on my head as the wind picked up. Scattered leaves flew into the corners and crags of the wall. Her mid-length raincoat flew up in the back. I smiled slightly, hoping to break the ice a bit.
“Let’s get a cup of coffee,” I said.
She nodded and we walked back into the Boat House.
I remember once a disc jockey doing his little spiel about talking to women, his deep radio voice going on about a specific woman he'd seen, saying “She was a living doll but you, you know you’re nothing to look at…” And I remember thinking, really? Guys think that way? Well, shit, I don’t! I’m a good looking guy and I know it. I’ve never been intimidated by a woman in my life. Taken off guard, maybe, once or twice, but never really intimidated. I've always found something to say, creeping along until on easily found common ground until a spark ignighted. If that’s arrogant then so be it. I just think of myself as confident with the ladies. Only once did I stammer in the face of a beautiful woman. I was selling magazine subscriptions for my high school sports program back in Massachusetts, door to door. I'd come to a fairly nice house at the top of a cul-de-sac and knocked, puffing myself up with some energy to do my best sell. And when the door opened, there stood the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I can’t even describe her as looking like a real person. I’d say the closest thing I’d seen was a painting we had in the living room of a “gypsy girl.” Dark hair, great big brown eyes, perfectly shaped nose and eyebrows. Curly locks pulled back just enough to reveal a large gold hoop on her ear. Well, I stood there and couldn’t even speak to the woman. Finally, out came something like, “You buy this?”
Carla took my breath away. And the feeling that she wasn’t quite human crept upon me the way it did that day I was selling door to door. What the hell was I going to say to her?
We sat silently sipping our drinks. I got a regular cup and she had a decaf latte. The water beyond the large glass windows rippled in the intermittent gusts. Leaves blew around the back deck. A few boaters leisurely rowed in and out of the rental area. I felt frozen in my chair, like I’d been dipped in dry ice and left on a pedestal for the chain saw. Her eyes were clear and bright and radiated intelligence.
“My sister was murdered.”
“I know.”
“You knew.”
“Well, yeah.”
“I mean ahead of time,” she looked out the windows and back to me. “Give me a reason you would know that, or why I shouldn’t have my friend over there bring you in?”
I followed her gaze to a man in a long trench coat standing on the corner, and looking back at me.
“What is this?” I asked.
“This? This is a cup of coffee,” she took a deep breath and added, “For now.”
“Okay, so I’m supposed to be intimidated or what?”
“He’s here for my protection.”
“You think you need protection from me, I’m gonna kill the whole family now?”
“It’s a tough city.”
“But I’m not a tough guy.”
“We all need some protection.”
“I could use some myself.”
“Get your own guy.”
“How much do they cost?”
“I don’t know, I ask friends.”
“I don’t have any friends.”
“That’s too bad. But I can’t blame them.”
We looked into each others eyes.
“You really think I had something to do with your sister’s murder?”
“Did you?”
“I just told you I didn’t.”
“I didn’t hear you say it.”
“But that’s what I meant.”
I sipped my coffee. She took her cup and sipped.
“So do we keep on like this or do you want to tell me something?” She put her drink down and turned the cup handle to a 45 degree angle.
“You used to be a waiter?” I asked.
She smiled and asked, “How did you know?”
“I’m starting to think I’m a bit of a detective.”
“A detective? What was my sister wrapped up in?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you were on a case when you saw her?”
“Sort of. I do a lot of freelance work, on my own.”
“And she came into this case somehow?”
“Look, there wasn’t a case, okay? I dream things and sometimes they come true.”
“What? What are you saying?” She asked.
“Didn’t your sister tell you what I do?”
She nodded, “No.”
I turned to the man on the sidewalk and then back to her. “Listen, you’d think I was nuts if I tried to explain what’s going on. I’m not a cop, I don’t have a badge. I’m just a guy who sees things and tries to help, that’s all.”
She looked crest fallen, her eyes darting to the man outside and back to her latte.
“Your sister was a sweet girl. I don’t think she was mixed up in anything illegal, at least it didn’t appear that way.”
“But if you’re not a detective, then how do you know?”
I sat back exasperated.
She looked at the man again and seemed to nod in his direction. This sent a shrill of panic through me.
“Okay, wait. Call off your guy.”
“I just did.”
“Oh.” I sat back a bit relieved. “Why did you do that?”
“He had to go. But I can get him on the phone right away!” Her voice shot higher on those last words and I knew she was still scared.
At the next table, a young couple got up. I noticed they’d left behind a Village Voice. I leaned forward looking her straight in the eyes. “Okay, here’s the deal. I’m gonna explain to you what I do. You’re gonna have to trust I’m telling you the truth. If you don’t believe me, then I guess you’ll never understand how I got involved with your sister, but if you do, we’ll have it settled right here and now.”
I grabbed the copy of the Voice, found my ad and laid it out in front of her. “Read right here,” I said, pointing.
She put her nose in the paper, read a bit and looked up at me.
“This?” An incredulous lilt weaved through her voice.
“Yes. This”
“You’re a physic?”
“I hate that word.”
“And you’re trying to tell me that you knew this thing was going to happen to my sister? “I did everything I could to warn her.”
“This is just too weird.”
She stood up and put five dollars on the table.
“She just wouldn’t listen to what I had to say.”
“A psychic. Oh my God. How much did she give you?”
“How much did you bilk out of her?”
“It’ not like that.”
Carla started to walk away.
“I’m telling you the truth! I saw what was going to happen.”
“I shouldn’t have come here,” she said half to herself, and then she turned to me, her eyes lit with sparks. “You’re a bad person, Mister…” She shook her head, trying to remember my last name. A tear streaked her cheek. Her tone was mystified, incredulous, beaten; she secured her jacket belt and walked out the door.
to be cont'd...

Registered with WGA
Copyright 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dream State (Part Three)

Okay fiction fans, it's time to blast off with part three. Our hero meets "the Fat Man." And things are changed...and we meet Millar!

My first case: The Fat Man Sings

Bright and shiny of spirit, light hearted at the prospect of making some money and potentially helping people, I pushed any potential dream subjects out of my conscious mind. My first paying customer was a fat man named, Frank Cosh, who lived in the village in a run down four story walk up. He had a toothless grin, thinning hair and soup stains on his tent-size, button down shirt. With an elegant vocabulary, Frank spoke well of all those around him and while he greeted me, held a fat tabby named, “Peanuts.”
“Where do we begin?” He asked gliding his three hundred odd pounds past stacks of boxes holding old newspaper clippings, books and magazines. The boxes swayed and nearly tipped as he walked past. I guessed I was supposed to follow, so I did. We ended up in a far back bedroom which held the largest bed I’d ever seen. Between the boxes stuffed to capacity and tipping perilously toward me, I found myself seated in a small wood chair at the foot of the bed. Peanuts stared at me like I’d done something magical he’d been trying to figure out his whole life. The fat man smiled as he laid his head on his well troughed pillow.
“I don’t usually consult psychics, but I had a feeling when I read your ad, I don’t know, something came over me. I’m worried about my sister, Marion.”
“I see,” I said, nodding confidently. “Well, we’ll see what we can see.”
He smiled again, and then his face got serene and quiet. Laying a hand on his cat’s head, he rubbed its nose with his fat thumb and said, “I think she’s going to die.”
A flush went through me. I had a strong urge to bolt out of his bedroom. What was I thinking? I can’t do this. I can’t dream on demand. I have to be under stress, physical stress. I have to be pushed to my limit, tired, vulnerable, scared, and cold to have any kind of meaningful occurrence. Besides, hadn’t I been guided to these people by some connective force? Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but shit, I couldn’t just go into a trance, I had to be pushed into it.
“Okay,” I said, “but you know how this works?”
He nodded his head yes, but had a blank look that said, no.
“Okay’ let me lay it all out for you. I have to get to know you, see? I find out the facts and desires, your desires, well, maybe not your desires, but I get to know you, your essence.”
“My essence? That’s sounds rather…, don’t you think?”
“Well, what other way do you want me to explain it? Besides, I can’t do anything here. I can’t do a trance. I have to dream it. I have to sleep, and then I tell you what I see.”
“Oh,” he sounded down hearted.
“You did read my ad, right?”
“Yes, but I thought you’d trance sleep or something and I could get the results right away?”
“Sorry, Frank, I know in this age of instant gratification that’s what you want, but that’s not how it works.”
We spent the next two hours chatting. A quiet, intelligent man, I surmised he’d succumbed to his many phobias years before and was basically trapped in his self-made tomb, a living ghost, as it were. His only contact with the outside world was the internet and TV, and the germs his cat tracked in through the window after a night out. His money had come and gone from a telephone answering service he’d managed. Having briefly flourished in the early eighties, it died a quick, silent death in the early nineties when cell phones became readily available. Since then he’d been living off a small inheritance he’d gotten from his uncle. That was enough information for me to try and get a dream. After handing me an old stuffed rabbit, as a sort of memento/guide/talisman, I assumed, I walked home and proceeded to get drunk.
Okay, I lied. This part of the story is where things start to get complicated. I try to tell only the barest essentials, and sometimes I don’t tell the whole story because I just can’t face some things I’ve done. But mostly because there are certain people in this story that I’d rather forget. Now that I said that, I may as well admit it. I really didn’t place an ad in the Village Voice. Well, I did, but I didn’t get Frank as a client that way. Okay, that’s where I lied. Sue me. I was trying to avoid having to mention Millar Milford. I’m ashamed I knew him and that for a long time, he was my only friend, but now I realize how important he was to all this.
Millar and I met at The Lantern, a sleazy little bar that used to be a fairly nice pub. Good burgers, fish and chips. Soccer games showing on the television. Wood shavings covered the floor. The bartender was a freak named Allen, was skinny as a pole because he’d started on a Macrobiotic Diet several months back and thought he looked just peachy with .02 percent body fat. Allen had gotten mean in his skinniness. Thought he was above the lowly swine that haunted his late night establishment. For all I know he was a snooty English Major at the New School. What do I care? He was a prick.
Anyway, one night I’m trying to forget this one recurring dream where a girl named, Francine, I’d tracked to the Bronx gets her head ripped off by a city bus while she’s out for a nice Sunday bike ride. I’d heard of this type of accident before. It almost happened to me once. The bike rider is moving along, extra careful of traffic, studying the insane cabs coming at you, the people darting in and out. Then a bus comes along from behind, cuts you off and takes a right hand turn in front of you. The bus covers part of the curb, your trying desperately to get onto the curb and the next thing you know you have scrambled brains all over the sidewalk. So, I’m sitting in The Lantern trying to get this image out of my head, thinking up ways I can get this girl to understand she’s gonna have her head popped, when this geeky looking guy named, Millar buys me a round. Then he buys me another and another. Pretty soon I was hearing all about his pathetic life, how his wife was gone and he was stuck holding the bill for an extended honeymoon she’d never intended to finish, blah, blah, blah. The guy could talk. And he had money, lots of it. He was a computer geek and made millions selling a few software programs that allowed other programs to talk to each other of some such nonsense. It was all Greek to me. I just felt sorry for him because he was one lonely, shy dude, a bit on the rude side, and had the social skills of a wasp. Every other sentence he’d blurt out something nasty he’d seen or heard or noticed about you.
“Hey, that’s a nice zit you got there,” or “Gee, you got a scar on your nose, you know that?” or “You know how when you jerk off in the tub the sperm sticks to you?”
I don’t even have a big nose. He’s warped. Anyway, I didn’t want to tell you about Millar, because quite frankly, he’s a pain in the ass. But after a while he grows on you. So, one night he comes up with this idea for an ad in the Voice. “Take control of this thing,” he says. “Make some money off it.”
At the time I was an Exhibit Technician at the Natural History Museum, and not making a whole lot of dough. I’d wanted to be a writer, but that’s another story. So, I took him up on the classified ad idea, but before I even processed the idea he gets all excited and says he knows this guy looking for a psychic and he could call him for me. A guy he met in an online group of astronomy enthusiasts. (You should hear the whole “Red Dwarf Star” lecture) So I explained to him about the whole dream thing. About not forcing the dream subject on me, but he was so enthusiastic, a rare thing for this guy, that I took him up on it. More about Millar later, I just wanted, well, had to introduce him before I got too far into the story because he comes back to haunt it. Now I don’t feel so guilty. And besides, he ended up coming through for me.
Anyway, after visiting the fat man and going home and downing a few beers, I took a hot shower, laid out some comfy bed clothes and started to meditate. I wanted to clear my mind and really focus in. I sat on the floor and stared at a candle flame as it danced above the wax. After I relaxed a bit, I put on my bed clothes, took firm grasp of his rabbit, “Peter” I think he said its name was, and lay down on my bed. I put a tee shirt over the lamp to dim the lights and began a humming meditation. That’s where you hum to the point of it blocking out all else but the sound. After a while I felt myself drifting into a slushy, sputtering dream. Images formed from static pulses. The fat man is sitting on his bed, smiling, angles of the room where he sits, boxes toppling over, magazines falling to the floor. I look at one of the magazines; an old Life filled with hazy color photos. One of the photos is moving. I see a girl, no, not a girl but a slender, tall young woman. She’s attractive in a “fifties” kind of way. Her lips are bright red, hair done up like a Jane Mansfield publicity still. She moves in a staccato, frame by frame walk across the page. She leans down to a fat little baby, shakes her finger at it. “Don’t cry,” she seems to be saying. The baby crawls off. I follow it to the next page. It crawls over to another baby, a little girl wearing a pink ribbon in her hair, and pulling at her tiny little booties. Suddenly the fat baby pushes the girl baby off the page. She gets up, crying, and runs off into the shadows of the room. It went black. I woke up. I looked at the stuffed rabbit, encouraged I could even conjure up the fat man at all.
“Peter,” I said, “this is going to be one tough ride. But the fat man is going to get his answers.” I turned over to go to sleep when an idea popped into my head. I’d dreamed in black and white until now, but this was a kind of rich hazy color. Of course, Life Magazine was known for the color photography. There’s something else I didn’t get, something about those boxes of magazines. I had to see them for myself.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dream State (Part Two)

A few months ago I posted the first section of a novel I was writing called Dream State. You can go back to past posts to find it. This is the next section.

My first attempted rescue: Beaten but not whipped.

Pablo Carrillo, the dude in the car, didn’t realize his life was in danger. Nor did he think the gringo who knocked on his door that afternoon was anything worth mentioning to his wife, Phyllis. It wasn’t until the gringo started hanging around the corner deli near his apartment that he started to take the situation seriously, and not in the way the gringo had wanted, but in a way that could get the gringo hurt. At least, this is the impression I got from him when he grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me down in the corner of the store.
“Get out of my neighborhood, you understand me?”
“I’m trying to tell you you’re in danger!”
Carrillo hauled back, held his fist above my head ready to let loose.
“You think I want to be here?” I asked. “I hate this. I hate this.”
Carrillo lowered his fist, looked at the deli guy watching us.
“What are you looking at?”
The deli guy picked up a telephone and began to dial.
“Now you get the fuck out of my face or I swear I’ll put you deep in the ground.”
“It’s a bridge,” I started desperately, trying to sound as sincere and foreboding as possible, “I see a bridge and you’re crossing it. You have on a suit. A wedding? Are you going to a –“
The vision began playing in my head. All I could see was the truck coming at me. I was behind the dashboard, and the truck comes so fast he doesn’t have time to react. In an instant I feel the impact. My chest heaves, I try to catch my breath. My body convulses and contorts as the car wraps around me.
Carrillo stepped back, his fist still balled. I could feel the blood come to my mouth, my lip bleeding.
“You’re sick, dude. I didn’t even hit you! Get yourself to a fucking hospital.” Carrillo ran out of the store. I laughed to myself, but the pain in my chest was overwhelming. I saw black.
My face was cold. Numbness snaked up the side of my head from my ear to the top of my skull. I sat up, brushed pebbles from my cheek. I’d seen him crash and die. There was nothing I could do to stop it. It came, it happened and it finished, like a ride in an amusement park. It did what it was programmed to do and that was that. I’d tracked him down for nothing. He and Phyllis were going to crash on that bridge and fall into the river on their way to a wedding and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I turned my head and saw the deli guy looking at me from his window. No doubt he’d dragged me to the street, empathetic fucker. Yeah, I see you.
“I love you, too,” I said out loud, knowing he couldn’t hear me.
He turned away.
Okay, so there had to be a way to channel this stuff, synthesize it into a form I could deal with rather than chasing some guy until he thinks I’m nuts. Anyway, that’s what I was thinking. That was the plan, until I finally got it down to a science. You want facts and figures? I can give you that. You want times and places? I can give you that, too. You want to know who; it’s going to cost you. Cuz that’s what I do. Well, sort of. That was just three months ago, years from the time I’d had my first dream.

The Case of Emma

Cabrillo was not my first attempt to understand the reality of what I was dreaming. My first few dreams had faded as quickly as they’d come. Actually, Cabrillo came immediately after another set of disturbing dreams about a young woman named, Emma. The dreams by this time were longer, more concise. I began to see little details, such as the time of day or night, the weather, what they were wearing. And I just happen to wake up right away. That was the key to remembering.
In the case of Emma, I’d dreamed her death twice the first week, then three times the next week, then every night and twice during the day in the last week, when they stopped. I hadn’t connected her to anything real. Outside of enduring a horrible recurring nightmare, and a slightly bloodied nose, I just figured she was a mythical being I’d made up. I did however, out of curiosity, call a young woman I thought might be Emma and tried to warn her. She didn’t take it well. I tired to have a serious conversation with her, but she was spooked beyond imagination. I’d even given her my name and phone number in case she changed her mind and wanted to work with me. The more she resisted the more I attacked. I followed her to school, to work, to the dentist. I ran into her at a restaurant, in the subway, near a bus stop. One day the dreams just stopped and I was free, able move on. Or so I thought. A week or so later I was having lunch at a local restaurant and I saw her picture on the wall. On it was a memorial poem dedicated to her memory; her photo graced the bottom half of the poster. My heart stopped when I saw the picture. She had a straight white smile, shoulder length dirty blonde hair and was wearing chef whites, just as I had seen her in my dreams. The tag line below the picture stated she’d died on January 7th of that year, the victim of a brutal late night mugging in midtown Manhattan. I didn’t have to be told the details. I’d seen it several times. Now I knew for certain I was dreaming reality before it happened. In essence, I was a time traveler. A spirit roaming the dark halls of time, plucking out this event or that, all relating to the death of someone I didn’t even know existed before my subconscious brought me to them.

Fast forward a few weeks.

Once I’d started to put things together, figure out what I could do with this “gift,” I placed an ad in the Village Voice under “psychic readings.” In it I detailed my ability to dream the future and warn paying customers of what may be. The only problem was I didn’t know if it was a lie or not, because I’d never tried it on anyone in particular. I’d always been brought to a stranger in my dreams, as if guided by some unknown force, and it always took me a few days to track them down. Each time I’d ended up with nothing but heartache and hurt for my troubles. Funny thing is, I was always shocked and amazed that I could track down the subjects in my dreams. They never believed me. Would you? So, the hell with it, I was going into the dream business for real and make some money. Get rewarded for services rendered.

Friday, December 10, 2010

On aging and Creativity

We all share in the state of being human. Of knowing our fate even as we start our journey in life. Theatre is a way to share bits and pieces of our emotional life with others. To relate to our own and others experiences and see it acted out in a concrete forum. Our intellects are tied closely to our emotions, informing our decisions, influencing our tastes. One thing I've noticed is that as age comes upon us, for many people, tolerance for frustration and difficult circumstances decreases and we do not want to deal with difficult problems the way we may have in our youth. A difficult person is avoided. Uncomfortable circumstances are circumvented. This is done through experience. I figured out a long time ago that certain battles, situations and problems were worth avoiding at all costs. I used to take on all challenges head on. I was constantly swimming up stream. But I’ve come to realize many challenges are not worth the effort. Writing, on the other hand has become easier for me, and is similar to the dream state. At times I simply feel like I'm writing down what I'm seeing composed in my head and have very little to do with it, except giving it a nudge here and a nudge there. Creativity can be changed by drugs, but not exclusively. I think depression and emotional exhaustion can be crippling, and can come upon you like a wave. The trick is to recognize the symptoms as they build and to head off the “event” with some sort of intervention.