Friday, January 14, 2011

Dream State (Continuation of a novel)

Bear Cave

The door to Frank’s apartment was ajar. He’d buzzed me in and apparently left it that way for me to walk in, so I did. The room was stuffy and dark, boxes lined every wall and into the hallway. Walking to his bedroom gave me the sense of a carnival fun house, walls leaning and tipping in various directions, floors creaking as I went. I followed the faint light into his bedroom and sat down in the same chair at the foot of his bed, but Frank was not there. I called his name and heard a muffled reply coming from what I assumed was the bathroom. I took the opportunity to look through a few boxes. Old newspapers were folded and stacked neatly in every top box I saw, except for one that held old “Life” magazines. I flipped through the first few and found nothing to catch my eye. They were mostly dated from the 50’s and late 60’s. One had beautiful color prints from the battle of Iwo Jima. Next to the magazine was an old Manchester News from the early seventies. I reached in the box and pulled out three more of the same issue, all dated July, 17, 1972. And then I noticed the one opened lying on the floor at the foot of his bed. I stuffed a copy under my coat.
“Great stuff, isn’t it?”
I was startled to see Frank standing in the doorway. I hadn’t even heard the floors creak.
“Oh, yeah. Incredible detail in these photos.” I picked up the Life magazine.
“That Iwo Jima photo shoot was something special. Printed in the 1968, I bet.”
I looked at the date and he was correct.
“I never asked, are you a writer, Frank?”
“I am. Graphic novels, mostly.” He pointed to a poster of what I assumed was one of his covers. The title, AUGUR! in blood red ink, was scratched across the top of the page. Below that stood a hooded figure raising a large walking stick up to the sky. A flock of birds flew overhead and into the distant hills. Two names appeared at the bottom of the page. McNaughlty appeared on the left and to the right the name, Finn. I shook my head in the affirmative and sat back down in the chair.
“Are you Finn or McNaughlty?” I asked.
“Neither,” he said in an annoyed tone.
Not wanting to press the matter, I asked him if he liked to read, an ironic question considering his décor.
“I’m a veracious reader. I consume everything, as you can see. I can’t seem to throw anything away. I’m always afraid I may need it for reference or I may not finish a periodical and set it aside, never to return. But in my mind, I know I will return, so I keep it handy.”
Looking at the stacks of newspapers and boxes, ‘handy’ was not exactly the word that came to mind.
“They have computers for this type of library now, you know.”
Frank’s smile disappeared and he sat heavy on the bed.
“Where’s Peter?”
I’d forgotten the rabbit, or maybe I just want to hold onto it for a little leverage, incase I was in trouble.
“He’s safe,” I said.
“Safe? What do you mean safe?” Frank’s startled look caught me off guard.
“I mean, he’s safe at my apartment. I have him in a bag, ready to go, but I forgot to take him at the last minute.”
“You have him in a bag?”
I gave him a gentle nod that said, ‘Sorry, I’m really not a stuffed animal abuser.’
“He’s very old and fragile. I thought I told you that. Be careful with him. And I thought you were going to use him to entice a dream?”
“And I did,” I said quickly.
“I said to bring him!”
Frank’s perturbed look softened into a general calmness. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“It lowers blood pressure.”
I nodded, and then asked, “The rabbit?”
“The breathing!” He said, looking at me like I was an imbecile.
Frank’s exasperated mood was not conducive to doing business. I decided to lighten things a bit.
“I really like that rabbit. It seems nice. How long have you had it?”
Franks eyes slowly moved in my direction, not quite finding my face.
I continued, “Its fur is a little matted. It must be old. It’s interesting the way its not a hunched up rabbit on all fours, they way you’d think of a rabbit, but it looks more like a teddy bear rabbit, except it has big rabbit ears…”
Weariness is all that comes to mind. I was making him weary.
“I had an interesting dream,” I said.
A jolt went through my nerves and my heart started beating faster. What the hell was I doing?
“Tell me about this, dream…” And he lay back onto the bed, closing his eyes.
“Well…” I swear a minute ticked by and neither one of us moved, gave a look or said anything. Sweat dripped from my upper lip into my mouth. My eyes wandered around the room searching for a starting point. The dream I had just didn’t seem useful or even something I wanted to share with him. After a while Frank cleared his throat. I coughed. And it occurred to me he didn’t get many visitors. Maybe he was just enjoying having some company? That gave me some courage to explore.
“I saw something very interesting.”
“Yes, go on.”
“I have a few questions, though.”
He sat up and looked at me; his large round eyes appeared even bigger than usual.
“Was your sister your twin?”
“Not even close.” His tone was a bit surly as he lay back down.
“Okay, then was she younger?”
“And you had a good relationship?”
“What do you mean, had?”
“Oh, sorry. How is your relationship now?” I asked.
“As opposed to before?”
“Before what?”
“You said ‘as opposed to,’ and I asked, opposed to what?”
“As opposed to nothing. Move on, will you?”
I let a few seconds of silence go by to capture the mood again.
“Yes. The room is dark now,” I started.
Frank popped open an eye, apparently to check the light, then closed it.
“So dark now, so dark. Oh look, a magazine. A woman in her thirties. She wears red lipstick and a kerchief on her head.”
I was studying an illustration on the back of an old Life magazine that lay in the box in front of me.
“Her lips are puckered and she seems acutely aware something is amiss.”
Frank popped open an eye, and said, “What the fuck are you doing?”
“There’s a baby boy,” I added quickly. “And I see a baby girl.”
“Okay!” Frank sat up again. “Is this something you’re seeing now or is this what you dreamt, because I thought you told me you don’t do trances, and there’s nothing I hate more than a phony, you understand me? You start making shit up and I’ll have you out on your ear so fast…”
Startled, I immediately went into recovery mode. It didn’t matter that I was scared shitless of this reclusive fatty. That he was sending people to my house to take pictures and had a strange affection for a stuffed rabbit named, Peter. All I saw was me losing again; Losing a job, an employer, a gig. I was drenched in flop sweat. Being good enough to entice him further was my driving force. Lies were starting to ensnare me. I had to untangle myself before it got wrapped too tightly. I didn’t care so much about Motorcycle Jacket taking pictures of my apartment; I just didn’t want to lose a customer. I wanted this gig! So I decided to tell the damn truth. What the hell, I had nothing else!
So, I paced the small open area in front of his bed determined to lay it all out there.
“Okay, Frank. I didn’t want to tell you, but I saw you push your sister off the page of the magazine, okay? You were just babies, in diapers I would guess. You were jealous and you pushed her off. And your mother was there and yes, she did have red lipstick and a fifties style hairdo.”
A few seconds ticked of silence ticked by.
“I was in a magazine?” he asked.
“Yes. Well, I saw your baby pictures and they came to life.”
“In the magazine?”
“Yes. A full color spread.”
“And we moved, like in a movie?”
“Yes. You moved, in a cartoon-like movie and you crawled over to your sister-“
“How do you know it was my sister,” he interrupted.
“Well, I don’t. I just assumed.”
“Yes, yes, go on.”
“And your mother was there. Kind of an iconic looking female figure of the early sixties, I would guess.”
“Yes, yes.”
“And you pushed her, your sister, off the page.”
“And my mother, what did she do?
That was a good question, I didn’t notice that.
“Nothing, that was the end of the dream.”
“That’s it?”
“Yes, that’s all I have.”
Frank closed his eyes. There was a thickness to the air. The pause seemed to weigh on my chest. “Does that make any sense?” I asked, finally.
Frank took an enormously deep breath and looked out the window.
Seemingly impressed, mystified and weary all at the same time, he slowly walked into the kitchen. I followed close behind. He stood at the open door, apparently waiting for me to take leave. I walked into the hallway and turned to face him.
“Dream some more. I’ll call you. Use Peter.”
Frank held out a fifty dollar bill. I looked at it, not wanting to take it.
“What’s that for?”
“I want you to come back.”
A flush ran through my cheeks. I felt like a prostitute. “I’ll come back. I don’t need your money.” I choked on the last few syllables.
“You dreamed. Dream more, that’s all.”
I looked at the bill he held so politely in his fat fingers.
“Here, take it, you’re making my arm tired.”
Frank stuffed the bill in my hand, patted my back and shut the door, and that was that. I had my first paying customer. And I felt dirty all over.