I am at the foot of a barren and dusty hill in the Middle East. I and few other people sit in a makeshift bunker -- really no more than a small cut in the hillside shored up with a couple rotten two-by-fours. Gunfire sounds around us and the air is smoky. Occasionally, a beach ball, fired from the top of the hill, will land in or near the bunker. The balls are plastic, about two feet in diameter, and land with the hollow 'shing!' characteristic of rubber kickballs from grade school. Some of the balls are checkered black and white and are harmless. We ignore these. The others, however, are bright yellow and explode violently about thirty seconds after impact. Whenever one lands we take cover against the walls of our bunker.
Behind the bunker the hill flattens out before the next hill begins. In the valley, across a road, are a village and a lake. The lake is like thick mud -- highly viscous and the same golden brown as the hills around it. It is repulsively gritty, yet people still bathe and do laundry in it's waters. I would like to swim, but not there.
I cross the road and enter the village's bazaar. I walk among the stalls and eventually enter one. I try on various saris and talk with the owner. I ask him if there is another lake nearby and he tells me of one up the valley that is azure blue, crystalline, and ringed by white sands.
I am visiting my friend Nicole. I walk into her co-op and see her down the dark hallway but she either doesn't see me or ignores me and walks the other direction. Her housemates are friendly, though, and I go out to dinner with them. We wind our way through a dense marketplace and enter a small Indian restaurant. The decor is lush: silver trays and Persian rugs adorn the walls, casting a deep, sparkling red over the table. The group is mostly women and they quickly begin talking. Conversation is lively, but my contributions are met with pauses. Our realities are not aligned and the things I say do not make sense to them. I am slowly left out of the conversation and become withdrawn. They do not know me. They wonder who I really am and if they should trust me.
Marjie and I are traveling in my truck, though it is out of necessity: we are homeless. It is nighttime and we are parked under an overpass, across a pair of rails in the middle of a wide switchyard. The tent, too, dangerously straddles a set of tracks. The tracks emerge from a set of parallel tunnels about a hundred yards away. Everything is damp and grim, a gray industrial landscape warmed only by our small fire. We are sitting on small buckets about ten yards from the truck in the space between two tracks, cooking our meager dinner.
A car drives up and a few people get out. They are charcoal smudges in long trenchcoats. They walk over to our encampment and inform me that my father is prepared to offer me a free ride through graduate school. The idea sounds wonderful -- a stereotypical second chance -- but I can feel an unwelcome pressure to succeed... Worse still, if I accept I have to leave Marjie behind.
I feel great sadness. Though I despise my life without a home, having Marjie with me lends it a certain sweetness. And while the halls of academia shine brightly before my eyes, I could never leave Marjie behind to continue this life of hunger, darkness and grime.
Suddenly, I notice a train approaching. It is emerging from one of the tunnels and heading towards us. I jump up, grab a flashlight, and run over to the truck. The train is heading roughly in our direction, but there are so many switches between it and our camp that there is no way of knowing which track it will take. I shine my flashlight up the tracks, trying to see the switches so I can know whether or not to move the tent and the truck, but my flashlight is weak and I am blinded by the locomotive's headlamp. The train is getting closer, and I don't even know where *I* should be standing to avoid it. I realize the hopelessness of predicting the train's course and sparing our belongings. The infinite branching of the possibilities fills my head. I give up.
Marjie and I are spies. We are attending a large company picnic on a bright green lawn next to a tall building. The lawn is crowded with people milling around and sampling food off of the large picnic table. I know that the thin strip of grass leading around the building connects to another, similar lawn on the other side.
Marjie gets up and says she is going into the building. I know she is going to do some spy work in there. Soon after she leaves, a couple nearby get up and follow her into the building. They are counter-spies and are after her! I trust Marjie to handle herself and busy myself with sabotaging the food that the evil couple brought. I sit back down and wait for Marjie's return. I wait a long time. A very long time.
My curiosity turns to worry and I eventually get up. I follow the thin strip of grass around to the other side of the building. The grass area on the other side is much larger, about the size of a football field. On it, a Special Olympic marching band is performing, their slightly surreal oom-pah accompanied by shattered yells from the Special Olympic cheerleading squad. I find Marjie sitting on the grass, watching the spectacle. She smiles and tells me that nothing is wrong, she just went for a walk.
I'm looking at my truck. It doesn't look right. It's one of those mini campers made from a Toyota like the guys I met on the beach in Delaware at Thanksgiving had. But the windshield doesn't go all the way across -- it's just a ~2'x2' porthole underneath the overhanging camper. I look in the passenger side window and marvel that I'd never noticed this before. I try to remember driving in the truck to see if I can visualize looking out through this window.
The truck drives off, leaving the parking lot and pulling out into traffic. From the back it looks even more bizarre: the bed of the truck is extremely short and the camper hangs over the end at least four feet. I theorize that the weight of the engine helps it balance. I notice it has very small wheels like those on the old Honda Civics.
I'm in a hotel with Marjie. People have been knocking on our door to say hi all morning. I hear another knock and for fun I crack the door, peer out with a single eye, and say something in a weird voice. Gene Hackman is standing there. He's very young, though, maybe 25, and looks very good -- muscular and tan and apparently wearing lots of makeup. In shock, surprised, and a little embarrassed, I open the door all the way and see Peg standing there with him. She, too, is young and good-looking, though also covered in make-up. Her hair is a shiny bob, her face smooth with pancake, and her lips large and bright red.
I greet her enthusiastically. I infer that she's gone to Hollywood and become a star. I make some comment about how they both look so.....Hollywood. Gene and Peg admit as much and make some self-deprecating remark about how they're really just two "The Fly"s before makeup. I have a brief vision of their faces beneath the beauty products, all shriveled and ugly. Toothless, even.
I'm really very excited to see them. Gene is a very nice guy. I offer to take them on a tour of ZD Labs. They agree and we're immediately walking through the doors into the main lab. The lab looks more like a TV showroom: a dark room lined floor-to-ceiling with large monitors flashing bright images. The lab seems to be very busy. I make some explanatory remarks to Gene and Peg as we walk in. As I turn around to look at her, Peg occasionally becomes Miriam. We all sit down at a large table in the center of the room and start working on things.
I am handed a very nice box made of purple velvet with gold braid trim. It's very beautiful and I'm enraptured by it. It is rather tacky, though. I explore the box for a while, looking for a way to open it. Once open, the box reveals a table lamp whose shade is also purple velvet with gold trim. My enjoyment of the box grows, both as a work of beauty and as a ridiculous bit of chintz. There is a smaller lamp in the box, too, with a body shaped like a bottle. It is not so enthralling, but it's inclusion in the box makes me all the more happy.
I hold up the lamp and show it to Marjie, Peg, and Gene, who are sitting at the table working on objects of their own. They laugh with joy at the lamp and it's box. I put it down and continue to explore the box. Inside, I find a hidden lever which allows the sides of the box to fold down and out, making the box into a flat cross-shape. This makes me happy all over again -- it can be used as a bed!. Ecstatic now, I point out the new feature to my friends, who are overjoyed with me. Holding up the lamp and gesturing to the purple velvet shade with its gold braid trim, I begin singing the theme from "Goldfinger". Everybody laughs and we're all very happy.
I have a pair of black boots. Marjie tells me I should buff and shine them, so I get out the brush and get to work. The brush makes deep gouges in the leather, like it's slicing them with a sharp knife. I stare at the boots, a little upset. I inspect the slices. The flaps of leather peel off easily, almost like jelly. Below the leather I find a smooth, light blue plastic shell. It's very supple and slightly opalescent and reminds me of something. I get out the shoe polish box and read the instructions. They say to remove the outer layers down to the light blue plastic and then spray on a new coat of black.
I begin peeling and scraping off the black leather. It comes off like jelly -- very sticky and oily, bordering on disgusting. Some places it peels off perfectly in a shiny, jiggling slab but other places it requires scraping. The areas that need scraping are going to require lots of work, and I re-read the instructions to make sure this is what I'm supposed to be doing.
I'm at work, in a large, plush room with padded walls -- it looks like a fancy British club. There's an earthquake. It's a fairly long and violent one and I look for a sturdy chair to hide under. All of the chairs in the room have turned into folding director's chairs. The earthquake ends and I leave work.
I'm riding home from work on a flatbed car of a train with Julian Milenbach. There are a number of other commuters on the car with us, and more cars like it in the train. The train lumbers along slowly Northward through a beautiful sunny wooded corridor on the Peninsula. This is the first time I've ridden the commuter train home and I get a little worried when it turns left up into the hills -- I thought it would take me home to Menlo Park, but I didn't actually check the route. The train climbs the hill and passes a lake in the woods. It doesn't seem to be heading back down, so I ask Julian if it eventually will. He says that some of the trains do continue back down to the flats -- and that this is one of them.
The train rounds a bend and passes another train coming towards us. It then crests a rise and begins heading down to the flats again -- much to my relief. There is a beautiful view of the bay and I make sure to orient myself for future reference. After some inspection, I pick out Menlo Park just below us and, to the right (South), Foster City. Eventually the train makes it down the hill and heads into Menlo Park from the South. It slows down to a crawl as we enter "downtown" -- actually a dirt field with some shops up ahead. I'm not sure if the train will actually stop here, and Julian says the train's going slow enough that I could probably just jump off. Before he can finish his sentence, I jump. I land lightly and begin walking across the field to home.
I'm stopped at a park for the day during my 'round-the-country trip. I ask a ranger about good day hikes and she starts walking with me, telling me about things to do in the park. We walk up a paved road that leads up a hill. The hill is barren and rocky, but starkly beautiful. Cars and busses full of tourists drive up and down the road, as well as bicyclists and rollerbladers. We pass many points of interest at which they are stopped: caves, quartz outcroppings, peacock ore. At one point we come to a set of glass cases embedded in a rock wall. They are filled with water and some sort of billowing blue cloud. We also notice the structural geology of the park from the many fine viewpoints.
The ranger is a very nice older woman in Park Service green. She's very friendly and happy and seems to enjoy walking with me. We continue up and up the hill, looking out over the park and talking about geology and trails. At one point we pass a turn-off that leads about 30 yards around a promontory to a spectacular view. The viewpoint is crowded with tourists and we skip it.
I become more aware of how friendly this ranger is. It gives a great feeling inside that she's spending so much time with me. I turn to look at her and she turns into Lisa. I get a shiver of fear, but we're still laughing and chatting. Things seem OK.
Me, Bill, Adrian, and some other folks are downstairs in my parents house. We're sitting around watching the Black Mamba in the middle of the floor. Everyone is giddy with excitement except me -- I'm terrified. Bill is sitting on the brown couch and the snake starts climbing up his leg. It slithers up to his neck and wraps around it. Bill is smiling. Everyone else is giggling about how dangerous it is. I'm freaking out, unsure whether I should do something or sit still.
My frettings attract the snake and it begins to slither my way. Gripped with fear, I begin climbing up onto the bar. Halfway up it occurs to me that running away might incite it, as with bears. I stop, my legs dangling down in front of the TV.
Jef, Marjorie, and I are walking through one of my frequented dream-spots. It's a corner of an old, wooded campus. There's a flat, open space of rock just past the last shed. A rock near the far end with two smaller rocks on top of it always looks like a frog's head to me. Past the frog-rock, the path runs along a cold rushing stream with banks of pine needles and basalt. At one point, the path crosses a small crevice where a tributary joins the main watercourse. Marjie, while stepping over the crevice, slips and falls into the stream.
I grab her hand and almost fall in myself. The current is too strong for me to pull her out and I'm forced to make my way downstream with her in hand until I can find a good foothold. Finally, at the last outcropping before a large waterfall, I plant my foot and begin pulling. It's very difficult and I don't seem to be getting anywhere. Marjie calls up from the water: "How big is it?". I peer down over the edge -- a mere three feet away -- and answer back: "About a hundred feet!" We are both surprisingly calm.
Soon I can feel her start to come up. I lift her up straight out of the water. For an instant I loose my balance and almost fall forward, but I get her safely onto the bank.
There's a small gathering of people at my parents house: me, Teresa, a Joe Matt/Chester Brown cross, and some other, unknown person. We're sitting around the coffee table in the living room. It's very dark and it's tough to see. There is very loud, pounding, slightly unpleasant music playing. J.M./C.B. wants the mystery person to get stoned and check out a drawing he did. When he asks this, I envision the conversation as a series of Yummy Fur cartoon panels.
Teri says she's going downstairs. I get a little worried because there's been some sort of Star Trek-esque disease going around where people start winking uncontrollably and then collapse, so I follow her downstairs to make sure she's alright. I find her lying in the middle of the downstairs kitchen floor, in complete darkness, listening to different very loud, pounding, slightly unpleasant music. She says she's astral voyaging.
I go to the downstairs bathroom. It, too, is very dark, and the toilet is placed right in the middle of the floor. Tigger is there, rubbing up against my legs. Her fur is terribly burnt, matted up into stubby, melted chunks. I bend down and smell it and try to see if she's OK but it's too dark. I flip the light switch on and off but it doesn't help -- the light is going on, but my eyes wont see. I hear Teri moan loudly from the other room and yell out, "Are you OK?" over the deafening music. Amazingly, she hears me and answers back, "Yes!"
I'm searching through the dirt at the base of a tree. I remember driving a car along a winding road through an oak forest and losing control. The car crashed and my passenger, Lisa, died. Here, at the base of this big oak tree, I hope to find some remains of that car.
I find some pieces of metal. I blow more loose sand away and find more and more pieces of the car. Suddenly, the car is there in full: above ground, whole, and wrapped around the tree. I walk tentatively towards the front of the car, passing the hole where the right side door used to be. I look in and see Lisa sitting in the driver's seat. A terrible chill of fear and regret runs down my spine.
I then wonder if I actually did crash the car or whether my memory made that up.
Chez Zeus:Writing:Dreams:Part 5
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