Dreams Don’t Lie

geoMy lord, the dreams you sometimes have! Last night I dreamed my daughter and I were shopping for a goat, why I don’t know  To nibble the grass? To eat the leftovers? I’m pretty sure goats don’t really eat tin cans the way they did in Saturday morning cartoons but who am I to say? A goat did try to eat my mother’s pocketbook that time at the petting zoo.

Anyway, in this dream the goat is pleasing to me and I am drunk with the recollection of that blank check God wrote Adam & Eve when he supposedly said, “Go ahead, kids! Have dominion over all creatures!” The goat is graceful, petite, lovely in every way – except for his eyes which frighten me badly, looking so much like the eyes of Satan in that super-short shot from Rosemary’s Baby where poor Mia Farrow finds herself pinned under the Dark One, getting impregnated.  (Remember her cry? “This is no dream, this is really happening!”?  And then boom! one the deed is done her actor-husband’s nemesis falls ill, the husband gets the part and the deal is complete. He sold his wife’s body to Satan for a successful career in the theatre.

To get back to the dream, in it the goat’s eyes are so frightening to me that I try pulling them out, just as I did with the stuffed dog Fluffy I go when I was fives. That experiment proved grisly too since Fluffy’s glass eyes were on long sharp stalks. They looked the way we to the X-ray machine when looked from above .

eyes in a skull MRI

The only upside in Fluffy’s case was that I could stab them into his straw stuffed head and out again at will.

To get back to the fearsome present tense of the dream, with this real goat I cannot take an eye out and put it back in as I could with Fluffy. With this real goat I start pulling on his eye and out come three or four inches of the complicated circuitry lying behind it, the muscles the tendons, the optic nerve… The goat is mute with terror, mute as a rabbit is said to be mute in extreme distress and my daughter is screaming “Stop!” only I can’t stop and I can’t reverse the damage I have already done?

I think about breaking his neck. as big, dim Lenny does with Curly’s wife in Of Mice and Men but lack the skill for that in this dream. So I just run away from the damage I had caused. I do think Who do I know who owns a gun, to put him out of his suffering? but I have no thought of calling a vet. No thought that a goat could live with just one eye. I just want it all to be over.

Hours later the doorbell rings and a little neighbor boy tells me his family is even now boiling the goat whole, in a great vat, and did I want to stop by later and eat some. I turn from the door and vomit as the curtain falls.

Dreams show us to ourselves all right and often the sight is far from pretty. Go here to see the impregnating scene from Rosemary’s Baby, or, while waiting for your OWN dreams tonight, settle for frightening yourself a little now with one of Hieronymus  Bosch’s paintings:

hieronymus bosch's vision

The Kids & The Animals

Here is something I wrote some good little while ago.  It’s  from my second book , that book of days Vacationing in My Driveway. Hoping it might bring people a smile in the wake of all this mess.

Oh, to be young again in autumn, I think on these windy midnights, these short sun-slanting afternoons.

The reports from First Grade come home these days all in headlines. Of course Halloween is a big part of the excitement.

“WE’RE LEARNING TO PAINT IN ART CLASS!” went the headline two weeks ago from our first-grade boy. “I PAINTED VAMPIRES THROWING UP ON EACH OTHER!”

Later there was a witch-drawing contest. “My witch is great,” he hollered that day getting off the bus. “There’s blood in her hair and her eyeball is falling out and a spider is lowering itself down from her eye socket…”

The season just seems to call for such dismantlings and such grotesqueries, though some kids take it to extremes:

“The lunch ladies were really mad today. One stood up at the front of the room and made an announcement,” he said clambering up onto a kitchen chair and imitating the sour outraged face of a disapproving grownup. “’Someone has been doing something really disgusting around here!’” he imitated, and went on to tell a dark tale involving accumulations of spit left close to the food.

Imitation is the name of one game at this season. We do on Halloween what we would like to do all year round: hide who we are; become someone other; prowl past unnoticed; and defy a few rules.

Years ago, when this child was small, I had some say in how he dressed on Halloween. One year he was a fat flannel pumpkin with an orange lid tied like a baby’s bonnet to his unprotesting head. Then, two years running, he was Dracula, with hair moussed back and a tuxedo shirt and a medallion (he really looked like Lawrence Welk.) But this year he did it all on his own; discussed his costume not at all with mom or dad, but came down the stairs sober-faced at five o’clock Halloween night in full regalia: black clothes and an eye patch; a hook hand and Creepy Teeth; scary fingernails and a woman’s wig of black shoulder-length curls. He looked like a cross between Cher and the prophet Isaiah.

“Uh, who are you supposed to be, Michael?,” some bigger boys asked, seeing him later on the moonlit streets.

“A monster!,” he called back over his shoulder, literally sprinting from house to house, his dark ringlets bouncing like Scarlett O’Hara’s.

“R-i-i-i-ght! Way to go, Mike!,” they called kindly after him.

Something big happens when the seasons turn that has nothing to do with the rule book.

Last weekend, as usual, the First Grade met on various teams to play one another in soccer. The wind was warm, yet bare tree limbs swayed like skeletal arms. In mid-game two small boys attempted some soccer moves, then fell to wrestling like puppies, then assumed classical ballroom dance positions and waltzed down the field. Two others wandered toward the sidelines where they found a book, sat down and began reading it.

“Does this mean the game has ended?” asked the perplexed coaching dad forlornly.

No, it just means that autumn is reigning. The air, having turned first to cider and then to applejack, intoxicates us with its tang, especially the more sensitive among us.

I woke to a noise one night last week: willed, not accidental, by the sound of it; unmechanical; just furtive enough to be unsettling. A thwock followed by a swish, and then silence. The same thing again. A pause, then two such sounds together. I looked through the whole house for the source if it. A silence grew as I searched; and came at last upon the cause: our black cat hard at a game of street hockey with a Tootsie Pop, her chosen booty from this pagan feast called Halloween.

It’s the season that does it. I lie on the carpet in my upstairs study and look out the just-washed windows, on the inside stripped of curtains, on the outside stripped of the framing fringe of ivy. I watch the sky go by, muscular arms of wind pulling clouds past by the handful. The world is trying to turn a new way, it feels like. Stop rotating to the right, and begin again to the left, maybe. Turn itself inside out, like a sweater pulled off over the head.

Something happens at this season of the high winds and the swirling oak leaves that makes us restless. We wake at night and ask, “What is it?”

Only the kids and the animals know. And the kids and the animals aren’t talking.

Spirits Abroad

The funny thing is it felt like Halloween was coming, freak blizzard or not. I lay in our bed as the wind howled and slept not a wink all Saturday night. At one point, a picture in our bathroom suddenly jumped off the wall and crashed into the tub, its glass exploding all over. I turned on the lights and swept up every last shard, then went over the whole surface of the tub with a cotton ball moistened in Baby Oil just to be sure I got it all

I went to the guest bedroom then, hoping for better sleep- luck there but the wind howled even louder in that room and sleep eluded me. I stayed anyway and dreamed a waking dream of my sister Nan though, I swear I wasn’t asleep. I saw her dressed all in white, and young again, with her long thin track-star legs.

Were there spirits abroad as uneasy as the wind? Poltergeists even?  I lay there worrying, first about our one girl flying home from Italy in the midst of all this, then about our other girl and her family on their heavily wooded street they seemed sure to lose power in this freak October storm. I threw in worry over our boy in Brooklyn, up all night as I guessed, at that Halloween party he was having with his friends.

I startled into sharp awareness at 3:00, just in time to see the branches of my favorite tree break under the force of the wet snow and swoon down toward the ground.

When, two hours later, David and I woke for real, he said, “Did you set a mousetrap in the kitchen last night? Because I heard this loud SNAP! at one point.

“Nope,” I said and turned my head to look out the window. 

“Whoa there’s your mousetrap!” The light was still dim but I could see what had happened: the pane in the upper sash of our wiggly old window had cracked all over. My heart sank…. 

But then this amazing sun rose and the night had passed and we still had power, lucky us. The trees shook off the snow and I told myself “there are no spirits,” then stepped into my morning bath  –  and yelped as a fine needle of last night’s glass drove itself into the pincushion of my thigh.

A message from Beyond it might have been, saying “Child, you have NO idea what really moves the world.” And that I can well believe.


We’re Reading Your Thoughts (and We Want Some of That Wine)

Is there a Poltergeist at this vacation house I’m wondering? Because two things: (1) I corked this bottle of wine and the cork kept popping out – shooting out hard and flying five, six feet in the air; and also (2) there was this thing with my TV set….. We had a rainstorm the other night, see, that was so severe it trapped me in the supermarket. FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF I was the only dope in the place.. “Dude, the Parking lot is a TOILET!” said one of the kids working there as he looked out at the rain drumming and the wind howling. It was too: a world of water was circling this one large drain just like when you flush. Another kid finally went and got me an umbrella so to help get me to my car without drowning but the water went all the way to my calves as I fought my way there and then home.

Then when I finally got there, well let’s just say I’ve OFTEN thought if Old Dave were ever hit by lightning he probably wouldn’t notice; at least he wouldn’t react in a big way. And he looked ok, meaning he wasn’t all googly-eyed and radiating, but SOMETHING sure as heck happened here because: The computer is history. Ditto two TVs. Plus, the cable is out. AND,  the phones are dead.

It’ll cost us big to replace this stuff if we replace it all and I just couldn’t deal with that thought right then. I kept thinking “If I can just sit down in front of this last TV that still at least turns ON and if I can get its DVD player to work, I’ll be OK.”  Because I had such HOPES for this vacation week – about how I was going to watch all these episodes of The Wire and finally file all the family photos from 2001 on. I was so hoping the week would be like that. It’s what I pictured all summer long: the peace, the quiet, the chance to sort through things and watch some fine drama uninterrupted. (sigh) I had such hope…

So I poured myself some of that feisty wine, popped in the DVD of Episode 5 Season 3 of The Wire and well, see for yourself: the RIGHT hand part of every shot appears on the LEFT hand side of the screen, while the LEFT hand part appears on the RIGHT so you have to mentally rearrange what you’re seeing like someone with dyslexia does (and this happens whatever DVD you put in.)  Also, there’s this one giant black bar that runs vertically down the screen, and another that runs horizontally across it so that only about 60% of the picture is visible…. See?

The TV is in our bedroom and in this shot below as you can see by the reflections on the screen but here’s what’s eerier still – even more eerie than that wine popping its cork every ten minutes. In fact It’s as if the TV can READ MY MIND because here’s what appeared, black bars and all just as I snapped the picture:

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I did: I had such hope for this vacation… And now I have some tingly fear besides.