Thursday, September 27th, 2012

image of a pirate skeletonA nap seemed like a good idea, until I laid down and my sinuses filled up like a trash can left open in the rain.

I need to be able to lay on my side in bed again. I used to be able to, before I got all flabby and started injuring myself just by having bad posture. That’s what a physical therapist said I was doing, anyway. Mothers, when you tell your kids to sit up straight and they ask you why, tell them the story that my physical therapist told me: When you slump over, the tendons in your upper arms get dragged across the ball joint in your shoulder and pinched between it and your rotator cuff. The result: Reaching over your head to put on your shirt will cause such exquisite and enduring pain that you will whimper like a whipped dog. There, that’ll give the little tykes nightmares, won’t it?

The physical therapist said sleeping on my side had the same effect as slumping over and that I would seriously injure myself if I continued to do it. Trouble is, I’ve been sleeping on my side for so many years that, even when I make the conscious effort to sleep on my back, I still wake up in the middle of the night curled up on my side and, not surprisingly, I’ve got the shooting pains down my arm that sent me to a physical therapist in the first place.

But I can’t fall asleep on my back. If I try to, and I go through that state between wakefulness and sleep when all the muscles in my body are going slack, my tongue slides down my throat and feels like it’s trying to climb out of my head through my nose. Of course, it’s impossible to breathe when there’s a tongue crawling into my nose, so my lungs will kick the suction all the way up to eleven, I guess in an attempt to dislodge the blockage. Which is, in fact, what happens, with a sound that’s a cross between a snort and a gunshot.

As if that wasn’t enough to make me into a chronic insomniac, sometimes my own subconscious will mess with me and I’ll have the dream about an alien garden slug the size of my forearm crawling into my mouth to tunnel its way to my brain so it can possess my body and walk among you all. Try falling asleep after something like that.

So that’s why I miss being able to lay on my side: Invasive brain-eating aliens. If you can come up with a solution for me, I’ll brew a batch of beer for you. I don’t deliver, though, so you’ll have to come pick it up.

invasive brain-eating aliens | 1:37 pm CST
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Thursday, September 6th, 2012

It was a dark and stormy night – “stormy” in the sense that there were many rumblings and flashes of activity. Somebody seemed to be having some trouble sleeping. Not me so much, but My Darling B was doing a lot of tossing and turning in the middle of the night. During the part of the night that I was awake for, she would do this thing where she would turn over, start to doze off, snort herself awake, turn over, start to doze off, snort herself awake again, turn over and so on. If I counted the bells of the clock in the front room right, I think I was awake for about an hour of that.

I don’t think she was doing that all night long. She seemed to be sleeping more or less soundly when my alarm went off. That’s perfect timing, eh?

With all that going on, I don’t remember having any dreams, oddly enough. Night before last, though, I dreamed I was trying to parallel park a Toyota Tundra in an underground parking garage where there was no room to turn around. The Tundra’s a honking big SUV with a turning radius of about ten miles. I wouldn’t take one into an underground parking lot, or ANY parking lot, for all the VW Beetles in Wolfsburg.

rough night | 5:50 am CST
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Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Three o’clock in the morning, I woke from a dream in which I was the only person wearing clothes in a room with about a dozen naked people. It turned out to be more uncomfortable than the dream where I’m the only naked person. I didn’t know where to look. I didn’t feel like I could look at anybody, but whoever I talked to acted as though I was being stupid if I averted my eyes.

Awake, I blundered through the darkness to the bathroom to relieve myself. I had a bad case of gas but couldn’t fart it away no matter how long I lingered on the throne after I peed. When I started to doze off, I got up and stumbled back to the bedroom.

But with my head on a pillow again, I fell back into sleep and the naked people returned. It was so startling that I snapped awake. I rolled over and settled into another position because, you know, that chases the dreams away, right? Wrong. More naked people, and again I snapped awake. Reposition, doze, naked people, awake! Once, it was a room full of naked robots that looked like people, walking past me without saying anything. Between that and my grumbling tummy, I didn’t doze off again.

By the time the clock chimed the half-hour I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get any more shut-eye before sunrise, but I wouldn’t admit it to myself until after four, when I finally got out of bed and grabbed a book off my bedside stand. I read three chapters of The Cat From Hue, John Laurence’s memoir of reporting for CBS news during the Vietnam war, before I got up again at five and started the ritual of making the morning pot o’ java.

naked | 6:38 am CST
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Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Even if a picture isn’t worth 1,000 words, this photo of a stack of plushies of the Olympic mascot Wenlock, whose name suggests dark incantations to raise the dead and whose single glaring eyeball is the stuff of my adolescent nightmares, explains better than I ever could why I won’t be wasting any of my time paying attention to the Olympic games:

image of Olympic mascot

I would prefer delirium tremens, thank you.

wenlock | 9:21 am CST
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Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Ugh. Zombie dreams last night. Nothing too graphic. I was living in a warehouse with a couple hundred other refugees from the zombie apocalypse. Spent most of the dream doing pretty mundane things. Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up after zombies started getting into the warehouse somehow, and each time I fell asleep again we’d be looking for the door or window that must’ve been left open and find another zombie, and I’d wake up. Nobody ever got their face eaten, and the dream itself was never all that scary, but lying awake in bed wondering what the next installment of the dream would be like really frazzled my nerves after a while. I have rarely felt so grateful to hear the alarm clock start bleeping.

hunting | 5:40 am CST
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Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I was back in the lobby of the student union at my alma mater, UW-Eau Claire, scanning the faces for my mother, when whom did I see across the room but my brother. He was doing the same thing I was, and when our eyes met his expression seemed to say to me, Oh, you, too?

I crossed the room to shake his hand and say hi. “And I’m going to be waking up in just a minute, so would you mind waiting here for Mom? I promised her I’d meet her.”

My alarm started bleeping before he could answer. I sure hope he managed to stick around longer than I did.

bleeping bleep | 9:49 pm CST
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Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Well, that was a weird dream.

I had a grouper in an aquarium. Goupers are typically pretty enormous fish, but this one was only an inch or so long. I’m not sure how I knew it was a grouper, other than it was a dream and I just knew.

I had other fish in the tank, too, and the grouper was systematically devouring them. He would sneak up behind another fish, grab it by the tail and hold on to it for a moment. The other fish would get this, “Oh, shit!” expression on its face but wouldn’t try to get away or move or anything. Then the grouper would eat it in one big gulp before moving on to the next fish.

I sat in a recliner and watched.

I’m still trying to figure it out. It could have been my brain’s way of complaining that I don’t watch enough television.

fishy | 5:36 am CST
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Saturday, May 26th, 2012

I dreamed I could fly. A woman I worked with told me how she did it. I ran into her in the break room and, while I was nuking my lunch in the microwave, I asked her what she did last weekend. She answered, casually, Oh, I was flying.

I see, I answered her. Is that right?

Yes, she said, I’ve been doing it for years, but I’ve only recently learned how to fly high enough to do loops and dives. The secret, she said, was to wear a long, loose coat, take a long, running jump, and to square your shoulders just as your feet left the ground.

At least, that’s how it works for me, she cautioned. If you try it, you might have to do it just a little bit differently.

Well. Yes. Ah, lunch is ready! See you around!

I thought she was loony as a Canadian dollar, of course, but it just so happened that I had a long, loose overcoat in my closet, and it just so happened to be cold enough to wear it that weekend when I walked down the street to the corner store. Going the long way around the block on the way home, I turned down a lonely street and picked up the pace a little bit. Then, a couple of times, I skipped high enough for both feet to leave the ground, squaring my shoulders back as they did.

Nothing special happened. I didn’t get any more air than I would have if I’d skipped without thinking that maybe it was possible to fly because some crazy lady suggested that I could if I dressed for it. Of course, she also said I had to take a running jump, not walk a little faster and skip, so, just to prove to myself that she was crazy and I wasn’t, I ran. I stretched out my stride until I was running along at a pretty good clip and then, just before I got to the corner, I planted both feet, jumped into the air and squared my shoulders back, just as she said I should do.

I cleared the treetops by at least fifty feet.

Mine was not a graceful flight. I did not soar through the skies like Superman, one arm stretched out before me, with a look of purpose on my face. I’ve never been a graceful athlete in any case, but when my feet left the ground and I realized that they were going to keep leaving the ground, I panicked, because I had not planned my flight with any kind of foresight at all. There were several very tall trees in my path and I ended up windmilling my arms to thrash my way through the upper branches of the one immediately in front of me. That sent me tumbling through the air so that, as I came back down on a ballistic curve, I was flailing my arms and legs in every direction, trying to regain some sense of balance before I hit the ground. To my great amazement, I landed on my feet.

Straightening my coat, I looked around for anybody that might be staring at the guy who’d just flown a block and a half over the trees, scattering his groceries all over the street. Didn’t see anybody.

Okay. Well. Can’t just go back home and sit on the sofa with a book after that. Could’ve been a fluke. Or a psychotic episode.

Trying a little harder to fly higher this time, I succeeded in shooting almost straight up several hundred feet, flipping end over end as I reached the peak of my flight, and finding myself diving headfirst at the ground. Yikes.

At this point you’re probably thinking: Pffft! You’re not flying! Sounds to me like you’re just jumping real high. And I would’ve had to give you that. However, as I plummeted to the ground, looking directly at the square of pavement I really didn’t want to smash into, I turned my face up toward the sky, focused on the tops of some distant clouds, squared my shoulders again and zoomed back up. And this time I managed to remember to spread my arms, so I even looked like I was flying.

Landing turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Several times I ended up tumbling ass over teakettle when my feet snagged in the grass, but with a little practice I found just the right angle to come down and hit the ground running. The city park turned out to be a much better place to land than in the street, although I did interrupt a Frisbee game once. After offering my apologies I flew away and they carried on, not at all surprised that a flying man dropped right into the middle of their game.

Before I quit for the day I took an especially long running jump and flew as high as I could. I got so high that the cold air froze my breath to the ends of my eyelashes and, at that point, I thought it safest to come back down, but when I looked down I was so high I couldn’t tell where my neighborhood was. I couldn’t even tell where my continent was. It was getting awfully cold, though, so I swooped back down toward the first piece of ground I saw, closer and closer until I spotted what looked like Lake Monona and made a beeline for it.

It wasn’t Lake Monona, as it turned out. It was a frozen lake somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. Finland, I think, because I flew over what looked like Great Britain as I crossed lots and lots of water, probably the Atlantic Ocean, as I tried to find my way back home. I had to stop several times to ask somebody where I was, and two or three times they didn’t answer in a language I knew. When I finally ended up in New York I very carefully pointed myself west and jumped only high enough to eyeball the Great Lakes. After that, it was fairly easy to find my way, but up to that point I sure could have used an iPhone and Google Earth.

I ran into my coworker in the break room again the next day. How are you today? she asked. Nice day.

Nice day to go flying, I answered.

Oh, have you been flying? she asked. I had to stay in and wash clothes.

high | 6:48 am CST
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Thursday, April 26th, 2012

I dreamed I was at work. I really hate it when that happens.

At least this time it was more than a little unusual. This time, the office looked like a mash-up of all the offices I’ve ever worked in, a standard cubicle farm, but surrounded by racks of electronic equipment. Even the people who worked there were a Who-hash of all the people I’ve worked with, and I kept asking the wrong people to do things. The last scene I remember, for instance, was asking Aaron to adjust the connections on a particular electronic component, and all he could do was give me a blank look. “You don’t know how to do that, do you?” I asked him, when I realized he was not the guy to ask for that.

I started to do it myself when my bladder woke me up. I hate it when that happens, too, because it almost always wakes me up too early. Most of the time it’s just five or ten minutes before I would normally hear the alarm clock start bleeping, but this morning it was half an hour early – just enough time to go back to bed, begin to drift off to sleep, and then wake up to the bleeping alarm clock. I said to hell with that, grabbed my bath robe and headed for the kitchen to make what turned out to be a pot of satisfyingly strong coffee.

Satisfyingly strong to me. To my brother, it would have been weak tea. A single pot of the coffee he drinks could light up the whole city of Chicago for a week. I don’t need a jolt that strong yet. Maybe someday. For now, I’ll just sit here and nurse my tea/coffee.

blank | 5:18 am CST
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Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The internet police were after me last night. I didn’t sleep very well, and every time I woke up and then fell back into drowsy semi-consciousness I was treated to another variation of some guy in dark glasses making vaguely threatening accusations and serving me with a warrant to seize my computer as evidence. That must have happened at least a million times. It was like watching every episode in a boxed set of DVDs of the most boring cop show ever produced. I’ve never been so relieved to hear the alarm clock.

served | 5:57 am CST
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Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I did not dream anything last night. The last thing I remember about last night is turning out the light, rolling onto my stomach and finding just the right angle for my head before I surrendered to unconsciousness. The next thing I remember is hearing the alarm going bleep bleep bleep. There was no in-between, only a void where dreams might have been. I guess I was a little tired yesterday evening.

void | 6:16 am CST
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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

It was a warm summer’s day, so I was sitting on the back stoop soaking up the sunshine with a book in one hand and a cool, refreshing drink in the other. Birds sang from the trees. Clouds danced across the skies. A really annoying bug flew into my ear, or that’s what it felt like, anyway. I dropped the book and stuck a finger in my ear to dig the bug out, but it turned out not to be a bug at all. A chunk of ear wax was rattling around in there. I hooked a fingernail over it and scooped out enough wax to make a votive candle. After flicking it into the bushes I scooped out another astoundingly huge plug of wax, then another and another. I’m pretty sure I could have gone on like that all day if the alarm clock hadn’t bleeped me awake.

plug | 6:02 am CST
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Thursday, January 26th, 2012

I have this idea that dreams are a premonition of what it’s going to be like when you get old and start to disconnect from reality. A warning, really. You go walking around in public without any pants on, you do things that don’t make any sense but you pretend that it’s perfectly normal and you’ve done it that way all your life, you think you can fly. See what I mean?

I don’t remember much of the dream I was having just before I woke up this morning, just that, as I was having a conversation with My Darling B at the dinner table, I was pulling the teeth out of my head one by one with my fingers. I briefly examined the bloody roots of each one before dropping it on my plate, then reaching for the next one, and so on.

There’s no good reason to have a dream like that, except as a built-in inoculation to keep me from freaking out when I start to lose my mind. Deja vu will kick in and I’ll think, Oh, hey, I’ve been here before. It wasn’t so bad, and I’ll probably wake up soon. And by the time I realize I’m not going to wake up, my kids will have safely ensconced me in the old folks home, where I can sit by the window and quietly pull my teeth out.

premonition | 6:17 am CST
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Thursday, December 29th, 2011

I had a little trouble sleeping when, around three o’clock this morning, various thumps and bumps around the house woke me up and I couldn’t find my way back to The Land of Nod. It happens. I thought briefly about retreating to my basement lair to search the interwebs for some noteworthy drivel to read, but returned to bed after promising myself that, if I didn’t fall asleep in a half-hour, I would retreat as aforementioned and surf.

When I wake in the middle of the night I know precisely how long I lie there not sleeping because the house is filled with clocks that chime every half-hour, and at the top of each hour they tell me exactly what time it is. Well, all except for the one in the living room, which goes a little insane every couple of days and clangs out twelve bells every hour. I think it might need a spot of oil.

After curling up under the covers and waiting for that half-hour chime, my alarm clock took me completely by surprise by bleeping me awake. So going back to bed had been the correct choice. I make them every once in a while.

All this by way of explaining why I took a nap today, although now I see that it doesn’t really make as much sense as I thought it did when I started telling this story. I thought I needed a nap because I woke up in the middle of the night. And maybe I did. Or, maybe, it was because I was wrestling armor-plated filing cabinets in the basement all morning. Nahhh.

I nap like this: Lie down with a book and read until I get drowsy. Put the book aside and “rest my eyes.” Swallow my tongue. The nap is over at that point, but it’s apparently all I need because I feel pretty good when I get up. I could do without the dream about giant garden slugs climbing down my throat, though.

swallow | 4:01 pm CST
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Monday, November 14th, 2011

I spent all night last night in the dayroom of my Air Force dormitory watching cooking shows on the big-screen television. That’s all I could find on any of the channels: cooking shows. It wasn’t what I wanted to watch, but I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t have anything to read, so cooking shows was what I watched.

All night long, one guy after another came into the day room, paused in front of the television for a couple seconds before asking me if I knew the score of a particular football game, I answered No, then he left.

I dreamed all this, of course. I’m not in the Air Force and I don’t watch cooking shows, even when there’s no option, but last night I got to watch three full episodes of somebody chopping up celery and de-boning chicken. Even on the television set of my dreams, there’s nothing good on to watch.

deboning | 6:05 am CST
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Friday, November 4th, 2011

I didn’t get much sleep last night, wedged in tightly between two cats who were successfully trying to steal every BTU my body managed to generate, so I remember just about every minute of the dream I was having this morning. And, as usual, it was a pretty stupid dream.

I was polishing my shoes. Boots, actually. They were a pair of old cowboy boots. I wasn’t supposed to be wearing them with my Class-A uniform but they were the only halfway-decent footware I could find in my room so I was trying to cover them up with black polish. No matter how much polish I rubbed on, though, the leather soaked it up and the brown scuffs emerged again.

It was so maddening that I gave up on them eventually and tried to polish a pair of old bedroom slippers. You can imagine how that went. I kept at it for so long that I knew I was going to be late for my language school graduation, so I went back to trying to polish the boots again. While I sat in the middle of the floor, everyone I ever knew came in to tell me how late I was. This seemed to go on forever. I was genuinely happy when the living room clock chimed five and woke me up.

polish | 6:11 am CST
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Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I realized the Nazis were coming for us when their dogs emerged from the edge of the woods. There were three of them, bone-thin, long-haired frou-frou dogs, the kind that look like eels on stilts, and they snaked their way towards us with a practiced nonchalance, as if they weren’t the scariest things on earth and we didn’t have a thing to worry about, not that we had any options at that point.

The dogs went past us to the platform where the women were sitting in rattan chairs, waiting for the train to arrive. Two of the dogs jumped up into the women’s laps, effectively trapping them there, while the third one stood between us and the platform. My friend and I stood waiting between the platform and the woods for the Nazis to arrive. We didn’t have to wait long. I suspect they were just beyond the trees, out of sight, all along, watching to see if we would try to make a break for it. When we didn’t do that, they came strolling out as casually as their dogs, chatting and passing a cigarette between them.

When they reached us, the usual: One of them asked to see our passports, our visas, our identity cards, while the other two climbed up to the platform and pretended to talk to their dogs, which had not climbed down out of the laps of the ladies. When one of the ladies voiced her obvious discomfort about this, the two Nazis on the platform mocked her while the Nazi who was checking our papers warned me that my lady friend had better watch herself. Then, to see if we understood who was in charge, one of the Nazis on the platform reached out to scratch one of the ladies behind the ear, as if she was his very own puppy.

I pinched my thumb and fingers in the air in front of the ranking Nazi’s face. He didn’t flinch or pull away. I wasn’t trying to hit or punch him. It wasn’t a menacing gesture in any way, but when I blew across the ends of my fingers, all the skin on his face was drawn back as if he’d been hit by a blast of high-pressure air, and he jerked back, staggering, and landed in a convulsing heap on the ground. One of the other Nazis shouted his name and they both jumped down off the platform, running toward me, but I turned, still blowing across the ends of my fingers, and they reeled back, arms flailing, before falling over backwards.

“How did you do that?” my friend asked me, while we stuffed their unconscious, twitching bodies into a couple of wicker baskets left on the platform.

“I have no idea,” I told him, laughing.

dogs | 6:41 am CST
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Sunday, September 25th, 2011

My high school marching band had been waiting in the lobby of the airport terminal for hours to get the call to board the flight. We were in the lobby because it was the only place big enough to hold a hundred fifty high school kids. Mister E, our band director, was getting nervous about the delay, so asked me to check the time. Why he didn’t just look at his wristwatch, I don’t know.

I was sitting at the top of a ladder that must’ve been about twenty feet tall, reading a book, so it was a long climb down, so long, in fact, that almost everybody was gone by the time I got to the bottom. I had no idea where they’d gone, but that didn’t bother me because I had a mission. I shucked off my black patent leather shoes and stepped into a pair of mukluks, then shrugged into a heavy-duty parka, because if I was being entrusted to get the correct time I was going to do it right, and the only way to do that was to run to the bank across the parking lot, but there was about six feet of new-fallen snow on the ground and it was the dead of winter. I was not going unprepared.

The bank was closed when I got there, probably because of all the snow, but there was another very official-looking office building at the other end of the parking lot. After climbing to the top of a twenty-foot-tall snowbank, however, I could see there were several more just like it between me and my destination, so I decided to go back to the airport terminal and tell Mister E to check his damn watch if he wanted to know the time.

When I got to the bottom of the snowbank, I found myself in a narrow alleyway between a long row of dilapidated buildings. I opened the door of the van parked beside the snowbank and found my black patent leather shoes. What are they doing here? I wondered and, knowing I’d need them later, I stuffed one in each of the big pockets in my parka. There were also several pairs of bedroom slippers that looked so much like mine that I picked through them, one pair at a time, thinking mine must be in there somewhere. I never did find them, gave up and trudged through the snow to the end of the alley, looking for the road back to the terminal.

I don’t remember how I got back but when I did nobody from the band was in the lobby. I asked several uniformed airline people and was finally told that they’d gotten their boarding call and were at the gate, which was, of course, way on the other side of the terminal. To get on the flight I had to grab my forty-two suitcases and race through the halls as fast as I could in my parka and mukluks.

I started off running as fast as I could, but the hallways of the airport terminal were so beautiful I ended up wandering through them, awestruck. The indirect lighting perfectly highlighted the richly stained cherry wood paneling, and the hardwood floors were exquisitely well-polished, despite the heavy foot traffic. I wandered for what seemed like hours and didn’t even care when I came to the end of the terminal and found that my flight was long gone and I had no way to contact anyone to let them know where I was.

And then I woke up and made coffee.

time | 3:54 pm CST
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Monday, September 12th, 2011

In last night’s dream I was driving home from somewhere downtown, not the easy way along Johnson Street but through cap square, where you have to go around the capitol building. There are two lanes around the square and it’s one-way traffic, and you have to be careful to make sure you’re in the right lane if your turn’s coming up or you’ll have to go around the square again. Meanwhile, all the other drivers are jockeying for position, too. The drivers who are in a terrifically huge hurry to get to their very important meetings are zooming around the square on the inside lanes, then darting down the side roads by cutting off everyone else. The drivers who are not as colossally important as the zoomers are checking their mirrors before they change lanes and some of them are even using their turn indicators. And the out-of-towners looking for Ella’s Deli just keep circling the square.

In my dream, traffic was going clockwise around the square instead of counter-clockwise, as it does in real life. Really, I shouldn’t have been surprised by that. Dreams have to be as screwy as possible, so of course traffic went the wrong way. And to make it even screwier, the hill at the corner of Mifflin Street was no longer a gentle climb, followed by a long, slow drop – it was a climb so abrupt that I couldn’t see over the hood of the car, followed by a precipitous drop that made me want to jump out of the car and parachute to the ground. And it wasn’t Mifflin Street, it was Highway 12. And it dead-ended into the wall beside my desk at work. I parked with the bumper pressed against the wall and got out to see where the phone line came out of the other side of the wall. It was an easy drive through the parking garage, so I got back in the car and drove down the ramp to the gravel lot by the park bench where I could sit and eat a picnic lunch by the lake. At that point my brain apparently couldn’t handle the weird any longer and I woke up, just minutes before my alarm clock was set to bleep.

Mifflin | 6:29 am CST
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Monday, August 29th, 2011

I have this bizarre recurring dream in which I can’t find the keys to my college dorm room. It usually happens while I’m between classes and I’m heading back to pick up some books I forgot to grab on the way out that morning. In last night’s dream, I had just gotten the keys to another dorm room because I was going to move, and on the way back to my old room I reached into my pocket for the keys and could find everything but. The crap in my pockets looked like the kind of junk you’d scoop out of the middle drawer of an office desk you were trying to clean out: Loose change, paper clips, stubby pencils, scraps of paper, key chain rings, several broken keys, and so on. Weirdly, I had the keys to the B&B in East Troy where My Darling B and I stayed night before last. I didn’t recognize them at the time and got really pissed off at the fact that I seemed to be carrying a skeleton key for no apparent reason, but not the key to my room, which I could’ve really used. The whole damn dream was me looking for my keys. When I’d emptied all the junk and lint from my pockets and the dream should’ve ended, I went into other people’s rooms and started looking through random desk drawers. I wonder if this will be my hell.

keys | 5:44 am CST
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Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

A few bits and pieces of last night’s dream floated to the surface of my memory while I was making the morning pot o’ java:

Waiting in line with about a half-dozen commandos to storm the play room of a Chuck E. Cheese. Being scooped up by the petals of a giant plastic flower. Petals transformed into helicopters that whisked me away to a cell roughly the size of O’Hare airport. Walked the corridors to an in-ground pool lit from below by floodlights that made it look as though the water was on fire. My Darling B emerged from the pool, invited me to go for a dip, dived back in. Swam to the wading pool behind her. She had cocktails waiting.

heli | 6:29 am CST
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Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

You know the kind of dream that’s not scary enough to be a nightmare, but still scary enough that you don’t want to go back to sleep after because you don’t want to have any more of that dream?

In last night’s dream I’d been abducted, or teleported, or somehow spirited away to a mountaintop chalet outside an alpine village without any knowledge of how I got there. My Darling B was with me, as well as several other people I didn’t know, and there was one creepy guy nobody knew who was apparently supposed to be supervising us. He wouldn’t tell us where we were or how we got there. He would only keep repeating that it was his responsibility to take care of us.

When we left the chalet to walk into town, the creepy guy followed us everywhere, talking into his cell phone every once in a while using a foreign language. I was sure he didn’t know I could understand him because he was saying things about us that he wouldn’t have said to our faces. At one point he mentioned rather off-handedly that he was going to take us back to the chalet soon and chloroform us all while we were sleeping, so I made sure we stayed in town. We talked a hotel manager into giving us a room for the night even though we didn’t have any way to pay him right then. The creepy guy left after we thanked him for showing us around and he didn’t come back, but after hearing what he said on the phone I stayed awake all night while the rest of our group slept.

I woke up about twenty minutes before my alarm clock was set to start bleeping, so I laid in bed another ten minutes or so, dozing but not falling asleep because I didn’t want to know what happened after that.

alpine | 6:18 am CST
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Friday, June 17th, 2011

In last night’s dream, I was wandering through the zombie apocalypse, only it was the most pedestrian zombie apocalypse I’ve ever seen. The lights were on, nothing much was broken, and it was really easy to get a ride to wherever I wanted to go. I traveled from one city to another in what would have been an ordinary road trip except that twice I had to jump out of bed and run from zombies.

But that was it, really. The only people who got eaten by zombies that I saw were people who just weren’t paying attention. In a parking garage that had been converted to a really nice swap meet and coffee shop, some zombies broke in and devoured a table full of people who kept on chatting and drinking coffee while everyone else was screaming, “Zombies!” and running for the exits. They just sat there, unconcerned, finishing their coffee.

And just before my alarm clock began to bleep I was trying to convince a bunch of survivors that it would be a good idea for one person to stay awake and act as a lookout while the rest of them slept. They didn’t seem to think much of my idea. “But we’re all tired,” one of them said, which lead me to explaining the concept of sleeping in shifts, but they vetoed that as too complicated. If they didn’t all die after the alarm clock woke me up, I’d be surprised.

yawner | 5:40 am CST
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Friday, May 27th, 2011

In last night’s dream I was seated at a restaurant table by the seaside, watching low, gray clouds roll in ominously over the ocean. Smoke from the kitchen’s chimney rose up through the air in a long, continuous curve that disappeared into the clouds. A few small boats were crisscrossing the water a few miles away. I remarked to My Darling B how quiet it was.

Then a space shuttle fell out of the clouds. At first I thought it was just a piece of a space shuttle because it was so small, but it was some kind of pygmy space shuttle, very short with stubby little wings. It fell flat instead of nosediving or spinning, a trail of sparks in its wake. Another space shuttle followed it, then another. Very quickly it was raining space shuttles, falling into the water all around a giant inflatable jumbo jet.

It was obviously not a jumbo jet, it was like a bouncy castle that you would rent and set up in your yard for the kids to play in, but we all through it was a jumbo jet, a really huge one. The space shuttles were tiny compared to it. And it was terribly orange-ish. Terribly, awfully reddish-orange. Think of the most revolting shade of orange you’ve ever seen.

People were running all over the fuselage and wings, chasing each other while waving sabers over their heads. They were very bloodthirsty about it, screaming at the tops of their lungs, their eyes bugging out, banging each other over their heads as hard as they could, but their sabers were made out of sponge foam, like pool noodles. They were Nerf sabers. They couldn’t hurt each other at all with these things no matter how hard they tried.

I was going to tell My Darling B something about the fight, but when I turned to speak to her I found that the waiter had put her on a tray and was about to give her a good shove across the table into the sea. I told him to stop, but he just smiled and gave her a shove anyway, and off she went.

The cats jumped on my legs and woke me up just then, so I don’t know how the dream was supposed to end.

seaside | 7:00 am CST
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Monday, May 9th, 2011

The only part of last night’s dream that I remember is the very last thing My Darling B said to me as we sat at a bar in a generic Wisconsin tavern. She turned to me and, in a voice loud enough that she almost drowned out my alarm clock, she said, “QUACK! QUACKQUACKQUACK! QUACK!”

I hope no one ever explains that to me.

duck | 5:33 am CST
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Saturday, May 7th, 2011

When last we saw the dreamer, he was watching a movie with his family in the living room of a cardboard house in a refugee camp. The walls of the house were cheap, but the movie was playing on a flat-screen television that was at least ninety-six inches from corner to corner. The planning section mixed up their priorities something awful when they designed this place.

I’m not sure what the refugees were taking refuge from. The camp was crowded by row upon row of two-story, four-family houses, every one of them built of sticks and cardboard like a backyard clubhouse built by eight-year-old boys, but everybody had electric lights and, judging from the popcorn and chex mix we were eating during the movie, everyone was well-fed.

My job seemed to be brining people to the refugee camp, which I did in various ways. One day I used boats made out of at pair of those fluted guardrail fenders you see along the road. Bolt a couple of those together, strap a motor on the back and you’ve got a boat that will seat about ten people and goes like a bat out of hell. Bet you would never have thought of that, eh?

Another day I flew people in to camp on a plane or a helicopter, or maybe it was a vehicle that was a little of both, I’m not sure. As we flew in we passed over a landscape that looked as though everything on earth had been turned into, or replaced by, modular plastic-and-metal pod-like buildings. Maybe that’s what we were taking refuge from, because we didn’t have anything like that in the camp.

As often happens in dreams, all kinds of people I hadn’t seen in years were showing up at this camp: People I knew in high school, or from college, or from previous jobs would come to my office to sit and talk about what they’d been doing all this time.

Watching the movie came at the very end of the dream. I sat sometimes in a big sofa with my family, but most of the time I was running from the kitchen to the living room to bring sodas and popcorn and beer to people who wandered in to see what was playing on the television. Maybe not everyone had a ninety-six inch flat-screen television, or maybe they didn’t have movies. Several people stood outside the window and watched.

That’s it. Another dream that doesn’t make much sense. Thank you for coming. See you later.

Camp | 7:26 am CST
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Sunday, April 17th, 2011

In last night’s dream I was walking home because there was no gasoline. I don’t mean just in my car, I mean anywhere. For some reason, there was practically nobody around who knew how to make it anymore. I was walking home from a pub where I met with a man who knew how to refine gasoline. Apparently he was very hard to find because everybody else there was very hopeful that they would soon be able to drive their cars again. But the man had to pop all their bubbles because, he said, he would need at least fifty other guys who knew how to run the refinery. He had no idea where to find those fifty other guys and neither did anybody else at the pub, so we drank a couple more pints, then went home.

I lived somewhere along the Atlantic coastline of Ireland, and although it was the middle of winter it was warm enough outside that I could take my jacket off and walk in my shirtsleeves. Even when I had to ford the mouth of a small bay I wasn’t cold, although I waded into water up to my knees.

I headed back to shore because the water kept getting deeper and I realized I couldn’t walk across, but I didn’t want to walk around the bay because I knew I’d have to walk several miles out of my way. Luckily, there was a huge, floating spit of snow, almost an iceberg, floating in the water near the bank that I could clamber atop and push through the water with a pole. I was able to push it across the mouth of the bay as fast as if I had been in a motorized fishing boat.

Walking along the road, I saw nobody until I came to the next town where everybody was gathered in and around the pub, and they were all talking about where to get gasoline. When I told them about the guy I was talking to in the pub I had just left, they all got very quite for a few minutes until the barman started pulling pints and passing them around. I waved him off because I didn’t have any money for beer but he said it was on the house. He fed us all lunch, too.

I remember walking home after that but not much else, because one of the cats – here in the real world – became very restless toward morning, kept walking back and forth across my chest, teasing the other cat and waking me up.

No Gas | 9:26 am CST
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Friday, April 8th, 2011

Well, I crashed the truck last night. That happens to me all the time when I try to drive from the back seat … or, in the case of the truck, from trying to drive while sitting in the bed.

There’s always a steering wheel back there in these dreams. It’s not like I’m sitting back there poking at the wheel up front with a broomstick. But, unfortunately, the wheel or tiller or whatever’s in the back to control the direction is typically very small. The wheel in the back of truck, for instance, was no bigger than a tea saucer. It was also very stiff, hard to turn, and even when I could get it to turn it affected the direction the truck was going only a tiny bit. I crashed the truck because I couldn’t turn the wheel fast enough to get the truck around a corner.

My Darling B was in the back with me, happily telling me about the latest goodies growing in her garden until she noticed that I was drifting into the other lane even though I was frantically cranking the wheel around as fast as I could. She pointed this out several times, each time at a higher register than the previous warning, but it didn’t help. Luckily, we didn’t hit anybody else. Unluckily, we drifted completely across the oncoming lane into the ditch on the other side. It was filled with water, so when the truck rolled over the canvas top over the bed collapsed on top of us and we couldn’t get out.

I woke up from that dream breathing hard. Can’t remember the last time I was scared by a dream like that.

Truck | 6:06 am CST
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Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I’ve loved elevators since I was a kid. I think just about every kid does. The sliding doors aren’t the novelty they once were, but the idea of a little car that you can drive up and down a vertical hallway is way too nifty for words. I ride elevators wherever I find them, even if I don’t have to. But, if elevators were anything like the nightmarish instruments of torture I have to ride in my dreams, I’d never get in one again ever.

In my dream world there are two kinds of elevators: One kinds looks like a regular elevator with sliding doors and walls and a panel and everything I’d expect to find when you stepped inside to lull me into a false sense of security. After the doors close and I press a button to choose the floor I’d like to go to, however, the floor goes up or down, just as I’d expect, but the walls don’t. The challenge here is obviously to stay away from the walls, which in this case are irregularly studded with hooks and knobs and other features that would snatch away parts of me if I were to get too close.

The other kind of elevator is just a floor, usually no more than a foot square. I hate these things. Every time I ride one of them I nearly fall off, which is the point of the dream, I suppose. No matter how many times I tell myself, This is the last time I’m using one of these! I always seem to get back on when I’m faced with using one, as I did last night. I had to get to the very top floor of a dizzyingly tall building right away. The only elevator was a tiny square of concrete that stuck out of the front of the building like a stoop. Bowing to the inevitable, I stepped up onto it, closed my eyes and pressed the button, causing the tiny little square to shoot up into the air much faster than an elevator is supposed to go.

The nightmarish thing about these wall-less elevators is obviously that it’s just about impossible to remain standing as they climb into the air, no matter how convincingly I try to argue with myself that it would be easy to stand on this tiny little square it if it were on the ground. The point is, it’s not on the ground, and I end up crouching over the little square, searching the edges with my fingers for anything to hold onto.

Sometimes, just to make the ride even worse, the elevator has to pass through a hole in the ceiling that’s just big enough for the little square. If any part of me is hanging over the edges, like my fingers, for instance, they’ll be left behind like the trimmings outside the edges of a cookie cutter. I hate these elevators most of all.

Last night’s ride was just the opposite of one of those: As it went up the outside of the building it got further and further away from the wall, a tiny little square flying through the air with no visible means of support, climbing faster and faster as I clung to it for dear life and hoped that it wouldn’t stop now because if it did, I was pretty sure I’d just shoot off away from it into space. I can’t remember now how that dream ended, but it probably wasn’t happily ever after.

elevate me | 8:46 am CST
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Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I remember only the very last part of the dream I had right before the alarm clock began to bleat: I was at a dirt-strip airfield waiting for a hop on a plane out of some little banana republic, and when it finally came and I climbed aboard I took one last look out the window as the plane turned to taxi to the end of the strip and saw a guy carrying my bags away to a dumpster. And I thought, Man, isn’t that every flying experience you’ve ever had, rolled up into one bitter little pill?

My plane landed at Farnsworth airport. I don’t know where that is, and I only knew it was called “Farnsworth” because, when I got off the plane, a really big, bearded guy who got off the plane ahead of me started walking around in circles on the tarmac shouting, “You suck, Farnsworth! You suck!” at the tops of his lungs. I punched him out, but only after he tried to hit me with his handbag, not to shut him up.

Farnsworth | 6:51 am CST
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Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Daryl Hannah dropped in for a visit last night. We all hopped in the car and drove over to the local bowling alley to bowl a few lines, as you do when a major Hollywood star stops by. And then I woke up.

Whatever happed to Daryl Hannah, by the way? I can’t even remember the last thing I saw her in.

Bowling with the stars | 5:32 pm CST
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Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I was waiting in the parking lot of the hotel for a lift into town from the air base where I was staying. I’d been hiking through the countryside of southwest England all week, but was taking some time off to hang around town, browse the book stores and pick up a few knick-knacks for souvenirs.

The cop who was going to drive the little ten-passenger bus that would take us into town motioned me aside and said, “I’ve got something for you,” so I followed him down the hill to a small shed by the side of a pool. On a table outside the shed were a pair of well-worn combat boots. Almost all the polish had been stripped off and the soles were missing. “My boots!” I shouted. “Where did you find them?” The Cotswolds, he told me, but I already knew that. They were sucked off my feet while I was trying to cross a bog.

I thanked the cop, a young fellow who never smiled but liked to hike and liked to talk about it. We exchanged one or two stories on the walk back to the parking lot. Then I got on the bus, which had turned into a huge red Radio Flyer wagon, he grabbed the handle and he pulled me into town. Slowly.

Personal to Sean: Dream.

Boots | 6:07 am CST
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Monday, January 24th, 2011

Okay, so if you’re one of those people who believes a dream means something, try to noodle this one out: Last night, I dreamed I was making coffee in the toilet bowl. It worked surprisingly well except that when it was ready I flushed it. Muscle memory, I guess. That’s all I remember about it, so if context is important I’ll have to disappoint you on that. Meaning?

Meaning | 6:47 am CST
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Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Space aliens! I was being chased by space aliens all night! And what did they want from me? Did they need me to complete an act of betrayal that would give them the entire world? Did they want to suck my soul out through my eyeballs? Did they want to make me their uranium-mining slave?

As it turned out, they wanted my shirt. To be perfectly factual, they wanted the shirt I was wearing, a soft, cotton twill that had been entrusted to my safekeeping by the spunky guerrilla resistance movement fighting to destroy the aliens, so I put it on and tried to run. Naturally that didn’t work, because I was dreaming. Can’t run in a dream. What was I thinking? Luckily for the resistance and for me, the aliens were piss-poor at catching one lone middle-aged man.

As is always the way with alien invasions, for reasons that make alien invasion movies hugely popular but make no sense at all. How does anyone think it’s possible for an alien race to grow brains so amazingly large they can develop technology powerful enough to cross the space between the stars, yet when they get here, usually for the purpose of either exterminating us like bugs or eating us like tasty, tasty piglets, they have to hunt us down one at a time and shoot us with laser guns that look very flashily cool but really aren’t much more sophisticated than shotguns? Okay, it’s a blaster, but it can miss. Big deal.

The aliens who wanted my shirt didn’t even have sparkly laser guns, but they could change shape to look like anybody, and they stuck to a strategy of backing me into a corner after lulling me into a false sense of security, then doing something that obviously gives themselves away, like licking their eyebrows with their lizard tongues, or blinking they eyelids sideways. Yet still they tried to talk me into just giving them the shirt, as if I still believed they were the person they looked like, giving me plenty of time to fish a good, old-fashioned Colt forty-five out of my pocket and shoot them point-blank in the face. That “talking to the victim like you’re still his friend after he realizes you’re a space alien” strategy never works.

Last I remember, I was fleeing across the Russian taiga with the space aliens in hot pursuit and an agreed-upon rendezvous date with the resistance six years hence. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Not Giving You Any Shirt! | 5:53 am CST
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Monday, December 27th, 2010

In last night’s dream I was somehow involved in shooting a scene from a movie. I don’t remember much of that, just the coffee.

After the scene was shot we all lined up at a roach coach to get some coffee and baked goods. John Cleese in full-on Basil Fawlty mode was serving brownies at the door. I took one and shuffled through the line to the coffee spigots, which were many. The first one dispensed something hot and brown that was not coffee. I raised the mug to my lips and took a sip expecting coffee, then did a spit-take and looked around for some place to dump it. There was none, so I just left it, mug and all, by the dish rack and grabbed a new mug.

The second spigot dispensed only hot water. There was a huge aquarium next to the chow line, so I dumped it in there, figuring it was only water and wouldn’t hurt anything. Boiling water, sure, but only the weaklings in the tank would complain about that, right?

I got milk from the third spigot. By this time I was getting a little disgusted by the way this was set up and had begun to cuss loudly at the spigots, the people who ran the roach coach, the world, the universe, whatever. The people in line behind me were getting a trifle upset at my futzing around, too. If this kept up, I could see we’d soon be trading black eyes.

I reached past the guy in line behind me to get another mug, then tried the fourth spigot. Coffee and cream. Imagine my disgust. Who the hell puts cream in the coffee urn? Basil Fawlty, I suspect.

I didn’t get any coffee in this dream because My Darling B’s soft snoring woke me up before I had the chance to try the fifth spigot, or anything beyond. I was probably better off that way.

Coffee Coffee Coffee | 6:04 am CST
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Sunday, December 26th, 2010

All I remember of last night’s dream is the end of it: I was walking home with a friend from my job as a cartoonist for a Chicago newspaper. He dropped me off at my apartment building before continuing on to his. My building was an almost featureless black cube about ten stories high that stood in the middle of a park wooded with willow and birch trees. As I got closer to it I could see that the surface of the cube was hundreds of smaller black cubes that had no apparent function at all. It had an ultra-modern look that had been heavily weathered by a decade or two of steady use. The elevator ran up the outside corner of the building but I went right past it and yet still somehow ended up walking down the hallway to my apartment somewhere deep inside the building. My place was very small, just one room with two small doorless partitions setting the kitchen and the bathroom apart from the main room. All the appliances were built into the walls, even the television screen, but no matter how long I searched, and I did look for quite a while, I could not find the refrigerator. The end.

Refrigerator | 7:38 am CST
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Friday, December 24th, 2010

I pulled all my toenails off last night. [Heads-up for Sean: This was in a dream. I didn’t really.] I stepped out of the shower and, as I was drying off, I noticed that my toenails urgently needed a trimming, so I sat my butt down on the edge of the tub and carefully clipped the ends off each and every toenail with my honking big toenail clippers, starting with the big toe and working my way down the row to the pinky toe. The clipped-off nails didn’t go sailing away like they usually do, they just hung there, so when I was done trimming I grabbed one corner of the big toenail and gently tugged, and that’s when each and every toenail came off. The big one was connected to the next one, and so on right down the line. All that was left on my toes were little broken-off stumps that looked like the ends of well-chewed toothpicks. I sat there gawping at the row of toenails dangling from between my thumb and forefinger until the chiming clock in the living room woke me up.

Pedicure | 8:20 am CST
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Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

In last night’s dream I was looking for a science fiction story by wandering through the collected books in somebody’s house, and he had quite a few. Room after room was crammed with book cases crammed with books, in a house so big I remember driving through the hallways at a pretty fast clip in my Toyota.

Apparently I knew this guy although I couldn’t tell you who he was, other than he was wearing the classic nerd uniform: white, button-down shirt and black horn-rim glasses. He knew all the stories I knew … except this one. It was a short story about time-travelers who stole people from the past to repopulate the future. They were on an airplane that was going to crash at the end of its flight, so they beamed aboard it, anesthetized everybody, beamed them into the future and replaced everyone with corpses. I’m pretty sure this is a real story, but no matter how many times I wring my brain for the title or the author I can’t get it to pop out.

In one room, a bunch of this guy’s friends were sitting at tables reading until we came in, and after we all said “Hi, how ya doon?” I asked if any of them had ever read this story. They all said no, and one of them added, “I’m not really into Golden Age science fiction,” referring to stories that were written by the likes of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Apparently the story I described sounded a bit wrinkly around the edges, quaint, even. And although I wanted to grab my crotch and tell him, Hey, pal, I got your Golden Age right here, it probably would have been a story that was, to him, what a Jules Verne story is to me. They don’t write them like that any more.

“The story I’m looking for was probably written in the 70s or 80s,” I told them, “and was published in a collection, probably a ‘best of the year’ or a book of Nebula or Hugo award-winners.” Blank stares all around. That didn’t help one bit, so I thanked them and we went on to the next room, where I kept on thumbing through books while talking about my favorite Golden Age authors with my nerd friend.

I’m never going to find that story, am I?

LATER: Yes, as it happens I do get to find out. The story was Air Raid, published in 1977 by science fiction author John Varley, who later expanded it into the novel Millennium and even wrote a screen play for a movie, also called Millennium, starring Kris Kirstofferson and Cheryl Ladd.

Lost In Space | 6:07 am CST
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Monday, November 22nd, 2010

My Darling B and I were out for a walk in one of the swankier parts of town where the mansions were four and five stories tall. Densely built hip-to-hip along the street, they made a fortress-like ring around a city block a half-mile wide from street to street. The ground floor of every one of them was made of ornately cut stone, rough or finished, while the upper floors were built of elaborately jointed wood that hung out over the street, buttressed by heavy timbers, imposing as elephants standing in a row, guarding the entrance to a jungle temple.

We decided to cut through the middle of one block just to see what the back sides of these grand old houses looked like. I was shocked when we found them literally rotting from the top down! The rooftops were overgrown with trees whose twisted trunks and knotted roots had pushed up and cast away hundreds, maybe thousands of slate shingles that were caught in the eaves or heaped up against the dormers. The scattered shingles gave the impression each tree had erupted from the attic spaces, rather than grown over the years from a seed that happened to lodge under the edge of a shingle, then grew ring by ring from a sapling to thick-trunked crookedness.

Great, rotting roof-beams were visible through the shattered dormer windows and gaping holes, and as we crossed the central courtyard, a breeze stirred forgotten papers, once bundled and stowed away in the attics, now broken loose after years of weathering, and sent them fluttering down around us, page by page. On the other side of the yard, a waist-high stone wall was piled with bric-a-brac like a yard sale. Items that had come raining down through holes in the ruined walls above had been carefully retrieved from the driveways and back stoops. What was on display were things nobody wanted any longer. Valuables, if there had been any, had already been gathered up and spirited away, and all that was left were old hand tools and typewriters.

The tools were mostly in good shape, just very, very old, but the typewriters had taken an awful beating. They were beautiful old models with chocolate-colored, carefully lacquered finishes, embossed with gilt trademarks outlined in royal blue. Most were broken open, or at least had one side bashed in from the fall. The thick beveled glass of the few that were designed to proudly show off their inner workings was cracked or smashed. The carriage return lever had been broken off every one of them.

I sank to my knees and wept. B put a hand on my shoulder and let me.

A Dark Rain | 6:29 am CST
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Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Our house was infested with cotton balls! Only a few, at first. I was taking down a pair of shelves that I had mistakenly bolted to the wall with bolts as big as jumbo dill pickles, and when I got the second one off there was a whispy patch of cotton balls stuck to the wall. In a weird way. But I couldn’t get a good look at them because the sun had set, so I climbed down off my ladder and crossed the room to flip the light switch … only to discover the electricity was out! Duh-duh-DUHNNNNN!

Naturally, I did what everybody does when they flip a light switch but the lights don’t come on: I flipped it off, then flipped it on again, as if maybe the light switch only forgot to let the electricity get through. “Wow, sorry! Wasn’t paying attention! Here you go!” That might have been weirder, actually. But no, the lights still didn’t come on, and it was getting darker, and when I stepped back into the room to get another look at the cotton balls before the sunlight was gone entirely I could see that there were cotton balls covering one entire wall now!

They were still just cotton balls, but cotton balls that reproduced! And when I turned around to go get a flashlight, they were in the hallway, too! They were everywhere! They were all over the kitchen, and by the time I found a flashlight in the kitchen drawer there were too many in the hallway for me to get back to the room, not that I wanted to any more.

My Darling B came home just then and wanted to know what the hell I thought I was doing by putting up all the goddamn cotton balls in the doorway. It was hard enough to get in with her arms full of groceries, she said, and would have gone on but her eyes had adjusted to the gloom by then and she could see the cotton balls in the kitchen. She flipped the light switch and the lights still didn’t come on but, weirdly, my flashlight dimmed a bit. She flipped the switch off and back on again, dimming my flashlight both times, then asked me if this was some kind of joke. Why wouldn’t I be laughing if this was a joke? I asked her, pretty reasonably, I thought.

There really wasn’t anything to do at that point but get in the car and drive far away. That’s how these movies always end anyway, and we didn’t feel like waiting around for all the scary stuff in the middle. As we were driving away, B sneezed right in my ear and woke me up, then climbed out of bed to go visit the bathroom. I fought the urge to turn on my bedside light to make sure there weren’t any cotton balls on the wall in the corner.

Killer Cotton Balls | 6:08 am CST
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Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

image of tentacled horror

Last night’s dream was a horror movie about inky black tentacles creeping under the bedroom door to get me. I was sleeping so well until I woke up at about four o’clock with a jolt just a teensy bit milder than the one I’d get if I stuck my tongue in a toaster.

To wake myself up a little I got up to pee, something that usually breaks the cycle of falling asleep and watching the same dream all over again, or the slightly more gruesome variation that my brain re-edits the original version into, just to tighten up the suspense a bit, I guess. But a visit to the john didn’t keep my brain from hitting the rewind button last night. I doubt very much I slept more than ten minutes at a time after that. Dozed off, dreamed I woke up because there was a light on in the living room shining under the door, sat up in bed to wonder about it, saw the inky black tentacles creeping along the floor toward me and Poof! Jolted awake.

At least I got a solid five hours before that, so I’m not totally trashed. I may need a supplemental extra-dark coffee to get through the afternoon, though. Hello, EVP coffee house!

Lost in Dreams | 6:23 am CST
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Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

image of Soyuz capsule

I don’t know how I managed to wangle a ride to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, but I did. They stuffed me in the back seat. I didn’t know the Soyuz even had a back seat, but it must have because I got to ride out the trip to orbit in a cramped compartment cut off from the crew with no lights except for a porthole. As the engines roared for ever and ever and ever I remember looking down at the Earth through my single tiny window and thinking, Hey, shouldn’t we be a little higher than this?

The next thing I remember is slogging through ankle-deep water while trying to keep up with a very young service man who wasn’t at all interested in answering any of my questions. When I asked him where I was, he pointed out the window and said, with a note of exhausted sadness in his answer, “Kazakhstan,” and that was all I could get out of him. The window he pointed to, by the way, went from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, like a zoo exhibit, and just on the other side of it was a wide, sandy, sunny beach jammed hip-to-hip with happy swimmers and sunbathers, so it wasn’t exactly self-evident that this was Kazakhstan, just as it wasn’t very clear why a sunny, crowded beach should fill this particular soldier with so much ennui.

He led me to a combination locker room and toilet. I was more than a little disappointed that I wasn’t taken to a very expensive and impressive-looking medical facility to be given a comprehensive check-up and a thorough debriefing by engineers and analysts eager to figure out what went wrong. At least a bit more official than being dropped off in a dingy locker room by an enlisted man and told to “just dump your space suit on the floor.” The room was painted a revolting shade of puce; not just the walls, but the floor, the ceiling and the lockers, too. It looked as if the job had been given to a gang of teenagers who were handed five-inch brushes and told to finish as quickly as possible, but try not to get any paint on the porcelain.

About a dozen young service men and women were using the locker room and bathroom. They all acted as if they couldn’t see each other, although they very pointedly stared at me while I peeled off my space suit, a garment that was by that time barely more than a cheap plastic coverall and a gas mask. I left it on the floor in a heap, as instructed, then opened the nearest locker and stole somebody’s blue uniform pants and shirt and got the hell out of there.

My Darling B was waiting for me, also in uniform, in the chow hall, where a couple dozen people introduced themselves to us but wouldn’t tell us where we were or how we got there. We stood up to salute some old fart who introduced himself as the base commander, until I noticed he was a staff sergeant and told him to take a hike. Lunch was served shortly after, and we ate until we were so full it made us sleepy enough to find a deck chair on the beach where we could stretch out for a nap.

Splashdown | 7:48 pm CST
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Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

There are many, many reasons not to tell you about last night’s dream. I’m going to tell you anyway.

First, the duck massacre. In any detail, describing the duck massacre would require that I scare off pretty much anybody who’s still reading this blog. I don’t recall why I was asked to investigate the duck massacre. Perhaps, in the dream, I was the preeminent expert on duck massacres. Perhaps I was the only guy in town, maybe even in the whole world, who would agree to look into it. In either case, there I was, peering thoughtfully at splatter patterns and prodding at duck fragments with the end of my fountain pen.

Then there was the bear. It was big and black and it had two red glowing eyes, and when it allowed itself to be seen it was never more than only in the corner of my eye, just out of sight. It was stalking me. And it had something to do with the ducks. Well, duh, of course it did.

To find out more about the bear and the ducks, I walked very casually up the street to the corner where My Darling B sat on the curb, waiting for a ride. She wasn’t going to get one, though, because the city was a ghost town, completely abandoned. Even though she was in the downtown district, all the shop fronts were boarded up or hollowed out and, just to make the point that there was no hope of any life ever coming back to this town, there was an iron-gray overcast darkening the sky.

I tapped her on the shoulder as I approached, took her hand, and we ran up the street, much faster than we could if we weren’t in a dream, so fast that we were bounding a hundred feet through the air between steps, flying, really. At the edge of a lake we flew over the water, touching down on a railroad bridge to bound into the air again, eventually alighting in the broken-out window of a ruined ten-story building.

In the street below the building, the bear gazed up at us. “We have to get ready,” I said to B.

Duck duck bear | 2:56 pm CST
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Monday, July 12th, 2010

Fragment of the dream I had last night:

I was in prison. It was a pretty nice prison, too, a two-story half-timbered cottage on an acre or two of land in a nice neighborhood. I would go so far as to say it was a desirable prison to have in your neighborhood, if you had to have one just down the block, and maybe even if you didn’t.

We, the prisoners, were planning a block party, a really big one. We planned to set up lots of picnic tables on our wide-open lawn with umbrellas and tents for shade, and we invited all our neighbors to come to the party in the hopes that they wouldn’t call the cops about the noise if they were there contributing to it.

When they heard about the party, though, more than a few of the neighbors were a little pissed off at the warden for even thinking about letting the prisoners have a party right out on the street where just anybody could see them, and there was a big stink about it in the news. Prisoners weren’t supposed to party, the pundits said. They were in prison to be punished! What’s the world coming to when we let our prisoners organize a block party so everyone can have fun?

All this was academic to me. I was a prisoner because I’d done something really bad. I couldn’t remember what it was, but I knew it was so bad that they weren’t going to let me out for the party, even though all the other prisoners would be allowed out. Under the circumstances I didn’t much care whether or not we were going to have a party. Can you blame me?

I wrote stories for the prison newspaper, so the warden asked me to write something that would calm everyone down enough for us to have the party. I said I’d get right on that, sure, but first I’d have to excuse myself to go to the bathroom.

I sat in there for a long time, staring out the window at the other prisoners relaxing on the lawn, and I got to thinking maybe this wasn’t such a raw deal after all. I had the bright idea that, maybe if I wrote something that really could calm everyone down they’d let me out, and that’s when I woke up to make a real trip to the toilet. I’ll never find out whether or not we got to have the party.

Block Party | 3:01 pm CST
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Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The alarm clock woke me up this morning right in the middle of a dream about being a very old Bruce Willis in the continuing story of The Fifth Element. I don’t know where that came from. I haven’t thought about that movie in years.

(Coincidentally, in a Facebook comment someone reminded Number One Son that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I don’t know who said it first, but whenever I hear it I remember Gary Oldman saying that as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element. Because that’s how I’m wired. And because Zorg is my hero. “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself!”)

I wish I could remember some of the dream so I could weird you out with it, but all I remember is being Bruce Willis, being in the movie, and being very old. Wrinkly. Gray-haired, what little hair I had. Permeated by a musty smell. Not a bad musty smell. When I’m old, I want to smell like old books. I don’t care if they’re old paperbacks, I just want the smell to remind me of my favorite used book stores. If I end up smelling like wet dogs I want you to come find me and set me on fire. With a blowtorch. Or a flamethrower, if you happen to have one in your garage, and don’t we all wish we did?

We met a guy with a flamethrower last weekend, as a matter of fact. He was having a housewarming and we brought a keg of beer as a big thank-you for getting us tickets to the Great Taste of the Midwest our first and second year. He told us he bought a flamethrower at Farm & Fleet to kill the weeds in his driveway.

I’m serious. It’s not the kind of flamethrower you see island-hopping Marines using in old newsreels that shoots a stream of napalm in a blazing arc; it’s a more sedate flamethrower that hooks up to a bottle of LP gas and burns up weeds with a blue-hot flame that doesn’t shoot very far but is still very cool none the less. I’d get one myself if I could find one for less than ten dollars. I’ve got plenty of weeds that deserve a good scorching.

zorg | 7:49 pm CST
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Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I went swimming last night in a great big, shallow pool, the kind you sometimes find in campgrounds filled with kids. In fact, it was filled with kids, hundreds of them, and I kept bumping into them as I swam under the surface of the water from one side of the pool to the other. It was filled with adults, too, but they were all sitting in folding lawn chairs and it was relatively easy to avoid their non-moving legs.

I swam around for what seemed like forever until somebody announced that we would all have to get out of the pool because it was getting dangerously dirty. I looked down at the water I was standing in and, instead of the crystal-clear bluish water I’d been looking through all afternoon, I saw what appeared to be grayish, lumpy porridge. Everyone else saw it, too, because they all got out of the pool without the usual “Awwwww” and headed for the showers to get good and cleaned off.

Whoever ran the pool apparently wanted to make up for kicking us out because they sprung for treats at the ice cream stand, handing each one of us a little wad of cash as we stepped out the door. I went straight over to the stand, got in line, picked out an Eskimo Pie and found a place to sit while I ate it up.

I looked around as I was eating and said hi to all the people I recognized. The place was full of people I knew. In fact, literally every person in the place was somebody I’d met at some point in my life. It occurred to me I might be dead, although I didn’t feel dead, didn’t remember dying and nobody appeared to be particularly spectral or offered me any helpful advice on how to get along in the afterlife. We were all just eating our ice cream and saying, Hi, how you doing?

Then I left the ice cream shop and went home. For once it really was home, not some strange-looking building I understood to be home. Everything was familiar and in exactly the place it should have been except (there had to be an “except”) that Darling B was lying in the middle of the living room floor, bundled up in one of those mummy sleeping bags that only your face sticks out of.

She was very, very small, no bigger than a kitten, and when I knelt beside her she asked me to pull on the cord that closed up the face hole. So I did. As the hole got smaller, oats welled up around her face, covering it almost completely, which scared the crap out of me. I quickly undid the cord and worked the opening of the sleeping bag until it was large enough to brush the oats away from her face.

The cord had knots in it, making it very hard to undo, so it took what felt like a million years to get the bag open and when I finally did I was so exhausted that I barely had the strength to hold her hand as I sat by the side of her bed to watch her so she didn’t get buried in oats again.

And that’s when I woke up.

oats | 5:55 am CST
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