The Dreamed Dream

Here is the dream he dreamed the night before the dog:

blood was in his mouth

feeling like warm milk

it did not choke him

he spat it out

but it was replaced too fast and he swallowed it

maybe his brain is leaking

pouring down his throat

not a torrent

not enough to drown

like wine gently poured down his throat

corpuscles tickled

red and white

his uvula dripped plasma

good God how much

blood can one head hold?

In his gut

clotting, filling, bloating

but he can’t force vomit

bad thanksgiving memories

swirl in his head

mom made candied yams

yam burlee

a burnt wasteland

of morning glory

not nightshade

in his gut

he wanted to throw it up

to expel

spew

regurgitate

but his body said,

no

his belly button

popped out

like a pregnant lady

but he had

no contraction, no expulsion

no desire

just the constant flow

Then he woke up.

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A Little Tug

They stare at each other.  The dog, disturbed at being interrupted while killing the sock.  The man, incapable of processing what he was seeing.  Cocking it’s head to the left the dog sits a moment before ducking behind the door and shaking its head with lethal intent.  Little dogs can be real bad-asses, he thinks.  That stick and move thing.  Dropping to one knee he  cautiously pushes the door back.  Dog could climb him like a stump and take his nose off.  The door swings toward the naked wall.  To the right is the sink and toilet.  Dog could feel trapped.  Not caring too much yet the dog stops, then resumes shaking the life out of the sock.  It’s how dogs kill things.  Bite.  Shake it until it’s dead or stunned.  Imagine if that got a piece of your face.  Yikes.

“Hey little dude.”  Squeeze him with the door just a little, not need to scare.  A cropped white tail leads as the dog backs out of the diminishing space. Butt high the dog must have its head on the ground.  “Hey little dude, no need to get excited.”  The dog, now white and showing a brown spot on his left side ignores him.  Pushing the door further the dog backs out fully and looks at him.  The dog drops the sock and barks once.

“Easy little dude.”

Bark.  Staring.  Smart eyes.  A touch of gray on the muzzle.  Brown mask and ears.  Both ears stick straight up but fold forward a the top.  The dog just looks intelligent. Intelligent dog.  Not feral.  Dirty but not beat down, on-the-street dirty dog.  Dirty like “I got lost at the rest stop” dirty.  What do you do with a dog you don’t own in a town that ain’t yours?

“Sit.”  Haunches to the ground.  Like a Chinese temple lion.  Back straight.  Chest out.  Rough coat.  Not wire haired but more than smooth.  The dog cocks it’s head waiting for another order.

“Stay.”  Standing, he backs out of the bathroom.  The dog just sits.  Happy to be of service.  Smart dog.  Not afraid dog, not cowering dog.  Ok-I’ll-do-that-dog.

“Heel.” Nonchalantly the dog stands and trots to him.  Makes a have circle behind him and sits again.  Got it boss.  Now what?  Seriously.  This is way too easy.  The dog seems…bored, the commands routine and the actions uninteresting.

“Down.”  Walking his front paws out the dog patiently assumes the position of a sphinx.

“Stay.”  Turning he walks out of the open door into the parking lot.  Taking his time he goes to the office.  Maybe the dog will be gone when he gets back.  Maybe it’ll get up and trot back to wherever it came from and a little old lady or happy kid will say, “Where have you been!” and there’ll be treats and reunion.  Laughter.  Kisses and scratches.

Mr. Friendly “park your bike in the room” is in the office at the desk.

“What can I do for you sir?”  The kid is the dog.  Young and following instructions beyond the letter. Eager to please, fur is even unkempt; well-trained, too bright and bored, both excited to show off their skills.

“Has anybody checked in with a dog?”

“Uhhhh…” Quizzical, lost a moment. A shuffle of pages on the registry.  Yes, an old school, registry.  Back and forth.  One page erect, reading sideways and flipping the page between hands and head turns.  Hey there Norman Bates, read a little faster.  “Ah…No.  Not that I can see.  Is there a problem?”  Face up, eyes shining.

“No.  No.  Just thought I heard something.” A pause, mouth almost open.  “No.  Everything’s good.”

Walking out he thinks he should have ratted the dog out.  But maybe the dog was gone.  Maybe the problem had solved itself and when he got back it will all have never been.  Sometimes just walking away fixed things.  His father had.  He had.  Just turn and walk away.  Some badgered and chewed and pointed and yelled until someone did what they wanted but he was willing to wait it out; wander away from the fight.  With luck the dog was gone.

But it wasn’t.  It was sitting where he left it.  The only difference is it had gone and got his sock and was giving it a working over, holding it between his front paws and pulling with his teeth.

“Dog.”  The tugging and chewing stops, the dog frozen mid pull. “Drop it.”  The dog gives the sock a little tug and then lets it fall from his mouth.

Holding

The heater made the room too hot. Waking with a glow of sweat he cracked the window too far and slipped back into bed.  Better cold than hot.  The morning was pleasant cold; in the hills, trees and water the cold wasn’t as hard.  Shocking cold was gone, this cold simply woke you and promised the sun would change everything for the better if you could get to it.  Camping cold, that sleeping bag/tent moment full of dread but pregnant with promise.  The water sang as he peed into the bowl.  How many billions of men had listened to that sound this very morning.  Who was peeing on trees, or in the shower or God knows where.  He liked a man doing an average, everyday thing.

Putting on his pants he hops on one foot, off balance.  Change and keys jingle and clink, there’s a moment of fear he may fall. It’s another day and he only has two things on his mind, breakfast and a ride upstream.  Sitting on the bed he sniffs one of yesterday’s sock.  Good enough, but laundry day was here.  He needs to stop at a laundromat and buy a packet of soap so he can stomp on his clothes clean in the shower tonight.  It was time to play Maytag man.  For the first time in a long time he looked forward to the day and forward to returning to the town and the room.  Usually he gets itchy fast and wants to be off, or returns only because it’s where he knows there’s a berth. This feeling was warmer, familiar.  For some reason this place was safe harbor.  Home base in a game of tag.  Feeling like he wanted to stay close enough he could hurry back he finishes dressing and steps out the door; which won’t stay closed as he steps out.  He closes it.  It pops open.  Closed.  Open.  Pull.  Soft scrape of metal on wood.  Pop. Swings inward. Open.  Mumbling.  “Now you’re just trying to piss me off.”  A hard, sharp pull and slam.  The door stays.  He jingles the knob.  Things seem tight.  To the bike.  Quick check.  Leg over.  Helmet on.  Clean start up and with the chunk of first gear he’s gone.

The ride to the Riverside is quick.  The blue Corolla is on the far edge of the lot.  The bulging full lot.  What the fuck day is it?  It must be Saturday or Sunday, the place is packed out.  He’d park in the employee’s area and sit at the counter but there isn’t one.  Yesterday he had walked in and been lost without chrome and red leather stools with a long counter and a pie case.  It was some kind of converted building that didn’t start as a diner and no one had ever stuck one in.  A tree without a trunk is a bush and a diner without a counter is a restaurant.   Perhaps it was that lack of a diner’s heart that give the different vibe he had liked. A parking lot full of people liked it as well.  The majority of plates were local; which he liked.  Not a lot of tourists is a good sign.

Where to wait?  Not feeling like standing around waiting for a senior citizen to finish gumming a waffle to death he turns the bike around and heads back to the motel.  Hustling a little bit as he makes the turn into the motel lot he sees his room’s door standing open but no housekeeping cart.  Rolling up hot he skids the rear wheel a bit as he stops then flicks down the side stand, parks up and dismounts.  With one hand on the door he carefully pushes it open, making sure he isn’t leading with his head.  The room is empty.  He checks behind the bed.  Nothing.  Closet empty.  A sound from the bathroom.  A rustling behind the cracked door.  Softly turning to face the door he listen.  Sound like someone is shaking out a towel.  Maybe it is housekeeping.

“Hello?”

Shaking stops.  Motion.  Soft rustling again.  Step toward the door.  One hand with a gentle push. Rustling stops.

A small dog holding one of his socks sticks it’s head around the door.

=

Tonight He Dreamed

Sitting down he felt vague shame.  He had only seen what he expected to see.  Part of him wanted to apologize to the girl with the gray ponytail for being so blind and willing to accept his prejudices.  His lie was morning shifts are for old women and he had made her into his biased truth.  She was cute.  And right.  The fried chicken was killer.  It had an unidentified kick to it, not cayenne, could be Cajun.  Extra napkins lay spent on the table.  He was fat and happy as his mother would say unkindly.  Making fat and happy a negative was part of her plan to cut all the happy out of life.  How she had come to be the rain on every parade escaped him.  It was who she had always been, he had known no different and couldn’t imagine it.  That bruising, unhappy control was what had made the family work and fail all at once.  Paradox has been his state of being for a long, long time.

Cherry pie for dessert seems a cliche’ but he goes for it anyway, the crust on top looks like a long, twisted pie of dough wound in a spiral from the center out.  It’s hypnotic in its own way, the kind of thing you’d hold up and spin behind the basket as the opposing team takes a free throw.  Simple yet complex.  Kind of thing Pop would appreciate.  Looks wickedly engineered but in the end…not so much.  They do have a Billy the Knife, so…do they have a Penny the Pastry Chef?  Betty the Baker?  Crocker the Pie Hawker? Dan, Dan the Pastry Man?  Oh hell, he was fat and happy.  Good food after a good ride.  There was suddenly a growing gravity.  A thing.  A place.  A comfortable corner.

The ride back to the motel was in darkness.  Watching for eye-shine a traveling slower than he would in the daylight he was cold by the time he was back in his room.  The room was cold and the air conditioner/heater rattled when he turned up the heat.  Going to sleep was easy and tonight he dreamed.

The Knife

When he got back to town the light was low and growing amber.  Slicing under branches the sun touched items usually shielded by the trees; the bottoms of doors, asphalt under cars, tabletops by windows; sneaking a flash deep into store displays.  It was close to time to shuck his sunglasses.  Hunger banged around his gut.  A convenience store banana wasn’t enough to get through the day let alone the night.  Passing through town he decided to see what the Riverside Diner had to offer for dinner.  Bottom line he could get breakfast for dinner.

Looks like the senior rush, he thinks as he pulls up.  Full-size American cars are the flavor of the day in the parking lot.  They are beasts and their drivers fear banging them together so they are widely spaced and none are parallel.  Deciding to park away from the lumbering iron he puts the bike by a blue Toyota Corolla at the far edge of the lot.  No need to get the bike knocked down or run over.  Walking across the gravel lot he sees gray ponytail come out the kitchen door and start walking toward him.  A blue Corolla makes sense for her.  As their separation narrows he stares overly hard.  He was wrong.  She’s nowhere near as old as he thought in the morning.  Maybe it was her work scowl but now she’s clearly not much older than he.

She startles him by speaking.  “You clean up pretty good!”

“Thank you.”  Rubs his chin, “It’s how I lose weight.”

Close together now he realized her face is smooth, without crow’s feet, but not stretched or frozen with botox.  She mush run a hard scowl at work.  Or maybe she was having a bad morning.  They pass.  He stops and turns around asking “Hey, what’s good here for dinner?”

Cued by the crunch of gravel from his stop and turn, she turns and starts walking backward like she was born that way.  “You like Chili?” She asks still moving away.

Watching her move away he sees her youth as she walks away facing him.  “Is it good?”

“Nope,” she turns and then lifting her head and bouncing the words off the trees in front of her says, “The Knife makes great fried chicken!’

“Who?”

At her blue car she pauses with one foot on in.  “Billy the Knife.  The night cook.”  So smooth it looks like the car has vacuumed her in she disappears into the drivers seat, the car starts, clicks into gear and moves.