2011 in review: Dreams in Early August

“You think people are silly to believe in ghosts?” An old man had asked Fred Foley a long time ago. “You should hear some of the things that ghosts believe in!”

R.A. Lafferty, Fourth Mansions


Characters from a Dream in Search of a Story

The path forward seems wide enough to drive a truck through. It is my job to keep it open and drive forward. I will do this by writing.

The path forward seems wide enough to drive a truck through. It is my job to keep it open and drive forward. I will do this by writing.

Fenton, Patch, Braz, and Sterling, high school boys are arrayed in a loose circle between two parked cars in a 7/11 parking lot in Mazoula, Montana on a short sleeve night in August.

“Mebbe we should jes’ head out,” Fenton says.


“Where to?” Patch asks glancing at Fenton. “We could go anywhere . . .”

I lost them as I turn the page they are slow to cross the divide, frozen in the Mazoula summer night no particular year somewhere in the twentieth century before cell phones and facebook, white t-shirts ablaze with cigarette packs rolled at the shoulder, above well worked biceps bulge as they bring the orange-red glow up to hungry faces. Slouching lips suck in hot smoke and exhale with practiced cool into the fluorescent air. Which one leans on the ’67 Charger, metal flake lime green with a spoiler and scoop? That would be Braz. Doesn’t speak much.  Always thinking, he Reads Kafka and Kerouac. The others feed off of his ideas like lamprey in a shark’s mouth.

“Man, we should blow this slow stretch of highway,” He says quietly almost mumbling. “I got some dough.”

The other three look up startled, but not showing much. Patch, the usual storyteller, strangely silent, waiting as if the night held dangerous creatures ready to pounce at the sound of his usual twangy patter.

Inside the 7/11 half gallon cartons of low-fat milk line the dairy case visible above the top shelf of the chip aisle, bright bulging bags of Doritos. Sterling taps a rhythm on the sparkling hood of the charger and whistles aimlessly searching for a foothold on a song he knows. He was in a band for a while, played any instrument he picked up easily, but could not stick with anything long enough to master it.

A lone shopper pauses before the line of milk nervously glances at the boys as Fenton leans back against a red Pinto and takes another drag, tilted tensely, suddenly pacing off into the blank endless dark beyond the glare. He comes back grinning.

“Well, where to boys? I’ll be damned if I’m gonna hang out in this ghost town one more night. I’d rather be jailed, I swear!”

The place where rivers flow into the ocean, delta wetlands with mountains, caves, tidelands, forest and desert formed into mythic landscapes in Fenton’s mind. The mountain valleys and plains of Montana had stretched his days thin. He wanted warm mud and a tide. He had been to the ocean, the pacific, Long Beach in Washington. He saw the waves piling and sprawling, the hissing whoosh and roar and the endless horizon. He had only been there once, but it stayed with him like a magnet drawing; every now and then he noticed it.


Hard Line

Terrorists fill the woods. Tall graceful trees sway without wind because thousands of terrorists move through the woods.

 I draw Omar (Jimmy Smits) aside and say, “You would never use the nuclear option?”

He says, “I can’t rule that out. The trees are swaying with them. They are armed, 100,000 maybe. How many soldiers would it take.”

The cocktail party conversation hushes and heads turn in horror at his words.

“You have to negotiate,” I say.

“I don’t think they will negotiate,” he says. “They seem ready to die.”

“But you can use conventional weapons at least.”

“We have them in a confined space and could eradicate them to a man,” he insists. “We could evacuate the area so that a tactical strike would affect only a small area.”

“Why not contain them and starve them out? Surround and defend.”

“Loss of life on our side would be brutal.”

“Who are these militants and what do they want?”

“They want us to worship as they do. They want to make the world follow their laws.”

“There is no negotiating with that? What if we give them a place to live where they can do as they wish?”

“They have no idea of compromise. It is all or nothing. I intend it to be nothing rather than all.”

This entry was posted in conversations, Dreamtime, Fiction, Other peoples words, Questions and riddles, summer, Telling Stories, time travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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