Friday, July 17, 2015

a dream forgotten, a story remembered

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

joe woke up.

he had completely forgotten his dreams, as he always did.

it took him a few seconds to remember where he was and what had happened to him in the last twenty-four hours. actually in the last twelve hours.

he wished the things that had happened had not happened, but what was done was done. there was no sense crying about it.

that was his attitude, and so far it had always served him well.

he took stock of his situation. bob had brought him here, presumably to do some work - what else would he have brought him here for?

the work probably had something to do with the horses he had seen the night before. joe didn’t know much about horses but he was willing to learn.

as long as they fed him. right now he was hungry.

he decided to go looking for bob or june - preferably bob.

he pushed himself off the bed. he had fallen asleep in his clothes without even taking his shoes off so he did not have to get dressed.

he noticed the books on the table beside the bed but did not look at them.

he remembered that he had not been told about this room but had discovered it on his own - he had been told by bob to sleep in the stable with the horses.

could this be a problem? joe thought some more. actually bob had told him to “just find a place” and that is what he had done. so there should not be a problem.

he opened the door and headed back down the corridor to the stable. as he did it occurred to him -

what if the stables weren’t there?

what if bob and june weren’t there?

what if nothing was there?

all his life joe had been afraid of waking up and finding nothing there.

when he was five or six years old a babysitter had read him a story. or maybe she made it up herself and told it to him.

he had never forgotten it.

the strange adventure of the bottle cap salesman

ed brown was a salesman, who lived with his wife and newborn child in schenectady new york.

ed’s father and grandfather had been salesmen before him.

they had sold toothbrushes, door to door. and other things too, like bars of green soap and bottles of ladies’ red nail polish, that they carried in their cases.

they sold them from utica new york all the way to grand rapids iowa, door to door, one or two sales at a time.

ed had planned to follow in their footsteps, but times were hard and the toothbrush company was sold to another company and ed was laid off.

but ed was a go-getter and he quickly found another job.

selling bottle caps.

ed’s dad and granddad were somewhat perplexed.

“darn it, ed,” said his dad. “how are you going to go door to door selling one bottle cap at a time?”

ed explained that he was not going to do that. instead he went around to bottling plants and tried to sell them thousands of bottle caps at a time.

ed’s granddad scratched his head. “you mean you travel around with thousands of bottle caps in your case?”

“oh, no, i just show them a sample and if they like it they put in an order for as many thousand as they want.”

ed’s dad shook his head. “that don’t hardly sound like being a salesman at all to me.”

“more like playing the numbers, or betting on a horse,” added granddad.

ed sort of agreed but what could he do? times changed.

ed’s boss told him to go to evansville indiana and sell some bottle caps to the bottling plant there, of a new drink called pearlie dew which was attempting to crack the midwestern market for soda pop.

ed went down to the station to buy a ticket to evansville indiana.

old fred harris was at the ticket counter.

“well, “ he said to ed, “guess you will be making all the stops on old lulu- rochester, erie, pittsburgh, cleveland, akron, mansfield, toledo, fort wayne, indianapolis and terra haute.”

ed explained that he was not making any stops and was going straight to evansville.

fred was astonished but quickly regained his composure. “darn it, son, you don’t want the local, you wan’t the special if we got one . let me just check if we got any kind of special to evansville. “

as ed waited, fred looked through his schedules. “looks like we got just the thing. a special going to st louis with just two stops - first one in evansville. how does that sound?”
“that sounds good, fred. thanks, you’re a white man.”

“don’t leave for four hours, so you got some time to kill.”

ordinarily ed would have gone around the corner from the train station to the greek’s place to get some pie and coffee, but with four hours to kill he decided to just wander around, find someplace new for a change. maybe someplace he had never been before.

as dusk settled over schenectady he ventured out onto main street.

he was never seen again.

the moral of the story: it is best to do one thing at a time.


joe reached the end of the corridor and pushed the door open.

to be continued

Saturday, February 27, 2010

down by the riverside

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

joe was tired, after his long and terrifying day, and did not look far for a place to sleep after being dismissed by june and after bob smith left him. he went back to the stable and looked for a spot in the hay as far from the horses as possible.

as he started to collapse into the hay, he noticed the outlines of a door in the corner of the barn. he pushed it and it swung open easily.

he was in a short, dark corridor. another door at the end of it also opened easily.

joe found himself in a small low-ceilinged room with a double bed, a chair, and a small table beside the bed with a lamp and some books on it.

joe picked up the books. they had dust on them. he ran his finger over the top of the table - dust. the chair - more dust. he decided it was safe to use the room to sleep in instead of the hay, and sat down on the bed.

joe looked more closely at the books. they were "the stars and the rain" by jennifer broughton, "dark eyes" and "dark eyes flashing" also by jennifer broughton, a novel by james patterson, and a novel by danielle steel with a coffee cup stain on it.

joe had never heard of any of them. he didn't like jennifer broughton's looks in her dust jacket photos.

he decided to try the james patterson book if he woke up.

then he fell back on the big soft bed and fell asleep.

he was the green knight, astride a big green horse with red eyes.

his opponent, the red knight, gazed at him - joe assumed he was gazing at him, his face was shielded by his visor - from across the river. the red knight rode a black horse without eyes.

the two sides of the river were thronged by the souls of the living (on the red knight's side) and the spirits of the dead (on the green knight's side). a bridge connected the two sides, and it seemed to grow longer as the green knight looked across it.

a castle rose from the water beside the bridge. joe/the green knight could make out the fair face and slender form of the white queen, and he wondered where the red queen and the black queen were.

but his musings were interrupted by the appearance of st christopher, who was being rowed in a little boat from the castle to the center of the bridge.

st christopher stepped on to the bridge, and st george and confucius rowed the little boat back to the castle.

"champions!" bellowed st christopher, in a voice that resounded through the eight galaxies, "choose your rewards!" he turned to the green knight first.

"say, sir knight, if you emerge victorious, will you free the spirits of the dead from their eternal bondage , or - he looked back at the castle - " will you choose the hand of the white queen?"

"i shall free the spirits of the dead," joe answered without hesitation, and tremendous cheers rose up on both sides of the river.

"and you, sir?" st christopher turned to the red knight.

"freedom for the dead, or the favors of the white queen?" joe wondered why he had been offered the "hand" of the queen and the red knight her "favors", but before he could articulate his question the red knight had already shouted his answer -

"the queen!"

as loudly as the green knight had been cheered by the two throngs, the red knight was twice as lustily booed. the shouts threatened to expand the galaxies beyond their allotted space until st christopher shouted -


and total silence ruled.

"now, then," st christopher proceeded, and turned to the red knight. "it is your choice of weapon. you choose?"

"let us fight like men," cried the red knight. "with fifty pound scimitars."

"fair enough," replied the saint, turning to the green knight. "it is your choice then, to fight on foot or on horseback."

after a slight hesitation, joe answered, "on foot."

"you pussy!" the red knight shouted. "real men fight on horseback."

he turned to the quiet crowd. " i shall make short of this girl in a man's body. a man who doesn't want to fight on horseback doesn't want to fight at all!"

the portcullis of the castle opened and the rowboat emerged again.

confucius and st george were again at the oars, and the lady guinevere stood up in it, holding in her two hands a golden scimitar on a black silk pillow. she stepped on to the bridge and the red knight snatched the scimitar off the pillow without thanking or acknowledging her. what a rude fellow, joe thought.

the green knight heard a cough behind him. he turned to see king arthur himself holding out a blue silk pillow with a silver scimitar on it.

it looked the same size as the red knight's weapon. do gold and silver weigh the same, he wondered.

again, he had no time to formulate his question.

st christopher held a white feather over his head, "when this feather hits the bridge,

commence battle!" he cried, in a voice not so loud as he had been using.

then as the feather was floating in the air, he and the lady guinevere stepped back into the little boat, as they did so, the saint said something that the green knight couldn't hear but that made the lady laugh.

suddenly the red knight was on him.

the green knight heard a great splash and realized that it was himself hitting the water. he came up sputtering and heard the red knight's laughter and tremendous boos and catcalls from both sides of the river, directed at himself, he supposed.

"the same old story!" he heard a voice from the rapidly dispersing crowds.

"what a sell!" came another voice. "what a bloody sell!"

"at least i didn't bet money this time," came a fainter voice.

joe dragged himself on to the bridge. the crowds were gone, and so was the castle. he saw the red knight rowing the little boat away, with only himself and the white queen in it.

he looked back at joe and gave him a friendly wave. the white queen's back was to joe. they disappeared into the mist.

next: a dream forgotten, a story remembered

Sunday, December 6, 2009

bob and june: the fourth vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

and when the quahog opened the fourth cage, and he heard the sound of the tsunami, the fourth creature swam out to the abandoned oil tanker.

and there joe beheld a green horse, with seven jockeys riding him, and pulling four chariots behind him, and he was the most fearsome beast of all and his name was dependence.

and the seven jockeys were alexander, barbarossa, constantine, diocletian, enobarbus, frank and jesse.

and the four chariots were driven by snow white, rose red, cinderella and rapunzel.

"what war?" joe repeated.

"well , take your pick." the little man answered. "there's wars everywhere."

joe thought about this for a while. the rain was falling more heavily, and the windshield wipers of the little truck were being overwhelmed. the little man seemed unconcerned and kept a steady speed.

"if there's wars everywhere," joe finally said, "how can you come back from them?"

"ha, ha! that's a good question, young man. it shows you're thinking. but there's a simple answer."

"and what might that be?"

"you come back from one war and home to another."

"sounds like just words to me," said joe.

"well then what isn't just words?" the little man asked.

joe looked at the windshield. "this rain isn't just words. and those windshield wipers aren't just words."

"true enough. but they are fighting a war, ain't they?"

"who will win?"

"hard to say. guess we'll find out."

i don't mean to be rude," said joe, "and i appreciate your stopping and giving me a ride, bit mightn't it be a good idea to stop and pull over?"


"why not?"

"got to get where i'm going."


"don't worry, i got a pretty good idea where i am."

"are we almost there?"

"hard to say."

joe thought carefully about his next question before asking it. "if you've got a good idea where you are, why is it hard to say if we are almost there?"

the little man laughed. "you ask a lot of questions, don't you? that's good."

"thank you. i have another question."

"go ahead."

"has anyone ever told you you look like rasputin or appolonius of tyana?"

"no and no. and that was two questions."


" nothing to be sorry about. questions are good."

"then i have two more questions. are you rasputin or appolonius of tyana?"

"not so far as i know. maybe in some other life."

"you mean you believe in reincarnation?"

the little man took his eyes off the streaming windshield. "what! of course! what kind of durn fool doesn't believe in reincarnation?"

"do you believe in the transmigration of souls?"

"we can discuss that at some other time. because here we are."

the truck turned on to a dirt road. the trees were so close and overarching on both of the road that the effect of the rain was diminished. suddenly the rain stopped beating on the roof and the truck stopped. the little man got out. joe got out too. they were in a barn. there was no light but joe could just make out a horse in a stall staring at him.

the little man took a lantern off the wall and lit it. joe could see that the horse was very old.

"that's an old horse," joe said.

"yes, he is. follow me."

joe followed the little man back out into the wind and rain. he could see a house about a hundred yards away with a single light in a lower window.

"my name is bob," said the little man. "bob smith."

'i'm pleased to meet you, bob."

"you should be."

bob smith and joe went inside to the one room with a light. it was a kitchen. a woman was sitting at a table drinking coffee. she had sharp eyes and gray hair in a bun with a big pin through it like a weathervane. an old purple sweater was thrown across her broad shoulders.

"this is june," said bob smith. "she's in charge of the new arrivals. she rules this place with an iron hand. isn't that right, june?"

june didn't answer but looked at joe over the top of her coffee cup. "we've got three rules in this place," she told him. "no filth. no arguments, and no bad things. got it?"

"yes, ma'am."

"he needs everything, i think," bob told june.

"one thing at at a time," june answered. "first thing he needs is a face. then we can get him a new name and a reason to live."

"sounds good," bob agreed. "we'll do all that first thing in the morning. right now maybe you can make him a pallet on the floor."

"he can make himself a pallet on the floor, if he can find anything to make it with." she looked at joe. "isn't that right?"

"yes, ma'am."

"you're dismissed." june picked her cup up again. bob jerked his head at joe and they moved back into the dark corridor.

"just find a place to sleep anywhere," bob told joe. "you'll be taken care of in the morning."

"will you be here?"

"maybe. don't worry about it. you're safe now. the war is over."

"what war?" thought joe. but he just nodded.

next: down by the river

Sunday, July 12, 2009

a dream reborn: the third vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

and when the parrot opened the third cage, and he heard the sound of the rain, the third creature swam to the bank of the flooded river.

and there joe beheld a black coelacanth, with a black dog riding him, and the dog balanced a tv remote with 5000 channels on his nose, and his name was control.

joe ate his burger slowly. he didn't know when he would get another one. farmer brown was consuming his burgers, fries and onion rings with quiet determination. then his cell phone rang in his pocket. he let it ring while he swallowed his huge mouthful of food, then answered it.


he listened a while then hung up.

"i have to go. i'll have to leave you here." he put some money on the table under his plate.

joe's heart leaped. maybe farmer brown would leave the food he hadn't eaten and joe could take it! an even wilder flashed into joe's brain. maybe he could take the money from under the plate and saunter casually out. but how far could he get if he didn't get another ride right away?

both hopes were dashed when the farmer called pierre over to the table and asked for a doggie bag for his food. pierre took the money without counting it.

a bus boy came over with the bag and filled it. with a nod to joe, farmer brown took the bag and his giant coke and left.

joe never saw farmer brown again, except on television. but he never forgot him. he was a good guy.

joe left as small a tip as he could without asking for change and snuck shamefacedly out of the superburger. outside on the highway there was even less room to walk along the side than before. the cars, trucks and buses came up behind him and went by even faster and closer to him than before. walking sideways with thumb out was slow and tedious, but what else could he do? he had no idea where he was or where the next rest stop or other break in the highway might be.

despite his hunger and fear, his mind began to wander, and his old dreams, so long buried under job, family and responsibility began to surface.

in his youth joe had dreamed of founding his own religion, like buddha or darwin or l ron hubbard. he remembered his terrible embarrassment when his mother had searched his room expecting to find copies of playboy and penthouse and instead found professor max muller's history of world religions in ten volumes.

"why were you hiding this?"

"because i was ashamed."

"oh? and why were you ashamed?"

he started to cry. "because - because i couldn't afford the illustrated twenty volume edition."

that was a long time ago. joe had given up on, then forgotten his dream when, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't think of a new religion or new dogmas. he had gone to school, studied diligently, and success, marriage to an ambitious woman, and a place in the cabinet had followed.

the old dream returned, with a new twist. in his youth, happily reading max muller or sir james frazer or the oxford history of religion in his comfortable middle class bedroom, he had never thought to connect religion with money. now, with night falling, his stomach growling, and instant death in the form of big rigs and greyhound buses roaring past him, he thought - if i had my own religion and i had one follower, just one, maybe that follower could slip me a little something and i could get a burger or a doughnut.

it started to rain. as soon as it started to rain, the first truck that passed, a little pickup badly in need of paint and with no lettering on it, stopped. he ran forward to it.

maybe people weren't so bad after all.

maybe his luck was changing. he got into the passenger seat of the pickup. to his mild surprise, he did not recognize the driver from television. the driver was a thin little man with long hair and a beard. he immediately brought to mind popular representations of appolonius of tyana or rasputin.

"thank you," joe said. he fumbled around for a seat belt but couldn't find one.

"raining," answered the little man.

"yes, it is," joe answered. "but not everybody would stop."

"they should."

joe nodded assent, they drove a few miles in silence. it occurred to joe that the driver hadn't asked him where he was going.

"you back from the war?", the little man finally asked.

war? what war? "no," joe answered.

next: bob and june

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

the broad highway: the second vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

and when the octopus opened the second cage, and the heard the sound of the waterfall, the second creature swam to the bank of the river.

and there joe beheld a red brontosaurus, with a red barracuda riding him, and the barracuda balanced a portable air-conitioner ion his nose, and his name was behavior modification.

joe reached the end of the driveway, and the beginning of the world. he found himself by the side of a busy highway, with no sidewalk or accommodation for pedestrians. he began walking along sideways so that he could keep an eye on the traffic, and stuck his thumb out. there were a burger king and a wendy's on the other side of the highway but no way to get to them. he was hungry - after the disaster with the dessert fork, he naturally hadn't gone on to the main course.

the cars, trucks and an occasional bus whizzed by, not even slowing down as they passed him. he hoped desperately that someone would stop before a police car came by. the police had been joe's friends for years ... but now... and his feet began to hurt, as he was wearing dress shoes.

after he had been walking for an hour, a small cream colored van stopped. red lettering on the side read: farmer brown's air conditioning. joe opened the passenger door and got in. farmer brown himself was driving - joe recognized him from television ads. joe exhaled as he closed the door and lay back in the seat.

"hot day for walking," observed the farmer, as he pulled out onto the highway.

"it is, that," joe answered.

"where you headed?"


"well, i guess i'm going there."

they drove in silence for a while.

"say," said joe finally, 'you wouldn't be doing any hiring, would you?"

"no. i ain't doing any hiring any time soon."

they were quiet again. joe noticed that the van had no radio, but didn't mention it.

"you know anybody doing any hiring?", joe asked after a while.


"i probably can't get hired anyway," said joe. "i don't exist any more."

"one of them, huh?"


"must be tough."

"must be tough for you, too."

"oh? why is that?" farmer brown glanced over at joe.

"oh, you know, having your own farm and all - and now you're selling air conditioners."

"nothing tough about it - i'll take an air conditioner over a cow or a pig any day."

joe looked out the window. it was starting to get dark.

farmer brown slowed the van slightly, as they passed a sign saying: rest stop 1 mile. "want to get something to eat?"

"sure." joe squeezed his wallet out of his back pocket. "i can pay."

"i guess you can. i ain't paying for you."

they pulled into the rest stop. a superburger was the only restaurant. they went in.

joe immediately recognized another face from television - mr wong, the superfather. mr wong greeted farmer brown with profuse laughs, hugs and backslaps. then he stepped back and looked at joe. "who's this guy?"

"he's my best friend," said farmer brown.

mr wong laughed and slapped farmer brown on the back one more time. joe followed farmer brown to a booth in the back.

"that was the superfather, wasn't it?"

the farmer looked at joe curiously. "sure. who did you think it was?"

"i wasn't sure - i thought he might be the worldfather."

farmer brown opened the menu. "let's eat."

a waiter with a towel over his arm and a drooping mustache appeared beside the booth.


"farmer, my good friend!" more hugs and backslaps.

pierre looked at joe. 'who's this guy?"

"just a guy."

this answer satisfied pierre. "ready to order?"

"i am." said farmer brown. "i'll have four superburgers, onion rings, two orders of fries, and a giant coke."

"and you, sir?"

joe was checking his wallet. there wasn't much cash in it. "i will have one regular burger - with everything on it - and a small coke."

"sir, that won't contribute much to the economy."

"i'll tell you what," joe answered. "i have these credit cards - they are probably no good. but can you check them? if any of them are good, i'll have what he's having."

pierre took the credit cards. "i guess i can do that. meanwhile, you want one regular burger with everything on it - everything on it means lot of lettuce, right?"

"of course. it's free, isn't it?"

pierre left. joe tried to think of something to say.

"thanks for picking me up like that."

"no problem."

"you know, a guy like me, just a couple of hours ago i was one of the elite. i'm not sure how to act with regular people, people like you who are on television and all."

the farmer made no reply but continued to read the menu he had already ordered from.

pierre returned with farmer brown's four burgers and joe's one. he gave joe back his credit cards. "you were right. these are worthless, quite worthless. and they were a bit short of lettuce in the kitchen, so you didn't get extra."

"thank you," said joe. he wondered how much of a tip he should leave.

they began to eat.

next: a dream reborn

Saturday, June 6, 2009

the first horseman: the first vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

and joe smith beheld a narwhal, an octopus, a parrot, and a warthog, each holding a cage containing a creature.

and when the narwhal opened one of the cages, and he heard the sound of the waterfall, one of the four creatures swam to the bank of the river.

and he beheld a white pterodactyl, with a white australopith riding him, and the australopith held a doctor pepper in his left hand and a bag of spicy nachos in his right, and his name was addiction.

joe walked up to the first chauffeur, the one smoking a camel.

"hey buddy," he said to him. 'you have to help me out."

the chauffeur looked at him through his cigarette smoke and laughed. he looked back at his three fellows.

"have to help you out? why is that, i wonder ?"

the other three didn't even bother to look at joe.

"because i'm desperate," joe answered. "i have nowhere to go. where can i go?"

the chauffeur pointed to the end of the long driveway. "the world starts at the end of the driveway. you can go there."

"thanks. that sounds like good advice. can i ask you one more question?"


"what's your name?'

"alf." he pointed to the other three. "and my mates are bennie, chalkie, and digger."

"thank you. can i ask you one more question?"

"another? i thought that was the one more question."

"please. you always get three questions. it's traditional. just one more, i promise.'

alf laughed again and took another drag on his cigarette. "and this is absolutely the last one?"

"yes, i promise."

"ok, what is the question?"

"what is the name of a person i can look for?"

"eddie. you can look for eddie."

"thank you," said joe. "thank you so much!" he started down the driveway toward the world.

"hey pal." alf called after him. "i got one more piece of advice."

"and what is that?'

"if you can't find eddie, you'll never find frank."

next: the broad highway