Uncategorized

Other Side of the Glass Window

March 23, 2022

Andere Seite Des Glasfensters

The early sixties brought major changes in Germany; some called it the New Germany because of the many social changes after the war. Cities had been rebuilt and commerce flowed once again, the envy of many other countries. Wild hairdos, Italian shoes and strange cinema dominated the youth. Klaus was not quite twenty-three and had not experienced these youthful pastimes, for he had to work immediately following his last school term. Gerhard, his father did not believe in wasting time with education; hard work and careful planning put food on the table and a roof over ones head. Reading books about Greek gods and philosophies were fine for conversation but did little to make a living, which possessed no time for frivolities.

         Klaus had been a small child during the war and saved from all the horrors of war while living in a remote village to the south. His mother and father moved there soon after the war began anticipating a social and financial collapse. Gerhard had been very vocal about his opinions, uttering behind closed doors and to a young boy who was not old enough to comprehend any of what his father said.

         “Mark my word,” announced Gerhard, during the early years of the war, Klaus too young to grasp any of it. “Herr Hitler will make it bad for all of us, not just the politicians and Jews, either. He is crazy; I am sure of that. Who will fight against him, though? The French….. well, what can I say about the French? They are too busy making fancy sauces and understand nothing. The British are another matter; one must be cautious with a country like that. Before long they would have us speaking English and drinking tea in the afternoon. The Americans….. eh, I doubt they will bother, staying at home and discussing the war at length without ever joining the fight. The Russians will fall for sure, a country of peasants, only interested in killing Tzars. They are all politicians and all politicians are crazy. You will discover that in time, Klaus.”

         Most of his father’s declarations were based on obscure perceptions, very little fact thrown into the mix. Facts did not hamper his constant ranting about Hitler or other countries he had little knowledge about. Though inaccurate, there was a thread of truth in some of the things he spoke of; Hitler was a madman, without argument. Politicians had a responsibility to their people; entering into a war without sound justification would be very unpopular. And when you made an unpopular decision, your career as a politician ended shortly afterward. That did not dampen Gerhard’s opinions on almost everything, including progress.

         “No no, no,” barked Gerhard at the suggestion in the newspaper. “Jets, a plane without propellers? It will never work. What will keep it up in the air? And the speeds they suggest, no man could operate such craft. It is unnatural enough for men to ride in aircraft; jets are out of the question.”

         “Ja, Hitler is insane,” he persisted. “It will be the doom of Germany, the end of peace as we know it.”

         His father was right about Hitler, wrong about the Americans and definitely wrong about jets. Weisestadt was fortunate experiencing minor action during the war. Like many towns along minor roads, Weisestadt had little strategic importance. Køln a fair distance to the north did not fair as well, bombing taking out railway stations and inadvertently damaging a famous cathedral and a few historical buildings.

         “We are lucky not to live in the big cities,” touted Gerhard. “Business is shattered with all the bombing. In the small towns, that is where we survive.”

         Klaus barely remembered the war and the bombings. No place was entirely safe from the bombers that often released their bombs over other areas, when the flack was too intensive to fly through. It was safer to unload the bombs rather than chance a landing with a full load of explosives, non-targets falling victim to the purge. The advantage of being young is the ability to never believe in your own mortality. Other people died; you did not, Klaus being too young to worry about such things. The flashes over the distant horizon had been fireworks in the night for him, a display of lights for his amusement.

         With the war over, a great deal of money poured back into Germany, investors from America and other countries seizing the opportunity for making money during the rebuilding of Germany. Most of the money went to the big cities while the smaller towns received a trickle of the cash, enough to repair a bridge or road. A shopkeeper with access to supplies did rather well; farmers needed places to sell their wares. They also needed to buy things in return. Pigs and cattle were raised in the area. The porkers were cheap in comparison to the beef, which sold at premium prices.

         Gerhard’s shop was at one end of town rather than in the center. It had its advantages and disadvantages. When the military passed through, the place offered no resistance. Therefore the damage to commerce was minimal, though good and supplies were commandeered by the military. A few shots fired out of fear rather than need were the worst that could be had. The farmers brought their goods in from the surrounding area, which created less of a problem with the storage of livestock, Gerhard being a passable butcher when the need arose.

The Shop

         Klaus scanned the store as the morning began, the building creaking, the sun warming the timbers in the shop, which had stood for more than one hundred years, new when compared to some buildings. A few canned goods lined the shelves to the right and a bin of Spanish oranges sat immediately below. Sausage and cuts of pork filled the cooler case with a small section for beef. Potatoes and root vegetables filled baskets on the floor to his left. A small section next to the cooler had fresh milk. Packages of boxed goods were scattered throughout the store arranged according to their purpose, flour next to sugar, different sauces next to the imported Italian pasta.

         Klaus liked the mornings, quiet at first but gaining activity by late morning. His father would come in just before noon to bring the mid-day meal and help in the afternoon. It was the same routine every day without change.

         Klaus gazed out the front window at the coming and goings of the townspeople, children running to school, finding mischief along the way, their games consisting of verbal challenges balancing on a wall or leaps over a ditch along the path. The older children played less, becoming more aware of their social status, boys begining to notice girls and vice versa. Klaus remembered doing the same when he was in school but life as a shopkeeper left little or no time for romance; yet a young man can dream.

         Klaus waited for the passing of Clara, a girl in her last year of school, passing his way at the same time every morning. He made sure to be polishing the window glass at that hour to see her clearly and use as an excuse. Clara was taller than most girls, which Klaus found very appealing, her slender body possessing enough weight to give her a pleasant shape, svelte, not skinny; he did not care for skinny women. Though Clara was only seventeen, Klaus was smitten by her and stood behind the glass, wishful thoughts running through his head. Her father was the headmaster at the local school, prideful of his position, wearing his social class distinction well inside and outside of the school.

For a long time Clara had not noticed the boy on the other side of the window, watching so intently. She walked straight ahead her mind on her studies and a few things girls think of at that age. However, Klaus could see her make quick glances toward the shop as she passed. He wasn’t sure if she noticed him, though her smile hinted that she might very well have noticed him.

Who can tell what she smiled about? Perhaps it was an idle thought and nothing to do with him at all, he thought. Perhaps she heard a bird sing or a child laugh.

Not many people his age loitered in the shop, the clientele older and usually women; people of his parent’s age shopped at the store. The old ways still clung to many of them, bartering for the best price on many items regardless of the marked prices.

“Klaus, I believe these oranges are turning,” said one woman. “Feel how soft they are. Your father should sell them for less before they go bad. I would buy three, maybe if they weren’t so expensive. I would pay for two and take the third one free. Do you think that sounds reasonable, Klaus?”

“You’ll have to ask Papa about that,” he answered. “I am not allowed to change the prices, Madame. You know that.”

“I’ll take one orange then,” grumbled the woman. “A good one,” she added picking through the lot.

Birthday Wishes

Greta Baum, a plain, plump girl close to Klaus’s age was a regular visitor to the shop. She was younger than Klaus and purposely lingered when no one was there except Klaus. Greta’s family raised pigs several kilometers away, a convenient arrangement for the store when porkers were needed. She worked the farm with her brothers and family when she was not admiring Klaus in the store. Gerhard often bought pigs from them now and then when the price was to his liking. Greta, unbeknownst to Klaus had set her cap for the young man; the prospects of running a shop with a handsome young man was far better than raising pigs and tolerating two stupid, drunken brothers. No matter how clean you kept the animals, they still smelled. It was a toss up between the pigs and the brothers, which of them smelled worse.

On a few occasions Klaus found Greta peering through the glass at the front window at him. People often did this so he paid little attention to it. If they wanted something they would come in and buy it; otherwise, they would use the window as a form of entertainment, checking to see what new items Gerhard might have in stock. Greta was not looking in the window at merchandise.

She came into the store one morning finding Klaus alone. She had on her best dress and had swapped her heavy boots for a pair of nice women’s shoes, the ensemble usually worn on special occasions or church. She sauntered casually to the counter watching Klaus sizing and sorting the eggs. He would normally be more attentive but Greta came in so often, he didn’t bother. He knew she would state her business when she finished looking, no need to press her.

“Klaus, it is my birthday on Sunday,” she declared, her smile penetrating his eyes. “I will have twenty years then.”

“Congratulations!” he answered with little enthusiasm. “Ja, we all get older, I suppose. I never think of it anymore.”

“Well, it is important to some of us,” returned Greta, defending the event. “Too many years and one will no longer be eligible for the interest of another. At least for a woman this is the case.”

“You are still young, Greta. I cannot see why you should worry. It is not like the old days when a girl over eighteen was considered an old maid.”

“A woman has to be careful,” she persisted. “One day you are thirty and no man will look at you. It is best to keep these things in mind.”

Klaus had no idea where she was going with this line of conversation. Frankly, he had plenty of things to do and didn’t want to waste time with idle chat. Getting these tasks done before his father came into the shop in the afternoon was important. Greta had a habit of talking at length and saying little to interest him.

“You have nothing to worry about Greta,” returned Klaus. “You have two brothers who can look after you. Raising pigs is a good living; I doubt you will want for much.”

Try as she might, Greta was not getting through to Klaus. She did not want to raise pigs her entire life; she wanted to raise children and be taken care of like a lady.

“I don’t want to speak of pigs,” she began trying to be coy. “I wish to invite you to a picnic, my birthday picnic. I’m bringing sausages, cheese, bread; and there will be beer my father has brewed, very strong and good. You may remember what a fine beer maker he is; he has won a prize with some of it. Also the weather is quite pleasant at this time of year and I wish to share it with someone besides my awful brothers. This Sunday after church is the plan. Will you come, Ja?”

Klaus was backed into a corner and could find no reason to refuse; in fact, it would be rude to refuse. He was not interested in Greta, hoping she would shower her attentions on someone else. There must be other men, who would enjoy the security of pig farming.

“I may have to work in the shop,” he ventured. “So much to do. I do not have the time.”

“On Sunday? The shop is closed on Sundays.”

“Yes, I have to put things on shelves and clean up; Papa likes everything neat for the beginning of the week. I will have to ask him, however.”

Greta leveled her eyes on Klaus. “I wait for your answer when your father comes this afternoon,” she replied, grinding her teeth. “I will be back then.”

Beast and the Beauty

Klaus explained about the invitation to his father later that day. He didn’t express his reluctance to go, expecting his father to insist on tidying up the store after church.

“You go ahead and work in the morning,” dictated Gerhard. “The church will not miss you this one time. It is good to be nice with Greta; she’s a healthy young woman. Perhaps they will give us a better price for their pigs next time.”

“Must we always think of money?” complained Klaus. His father shot him an angry look; this was clearly not a negotiable decision.

“Go,” insisted Gerhard. “Be nice to the girl. You may find that you like her; that wouldn’t be so awful, would it?”

As promised, Greta returned for her answer that afternoon. A look of triumph crossed her face, Klaus reluctantly accepting her invitation. To add to the humiliation, Greta insisted on picking him up with her father’s truck. That ended any possible complaints about the long walk to the woods for the picnic.

The shop had been busy that afternoon, several women coming to buy meat and a few buying the Spanish oranges. Gerhard was please since the oranges were aging slightly. Two or three had to be thrown away accompanied by the cursing of lost revenue. Klaus stared out the window, daydreaming. Clara passed by again on her way to a student’s home. She helped teaching numbers to younger children and earned a few marks over a month’s time.

She did not look at the window as she passed, a disappointment to Klaus. There was no smile, nor any recognition that he existed. The sun was in her eyes; that was the reason she did not, he decided. He wondered if she ever felt curious about him. It was difficult to say since so few words were ever exchanged between them. It was strictly business when she and her father came to purchase food for their home.

Klaus’ brain could not cast off the vision of Clara. It burned into his head like a photograph on the wall, sleek, classy and beautiful beyond imagination. His father knew nothing of this his son’s desires, focusing only on business. There wasn’t much of personal exchange between father and son, only talk of prices and things to be delivered or picked up. Even the mention of Greta was met with the talk of discounts for the store.

Sunday came around along with the rattling of Herr Baum’s old farm truck. It also possessed a distinct odor given that it came from a pig farm, impossible to ignore when parked directly before the shop window. As instructed by his father, Klaus wore a good pair of trousers and a clean shirt. Greta was decked out it a pretty, print dress, which blew softly in the breeze, her white stockings clinging to her legs like fine sausage skins, rather plump sausages. The dress, though attractive, did not hide the stout body beneath; she was quite the ample young woman, which for some might be considered desirable. Klaus did not share that attraction.

“We should go soon,” declared Greta looking over Klaus in appreciation. “Papa will need the truck this early evening. But if we should take longer,” she winked, “Papa will understand.”

He cringed; the implication was not lost on Klaus, who could not imagine any reason to stay in the woods and meadow for more than a couple hours at best. He would be correct and polite; that was all that could be expected of him. His father could not fault him for that.

“These are for you and your family,” announced Klaus handing a bag of oranges to Greta. “My father wanted to wish you a happy birthday with this gift.”

“And you, Klaus; do you also wish me a happy birthday?”

“Yes, of course,” he stammered. “The oranges are from my father. I am unable to give you a gift. My wages are quite low, you see.”

“Oh, not to worry, Klaus. I’m sure we’ll find enough to celebrate my special day.”

Just at that moment Clara passed by wrinkling her nose at the smell emanating from the Baum pig truck. Though not as strong as the pigs themselves, it still was unpleasant. Klaus wanted to be invisible when he saw her, not wanting Clara to think he had any interest in the robust, coarse Greta. The thought troubled him as there was no way to hide. Why else would anyone agree to ride in a pig truck? Clara nodded a curt greeting to Klaus and Greta, moving quickly up-wind of the vehicle.

It felt strange to have a woman driving such a cumbersome vehicle, though reasonable given that she is a pig farmer’s daughter. And it was equally strange to seek out a place of peace and beauty in a foul smelling pig truck. The trip was less than a half-hour ending at a meadow surrounded by trees. Under different circumstances Klaus would consider the place to be very romantic, the place a natural setting where nature abounds. One could easily place a blanket close into the woods and be completely private, exactly what Greta had suggested, too.

“It is such a fine day, a little cool perhaps,” replied Klaus. “I think the open meadow in the warm sun would be better.”

Greta snorted, not unlike the pigs her father raised. “Don’t be ridiculous; the sun will be in our eyes and it’s my birthday; I shall choose the place,” she announced. “You bring the basket of food and I will bring the blanket.”

The buzzing of insects filled the air; the soft rattle of leaves in the trees added to this symphony of nature. Romantic? No, it was not romantic when one was with a pig farmer’s daughter, not that her father’s vocation was in question. There was nothing wrong with being a pig farmer’s daughter; it would be cruel to think that. It was just this particular pig farmer’s daughter dampened the romance of the place.

“Let us walk for a bit,” insisted Greta once the blanket was set out. “You can hold my hand if you wish.”

“No thank you,” he answered. “The path is too narrow for us to walk beside each other. Would you like to walk ahead?”

Again, a snort escaped from Greta as she moved in front of Klaus. “The path is wide enough if we stay close to one another,” mumbled Greta. “You needn’t be so shy. Why are men always so shy? It baffles the mind.”

The path led deeper into the woods, ending besides a small green pond. It was quite secluded with cattails and reeds growing near the edges. Others had been here before them, cigarette butts evidence of previous visitors. Greta turned and smiled at Klaus.

“Now we are completely alone,” she said, trying to act modest. “I would imagine men have kissed their sweethearts at this very spot. Do you think so?”

“Perhaps,” answered Klaus. “I can see that they had a good smoke by the looks of it. Pity they must leave such a mess.”

Klaus was not going to allow Greta to paint the romantic picture she had in mind. The whole ordeal of a picnic was a waste of time in his opinion, the price of porkers the reason for the unwanted intimate nature of the picnic. Silently, Klaus objected to his father’s reasoning behind the outing, and gave no indication he was enjoying himself. Greta, being the forceful one, was doing her best to overcome his reluctance.

“I have worked up a bit of appetite,” reported Klaus, hoping to return to a less secluded place.

“What is the rush?” complained Greta. “We have only just arrived without time to get to know one another. We stay a little longer and that’s that; it is my birthday. You will not starve.”

She beckoned him to join her at the water’s edge, her footing compromised, one foot partially submerged in the mud, her shoe and part of her white stockings coated with slime and mud. He expected her to be upset by this but she paid it no mind. Perhaps being a pig farmer’s daughter she must have stepped in far worse.

“Oh dear!” she exclaimed without enthusiasm. “My shoe and stocking have to be cleaned. I will have to attend to that later.”

Just then, something disturbed the pond. Something small had fallen in the middle making concentric circles on the water’s surface. The sound of voices came from the other side of the pond, two boys emerging, chasing one another, shattering the quiet that had been, Greta was clearly displeased with their appearance.

“You are hungry, right?” she barked at Klaus. “Then we go now. These young boys will make it too noisy and spoil the mood.”

Greta led the way as before, her muddied shoe alternately making squishing sounds as she walked. She showed no signs of discomfort though her mood was a little on the surly side. Upon arrival at the blanket she removed her stockings and shoes revealing her substantial pink calves and thighs, the removal done without any attempt at modesty. Though her dress did go below the knee she managed to sit so more of her legs showed than was considered appropriate. Klaus averted his eyes, as any gentleman should, Greta grunting in response to his manners.

The picnic lunch was quite an affair with mountains of boiled potatoes and a plethora of pork products, cured, smoked, fried and boiled. Homemade bread topped out the smorgasbord along with sugar cookies. Klaus was in awe at how much food Greta could put away in a single sitting; she ate twice as much as he, downing two homebrewed beers in the process, becoming a little tipsy. He could only imagine one would have to feed such an ample body as hers.

Klaus was sure the end of the meal would announce an end to the picnic. He had done his duty as he saw it and there was little else to do except return home. Had it been the lovely Clara, instead of Greta sitting opposite him, he would want to stay as long as possible. Greta had exhausted the subject of pig farming with extensive detail to the mating process. The graphic nature of breeding was not considered delicate conversation for young farming people, though she did not hesitate to give every detail of the coupling. Trying to change the subject, Klaus could add very little to the conversation.

The meal completed, Greta leaned towards Klaus, a leer in her eye that disquieted him. She had loosened her dress to accommodate the abundance of food but also to flirt.

“You know we are alone,” she cooed. “I could let you be friendly under these circumstances. It’s my birthday and I am too happy to resist.”

“I thought we were being friendly,” returned Klaus.

“No, I mean really friendly,” she added. “I know what men want; I have brothers. I could be persuaded to be friendly back.”

“Greta, I couldn’t possibly compromise you in such a way,” announced Klaus. “That would be improper and rude.”

“Let me decide what is rude and what is improper,” she cooed back, allowing the hem of her dress to move half way up her thigh.

Klaus leaped to his feet and turned away from her. She grimaced and stood up behind him. Nothing of any sort was going to happen and Greta didn’t want to lose face.

“Yes,” she said gruffly. “The mood may not be right. Perhaps we can try this again sometime soon. Ja?”

Class Distinctions

“How are your studies going, Clara?” asked her father. “I am told that you are in line for a scholarship for university. My sources are correct; I’m sure of it.”

“My studies are fine, though I get a little weary teaching the little ones after school,” answered Clara. “They are good children; that is not the problem. I have so little time for myself. The other students make fun of me, father; they call me an egghead; they say I am too smart.”

“Jealous!” exclaimed her father. “They will all be farmers, clerks or shopkeepers, my dear. They will make nothing of their lives except to breed and make more of their kind. You will be educated and above that common ilk. I wouldn’t worry about what they call you.”

“Is it so bad to be a farmer or shopkeeper?” she asked.

“There is nothing wrong with it,” he answered. “There is just no need to mingle with the lower classes. They are happy with their own kind and that is fine. They provide a service, which is apparently necessary. We do need them, I suppose, if one really thinks about it.”

“I thought that was over and done with since the war,” she pressed. “The Von Studt family is like any of the others. We go to the same schools and ….. well, you understand what I mean.”

“Never mind about all that,” he replied. “Stay with your studies and there will be a better future for you than the rest of them. A suitable man of our station will come along some day to marry you. But if not, you will be able to make your own way.”

Clara knew her father was still connected to the old class system in Europe; it did not die with the elimination Hitler. In fact, Hitler resented the wealthy class, humiliating them on several occasions, many of his generals of that class. Post war, the aristocracy still maintained defined lines of social interaction. No one said so, out loud; yet it still existed. Clara felt she had moved beyond that; people were people, regardless what families they came from and what station in life they held, not a subject to overtax her father with, however.

Clara had not thought about men at this stage of life, her studies consuming all, her interests falling in line with higher mathematics and the wonders of the world. Her fellow students dated one another often celebrating life when studying was called for. Having fun didn’t seem like such an awful thing, except for the time required to engage such a habit. Herr Von Studt did not see any value in the fun young people sought. Time was a resource not to be wasted in his opinion.

Found Out

Klaus knew very well what Greta was after. He had never been with a woman in that intimate way, an experience he never fretted over. He was sure Greta had likely availed herself of that pleasure, her manner too forward and suggestive not to have partaken in this manner. There was talk about town regarding this young woman, her forwardness and flirtations at the beer hall. There was a whole sexual revolution going on in the rest of the world; the old ways of love and marriage were soon replaced with promiscuity. It wasn’t that he was against experimentation, on the contrary; he would have been quite eager to try his hand at it given the right woman.

Greta had been seeing a young man named Erik, a farmer’s son far to the north. He would spend weekends at the Baum farm, days and evenings. Greta and Erik had been engaged until his eye strayed to neighboring farm girl who was a good deal more comely. The girl in question had a neighboring farm adding to his incentive to pursue her. The two farms being side by side had great possibilities for future expansion should the match take hold. Erik cancelled the engagement with no apologies, Greta missing their physical exchange more than the prospect of a husband.

Saved from the jaws of Greta, Klaus returned to his work at the shop. As always, he watched for Clara to past by, heartsick over a girl he knew nothing about. He thought about that a good deal, wondering if she was as sweet as he imagined her. Perhaps he was foolish to feel love for a girl he did not know. Perhaps she was unkind or ill tempered at times; that was always a possibility regardless what people said. He did not think so, however. She was good with young children and tutored several children whose family could not pay her, a generous act.

He sighed deeply over his thoughts of a girl he might never know. Thinking would have to be put aside for now because it was about the right time for her to return from school. Klaus pressed his attention to the glass. On the other side was the one woman he wished, completely unaware of him. It was like a young boy who did not have a coin for candy and stared through the window at what he could not have. He felt that same anguish of something so close yet so far. Alas, there was no one to give Klaus what he wished for on the other side of the glass. There was no candy storekeeper inviting him to sample the closeness of such a beautiful young lady.

Clara walked by the shop, books in hand, a blue sweater thrown over her shoulders covering a pretty white ruffled blouse. Klaus watched discretely from the other side of the window pretending to be busy. He saw her suddenly stop and turn toward him. Flustered, he made himself look busier with the display in the window. She smiled and nodded to him, a wave of the hand adding a personal touch, quite unexpected. Much to his surprise she began walking toward the door. Panic stricken he was unable to move, his feet glued to the floor. Clara had never come into the shop alone. And presently there was no one in the shop, an ideal opportunity to speak without fear of eavesdropping ears.

The door opened, hinges squeaking when Clara entered.

“How are you?” she said formally.

“Fine, and you?” he returned.

“I am quite well, thank you,” she answered. “Maybe you can answer a question for me.”

“Yes, of course,” he responded, color rushing to his face. “A price of something or an item you wish?”

“Neither of those,” she said. “I noticed you are always at the window when I pass. Do you spend a lot of time there while you work?”

“No,” he said, quietly forgetting the implications of his words.

“Then are you watching me?” she suggested.

It took time for Klaus to find a good answer, which was not a lie or too truthful at the same time.

“Yes,” he answered.

He expected a reprimand or further questioning. Nothing came from this young woman for several minutes. She turned to leave but stopped with the door open.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I am flattered.”

There was a skip in her step as she walked home; a man had been watching her, a handsome man. She was not used to being admired; people thought she was too serious for such attentions. She could not count her father, who admired her, as any father should. This was a grown man, who admitted to watching her. She knew he did this every day; she had seen him. Something inside of her enjoyed that little fact. Someone found her worth watching.

Too many Papas

“I have wonderful news,” announced Gerhard, counting out the daily cash. “Herr Baum has told me he will give us a three-percent discount on our next order. He claims that his Greta is fond of you and hopes the two of you can spend more time together. Without a doubt I told him we could arrange free time for you. Greta will be happy to hear that and her papa will give us good discounts.”

Immer Geld!” snapped Klaus. “Always money! I am not sure this will be such a good idea; I don’t favor Greta at all. I would rather work in the shop. Besides there is… ” He was unable to finish his sentence, afraid to mention Clara.

“Nonsense!” declared Gerhard. “A young strong girl like Greta will be a good match. It will be good for business and she seems to take to you, considerably.”

“Good match?” voiced Klaus fear showing in what he heard. “How can you speak of a match? We have nothing in common and she has only recently disposed of her boyfriend Erik, who was not an honorable man. She is coarse, crude and forward, too bossy.”

“What is it, all this talk of things in common?” protested Gerhard. “Your mother and I had nothing in common; we got used to each other. Your grandfather was smart to bring us together. It was good business.”

“What about love?” Klaus argued. “That has to fit in somewhere. In America and other places people wish to be together because they love each other, not business.”

“You watch too many films at the cinema,” grumbled Gerhard. “Love does not put the food on the table or the clothes on your back. Love does not give you a three-percent discount on pigs. I don’t want to hear anymore of this, enough talk. You have work to finish, a delivery tomorrow.”

Clara sat on the floor next to the gas heater looking through a fashion magazine. The women were all quite grand looking with their tailored clothes and fancy hairdos almost not real. She wanted to have a less conservative hairdo but her father thought it immodest. He said it was an advertisement for boys looking for easy women, the clinging clothes suggesting a lack of virtue in these models. Tight sweaters left little to the imagination and far too much indelicate information for his liking.

Glamour was not what Clara sought; she wanted normalcy, to be like other girls her age. The dowdy clothes her father insisted upon only separated her, socially, from the other students. It was difficult enough to be the smartest girl in school, many feeling she was trying to act superior and shunned her. She did not feel superior to anyone of course. She was truly modest regarding her intelligence, downplaying it whenever possible.

Clara retired to her room to write in her journal, a habit she began a year or so ago. She began keeping a journal to write the things she could not discuss with her father, which included her frustration with him. He did not understand feelings nor did he approve of girls having them; intellect provided what was needed, not the heart. Needless pain is suffered when one places too much importance on feelings, he would say.

The loss of his wife solidified the notion that one must be less emotional. He called her his little Bavarian flower, a term of endearment he used often when she was alive. She represented all the things he was not. Her smile could calm him when difficulties arose, her voice, music to him. He suffered so, when she had been killed in an automobile mishap, a military truck in peacetime Germany. The war was over but accidents still happened.

Clara’s Journal: Today a young man called Klaus watched me as he has for many days before. Perhaps it was forward to ask him if it was so, but I could not help myself. I yearn for a friend, someone who likes me for who I am. I regret that I did not tell Klaus this small fact. He may only be curious about me with no real interest. I did not press the subject but left, feeling elated. I think I shall speak to him next time I pass that way. He appears to be a nice young man, smiling and polite. However, there is the possibility he has a sweetheart. Greta Baum was with him the time before and several in the town suggest that she has taken to Klaus with concentrated effort. I am a foolish girl to think Klaus would not find her appealing in an earthy way. She is quite outspoken. Most young men are tempted. I am inexperienced in this, though I understand the desires.

Clara closed her journal placing it in a drawer under some clothes. It will be safe there from prying eyes, not that her father ever came into her room. Unis, the cleaning woman was the only one who might have occasion to enter her room. She was cool towards Clara, a condition Clara did not understand. Unis cleaned her room but did not look about. She was quite challenged with her eyesight and wouldn’t be able to read the journal if she came upon it. Vanity prevented Unis from wearing her heavy glasses while she worked.

Matchmaking Bribe

Herr Baum and his wife, Annalise rose early every morning as all farmers do. The cows needed to be milked and the pigs fed. It was best to rise early and dispense with the morning meal before light. This morning ritual included the entire family, which wasn’t always the case given the boys acute appreciation of beer. They and Greta had their assigned tasks before running off in some other daily pursuit. None of them had much in the way of hobbies or pastimes except the brothers, who spent a good deal of time at the beer hall, while Greta found herself seeking company of the opposite sex, for undisclosed reasons.

The time had come for Greta to take a serious look at her future, which meant a husband, children and a good income; Herr Baum was ore than glad to see his daughter making moves toward that end. The boys might never leave home; they were content with drinking and working the farm, marriage not a big priority to them. There would always be a girl charmed by their coarse humor and cheerful manner, stimulated by alcohol. A girl was worse; if she did not find someone while still young, age and deterioration would make her prospects even slimmer as the years marched on. If the acorn did not fall too far from the tree, Greta would inherit the girth of her mother and father, as she added time and sausages to her life. She was already a substantial young woman. Some men liked that; then again the styles of the day leaned towards slender women, a sad future the more traditional women of previous years.

“Papa,” said Greta, while milking a cow. “That boy, Klaus is a nice fellow; I think he is very shy, which I find rather cute. He is nothing at all like Erik; Erik was selfish, a mistake no doubt. I can see that now.”

“I suppose so,” said her father. “Young men are a mystery to me, even my own sons. Who can understand young people anymore? I hope this Klaus does not spend all his time at the beer hall like your brothers; being drunk and stupid all the time is not a good thing. When I was young…”

“Oh, papa,” she interrupted. “You always talk about when you were young. Boys and men are different now. We fly in jets and can talk to anyone in the world, if we wish. Must you always compare yourself to everyone else?”

“True we can talk on the telephone,” added her father. “But at a great cost; it is not very practical. I doubt it ever will be.”

There was a lull while Greta formulated a plan, a proposal.

“I would like you to be nice to Klaus and his father. Give them a free piglet as a gesture of friendship. We won’t miss it and it may shine a favorable light on me.”

Her father did not like giving anything away. Then again, if this would expedite the removal of his daughter from his care, it might be worth it. Though he loved his daughter, he wanted to see her married and taken care of. With grunt he agreed and finished feeding the cows. Besides, there was a sow that had more piglets than she had teats. One of the piglets would probably not grow fast enough for his liking. A runt might not be a great loss.

“This shopkeeper is a good man?” asked Herr Baum. “He can provide for you?”

“Yes, Papa,” she answered. “I have decided he is the one I wish to marry, the one to give you many grandchildren.”

Her father wanted to challenge her assumption that this man would agree to be a husband; so far it was a matter of her choice alone. But then again, she took after her mother in that respect; Annalise possessed the identical character of his daughter. He remembered his own short courtship, his father-in-law setting him up with two-dozen pigs at the request of Annalise, his soon-to-be wife. Bribery? Perhaps it was. What was the difference if one was bribed or not? Living in poverty is not such a pleasant future.

Greta was becoming frustrated with Klaus and his reluctance to engage her in more intimate activities. Generally, men were easily manipulated when presented with a gift of pleasure. Erik had been, she remembered that quite well. They had dated a short time before the engagement. Almost immediately upon dating, Erik succumbed to her physical charms and suggestions. In fact, it seemed to be his only attraction to her; she could not recall much conversation between them. He did not know anything about pig farming; and she did not find dirt farming particularly exciting. At the time that didn’t seem to matter until Erik found the daughter of a neighboring farm. Temptation of the flesh was impossible to be compared with the acquisition of more dirt to farm and a woman who knew less about pigs than he cared to know.

Greta knew it was possible to bring Klaus around to her way of thinking with a little coaxing. She had to try harder, perhaps not be so vague, especially with Klaus, who was raised to be a complete gentleman. It was good to have a man who was a gentleman as long as he let his hair down at the proper times. Without a doubt, she needed to be more assertive.

Another plan was taking root in the meantime. Klaus’ father had a streak of the bargain in him, which she could capitalized on. The free piglet would be the beginning of a campaign to sway the man, this indirect method of wooing had some advantages. Often it was the parents who encouraged their children to seek advantageous alliances. Should the business dealings appeal to Gerhard, he could see the advantages of a marriage between Greta and Klaus, undeniably.

“Och, what a fine gift from the generous Baums,” declared Gerhard holding the piglet. “I think I may have misjudged them. Baum never gave a pfennig discount before. Since his daughter finds you a charming man, Klaus, I must revise my thinking. This small pig will make a delicious Sunday supper.”

“Papa, I would not get too attached to the idea,” complained Klaus. “Greta is terribly forward and pushy. You would not believe what she suggested on our last outing. Have you not warned me about loose women before?”

“A little fun is no harm,” returned Gerhard putting aside any moral arguments. “You are too serious, my son; it is different today. Men and women are more relaxed about such things. Maybe you should be too; I would not worry.”

“That’s not what the church says to us,” answered Klaus. “The priest tells us to save ourselves for the right person, God’s wish. And if we go to church to learn the way to live, then we should abide by the teachings; it would be hypocritical to do otherwise.”

“Enough!” shouted Gerhard. “The church is not the last word. Remember, it is the church that says we must give up everything to go to heaven. But who will feed us then? Who will give us a roof over our head, the church? Ha! They speak in fine words that have nothing to do with life, only making priests and nuns fat. All they want is money in the basket when we go. Money! We go only because your mother wishes it; I would rather stay home and enjoy a day off. I can talk to God at home for nothing, not that he listens to me, anyway.”

Klaus knew better than to get into a religious argument with his father, who looked for any reason to stop going to church. His wife was quiet, yet devout about her faith, Gerhard unaffected by the sermonizing. Klaus needed something beyond stocking of shelves and money in the bank. Believing in something greater than himself was contrary to his father’s view, that considered more practical means of living, though not as charitable.

“I don’t wish to neglect my work in the shop,” reported Klaus hoping to steer the subject to something besides God. “If I am running off with Greta, things will not go smoothly. Everything will get backlogged.”

“I can come in and cover for that time, Klaus. You can make up the work in the evening when you are not seeing the sweet Greta. Already Herr Baum has agreed to five-percent discount on his pigs. I see no harm in giving the girl a little attention.”

It was useless to fight the demands of commerce; his father saw profit and advantages in his son’s alliance with the Baum family. Klaus saw something quite different. What he saw was the beautiful Clara through glass window of the shop. He did not see nor care for the pushy Greta, discounts and the like.

Klaus had not declared himself to Clara, only admitted to watching her. She seemed to take to it rather well considering her attitude when she left. Perhaps there was hope after all.

Klaus arranged the cans of tomatoes on the shelf the next morning. Fritz the cat had disturbed the display while jumping onto the shelving in pursuit of some near silent creature; the cat was his father’s idea of rodent extermination. It was cheaper than hiring an exterminator, who would set traps and put out poison. Customers did not like to find a trap mixed in amongst bags of rice or beans, especially with a dead rodent in it. Fritz was a good hunter and a reasonable companion at times. Klaus liked the cat despite the rearranging he had to do in the aftermath. Most of the time Fritz slept near the heater in winter and the front window in warmer weather, the life all cats dreamt of.

It was almost time for Clara to pass by the shop, Klaus taking out his rag and clean where he liked to watch, first outside and then inside. Children often put their sticky fingers on the glass outside the shop, making it necessary to wipe regularly. Like clockwork Clara walked by, her head held high, a sight Klaus found irresistible. It was not pride or arrogance; it was poise, self-assuredness; he could see the difference. She carried herself well but also took the time to be polite and friendly to those she passed. She’d drop a quick curtsey to some of the older ladies and gentlemen, a habit of old, which had been forgotten by most girls her age.

This time as Klaus looked through the glass as Clara slowed, turning her head towards the shop their eyes meeting. She nodded an acknowledgement, turned back to her path with a hint of a smile on her lips. Klaus did not see the smile, as he was too taken by her notice. It was the first time she had done this, now burned into his memory for the rest of his life.

Clara walked on excited by this young man who paid her notice. No one had ever given her so much as a glance in the past, her studious nature a detractor for men. It might be easier for men and women in this new decade; they speak their minds, threads of the old ways woven into a few parts of the country. Formal introductions were required if one was to socialize, Clara’s father clinging to the past in that regard.

1960 brought all sorts of social changes. Women wore elaborate style hairdos and were beginning to ask men out. Department stores in the big cities had anything a person might desire, the Old Germany never considering such a wanton display. The new Germany fashioned itself after the United States and places like Italy and France, where styles of appearance coincided with changes in social interaction. For Clara there continued to be awkward moments, since her father was very old school. He saw the new Germany as a shameless mass of self-indulgent people, tossing gentility and respect aside.

There was another issue gnawing at her about the young man. She had seen Klaus with Greta Baum. Generally, one could only interpret such an encounter as part of a courting ritual. Maybe Klaus watched Clara but favored Greta for some reasons. It was known that Greta was easy of virtue, the local townspeople having witnessed some indiscreet activities with a young man named Erik. Other rumors about Greta abounded and did not speak well of the Old Germany. Men being who they were, Clara could understand why a man might choose Greta’s company. Though she did not agree with this behavior, she understood the base mentality of some men. Was Klaus such a man?

This speculation would be entered into her journal that evening; she had been writing in it regularly, feelings emerging, which made no sense to her. Longings for a friend, a confidant filled part of a page, many thoughts unwritten. Separation from those of a different social class troubled her more than she could express to her father. There weren’t many men or women in the town who were equals according to her father. That left her with little choice of friends. Her admirer, Klaus was a shopkeeper, struggling middle class. Had her father not commented on shopkeepers as being below her?

Novels

Moccasins of Another #2

October 19, 2019

Shrink to the Stars

“Yes, I’d like to make an appointment as soon as possible,” said Sean to the receptionist on the phone. “Tuesdays and Fridays are not the best days but I will take whatever is available. This is sort of an emergency.”

“An emergency? Aren’t they all?” she answered. “Okay, sir, I need your name and the complaint; be specific about your disorder. If you are unclear about the problem, give me an approximation.”

Disorder, he thought? I don’t have a disorder.

“My name is Sean Casey; and don’t you think my problem is a matter for the doctor and me to discuss? This is a private matter between doctor and patient and not for every Jane Doe who answers the phone. Understand?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Casey but we need to get some idea beforehand, so Doctor Smith can research the area of your disorder before you come in; just a hint would be fine.”

“I don’t think this is what you would call a disorder,” he answered. “Just a little something that’s bothering me.”

“Mr. Casey if this is an emergency then it has to be a disorder,” responded the receptionist. “I have to fill out this form or I can’t schedule you for an emergency appointment, please cooperate.”

“I’m not crazy about this but it’s about my dreams,” answered Sean. “Bad dreams.”

“Bad dreams? Can you be more specific, Mr. Casey?”

Like what?” he responded. He could hear her sigh before she continued.

“Are you being chased? Do you feel like you’re falling? Is your mother in the dream? Are these sexual fantasies? Do you have sex with your mother, father, any of your siblings? Animals? Aliens? Are the dreams in color or black and white? Do you have nocturnal emissions, you know, wet dreams? Wake up with an erection or become impotent after they occur?”

“Don’t you think that’s a little personal?” he groaned. “No, it’s none of those. I would still feel more comfortable speaking with the doctor, if you don’t mind.”

“Listen Mr. Casey,” droned the receptionist. “Who do you think fills out your chart and enters it in the computer? Putting that aside, it looks like Doctor Smith has an opening three weeks from this Wednesday at 11:00 AM. Will that be a good day for you or will you need more time to make a list of your dysfunction’s?”

“Nothing sooner?”

“Fruitcake?” returned the receptionist, her voice slightly muted.

“What?”

“Sorry I was talking to another client,” she returned. “She wanted a little piece of fruitcake.”

“Oh.”

“No, there is nothing sooner, sir.

“Nuts?” questioned the receptionist.

“What was that?”

“Oh, sorry again, Mr. Casey I was offering some of our imported pecans and cashews to another patient. They are really quite good.”

Sean heard her clicking on the keyboard of her computer before she continued.

“I doubt there will be any cancellations, Mr. Casey. I’ll try to squeeze you in but Doctor Smith hates to feel rushed with any patient, especially when he doesn’t have my form completely filled out.”

“I really need to get in soon, miss,” whined Sean.

As blandly as before she continued. “I can refer you to another doctor if you wish. This doctor usually deals with sexual disorders but by the sound of it, you have a lot of repressed anger around sex. Though, I’m sure there are other hidden, unresolved issues, as well.”

“I do; I have? Oh, never mind,” he sighed frustrated by some amateur who pretended to know psychiatry. “I don’t want another doctor. Just set it up whenever you can.”

Sean scoffed at the name of the doctor, Bill had suggested, Hiram Smith. The name didn’t sound very professional, nothing original about Smith. However, Smith was supposed to be the top in his profession with a clientele of who’s who; he had read that on the Internet. Sean did not want to play around with second-rate shrinks, who might not be able diagnose the problem, taking months perhaps years to discover the problem. They were the types who saw their patients as clinical case numbers, not people. They published papers for other psychiatric voyeurs, who might snicker over them. Sean was not like any of those people; he was an original, not a type or a group. Being referred to as John Doe, sicko, was not in his best interest.

Later that evening he watched the haze over the valley as night began to fall, the lights below turning amber because of the crappy air quality, politics changed every so often to deregulate pollution, a bad thing for the valley. He didn’t dare go to a party and get drunk; sober and awake was his goal. Brandi was surely, being abused by Tom Pillings, the pervert, which was of little concern to him. Sean spread himself over his couch, staring at the lights as they popped on below, glowing darker orange because of the haze. He wasn’t hungry, which wasn’t so bad, since he hadn’t purchased anything for dinner.

Loud music from a neighbor mingled with the rumbling sounds of jets landing and taking off, comforting in a way. People coming and going, who were sure where they would end up that night or the next morning. These sounds were usual, expected and normal, a serenade of the twenty-first century, tunes written and played with resolution and a planned finale. These sounds, familiar and pleasing, lulled him to sleep to dream once more.

The Hunt

Damn jets are making one hell of a racket this morning, he thought, his eyes slowly opening. It might be a great view from here; but I do get tired of the damn plane noise.

His eyes began to clear.Unfamiliar things passed before him, as he scanned the horizon, filled with dark shaggy beasts running toward him. He found himself crouched on the far side of a shallow rise with several others, poised for some kind of action. The others were apparently Indians. The bow and arrow in his hands felt reassuring, weapons of a long practiced skill. He didn’t know why. Bits of gravel and dirt poked into his skin, as his body pressed against the unyielding ground.

Uh, oh! He thought to himself. This doesn’t look like Kansas anymore Toto.

Instinctively, he backed away staying low to the ground; he sought a horse, his horse; he even knew which one it was. All his comrade Indians followed suit, mounting their steeds, fanning out in a preplanned pattern. Hehaka Najin, from his previous dream, was close by smiling like some idiot kid who found a dollar on the street. Rubbing his eyes, Sean recognized the creatures, real buffalos.

We must be buffalo hunting, he thought. Jesus, Joseph and Mary, they’re huge! They’ll stomp me to death. I need to get the hell out of here.  

He glanced quickly at his shoulder and saw a red scar, where he had been shot. Healed, it pressed out from his skin, evidence of his encounter with the white soldiers. The scar was as confusing as his present situation. Surprisingly, he found that his body knew what to do, even if his mind was dazed.

Hehaka Najin made several hand signals indicating where they should go to intercept their prey, Sean deciding to stick close to him. Other Indians spread throughout the herd, each picking their target with care. Some had guns but most were still using bow and arrows. Arrows flew and the gunfire was dampened by the openness of the prairie, a faint crack in the wind with each shot. There was the sickening thud of large animals hitting the ground in every direction. The bray of animals escaping or dying could also be heard over the din, savage, exciting and necessary for their survival.

Suddenly, the herd turned in front of the two riders, throwing Hehaka Najin and Sean off their horses. A wounded buffalo was dangerous, and one very ugly one was sizing-up the dismounted men. It began to charge. Sean had dropped his bow during the fall, not that it mattered; he had nothing but a cheap knife to battle the buffalo, hardly a weapon to combat something the size of this animal. He bolted into a sprint.

Fear and strong legs carried him quickly. The angered rage and speed of the buffalo would soon over-take him, pulverizing him under hoof. Sean had always thought it would be easy to dodge a large animal but found it a lot more difficult than in the movies. Hehaka Najin was shouting something. Sean wasn’t able to hear because of the thundering noise.With that same sickening thud, the charging buffalo fell to the ground, dead, inches from Sean’s heels, the final breath a rattle of air and blood.

There was a victory yell from Hehaka Najin, who had managed to shoot the fatal arrow into the charging beast. Sean dropped to his knees shaking from a combination of fatigue and fear. Nausea swept over him but he did not succumb to it. The continuing thunder of the beasts made him wary of another attack. Hehaka Najin came quickly dancing and singing, joy peeling from his throat. He reached down and hauled Sean to his feet.

“Your deed will be spoken this day,” announced Hehaka Najin. “Songs will be sung in your honor. Quick let us go before tatanka run too far away. There are not as many this year; we must hunt more.”

Not so many, thought Sean? He must be kidding. It doesn’t look that way to me.

Their horses recovered the men remounted, while others of the tribe came to butcher the animals. Hehaka Najin told people of Heecha Sapa’s brave act, diverting the wounded buffalo, risking all to draw it away from him. That was, of course, not exactly the truth; but it is more prudent to accept praise than clarify the embarrassing facts of Sean’s cowardice. He had learned that long ago in business. When someone’s perception put you in a favorable light, it was best to leave it be.

Hunting had ceased and now it was time to bring the meat to the people. In celebration and honor Hehaka Najin opened the offending beast’s gut, removing some unknown part of it. He sang the praise of Heecha Sapa raising the bloody animal part in the air andoffered it to Sean. Without a lot of explanation Sean understood the meaning of this gesture. The spoils to the victor.

“Uh, I really didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have,” he announced. “Really, guys; I’m not that hungry. Hehaka Najin should have it for his excellent shot; he saved my life; I didn’t save his.”

The assembled men laughed, joking about how humble Heecha Sapa was, humility respected, as much as bravery. With that Hehaka Najin cut the ugly piece of flesh in half, offering to share the honor. Sean looked ill but bit into it, if only to put an end to the celebratory ritual. The flesh was hot, dripping with blood, slightly giggly and hardly looked edible. This was raw buffalo, not sushi. Sean managed to bite off a small piece before he figured out what the flesh was. He coughed, almost choking on the piece in his mouth.

“Liver!” he shuddered. “I hate liver. I hated it ever since I was a kid and still do. And this isn’t even cooked, which makes it worse, if that’s possible.”

Hehaka Najin laughed with joy, announcing to all, “Heecha Sapa, has not been well lately; but I see his humor has not left him. Laughter in the face of danger, only a brave man can possess such a virtue. We will sing at the feast tonight, songs of bravery, a new song for Heecha Sapa. Perhaps he will tell us of his humble thoughts at waktoglakap.

In order to avoid further consumption of liver, Sean strolled quickly toward the dead beast. He drew his knife prepared to skin the hide off and transport it back to the village, wherever that was.

This is like a bad rerun of Dances With Wolves, he lamented. Ugh! I’ve never skinned an animal in my life. Oh my God, where do I start? He set his knife to work. My hands seem to know what to do. Amazing! It’s Almost as weird as knowing how to ride and shoot. Yuck! Still pretty gross!

Butchering and skinning was a joint effort; everyone took part in it. Sean looked up to see women and children covered in blood from head to toe, no one squeamish about the gruesome process. Sights like this would drive most people into being vegetarians, no tidy packages of meat in the market. He wasn’t sure what buffalo tasted like, but a thick rare steak was nothing he would want to give up quite yet.

An hour later the meat and skins were being transported back to the village, the people singing with joy. Reunions of families were made and the exploits of the hunt were told briefly. Sean was headed back with the rest of the band when he met up with his, so-called, family. Hota Win looked a mess as did her boys. All, including his young wife were covered in blood with much of it smeared on their faces. Even with the blood on her face, Hopa Winyan Wankan radiated beauty.

“My husband, I hear we are to honor you for your bravery,” Hota Win declared. “And also for being a humble man. It surprises me; but I was not there and must honor the words of those who were. One must still wonder whose first arrow was so poorly shot into tatanka, buffalo. It wouldn’t have been your arrow by chance?”

Hopa Winyan Wakan came to the defense of her husband. “Hota Win, why must you be so unkind to our husband?” she scolded. “We are not naked nor do our bones show through our skin. He provides us with a good life. I, for one, will sing his song. I am proud to be his woman; you should be too.”

Hota Win snorted, turning back, leaning into her load, mumbling under her breath the entire time.

“The young do not see the truth because their heart wishes to see, only the good,” she muttered. “With the good, there is also the bad; let us not be too blind. When the wrinkles come into your skin, perhaps then you will understand.”

Hota Win didn’t like the young pretty first wife. The young woman felt only good things for Heecha Sapa, many undeserved according to Hota Win. The man was often lazy, his mind straying from his duties. The older woman chose not to push her luck, remembering his generosity taking her as a second wife. Though it was a common thing to do, some men chose not to marry the wife of their dead brother; there was no law to require it. If no other man chose her, she would have to live off by herself, living off the charity of others.

“True, this is so, Hopa Winyan Wankan. He has provided for us. It is difficult for me to imagine him as good a hunter. As a coupler he seems to practice more frequently than hunting, bearing us nothing but his smile afterwards,” droned Hota Win. “Yet his coupling with you bears no child. Wasted time.”

Hunting is an awful business, thought Sean. First there’s killing something alive then the slippery blood that makes things hard to hold onto. It gets sticky and feels awful on the skin. Now the stuff is drying off, making my skin itch like crazy. I hope I can grab a shower before this big dinner party. Shower? What am I thinking? If they didn’t have toilets or toilet paper, how could possibly have showers? Maybe I should take a nap when we go back and wake up back in California.”

To his relief, several of the men went to the stream near the village. It was too shallow to swim in but did have good clean water. The water became murky and tinged with blood, dirt and sweat. At least it was clean until the men began washing up. Sean noted that they chose a place downstream from the village. That was a reassuring thought when it came to getting a drink of water.

As in all hunts a few men were injured during the hunt. Broken bones, sprained ankles and joints were often the case with numerous small cuts and bruises. Luckily, no one was killed this day. It never occurred to Sean that anyone would be killed on a hunt; he’d never seen that in films. Remembering the size of the buffalo, he understood how that could come about.

Now that it was all over he felt like he had been run over by a Mack truck. Falling off a horse was not as easy as it looked in the movies. A large bruise developed on his hip and shoulder. Stuntmen were trained and even then some got banged up in the process. Several of the hunters in the tribe had experienced the same fate but said nothing of their discomfort, complaints considered bad form, he supposed.

“Damn, I think I mighta broke something,” he grumbled out loud, running his hand on his butt. “There has to be a better way of doing this. Riding a horse while trying to shoot is crazy.”

“Other way? But Heecha Sapa, we have done it this way beyond the memory of our ancestors. This is the only way,” answered one man standing next to him. “How can we do this differently? It works well.”

“Dirt bike with guns, automatics. That would make a lot easier,” blurted Sean without thinking. “Maybe some kind of trap, like a strong corral would work too; trap them and shoot them in the corral.”

 The look on the other man’s face registered shock and fear at Heecha Sapa’s words.

“We have so few guns and not many bullets. I know not what this ‘automatic’ is Heecha Sapa. And what is this ‘dirt bike’ you speak of, some sort of magic to slow down the buffalo?”

Sean realized he had to be more careful about what he said. But on the other hand, it was only a dream so did it matter?

“Never mind, pal,” he answered. “It’s too complicated to explain. We’ll talk about in the next dream. Okay?”

It was a dream, wasn’t it? He reminded himself how he felt the pain of being shot and the pain of falling off his horse. There was the feel and smell of fresh blood, which he will never forget. Of course he had very clear recollections of lovemaking, too real to ignore. That wasn’t bad, at all. In fact, after this party ended tonight, he planned on a little more fun under the buffalo robe with his young wife.

May as well enjoy some of this dream, he thought. That’s something I can relate to.

“Come lead us in the blessing dance,” shouted Hehaka Najin. “Everyone wishes to honor you. You dance well; it will be good.”

Sean heard the drums and the wailing of the singers, a mixture of earthly drums and falsetto voices. He couldn’t understand the words they were singing, though his inner interpreter was able to carry on conversations without a hitch. The words in the song sounded all the same to him. The drums were loud, a constant a pulse driving the people. It reminded him a little of some of the rock bands he promoted over the years. Rock bands answer to any situation was volume, the louder the better.

How was Sean going to dance with these people? This wasn’t a cocktail party in Hollywood, where it was too crowded to move very muchand people were too drunk or stoned to care. This was in the middle of the prairie, a bunch or wild Indians expecting some kind of performance from him.

I don’t know what to do, he fretted. It all looks like a bunch of guys jumping on one foot, then the other; gotta be more to it than that. When I danced at parties; no one watched or cared. The chicks were the ones who needed to show off, shaking their booty and showin’ their stuff. I just hopped around, watching them jiggle, deciding which one of them was going to be the lucky girl that night.”

Sean began bouncing a little to the beat of the music; grateful he had good rhythm. Of course, it could be Heecha Sapa, who had the good rhythm; Sean might be remembering it like riding and shooting a bow. At least he didn’t look too foolish. He could feel his body move easier to the drums and started to enjoy this process; all the men followed him as he entered the sacred circle of the dance. He had to make a complete circle with others following, before all could enter the dance circle.

If I’m such a hot dancer, how come I’m not doing anything more interesting, he asked himself? This is lame simple stuff; I’m sure there has to be more to this. These guys need to break it up a little and boogie; otherwise this party will get dull fast. I’ll jazz it up and show these prairie dogs a few of my moves. What the hell, it’s only a dream, anyhow.”

The circle had been completed, Sean leading the way. Suddenly, he broke into some unusual steps and moves like the moonwalk, hip-hop and a few other things he could remember. At the Hollywood parties he had received several compliments on his ability and ingenuity on the dance floor. Of course, the compliments came from people who had some agenda; Sean had to be cautious when receiving flattery.

All the Indians were engaged in their own expression of the constant drumming mantra, slight variations between them. Little by little they all stopped to witness the bizarre dancing of Heecha Sapa. They watched out of amazement, disbelief and a foreboding; his dancing was nothing they had seen before, a drastic change from what they had always known.

The Lakota Sioux did not take well to change in their life style or dancing. Things were set in a way that allowed them to survive; traditional was safe, change uncertain and dangerous. Change challenged the sacred ways of their ancestors, violated the balance in their lives. Now, one of their own stepped over the line making a mockery of tradition within the sacred circle. But like all things, one had to be careful how to deal with a new situation, especially given Heecha Sapa’s recent strangeness.

Perhaps Heecha Sapa had been injuredwhen he fell from his horse. It had happened to others, who quite naturally returned to their senses in due time. He might be a heyoka, a sacred clown with strange magical powers. If so, he could do bad magic as well as good. Provoking such an individual might present a problem, even be dangerous; they knew the value of being cautious. To act too quickly was to endanger everyone in the tribe. A long discussion would have to take place to consider the recent displays of Heecha Sapa creating safe resolution to this new turn of events.

Sean was completely unaware of the others until the drums became silent, everyone standing still, watching him. Not wanting to break up the party, he encouraged everyone to dance, bowing out of the circle. Slowly the drums started up again, playing a more solemn song.

I don’t know what their problem is, he though. Maybe I showed off a little too much. These hicks don’t look like the type that ‘get down’ much. Oh well, that’s not my problem; right now, I want to go back to my tipi, have sex with my woman and wake up in my real home tomorrow morning. That seems to be the routine in this dream and maybe the best part.”

All the members of his family embarrassed and shocked, quickly returned to their lodge after Sean’s display. They had no idea what to do, what expect. If Sean was a heyoka, as some had whispered, he could bring misfortune upon his family. Conversely, he could bring them special status within the village. It was wise to observe and serve until such a determination was made.

Sean stretched and yawned before entering his lodge. He anticipated a biting, sarcastic comment from Hota Win; she was very silent, her eyes averted. Hota Win’s two sons also looked to the ground avoiding eye contact. Hopa Winyan Wakan acted distant and very different than before. Fear had replaced her adoration for him.

“Okay, so I showed off a little,” he admitted. “Is that wrong?” He turned to all the others adding, “The rest of you don’t have to stick around, ya know. There’s still a party going on outside; go, dance your stupid steps. I’d just like to get a little shut-eye with Hopa Winyan Wakan. I wouldn’t mind a little privacy, if you catch my drift.”

The tipi emptied out as if a bomb had exploded. No one said a word, not even the caustic Hota Win. His first wife remained as requested nervously looking to the ground. She busied herself with small things, tentatively awaiting her husband’s wishes. Sean was confused by this shift in behavior. The last time he came home she couldn’t get enough of him and now it was a different story.

“Hey, why don’t you and I slip under that sleeping robe and have some fun,” he said with a childish grin. “I sure could do with a little heavy-breathing, right now.”

Slightly mystified with his words and manner she removed her garment and ducked under the robe without ever looking up, Sean preparing for another great session of dream sex. But now this woman was like a stranger to him, though he was used to women like that, distant and cold. Usually, it didn’t matter as long as he got what he wanted.

She complied with his every wish but seemed to be emotionally disconnected from the activity, which normally, didn’t mater to him. It reminded him of the aspiring actresses he slept with, who didn’t care about anything except their career willing to get him off without any feelings from them. Hopa Winyan Wankan didn’t want anything; she was his wife, her only wish to please him.

Wife, he mused? Not sure I can get used to that. But what does it matter anyhow?

I’ll wake up, get my head straight and this will be nothing more than a memory.

Their lovemaking was extremely one-sided, he, quickly getting what he wanted without Hopa Winyan Wakan’s enthusiasm, except to be the recipient of his lust. He was beginning to wonder if their lovemaking had been a fluke the time before. Maybe this was the real woman, acting the way she usually did.

There’s no figuring out women, he decided. I don’t understand them and not sure I want to. If banging my old lady doesn’t get any better than this, this whole dream business is a waste. I think I’ll close my eyes and get back to the real world. At least there I can accept the games women play.”

Hopa Winyan Wakan pretended to sleep, her back to Sean, hidden tears in her eyes. He knew the signal, and left her alone. His eyes closed as the drums of the village lulled him to sleep. Sleep to him had been an empty abyss, unfilled by the clutter of dreams. But this night was filled with small segments of past experiences. It bothered him to see the same tormenting pictures over and over again.

The pictures consisted of buffalo hunting, Tom Pillings, Brandi, Hopa Winyan Wakan, Hehaka Najin and Sylvia the receptionist; none of it made any sense. The dreams resisted enough to wake him up. In the state of wakefulness, he slipped out of the sleeping robe to relieve himself outside.

Outside, he realized with dread? Outside the tipi, my tipi? I’m still the dream, shit!

When duty calls in dreams or reality, one needs to attend to it. Holding the still very foreign appendage he considered his fate; none of this made any sense. Perhaps he drank too much water before trying to sleep and that kept him from returning to peaceful slumberland and then home where he belonged. He’ll go back into the lodge and fall asleep, if that was at all possible, waiting to awaken in the right place, the right century.

He looked to the sky while attending to his personal business. He was awe struck to see so many stars in the night sky; there were millions of them; more than in the space movies he’d promoted. He hardly saw stars in Southern California anymore; the smog rarely allowed anyone to view the blue sky, let alone stars at night. The decades of the environmentalists could not reverse this situation because money, big money got in the way. True, it became slightly better but never enough. Fossil fuels still rated as top choice, the oil companies manipulating the public as they had in the past with the help of politicians being paid off, solar energy was kept to a minimum.

After several hours, sleep overtook him, a dreamless sleep, darkness articulated with nothingness, perfect for Sean. Too many thoughts and changes were making him crazy. Getting his head straight needed to happen, and soon; he had work to do. It might do well to see that shrink before he blew it with his clients.

Not Quite Yet

Sean was not a morning person; it took awhile to crack the eyelids open and face the day, wherever that might be. His ‘black out’ drapes made the process a little less painful, designer drapes, of course. This particular morning he was sure, he would see the usual funky haze over the valley, normal things that belonged in reality. Feeling refreshed, Sean was ready to face the real world, no time for the ridiculous dreaming. He felt another presence next to him. It was a female body. He smiled to himself.

Ah, ha, Brandi must be trying to kiss-up to me after she bailed on me the other night, he thought. Maybe she wasn’t sleazy enough for my pervert buddy, Tom Pillings and I’ll bet her deal with Leni fell through; it wouldn’t surprise me. The girl’s not terribly bright; she has a tough enough time reading her phone messages, let alone a real script.”

Instinctively he reached around to cup her enhanced breasts, contemplating a quickie before facing the day, morning his favorite time. The best part of women, like Brandi, was not having to waste time kissing and foreplay; their superficial relationship was understood and accepted. That was the beauty of money and power; women will do whatever, to keep you happy. Was it really wrong that he used her like this? It was sexists and extremely unpopular in present society. But he wasn’t the one who made up the rules in the business; they were made long before he got into the game.

Satisfied with his easy prospects, he touched flesh, a breast. The breasts felt more yielding than memory provided, saggy, in fact. The more he explored, the more he realized other things not as they should be. His hand passed over her buttocks, expecting to grasp the firm surgically augmented bottom. What he felt was a muscular but saggy butt, slightly less than soft.

Sean’s eyes snapped open, removing his exploratory hand from his phantom girlfriend, a minute or two to focus on his surroundings, a stream of light glaring down at him from the ceiling. The smell of wood smoke filled the confined space, as it slowly drifted out the smoke hole of the tipi.

“Tipi? I’m still here?” he cried out loud. “How could this be? I slept; I know I did. I should be in California not here.”

The familiar coarse voice of Hota Win emanated from the female figure besides him. “Why do you talk such strange words; what is this California? I know of no such place. You are here, as always; where else would you be?” Hota Win shifted under the sleeping robe with a grunt.

Heecha Sapa, your young woman felt she did not please you very well, though I am not surprised,” declared Hota Win without enthusiasm. “She asked that I use my skill and experience to remedy that. If you must continue, let us be done with it quickly; I have many things to do. And the sun has been up for a long time now. You may wish to sleep longer; though I see no reason for it.”

Naked, Sean leaped out from under his sleeping robe, shocked at the sight of his second wife making herself sexually available to him. The body of this woman was nothing like that of his first wife, disappointing to say the least. His head still fuzzy from sleep caused him to stare with confused speculation at Hota Win. His waking thoughts of Brandi had created excitement making it appear he was ready to engage Hota Win. A few minutes past before the evidence of his desire diminished followed by a groan.

“My husband, you must not let the moment pass. Perhaps I can give you a son; I am prepared to do what is required,” she insisted. “I may be your second wife but I will do what is expected of me; it is a duty. Please let us be done before we waste more of the day. Surely, it will not take long; it never does.”

Sean grabbed something to put on and charged out of the tipi. Several children giggled at him as he stood outside his lodge, undressed. They scampered away afraid he might use his heyoka magic on them. Fortunately, getting dressed was a quick affair, complaints from his second wife audible from outside. He didn’t bother answering any of them.

This is not okay, he said to himself. Something is drastically wrong; I should be back in Hollywood by now, where I belong. Why am I still in this dream? How much longer do I have to stick around? How the hell do I get out of this dream?

He howled out of frustration, neighboring people peering at him in surprise, convinced Heecha Sapa had to be heyoka.

Heecha Sapa,” announced Hehaka Najin “People believe you are heyoka. If you are, they must know if they should fear you.”

“Fear, me?” returned Sean. “Now that really takes the cake. So far I’ve been shot at, fallen off a horse and almost killed by a buffalo. That hardly seems like someone to fear, does it?”

“Come with me and we will talk with the others,” pleaded Hehaka Najin. “It is very late. Many elders are already there, waiting for us. The women have prepared food for you. Have you not hunger?”

It was not a long way to the elders’ council lodge, a few steps from Sean’s tipi. The lodge sat in the center of the village, the largest of all. An older boy stood by the door flap and opened it as the two men arrived.

Sean studied the faces in the dimly lit tipi, taking a few minutes to adjust to the darkness. Old men sat around a small fire, the gravity of the situation written on their faces. The scene reminded Sean of pictures in the history books. The Noble Savage was the title of the chapter in high school covering American Indians. He never gave it much thought since the chapter was only seventeen pages long. Amazing how the entire history of Indians can be condensed into so few pages.

The oldest in the lodge wore a more stoic expression at first. His face broke into a genuine smile of concern as he spoke. Sean was hoping it was not the grin of a Grand Inquisitor.

“Come, sit, eat, smoke and let us talk,” he invited. “It is good to discuss matters when we are troubled, not to rush is our way. We have watched you and have become worried about the way you act. Let me be plain; I do not wish to take too much time. And it could prove disrespectful to prolong such talk if there is no reason for it.”

He drew on the pipe, handing it to Sean before continuing. “Are you heyoka? If so, are you good or bad? It would be helpful for us to decide what is to be done with you. It would be improper to do otherwise; we will not harm you.”

Heyoka? Geez! You guys act like a bunch of cigar store Indians,” Sean protested, scanning the faces in the tipi. “I don’t even know what that means; something about a clown is what I think I heard. If that’s the case, I’m up for a few laughs, but don’t expect me to put on some silly round red nose. You guys can do that with some other poor sap in another dream, cause I don’t plan on sticking around, anyhow. This is a dream, nothing more.”

Heecha Sapa, we all like to laugh but I do not think you understand,” returned the elder, his smile turning upside-down. “If you have been touched by wakan tanka and given power, we must know. We will respect your wishes as long as they do not harm our people. But if you make a bad spell on us we will have to kill you or force you from the village; it is yet, undecided.”

“Listen,” Sean answered, anger mounting. “I didn’t ask to be here and I don’t want to be here. Pissing outdoors is fine when you’re camping but wiping your ass with grass is not my idea of a good time. Two wives are too much for any man; one is beautiful and the other makes my skin crawl. The only problem that remains, you guys happen to be in the wrong century; mine is long after this one.”

Sean, sitting near the door flap, leaned closer to the small fire burning in the center, frustration and despair plain on his face. He could see most of the elders in the lodge, their expressions indicating concern. He scolded himself for being too twenty-first century with these backwoods hicks. They didn’t grasp what he was saying because they did not understand sarcasm, nor did they understand what a century was.

These are not the, ‘read from a script,’ types, he thought. They take so long to do anything. I think I liked being a hero rather than a heyoka. Instead of smiles I get the death look from them; the threat doesn’t exactly thrill me. How can I possibly communicate with these people?

Like all things, the council process was slow, polite and indecisive. Discussing such things as this might require several days to sort out, correctly. The elders spoke to one another, each in turn, with no one interrupting; rudeness was not tolerated in council; it was understood. For some strange reason, Sean didn’t understand the words being tossed around; the interpreter in his head had been shut off, somehow. There was enough meaning in the hand signals to figure out they were deciding his fate. The idea of having his future hashed over like Monday Night Football, bugged him.

“This is bull shit!” he barked rising to his feet. “I keep telling you all this is a dream and it doesn’t matter how much you talk about me. You guys figure it out and let me know what you come up with. I’m going hunting or ride around on my horse. Anyway, I’m outta here.”

There was a great rumble of disapproval as Sean stomped out of the tipi. It was highly disrespectful to leave the elder’s council without the proper acknowledgement. Heecha Sapa had broken many of the rules of protocol, lately; that was the reason for the meeting. Behavior contrary to the norm are considered a threat; breeches of etiquette tore deep into the very fiber of tribe. Where would they be without some rules to use as a guide?

Sean threw a leg over his horse, charging off in a direction the horse decided. He rode to get away from the whole mess, his destination unimportant. Still, it continued to amaze him how he managed to stay on the horse at this accelerated pace. The closest he had ever been to a horse was in New York City; the mounted police used them in the park and other places inaccessible by automobile.

Once he had encountered a horse during a protest in the park, Sean not a part of it, just killing time before a meeting. The mounted officer was herding people out of the restricted area by using the horse as a ram. Sean managed to get trapped in a protest group, almost getting mashed by the horse’s hooves. The finale of the experience involved the lifting of the animal’s tail, whereby it discharged huge wads of foul, smelling dung directly on his highly polished shoes. Since that time horses were best seen on the movie screen and not at close quarters.

Although the horse encounter had been an unhappy experience, he didn’t feel disgust or fear with his present mount; the same foreign, instinct drove him and the animal. He tried to discount the body memory by consciously doing things he shouldn’t. His careless conduct was rewarded with a quick trip over the horse’s neck and a sudden introduction to the terra firma. The horse stood nearby snorting and stomping a foot, while Sean raised his bruised body from the unyielding earth. With a hand on face, he felt the sting of scraped skin, the hand confirming the physical insult, returning bloody and dirty.

“Next time I’ll let you drive,” he muttered to the horse.

The bleeding was not serious, stopping within a few minutes. He felt a little dizzy, deciding to rest under the only tree he saw. The day was hot, the sun beating down relentlessly on everything exposed. The tree provided very little shade; the rough bark rubbed against his naked back. His body hurt all over, hardly noticing the bark. Taking inventory, he confirmed nothing was broken.

He pressed against the tree turning over the events of day. He wasn’t supposed to feel pain in dreams; those were the rules as he had heard before. The only good part of his nightmare was Hopa winyan wakan; and now, for some reason, she was afraid by him, preferring Hota win to couple with him, instead. He sighed and closed his eyes to shut out the scene, he did not want to see.

Sean slept long and hard, his physical insult contributing to his fatigue, gradually sending him into a dreamless abyss, which was preferable to the critics in the camp. There was nothing to think about, nothing to react to, no pain and also no pleasure. Perhaps Sean’s habit of not dreaming was on the mend, no unwanted adventures asleep or awake.

Keeping Time

A deep rumble on the ground startled him awake. He expected to see nasty, smelly, buffalo charging at him, in an attempt to pound the remainder of his injured body into the earth. His head throbbed, pounding into his brain like a badly tuned garage rock band. Reaching up, he felt his face scabbed and rough. Through slits in his eyelids he could see it wasn’t night nor was it early morning. Reluctantly, Sean focused on his surroundings afraid of what he might find.

The rumble turned out to be low flying jets taking off from the airport avoiding the gusty winds that plagued them this time of year. He smiled in spite of his pain; the jets, instead of buffalo, were reassuring to hear; jets never trampled anyone to death. Sure, the occasional crash killed a bunch of people; that was just the crapshoot one had to take with flying. To the best of his knowledge jets never killed anyone he cared about.

Judging by the light and the haze it was about four in the afternoon. Judging by his beard growth, he had been unshaven for several days.

I only slept for one night, he mumbled, walking to the front door for the newspaper; I still prefer having a physical paper instead of some screen to stare at. I gotta check and make sure what day it is; I might miss something important.

The door swung open, a pile of newspapers toppling over the welcome mat. The doormat didn’t actually say welcome; that might imply he wanted visitors; he didn’t believe in blanket invitations. He bought the mat because it had a designer label and cost ten times what it was worth. Those in the know would be impressed by his acquisition, though many would miss the label ‘Bali Exclusives’.

Sean was astonished at the number of papers lying before him, a joke, perhaps by some actor trying to pay him back for dumping him as a client; you mess with Sean and you end up on your own. He could only imagine the delivery person dumping the excess at his door too lazy to deal with the extras. Wading through all the papers he found the most recent paper with a note from the delivery person. The note suggested the delivery person put a hold on the paper until he returned.

June 17th? What happened to the rest of May? How could he have lost so many days?

Quickly, Sean walked to his bathroom mirror to verify a few things. The nick on his shoulder was completely healed, a tiny scarred ridge the only testimony to his being allegedly shot. He looked in the mirror and was shocked by the volume of hair on his face. It wasn’t a couple days growth, more like a week or more. It was so unlike Sean to allow his beard to grow; a clean-shaven face projected a better image in business.

The scrapes and cuts on his face were relatively fresh, however. Had he fallen? Plus the whole side of his body was black and blue, probably from the fall off the horse.

Horse, he questioned? I got thrown off a horse but that was in a dream. It can’t be real!

Sean looked down at his tiny blinking red light on his answering machine; his cell phone was dead, so he was unable to see any messages there. The number of missed calls on his answering machine was displayed digitally, seventy-eight.

“How can I lose all these days?” he yelled at his phone. The phone did not respond except to continue to blink back at him. He calmed himself, pushing the message button on the machine.

Beep!

“Sean, honey, it’s Brandi. It’s Saturday and I am still working with Tom Pillings, though I’m not sure we are getting very far with the script. He’s so demanding. It’s kinda scary. Wants me to stay with him day and night. He makes me wear this real icky red lipstick and a funny outfit when we work together. He says it puts me in character or something. Tom thinks I should change my name to Sherri, with an ‘I’. Said he doesn’t like drinking brandy; he’s so funny. Tom thinks I’m doing really good and wants me to replace his co-star. I feel kinda bad for her but this could be a break for me. I won’t be coming by for a little while. Gotta work. Love you.” Beep!

The second message immediately played out.

Beep!

“Hey, buddy this is Bill, checking in. I’m taking break from a liposuction procedure. This fat guy thinks he’s going to look like a bodybuilder when I get done. I explained it would only eliminate the fat and he would have to do the exercises to change his appearance. There’s just no tellin’ some people. By the way, haven’t seen you around the club lately. I heard, through the grapevine, that Brandi is history, but then again, you never keep any of them very long. I hope you got a hold of Hiram. He’s supposed to be a good guy, a little unorthodox, not at all like most shrinks. God, you got me saying shrinks now, not very professional of me. Well, catch you later buddy. Oh, and Brenda says she knows a really nice gal she wants you to meet. She told me the woman is a nurse and loves guys like you; I don’t know, though. I told Brenda not to match-make. The nurse is also into yoga and is a health food instructor at the college. Doesn’t sound like your type to me. Drop by the club if you get a chance. But I’ll bet you’re breaking in a new gal or something. Give her a kiss from me, I wish.” Beep!

Beep!

“Okay, so I’m sorry about setting up the Brandi bimbo on you. I had to do something to keep our boy happy. Tom liked her and I wanted to get her out of my hair. Hair? What hair? I haven’t had hair since I was nineteen,” he chuckled. “But this is your old pal Leni. I always take care of you in the end. You know that, right? You got all my business; I don’t go with anyone else, Sean. You can always find another girlfriend, dime a dozen around here. I got a couple names if you want, hot numbers, long on legs and short on brains. But you do okay on your own. Let’s have lunch, talk business and screw a few starlets. Just like old times, huh!” Beep!

Beep!

“This is Little Wolf. Want to talk? We didn’t part with good words. Maybe we can meet or whatever. Just keep this in mind, this is not a come-on. I just want to see if you can help with my production. I know you have connections. If you can’t, that’s okay. Bye. “ Beep!

Beep!

“Hi, this is Nate, Sean. Where ya been? Haven’t seen you at the office in awhile. I figure you’re scamming some new high-profile project. Just take your time; everything is going great, here. The ‘Big Guy’ never says a word about you. No news, is good news, eh? I bet you probably got some sexy thing banging your brains out. You always manage to get the lookers. Yeah, and I’m jealous. Anyway, see you, when I see you.” Beep!

Beep!

“I don’t know if you remember me, but my name’s Sheila Fein. We met a month ago at Andy’s party in the hills. I’m the one you talked to about making some connections with a few producers. I believe you liked my red hair; said it reminded you of an old flame you once had. You didn’t seem to mind checking out the rest of me, if I recall. Maybe that’s something we can work with, a little mutual friendliness. Give me a call and maybe we can hot tub at your place, drink a little wine and get creative. I can be quite creative given the right incentive. You won’t be able find out if I’m a real redhead or not. Think about it. (giggle) Call me. Sheila 555-1122, bye.” Beep!

Beep!

 “Mr. Casey, this is Frank at Willard Motors reminding you of your service appointment for your BMW. Please call and set up an appointment so we can arrange for a new loaner car; we understand how particular you are. I would do it soon, since we have a notice of a recall on your particular model. There might be a problem with the computer chip that activates your braking system. I wouldn’t worry, though. Only a few accidents have been reported since they have discovered the defect. I’m sure they were not caused by the brakes failure.” Beep!

Beep!

This is Marg from Dr. Kineff’s office. Doctor was looking over your x-rays, Doctor says you definitely need a root canal. It may not bother you now but he thinks you should attend to it before it does become a problem. Please call and I will set you up with a specialist. He is excellent and does most of the stars. Please call within the next couple days. Thank you. Beep!”

Sean stopped after the thirty-fifth call. They were all the same, the parasites of Hollywood trying to get something from him. None of them really cared about him, except his dentist; and his dentist charged more than most. To top it off, Sean was starting to feel a little twinge in his molar; or was that the power of suggestion?

For the first time in his life he felt lonely. There were plenty of people around him, phonies and wannabes; they all wanted something, shaking his hand and pressing him for special introductions; schmoozing was common in the business but not by Sean. In a world of takers, including himself, Sean had to be one-up on all of them or be sucked into the depths of mediocrity. There was no room for mercy, pity or love.

“Love?” he snorted. “Love has no place in business.”

The dreams made him think about the Lakotas who were so different, one hundred and eighty degrees opposite to the way he lived. Money wasn’t important in their world; they didn’t even care about possessions. He saw one family give away the few things they had to celebrate a daughter coming of age. Were his dreams real or something conjured up in his malfunctioning brain, spurred on by the past hours of lecturing by his parents? Were these real people or a Cecil B. Demille movie playing in his head? He kept expecting someone to yell, ‘Cut!’ which never happened. He was curious if this dream was going to play out to the bitter end. He knew how this story ended, recalling the little bit of history.

That’s the way it was, history, he thought. There’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s passé, a done deal, a nasty resolution to manifest destiny, not my fault or my problem. Why should I worry? It’s just a dream.

He continued to mumble. “Unless,” He paused to consider, “That couldn’t happen, dreams are a bizarre fantasy not real. I can’t worry about something that isn’t so. But could I get stuck in the dream? That’s ridiculous; no one gets stuck in a dream.”

Sean shifted his thoughts. A change of scenery might help, break away from the pattern.

“I’ll jump in my Beemer and drive up the coast, get away for a couple days, hit a few wineries and kick back. There’s nothing I need to do here. My dentist can wait; I’ve got Pillings on ice and the promotional campaign lined up; work will take care of itself. I got to get a handle on this dream thing first. I’ll be gluing macaroni onto colored paper in some nut house if I don’t.”

Sean’s BMW sat in the driveway covered in a fine layer of dust. He never allowed his car get that way. It was never parked outside for more than a few hours at a time. The accumulation of dust was evidence of a week, not hours. The beautiful light, metallic, green was slightly brown, the white leather interior tainted to match.

A trip to the Star Wash Car Wash had to happen before going anywhere. It was expensive but worth it; ninety bucks, a cleaning, ensured proper treatment for his custom baby. Without a lot of ceremony he had pulled on a T-shirt and shorts before leaving. He’ll buy a cappuccino and sandwich at the car wash; their little refreshment bar wasn’t half bad.

“Sorry Mr. Casey,” said the manager of the Star Wash Car Wash. “We’ll try to squeeze you in by five. You should have called to make an appointment.”

Sean didn’t like to wait for anything. On the other hand, it was only fifteen minutes before five. There was no place to go and no rush.

The manager returned shortly before the hour.

“Mr. Casey we’ll have your baby done in about twenty minutes, maybe a little more if we detail the interior,” announced the manager, speaking like the headwaiter at a fancy restaurant.

“I think the hand rubbed cream cleaner would be best on the leather seats,” he continued. “You must remember to keep the car in the garage or the top up. The seats will wear poorly, otherwise.

Sean nodded his approval and looked for a place to relax, perfection took time, he insisted on it. Food was his next goal. A Benito Burger on a whole, wheat organic bun sounded like the ticket. The burger came with organic veggies on the side, a dish prepared by a chef spirited away from a well-known bistro. Only in Hollywood could you get a gourmet sandwich and a car wash at the same time. The chef prepared a fancy sauce for the burger, spicy and grilled. Other than that, it was like most other burgers except for the price.

Sean relaxed on a bench outside the carwash, polishing off the burger and enjoying the moment. It had been a long time since he sat and did nothing, a delightful change. For a brief time he forgot about work and the wretched dreams.

An older woman, dressed to kill approached him, obviously prepared to engage him in some kind of conversation. His attire was more suited to those working at the wash than the owner of an expensive BMW. She was the type of woman, bored and impatient with most everything. He had seen enough of them to recognize the trait; married to a wealthy guy who gave her everything she wanted.

“Boy,” called the woman with an air of superiority. “You obviously have nothing to do. I’ll give you and extra five dollars if you get me a latte. Hurry, my car is almost ready. I don’t like to wait. Understand?”

He was amused by her demands. Considering his clothes and unshaven face, he understood her misconception. He did indeed look the part of a common laborer.

Angry and embarrassed he answered, “I have nothing to do? I’m eating a sandwich lady. And only five bucks? By the look of your outfit, you could afford a hell of a lot more, at least twenty; go screw yourself and buy your own fucking latte.”

She had not expected the retort; her lips pinched preparing to lay into the insolent young man. She would not spoken to like that.

“What is your name, young man?” she demanded. “I’m going report you to your employer or should I say ex-employer. I’ll have you fired before you’re done with that sandwich.”

Sean responded to her negative attitude with a hand gesture universal to all social casts. She stomped off eagerly expecting to get her pound of flesh dealt out on a silver platter. He, in turn, walked to her car and deposited the rest of his drink, carrot juice with a twist of lime on her front seat. Sauntering over to his own vehicle, which was in a state of completion, he decided to forgo the fine wiping and detailed drying. Water spots were inconsequential, right now. He needed to get out of the city fast.

Sean had made zero preparations for a lengthy trip, no clothes, no toiletries or reservations at motels. He had a few bills in his wallet and a wad of credit cards to his name. All of these would provide him with whatever he needed. He thought of it as credit card camping. Dream or no dream, his life was turned upside-down. He couldn’t deal with his job or sleep for fear of dreaming.

“If I go somewhere I don’t know, will I wake up somewhere I don’t want to be?” he contemplated. “Of course, that’s assuming this dream thing is real or just my crazy imagination.”

“If I throw too many variables into the mix my dream might drop me in some fucking desert or worse. Maybe I better think about this some more; I do have that shrink appointment coming up. It’s only next week according to my calendar. If I stick around, maybe this guy can stop these crazy dreams. Everyone in the dream is afraid of me. The only one who hates me is Hota Win, like I care. Geez! Now I’m acting like she really exists.”

Traffic was grid locked at this time of night, not a surprise. In all directions people wanted to go home or out of the city. He only wanted out, which might take hours. He was too impatient to wait side by side with the other human herbage taking up space. They were all sheep, living simple lives that meant nothing to him. Abruptly, he pulled the BMW off the side road and made a shot at going back into the valley.

He set a course to Little Wolf’s place. He remembered how adamant she was about the dream catcher; it was all mumbo-jumbo, of course. What could he lose by checking in with her? Her people lived in a world of half magic and half reality. At this point, he was willing to try anything.

Little Wolf is just another chick with big ideas and no money, he reflected. I’ve seen her kind in the industry for years, trying to get a foot in the door to promote an idea no one gives a damn about. But the dream thing, I’ll humor her and milk her for anything that could be useful. I know she’ll think I bought into the idea of the magic crap. As far as I’m concerned, being crazy is more acceptable than believing in bogus magic.

Sean found her place faster this time, the ’57 Chevy marking the street where she lived. He pulled into the drive avoiding the dead car parts with the memory of his last visit. Cats scattered as before but returned after the engine shut down. The small house was, as he remembered, the rusted screen and walls in need of paint. There was the smell of food coming from the house. It smelled delicious, even though, he had just eaten. Thinking about food was ridiculous when your real problem is losing days of your life.

The noise of his approach brought Little Wolf to the screen, a cat jumping through the bottom of the torn screen. She looked through the screen with measured interest.

“You look like crap,” she reported. “Some of the ‘Home Boys’ try to steal your Beemer or is your girlfriend a little on the rough side? Looks like you got the worst end of the deal.”

“No, no one roughed me up. I got thrown off a horse.”

“Hmmm, a horse? I never figured you for someone, who liked to ride,” she answered. “Got your own designer horse, do you; or do you ride at some exclusive stable, where all the horses are docile and bored. I can’t imagine anyone giving you such a spirited beast.”

“None of the above,” he answered, avoiding a detailed explanation. “It just happened and I’ll survive. I want to talk to you about something; it’s really more of a curiosity.”

“Of course! I would think a man like you has all the answers; I’m not sure a poor Indian, like me, could be of much help to you. I’m just an over-educated rez Indian trying to bring out the truth, you white people don’t get.”

“You don’t give an inch, do you?” he complained. “Hey, you want to get nasty, I’ll work things out on my own!”

She folder her arms, impatiently waiting for his spiel. He might be everything a woman should hate and more; he was also another human being in pain, a condition she knew well.

“I’m just trying to understand something about your people. Sort of a promotional idea I had. Maybe I can sell your idea after all,” he lied.

“And I suppose for this favor I’d have to sleep with you?” she countercharged. “You either have a high opinion of yourself or a very low one of me, probably both.”

“No, I wasn’t going to suggest anything like that,” he sputtered. “It’s about things on my mind, odd things.”

“I’ll bet they’re odd,” she returned. “Hard time finding a woman who will sleep with you?

“Hey, I got plenty of women willing to jump in the sack when I snap my fingers,” he refuted.

“I take that back,” she revised. “It’s not just me; you have a low opinion of all women.”

Sean couldn’t figure out how to break through that hard exterior. She was prepared to drive the wooden stake into his heart at the slightest provocation.

“I know what’s bothering you,” she added. “It’s the dreams; you can’t figure out what’s happening to you. That old man wasn’t any ordinary vagrant and the dream catcher wasn’t an ordinary dream catcher, either. He gave you a chance and you turned it down. Now you expect me to bail you out. If I were you, I’d go find that old man and listen to what he has to say. What I can offer is a little supper, if you want; that’s about it.”

Sean hoped for more substantial information. The old man might be the solution, though it seemed ridiculous to scrounge around the bad part of town looking for some derelict.

“Uh, supper would be nice,” mumbled Sean for lack of anything better to say. “ Just a little something. I ate a little while ago. I don’t want to put you out.”

“It’s no bother,” she replied stepping toward the hot plate. “Actually, I was expecting you. Surprised you waited this long. Hope you like venison. Uncle likes to hunt and left some in the freezer on the back porch.”

“On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t. I did just eat a big burger,” amended Sean. “Plenty of protein power in my burger.”

“Nonsense!” replied Little Wolf. “There is no power in that food. It was beef, right? Animals need to be wild to give you power, one of the reasons my people have become so weak. For years the government has given them beef cattle. They were used to eating wild meat; their power was gained from the wild things. So, in a sense, the government took away our land as well as their power.”

“Do you really believe that?” asked Sean

“Of course, I do. The problem is wasichu don’t understand the power of Ina Maka, Mother Earth. You build square houses; the power gets lost in the square corners. The wind blows hard on the squares and breaks things. Round lodges let the wind blow around them. It is the power of the circle, the same circle of tribe. White people build houses in square rows. My people used to build their villages in a circle, easier to defend and quick to communicate with each other. All things with power are round; this is a history we understand, nothing new to us.”

“I never heard of such a thing,” admitted Sean. “I thought meat was meat and houses were houses. As for power, money runs the world, honey; that’s the real power. ”

Little Wolf shook her head. There were the words she had always heard from those who do not follow the Red Road. Greed ruled the outside; truth fell to the ground with the lies of those who stood to gain money and the wrong kind of power. Teaching someone like Sean about the value of Lakota virtues would take a long time, longer than she had time for.

He could almost see the logic in what she was saying. Old memories came flooding back, to a time when his parents were active in political change. At the time, some people made a stupid attempt to change what could not be changed. Indians were defeated; no one wanted to change that fact, except a few bleeding hearts whites.

His new dream experiences gave Sean some insight to the ways of the Indian. He knew what it felt like to be hunted and be put in harms way for no other reason than being an Indian. He understood the frustration of what would come to pass and the futility in resisting. Yet, what choice did the Indians have?

“Yes, I understand a few of those things,” Sean explained. “I was raised around a couple crazy parents, who wanted to change the world. If they had had their way, I’d be living in a tipi today. Fortunately, I got out before that could happen.”

He stopped for a moment retracing his childhood. “They were good people, you know; I never got spanked or balled out. They were hippies, free beings, you might say. My dad never owned a suit; still doesn’t. Both of them are dreamers of a better world that will never come. Anyhow, that was a long time ago.”

Little Wolf watched his face as he spoke about his parents; his tone changed from the pessimistic to a calm caring timbre. She could see that he loved something besides money. It softened her heart to him; it gave her hope.

“What is a heyoka?” he added.

“An interesting word coming from a guy like you. From your dream?” she asked.

He nodded without comment.

“It means sacred clown or special being with magic,” she explained. “It can be a lot of things, really. Heyoka can have evil intentions, doing bad things; but heyoka can also be a good being, crazy to the average person. My people have respect for such beings and believe that person touched by God. It is never good to kill one unless they need killing. Killing one of our own is not allowed; banishment is usually the worst punishment.”

“When does one need to be killed?” pressed Sean.

“Usually, if they make too much trouble for the people. It is said that a heyoka may need to be killed but the circumstance have to be correct, otherwise bad luck will befall the person or even the tribe. You heard this word in your dream?”

Sean shuffled feet, embarrassed to even mention his dream. “Yeah, I think I dreamt it. It’s just a word I heard, nothing else.”

“Nothing else? Nothing, like being thrown from a horse?” Little Wolf probed with a smile. “I wouldn’t categorize that as nothing.”

“It’s only a dream, Little Wolf. None of this can really happen to me in a dream.”

“I see the pejula wacasa, medicine man was right,” she added somewhat pleased with herself. “I told you; you should have paid attention.”

“It’s just a dream,” he repeated. “Stupid little kids have them all the time. I’m sure mine will go away, eventually. I’m just overworked. It happens to some of us, nothing unusual.”

“I suppose you got all those scratches and bruises, while you were awake?” she probed.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Little Wolf, a stupid accident, that’s all. Maybe I’ll be better if I eat something with power in it. If it’s okay with you, I’ll take you up on that offer of supper. Nothing else seems to be going right lately.”

Sean sat in an old over-stuffed chair that looked like it had been retrieved from a dumpster. A blanket was placed on top to hide the exposed spring that sought freedom from the cushion. Sean looked at Little Wolf, a memory stirring at the sight of her. There was something familiar about her; he felt it when they first met, though they had never met before. It was also a memory of a recent encounter, a déja vu experience that left one wondering what the connection was. His dreams and reality were so mixed up he didn’t know what to believe anymore. He couldn’t shake the feeling as he finished the small snack of deer meat and squash.

“If you’re looking for the dream catcher,” she announced. “I dropped it on the seat of your car. It may have slipped on the floor or wedged in the seat. That might help those dreams of yours; the old man thought it would. That’s why he gave it to you.”

“Come on, Little Wolf,” he complained. “The guy didn’t know me from Adam. How could he possibly know anything about me? That kind of stuff went out with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Shaking some rattle at me is not the answer here. There is a logical reason for my dreams; I’ll find it.”

“I still think you should try to get a hold of the old man,” she repeated. “He’ll be able help; I’m sure of it. And when he does, you can return the favor by helping me out; or was all that a crock?”

“No, I’ll see that you find the right people but it won’t be an easy sell. The ‘Indian thing’ has been done to death. My edge, I got people who owe me. As far as money, you’ll have to raise most of that on your own. I doubt there is anyone willing to shell out that kind of cash. Anyone with money will demand a big return. What kind of money do you have, anyway?”

“Not too much, at the moment. Uncle said he could give me some for the project. He uses the word ‘liquidate’ when he speaks of it. Says he feels guilty about going down the road of the wasichu. He says he’ll give me more if things turn out well in some investments. That’s all I know.”

“Honestly, Little Wolf. Do you think he can come up with the kind of money needed for a film? By the look of this place, honey, your uncle should keep his money. He’ll need it when they condemn this place. What’s he got, a few hundred, maybe?”

“No, a little more than that. He said he could only swing two and a quarter million but insisted on a percentage of the film. He still has a lot of those white ways about him. It’s okay, though.”

“That much?” Sean raised his eyebrows. “I’m impressed; I never would have guessed. How could he possibly raise that much money?”

“I told you,” she reminded. “He bought this place for a start and then a few others later on. My uncle bought buildings nobody wanted and then sold them for more money; took him a long time.  Not every rich guy out there is a college boy, you know. He told me he was a corporation now, legal and all, something to do with being a tax shelter. Says if he can unload a couple more properties, he can almost double the amount.”

“Wow! I had no idea,” returned Sean.

He was becoming anxious. “You know, I should get out of here; I’ll see if I can find your medicine man. We’ll see if he can tell me anything that will help.”

As an after thought he turned and added, “Thanks for the food. I owe ya one.”

The twang of the screen door spring caught his attention for a second, his feet almost tripped on an orange cat. The feline was chewing on something that looked like a rat. Sean didn’t want to find out, moving quickly to his car.

Two million, my ass, he thought. I think Uncle Lotta Bucks is feeding her a line of bullshit. That’ll be her tough luck when it comes time to finance the film. I’m sure no one in this town has ever heard of this Indian guy. For now, I got to see if I can find that dream catcher before someone takes it home for their kids. I hope those low-life workers at the car wash didn’t throw it away. They might think its trash.”

Sean couldn’t find it on the car seat or the floor, not surprising given the thoroughness of the carwash. A quick call to the carwash was necessary to save him time and trouble.

“Star Wash, Car Wash,” answered the clerk at the store register. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, buddy,” responded Sean. “I had my Beemer done there this afternoon and wanted to know if anyone found something in it.”

“Was it money or jewelry?” asked the clerk. “We had nothing reported today.”

“No, it was this little good luck charm, no big deal but it has sentimental value.”

“You might want to check your glove compartment, sir. Anything we find is put in a plastic bag and placed in the glove box. Everything else they bring to the office. We do state on our invoice that we are not responsible for lost items, however.” He added, “You do understand.”

“Thanks, a lot. I’ll check the glove box. But have your boys call me if they find anything unusual, like a charm. I’ll be happy to give a hundred bucks to whoever finds it. You have cell and my number at home, Sean Casey.”

“Okay, Mr. Casey. I’ll put the word out to the guys.”

Sean’s hands shook when he opened the glove box. If the dream catcher wasn’t there, he would have to look up that Indian and get another one. With his luck the guy would be dead or drunk in some alleyway. Suddenly, he felt very uncomfortable thinking of the old guy.

Poor bastard is just trying to get along in a place where there isn’t much hope, he thought. A few hundred years ago he would have been someone important. Now he’s just some guy, begging for change. Sad.

Sean saw the plastic bag in the glove box and held his breath as he removed it. It was stuffed with all sorts of paper clips, pens, some coins, papers and things long forgotten in his car. He had to admit the car wash was thorough. He dumped the contents onto the seat next to him and looked for the small dream catcher. After removing the large pieces of paper and other debris, the lone insignificant dream catcher emerged.

He looked at it, holding it between his thumb and forefinger. It didn’t look like anything special; he had seen better ones in novelty stores and craft fairs. The round circle was really more oblong than round. It was made of some sort of reed or twig bent and tied together at the ends. The webbing was delicate, probably made of a natural gut material, the strands showing signs of deterioration. It was the sort of thing someone might discard as junk; still not convinced this tiny item had any power. He’d try it and see; there was nothing to lose except his dreams.

“Little Wolf! Hi, this is Sean,” he said speaking on his cell phone. “Just wanted to ask you a question.”

“Go ahead,” she answered.

“Not that I believe in any of this hocus-pocus,” Sean began. “But if I were to put this dream catcher somewhere, where should I place it?”

“Where you sleep, of course,” she answered. “It works better if you hang it over you. Catches the bad dreams before they go into your head. Did you find the dream catcher?”

“Nah! Was just wondering about how a person might use it, if they bought into this dream crap,” he lied, again.

Trying To Catch the Wind

Sean’s phone machine was still blinking away upon his arrival. He decided to delete all the calls; anyone important will call him again on his cell phone. It was beginning to get dark; Sean felt sleepy his body urging to retire. Normally, it this would be a pleasant feeling, a time to let the stress of the day melt away in sleep. Tonight a tinge of fear gripped him; the thought of waking up as an Indian was an unhappy prospect.

Fastening a string with a tack he placed the dream catcher over his bed; he felt ridiculous putting this piece of junk over his bed. Either it would work or be donated to the trash bin tomorrow. His competition would have a field day if they knew Sean had a weakness for nonsense like this.

He parked the Beemer in his garage to make sure it was not left to the elements in the event he disappeared again. He didn’t plan on being gone but it was best to take no chances, if the dream catcher didn’t work. He also called the newspaper delivery, canceling subscription for an undetermined amount of time, opting to read the online version until this silliness went away. It wasn’t until he checked the calendar that he realized he had an appointment the next day. If all went well, he’d be seeing this Hiram Smith guy tomorrow to sort out this weird, mental condition.

To sleep, perchance to dream; to dream, perchance to die, Shakespeare would have loved this, he thought. If I die in my dream, do I die here too? Whole damn US Army is out there trying wipe me out or should I say us, to be exact. I wonder what year my dream is in? The Indians are Lakota Sioux; I’m pretty sure of that; I have heard a few speak his Long Hair name. Must mean that the SOB is still around. I think they were the ones who kicked Custer’s butt, no surprise in that.

A pretty bad time, a lot of Indians got killed after that battle, a bunch of massacres by the army; my droning parents told me that much. I don’t suppose I could end up in the middle of a battle, fighting for my life. Fighting is not something I do; hell, I don’t even own a fly swatter. I could give myself up but there were stories about soldiers not taking prisoners, killing every last Indian. On the other hand, maybe I’m a good fighter; I know I am a good rider. What am I saying? It’s a dream; I don’t have to fight anyone.

His thoughts gave way to sleep; his lapse into sleep followed by disjointed bits and parts of dreams, nothing, making any sense. It reminded Sean of alphabet soup, where the letters were mixed in no particular order. The dreams had no pattern and couldn’t hold onto him; he was simply an observer of nonsense, a better condition than being a participant.

At one point in the darkness he awoke, staring at the dream catcher slowly turning in the warm breeze. He looked towards the large window and was comforted by the twinkling of many valley lights below. The lights, a reassuring sign, their dull yellowish-orange glow, reminding him of the pollution of this place called home. He was still there. Good or bad, this was a place familiar to him. He slept again, dreamless this time.

A loud argument stirred him to consciousness, the words, distant and not very clear. It was impossible to tell what language was being spoken. He was afraid to open his eyes; ignorance was bliss. If he ignored the voices, maybe he would not have to find out the uncomfortable truth. Perhaps if he slept longer things might change to something normal.

What if the voices are them, Indians, he shuddered? What will I do if I see Hota Win ready to nag at me for something I know nothing about? How much time will I have to spend before I come back? More important, what will happen if I don’t get up and pee soon?

Biological needs superceded the fear of Hota Win or dreams. Rolling out of bed, he discovered it was a real bed off the ground with the Peach Butter ceiling overhead. Since he slept nude, it was easy to establish all the proper equipment in the correct places on his body, no unfamiliar parts. He gleefully ran to the bathroom admiring his designer towels, sink, toilet and shower. They were all where they were supposed to be, unchanged by his imagination.

When he grasped himself, the member of expulsion was indeed his. Today was going to be a much different day than yesterday; there weren’t any soldiers, no Indians, no buffalo and no wives nagging or otherwise. Though his wife, Hopa Winyan Wakan proved to be a rather delightful diversion, the other wife dampened that pleasure.

He scolded himself for considering either of these women as real people. They were just his imagination, a dream; how stupid he was.

Sean shaved, dressed, had a light breakfast and headed for his doctor’s appointment. As he drove he wondered if the plains were as beautiful as he had remembered in the dream. He’d never been in that part of the country before. What he saw now was smog, choking the life out of the people below; this wasn’t any way to live. It was a place to make money, so you didn’t have to live there anymore. It was a place where dreams began and ended in the graveyard of used up hopes.

Da Shrink

Hiram Smith had a huge practice consisting of well-known stars and notable celebrities; specific names were not advertised for obvious reasons. The tabloids would have a field day speculating on all their disorders. Bill was probably right about this guy being the best, even if he was pricey. Money isn’t an issued with the well to do, which was who Sean represented. He pulled into the parking lot in front of Smith’s office, a few expensive cars parked in some of the spaces. A white Mercedes was identified by the custom plates mounted front and rear; no one of any notoriety had regular plates.

The office was a split-level affair with the reception area at the bottom entrance. Nothing was printed on the door leading into the office; there was no need. Smith was the only practicing psychiatrist in this building and used every square foot. Sean deduced the reason for the multitude of rooms shortly after. Important people did not feel comfortable being viewed by anyone who might pass through the lobby; separate entrances and exist allowed a certain degree of anonymity. Each suite had a full range bar with an espresso machine; like everything else the coffee was imported from remote areas and sold exclusively to select customers like Smith. An interior decorator had maximized the space with colors and paintings to suit the environment. It looked like a page out of a home magazine.

The woman behind the desk was strikingly beautiful, probably a deposed actress. In Hollywood, there were plenty of beautiful women, Mecca of beauty, a chance to be discovered. The nameplate on the desk read, Sharon.

She smiled warmly at Sean, giving him a quick assessment as she spoke. He was taken by the lovely voice emerging from an equally phenomenal face.

“You must be Mr. Casey,” proclaimed Sharon pulling a file folder. The folder was surprisingly full, considering he hadn’t been there before. She looked at him with a knowing smile.

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “ But I think you have the wrong file. I’ve never been here before. That one looks like my life’s history.”

“It is,” she confirmed, with unnerving casualness. “Dr. Smith insists on a complete file before tackling a new patient. Between your social security number and a few inquiries we’re able to get a complete profile; it’s really very simple. The bed-wetting problem at the age of three was not really clear; you claim it is not your immediate problem today. But you can discuss that with doctor. By the way, your parents sound charming; hippies, how quaint.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Sean. “You do this for everyone?”

“Standard procedure, Mr. Casey. It’s all very confidential, of course. It will be reflected on your bill.”

Sharon looked at the file again and added, “From the look of this I’d say Dr. Smith has his work cut out for him; that’s just my opinion. You can take a seat over there or go down the hall, to suite number five, if you prefer privacy. You’re welcome to help yourself to coffee, sweet rolls or any of the refreshments on the counter. If you would like, I can order out for food; we retain a private chef from a nearby restaurant for all of our clients. He really is quite good.”

“No thanks,” he replied, astonished by the perks. “I ate before I came. I very impressed.”

“Yes, I know,” she acknowledged.

“Will I have to wait long? I need to get into my office and tie a few things up,” he added.

Sharon looked at her digital clock, calculating the wait. Her poise and grace in doing such a simple thing was a delight to observe.

“It should only be ten minutes, Mr. Casey. Oh, and sorry about your girlfriend, Brandi; it’s probably for the best. She really wasn’t well suited to you; you should consider a more intelligent woman to challenge you, perhaps that Indian girl. From what I can see, you don’t put forth much in the way of expectations; raise the bar a bit. Even the smart ones will sleep with you, if you play your cards right. But I’m sure Dr. Smith will discuss that with you.”

Gads, he thought. They do know everything. Not sure I’m comfortable with that; there are a few things I’d like to keep secret.”

Sean heard the sound of footsteps from the hall on the upper level stairs. A bald man with a substantial paunch strolled through the reception area, chewing on a cigar.

“Leni?” uttered Sean. “I thought that was your car outside. You never told me you saw a shrink.”

“Sean, baby. Good to see you old pal. There are a lot of things I don’t tell you; it’s not like you’re not my mother and that’s a good thing too. I hate my mother. Found that out fifteen sessions ago. I think I hate my father too, but we haven’t gotten to that part, yet. Come to think of it, I’m not too crazy about my sister, Anna, either. By the way, glad to see you are checking out Smithy. He’s pretty good, you know. He’ll fix those dream things, you’re so up-tight about.”

“You know about my dreams?”

“Seanie, baby this is Hollywood; we know everything about everyone,” returned Leni rolling his cigar between his fingers. “And you really should eat more than a piece of toast and cream cheese in the morning; eggs would be better. Hey, I’m really sorry about Brandi, or should I say Sherri. Tom needed a bimbo and she was convenient; it was Kismet with her and Tom. She’s perfect for him, just the right balance of sexiness and stupidity. Sometimes I think I shoulda been a matchmaker. Hey, if you want, I can give you a number of this bimbo with a great ass, terrific rack and nice face too. She works as a secretary, but wants to get in the movie business, right up your alley, pal.”

He chewed on the end of the cigar adding, “Haven’t we heard that story before! The girl thinks she’s gonna get fired pretty soon, getting pretty desperate. I thought about giving her a test run, if you know what I mean, but I got another little starlet filling my spare time.”

Sharon looked up from her desk shaking her head. She tapped her head with one finger reminding Sean of her suggestion to pursue smarter women.

Leni grabbed a sweet roll and topped off his personally inscribed coffee cup. All the cups had a small Hiram Smith ad etched into it. Leni didn’t need a sweet roll; his portly demeanor suggesting a more sensible diet. His idea of exercise was walking to his car and screwing wannabe starlets during lunch. Even then, Sean was pretty sure the starlets did most of the work.

“It doesn’t matter about Brandi.. err Sherri or the bimbo,” Sean continued. “Brandi was on her way out, anyhow. I don’t think I want another woman around for a while, too much hassle. I don’t need some woman trying to manipulate me at the moment; I’m tired of the games.”

“Suit yourself, pal,” barked the producer, dropping crumbs on the floor. “But sooner or later I’m going to tap this secretary babe. Just giving you first shot at her. Hey, speaking of women, I better get going. I have a lunch date with my wife. She’s a royal bitch, when I’m late.”

Leni waddled out the door leaving Sean speechless. He had always believed that his life was fairly private until now.

“Sean,” announced Sharon, switching to first name basis. “Doctor Hiram will see you now.”

Hiram Smith’s office was decorated more like someone’s living room. A fake fireplace flickered away, a fish tank on one side displayed tiny fluorescent fish, darting about. Hiram wore flowered Hawaiian shorts and a pullover polo shirt. The shirt had a small emblem displaying the designer’s logo. Hiram’s feet were clad with a nice pair of Mexican sandals, no socks. Dressed like a guy who parks cars at a cheap Miami hotel, Sean didn’t like this casual manner; it didn’t impress him.

Looking around Sean noticed other small details, telling him something about his analyst. That was part of Sean’s talent, observation. Details could be overlooked in business and cost you a client. Sean noticed each table and flat surface had some sort of toy or device that could be manipulated, while spilling your guts about parental abuse, not being loved or whatever one talked about in these sessions. Everything in the office was top notch, high tech, expensive, nothing tacky.

Hiram looked up, twisted to one side and passed gas, an odious greeting for a professional man.

“Whoops! Sorry,” he apologized. “Damn brussel sprouts give me the winds; popcorn does the same thing to me. I sure wish the wife would stop telling the cook to buy the sprouts. I like them but they don’t sit well in my gut. Do they bother you?”

Sean shook his head regarding this unorthodox approach, fanning the air around him that Hiram so rudely tainted. So far, Sean was not impressed with anything except the receptionist and the well-furnished office, which demonstrated class and money. Hiram checked the clock and turned a very elaborate hourglass over to start the sands flowing toward the empty end.

“I love this little thing,” he confided. “They make them special for us, head-doctors, you know. Can’t buy these in the regular stores.”

“No, I didn’t know that,” Sean replied puzzled by this line of discussion. “I thought anyone could buy an hourglass; I see them all the time.”

“Oh, no not this kind,” explained Hiram. “These are timed for fifty-minute sessions. It’s like watching your money slip through, joking, of course!” Hiram laughed. “The sand runs out, and your time is up; pay on your way out the door. But I find it helps with people who need something physical, to focus on; too many people lose track of time when they lose their ability to reason. The digital world is too impersonal, you know, mechanical and aloof. It’s just a bunch of numbers without human value.”

Hiram picked up a windup toy playing briefly with it.

“Idle minds give people too much time to think,” he continued. “Thinking is dangerous; it allows the mind create all sorts of weird things we don’t want. And with that, comes the need for people, like me; I stop them from thinking and get them involved with a little reality, not too much reality, mind you. I don’t want them to get too healthy and lose them as patients.”

Hiram laughed at his joke and added, “Kidding about that last thing, of course. I take my business seriously.”

“I guess you’re right,” muttered Sean. “I never thought much about it. I’ve never had much time to think. At least I don’t think, I think too much.”

“Thinking is my job, Sean. From the little information I’ve gathered, you think you’re an Indian, right? I assume you’re not talking about a ball player Indian but an American Indian type. Are you any particular kind of Indian, tribe, I mean?”

“Uh, no I really don’t think I’m an Indian,” returned Sean. “When I’m awake, I am myself. When I sleep, I have dreams about being an Indian, a warrior/hunter with the Lakota Sioux.”

“Hmm! Specific tribe, interesting, denial as well,” murmured Hiram. “Go on, please, very interesting.”

Hiram scribbled down notes adding, “Are you an Indian during the day?”

“Only when I sleep. Actually, there are lots tribes; I just happen to be a Lakota. I don’t know all the details about that yet; it’s still pretty weird,” reported Sean. “It only happens when I sleep and dream. I keep waking up as an Indian in dreams or back here in our century, the real me. Last night was the first night I slept and didn’t dream. Some Indian chick I know said it was because of a dream catcher. I don’t buy that, though; I can’t believe some scrap of a twig with webbing has any power. It’s weird because as an adult, I never dreamt. Haven’t had dreams since I was five and now I can’t stop.”

“You’re right,” announced Hiram. “The dream catcher thing is all a myth, a cute thing to buy at a bazaar but nothing else. Nobody really takes these things seriously anymore; they’re just decoration. Now, is this Indian woman you know in your dreams too?”

“No, she isn’t, at least I don’t think so. I do have two wives in my dream, a young one and an older one with a bunch of us in one tipi, an ancient woman, my mother-in-law and some young boys, who aren’t there at the moment. The old woman is pretty quiet, which is fine with me; Hota Win makes up for that by nagging all the time.”

“Hmm! Mother-in-law or mother?” mumbled Hiram. “You’ve never been married, right; no immediate relatives near you? Perhaps that accounts for the quiet old woman, the support, stability thing we need as children. Then again, it may have nothing to do with your problem at all. You read much about Indians? You could be transferring information like that into a dream; it’s been known to happen.”

“Read, no; I haven’t read a thing about Indians since I was in high school. Marriage is not in my plan, either,” responded Sean. “I try not to tie myself down to any one woman. They come and go pretty regularly, no time for ridiculous emotional connections or clinginess”

“Hmm! Interesting,” resonded Hiram.

 “Any sexual dysfunction?” inquired Hiram with a slight smirk. “Can’t get the flagpole up, unable to rise to the occasion, bed-wetting?”

“No, and the flagpole works fine,” declared Sean. “Bed-wetting? Are you serious? I don’t think you’re grasping the problem, doctor.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” instructed Hiram. “I’m seeing a bigger picture than you may realize. It appears you have a problem with commitment; you’re afraid. Therefore, your mind places you in a dream where you have responsibilities as a husband. In your mind, commitment equals fear of responsibility. You ever think about getting married?”

“Like I said, I’m too busy with work; I’m not the average nine to five person that needs dinner at seven and some stupid TV program after. I have to stay on top, keep my edge by working when I need to. Being a husband who has to pick up milk and bread on the way home is not my idea of a fun time. Women take too much time from my schedule. Besides, I haven’t met any who begins to tempt me.”

Hiram scribbled furiously in his note pad, making inaudible comments as he wrote. Obviously, he had found something viable in his examination to diagnose his dreams. Sean was glad to see the session was taking some direction. The hourglass had been slipping away without much progress up to this point, Sean impatient with the slow manner of Hiram; it was as if he really didn’t have a clue most of the time.

“Ever think you might be gay? It is a possibility,” probed Hiram. “Do women bore you? Do you ever get a little worked up over a good-looking guy? I say that because we often manifest latent homosexual tendencies with shallow, meaningless relationships, trying to fool ourselves into being heterosexual; denial is the true enemy here; your track record with rotating girlfriends indicates this as a distinct possibility. Maybe you really don’t like women and haven’t recognized your self-destructive pattern.”

“No, no,” insisted Sean. “I’m not gay. And what does this have to do with my dreams? Sure, I’ve had sex in my dreams, only with a woman and really, only one woman, almost two the other morning, the older wife; she’s disgusting. But I have no fantasies about men, absolutely none. Can’t we just move along into my dreams?”

“Once with the older one, huh? Interesting. Stay with me on this, Sean. We have to eliminate a few things and narrow down our search before we can draw any conclusions and a direction for your therapy. In your dreams, it seems like you are in direct contact with all sorts of potential disorders. I can’t leave anything to chance by making some snap decision, though I doubt your problem is so difficult given your responses.”

“Listen, Hiram. There are three women and two boys living in my lodge. My older wife was the wife of my dead brother, a legacy I suppose. I don’t have sex with her, though she offered because my young wife is freaked out about something. The second wife situation involved some ridiculous thing about not being pleased by my younger wife, which is entirely crazy. And my young wife’s mother definitely does not float my boat.”

“Hmm, sex with an Indian woman, brother’s wife, mother figure, young boys? Sure you’re not gay? Do you wake up after with nocturnal emission? Do you ever think of your mother during these sexual bouts? Sex could be your problem, especially since Brandi or Sherri is screwing that guy, Tom, what’s his name, Pillings? Frankly, I think you’re better off; Sharon and I both agree Brandi was a waste of time.”

“No, I’m not gay; and no, its just sex in the dream. I do not think of my mother during sex and I don’t give a damn about Brandi; she could fall off the edge of the earth for all I care. More important, I want to end up at home every time I wake up and not dream about being an Indian.”

“Home here or home in your tipi? You did say you lived in a tipi,” urged Hiram.

“Home here, of course,” Sean persisted. “That other place is not my home, even though everyone seems to know me in that dream. There’s another thing that I can’t understand. When I do wake up at home, here that is, things have happened to me.”

“Things? What sort of things, Sean?”

“Injuries, smells, things like that from my dream,” answered Sean. “All those things follow me back, somehow. The scratches on my face and the bruising on my side are from being thrown off a horse. That can’t be real, can it?”

“Do you like riding horses? Do you ride much? Have problems sleepwalking?”

“No, I don’t ride at all, never have,” Sean began to whine. “I don’t sleepwalk because I always wake up in the exact position I fell asleep in.”

“Well, how do you explain being thrown off a horse, then,” pressed Hiram. “Dreams are not a part of the physical world; you can’t possibly ride a horse in a dream and get saddle sores in your sleep. How is that possible? It’s not logical.”

“I was hoping you could tell me,” responded Sean. “It’s the whole purpose of me being here. Am I crazy or what?”

“Sean we try never to use the word, crazy, here,” lectured Hiram. “We prefer unbalanced, disturbed, a half-bubble off center, never crazy. I don’t doubt for a second your difficulty is sexually related. I think you need to be watched, monitored, regularly by professionals. Obviously, you have some issues of self-destruction causing you to unconsciously hurt yourself. It’s the reason for your scratches and such. I would like to have you stay at a clinic for a few weeks, strictly for observation, of course.”

“Observation?” objected Sean. “So I get locked up in a padded cell?”

“It’s a little like the Betty Ford clinic, except it’s for the mentally disturbed,” assured Hiram. “I don’t think I can do much about your root problem until we get this self-abuse thing under control. I’m on staff at the clinic and will be glad to set up your appointments there. If not that, I would suggest weekly appointments in this office, perhaps three days a week to start. That should bring all this dream illusion to some conclusion in a year or two if we’re lucky. Then we could reduce your appointments to once every couple of months unless the problem exacerbates.”

“Sounds like a long, expensive process to me, Hiram,” muttered Sean “Are you sure we need to do all of this, a little much for just a dream?”

“Please call me doctor or Doctor Smith,” requested Hiram. “I don’t believe in familiarity with patients. It interferes with my objectivity.”

Hiram leaned to one side and produced another loud gaseous exchange. He grinned like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar.

“Damn! I’m going to have to take something for this,” he snickered. Then looking at his hourglass added, “Whoops! I see that Father Time has crept up on us. I will recommend a little medication, three times a day. I can write the prescription now or you can pick it up later, if you like. Sharon will call you.”

He winced, waving his hand from side to side. “Phew! That one stinks. Better to let it out, I suppose.”

Formal or informal, Sean found Hiram’s flatulent display out of place in this office.

“Doctor, I have one question.”

“Shoot.”

“Is your name really Smith?”

“Funny you should ask that,” Hiram laughed. “My real name wouldn’t fit on my stationary or business card; so I changed it. But I’m not at liberty to divulge my former name, the familiarity/objectivity thing. As to the clinic, I would get your reservation in soon; the nut house fills up this time of year. Oh, sorry, about that; I really shouldn’t say that. It’s just a little psychiatry humor. In this ‘crazy’ business you have to laugh a little or you’ll make yourself wacko.”

Sean did not have a good feeling about Hiram Smith, regardless of his reputation with Hollywood notables. The man didn’t appear to understand or grasp his problem, preferring to go down some psychological rabbit hole than deal with the problem. Crazy or not, things that happened were too real to be a figment of Sean’s imagination; the physical sensations were too acute and real. Checking into a clinic might be the answer; on the other hand, it would be a strange place where he would have to sleep sometime. He wasn’t sure he wanted to chance being trapped in a dream again, especially returning to a strange place upon awakening.

Smith’s diagnosis was too textbook for Sean’s liking, sexually related, indeed. Smith was too eager to paint him as a latent gay with all sorts of sexual fixations about mothers, relative’s wives and young boys. That kind of twisted logic wasted time and negated any chance of resolution. Hiram, a Freudian, was manipulating Sean down a dead end alley where nothing would be found.

He decided to go to his office and check for mail and make sure they deposited his check. Losing a few weeks of his real life must have created a piled of junk on his desk not to mention potential clients missing his return phone calls. He passed Nate, sheepishly averting his eyes smiling; several others doing likewise. On his arrival, Sean’s office was piled with boxes of files and paperwork, none of it belonging to him. Several office machines occupied the wall space, formerly neat and empty. His mail had been put in a large shopping bag behind the door with the note ‘hold’ attached to it.

“Nate, what the hell is going on with this mess in my office?” complained Sean. “These boxes? This isn’t my stuff. My office looks like the copy room on a bad day. Who put all this stuff in here?”

“Uh, well, it sort of is the copy room, now,” returned Nate, not wishing to expand on the subject. “You’ve been gone so long; well, like, they took over your office for the extra space. Jennifer said you could use one of the desks on the main floor, since you are hardly ever in. She claimed you didn’t need a private office.”

Jennifer was the office manager, who had the misfortune of being wooed once by Sean when he first began working at the agency. Treating women like sex objects did not set well with her; Jennifer dumped early on, after Sean coerced her into giving him a private office. His motivation to date her was a matter of a gap between his usual starlets, strictly a lark. From then on, his relationship with her took on an adversarial position, she trying to undermine him whenever possible.

She would have pushed to have him fired, if he hadn’t been the top promoter in the agency. Luckily for Sean, she did not possess the authority to terminate him; only the Big Guy could do that. Even so, Sean tried not to aggravate her, knowing it could jeopardize his standing in the agency. She, on the other hand, lived for every opportunity to dig in the spikes when an opportunity arose.

A quick visit to the Big Guy’s office will remedy this situation, he muttered to himself. Using a desk on the main floor is not acceptable; the flunky office boys will be sitting right next to me. That’s a put down after all I’ve done for this agency and the Big Guy will put it straight.

“Sean, good to see you, my boy. I was wondering where you’ve been,” said the tall, lanky man behind the desk. The surface of his desk was filled with photos, ads and drawings; nothing left the agency without his stamp of approval. The Big Guy liked Sean; the ruthlessness and impartiality worked for him when it came to getting the job done.

“Don’t worry about that thing with Jennifer,” he explained. “She’s been up at arms about getting space for months. We’ll find you another office before you know it; it’s only temporary, Sean. You’ll see! By the way, the Tom Pillings promo is going along well; there’s nothing to worry about on that front. From what is projected, they expect box office receipts to go over ten million the first day; and that’s a conservative estimate.”

Sean nodded, absently trying to be congenial; it wouldn’t do to alienate the boss. Frankly, he didn’t give a damn about Tom Pillings and the stupid movie. Pillings would get his fat paycheck, blowing it on crappy cars and cheap hookers. Sooner or later his true character will emerge again plummeting him to the bottom of the Hollywood charts. Discretion kept most from being considered perverts on Hollywood scene. Most people liked the strong sexy type but there was a moral line, which could not be crossed. Pillings will undoubtedly cross it more times than necessary, branding him the degenerate he really was.

“So, you going to tell me what you’re up to now?” asked the Big Guy. “Would love to get the scoop on your next big project. With all your secrecy and hush-hush, it must be a big one. I understand, though. Mums the word, right? Got to keep our competition guessing.”

 “Well, no, not exactly. I’m looking at some Indian thing I’ve heard about. I’ll get back to you on it. I need to take a little time to think but I’ll have something for you soon, I promise.”

“You’ve never let the agency down yet; I expect nothing less from you. But a little suggestion, if you don’t mind. Answer your phone messages once in awhile. I had Nate go over and look for you last week. He said you weren’t around, the Beemer parked in front. You don’t want to sit on your ass too long, my friend. You know how the business is.”

Sean grinned without enthusiasm, leaving with his shopping bag full of mail. The Pillings’ deal will not hold him over for too long. He will have to come up with something or lose his edge. There were no friends in the business; you were either a shark or bait, friendships a luxury, too costly and compromising.

If I don’t dig up some business, Big Guy will dump me in a heartbeat, he thought. He kisses my butt now, only because of my past millions in profits. But the bottom-line is his only friend. I’ve got to get out of this dream thing or I’m screwed.

Sean hit the Olympic Club on his way back to his house. A quick workout might clear his head; give him focus. Work, women and dreams needed to be sorted out and placed in the proper order, hopefully eliminating the dreams altogether.

The club was almost empty, the weather having turned brutally hot. The emptiness suited Sean, fine.

Typical, he thought. Southern California, where the weather gets hot and hotter, the movie stars, hottest of all. If people knew who most of the stars were, they wouldn’t be worshiped like minor gods. Misfits, malcontents, egotists, line the walls of the actors’ guild; their lives as unreal as the movies they made.

Cynicism only fueled his business sense; Sean’s ego overcame what would seem impossible to others. But was this cynical approach healthy? He had tried dating a few known stars in the early years of his career, hoping for business exposure. They thought he was cute, clever and a guy with style. However, there was no edge to use on them. Unlike the women he now dated, the successful stars were not so eager to comply with his wishes or share his bed. Also, their status had to be considered when they associated with men, most believing they were better than Sean. A nice face and body was their claim to fame, Sean just loose baggage. The ones with a real personality were strung out on drugs and alcohol because there had to be a next picture, another chance for glory. All of them expected to be treated like goddesses. And if he was honest, when they took off their clothes, they were no better than the airheads he settled for and far less trouble.

Sean could barely workout, tired beyond reason. This dream situation was dragging him down, like a rock tied to his ankle. Still, he worked out hard and quick, not resting between the sets, near collapse, before stopping.

He rested back on the padded bench, one arm over his eyes to shield the light from the fluorescent fixtures overhead, LED replacements not upgraded. A gentle breeze from a fan cooled him, his workout hot and sticky. The scratches on his face itched, as the sweat dried on his skin, Sean too tired to scratch it. Resting quietly seemed to be a good idea or was it?

Trial

Sean’s skin was now dry; the breeze from the fan still played over his exposed skin, though something was different. The coolness of the club had been replaced with a much warmer draft, hot in fact.

Damn air conditioner must be on the blink, he thought. I pay good money to this place; you’d think they could keep the environment comfortable. I’ll have to make a few calls to complain.

He opened his eyes to shade and filtered light instead of the overhead florescent lights of the locker room. Something was covering his face, though it was impossible to tell what it was. He tried to lift his arm, to no avail, both arms restrained as well as his legs. The warmth of the sun baked his body, a situation that did not feel like the gym.

“What the h…,” he began to speak.

Heecha Sapa, you are awake,” responded a familiar voice. “We grew worried the fall may have angered the kaga, devil in your head. The council angered you; I could see that and you did not respond well. Though the elders do not think you to be a problem; others thought you might punish us because you are bad heyoka.”

Stunned Sean had to realign his head to the situation. Obviously, he was not in the club locker room or so it would seem.

“Is that you Hehaka Najin?” said Sean his voice hoarse and dry. “Tell me you’re not in the club. This has to be a dream; you’re only supposed to be in my dreams, not anywhere else. Am I right about that?”

“Dreams?” returned Hehaka Najin. “I do not understand. Ah, I see; the strange words are still with you le mita cola, my friend. The council talked for a long time and decided if you were heyoka, you could be a good one, bringing good fortune to our band. Saving my life was a good act; none would argue that. We do not kill our own, though they were thinking of a quick death for you. But your skills as a warrior and hunter are needed by the people; you are to live. Waste yelo, it is good. No harm has been done, so they will not kill you for now.”

Sean, dazed and confused, realized he was dreaming again. There wasn’t much he could do except play along until he woke up in the right place, right century. Though disconcerting, Sean was amused by his dream.

“Glad to hear I’m not going to be snuffed. So get me out of here,” demanded Sean. “I’m willing to play ball with this dream thing until it’s over, pal. I wish I knew when it was happening. I’m back here, again. I must have dropped off after my workout. Damn!”

Hehaka Najin appeared very disturbed, when Sean spoke the strange words that made no sense to him.

Hehaka Najin, how long have I been staked to the ground?”

“It has been three nights and two days,” answered Hehaka Nagin. “Some thought they should kill you the first night; it would have been wise to do so before your wits returned. I pleaded with them to speak further on the subject; I did not want them to kill my friend. You are like ciye, brother. I convinced them; killing you might bring bad luck. It was decided that you could do no harm staked down. I tied you myself to be sure the bindings were not too tight.”

Sean struggled to a sitting position, rubbing his wrists. “I guess you saved my life, then,” announced Sean.  He felt warmth and loyalty toward his buddy and only friend in this dream ordeal. Sean assumed it was loyalty of long standing.

“Have we known each other long? I don’t seem to remember,” asked Sean.

“Twenty-eight winters, since we have been small children,” replied Hehaka Najin. “You must remember; our mothers were as close as sisters. They were sisters in their cante, heart. Can you not remember how we played and learned to hunt together? We lived in each other’s lodge as if it were our own. I cannot remember a time when we were separated for more than a day. Surely, you must remember that.”

“Uh, I hope we didn’t, like, you know, do weird stuff with each other,” said Sean, wondering if his friend was a homosexual. “Cause I’m not into that, you know.”

“I do not know what you speak of, this weird. We have done no more or less than any brothers would do, Heecha Sapa.”

“Never mind,” grunted Sean. He began to assess the immediate scene.

“Who set this thing up? Obviously, someone put down this animal skin and covered my eyes. I see there is a cover over my body. Did you do that?”

“It was not I who did so. It was your woman; she made sure you would be comfortable and not suffer. She even fed you, when your eyes would open and you could not speak. Her words could not be heard in council, but some listened to her and to me after a long time. I told them your magic might serve well against the wasichu, who war upon us. I believe it was a strong argument, a good one. Several of the elders saw the sense in that.”

“Okay, that’s all fine and good,” responded Sean dismissing the magic thing. “Which wife took care of me?”

“It was your first wife; the other, Hota Win thought you deserved to be punished for your strange ways; she was not very helpful. One cannot feel too ill of her, however. She fears your magic, as do others. But she did not speak her thoughts to the elder’s council; for you are still her husband and it would be wrong to speak against you.”

“Yeah, magic, right,” said Sean, feeling circulation returning. “I’m not too sure about the warrior thing. The only fighting I do is over the advertising bottom line; I get paid for that. Most of these bastards want it all for free. The only magic I do is pulling the wool over their eyes.”

“I do not understand; it is your magic,” acknowledged his friend. “I will say no more about it.”

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul. Perhaps it was time to confront the dream with a heavy dose of reality. Maybe then, it will go away.

Hehaka Najin, do you know who I really am?” proclaimed Sean. “I’m a hot ad executive/promoter in Hollywood, a place a long way to the west. I drive a Beemer and live in a house bigger than thirty tipi put together, maybe even bigger than that. I change my girlfriends every three months or less and have never been married. Most important of all, I live in the future, not now. What I’m experiencing now is all in my imagination. You’re really not here and neither am I. Understand?”

Hehaka Najin looked unnerved by the strange things Sean said regarding the future. Seeing the future was undoubtedly magic for only the gifted. He chose to leave his friend with his strange visions lest he interfere with any communing with nagi tanka. Hehaka Najin was convinced his friend had been touched by nagi tanka, the Great Spirit. In these cases it was best not to tamper with a heyoka.

Standing up and unceremoniously brushing himself off, Sean walked back to his tipi, his dream home away from home. His tipi, however, had been moved. In fact, it looked like the whole village had moved to a different location near a stream of water. Stability, even in a dream, had a calming effect on a person. A change in location rattled Sean. He wondered why he was dreaming the things he was dreaming. Why would he dream about being staked out? Why would his tipi be moved? Is his mind responding to some hidden agenda?

Even the sight of Hota Win was better than being staked to the ground. He will have to have words with the woman about being a pain in the butt. She will have to learn to respect him, whether she likes it or not. Sean was the man and a warrior, at least in the eyes of everyone here. Usually that commanded some kind of civility between spouses.

There was no evidence of his first wife; something was wrong.  The last time he slept with her, she acted pretty removed from the whole experience, nothing devastating but quite different from the first time. Women could fake affection; it was a game to get what they wanted, working in Sean’s favor most of the time. Hopa Winyan Wakan was afraid of him, maybe because she thought he was this heyoka character. If he had to be in this dream, some smooth talk might bring her back to where she had been the first time they had sex.

Hehaka Najin led Sean back to the new camp, Sean inspecting the new encampment and arrangement. It had grown, thousands of horse wandering on the other side of the river, many of these Indians from tribes other than his. From the look of the group, it seemed like preparations for a huge family reunion. Yet, something in the wind bothered him about this many Indians in one place.

Reunion, he wondered? Doesn’t make any sense. We never camped with so many others before, not that I’m an expert in these matters. I wonder if they’re getting ready for a fight, not a happy thought. War means shooting and killing; killing means that I might get killed. Dream or no dream, I’m not excited about of the possibilities. What will happen to me if I’m killed in the 19th Century dream; will I die in the 21st Century as well? Maybe that will end the dream, I suppose. This is ludicrous to contemplate.

Sean did have an ace up his sleeve, an advantage, which was uncomfortable for a man who was always in control of his situation. Maybe in his dream he could negotiate with the white soldiers for some more lenient terms, eliminating the need for killing; that will also prevent him from being killed in his dream. The sight of all the tipis was a little unsettling and made him wonder. Dream or no dream he knew a little about the history but he had no idea what year it was, not that many dates stuck in his head from school. However, the date might have some bearing on what needed to be done before diving into any ‘make believe’ negotiations.

The council was in full swing, each man, respectfully, speaking in turn. The elders of many tribes spoke of the white incursion into their land and what should be done. Sometimes a speaker might make wild gestures, indicating violent action. The truth of white betrayal had been plainly spoken from experience. Black Kettle and others, who believed the whites, were all dead. Many thought it a bad course to fight the soldiers, though they actively pursued the Indians in order to kill them. Many saw it the only way to rid them of this white man problem. The “Holy Road” of the whites had fouled the plains and almost brought an end to the buffalo, the white hunters interested only in the skins of the beasts, leaving the carcasses to rot, spoiled and of no use. The promises of the Great White Father had fallen to the ground over and over.

Sean was not too eager to discover his own skill on the battlefield; doubtful he was much of a fighter to begin with. He wondered if there might be some clerical job, behind the lines, which was unlikely given the primitive nature of the times. Then something occurred to him. What if he could change the outcome of these wars? He had read something about changing a bad dream in some psychology magazine once. It sounded like bull to him at the time but he had nothing to lose. Change the dream in his favor; he’ll wake up and laugh about it after.

Negotiating was not a developed skill between the whites and Indians in the 19th Century. The wolakotiye wolakapi, white peace talkers spoke in ways the Indians could not understand, the whites believing Indians to be ignorant, primitives. There wasn’t any sophisticated dialogue explaining the repercussions of the signing the white man’s treaty paper. To the white people, a signed document gave them all the rights they needed. It wasn’t important whether the Indians understood it as long as they made their mark. Conversely, the whites did not understand that one Indian chief could not speak for all Indians and such an agreement would be null and void.

Sean joined the group of men willing and eager to let him speak out about any ideas he might have; magic against an enemy could be a powerful thing. Several men stared at Sean with hope and apprehension, his status still unclear regarding the tribe. Being heyoka was not an easy job.

There was a lull in the conversation followed by Sean volunteering his solution. He knew how to sell an idea to the masses; he did it all the time. The assembled men listened, making side comments to one another with approval or doubt, each accordingly. The men were slow to grasp the simplicity of the idea but most nodded in agreement, the very large guns of the wasichu capable of killing many at one time, a prospect everyone would like to avoid. It was agreed the heyoka would speak to the wasichu and convince them to leave. War was not a good option for either of them, a wise suggestion by heyoka.

Sean had some apprehensions about negotiating with the whites, unsure whether he could be understood in Lakota or English; it wasn’t clear to him which he would be speaking. The Indians knew what he was saying, even though he was speaking English. Somewhere in between, a translation was coming out of his mouth or processing the words from some other unknown source. It wouldn’t work if the soldiers didn’t have a clue what the heyoka was saying.

Runners rode out to an army encampment, a white flag fastened to a pole, indicating a peaceful meeting. The Lakota braves did not understand why a white flag implied peace but they honored it, nonetheless. They were wary because the white flag was not always honored according to some; Black Kettle had learned the hard way. The wasichu had many contrary ways. The assembly of men decided Heecha Sapa iyeska, would speak for them.

Sean, accompanied by a war chief and several stout warriors, arrived at the meeting sight. The braves wore their fiercest expressions, ready to leap into action if the need suggested it. No action was to be taken as long as both sides respected the agreement to meet in peace. At the scene, a young army officer sat on a wooden box provided by one of his orderlies, his uniform and manners neat, clean and polished. Sean got the distinct impression the man had just graduated from West Point or some other military school. An interpreter stood beside the officer, reeling from alcohol.

Tensions thick in the air both groups were suspicious of the other. The first moments of a meeting were awkward, each seeking common ground and advantages. There was the continual size-up of one another and acknowledgement of credentials, Sean lacking much in the way of credentials save his status as heyoka. The young officer introduced himself, declaring his rank of captain. The war chief was given full honors and disclosure of his achievements by an Indian speaking in Lakota; the captain didn’t understand any of it, of course. Sean did not want to belabor the negotiations with a long interpretation of the chief’s history.

The same brave introduced Sean as Heecha Sapa, heyoka, a dangerous man, not to make light of, Sean’s magic bringing much misfortune to those who would offend him, again not understood by the mila hanska. The soldier captain rolled his eyes during the second dissertation, the interpreter muttering what he could through the haze of liquor. All the chatter was a total line of bullshit but it sounded impressive to the soldiers, who had no idea what was said.

“You, Indians must vacate this place and return to the reservation. It is against the law for you to leave the reservation, violation of treaty; no other terms are acceptable. We will provide a place for you, as we had before,” bellowed the captain. “The Great White Father in Washington will see to it. You must also surrender all your weapons, no exceptions; any resistance in doing so will be met with an overwhelming force. General Custer has been dispatched to attend to this troublesome lot. Be good Indians and give us no trouble. Otherwise you will perish.”

Before the interpreter could say a word, Sean interrupted.

“Good Indians? Perish? Hey, hold the phone, Captain Tight Ass,” said Sean throwing a power play in the officer’s direction. “No one is trying to starve you to death. No one steals your land and kills innocent people for the sake of it. Treaty? You don’t have an inkling about what the treaty says.”

“I beg your pardon,” replied the captain in a state of building confusion. “What was that you said?”

“First of all, captain, who is the top ranking officer of this assembled rabble?” snapped Sean. “Why am I only speaking to a captain? I know a little about military ranking. This is serious stuff and something that should be handled by a major or even a general. They might look like a bunch of savages to you, but they have the capability of planting a whole lot arrows in your ass and give you a haircut that won’t ever need trimming. Further more this reservation crap is nothing more than a jail, a place where they can get sick and die. The Great White Father in Washington doesn’t give them a place where they can live, only a place where they can exist. Genocide is what they call it, in time. He’ll starve them and find ways to steal back whatever land he gave them.”

“Treaty? ” continued Sean. “You guys haven’t honored a treaty yet. What makes you think a mere captain is going to make that happen? Get real!”

A fly buzzed lazily near the captain’s open mouth. The officer sat stunned at this exchange, trying to fit this into his preconceived understanding of Indians. The other soldiers looked at each other in disbelief. Sean’s collection of braves did not miss this reaction and nodded in approval. They did not understand the words coming from the heyoka. It was as if the soldiers heard him alone. It was good to see the enemy worried.

“I must say, your English is quite good for a savage, though I fail to understand your use of some of the words,” returned the captain with an air of superiority. “Your name is what, again? “Heyoka? I’m afraid I did not get that information, when your man ranted on about, whatever that was. Good God, he bellowed like a wounded cow; I will never understand why you savages cannot speak in a decent tongue. Heyoka, indeed!”

“No, no,” snapped Sean. “That’s the word for my title, magic person. My real name is Sean Michael Casey. Further more, I know a few things that you don’t. You might think you have the upper hand with these people; you are very wrong about that, sir. This is not a disorganized band of nomads. They have strong blood ties to every Indian tribe, throughout the country. You do not have a force big enough to challenge these people, trust me. By the way, what year is this?”

“1876, the month of June, if that makes any sense to you, heathens,” replied the captain. “I doubt you could understand the years of our Lord, anyhow. What are you; some kind of Irish/Indian bastard? You don’t look Irish. Of course, the Irish aren’t much better than the likes of you, savages. I dare say this country would be better off without either.”

Sergeant O’Dell flinched at those words, standing far too close to the captain to miss the insult. The captain repositioned himself, feeling assured of his monologue, gaining the upper hand on this questionably educated Indian. Surely he could maneuver this primitive mind to understand the simple facts of the situation.

“I can see that your attitude is less than charitable towards my proposal. Your people will be fighting a modern, superior army,” replied the captain, stifling a yawn. “I fear most of you will perish, a pity, but a necessity, though I can’t see it as much of a loss.”

“From what I can tell by that drawl of yours, you must be from the south, captain,” began Sean. “The only good thing raised there is cotton. As for bastards, I would seriously question your own lineage. Your type breed with close relatives, slaves and anything they can get their peckers into. All that polish is a façade to cover the degradation of your kind. Take care lest you exacerbate the battle of insults. I assure you, your small brain will not be able to keep up.”

“Sir!” snapped the captain, rising quickly from his seat, red in the face. Indians and soldiers, alike, stood ready at alert for what might follow. “I find your statements inflammatory and would demand satisfaction were it not for my position. But I doubt your uncivilized kind know anything of honor.”

“Honor?” responded Sean. “These people live it every day. Honor makes them stay here on the prairie and survive. That same honor makes them die for their people. Your honor is ego-based mania, articulated by outburst of nonsensical dribble. You’re ruled by wealth and greed, God having very little to do with your acquisitions. Sit down, you pompous twit,” drawled Sean, making light of the captain’s accent.

“If Custer is still around then I have something to share with you,” he continued. “I’m not here to argue with you but to save your dumb-ass. There’s going to be huge battle soon, where a lot of you are killed. All I want to do is negotiate something we can both live with. Starting a conversation by insulting me is not the way to do that. Now, we can talk about this or exchange disparaging comments about one another; I assure you I can hold up my end as far as the insults are concerned. The ball is in your court, pal.”

“I find that you choose strange phrases to emphasize a point,” answered the captain. “It is clear to me, Sean, or whatever they call you, you have no intention of following my instructions. This is not a negotiation but rather a mandate of our demands. You abide by our wishes or you will be removed, dead or alive.”

“Jesus, Mary and Michael!” exclaimed Sean. “This sure doesn’t give anyone much faith in white people. I knew you guys were violent but I had hoped for better. Listen, in the end you get most of the country, anyhow; do you understand? Why bother to kill a bunch of Indians who want nothing more than to hunt and be free; there’s room enough for us all. With time and a little work we could learn to live together without all the bloodletting; there’s no honor in having your brains or guts splattered on the ground.”

“I take it you have some knowledge of the future?” chided the captain. “I find that incredible, a heathen profit, indeed. That’s the trouble with your kind; you believe in too many fairytales. Real life has no magic in it, my ignorant friend. It does have hard facts that do not bend to the rule of simpletons.”

“Listen, Jack, I didn’t write history, only studied it,” uttered Sean. “Your General George Custer will be killed and all of his soldiers, 6th or 7th cavalry, if I remember; one of those. There will be massacre on both sides until the red man gives up. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse will amass a force so great that it will stagger your imagination; that is fact, captain. Two hundred-eleven soldiers will be slaughtered because Custer was too arrogant to realize his mistake. We can stop that and save lives if you listen to me.”

The captain covered his mouth and whispered to another junior officer near by. “They may not be very bright but they are curiously entertaining,” he mumbled. “This fellow should put on a show.” The two men laughed.

Sean turned to the war chief, who sat impatiently on the ground, waiting for some resolution. Sean spelled out, in simple terms, watching for the chief’s reaction and waiting for a response. The war chief did not have anything to say; he did not wish to leave the land nor did he wish to live on land, which he did not choose. He did not want to die in a place where his ancestors weren’t buried. He also commented on the youthfulness of the officer.

“How can one so young have the wisdom and experience to make demands or war? Does the Great White Father have such little respect for us?”

Sean had no response to that.

“Captain I wish I could make it clear to you how important it is to be free,” said Sean. “They just want to be left alone, peacefully. They want to hunt and live where they have always lived, where their ancestors are buried. A time will come when our government regrets all of this. It will be an embarrassment, much like what we do in other places, like Vietnam and Irag, not that you would know about that. The will of men does not easily dispose itself to the rights of mankind.”

“Rather profound statement for a savage,” uttered the captain. “Perhaps you can convince your fellow heathens to abandon their foolish ideas of freedom; no one is really free. We do what we are told; we bend to the powers that be. That is the way it has always been done; that is the way it will always be done. Resist or perish; that is all I have to offer. You can tell that to your heathen feathered brother over there.”

I wish I had paid more attention in American History class, thought Sean. Was it 1876 when Custer got wiped out? Seems right. Maybe if I could predict something for this fool, I might be able to convince him to reconsider. My chief is not going to like what this stupid captain has to say. I hope I can get my butt out of here before all hell breaks loose.

“Captain, mark my words,” continued Sean. “Custer and all his men will be slaughtered at the Little Bighorn. He will make a huge tactical error that will cost them all their lives; his arrogance will be his undoing. Reno is another who will regret the action. Go back and tell them that; tell them they can stop it all and find a more reasonable solution to this. I beg you.”

“I would suppose you fancy yourself as some kind of prophet or someone important to these people,” drawled the Captain. “But my race does not believe in the mystical ways of savages; we are civilized and good Christians. You will see your foolish prophecies have no meaning to us; they are illusions of your own making. Though you sound like a white man, it is clear your brain has not evolved to our level. You are clearly inferior in spite of the of the words someone has taught you to say.”

Indians have a talent for hiding their emotions, the stoic expression on the war chief not betraying what Sean had imparted. He listened, responded quietly and motioned to the others to leave. There was no anger, no challenge and no counter offer made. The war chief had only one thing to say. “These mila hanska, long knives, wish to fight and die,” he said. “And so, they will; let us go.”

Sean now experienced the futility of men bound by orders, unwilling, unbending to reason; it infuriated him. He wanted to convince the stupid captain what was going to happen if the army continued to follow its present course. In the end neither side wins. Under the circumstances, Sean’s face did not reflect stoicism of his companions; he was angry and frustrated by being trumped by a military ‘yes’ man, who would not listen to the logic Sean presented.

As the small group of Indians retreated, Sean turned around quickly retracing his steps back to where the military entourage was also preparing to leave. He was not about to end the discussion with no options or further negotiations; it wasn’t in his nature to accept defeat. A soldier on horseback saw Sean approaching and fired at him. The captain looked up, startled, only to watch Sean fall to the ground. Indians and soldiers, alike, standing poised for a further confrontation.

“Damn you!” screamed the captain. “They are under a white flag of truce; put down your weapons. Stand ready but do not fire; that is an order.”

Two warriors scooped up Sean, dragging him away, prepared to engage the whites if they continued their aggression. No one fired, a twisted sense of honor forcing the captain to stand and be a target should any Indian decide to take revenge, the only way to prevent a melee that would surely follow; Indians did not always show their numbers or force. The chief and warriors respected the captain’s attempts to quell the bloodshed, viewing his bravery as a virtue. Though outnumbered by the soldiers, the warriors believed Heecha Sapa was going to attack the soldiers, his actions a mystery, difficult at best to understand the reasoning of a heyoka.

Sean’s deerskin shirtfront was covered with blood. No one could attend to the wound until they were well out of range of rifle fire. They did not trust the soldiers to act with honor; the white flag did not protect them as it was meant to. The army column turned and rode away slowly, two soldiers covering their retreat in the event the Indians chose to attack. Though there was tension in the air both sides left peacefully, stories to be told later in both camps of the Indian who spoke English.

Novels

Moccasins of Another #1

October 19, 2019

Part 1

Moccasins of Another

 © Robert McMurtry

 

Badge of Success

Slipping out of his seat, Sean Michael Casey stood for a moment admiring his exceptional new car glimmering in the sun, a brilliant pale-green metallic paint, custom made in every possible detail. The custom color along with the designer interior was what he demanded; he was not about to settle for one of those ‘off the floor’ models stamped out by some cookie-cutter factory. His order for the car took six months, a long wait but worth the results. In his opinion, BMW was the car to own, performance and looks all in one, eliciting money and power, sitting perfectly still. The electrics and hybrids were for wimps, a fad generated by the ecological do-gooders of society; SUVs still sold with the lies generated by the car industry.

His girlfriend Brandi was crazy about the car, not that it mattered to him. All the women Sean hung out with had a thing for expensive cars; somehow in their mind, a guy’s sexual performance hinged on the kind of vehicle he drove. He used that small advantage because it worked. It might appear like a shallow connection but that’s the way he liked it. You used whatever edge there was along with gimmicks to impress the easily impressed. He knew it was style that made the difference; women paying close attention to every detail, right down to his custom, handmade briefs, if he bothered to wear them. Plenty of losers tried to impress the chicks with cars and money; the majority of them slept alone at night because they had no class or taste.

However, there was a better reason why women flocked to Sean’s doorstep, eager to please. It was the power to give them a shot at the Hollywood dream, mingle with the who’s who, get that big break. That was probably the main reason Sean never slept alone, unless he chose to. He shallow relationships a simple formula; no toothbrush, clothes or underwear were left behind to prompt his memory or suggest any hope of permanent habitation, no cute photos stuffed in a nightstand drawer or stupid love notes with hearts on them. His motto was simple; give them a visitor’s pass and send them home before they start to expect more, less complicating when you played by those rules.

His house in the Southern California hills was posh, exclusive and almost paid for. The previous tenant, some loser, had been in foreclosure, a deal for Sean, who snapped it up like a hungry wolf. The poor jerk had problem with alcoholic, missed a few payments and got the boot. It wasn’t Sean’s problem if the guy lost every cent in the place; one man’s misfortune is another’s gold mine. One good thing about his job, he was never affected by the ups and downs of the erratic economy, which bounced around like a Ping-Pong ball. He sold the human product, the dream of dreams, movie stars. Actors needed to be elevated in public’s eye, since they were only people like anyone else. The best of the best were just as common as any on the street; they had to be promoted like some super-savings on steaks at the market. Step on a common rock and it is nothing but a rock; put it in a box and call it a Pet Rock, and people go crazy over it. Just tell the public what they want to hear and they’ll buy it.

Yeah, it was a different kind of meat market in Hollywood and Sean was the best salesman in the town. He handled the big and little stars with complete anonymity; that safety feature kept from becoming involved personally and emotionally. The way to survival in the business was to keep your failures silent and push your successes to the forefront. When an actor or actress bombed you did not want your name tied to this drowning rat. For all purposes, he had the perfect life until now.

Standing besides his car, reflecting on his good fortune, something gnawed at his gut, an unexpected happening in the wind; a brief encounter earlier in the day produced this uneasy mood. Some longhaired, wrinkled face beggar leaned over the door of his convertible to ask for spare change, common in these neighborhoods. In that part of Hollywood seedy characters like this begged everyone who passed the intersection. Sean was tempted to bust the light and leave the bum in the dust; but a Hollywood cop sat on the opposite corner waiting for an opportunity to ticket some unfortunate guy like Sean.

Yeah, I see you, you over-starched, tin badge vulture. You bastards are just waiting for a chance to nail a guy like me. You probably drive a five-year old Honda, still unpaid for, he thought adjusting his designer sunglasses to prevent eye contact. I know your kind; you’ve got a quota to fill and you love bagging guys in expensive cars. A little envy, huh? Maybe so but not today, buddy!

The beggar appeared to be like a lot of the riff-raff that plagued this part of town, dirty, shoeless and in rags, the unofficial uniform of the down and out. The man’s skin was dark with a pronounced, crooked nose, probably broken more than once. His dark, dull eyes revealed a calm uncommon for desperate street people. The guy reminded Sean of the Indian on the old nickels.

 You can’t feel sorry for those people, Sean thought. They’re lazy, don’t want to work and most of them are boozers or shooting up. I’m glad the cops keep them out of the better areas of Hollywood.

He groaned inwardly remembering times of his youth, growing up in an environment he wanted to forget.

My parents would have taken this son-of-a-bitch home, feed him and send him on his way with a few extra bucks in his pocket. That’s the trouble with all those sixty hippies. I still can’t stand that, liberal, bleeding-heart crap. I love my parents but can’t understand what they get from it.

He brought his attention back to the situation at hand.

I’ll blow this guy off and send him on his way, he said to himself. I hate it when they try to wash my windshield or something. Assholes just end up smearing it, anyway.

It was as if the man read Sean’s thoughts.

“That’s okay, brother; don’t need no money,” said the beggar too calm for Sean’s comfort. “Instead, I’ll give you something you can use; it was in my vision. I saw you there.”

“Vision!” protested Sean. “Hey, get your dirty hands off the car; you can’t possibly have anything I want or need. Why don’t you go beg for booze money somewhere else, buddy. I don’t give money to drunks or druggies.”

“I don’t drink or do drugs,” replied the beggar. “My people done nuff of that. Kinda ruined a bunch of real good folks. My people are allergic to the stuff, ya know.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” snapped Sean. “That’s what you all say.”

The old man continued, after stepping away from the car.

“You ever dream, brother?” he asked, tilting his head to get a better look at Sean. “You gotta have protection from the bad ones, ya know; some dreams that ain’t so good.”

“I never dream, pal,” Sean blurted. “Dreaming is for people, who don’t have a life. I sleep like a baby, every night, not that it’s any of your damn business.”

Sean began to feel uncomfortable with the conversation, the old man not the usual vagrant using some ploy to get cash. The man voiced his words with such conviction it almost made Sean believe he had a point.

“Well, friend,” whispered the beggar. “You will. Cause dreams ain’t always just dreams. Sometimes, dreams is real. I think maybe you gonna have a bad dream, brother, a real bad one, and soon. I can see it in your face, just like it was wrote down in the newspaper. You can’t run away from them, neither; they catch up with ya, them dreams, that is.”

Sean thought of the sixties and seventies when people bought into all sorts of crap; dream analysis, vision quests, soothsayers, voodoo and fortunetellers were things of the past. The only reality to Sean was big numbers in the bank and meaningless sex with one bimbo or another.

“Yeah, right! And I suppose you can tell the future? Who is going to win the Lotto?” growled Sean. “I’ll bet you can’t come up with that one pal. Just get lost; I think you been sniffing gas fumes too long. Find some nice shaded spot and sleep it off. Now, beat it!”

The old man didn’t seem taken aback by Sean’s accusations and protestations.

“Ain’t tired, brother but I’ll pray for ya and give ya this,” the old man mumbled holding something out in his hand for Sean.

He held up a small wooden twig formed in a circle with webbing in the center.

“This dream-catcher catches bad dreams; my people use ‘em all the time. This one’s a good one, too; made by a old woman healer from my people. She gifted it to me afore she died. It done good for me.”

The light changed Sean hitting the accelerator then quickly backing off remembering the cop sitting on the corner. The slight chirp of tires brought the police officer’s eyes level with Sean’s, a suspicious glare. The eyes watched as Sean slowly proceeded through the intersection, well below the posted speed. Sean’s day was not going to be ruined by getting a ticket. He had a late date with Brandi and didn’t want to spoil the mood. A little dinner and some sex was all he needed to finish off his day.

Sean was all too familiar with the American Indian charms and junk; his parents had the crap all over the house when he was growing up, none of it possessing any special powers to him. It never changed a thing in their lives nor would it change anything in his life today. Some derelict on a street corner might believe it but Sean was smart enough to know these trinkets were as believable as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Movin’ On

Brandi wasn’t her real name, of course. She had been Annabelle Sue Krininsky when she arrived on the bus from some no-name town in Iowa. She had big hopes and small breasts; neither would land her the chance acting in any major Hollywood role. She had done a few local plays in Iowa spurred on by her mom, dad and neighbors, who claimed she should act for a living, though several praised her to make her feel good as people sometimes do. A couple of years in junior college, saving up money for the big move and Annabelle was on her way to make her big debut.

She was one of a thousands girls looking for the same break, a cute face, nice figure and amateur lessons in acting. In Hollywood, competition was fierce forcing Brandi to augment her body with numerous plastic surgeries. Her breasts were a perfect augmented C-cup with a slight rise to show off cleavage, her butt lifted, enhanced with silicon and her nose was reshaped to be the perfect nose; the nose had been a major project. All in all, it was doubtful she would ever be able to recoup the expense of the procedures with the small waitress jobs she was being paid for.

Like all the other bimbos looking for success, basically, Sean didn’t give a tinker’s dam about her acting or her career. After years of being a waitress or secretary, some would see the hopelessness of it, go home, get married and have a bunch of kids. It was still too early for Brandi to give up, though it would happen sooner or later. They had met at a cocktail party a month and a half before. She discovered Sean’s influence and was prepared to do whatever was necessary to get an edge in the business. Sean was that possible edge.

If the truth be known, Sean’s longest relationship, if that’s what you could call it, lasted five months; three months was his average. It only lasted five that one time because the woman in question had gone home to her sick mother for a couple months. That didn’t mean he went without; some starlet or wannabe was always willing to shack up for a night. His world was full of women waiting to be discovered, most willing to sleep their way to the top or at least for an opportunity to meet the right people.

Women are like cars, he reflected. Got to trade ‘em in before they start giving you trouble.

Originally, money was not something that came easily to guys like Sean. A lot of the people around him had the advantage of wealthy parents and good career connections. Sean’s parents didn’t have a dime and the only connection they had was a stupid church they donated what little money they possessed. Sean had to work hard and step on a few people to get to where he was now, his road to success littered with the corpses of those who are too weak or lazy.

Poverty was not a condition to be proud of; he refused to let that happen to him. The measure of success was determined by a person’s wealth and status in this world; you maintained status by keeping as much of the money you made, which perpetuated itself once it was invested wisely. For that reason he stopped giving money to his parents when he became successful. They only gave it away to people like that bum on the street with some stupid trinket in exchange. He grew up with these low-life types sponging off of his parents, taking away Sean’s future. He was not going to give another cent to any of them, by proxy or any other way.

Inside his house, he looked out of the picture window at the valley below. It was the usual yellowish haze hanging over the valley in the summer, the attempts to clean the air a joke in his opinion. Politicians made sure the American Dream included plenty of pollution; in fact, it was a good day, today. He could make out some of the streets below as people hustled to get their fair share of whatever was out there. He pitied all those little people with small ambitions and tiny hopes; they’d save for years so they could spend five days in Hawaii; eat casseroles everyday so they could make a down payment on some cheap piece of shit car. The world was filled with this kind of human fodder, etching out a sorry ass existence. He refused to be any part of that scene, not anymore.

Dreams, he thought again. Why does that bother me? The old bum’s gibberish was line of crap, a scam of some sort to get into my pocket. How could I have bought into that? Still, he really rattled me.

He shifted his thoughts, trying to avoid the disquieting feelings about the encounter. He was not about to be some primitive taken in by such foolishness.

“Where the hell is Brandi?” he said out loud. “I told the stupid broad to be here by 7:30. It was her idea to go to this party in the first place, though I doubt it’s going to do her any good. She’s really nothing special. The moviemakers won’t even notice her unless I say something to get their attention. They know how it works; I scratch their back and they scratch mine. I guess it’s going to be the price I have to pay for getting laid tonight.”

Brandi arrived twenty-five minutes late, her excitement bubbling over.

“Sean, I think the producer really liked me,” she babbled. “It’s only a spot in a soap but the writer said he might keep the character in for the season and see how it goes. I play, like, this hatcheck girl in a ritzy club owned by a guy who is a crook. I don’t have to say very much but I do have three lines in the first episode. The producer said he wants to talk it over later tonight at his place. Do you mind if I skip the party? This could be my big break.”

It was almost comical, Brandi spurting all this nonsense about a real part; three lines were not about to get you the staring role as Cleopatra or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She was being set up for the casting couch interview with few prospects beyond a horizontal audition.

“Yeah, go ahead, Brandi. I’m sure the producer will put you in the position he wants.”

Yeah, like on your back with your legs apart, he thought. She is so stupid; I wonder why I bother with her? Maybe it’s time to move on, again, find another replacement. What’s it been, now, two months, three? I’ll have to check out the action at the party for some new talent. There’s always some hot bimbo looking to better her career.”

“You’re terrific, Sean. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what he says. Ain’t it something!”

He hated the way she ‘baby talked’ to him when she wanted something. Sean nodded his head unconvincingly, giving Brandi the once over as she walked out the door, probably for the last time. He had to admit that she had a nice ass, even though it was not her real one. He would have a little regret; Brandi was good to have around for things like the Bedroom Olympics; she was an eager player in the sack. And after all, that’s all he really wanted from her, no deep discussions or emotions. Perhaps he should keep her around for a few farewell screws before dumping her.

The party was the usual over-indulgent type of the Hollywood set, the usual actors, actresses, crapulous boozers, druggies and bimbos all in attendance. Max Von Schtupe, a bald-headed director was making time with a cute blonde by the fake fireplace, his hand resting on her buttock. A little later they disappear to the back room for some casting-couch auditions. Max usually scored at these parties as long as his wife was elsewhere, not that it mattered too much to her. If the truth were known, Max’s wife had her own sexual diversions to occupy her idle moments. Between the pool guy and various deliverymen, Beth was never without intimate entertainment. Infidelity was not unexpected in the industry as long as one was careful not to make it too public.

The dreaded Drake Sparrow, a gay screenplay writer with a half dozen mediocre successes, waltzed up to Sean, all smiles.

“Seanie, honey,” he announced in his effeminate manner. “Where have you been hiding, dearie? We’ve missed your cute little tushy in our mix of friends. Haven’t seen you in a couple weeks.”

“Work, Drake,” answered Sean, not wishing to prolong the conversation.

“By the way,” added Drake. “Been counting your silverware? I hear you’re dumping the little tramp, Brandi; not surprised, of course. We all know the girls in your stable turn over quickly. It’s a pity you won’t give us guys a chance. Believe me, the change might do you a little good, sweetie.”

“Right, Drake,” said Sean, angling to escape. “I’ll leave all the guys for you; less competition that way, right? Oh! I see someone I have to talk to. Catch you later.”

A couple of quick weaves and dodges left Drake standing with drink in hand staring at a fake brick wall. Sean made it look like he was doing a little business while mingling with the crowd. Drake was fairly harmless but it was wise not to piss off anyone in the industry lest they stab you in the back sometime in the future. You never knew when you might need their support.

Sean scanned the room checking out the herd, seeking a little of his own diversion. The place was who’s who affair, every out of work actor and actress working the producers for anything new. He spied a few of the women, who had already taken that place of honor for three months or less. Vague recollections did not inspire him to rekindle any of those relationships. It was slim pickings from what he could see, no new talent ready to be plucked.

Tucked into a dark corner he noticed a stunning young woman, one he had never seen before. Her jet-black hair framed her dark skin and darker eyes, an exotic face, yet not so much to distract from her hot body. There was something vaguely familiar about her, though her face was not one that fit the usual actress mold or any in this crowd. There was intelligence behind her deep, brown eyes that suggested a hard sell. Bodywise the woman was not perfect but damn close. If she had been around before Sean would have remembered her.

He meandered toward her trying not to appear too interested, a tactic of long practice, the shark circling its prey before making a strike. He spoke to several people, making jokes along the way; a few handshakes here and there might suggest his indifference to the woman in the corner. He didn’t want her to get the impression he was eager but also didn’t want her to think he wasn’t interested, a game he always won. Desperation was never a good place to negotiate from; that was his forte, negotiating.

The closer he got, the more his interest was piqued, her face more than exotic, high cheekbones, jet black hair and her body nothing to turn your nose up at. Studying her for a while, he needed an edge, an advantage. The game had to play, like he was doing her the favor even speaking to her. So far she was doing better than he. She didn’t seem the least bit interested in him, glancing at him with inattention and staring back at the crowd, an expression detached from those around the room. It was as if he wasn’t even there, or worse, one of the help. After several minutes of ignoring her at close quarters, he decided to break the ice.

“You’re new around here, I take it,” Sean announced. “I know just about everyone; haven’t seen you before. You an actress or what?”

She looked up unimpressed with this lame line, toying with the glass in her hand and rolling her eyes.

 “Or maybe you just came to rub elbows with the rich and famous?” he added with an insincere chuckle. “There are a few high rollers in the crowd; want to meet any of them?”

She looked up into his eyes, her concentration broken. Sean could see her thoughts were somewhere else.

“No, not really,” she answered. “Bernie Hancock brought me along; thought I might like to meet some of these people. Figured I could give my spiel to a couple drunken producers about my project. It would seem none of them are interested in listening, including Bernie, which is not surprising.”

She leaned back against the wall, unable to hide her bored expression.

“So far, I’ve had my ass pinched twice and my breasts fondled, by a guy pretending it was an accident,” she continued. “The only thing these people want to do is get high, drunk or laid. I’m sure that’s why Bernie bothered to bring me along. Guess he figured I would do, if he didn’t score with the local talent. Hell would freeze over before I slept with him, a fact I’m sure he hadn’t taken into consideration.”

She looked left and right, making a silent decision. “I think I’ll grab an uber and get out of here. Bernie is a big boy and probably won’t even notice I’m gone. Besides, I think he’s got one of those stupid blondes lined up for the night; she’s all over him and vice versa.”

She made no attempt to mask the uncomfortable truth of the situation, her bluntness shocking, yet titillating at the same time.

“It’s the way of this business, honey,” Sean replied, trying to sound blasé. “Bernie gets around; a lot of these people do. It’s not so bad; you’d be surprised how many deals are cut behind closed doors.”

“I guess talent and truth don’t seem to matter,” she countered. “And what does this have to do with you; are you the social director, or something?” she said. “Did you come over here to make sure I’m having fun; or are you here to make sure I don’t cross the incorrect social lines? I sure hope you peg me as an easy score.”

“Nope, I’m just one of the shakers and movers in the industry, honey,” he answered.

Her hard edge rattled Sean. “My name’s Sean and my thing is promotion, marketing and advertising for some of these people. I can make or break any of them, given the right circumstances. These people are different than regular people, you know; they like to live on the edge of absurdity. Let’s face it, a little sex for a little fame goes a long way in this town.”

Sean decided a woman who was blunt should be able to take the direct approach.

“In fact, I was sizing you up for a little horizontal entertainment,” he added. “Unless, of course, you are the type that prefer women, can’t help you there. No objection, of course.”

“Of course not,” she returned, looking him over. “I can see you’re used to the shallow, airhead types, who spread their legs for a few promises. Well, don’t let my appearance fool you; I’m not your average push over, Sean. I like a little play, now and then. That only happens when I choose and who I choose; so you can tuck your little friend back into your pants, along with any ideas of getting lucky tonight.”

“Whoa!” exclaimed Sean. “I see the lady has claws and teeth. You have me at a disadvantage but I am intrigued. Maybe I painted the wrong picture of myself. Why don’t we back off a few notches and try to be friendly?”

“Good for you, Sean. A man with a little humility though, I doubt you have much of that. Maybe you can give me a ride home unless there is a prerequisite attached to that. We can get to know each other on the way; then maybe I’ll decide whether you are the lucky man tonight. But don’t get your hopes up; I’ve got you pegged for the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, not my style.”

“Hmm! You’re too sharp for me,” he mocked. The game was afoot, a faint glimmer of hope at the end of the road. “By the way, what’s your name?”

“Little Wolf,” she answered. “It’s the name white people call me since they are uncomfortable using the Indian name. I’m three quarter Lakota Sioux Indian, not a lot of us left. This is a white mans’ world full of closed doors and minds. Fortunately, we Indians are spun from a different thread; you wouldn’t understand. Not many white folks know what it means to have Indian blood. And I’m sure you’re not any different.”

He couldn’t find anything clever to rebut, though he wanted to leave this subject as the winner in this exchange of witticism. He was being put down by a woman, who didn’t have to work at it. In truth, he knew very little about Indians; they wore feathers and caused hell with white people. Indians were people of America’s past, twelve vague pages in his high school history book, where they were described in the past tense. If it hadn’t been for people like his liberal parents, he would know even less about the subject.

Sean thought of his encounter with the Indian beggar, a coincidence he found mildly interesting.

Two Indians in one day is weird, he thought. Must be a fluke.

Little Wolf slipped into the seat of the BMW her shapely legs revealed by the very contemporary non-Indian dress she wore. The dim light of the evening illuminated her face ever so slightly, casting shadows that brought out the beautiful features of her face. Sean did not hold out much hope for any intimacy with this woman but felt a need to give it a try; a little effort for a pretty woman seemed reasonable. It had been a while since he had to work getting a woman to sleep with.

The excitement of the chase, he thought. Hope this one isn’t too much trouble. I do have a reputation to protect.

Little Wolf lived in the valley about a half an hour from where the party was. It was all he could do to keep his eyes on the road, her gorgeous legs upstaging his exclusive BMW interior. With every glimpse he studied her with an anticipation that can drive a man crazy.

Maybe I feel like this because I know I can’t have her, he wondered. Funny how head games makes us crazy. She’s just another woman, no better, no worse than the others. Why am I getting so wound up over her? She’s got ‘bitch’ written all over her, in big capital letters. I don’t need that. But?

He watched her shift in her seat, retrieving something underneath her, turning it in her hand. He couldn’t make out what it was.

“Maybe I was wrong about you, Sean,” she remarked. “You dropped your dream catcher on the seat, don’t want to lose that. I’m surprised to see you have one; you don’t look the type.”

“Oh, that,” he returned. “Some bum……” He stopped in mid-sentence, realizing that the little Indian handicraft might change his luck with this woman. Playing her little game might get him what he wanted, conquest not out of the picture, yet.

“Yeah, I sort of just got that,” he declared. “Some guy gave it to me. Said it would protect me from my dreams or something like that. Not too sure if I need it; I never dream. There’s no time to waste on dreams in my business. These cheap children’s trinkets catch bad dreams? Really! I know the difference between fantasy and reality.”

She didn’t say anything but examined the small dream catcher.

“This is an old one,” she said. “My guess it has big power. Whoever gave this to you saw something serious. Whether you believe it or not this is heavy-duty protection, Sean. The person could be a holy man with vision; they know these sort of things.”

“It was just some old beggar,” scoffed Sean, wishing the dream catcher thing never came up. “Said I will have bad dreams, whatever that meant. But like I said, I never dream. Besides, he was just some drunk trying to get some loose change. He probably found it somewhere or even swiped it.”

“This old beggar,  did he happen to be an Indian?” questioned Little Wolf, turning the object in question over in her hand. “Holy men don’t look like anybody special; they can look like any ordinary person. This man could have been a seer. Happens a lot with my people. Just because someone has the gift, doesn’t make them rich. Most are poor, like most Indians.”

“It was just some guy, Little Wolf; I’m sure he was a nobody,” snapped Sean. “The only thing holy about him was his clothes. Can we just drop it? And by the way, is there another name I can use, instead of Little Wolf?”

“Sure, but I’m not sure you can say it,” she declared. “My real name is Shunkaha chikala in Lakota. That’s too weird for most of you white people.”

“You’re right about one thing!” he agreed, wishing he hadn’t agreed to take her home. There was a distinct chance he could have found some fluff at the party to bed down with.

“I can see my evening turning weird in two different languages. Dreamcatchers, Indians, is more than I bargained. I’ll drop you and be on my way. Okay?”

“I don’t know; I think, maybe you need company tonight,” she responded with genuine concern. “You need serious company by the looks of these signs.”

She paused, watching Sean’s face change. The gleam in his eye suggested something she did not want to encourage.

“Don’t get your jets fired up, Sean. I don’t mean sexual company,” she added.

“Come on, Little Wolf. I don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo crap about bad dreams and shit. Now if you’re looking for a little action, that’s another story. But somehow, I get the feeling that’s not on the menu, tonight. Right?”

She didn’t answer but pointed to a driveway on their right. She indicated that he pull in, small pairs of eyes reflecting in the darkness as his lights flooded the area. Sean was a little shocked when he pulled his BMW into the driveway where Little Wolf lived. The house was nothing more than a one-room cottage, not in the best part of town, either. She never flinched or apologized for her surroundings as he opened her car door to get another look at her shapely legs. She walked to the front door, twisting the unlocked door handle and turned around.

“You coming?” she said. “I’ll flip on a light or two, so you don’t trip over my boxes, the cats and other stuff. Don’t fret; I think you’re pretty safe from the cats. They don’t usually attack rich guys and I’m sure they don’t see you as a rat, though they don’t know the kind of man you are like I do.”

She laughed, tossing her long hair over her shoulder.

“Hey, how about a little slack?” he complained.

“By the way, these aren’t my cats,” she reported. “I’m just feeding them while I’m staying here, part of the deal. Most of them are nice cats; a few are feral. The place belongs to my uncle who is not using it at the moment. He has a thing for cats and it also keeps the mice and rats in control.”

As predicted, the house was one room with a small closet containing a toilet and washbasin. The bed was neatly made and doubled as a couch, a wood table and hot plate the only evidence of cooking facilities. Though modest, it appeared to be very clean. Sean took three steps through the door, narrowly avoiding a cat scurrying to escape.

“Like I said, my uncle owns the place,” continued Little Wolf. “He says the cats remind him of our people. They need a home too; he’s good that way. He bought the place more than thirty years ago, when he left the ‘rez.’ He couldn’t see himself as a ‘rez’ Indian, waiting to die in poverty or alcoholism, decided to come out to California and make some money. He did, and now he wishes he had stayed with his people because of who he has become. Said he lost the spirit of the people, not on the Red Road since he left. Said nagi tanka, Great Spirit punishes him by not listening to his prayers anymore.”

“Why’s that?” muttered Sean. “Being poor isn’t anything to strive for, in my book. It doesn’t require a lot of work or ambition. By the look of it, your uncle didn’t do all that great,” he added taking in the tiny cottage. “My gardener lives better than this.”

“Oh, you mean because of this place?” she asked. “This was his first house. He owns properties all over Southern California now. You’d be surprised exactly how many. My uncle is as bad as the whites and he knows it, owning property is not our way. We believed that no one owned the land, no more than anyone owns the sun or the sky. It was the people from Europe who wanted to own land. My uncle is a good man, though, part of the reason I’m here. He’s not charging me rent in exchange for feeding the cats though I’m sure he’d let me stay here if I said I didn’t want to. He brings cat food every week, has names for all of them, even the feral cats.”

“So, why exactly are you here?” asked Sean. “We never did address that at the party at least not in any detail.”

Little Wolf looked at the floor and then at Sean. He could see the passion in her eyes, a hunger for something intangible. It wasn’t passion for him but for something deeper. She straightened herself speaking in a clear, proud manner.

“Don’t start giving me a bunch of wisecracks, either. I’m trying to tell our story, the real story,” she began. “You know, all about the real American Indians, not the Hollywood version. Hollywood wants to make cowboy and Indian movies, where the Indians win or some bullshit idea about the ‘Noble Savage.’ I can’t stand that. Why can’t they tell the story the way it was, some good and some bad Indians, real people? Our story is about how a lot of greed, prejudice and ego changed our culture. Our story is about the virtues of my people and trust they once had, a past where respect was a part of life. It’s also about the lies and deceptions and the adaptation to a foreign way of life. My people wanted to believe in the peace the whites spoke of, their words and promises, like the wind, blew away. There was a time when Indians thought they could live side by side with the whites, sharing their home with them. The whites always wanted more; they wanted to take the land, own it, keeping everyone out.

Indians weren’t perfect either. There were Indians, who didn’t want peace. But now some have become as greedy as those they fought. Living the old ways implied poverty and humiliation to you white people. Some wanted what the white man had and more, like my uncle. He knows it too. It never makes them happy and puts them out of balance with Mother Earth.”

He groaned inside; Sean had heard all of this rhetoric from his parents, years before. The battle of the red man was lost long before he had been born. There was no reason to think anyone cared today, especially people in the movie industry. Documentaries about the violated treaties did not bring big box office receipts. Any story without explosions or car chases or wild sex was doomed to failure. In his opinion, the Indian rap was long dead and buried.

“You came to the wrong place, honey,” Sean responded. “They don’t call it ‘Tinsel Town” for nothing. And I think the term used now is Native American, not American Indian. The politicos get very nervous if you use the wrong terminology. It might offend the sensitivities of people. You better stuff that in your program.”

“Come on, Sean, the politically correct garbage is supposed to placate us. Anyone born in this country is a Native American. My oldest grandmother told me something before she passed a few years ago. She said her father, mother and grandfather, grandmother were born Indians, the name the whites gave us; she was born an Indian and so were her children and grandchildren. Why should she be anything else because some white people feel guilty about the way we’ve been treated? If you must know we are called, Oyate Kin, the people. But do you think anyone cares?”

“It’s not too late to show the truth,” she continued. “There has to be someone willing to see the necessity for this project, the lost culture, extinct like so many of the animals. I haven’t met every producer in this town yet. This will be a story without something exploding, fighting, burning wagons or naked people having gratuitous sex for the ratings. I don’t need any of that in the film. There was enough violence in the old days without it. I don’t want another warped version of what whites believe we are. Truth, that’s all I ask.”

Sean, noticeably agitated felt the need to leave before she uttered another word. Instead he decided to give her the facts of life regarding the movie industry.

“Oh, for Christ sakes!” he scowled. “Another poor Indian story. I thought we went through all that a few decades ago. People got their fill of ‘Dances With Wolves’, ancient history, honey. God knows my parents were the same bleeding-heart, hippie liberals, who loved that kind of crap. Can you believe they wanted to do the sit-in during the Alcatraz take-over? Luckily, they didn’t have enough money to make the trip to California. So there’s no need to bring me or anyone else down that road again.”

Little Wolf obviously didn’t share his pessimistic view of the idea, the tension becoming thick between them. She wasn’t about to agree nor was Sean going to cave to her dumb ideas. He stuck around only because she was a challenge and there was a remote chance, now getting thinner, that he might get lucky. She was sharp, intelligent, an equal, not the usual bimbo he was used to. He was in foreign territory, when it came to a woman who actually thought and had an opinion. As suspected, she was smart enough not to let his attitude shut her down.

“No, Sean, it’s nothing like that,” she began. “You’ve heard, history is written by the victors. Indians tell a different story, several have written books about it, few white people have read them, which is what this story is supposed to be. It’s supposed to show a way of life that has been lost and forgotten.”

“Maybe I better go, Little Wolf,” said Sean turning, anxious to bring an end to the uncomfortable conversation.

Little Wolf held up a hand, knowing there wasn’t anything she could do to change his mind. However, there was also another consideration she had to address. The dream catcher was a warning to Sean, which she understood very well. The power of the unseen was as real as the heavily worn linoleum on the floor.

“I think you need to stay, at least until morning;” she implored. “The old holy man was right, you know, about the dream catcher. These people know things; it’s not a hoax. That dream catcher was an important gift to protect you.”

Sean didn’t want to give into her on this dream catcher gibberish. There was also the possibility she had an undeclared purpose, a benefit later in the evening. Maybe she had a change of heart about sex, though his gut feeling told him otherwise. It was becoming clear when he tried to smile at her with a sexy expression; he was not going to get lucky tonight. It was time to reclaim some of his dignity.

“Here!” he snapped tossing the dream catcher to her. “You keep this and do what you want with it; I’m heading home. As for your movie idea, I don’t share your enthusiasm for the great, American Indian saga. In this town it has to be sex, car crashes, spies, weirdoes and mass murderers. That’s what I sell; that’s what I promote. The Indian thing is old news, passé.”

He turned toward her, browbeating her with his eyes in defiance. “Maybe we’ll run into each other some other time. Then again, maybe not.”

Before she could object, he was out the door, dodging the collection of cats that scattered underfoot.

The hum of his BMW was reassuring; things in life didn’t require faith in fairytales. His car performed, an act of mechanical genius, not pretend fantasy. He drove towards the foothills and home, his evening unsatisfactory at this point. He hoped Brandi might still be available, as a little consolation prize, unconditional sex usually made him feel better. Gratification without the voodoo bullshit was all he needed.

Save me from preachers and idealists. Little Wolf is one fine looking piece of ass, he thought. But I’m not wading through all that Indian crap to get it. There are plenty of willing chicks out there without that hassle.”

1:57AM and there was still no answer at Brandi’s apartment. She was usually there and would not hesitate to drive over in her shitty car, at his request. He then remembered where she was.

Yeah, just as I thought, he grinned. Mr. Producer is getting seriously, fucked by his new wannabe star; or at least, she thinks she’s going to be a star. Oh well, I can’t blame him or her. That’s how it’s done in this town.

The party had been a complete bomb, nothing to show for his trouble. No female prospects for sex and no reasonable business connections. The only woman, who snagged his notice, hated his guts. Worst of all was the stupid mystical bullshit about bad dreams. In spite of his rational mind, the mumbo jumbo left Sean a little unsettled, though there was no reason to believe the bum handing out trinkets. And it was nothing more than a coincidence, two Indians in one day, too ludicrous to give any serious credence. Ignoring the day and getting sleep was the only way to end his disappointment.

He was beat, anyhow; the party lasted too long and the trip into the valley wasted a lot of time, A good nights sleep necessary for his busy day tomorrow. He had to be on top of his game for this meeting. A little lunch and hustle will sew up his new prospect, which will add another chunk of change to the Sean Casey bankroll.

Lying naked on top of his designer, satin sheets, darkness enveloping Sean. Frankly, he didn’t give a damn about what kind of material the sheets were made of; women found them sensual and sexy. So, he succumbed by providing the satin seduction to escalate conquest. Once his prey was in the bedroom, the fun stuff was sure to follow. It wasn’t about the chase for Sean; it was the end result. It wasn’t just the sheets alone; in his life everything was designer this or that, right down to his sunglasses. Little things like that turned on the chicks. No designer labels of success, you were treated like a leper.

He felt the coolness of the satin sheets against his skin, reminding him of the carnal pleasures associated with them. The list of women sharing his bed was long, not that he remembered any of them. Even the sensual thoughts were tempered by the heat of the evening, his air conditioning on the fritz, not fixable until tomorrow. He dozed off, small beads of sweat rising to the surface of his skin.

The Dream:

To sleep, perchance to dream.

A ray of light began to burn his face; odd, since the sun did not come through his bedroom window in the morning. He felt like he had just fallen asleep, hardly resting at all. How could it be morning already?

Did I sleep in late, he panicked? I better get up and shower. Too many things to do today, I don’t need to be late.

When he opened his eyes, the view was not of his ceiling but that of the blue sky with the hot globe beating down on him, the sun. He rubbed his eyes shading them with his hand, trying to focus. He couldn’t remember much of the night before except going to bed. Now, however, he was outside and by all appearances, not in his house as he should be. Had he missed something during the evening?

Mentally he backtracked in his mind retracing the events of the night before. He couldn’t be anywhere else but at home, in the house. He went right to bed in his room, alone, without company, satin sheets and all. He remembered being miffed by the lack of company he should have had. His present locale was somewhere outdoors and different from the hazy skies of Southern California. Abruptly, he sat up scanning everything within view. Slightly blurry, another man was close at hand babbling something, incomprehensible. The urgency of the man’s words made Sean jump to his feet.

 “Heecha Sapa, we need to leave now before the, mila hanska, long knives, come,” proclaimed the stranger. “The Crow scouts are clever and know some of our tricks. They chase us, now; we must leave soon. We are not safe here. Perhaps we should hide in the hills where we leave no tracks. Even the Crows, our old toka, enemies have difficulty reading the rocks.” The man spat as he finished the word, to indicate his distaste for his pursuers.

Sean shook his head like a wet dog, attempting to change his distorted vision. None of this made any sense to him; nor did it make sense that the man before him was dressed like an Indian. The man’s clothing and attire came right out of the history books, braided hair, bare chest and loincloth. Maybe it was too much talk about Indians the night before.

“What the hell are you talking about?” complained Sean. “Why are you calling me, Heecha Sapa? And most of all, who the hell are you?”

“What would you have me call you? That is your name, is it not? We are friends, since we were small children. Do you not remember?” replied the man, concern etched into his face. “Are you not well? Has the sun made your head lose its thoughts?”

With no further comments, the man scooped up a few things preparing to leave. “We must go, now, quickly, Heecha Sapa.”

Sean began to suspect what was going on. This was either an incredible joke, which he doubted or the first real dream in his adult life. Apparently, it was about Indians, which seemed logical considering the recent events of the past day, amusing to him. Never having dreamt, Sean decided to play along. What other ridiculous things could happen in his imagination?

When I wake up from this one, I’ll have to write it down, he thought. This is too good to forget.

The impending danger seemed to require Sean to react in some way. Along with the other Indian, Sean mounted his horse, riding towards the distant hills. It was all done with the grace of a well, choreographed, ballet.

Damn! I didn’t know I could ride a horse, he marveled. I wonder what else I can do? This dream thing is kind of fun.

Looking down at his himself, Sean noticed some significant changes in his appearance. The hands were not the manicured hands of Sean Michael Casey but hands of a hard working considerably darker man. Unnerving as that might be, it was only a dream. He surveyed the rest of his body, finding similar differences in physique and color. His body was dark all over and very muscular. He was wearing next to nothing and felt the back of the horse rubbing his genitals as he rode along with the other Indian. No designer underwear or shoes were in evidence.

Even though the body was not his body, he felt every flex and twist of sinewy muscle. This was muscle like nothing he had ever experienced in his life. Sure, he went to the gym to keep the tone up but nothing like this.

To his own amazement, he knew where he was going. Fleeing from an unknown enemy was as natural as starting his BMW. He felt like two people in one, one understanding one world and the other familiar with quite a different world.

I wonder if other people dream like this, he contemplated? Maybe I’ve been missing out all these years. I wonder if there are any chicks in this dream. My luck, I’ll wake up before anything good happens.

The uptightness from his new, old, friend did not jive with Sean’s amusement in the bizarre dream. The friend was eager to put distance between them and an enemy Sean was not aware of. He didn’t see anyone chasing them and thought the whole caution thing was ridiculous.

“Quick, Heecha Sapa,” shouted the other man. “We must get into the hills before they catch up with us. We are sure to lose them there.”

“Whatever say, pal,” returned Sean, smiling. “It’s only a dream, buddy. Nobody is going to catch us or kill us. I read about anxiety dreams in college, bunch of crap if you ask me. It’s supposed to come from unfinished emotional garbage in your subconscious.”

He added, “Being an Indian, you wouldn’t know that, of course. People dream because they don’t know how to deal with stuff. I, on the other hand, don’t have any unresolved issues. So this is just some crazy head-trip because I got stiffed last night.”

“These words are strange to me, Heecha Sapa,” reported the man, growing more concerned with his friend’s discourse. “But I will not ask what that must mean, until later. Please, no further talk. The mila hanska are not far behind.”

There was an odd thing about their exchange. He understood all of it, though it wasn’t a language he knew. It sounded like babble with a narration in his head. He supposed dreams were that way. Strangely enough, the other Indian understood him too, even though Sean spoke only English. But who was he to question the meaning of dreams, while he was in the middle of one?

Sean hoped this little episode didn’t mean a trip to a shrink. Lots of Hollywood types spent plenty of dough trying to find out why they hate their mothers or why their father never loved them. Waste of money in Sean’s mind; shrinks were for losers, who never set down their priorities in life. He knew exactly what he wanted and where he was going in life, the real misfits went to shrinks.

The escape had not been completely successful; soldiers and Indian scouts could be seen a short distance behind. The scouts could make out their movements and follow their tracks. The maze was their only hope. The maze was a natural formation of twists and turns in the hills, which contained many dead ends. If a man rode the wrong direction, he might find himself up against a sheer hillside. Experience and cunning were the only way to evade an encroaching enemy. It reminded Sean of a well-directed movie.

They wove right and then left and then straight ahead, until the enemy was confused. As the chase continued, Sean heard the crack of gunfire behind him, different sound from what he’d heard at the movies.

This is an amazing dream. If I could get this on film, I could make some serious money, he thought. Of course, to make it more exciting we’d have to blow something up, possibly one of these hillsides for good measure. That would make the movie perfect.

A whizzing sound near his head elicited a sharp pain to his left shoulder. His muscular, brutish shoulder was leaking blood and hurt like hell. Sean was not prepared for pain in his dream; there shouldn’t be any.

Wait a minute! You’re not supposed to feel pain or anything in dreams, he whined to himself. That’s the rules, I think. You are supposed to pinch yourself to see if you’re awake; I’m sure of it.

He probed the wound with his finger and felt the sting to his touch. A neat line drew across the shoulder, the blood drying quickly at the wound sight.

Ow! There has to be an explanation for all of this. This isn’t exactly a mosquito bite. I hope I wake up soon; I don’t like this part, at all.”

A few more twists and turns in the maze left soldiers and scouts behind. The other Indian led the way, pointing to a place where they should go. Sean’s shoulder still hurt but seemed to be numbed by the fear and exhaustion. His companion was unharmed, quite able to move on without stopping.

His uninjured muscles responded with precision as the two men raced away from their enemies. Thirty minutes later both of them were at the top of a bluff looking down at their pursuers. As planned, the soldiers had ridden down a dead end and had become lost. The officer in charge ignored the scout and chose to follow a dead end route. The soldiers had no respect for their Indian scouts and treated them poorly but the scouts still worked for the “blue coats” out of hatred for an old enemy, the Lakota Sioux.

Sean looked at his arm, now covered with a combination of dried blood and dust. The wound continued to seep but was not actively bleeding. Streaks of dark red dried blood began to flake off in places, making the area look worse than it was. His companion led them off to a place where they could camp in safety.

“Who the hell are you?” demanded Sean looking at his new companion. “This has got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. Fucking soldiers, Indians and wilderness, what am I doing in this place? I drive a BMW not a horse. I wear a five-thousand dollar Italian suit, not a leather rag between my legs.”

Heecha Sapa, I fear the wound has made you troubled in the head, though I do not think much blood is lost,” answered his companion. “I will attend to it for you but you must rest. The soldiers will soon return once they listen to their scouts. That will not be until the morning. It is becoming too dark for any to track. We are safe as long as we make no fire.”

“Okay if I’m going to go along with this dream, I should at least know your name,” continued Sean.

Hehaka Najin, as it has always been,” answered the Indian. “It is strange to me that you cannot remember. We have grown up together, fought battles. We are only two winters apart in age. Can you not remember?”

Hehaka, whatever, this is all new to me,” grumbled Sean. “This is only a dream, pal. One hell of a dream; I’ll say that for it. You do whatever you want Hehaka whatever. I’m going to wake myself up now; I’ve had enough of cowboys and Indians for one night. By the way, what are you putting on my shoulder?”

“It is only a poultice, Heecha Sapa,” he replied placing the remedy. “Hehaka Najin is not as skilled but this will help draw the poisons from the white’s bullet. We are lucky. It is only a small scratch.”

Small? Scratch, my ass, Sean thought. It hurts even to think about it.

The poultice was cold and clammy; it felt good. The throbbing subsided a little and the angry swelling diminished. Sleep was beginning to overtake Sean; maybe he can manage a better dream or possibly wake up will stop all this foolishness.

The Real World

Noisy sounds began to seep into Sean’s consciousness, sleep trying to shut out its persistence. The noises were cars, people and a jet flying overhead, the roar of the aircraft climbing to its designated altitude. He didn’t move for a few minutes, listening to be sure these were sounds he was familiar with before attempting to open his weary eyes. A lawnmower started up and then a leaf blower. Irritating sounds, yet very reassuring to his ears, a sign that the dream had ended. His eyes opened slowly to see the open beamed ceiling of his bedroom, painted a faint Peach Butter that guaranteed his sexual success with women, according to his gay interior decorator.

What a stupid ass name for a color, he thought. Peach Butter? What would that decorator know about women, anyhow? What a crazy dream that was! That Indian chick must have implanted the idea when I split from her dump last night. Serves me right for putting the move on the wrong babe.

He was very tired but decided not linger in bed for long, too much to do and he was starving. There wasn’t much to eat in the house except a few cans of soup and some organic, whole wheat bread.

Maybe a little racket ball at the Olympic Club and one of their healthy power breakfast drinks afterwards, he considered. That should clear the cobwebs. I can’t be foggy headed today, got big fish to fry, a nice wad of cash.

He rolled to the side of his bed and felt a sharp pain.

“Ow! That hurts,” he said our loud.

A few aches and pains weren’t unusual after a good workout at the gym. But he hadn’t been to the gym in several days. His left shoulder glowed red and angry, a line with dried blood stared back at him.

“Geez! How the hell did this happen?”

Sean looked down at the satin sheets noticing a significant bloodstain over a small portion. Suddenly, the events of his dream came rushing back to him.

“That’s impossible,” he insisted loudly. “That was only a stupid dream. I must have been pretty drunk last night; must have cut my arm on something.”

Talking out loud to no one worried him; he was not accustomed to talking to himself, though there were moments when he had done so, usually an expletive of some sort. One could not be expected to silent when you wacked your head on an open cabinet or stubbed his toe in the dark.

Yeah, that’s it, he thought. That Indian chick and dreamcatcher crap must have done a psyche job on me. What an idiot, I didn’t even score. Well, there’s plenty of good lookin’ fluff out there, waiting for a guy with connections. And Brandi still hasn’t officially split the scene, so there’s a chance of a short rematch with her. I’ll bet she’ll be back in a flash, once the producer introduces her to the hard facts of Hollywood. You gotta know how to play that game. Besides, Brandi is fooling herself to think she’s got any real talent.

Sean had no idea about what to do with the injured shoulder. The best he could manage was a series of small plastic Band-Aids to cover the three-inch long wound. He’d have to find a larger bandage to put on or he’ll bleed all over his designer shirts at his meeting later that day. Curiously, there were bits of grass stuck to the scratch. He must have fallen on somebody’s lawn or something. He didn’t have a lawn on his property only a few outside potted plants and patches of flowers, so it must have happened somewhere else.

Sean was about to leave when his phone rang; he kept an old landline for limited occasions. He debated whether to let the machine pick it up but decided monitor the call first to avoid some of the unwelcome calls, old girlfriends and pesky solicitors and threats from people he’d screwed in the business. Otherwise, his cell phone was used for everything else.

“Sean,” echoed the voice on the machine. “Are you there? It’s Brandi. Please pick up if you’re there, honey. Come on, Sean. I really wanna talk to you. I’m like so bummed out.”

There was a brief pause before she continued.

“Oh, well, I’m sorry I missed the party last night. Leni, the producer didn’t exactly promise me the part, hoping to get a better feel for my new character. I think that’s a good sign, don’t you? He wants me to do some private readings for him. So, I won’t be there tonight, either, honey. I’ll make it up to you later; I promise, really, really.”

A bunch of kissing noises followed the short message, which added to his growing disinterest of Brandi.

“God! I can’t believe how dumb she is,” he sputtered. “Leni only wants to get a better feel of her ass with no promise for a part; everyone in this town knows that routine. But what can I expect? I didn’t snag her for her brains; Leni can have her. She was beginning to bore me, anyhow. Time to find some new talent, one who can say whole sentences, without a script.” He chuckled to himself. “One who can actually read a script.”

Doubt

The Olympic Club was done up like most things in Hollywood hangouts, fake fiberglass pillars made to look like marble dressed the very front of the building. Several statues of Greek Gods and Goddesses decorated the entry, also made of fiberglass stamped with ‘made in China’ at the base. The far wall of the gym area sported an impressive fresco of tumbled down ruins, exposing the stone blocks and blue sky. It was very majestic but only a painting. Behind the wall was a furniture store that sold seconds and the ever popular Lotto tickets.

Sean didn’t have to bother with displaying his membership card; the staff knew him well. Well enough to know he was a lousy tipper and demanded more service than his membership allowed. The gym had a handful of people this morning, working out on various machines; mornings were never crowded. This was the retired crowd with a few young guys thrown in seeking business connections; he knew most of the members one way or another.

He climbed on the stair-stepper to warm up, while sizing-up the people who were there; a cute chick might be hanging around for a connection but not the case today. He needed a racket ball partner; there was always the possibility of a little schmoozing with someone important. If not, there was bound to be someone on the courts waiting for a challenger. He glanced down at his legs, paler in contrast to the legs in his dream. He lifted his arm, a twinge of pain reminding him of the injury to his shoulder. Half laughing, he shrugged, setting the timer on the machine. An older man in his fifties climbed aboard the machine next to Sean.

“Well, well, Sean Michael Casey, in the flesh,” declared the man, initiating a fake Irish accent. “Little early for you, Sean? You looking to kiss someone’s butt this morning?”

“Doctor Bill,” returned Sean, breathing harder. “Jealous? I didn’t know you were keeping tabs on me.” He added with a grin, “I didn’t know you cared. However, you have mistaken me for someone on the wrong side of the butt kissing, my friend. I never put myself in that position; it’s always the other way around. I’m just trying to squeeze in a little exercise before breakfast and an important meeting,” he continued. “Gotta stay sharp for the sharks out there.”

“I thought you were the only predator in that ocean, Sean. I’m not keeping tabs on you but noticed you left that party last night with a good-looking woman. I’m surprised you’re here at all, given the body on that one.”

“You were there?” asked Sean. “I didn’t see you.”

“I’m not surprised. You weren’t exactly looking for old friends; you never are. Besides, since when do you ever notice me? I’m not one of your clients or some cute fluff to chase. I saw you zoom in on that one early in the evening. That dark beauty looked like she had all of your attention. By the way, I noticed you had to make the first move on her; not your style, pal.”

“Eh, she was a dead end,” proclaimed Sean. “She’s just some American Indian or Native American, whatever they call themselves, looking for some sap to produce the ‘real’ story about Indians, more of that bleeding heart, feel guilty white people crap. I’ve seen it all before; I can’t believe I bothered with her. She’ll find some independent producer with long hair and no brains to crank it out for her, put it on the market and a month later it’ll be on video, gathering dust on the shelf. I’m sure she won’t make a dime on the project. Lucky to break even, if she can find the money to do it.”

“You never know, Sean. She might have a good idea with the right kind of promotion behind it. And you’re the man who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos.”

“Yeah, right! All I know, she’s like a lot of these amateur wannabes. The Indian loss and we won, end of story. They don’t have a budget or anyone to finance it, another beggar in Hollywood. Enough of this bullshit, how about a game or two of racket ball Mr. Eskimo or are you in the market for ice cubes? I’ll spot you points; you’re really not much of a challenge.”

“Don’t be a smart-ass,” returned Bill. “The last time we played, I had you panting like a dog on a hot day. You don’t have to spot me points, just try keeping up, pal.”

Both men laughed, exchanging a few more one-line insults, typical for boys and men. These small battles of wit and insults were the things that cemented a friendship. Sean really didn’t have any friends; one cannot afford friends in business, a weakness he never allowed. You might pretend but never get close lest you lose your advantage.

On the court, Sean was put through the paces, as promised, Bill pressing hard. Sean was pushed to the limit due to lack of sleep and Bill, no slouch playing to win. Half way through the second game, Bill stopped holding the ball while inspecting Sean’s blood stained sleeve.

“Hmm!” muttered Bill. “Did that little wild Indian girl scratch you? Your shirt is bloody.”

“It’s nothing,” answered Sean, pulling away. “I musta cut it on something last night, no big deal. I don’t remember doing it, could have happened anywhere.”

“Awful lot of blood. Let me take a look. I am a real doctor, after all,” insisted Bill, tucking his racket under his arm.

The shoulder had saturated the sleeve of the shirt. Bill peeled it back cleaning the shoulder with a clean towel. Ripping off the bandages, his face turned serious.

“You must have pissed the little lady off,” he snorted. “Did your new Indian girlfriend take a shot at you?”

“What?” snapped Sean. “Don’t be stupid; nobody shot at me. What makes you say a dumb thing like that? You’re plastic surgeon; what do you know gunshot wounds? Face lifts, boobs, liposuction and butt jobs hardly qualify you.”

“Come on, Sean I did spend a year in Vietnam as a surgeon towards the end of the war. I was young but I know what a gunshot wound looks like. This one is only a graze but was definitely made by a bullet. You in some sort of trouble? Drugs, money?”

“Geez, Bill!” complained Sean. “You know I’m not into the drug thing, a little booze is my only poison. And money? Ha, that’s never a problem for me. This is just some scratch I got, while I was drunk or something like that. Maybe I caught it on a bush or something.”

The insinuation of a gunshot wound upset Sean. In his dream, he had been shot. ‘Just a scratch,’ he was told. Was it a coincidence or was it time to make reservations at the funny farm? Dreams weren’t real, though he couldn’t account for the nasty scratch.

The rest of the day was spent in a fog, his meeting unfolding like a well-rehearsed play, aggressive and precise, just the way he always did it. The questions and particulars of the deal were handled with smooth, unfaltering finesse; he was a pro. In spite of his glib, quick-witted responses, Sean’s head was somewhere else most of the time.

He replayed his dream over and over trying to find a correlation between his ‘scratch’ and what might have really happened the night before. One drink is all he had at the party; he wasn’t much of a drinker. Being clear headed for his morning meeting was a necessity, liquor dulling the senses, possibly screwing up deals.

The evening ended with meal immersed in Cuban cigar smoke, his clients oblivious to the smoky blue din in the room. He hated cigar smoke but put up with it for the sake of business. It was after midnight when he arrived at his house smelling of cigar smoke. The late hour didn’t bother him, the tidy sum he negotiated worth the time. Sleep, that’s what he wanted. He wanted to shrug off his stupid dream and rest up for the next day’s commerce.

Sean noticed Brandi’s little Toyota parked to the side of the garage when he pulled into the driveway. Constant reminders taught her to never block his garage. His ‘Beemer’ lived in the garaged at all times; weather and the elements were not allowed to taint his perfect car.

Hm! She must have had an early night, he mused. That or the producer got what he wanted from her without wasting a lot of time before dumping her. I’m sure I’ll hear all about it. The tears and crap about the producer being an asshole is her problem; I don’t need that. God, I wish she’d go home.

Sean’s theory regarding the producer had been right. Brandi’s tears were laced with guilt, as she slept with Sean. Being used and dumped did that to women. There was only one way to shut her up. She needed consoling, validation and physical contact. He hated the words she always used. ‘Anything you want, honey. I’ll do it. I’ll make it up to you. Really, I will!’

Amore was a sorry compromise for her screw-up, though Sean didn’t care. He allowed himself this small pleasure, hoping it might take his mind off of the ridiculous dream. Her talent in bed exceeded any talent she may have possessed as an actress, producing in bed instead of acting on stage. It was sex, not love, not that it mattered to either of them. The act was done completely without any emotion or comment, a variety of physical exchange, nothing more.

At this point, it didn’t matter to Sean if Brandi stayed or left. She was one of a long string of babes he’d take to bed and dump when they began to bore him. There were no lies about love from either of them; they knew the game and played it for all it was worth, his connections and her body, a fair exchange.

The sexual encounter was a blur, Brandi doing all the things she promised. He was too exhausted to fully enjoy her attentions, though his lack of enthusiasm didn’t bother her. He was getting an apology, whether he accepted it or not; She, in turn, was getting the validation she needed and a temporary stay of execution.

Sometime during the night she slipped out, a habit of long standing and preferable. The reflection of a neighbor’s security light flickered on and off Sean’s Peach Butter ceiling. It activated for every cat or raccoon that crossed its path defeating the purpose it was intended. Sean had to speak to them about this irritating light; they had a security camera with infrared that did a better job without all the on and off light. But that was a discussion for later, not the wee hours of the morning. Before long, his eyes did not notice the flicker of light as sleep reassigned his consciousness to the void. He slept soundly.

Back Again

A cool breeze raised goose bumps to his skin, the chill stirring him.

Musta got cold overnight, he thought, clinging to sleep.

The smell of smoke, mingled with food cooking drifted into his nostrils, not a bad smell considering his overriding hunger.

Too damn early for grilling he thought, debating whether to get up or not. Probably Herb Nettles and his fat, crazyass wife, what stupid time to barbeque. Smells good, though.

He didn’t want to open his eyes, Brandi’s sexual apology almost screwing him to death. Guilt was the powerful motivation for her amorous sexual marathon, allowing him to exercise and maintain leverage. It gave him something to use for future intimidation, should he decide to keep Brandi on for a few days. It didn’t matter in her case; she was definitely on her way out. That aside, he just wanted to roll over and sleep for a couple more hours, sleep and purge his mind of dreams, Indians, arrogant actors and dumb broads.

Heecha Sapa, We must eat and leave, soon,” pressed a now, vaguely, familiar voice. “This rabbit found his way into my snare and to our fire. He will fill our bellies until we reach the village. We must be quick; our enemies will want to know where the smoke comes from. The Crow and Pawnee are good trackers; I do not fear the blue coats; they are poor trackers and stupid in their ways. We should eat and leave before we are discovered again.”

Reluctantly, Sean opened his eyes, the surroundings the same as they had been at the end of his dream the night before. Open country spread for miles with no houses or roads anywhere nearby.

“You, again?” he moaned. “What’s this, a continuing soap opera dream? Can I at least have a change of scenery? I think a different character would suit me better; a Roman Senator might be a nice change, rich and powerful instead of a piss, poor Indian. Always wanted to wear a toga that wasn’t made out of a bed sheet. Besides, Rome should be nice this time of year.”

Hehaka Najin stared at Sean with concern and puzzlement. He pointed to the small fire with a skinned creature roasting on a stick.

“This is getting ridiculous,” declared Sean, rising. “I’ve got things to do and need my sleep. You’re going to have to go play Indian by yourself, pal. As for those blue coats, they are just part of my imagination, just as you are. No one is chasing us, Crows, soldiers or Attila the Hun, it’s all just a dream and I refuse to buy into it.”

Hehaka Najin looked at his friend, now, troubled more than ever. They should get to the village before this strangeness grew worse. Matters, such as these needed to be handled by healers or holy men.

Heecha Sapa, can you ride? Perhaps the rabbit will taste better when we put distance between our enemies.”

Sean laughed. “Can I ride? Of course I can. I did last night, didn’t I? Why should it be different, now? In fact, I’m a good rider.”

He turned to the roasting rabbit enjoying the smell.

“Hmm! Rabbit on the run, sounds like the title of some bad, third rated movie; I’ve promoted enough of those to know,” muttered Sean. “Maybe I should start writing my own stuff. Can’t be any worse than what they’re cranking out now.”

“Movie?” murmured Hehaka Najin. “Again, you speak words, which I do not understand. Please, let us go, quickly.”

Sean scooped up his belongings, tying them onto his horse. He marveled at the skill with which he did so. It was not skill he had ever displayed before, the Boy Scouts, an organization he had never been a part of. He could barely tie his shoes, let alone any other knots; it was the reason he preferred loafer type shoes. Before mounting his horse, he decided to relieve himself; a full bladder and bouncing horse were not a good combination.

Taking a few strides in one direction, he liberated his male member, surprised at the ease, given the abbreviated, almost non-existent clothing. Another surprise was revealed; innocently, he retrieved something with his hand that gave him pause. It was an uncircumcised penis attached to this foreign body. It was not his.

He released the unfamiliar penis quickly, as if it were a poisonous snake. Homophobic or not, he was not about to handle any guy’s penis other than his own, dream or no dream. However, the urgency still remained; he needed to expel the unwanted fluid pressing on an unforgiving bladder or deal with the discomfort of peeing in his pants.

Wait! I’m not wearing pants, he thought in a panic. What’ll I do?

If he ignored this demand, would he end up peeing on his animal skin attire? Whether ‘Mr. Happy’ was his or not, the uncomfortable sensation insisted on immediate action. Carefully holding the offensive member and pointing it in a direction away from his moccasins, he let nature take its course. Relief was instantaneous and complete as if he had performed this function in reality.

Wow! It feels just like a real leak, he thought. I feel much better.

Instinctively, he shook it.

Oh, god, he thought! What am I doing; and am I doing it to me, or some other guy? I don’t even want to think about it.

The process was taking far too long for his new sidekick, who paced, anxiously.

Heecha Sapa, make your water and let us leave; this is not a time to play. I admire your bravery; you show no fear; this is not bravery but foolishness.”

“Hey pal,” grumbled Sean. “I don’t want to piss in my pants, that’s all.”

“Pants?” said Hehaka Najin. “Why do you continue to make strange talk?”

Sean realized the comment was out of place, considering his arrangement as an Indian. It wasn’t until Sean had mounted his horse that he discovered his personal hygiene, suffering. He also questioned his table manners, eating a rabbit on the run without benefit of a good hand washing afterwards and a rabbit that could use some salt and a few seasonings. His armpits reeked and the other parts of him did not smell much better. A thin layer of smelly oil covered most of his skin, unpleasant to smell but it did manage to keep the mosquitoes off.

I’ll have to manage a better dream, next time, one that smells better.

His previous declaration about not dreaming wasn’t entirely true. Until the age of five he’d dreamt; his dreams never amounted to much. There was the sensation falling or running from something, never any pain, feeling or sensation attached them. His mother told him to pinch himself, if he wanted to find out if he was dreaming. Now the only result from that would be a black and blue mark followed by pain.

The two men zigzagged their way through low rolling hills, eventually opening up into a high plain. They rode in a very wide arch, to avoid being followed to the village. Hehaka Najin was masterful at covering their tracks, doubling back and leaving several false trails. It was time consuming but the only safe way to avoid discovery. Sean was familiar with the techniques but couldn’t remember where he had learned them. That seemed to fall in the same category as his ability to tie knots and ride horses.

At one point he drew his bow and killed another rabbit from his horse. It was strange enough being a primitive equestrian, let alone a marksman with a bow and arrow. Yet the process was automatic, like making the morning coffee. You didn’t think about it; you just did it. Shooting an arrow hardly fell into the category of making coffee. The coffeemaker didn’t dash about while you were in the middle of the process.

They rode toward two mounds rolling out of the flat landscape. Trees and a waterway became apparent as they approached. Their pace slowed, both men fatigued, having to look back every so often to see if anyone followed. Over confidence in one’s ability to escape detection was tempered by the sound diligence of making sure.

The Village

Greetings were exchanged as the men rode to their tipestola, tipi situated near the inner circle of the village. Many faces greeted them, glad for their safe return and pressing questions about their journey. No one paid much attention to Sean’s injury. Warriors came back from battles and hunts with scratches and bruises; it was expected. Yet men did not speak of their pain. Pain and battle were a part of their life, not spoken about unless at waktoglakapi, to tell of one’s victories. It would be rude to be boastful outside of that.

From behind a decorated tipi, a plain woman of undetermined age strode with crossed arms over her ample bosom, a scowl etched on her face. She was heading right for Sean and looked formidable; apparently, she knew him. Her eyes leveled with Sean’s as she began to speak.

Heecha Sapa, do you have no care for your family?” she shrieked. “Are we of such small importance to you? You say you are going hunting and next I hear you are playing with the blue coats. Should we starve while you are gone? My sons would grow weak were it not for the generosity of others. And so, what have you brought for the family to eat, no deer or animal of size? What? All I see is a scrawny rabbit. What will be left for us, once you have filled your belly?”

It was poor form for a woman to address a man in such a way. Hehaka Najin turned away, not to interfere with the personal matters of another family.

“Who are you?” questioned Sean. “Am I supposed to know you?”

“Who am I?” she snapped. “I am your brother’s wife and now your second wife. I’m the one who cooks your food and mends your clothes. Have you been gone so long that you have forgotten this? Just because your first wife is young and pretty does not mean you cannot care for both of your wives.”

“I have a wife?” he stammered. “Uh, I mean wives? How did that happen? I’ve never been married.”

“Pay no attention to his words, Hota Win,” interrupted Hehaka Nagin trying to explain the present situation. “I think he suffers from a fall or possibly a kaga, demon, has entered his head when he was wounded. He makes no sense, sometimes; I’m sure it will pass.”

Hehaka Nagin did not sound as convincing as he wished. It was quite possible Hota Win would be all too willing to unload her wrath on him as well, though it would be terribly out of line.

“How did this happen?” challenged Hota Win. “My poor husband, his brother, killed two winters ago by the wasichu, white men and he does not remember taking me as his wife? What shame! I know he took me as a wife because there was no one else for me. Hopa Winyan Wakan, number one wifehas his eye but he must feed us all. That is all I have to say.”

A few men and women chuckled in the crowd. Women could be difficult at times but it was not good to argue publicly. Sean untied the dead rabbit and tossed it to his newly discovered second wife. She departed with a snort leaving the men to tell their brief encounter to those gathered around them.

A wife, Sean thought? Two wives? I hope the other one is better looking than this one. Ugh! You’d think I’d dream of a foxy babe, not this coarse irritating woman.

Sean looked around; none of the faces were even remotely familiar; they all knew him, however. He must have status with these people the way they make over him. An old woman, head lowered, avoiding eye contact, tended to his wound, redressing it, tying it in place with some sinew. She did not say a word to him but continued to avert her eyes when he looked at her. So far the benefits of having two wives were not obvious to Sean. If Hota Win was anything like his first wife, he might stand a better chance with the soldiers.

I need to find out where I live, he thought. It’s not like they have numbers on these tents. I don’t know where to start; they all look alike to me. Considering this nasty wife, I’m not sure I want to go into the same tipi with witch hazel.

He closed his eyes for a second and decided to let his intuitive sense find the right dwelling. As much as he wanted to believe, intuition was not something he was terribly familiar with. It worked when he was riding back to the village and also when he shot the rabbit, all done without thinking. Maybe his feet will know the way.

He walked around the entire center circle of the camp, his intuition not helping. Since the village was constructed in a circle it was difficult to decide which direction to go. People stared at him with apprehension, his wandering making them wary. Then, as if by fate, he heard a familiar voice. Hota Win had not stopped her rant, which made it easy to find his tipi. Once in the proximity of her voice, he knew which was his and headed for the door flap.

Before he could grasp the edge, the flap flung open. A young woman stood, as if frozen, looking at him. A tear welled up in her eye followed by a slight smile. She was phenomenally beautiful, a delight beyond what he had experienced so far in his ridiculous dream.

Could I be so lucky, he thought? If she’s my first wife things might be looking up.

“I was afraid you would not come back,” said the woman, locking her eyes on his. “Many said the soldiers would kill you if you were caught. But I knew they could not. You are cunning like tokalu, the fox and strong like mato, the bear. Come let us sit for awhile and tell me all.” She edited her eagerness adding, “Unless, of course, you do not wish it.”

“You must be, ah, Hopa Winyan, whatever,” said Sean pleased with the possibilities. “My first wife? Cool!”

Sean sensed something very familiar about this woman, unable to put his finger on it but figured it was just a dream, anyhow. It didn’t matter.

“I fear the time away from us and your wound, has dampened your memory,” she suggested. “We will reacquaint later, if you choose. I am eager to do so.” She bowed her head modestly and added, “Unless you do not desire me.”

“Desire?” questioned Sean. “A babe like you? You can wrinkle my satin sheets any day.”

Hopa Winyan Wankan shot a worried glance at him. His words made no sense to her but she would let it pass.

“Who was that old woman working on my shoulder?” he added. “She hardly looked at me or spoke. Felt funny.”

“It was my mother, silly,” replied Hopa Winyan Wankan. “You know how she tries not to be a burden for you. Just because she lives here doesn’t mean she has to impose. She does not speak much, as you must remember. It is her way; you know that. Something has changed your thinking; I hope it is nothing serious.”

“She lives here, in this tipi?” Sean muttered. “Same tiny tipi, right?”

“Yes, with all the others,” continued Hopa Winyan Wankan. “Nothing has changed.”

“And others?” he added unprepared to share his space with anyone besides his first wife.

“Our whole family lives here, Hota Win’s boys still too young to be away from us,” she answered.

Overwhelmed with his new position as a married man with tons of relatives, Sean decided it was best to limit his conversation for the rest of the evening, everyone uneasy with everything he said. They all sat around a pot of cooking meat; part of it was the rabbit he shot. Other bits of meat consisted of small squirrels and other creatures caught by the boys. Hota Win remained quiet, a relief from her earlier outburst. Few words were spoken in the tipi beyond what was necessary.

He discovered his lodge housed five other people plus himself. He was the only male except for Hota Win’s two boys, who looked to be close to their teens. The boys fidgeted and fussed leaving after the meal for destinations unknown. Sean found the food barely edible, being modestly prepared without benefit of seasonings; gourmet was not a word to be found in this group. Sean ate because he was hungry not because the food was good. Berries, mixed with a mush type substance was also available, better tasting but not very satisfying. When he wakes up, from this dream, he will have to get himself a good breakfast, French roast coffee, eggs, bacon and hash browns sounded about right to him.

The assembled family watched him like a hawk, word spreading fast about his crazy talk. Some thought he could be wakan witkotkoka, crazy in a sacred way. No one said anything about it because crazy can be good or bad. Wakan tanka often spoke through people who acted in a strange and in a contrary way. They would wait and see if it was the case with Heecha sapa. He did not seem to be possessed by a bad kaga, demon, only the memories and strange talk gave all concern.

Hopa Winyan Wakan checked the wounded shoulder, smearing a smelly substance onto it before tying the bandage back in place.

“It is only a scratch, my husband,” she commented. “It will heal quickly if we care for it. You were very lucky to escape the blue coats. I am not surprised. You are a skilled warrior, my husband. It bothers me that these wasichu war on us so much; will it ever stop? Perhaps the wasichu will tire of fighting and leave.”

“Are you kidding?” Sean refuted. “They’re going to kick your….errr, I mean our butts. Face it; there is no future for Indians in this land. They should give up and save everyone from getting killed. I know about history; it’s a done deal, honey.”

Hopa Winyan Wankan appeared bothered by his strange words. The words had no meaning to her and she feared he might be angered if she told him so.

“I’m sorry to provoke you,” she apologized. “It is not a woman’s place to speak of such things. Yet, it is in my heart; so many of our people have died at the hand of the wasichu. Forgive me for speaking of it.”

“Hey, I only know what I read in history books,” answered Sean going along with the dream charade. “You, or I should say we, all end up on some reservation in the end. Every chance the whites get, they screw us out of food and more land. And nothing will change that course. It’s pathetic, I know, but I didn’t write the story, just repeating the facts.”

Hopa Winyan Wakan eyes grew troubled as her husband continued to say crazy things. She could make no sense of it, his behavior changing in some peculiar way. He was not as he had been before, perhaps changed to be a seer or holy man, it had been known to happen. Shethought it best to make him comfortable and not agitate him further. A night’s rest and some coupling would make his mind return by the morning.

Their carnal pleasure had not brought forth any children over the time of their marriage, not for lack of trying. She was sad; she knew her husband felt the same desire to have children. Hopa Winyan Wakan wanted to give her husband many sons. Heecha Sapa watched other men teach their sons skills and the way of the Lakota people. Hehad been a mentor for several of the young boys in the village, none of them his. But their coupling had not been fruitful though it was still enjoyable. She will encourage him to take another wife in time, Hota Win not appealing to his carnal nature. Many women were without husbands because of all the fighting. Perhaps the new wife will bear him children.

Sean had a new immediate problem, however. Bodily functions in the twenty-first century were easily taken care of with modern plumbing, like toilets and such. No such facilities existed in the tipi. Given the time and place, he did not find that surprising, only inconvenient.

He laughed to himself, coining a clever phrase. “No pee-pee in the tipi.” Cute little joke that it was, it didn’t meet his needs for the moment. With a camp this size there had to be some kind of central place for such activities, an outhouse or favorite tree. This next task did not involve the handling of his unfamiliar male member. It was a delicate matter requiring a toilet seat, good light and reading material. He doubted there would be a Wall Street Journal lying around or an Internet connection to scan the web.

“Uh, you, Hopa Winyan Wakan is there a place where I could, uh, you know, because of all this food,” he stammered, pointing to his stomach and buttocks, a form of charades not easily imparted to his immediate family. “Where does a guy go number two around here?”

“Number two?” she repeated, unfamiliar with any numbers. “I do not know what you say.”

This was a time when delicacy had to take a backseat. Gesturing a squatting position, Sean made his need known.

“Where it always is,” she replied. “Have you forgotten? Do you wish me to walk you there?”

“Nope, just point, honey.”

Being in the center of the village might indicate higher status but it was a fair distance for a quick emergency bathroom run. Downwind from the village Sean found a stand of trees where he was able to attend to his pressing engagement with some difficulty. He looked around after taking care of the immediate business.

“No toilet paper it would seem,” he commented much to his distress. “Of course, there’s no toilet paper. I keep forgetting I’m an Indian. But why can’t I have a dream with toilet paper? Toilet paper doesn’t seem like too much to ask for in a dream. Now I remember why I never became a Boy Scout.” He looked around as if there would be a sign in answer to his question. “I suppose they must use these wads of grass by the look of it. Yuck! Gross! No shortage of grass around here. Geez! And this stuff is rough. Ouch!”

The light was fading fast; Sean almost couldn’t find his way back. Along the way many greeted him with a nod and, “Aho!” Failing anything else to say, he nodded back looking as stern as the men who greeted him. There was a familiar camaraderie among them he couldn’t quite grasp. There wasn’t anything to worry about; it was only a dream, after all. None of this was real, a figment of his furtive imagination.

When I wake up, I’m going to have to get a hold of that Indian chick, Little Wolf, he grumbled to himself. I don’t know if she can do anything about this dream thing. She can give me back that stupid dream catcher in case it helps. Then I can crap like a regular person in my own century on my own toilet with real toilet paper. I surely don’t want to come back here; this Indian stuff, sucks.

When Sean returned to his lodge, where all his roommates were there, Hota Win and her boys were bedding down. The older woman peeled off her deerskin dress and slipped under the buffalo, sleeping robe. The thought of this woman being his wife made him, shudder. His Mother-in-law was fast asleep, only her gray hair sticking out from under her sleeping robe. He turned to Hopa Winyan Wakan with a pleasing result, her potential nakedness the only positive thing he’s experienced so far.

Once her wrap was removed, the view had improved considerably. She was beautiful; perfect in fact. She was slender enough without being too skinny, her hips full and bosom nicely formed. Her back looked like a piece of ancient artwork, chiseled in the finest marble, each curve the result of a masters touch. The flickering light of the fire danced on her skin, instilling desire.

Looking over her shoulder she smiled. “Heecha Sapa, would you like me to give you pleasure? It has been many days and I know how you enjoy it. It gives me much pleasure too,” she whispered, tucking under the sleeping robe.

“I am saddened your child has not come from me yet,” she added. “Your seed does not grow in me. Perhaps someone more suitable can give you sons, perhaps my sister, Hota Win, I will understand. She has two sons. She may give you more.”

Wincing, he shook his head at the suggestion. His desire for Hopa Winyan Wakan went beyond the procreation of sons. She had not missed his intense longing for her as he drew her closer.

“You watch me with such desire, my husband. Your eyes gaze at me like those of a man who has never been with me. It is curious and a little frightening since I cannot give you a child.”

“Damn!” he grunted. “I knew there had to be an upside to this dreaming thing. No honey, you’ll do just fine. Let your sister get her beauty sleep. She needs every second.”

Before he could remove the few things he wore his desire became obviously clear. Hota Win took one look and rolled over in a huff, snorting under her breath. “Men! They are such children, so quick for their own pleasure. Why he wishes to waste time on the barren woman is a mystery to me. Pity, he should hunt as well as he couples; we would all be fat through the winter.”

His wife’s old mother was only a couple feet from them, snoring soon after her head met her sleeping robe. Sean felt a little funny in a small room of people and a beautiful woman, awaiting his arrival. There might be some who like this kind of communal thing but it was not his cup of tea. He tried to shut it all out for the pleasures that might be had in his stupid dream.

“Mmm! What’s that smell?” he asked.

“I bathed myself with water and wacanga, sweet grass,” she answered, feeling his body move closer to her. “I know how much you like it. Does it please you?”

“Yes, very much. Very, very much.”

Women tended to submit to sex when he bedded them. This wasn’t the case with Hopa Winyan Wakan. She readily engaged him in such a way that made him feel good about himself. The sad fact, the dream dampened some of his pleasure. The experience was love, an emotion that he never shared with any woman.

Chapter of Doubt

Sean was jolted from his sleep, the ground rumbling beneath him.

Earthquake?

His mind cleared enough to hear the steady growl of a large truck slowly passing the front of his house. Large trucks were not allowed in the neighborhood unless they were making deliveries, a rule of the association he belonged to. He was too tired to check it out but consider making a complaint to the proper offcials.

His room was warm, the Peach Butter paint reminding him where he was. Home. The dream was gone and so was the beautiful woman he had made love to, his mind drifting back to their intimacy. He’d slept with plenty of women, more than would be considered proper in polite society; it was a tool to barter with without all the complications of feelings. The women were pretty much the same, willing to do the act, yet emotionally removed. They slept with him because they wanted something, always some hook, a price for what he wanted. That had been acceptable until now. In the dream his Indian wife made love to him with a devotion never experienced before; it wasn’t an act.

God, I’m losing it, he thought. I’ve really been with a woman for the first time in a dream; how can that be? Maybe Brandi slipped in with her guilt thing trying to make it up to me. I know she doesn’t want to get the boot yet, too many producers to meet and connections to make, not that it will do her any good.

“No time to dwell on a stupid dream,” he said out loud. “ Today, I gotta promote my new bad boy for Moonlight Studios and it’s not going to be easy. If the slime can stay clear of the sleazy hookers for a few months and stay clear of the tabloids, I can make him a star. All the goody-two-shoes out there want him to look like a twenty-five year old virgin. Well, I can’t make him a Mother Teresa but I can make him look better than he really is. I love this business; I sell tons of bullshit and the public buy it.”

The wound on his shoulder looked better than the day before. It was still a little sore but a healthy scab had formed. As he inspected his shoulder he detected a strange aroma coming from his skin. It wasn’t unpleasant, smelled like a sweet tea or something close to that. He knew it wasn’t his after-shave. He sniffed at it several times to be sure.

Brandi must have a new perfume; I kinda like it, he mused. I’ll have to make sure to find out so I can buy it for my next girlfriend.

He was too late to grab a shower, dressing quickly. In a flash he was off to the studio, his BMW humming its way down the winding road, tiny tire squeals, acknowledging the serpentine path. He made a mental note to get a hold of the Indian woman. It probably didn’t matter; she wouldn’t know anything about these dreams. But she was good looking and worth another shot.

With Brandi soon to be history, it was good to have a back up gal. He was piqued by the challenge of this Indian gal with a no nonsense attitude he found enticing if not a little daunting. Most of his women required no work to get what he wanted; a few promises and right connections brought them right to his bed. As good looking as she might be, he didn’t want to waste too much time on the Indian chick. A challenge was fine but there comes a point when a guy needs a warm body in his bed.

The studio guard waved him through and pointed to the offices to the left, near the sound stages. Sean didn’t need the directions but thanked the guard, anyhow. You never know when being nice to a guard will get you in when you’re not supposed to. This company needed him, big time. Moonlight Studios was in a world of financial hurt, three bad films in a row almost bankrupting them. They needed a big one to get them out of the red with a cute hunk of a guy and a fair amount of tits and ass thrown in. The male lead they found; getting the T & A was also easy.

The parking area looked like a car lot for the rich and famous. Rolls Royce, antique, fully restore, Mercedes and other high-end cars were there. His custom “Beamer” fit right in; his future client’s obnoxious, flashy, piece of crap car stood out among all these classic gems. It was one of those custom jobs built in Italy, painted a hideous purple with green trim with a piss-poor engine. To the average man on the street, the car looked impressive. In reality it was a Fiat with a custom fiberglass body and tons of crap glued onto it. Tom Pillings, the owner of this beast had terrible taste in cars, which also extended to women, though his cars were slightly classier.

Sean waltzed into the reception lobby and winked at the woman behind the desk. She stood up, leaned forward and kissed his cheek. Sean reached around and gave her a quick Hollywood hug noting that her outfit was a little more suggestive than usual.

Must be trying to impress our horny rising star Tom Pilling, he thought.

“I love this kind of business reception,” chided Sean. “I’m going to recommend to all the other studios. And I must say, if you looked any sexier, we’d have to take a long lunch together, very long.”

The woman turned her head sideways and held up her left hand, displaying an impressive diamond.

“Nice try, Sean. But this girl already has a guy, a steady one. And I don’t kiss every good looking guy that comes through the door,” countered the receptionist. “Especially that icky creep Tom Pillings. Who knows where his lips have been in the last twenty-four hours? Yuck! I don’t even want to think about it.”

She leaned back giving Sean the once-over. “So, you still with bimbo Brandi? Is she going to be the lucky girl or do I really have a chance? I can return the ring back for the right offer. I may not be as young as some of your bimbos. But what I lack in youth; I make up for with experience; ask my last ex-husband.”

“Sylvia, you know I would have dated you more than a couple times, if it hadn’t been for those kids of yours. You’re hot stuff, but,” he said. “I’m not the dad type. Besides, your kids hated me.”

“They didn’t hate you, Sean,” she answered, tucking an errant curl back in place. “You just wouldn’t let them stand on your leather seats. Other than that, they thought you were fine. As for the ‘hot stuff’ comment, I’ll take that as the only compliment I’ll get today. I guess I’ll keep my ring after all.”

“Ah, yes, Sylvia,” he joked. “It’s just one of those small quirks I have, the seats, that is. I pay big bucks for something; I hate to see it trashed by a set of dirty sneakers. I guess we’ll never know if we were soul mates or not.”

“Soul, ha! You were more like a heel in my book,” Sylvia toyed. “So, are you here to put the chastity belt on our boy Tom? Heavens knows he’s got a reputation that would sour milk inside the cow. I won’t repeat what he suggested to me.”

“I figure we’ll lock him up for a couple months until the publicity breaks,” returned Sean checking his watch. “Being by himself might prove to be a new experience for him. I’m sure he’ll hate it, not my problem.”

“Mmm! I have to say I like that new soap you’re using, smells natural, clean. Not at all like the junk you usually buy,” remarked Sylvia. “Come back and let me get another whiff of it before you go to the meeting. I’d love to find out what it is.”

He did and she kissed his cheek again, tapping his face playfully.

“I know what that is,” she said. “It’s Sweet Grass. They sell it in the novelty/import stores on Rodeo; it’s an Indian thing, I think. Smells great when ya burn it like incense, did that when I was a teenager. Where did you get that soap? I’d love some of that myself.”

Sean’s expression changed, quickly. He sniffed at his arm, again, then remembered where he smelled that before. His face blanched.

“Uh, it’s not soap, I think it could be something Brandi wears,” he lied. “ It’s a girlie thing I guess. Anyhow, I gotta run, meeting’s starting in about five minutes. The fat old guys are all lighting up and I want to get in there before they completely fill the room with smoke.”

Sean was the usual reformed smoker, smoking for a few years in college but soon got on the health kick. Ever since, he couldn’t tolerate cigarette or cigar smoke. Distasteful as it might be, one had to make sacrifices in the business.

Sean walked into a cloud of blue smoke wrinkling his nose at the noxious fumes. Three older men sat around a desk puffing away while the younger, Tom Pillings slouched in an overstuffed leather chair, one leg draped over the arm of the chair sucking on a nasty cigarette. A sexy, young, slinky woman with big breasts sat in front of Tom exposing as much as she could and still be considered clothed. Sean figured this must be the diversion to hold Tom’s attention during the meeting, his attention span equal to that of a three-year-old.

The woman turned out to be the star of their new picture, a cookie-cutter blonde found on every corner in Hollywood. She was long on legs and short on brains; perfect for the sexy, shoot ‘em-up, blow ‘em-up movies Tom usually made. Tom acted like the brave hero in his films, though if the truth were told he was a wimp. Rumor had it, he ran out of his dressing room shaking when he saw a spider in the corner of his trailer. He refused to go back in until someone captured the insect and removed it from the area.

Sean had never met Tom but was well versed on his nefarious exploits with cheap, sleazy women. The harder looking and nastier the woman, the better he liked them. He wasn’t that good looking but women seemed to flock to him like he was some sex god, undoubtedly some animal magnetism. His vile language could only be tolerated by a woman, who was not so picky. Sean hated him, immediately.

The usual greetings were exchanged before they got down to business, the offer of a Cuba cigar turned down. A few stories were shared about vacationing in the Bahamas and the best offshore places to hide money, things like that. It was all a game to impress one another, one that Sean refused to join in. He positioned himself in a chair where the smoke was less imposing waiting for the deal to begin. Tom uttered the first words.

“Hey man, did someone say something about sequestering me, whatever the fuck that means. I don’t get this stayin’ on ice shit to promote your next fuckin’ picture,” complained Tom. “Me and Rodger,” He pulled on his crotch to indicate his privates. “Need to get out and about on a daily basis, bangin’ a few babes every night. If you think I’m going to play your pure white driven snow celibate game, you can fuck yourselves. Some other studio will sign me to their picture in a flash. In fact, my manager said there are a few interested in me, right now.”

He leaned back in his chair staring at his co-star’s breasts, smug and confident no one will have a good comeback.

All the eyes in the room moved toward Sean, who had not flinched at Tom’s crude, tasteless remarks. It was as if King Arthur Court, being the collection of old guys with the knights of the Round Table waiting for his number one dragon hunter, Sean, to crush the naughty, evil Black Knight, Tom Pillings. Sean’s expression was emotionless, a poker player with a pat hand or an extremely strong bluff, no one could tell.

“Tom! May I call you Tom?” began Sean with an air less abrasive than Tom. “You have two basic problems as I see it; you have other problems beyond the two; but those don’t really affect the outcome of this movie, so we don’t need to address all of them. Your first problem is that you are under contract, like it or not. You might recall that when you were scratching your ass to pay the rent a short time ago. That same contract kept you from living on the street or in a homeless shelter slurping vegetable soup at the soup kitchen. You break the contract and all of these, fat, bald-headed guys sitting behind the table will sue your ass for every dime you’ve got. And they’ll get it; I’ll make sure of it.”

Second problem is you’re a lying piece of shit; no other studio will touch you; I’ve done my homework on that one. As for your manager, he dumped you a couple months ago when you tried to screw his wife. You’ve been black balled; you’re the nightmare most studios want to avoid. They want actors with reasonable morals and a mouth that doesn’t utter filth, every other word they speak. They don’t want to be represented by a sexual deviate, who gives hookers a bad name as well as their studios. Let’s face it buddy, the word is out; you’re name is synonymous with a leper and well deserved. Now you consider this studio the only oasis in your degenerate desert, if you get my meaning. You decide to go out on your own and you’ll die of thirst before anyone signs you.”

Sean glanced over to the studio magnates, who were shocked by his bluntness. Sean continued, “Oh, and there is a third problem and this particular one is most important of all.”

Tom sat up shrugging his shoulders uncomfortably. “Yeah, what would that be?” grumbled Tom.

“You’ll fuck up my commission, Tom,” warned Sean. “I can’t have that. They pay me big bucks to promote a slime like you; that’s not going to be easy. Now, I have no great desire to put your little friend Rodger in dry-dock or sever your nocturnal pastime; but if you screw me, it will be the last thing you screw because I’ll have you castrated. And I can guarantee it will be done while you are awake. Comprende?”

A hush fell over the crowd of men, while the young starlet looked around, trying to figure out what it all meant, fidgeting with the hem of her short dress and the very low neckline threatening to dump its contents out. Tom squared his shoulders, sat up, and looked down, into his folded hands as he spoke.

“Ya know, you’re a real asshole, Casey,” he whispered with a smile. “I like you. Okay, I’ll go along with the fuckin’ program. But I’ll need something to kill time with, some videos and books.” He pointed at his co-star, who was paying no attention. “Maybe a few private rehearsals with Miss Buttcakes at my place will help. Zat sound okay with you guys?”

All the men nodded in agreement. The young woman still hadn’t figured out her scheme in all of it.

“Who is this Miss Buttcakes?” she whined. “I thought I had the part. Leni, you promised me!”

Sean pushed a stack of papers in front of Tom and ordered him to sign. A few more signatures from the producer, director and the moneyman were all that was needed. Sean scooped up the contents and left before anyone could bid him farewell, a trail of smoke following behind him as he exited the door.

Sylvia, the receptionist called out to Sean as he left. “If you find out the name of that perfume, let me know. I’d love to get some of it.” She added, “Rain check on that lunch?”

Sean said nothing moving quickly to the parking lot.

Lingering Doubts

Sean could not remember his trip home, the events of the drive a blur in his brain, the dream beginning to get to him. First, he got shot and that appeared real enough, though there could be some other explanation for the nasty scratch. Next he made love to a woman in a dream and her smell was still on him when he woke. That could have been Brandi, which was likely given her tentative situation. Behind everything there had to some logical explanation.

He had to call Brandi as soon as he got home to verify the scratch and perfume issue; that might help the feeling brewing inside his head. Maybe she could shed a little light on the smell left on him that morning, likely hers. Her number was still in the auto dialer; it wouldn’t be there long; of course, he hadn’t officially dumped her yet. Maybe she was wearing perfume like the stuff on his Indian dream wife; that made perfect sense.

“Wife!” he gasped aloud. “I don’t even want to think about it. And I had two wives in the dream; how crazy is that? It’s only a dream, nothing to get my shorts in a bind about.”

He punched in the number for the auto dialer; her phone rang five times before her answering system kicked in. It amazed Sean that she was even smart enough to program the thing.

The message began:

“Hi, this is Brandi. That’s Brandi with an “I” not a “Y”, you know, like at the end of my name and all. I don’t know where my phone is right now so please leave a message cause I could be doing a movie, or something. If it’s you, mom, I’ll call you collect tonight, mom. I’m over my limit. Bye!”

The message ended with Brandi’s usual kissing noises. Sean found that terribly trite and insincere.

He wasn’t sure what to say; asking a seemingly stupid question will only him to her level. He started slowly trying to think of a way to phrase it, make it sound casual.

“Hey, Brandi it was fun last night, I think. Wow! I must have been really out cold. I really enjoyed that new perfume you wore. What was the name of it? I might get you some for your birthday. Anyway, get back to me as soon as you can.”

It sounded lame because they already celebrated her birthday the month before. He hung up and began to formulate part two of his research, the Indian chick. It was pretty dark, when he dropped her off, no streetlights in that crappy neighborhood. He hoped he could find it; those valley neighborhoods all looked the same to him.

Actually, he was a little worried about driving his BWM in those neighborhoods. The “chop shops” in the valley had plenty of operatives skulking around looking for hot looking cars like his. His BMW would be on the top of the list to steal. Even with car alarms and other security devices, one could not ignore the potential. There was one advantage, parking in that jungle of weeds would hide it from the street.

The narrow street was cluttered with garbage cans, old couches and even older cars in serious disrepair. One car sat, upside-down on the lawn, rusting away, the house in the background reflecting the similar negligence. A few unkempt trees and scrubs broke up the monotony of small, unpainted buildings. Ancient oil stains from cars attested to the condition of the vehicles in the parking spaces along the way, the blight of poverty in evidence everywhere.

“This place looks worse in the daytime,” he muttered, searching for anything familiar. 

I must have had too much to drink, he thought. I can’t believe I was thinking of putting the moves on that Indian chick, what’s her name, Little Wolf? I sure as hell don’t need to get tied to some poverty case from the valley.

Sean drove down several streets off of the main one, remembering it was somewhere here that he had turned. He remembered the main drag because a movie had been shot in the area several years before. It was close but not the particular one she lived on. At last he began to notice some familiar signs, a very putrid yellow ’57 Chevy on blocks near the corner, a collectors piece if it wasn’t just junk.

How many ugly piss-yellow ’57 Chevys are there out there, he wondered? I thought those were all gone by now.

This block was different from the others in the area, older, not, tract type homes. About half way down the block he saw the small familiar house, hiding a distance from the street. The two porch supports had wild bird feathers tied to them as decoration. He recalled the broken down porch but couldn’t remember seeing the feathers that night. The hunting cats skulked about, keeping watch on the feathers as they twisted in the light breeze. The house was hidden and fringed by unkempt trees and scrubs. From the street Sean could see a car of unknown vintage tucked to the side of the house, partially obscured by the heavy vegetation. The metal body had rusted beyond recognition, a home for wayward cats and other fur vermin. By the look of the tall weeds the car had been there for a long time.

The driveway made a popping and crunching noise, as Sean’s BMW carefully maneuvered through old engine blocks and transmissions buried deep in the weeds, a small tree sprouting through one broken transmission casing.

The door of the house looked open, a rusty peeling screen door keeping a few of the larger bugs out; smaller bugs flew in and out at will. It reminded him a little of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies many decades before he was born. Noise from the tires alerted the occupant. The screen door swung open with the twanging of an old spring, another reminder of the backwoods design. Little Wolf stepped outside, her hair flowing free, in cut-off jeans and a short sleeve shirt. She did not seem pleased or interested with her visitor, her face not giving away anything.

“So, you couldn’t stop thinking about me, right?” she inquired. “Isn’t that the line you guys use on us dumb women; or even more appropriately, us dumb Indian women? Save your breath; I’ve heard them all, Sean.”

He did not like being on the defensive but there were bigger fish to fry, questions and answers he needed.

“Chill woman; you were on my mind and that’s not a line,” he returned threatened by her lightening wit. “Maybe you can help and maybe not. I got some weird stuff churning in my gut; it’s probably nothing. I’ve been having the craziest dreams, Indian stuff. I’m sure some shrink would love to analyze me and have a good laugh about the hot shot promoter, crazier than a loon.”

“I’m not sure I can help but come on in; it’s a cooler inside,” she said. Pointing to a very broken down over-stuffed chair she added, “Why don’t you slip out of something comfortable and take a chair inside the house. It’s not much, but you know how primitive we Indians are.”

“Come on!” he complained. “I didn’t come to fight. I was just hoping to get some information, a few answers. I’m not putting the moves on you or anything like that.”

“Okay, then,” she relented. “What seems to be up besides your ego?”

He shot her a look of irritation but continued.

“Alright, alright,” she said. “I’ll try to be nice.”

“Good! I know this sounds crazy but in my dream I was an Indian with two wives,” he began. “Hopa Winyan Wakan, my firstwife is gorgeous but doesn’t understand who I really am. We made fantastic love, which surprised the hell out of me. It felt like it really happened to me. Thank God I didn’t fool around with my second wife, Hota Win; she’s a complete bitch. And I got this buddy Hehaka nagin, who told me I had to marry the second wife because she was my dead brother’s wife. I know that can’t be right. Worst of all, I felt pain in my dream. You’re not supposed to feel anything from what I’ve been told. You make any sense of this?”

“Your Lakota isn’t half bad,” she announced, surprised by his story. “You still sound like a white man, though. Maybe you should stay in your dream for a while, learn the whole new language; you might learn a few other things too.”

Little Wolf paced a short distance before turning around. Her serious expression gave her next words credibility.

“Sounds like a dream walk or some kind of vision,” she added “But I can’t figure out why you were chosen. A lot of my people try all their lives to have a vision, a lot of them never do.”
           “You miss my point, Little Wolf. I don’t want to go back anymore. Dream walk, vision or not, I need to stay here in my time, where my life is real. Sure, the one wife is hot stuff; I’ve done a lot worse; but I also know what happens to you guys in the end, if that even matters in this dream. What sense does it make to dream about this crap; why can’t I just dream about good stuff? Why, all of a sudden am I dreaming at all? My normal routine is simple. I sleep, I wake up and I make money, no dreaming; that’s it!”

“It’s a gift, Sean; few get to experience it. But I have never heard of a white man going on a dream walk before; you’re lucky. Our people go on vision quests like that to get meaning and direction in their lives, things they need to know and change about themselves. Wakan tanka must want to teach you something pretty important; maybe that’s the reason why.”

Sean stared at Little Wolf in disbelief. She spoke of this dream walk like it was an everyday thing to her. Maybe she was as crazy as the old bum who gave him the dream catcher. Maybe he was talking to the wrong person and needed someone grounded in reality, not mysticism.

“Want something drink, soda or lemonade?” she asked. “That’s all I have, unless you want water. But I wouldn’t drink the stuff out of this tap; it smells funny. Sorry, I don’t have any liquor.”

Sean took a few steps and sat in a wooden chair that had seen better days; the caning on the seat and back had all but given up.

“Lemonade would be fine, though I could use a healthy shot of scotch right about now,” he answered.

She moved easily in the small room, possessing a grace he had not notice before. A guy tended to miss those pleasant traits when his mind was on getting into her pants. Were it not for his bothersome dreams, he might have enjoyed watching her more. She turned from the sink, drilling her eyes into his.

“This better not be some trick to get you laid,” she warned. “I can tell you, right now, it’s not happening.”

She paused busying herself with glasses and a pitcher of juice. “You know, you’ve got a serious problem and it’s not about your dreams; your life and what you’re doing with it is the big problem.”

Little Wolf crossed her arms preparing for Sean’s resistance to what she was going to say. She looked away for a moment, perhaps reconsidering her rebuke. Instead she faced him prepared to tell the truth, which will likely not be well received.

“My people used to live their lives, half in this world and in the spirit world; some of them still do. They did not see it as a separate world; they were one in the same. They understood reality well enough; hardships and the like were just as real to them as it is to you. The importance of how you lived your life mean more than how important you were as a member of the tribe, something white people don’t understand. There was a standard of virtues each of us had to strive for. Sure, they weren’t all perfect; no one is. When they were troubled and needed help, they asked wakan tanka for a vision. Some would leave for days, seeking a place where they knew the power was. In that hidden world of the spirit, the answers were found. We pass on those virtues to teach our young. Only then, can they be an asset to the tribe; that’s how a tribe survives. Virtues such as generosity, bravery and humility are among a few. ”

Sean was becoming irritated by this lecture from some unrealistic woman but continued to listen.

 “The white man has no tribe, only a collection of individuals, each seeking their own gratification and importance. Of course, there are some who live a more spiritual existence, which is to their credit but not so common among the whites. Everything you do, you do for yourself without out care for another person. Sean, you are the epitome of that lifestyle; this is why there is no word in our language for me or I. It is always we or us.”

“I knew it was a mistake coming here,” he blurted angered by her armchair philosophies. “What does that have to do with my stupid dreams? I didn’t ask for some two-bit, cheap novel, trash answer. Wakan tanka, Great Spirit, God or whatever you call it, doesn’t put money in the bank or buy you a nice car and house. Sean Michael does; and does a damn good job of it.”

“I knew you wouldn’t understand. Your heart is closed, along with your ears,” she persisted. “That so-called bum was probably a holy man; I’m sure of that now. If you had listened to him, maybe he would have given you something good. Giving you a dream catcher was all he had. You couldn’t even accept the gift without questioning the value of it.”

Sean didn’t like being lectured to, especially by a woman. He put up with it because there was still some faint hope she could say something meaningful about his dreams.

“That’s the other thing about your modern culture. You honor people who have many things; you honor people who have money and power. We honor people who give and are humble; the more they give, the more they are honored. It’s the reason most Indians have difficulty living in the white mans’ world. Generosity is not a virtue here. Indians give too freely. We share so no one has less than the other. We give our things away because none of it really belongs to us. It belongs to Mother Earth.”

Sean stood, rolling his eyes at her continuing dissertation, itching to be gone.

“Thanks for the lemonade,” he snapped. “I’ve had that whole lecture about the poor red man from my parents and they still don’t have a pot to pee in after all these years. That’s their choice, not mine. If you didn’t have anything helpful to say about my dreams, you should have said so. I don’t see what this gibberish has to do with any of it.”

Rising, he walked to the screen door; the twang of the spring repeated its song, an irritating reminder of poverty. A fresh line of cat spray ran down both tires of his car, the cats bolting as soon as his foot hit the porch.

Damn Cats, he thought looking back at Little Wolf. What a waste of good horseflesh; good-looking broad like that could snag a rich guy and live it up. She could have her way with him and make her ridiculous movie. Trouble is, he’d go crazy listening to all her Indian crap.”

“Sean,” she called out to him before he backed out of the driveway. “I saved this for you. The old man must have wanted you to have it. Take it.”

She held up the small dream catcher. “Just take it. What can it hurt?”

He took it from her without comment, tossing it on the seat next to him. He was not about to argue with this irrational woman over some stupid trinket. Fiction and fairytales were fine for movies, not for real life.

The flashing light on his old answering machine indicated a message. A part of him didn’t care and a part of him needed to know if it was important. He pressed the button.

“Sean, honey, its Brandi. Sorry I wasn’t home but Leni called me a little later this morning. He said something about getting me some experience with some big names in Hollywood. He said I could help with practice readings for someone really important. Also, he’d pay me for the readings and the lost work at the café. My boss was sweet and said I could take a few days off. And guess who I get to read for? It’s too awesome to say out load, Tom Pillings!”

Sean groaned when he heard the name of his degenerate client.

“I couldn’t believe it when Leni told me,” she squealed after catching her breath.  Tom is so hot! And I guess we’re going to spend time working alone on a script. His lame co-star said she didn’t have time to work with him, so I get the job. Maybe he’ll like me and put me in the part, instead of her. Wish me luck, honey. Won’t see you tonight; I have to read for Tom.”

Sean was about to hang up when the message continued.

 “Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t wearing any perfume last night. It was just little old au natural me. Bye!”

Sean shook his head; she had no idea what a weird guy Tom Pillings was. But did that matter?

“Leni is such a weasel and Brandi is such a dope. And Little Wolf is such a pain in the ass,” he muttered. “Why is all this stuff happening to me? I can’t sleep without dreaming, dumbass dreams about Indians; I’m almost afraid to sleep, now. Maybe I really do need a shrink. That’s the last thing I need to screw up my schedule. On the other hand, I can’t work until I settle this thing.”

Hastily, Sean dialed the home number of his friend, Doctor Bill. Bill could be counted on to be discrete, perhaps recommending a good psychiatrist while keeping his mouth shut. In this business everyone wanted to find your soft underbelly; any sign of weakness and they’d eat you alive. Sean hadn’t climbed to the top of his field because he showed weakness. He wasn’t about to start now.

Quickly he hung up, deciding to call Bill’s cell number a safer way to broach the subject, safer than talking to his office or home phone. Secretaries had a way of listening in and gossiping with others. And Bill’s wife, Brenda, would talk his ear off. She was trying to set him up with the perfect woman to marry; marriage was Brenda’s answer to everything from bad breath to depression.

He recalled Brenda’s last set-up date. The woman had been a gym teacher from the local middle school. During dinner the woman wanted to organize a good physical training program for Sean, claiming men his age didn’t get enough exercise and performed less effectively sexually, because of it. She made no beans about her own intimate capabilities in regards to her top physical condition. However, her busy schedule and lack of a boyfriend prevented her from fulfilling that particular roll. Capable or not, the woman’s muscular legs, well-defined biceps and triceps turned him off. Her physical fitness theory would remain unchallenged.

Bill immediately picked up his cell phone.

“Hey Sean, you ready for a rematch? I’m free tomorrow morning, if you can drag yourself out of bed,” he chided.

“No, not tomorrow, Bill. I’ve got some more important problems to deal with first. In fact, that’s the reason I called you. Just between you and me, I need a name and phone number of someone special.”

“Special? Come on, Sean. I’m not setting you up with anymore women; you have plenty on your doorstep. Besides, it’s unethical in my practice. Brenda is still pissed at you because you wouldn’t go out with Allison, the gym teacher. I can’t blame you; she seemed a little on the brassy side.”

“No, it’s nothing like that; this is serious, Bill. I think I need a shrink. You know, one who can keep his mouth shut and fix the problem without ten years of expensive therapy. I need someone who can be, down and dirty, get the job done. I’m sure I probably won’t need more than a couple visits at the most. You know anyone like that?”

There was a long silence before Bill answered. There was the flipping of pages in the background, possibly an address book.

“Hmm! What’s eating you, Sean; Brandi break your heart or you having a little problem getting it up? You’re still young, so it must be a little problem with performance, right?”

“Geez, no! Yeah, yeah, Brandi is on the way out but that’s not the reason,” proclaimed Sean. “Like all of the others, she is around for laughs, fun and games. Brandi’s a big girl and knows the score. As for your other guess, you’re not even close.”

“This is getting to be intriguing,” replied Bill. “I can’t imagine what it could be. Talking to yourself too much, multiple personalities, cross-dressing?”

 Sean sighed, not wishing to say it. “This is confidential, understand? You’re a doctor and can’t blab this around, right? I need a shrink because of my screwy dreams. I’m starting to dream everytime I go to sleep.”

“Dreams? Nothing wrong with dreaming, Sean. Some in the medical profession think its good therapy; I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“No, these aren’t regular dreams, Bill; they’re weird. Things happen in them that scare the crap out of me; I’m afraid to go to sleep. Since I was a kid, I never dreamt, ever. But it’s not about the dreaming. It’s about what I dream about. I’m wondering if I’m going nuts.”

A long silence ensued. Sean could hear the more shuffling of paper in the background. Bill cleared his throat.

“Well, I do know one guy, who specializes in dream therapy, top of the field, from what I’ve heard. He’s got some pretty impressive clients and very hush-hush about, his patients. Maybe he can square you away. I’ve heard too much work and fretting over money can trip things in your brain; it happens, sometimes. Why I’ve even had some strange dreams myself. There was this one dream where all these little blonde headed people started to…..,”,began Bill, before being cut off.

“Stop! I don’t want to hear about it, Bill. Just give me the number and keep it quiet, please.”

Bill recited the name and number twice to be sure Sean got it.

“You’re kidding?” returned Sean. “Is this his real name?”

 

Novels

Voices Unheard 1

December 5, 2018

Voices Unheard

My name is Tina Yates, you’re average young girl with a gift, no, a curse that has followed me through my whole life. I never thought I was a particularly interesting; but it’s seems people found me, somehow, weird. My parents didn’t know what to do with me since I did not conform to their rigid way of life, my talent more frightening than blessed. One Sunday morning I sat quietly on an uncomfortable bench, three rows back, as I did every week, since I can remember. There were no assigned seats, but families automatically sought out their regular places without complaint or comment. The benches had once been padded but time and wear made them unserviceable for several years; they were in sorry shape, having been passed down from another church, that didn’t want them. When Heartland Bible Church got them, Pastor Williamson insisted God would be with us, despite the absent of padding, bringing us to a higher consciousness and purpose, minus the comfort of our butts.

“Rise above the pain and discomfort of life,” he would chant in a holier than thou voice. “Feel the presence of the Almighty in your heart. Through Him we will be redeemed, saved, our meager shell nothing more than a vessel for our souls.”

Our souls may have been at peace but other parts were becoming considerably, worn and flattened. My thirteen-year-old butt felt sore after pastor’s persistent postulations, ranting on and on about Jesus dying for our sins. Had I sinned? I think not. But pastor claimed we were all sinners and needed to beg for forgiveness.

I was not alone as I looked at the handful of children looking equally uncomfortable. Pastor was not an exceedingly charismatic person; though he studied constantly, attempting to make his sermons filled with impact, fear of God’s wrath. Inspiration did not always spring from within him, limitations and failure to complete his education stood squarely in his path to righteousness. He relied on inspirational books and religious seminars to enrich his sermons, lest the congregation bore of his one note tune.

Certain telltale symptoms of his latter self-education stood out like a sore thumb. Once returning from a retreat, where he learned ‘The Method,’ pastor sermonized strictly by the book. The Method was nothing more than speaking on any subject, making three separate points during the sermon. The person teaching the seminar did not believe the average person could remember more than three points, the attention span of believers often challenged. So every Sunday, Pastor Williamson made his three points in his sermon, no more and no less, the few listening, nodding their heads.

It became a game, after awhile; my friend and prospective boyfriend, Charlie Barns, we’d watch each other during the pastor’s oration, seeking out what would become obvious to us. Each time the pastor made a point, we held up a finger, then another and finally a third, which meant, the sermon was winding down. The game went on for almost a year, the pastor making his three points and Charlie and I holding up fingers at the appropriate time. My mother and father hadn’t caught on until we started to giggle. I thought even God would run screaming from the church listening to such drone and dribble. Pastor Williamson’s vague three points never inspired; there were times when I think the pastor was reaching for those three points, having difficulty finding more than one or two. My mother took me aside and asked what I was giggling about. She told me it was wrong and unchristian to act that way. That may have been so but I couldn’t stop laughing the next week when Pastor Williamson cranked out his three points with nothing relating to the subject in the sermon.

Being associated with a hardcore bible thumping church is not the point of my story; that was incidental, a mistake at birth to parents, who saw life in black and white, no shades of religious gray. Perhaps I did not see what they saw or have the faith to believe in things I couldn’t question. Pastor Williamson constantly reminded us to accept things on faith, questions were not allowed.

I was born in the wilds of Bend, Oregon near the edge of the town, living there for about ten years of my early life. Both of my parents had been concerned about the “counter-culture” people in the area, who opted to eat organic food and do things that were good for the earth. The same people chose to experiment with religions not native to America, a frightening prospect for some. My father believed these people could only be a negative influence to me, reason enough for my dad to get a new job, that took us all to Minnesota, where a Bible church dedicated to fundamentalism awaited us. I was too young to have much of an opinion about the so-called Hippie’s alternate life style; I rather enjoyed the bright clothes and happiness that seemed to come from these people. But off to the middle of America, whether I chose it or not.

Settling in was hard at first, a new place and new people; even the weather was different than Oregon. I pouted for a while about leaving my old home but adjusted with time. My dad said he preferred the mind-set of these fine, God-fearing people, who believed in the right religion. They had few opinions that strayed beyond the norm, listening to their religious leader without question. Truthfully, none of that bothered me. At the age of ten, I didn’t have opinions about much of anything. I did, however, find the place rather flat and bland when compared to my beautiful Oregon.

I hated the hot muggy Minnesota weather, becoming bored with the over-starched attitudes people had in the community. They were nice enough, friendly but lacked an openness I experienced in my former home. One frightening event caused me to look upon our new home with a jaundice eye; we had to be on the look out for tornadoes during certain times of the year.

The starchiness of the adults was reflected by others; even the other girls were weird, going around quoting the bible, condemning sin. To listen to them talk, one felt the world was sitting in the midst of hell, the people waiting to be consumed by fire, the devil drooling to torment us. It was a mystery how these girls could talk about sin, yet acted like they were not accountable, though several lied, cheated and were generally mean. Darlene bragged about stealing stuff from the market, while Evelyn boasted about peeking at the boy next door with naughty thoughts, thoughts that were definitely a sin. I’m not sure what was worse, the catty girls or mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. A good swat could eliminate a mosquito but the malicious babble of my contemporaries could never be exterminated. The girls made fun of me and called me a hillbilly, a hick and even an Oregon whore, which couldn’t be farther than the truth. They viewed Oregon as a wilderness filled with strange, sinful people. I became depressed and disillusioned with the idea that I would ever have friends.

My salvation came in the form of Charlie; his parents were Unitarians, whatever that meant. Down to earth, Charlie possessed the good and bad most boys had without the meanness. It didn’t bother him that I came from Oregon nor did it bother me that he was from Minnesota; it was like we came from nowhere and nothing mattered. Except for Charlie, the boys pretended to be good but were really jerks whispering snide remarks behind my back. They lied, cheated and did every despicable thing, one can imagine. Cleaning up their act for Sunday did not change their actions the following week.

 

Brush with the Devil

I guess I should back up a bit and tell you how my life’s turmoil began, not that I ever knew it was anything but normal. My grandma, Nana, once told me, “Some of us are given special gifts. The gift can be a good thing but also a burden.”

I didn’t know what that meant but she was a wise woman and I loved her more than anything. People don’t understand a love like that; it’s different than loving your parents. It’s a special love beyond the cookies, ice cream, pretty clothes and special things. I guess it would be wrong to say I did not appreciate those things but Nana was a woman I never had to prove anything to. Looking back, I think she knew all along about my gift.

Of course, I loved Papa, my grandpa, too. He had been the one who taught me to enjoy reading, giving me books before I could hardly walk. Papa, a workingman all his life, had serious thinning hair and a strong build. He smoked cigars, which Nana would not allow in the upstairs part of the house. My memories of Papa were of him sitting in a chair in the basement, leisurely puffing on a cigar, often not lit, mostly chewed. He like White Owls and Dutch Masters the best but would smoke an off brand now and then; I got all the empty cigar boxes as toys. In spite of the different brands, they all smelled the same to me, stinky and strong. I suppose he could tell the difference, though I couldn’t. I have the memory of that smell in my head and think of him every time someone smokes a cigar, funny, how smells do that. My memories are far sweeter than the actual smell, of course.

I was such a terrible reader at first. ‘Run Spot, run,’ didn’t endear me to literature until Papa found something to pique my imagination. I remember looking at the first book Papa gave me, The Swiss Family Robinson. We were in the basement, when I confided in him how I did not like to read. Schoolbooks were boring and I couldn’t see much sense in reading.

“Well, well, Tiny Tina,” he declared. “A pretty girl like you needs to be smart too; reading will do that. Those are just schoolbooks meant to give you a lot of facts and teach you to see words. But words are more than that; they take you away from here and send you all over the world without ever taking a step. Facts aren’t a bad thing, though; just not always terribly interesting,” he said, casually chewing off the end of his wet cigar, spitting a small piece into a cardboard box. “You like it when people tell you stories?”

I nodded.

“Well, reading is like that, except you can tell yourself the story anytime you want,” he continued, rolling the remainder of his cigar between his fingers. “Ya don’t have to wait for mom or dad to do it; you can read yourself a story any old time. Your imagination will do the rest. Ya know, I only went as far as the sixth grade but I always read books and learned from them.”

He reached behind his chair, sorting through a few books he had stored on makeshift shelves between the studs in the basement.

“Now here’s a great story,” he declared. “This is a good adventure, lots of interesting things in it. You read it and tell me about it when you’re done.”

“The whole thing?” I whined. “This book is bigger than anything I’ve ever had to read. That’s not fair.”

“Tina, do it for me,” he answered calmly. “Take your time and imagine what its like in the story, no rush.”

Gads! This was worse than having to do a book report. But I knew Papa gave me this book with a lot of love; I could feel it, almost like he said to me out loud. That was the beginning of many books Papa gave me and I soon began to love reading. My dad was less enthusiastic. He claimed I read, too slow to possibly enjoy it. He was wrong. When I read it, I imagined myself in the story, being the lady or the man character. Sometimes I would forget who I really was and had to read it over again. I was part of that story; it was like waking up in a dream and still being in it.

Once I thought I was having a dream. I heard Papa laughing and talking to me like he was there. Of course, when I looked around, he wasn’t there.

The next day I heard the terrible news; Papa died. I was nine then and cried for a long time thinking about him. Every time I looked at my copy of The Swiss Family Robinson tears would leak from my eyes, his words lingering in my memory. I felt sad to think of my first real book and Papa puffing on his unlit cigar, almost like he was there, but not really. In my sadness I heard a voice in my head; inside of me, Papa told me he was okay. Dying wasn’t such a bad thing; Papa had told me that same thing, years before he died. I heard him, even while he was gone. My dad said it was ridiculous claim I heard him and I shouldn’t say such things.

“Death is the end of it all,” he announced with conviction. “That’s when God decides if you go to heaven or not. Papa didn’t believe in Jesus, so I don’t know where he will go. We will just have to pray for him.”

That kind of scared me. I worried about Papa; he was too nice and never did anything bad to go to hell. Some people spoke of a limbo, like being a ghost or something for people who didn’t believe. Did it really matter if Papa didn’t believe in Jesus and wasn’t Christian; would Jesus keep him out of heaven? Would he haunt the earth, never to see heaven? The nasty girls at church said Papa would surely go to hell for not believing. They were always mean and stupid, so I paid no attention to them. I prayed for months that Papa would go straight to heaven. Somehow, I knew he would.

As a baby, I was pretty normal, my parents making over me, like most. I can’t remember those years but browse through the photos of those years. When I was about five, something seriously changed in me. I started to answer my parents before they asked me anything. All the hippies in the neighborhood thought it was cool, giving all sorts of explanations for it. Meanwhile, my parents grew concerned I had some sort of mental illness. I would answer the front door before people would ring it or knock, even know who it was; pick up the phone before it rang. I never heard the bell or buzzer but knew someone was there. I knew when my brother and sister were in trouble, before any words were spoken about it. But mostly, I could feel their feelings, everyone’s feelings. I never had to ask how they were; I knew. My dad pegged me as an anti-social child because I never asked people, how they felt. Why should I have?

By the time I was ten and we were about to move, I could feel the sadness of some of the neighborhood people. My dad felt relieved to leave the place and my mom felt unsettled. My older brother and sister were devastated; though they said little, their fear of my ever-powerful father kept them silent. Dad was from the old school, where children were seen and not heard. Emotions were supposed to be private matters and not discussed in any family forum. Discussion was unnecessary since I already knew everything about everyone.

“I sure won’t miss these dirty hippies,” said my father, his teeth drawn in a thin neat line of disgust. “They do all those drugs and don’t even believe in the real God, just some animal idol. I don’t get their crazy music or their wild clothes. All they talk about is peace and some stupid eastern religions that don’t matter.”

He was wrong about all of it. I knew these people and they we as clean as any of us. As for God, I felt or sensed they knew God just as well as the people in our church. They just looked at God in a different way, a way my father didn’t understand. Believing in God wasn’t easy for me; I was never sure but didn’t want to share that doubt with my dad. It didn’t seem likely, God could only be found in a church. It would get pretty crowded squeezing all people into one church, I would think. But I felt something was out there watching over us all. Maybe Papa was talking with God and put in a few good words for us. Nice thought.

My father brought me to a few doctors about my strange behavior. I could feel his anger, almost his words as he stood grinding his teeth in front of several doctors. I did not share his uneasiness regarding me; I felt fine. It troubled him to have me do things before I was supposed to, reading his mind, you might say. So rather than continue to do things that caused him anxiety, I decided to silence the things in my head, act like everyone else; that way he wouldn’t be irritated all the time. It didn’t help having these numerous visits to the doctor; spending money at the doctor’s office was a waste when prayer and a good session with the bible would probably do the trick.

“I wouldn’t worry about it Birl,” reported the doctor with a firm voice of resolution. “It’s just kids, imagination and who knows what else. She’ll grow out of it, I’m sure.”

I didn’t, of course. Pretending to not know was something is near impossible. I isolated myself from most of the kids because I knew what they were thinking and most often, I was hurt by their thoughts. I wasn’t as pretty as my big sister or was I as clever and athletic as my older brother. I was sort of the ugly duckling of the family with no talent and few opportunities of becoming any better. There wasn’t much of a chance of me becoming a swan, either. My sister had always been thin and my brother very muscular. I was short, a little on the chubby side and sort of plain of face, a fact the girls liked to point out. The sibling rivalry thing from my brother and sister didn’t help. Kids are so cruel and uncivilized. Come to think of it, my dad was not much better, always critical of me.

“Why couldn’t you be more like your sister, Tillie,” he would rant. “She’s pretty and you are just plain ordinary. And your brother is a popular boy who plays sports, good at it too. I swear your friends are no better than you, heathens, all of them. That Charlie boy isn’t even a Lutheran, though I’m not sure they believe in God.”

Everything seemed to revolve around being a in a bible church, first, then possibly a Lutheran with my father. My mother didn’t seem to care much about what my dad had to say, opting to stay out of the religious battle.

Her comments were, “Your father is so concerned for your future, Tina. He really doesn’t mean anything bad by it. Maybe you should try a little harder to make him happy.”

Mom’s statements always involved my dad’s happiness and never mine. I was being double-teamed by my own parents.

Although my siblings were thought to be perfect, there were plenty of things I could tell my parents about them. Brother and sister were hardly perfect; several things could not be discussed in polite company. I wanted to tell them so, but in the end, it seemed petty.

For instance, my older sister, Tillie had a boyfriend, who was not a bible church member or a Lutheran. He wasn’t even a Christian. Father never said anything about that. She also lied about spending nights at a girlfriend’s house. She would sneak off with her boyfriend whenever an opportunity arose. I was pretty sure she was having sex with this boy. Tillie never had to say anything; I just knew in the way I always knew things. Her feelings were very strong; I couldn’t help hearing them. I knew she hated the family and had powerful feelings for her boyfriend. I think she knew I was aware of these things and resented me for it. I couldn’t tell her how I knew and wasn’t sure I didn’t understand why I did.

There were certain subjects never brought up in our house. Politics was taboo because father was a stern Republican; no other views would be tolerated. Personal feelings were considered a weakness and not open to discussion. Sex was not a subject in my house, the result being a warped sense of human relationships. I sort of understood the mechanics of it but no specifics. Perhaps that was not a bad thing. Ignorance about sex was praised almost as much as Jesus in our house.

“The children don’t need to know about sex until they’re married,” he’d bellow. “Temptation is a sin we can avoid by reading the bible when the devil knocks on our door.”

My brother, Tom, Mr. Jock, was very involved in sports, or so he pretended to be. His favorite sport was hanging out with the other boys drinking beer and smoking pot. In some ways I couldn’t blame him. It allowed him to escape the house and get as far away from religious lectures my father liked to spout off. Dad didn’t care too much about Tom’s absence, as long as Tom earned his sports letter from school. My father was blinded by the hope of talent scouts looking for young men to play professional sports. Tom was more inclined to be a professional drunk and pothead.

My talents were not in the same realm as my brothers. In second grade, Louise Nettlebaum, a classmate was too embarrassed to ask to go to the lavatory. Louise was, what the boys called, a skagg because she was kinda weird and skinny, shyness only leaving her open to more ridicule. I could sense her discomfort and the fear of being pointed out in front of the class. I immediately shot my hand high in the air, waiting to be recognized by Miss Blair our teacher.

“What is it, Tina?” asked Miss Blair calmly.

“I think Louise needs to ask you something, Miss Blair,” I returned confident that Louise’s problem would soon be solved.

“If Louise needs something, she will ask, thank you,” said Miss Blair firmly. “Louise is there something you wish to ask?”

Louise shook her head from side to side wishing not to draw further attention.

“Now see, Tina,” replied Miss Blair in her righteous, teacher way. “She has nothing to ask. I think its best to pay attention to your work and let others speak for themselves.”

A few minutes later, under the silence of study, a trickle of water could be heard in the classroom. There were no water faucets in the room. Poor Louise could no longer hold her bladder and peed in her chair. As predicted the boys took note of this unfortunate situation and laughed, whispering out, “What a baby. Skagg!” The boys finding yet another way to mortify the girl. Miss Blair sat up in her chair demanding silence with the rap of a ruler on her desk. She quietly waltzed over to Louise’s desk, carefully escorting her out of the classroom. The damage had been done and I could feel the awful pain Louise felt. Miss Blair shot me a look that suggested this incident was my fault. It wasn’t but my parents did get a phone call from Miss Blair that evening.

And so, it continued, my ability to feel what others felt. Similar situations cropped up over the years. I was chastised for each one. My only escape was to say nothing and admit to nothing. For the most part, it wasn’t too difficult with the small things that passed through my consciousness. But important things continued to crop up, challenging my will to be quiet about it.

Tillie spent a week crying in her room in the fall of that year. She had broken up with her seven-month boyfriend. Mom and dad didn’t know she had a boyfriend and figured it was a silly dispute with her best girlfriend. That wasn’t an unusual thing in my house; my parents never had a clue about what was going on with any of us. My brother Tom was getting so out of it from drinking and smoking pot, he starting to fail his classes. As for me, I was just plugging along being average me, with all my red flags flapping from what I could sense and still remain silent.

Tillie’s tears were spurred on by more than her breakup; an unexpected pregnancy began to flower. It was only a matter of time before it would become too obvious to hide; she hadn’t any idea of what to do. I felt kind of sorry for her, even though she was not always kind to me. I could feel her grief and fear as if it were my own, the torment, astronomical. She didn’t have to tell me but her boyfriend dumped her as soon as he found out about her condition. Guys are such jerks about stuff like that.

To complicate matters the guy in question was an illegal alien from Central America. He worked at the Moose Lodge part time and a local pizza place making minimum wage while flirting with all the cute girls who came in. Tillie did not want to admit it but her boyfriend had more than one girlfriend. She had seen more than one girl touching his shoulder or hanging out at the drive-in. There was some fascination with a boy from a foreign country, I never understood.

I guess Tillie thought he was sexy because he was different, exotic. We didn’t have many non-white people in out town, good Scandinavian stock. Sweet talk and good looks works wonders with girls let alone one from another country. Several other girls in our town had spent the night in his one room shack down by the railroad yard. I could sense their romantic ideas concerning the shabby place. I guess, when we’re young, taboos seem more enticing that foreboding.

Anyway, Tillie was getting desperate, her thin waist thickening, clothes beginning to become too tight. Before long she’d have to buy new ones or wear sweat pants all the time. The financial condition of the family did not allow for any shopping sprees, an explanation necessary for most purchases. Magically, neither of my parents noticed her weight gain; this was not something you could keep a secret for long. I felt Tillie’s worry eating her alive, her emotions spilling into mine.

I remember the Saturday when all hell broke loose. I opened my eyes that morning only to get a terrific rush of feelings, words in my head saying the same things over and over, mixed and jumbled, anxiety, anger and list of other emotions engulfed me. I glanced over to where my sister slept, gone, the room cold. I shivered, involuntarily. My eyes closed, trying to sort out what was going on.

“Oh, my God, “ I thought, reading the feelings and the thoughts. “She finally told my mom and dad.”

I could hear Tillie say she wanted to kill herself, no out loud but in my head. It was a favorite expression of hers; Tillie was such a drama queen. This time is was real; I could feel it. I could hear my father thinking; he wanted to beat Tillie within an inch of her life. My poor mom was thinking more charitable thoughts and feeling sorry for Tillie. Mom blamed herself, for not having that little talk, parents are suppose to have with their maturing teens.

As much as I hated the idea, I was going to have to get up and face the family soon. Staying in bed would only make things worse, another reason for my dad to punish me. I slipped the terrycloth robe over my flannel pajamas and went down to face the mess my sister had created. I really didn’t think it was such a bad thing; a baby was okay once they got a little older; mom often said that. But my dad was thinking only of what people at church would say. He cared less about what happened to Tillie, only his standing in the spiritual position of our church. That was pretty selfish. I kept my mouth shut, avoiding the trouble I might stir up.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I was met by my mother, a finger over her mouth, requesting silence.

“Be very quiet, Tina,” she whispered. “Your father is upset and we don’t want to make him angrier; you know how he gets”

I did know how irrational my father could be. He had the habit of blaming everyone in the house for anything that made him unhappy. He tended to level his anger at the wrong person, feeling justified because he was the injured party. I can remember how unfair I felt when he would turn his displeasure toward me. I tried to stay strong but ended up crying most of the time.

There was fear in my mother’s body and soul, many conflicts about what my father might do to Tillie or me. She was afraid he might hurt me, hanging his disappointments in life around my neck. During his outbursts, he would refer to me as a mistake, the child that never should have been. I never knew what that meant until I got a lot older. Mom, of course, denied I was anything but a wanted, loved child, another miracle of life. Originally, my brother and sister were supposed to be the limit of our family numbers. Three years after my sister was born, my mother became pregnant with me, no miracle according to the books I read. I found out; I was not planned but a result of some spontaneous result of lust. Considering Tillie’s condition, lust must run in the family.

Tillie’s condition was hidden those early days, she and mom waiting for the right time and place to spring the uncertain surprise. Mom knew almost as soon as I did, choosing to say nothing to me about it. Dad never used the “P” word, pregnant, the entire time, referring to my sister’s situation as his problem. One would think the problem was hers, not so in our household. Every problem was categorized, processed and passed around; blame put upon anyone who might come in contact with it. My dad blamed me for not finking on Tillie about her, supposed overnight stays at the girlfriend’s house. Tillie never told me anything, so I really didn’t know for sure. As much as I tried to block it, I suspected something was amiss because of the feelings I was getting from her. My father didn’t buy that and used the strap on my behind.

My dad mustered up enough cash to send Tillie away for a few months, Canada, I think. He told everyone in the church it was a special finishing school designed to polish a young lady’s manner.

“Tillie is the apple of my eye,” he told his friends. “This finishing school will do her good and will put her in good standing when she goes to college; colleges look hard at a young woman’s character.”

I knew the truth, of course. She was going to finish off her pregnancy. Most of the people in our church believed my father generous to do this for Tillie, especially since I knew she had no ambition or desire to raise her expectations in education or society. She wanted to quit school and become an airline stewardess and meet a lot of cute men. Men would adore her and shower her with gifts for expertly serving coffee and tea. She had read it in somewhere in a magazine. Frankly, Tillie couldn’t carry a cup of coffee two feet without spilling.

Tillie would not miss out on her schoolwork during the polishing period, the institution equipped with tutors and certified teachers for that specific reason. Years later, my sister told me about her experiences there. It was a horrible place, akin to a prison with lecherous male aides trying to have sex with her. No one was allowed to leave the compound, which was walled and topped with barbed wire, not that a pregnant woman could climb the slick faced wall. The locked gate required two keys to open and no one person was allowed to have both at any one time. There was a bed check every hour and some surprise checks in between. When not studying or sleeping, everyone girl was required to work in the laundry or the kitchen, the matrons quite cruel. The only free access the young women had to anything was the restrooms and the chapel. It was a forgone conclusion, being pregnant required frequent trips to the facilities. The chapel offered certain immunity from work details if you were smart and quick enough to plant yourself on your knees before the matrons found you. Never a kind word was uttered regarding the institution.

My sister suffered those months, unbelievable hardships and treatment, her lot for engaging with a boy in activities she should have set aside.

 

Another One Bites the Dust

I knew before anyone, my brother, Tommy junior was in big trouble. The feelings I got from him were odd, his unspoken words making no sense. He wasn’t happy nor was he sad. He wasn’t afraid of our father, who would kill him if he knew what Tom was up to. Though he managed to make all the baseball practices, his grades were plummeting into the pits, repeating another year of high school, necessary. Mom made excuses for him, intercepting warning notes from school and keeping dad from finding out what was going on. Tommy was stupid and didn’t stop at smoking pot but moved to more exotic drugs, when a friend offered them to him. Boys being what they are, Tom boasted, he could take more drugs than the other boys. The results were not something mom could hide anymore.

Our plain black phone rang one Friday evening, a week before Thanksgiving. Dad went to the hall to answer it; he made it clear he would answer when he was home, no one else. Tillie had begged for a phone in her room a year before; he didn’t believe in having more than one phone in the house.

“Yes, I’m Thomas Yates,” he answered formally. “Yes, I believe he is with his friends from the ball team. They like to go out and have a pizza after late practice. Why do you ask?”

There was a pause before my dad answered again.

“Uh, no it can’t be possible. You must have the wrong Yates. My Tom is a letter man, top of his class.”

There was a long silence as the party on the other end continued to detail the scene. By the look on my father’s face, it wasn’t good.

Tom had broken his right ankle, several ribs and dislocated his shoulder jumping off the Stop-N-Shop roof. Witnesses said he had been doing cartwheels and handstands prior to his questionable dismount off the roof. ‘I can fly!’ was followed by a thud as the ground came up to smack him in the face. The scratches on his face healed fast enough; the rest took several weeks. The doctors couldn’t isolate the drugs Tommy swallowed but thought it wise to have him start a drug program as soon as possible.

Without hesitation my father reached into the savings account, extracting considerable sums of money to send Tom to a private drug rehab center to avoid embarrassment in church. There were a few words about tightening our belts and not wasting anything. Truth of the matter, it was a waste of money sending Tom anywhere; everyone in town knew the real story.

Once again, my life was hell; I was the only target for my dad now that the family had thinned out. I wouldn’t have minded if my father sang my praise, the one child that hadn’t screwed up, not in the cards, I’m afraid. As expected, I took the blame for Tommy’s drug problem as well as Tillie’s pregnancy, though I had nothing to do with either incident. What could I have done to keep Tillie’s legs together and my brother’s mouth shut? Mom was sympathetic but never sided with me when dad was in a tirade about something. I could hear what she was feeling. She was terribly afraid; dad might leave her and then it would be mom and me. I knew it would never happen; my dad’s loyalty to mom was beyond reproach and his dedication, as a Christian wouldn’t allow it. Even so I could tell her because then my ordeal with he devil would start all over again.

Tillie came back home in the spring of the next year. In some ways I was glad to see her but I knew a lot things had changed. She was still pretty puffy, retaining a little fat from the childbirth; mom said that was normal. Nothing in her closet fit and she grumbled continually.

“Look at this,” she screamed tugging on the skin around her middle. “God! I look like some old fucking woman. My butt is huge and I got hemorrhoids! The asshole nurse wouldn’t give me any painkillers.”

We weren’t allowed to swear, at least not in the house. Tillie returned with a mouth that should have been washed out with a bar of soap. I never swore except to say ’damn’ once. Father jammed a bar of soap in my mouth and made me keep it there until I threw up; then he got mad at for soiling the rag rug in the bathroom. It all ended with soap and a leather strap. I swear I was beginning to get calluses on my butt.

Tillie cried a lot that spring. Dad didn’t buy any clothes for the ‘apple of his eye.’ If she needed something to wear, she’d have to do with one of mom’s old dresses. That didn’t go over very well. He did, however, instruct her to get in shape. He also let her know, except for school, she would not be allowed out of the house. I could feel her frustration and anger, her unspoken words, the worst ever. My sister left home that summer, bound for some unknown place, a note with a simple goodbye. A few weeks later Tommy departed the drug rehab clinic without authorization; he left in the back of a laundry truck, the driver unaware. The director couldn’t be sure of Tom’s destination; other inmates claimed he mentioned going to Los Angeles with the other escapee in hopes to sell drugs and get high, his future uncertain.

Mom did not take any of this well, a dark cloud hanging over her entire being; my mom’s depression was shared by me, my empathic ability impossible to shut down. For my father, the world was turned upside down, bringing an end to his hero worship of my brother and sister. His pessimistic view on life now switched to me, believing it was only a matter of time before I did some stupid. It wasn’t something he needed to worry about; I was different person with more sense than either of my siblings, their failings an example of how unique I was.

Novels

Sweet Dreams Raven 2

December 5, 2018

Exploring

 

How should I start, she wondered? There’s only one walkway; I can go this way or that. Getting off the path might not be a terrific idea, since Arthur made a big deal about it; I could get lost too. Who knows if I can find my way back to where I started? And there is that thing Arthur mentioned about going over the bridge, a little uptight about all the dumb rules; he reminds me of one of my stupid teachers at school with lists of rules to follow. I don’t see why I shouldn’t try the other side of the bridge. For all I know, Silas could be there and I’ll be wasting my time waiting here.

She followed the walkway, the ground cushioning her steps as she moved along. The shoes were very comfortable and she enjoyed looking down at them wishing she had a pair like it at home. The pants she wore had a nice sheen to them, sliding nicely along her skin, her top loose and airy, the temperature perfect for what she was wearing.

Ten minutes down the path was a staircase built of bricks and edged with ivy threatening to cover it. By its appearance, the steps had been there a very long time, multi-colored moss growing between the cracks. She could see nothing else interesting, so decided to follow where the stairs led her. Testing the steps, one at a time, she climbed up until she could see over the ridge. There were large enclosures of various shapes, surrounded by trees of different types and colors, not unlike fall in Vermont where her aunt lived. There were also a few imperfect shapes, odd since most of them were squares, rectangles and triangles. Curiosity got the best of her, her feet moving down the gravel path to the shapes below.

The first perfect square had a pretty wooden gate, the square completely masked by trees. The wooden gate wasn’t locked, so she entered hoping to find Silas. To one side, an old farmer sat on a stump with a duck in his lap, stoking it lovingly. He didn’t seem to notice as she approached. The pig lying close to his leg grunted, rubbing it head against the farmer’s leg.

“Excuse me,” said Raven. “Have you seen the dream person called Silas?”

The old farmer continued stroking the duck, not answering yet smiling with pleasure. Raven tapped him on the shoulder hoping to get some his attention and help.

“Oh!” exclaimed the old farmer. “You look a little old to be in this place. Generally, I see little children.”

“Who are you?” asked Raven.

“My name’s MacDonald and I have this here farm with a lot of animals, a quack, quack here and an oink, oink there, here a quack there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack.”

“You mean like Old MacDonald?” said Raven.

“Ah, I see you’ve heard of me,” he returned.

“I thought that was just a song.”

“Children see me in dreams all the time,” said Old MacDonald. “They like the song and seeing the animals. I love my animal friends.”

“They dream about you?”

“Of course they do, Miss.”

“Have you seen Silas?” asked Raven. “He’s on vacation and could have come back by now. I need to find him, so I can go home.”

“I’m sorry; I can’t help,” replied Old MacDonald. “I’ve never met Silas, though he has brought a lot of children to see my animals.”

“Maybe someone else here knows where he is,” said Raven, staring down as a goose wearing lace that happened by.

“This is not an age appropriate area for you, girl,” said the goose.

“Who are you?”

“Think hard,” said the goose. “You might remember me from along time ago, when you were the right age for this place.”

“Uh, not Mother Goose?”

“Yes I am, even though Old MacDonald didn’t have geese; we are all in the same square. Little children visit, you see, no one as old as you.”

At that moment a cute fuzzy lamb came by a nudged Mother Goose. It galloped about trying to illicit a little play.

“Oh dear,” said Mother Goose. “Little lamb is on the loose again. I must get Mary to take better care of him. Whatever you do, do not pet him; he’ll follow you all over the place. I had to bring him back from Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house, most annoying.

“Are all the squares and shapes like this one?”

“No, not at all,” replied Mother Goose. “Most are divided by age groups and some by special subject matter. This one is entirely too young for you and besides, dreams are on hold at the moment. You might try another square but I wouldn’t expect much.”

Raven walked back to the gate, spying a very high wall with an egg sitting upon it. It waved to her and fell on the ground, breaking into pieces.

“Humpty-Dumpty, no doubt,” she said.

The whole situation was impossible. She was trapped in a non-dream with things that didn’t exist, mid boggling to say the least. She scanned the large square and noticed and old lady sitting next to a cupboard with a dog beside her, an empty cupboard, to be exact. There was a boy jumping over a candlestick and two children walking down a trail leaving breadcrumbs behind them, heading for a house made of gingerbread, no lamb following them this time. Over to one side was a pretty girl kissing a frog, another girl taking to a spider. It was time to leave this square; Silas was not going to be found here, obviously.

She walked to the square to the left of the one she visited, peering through the iron-gate to see what was inside. Tiny toys and women who looked like moms stood or sat about looking very nurturing.

 

This must be the place for infants, thought Raven. Do they really dream like older children? I never remember dreaming as a baby.

 

Logic dictated a different order of progression in the squares containing young age groups. She moved passed several squares to her right, hoping to arrive at one that could help her. As she passed each square, she gazed through each gate to establish what was inside. No one ever came to the gates, most of the occupants either frozen in place or moving about in prescribed pattern. It was like watching a video game, before you pressed start. Raven moved on until she saw people her own age.

Some of the boys were playing football or baseball, while the girls road horses or sat at the beauty salon, indulging themselves. Another section looked like a high school gym, where music and dancing was taking place, no girls standing at the sides, each dancing with a partner, which was not normal; in reality many girls became wallflowers at school dances, the boys shy or picky. She liked to go to dances, though was rarely asked to dance; the popular girls snagged all the willing boys. She wasn’t a very good dancer but enjoyed moving around on the floor to the music by herself.

There was one girl leaning up against the wall watching, apparently not asked to dance. She appeared to be waiting for someone, not unlike Raven, who had spent several hours doing the same thing. She spoke to the girl but received no answer, only grunts and sighs; at least Old MacDonald spoke, even if it was a preplanned dialogue.

“Guys are really dumb, aren’t they,” offered Raven. “Pretty girl like you waiting to dance is really awful.”

“Are you talking to me?” replied the girl, finally recognizing Raven’s presence.

“Yeah, who else?”

“I’m not activated at the moment and not supposed to talk to anyone,” returned the girl.

“It’s just that you look alone and I find it surprising, considering how cute you are.”

“Of course I’m cute; that’s the whole point. I’m never alone for long,” she answered. “I’m every guys dream girl, more like a fantasy and dream combined. Girls like me are always with the cute guys, the jocks and popular boys. So the unlucky guys get to dream about meeting me.”

“Really?”

“Let’s face it,” continued the girl. “All boys want girls like me; it’s totally understandable. I let them hold my hand and tell them they’re cool; it makes them happy. Of course, in real life, that would never happen.”

“Doesn’t that sound a little, uh, unfair?” returned Raven. “None of them have real girlfriends. It must make it worse to dream about you?”

“Hey, I just do what I’m supposed to do; I don’t question. They want to dream about me, so be it.”

“What if they, you know, want to do something they’re not supposed to do?”

The pretty girl brushed her long hair over her shoulder with her hand, smiling at the accusation.

“I not in that square,” replied the girl. “The boys wake up before anything like that even begins to happens.”

Raven thought it was a terrible tease but supposed the boys enjoyed it on some level. When she thought about it, she wanted to dream about Randy Willet and didn’t care if it was real or not. Maybe it wasn’t a tease after all; maybe it was a way to get validated; she’d read about that in a teen magazine. She gazed across the field where several skinny boys stood in full sports regalia, ridiculous considering the spindly framework. None of them were moving, only standing in one place as if they were statues.

“What’s with the jock uniforms?” she asked, approaching one of the boys.

It took several seconds before the boy moved. He wrinkled his brow almost as if he didn’t understand the question.

“Hey, you’re not suppose to be here,” he announced. “We’re playing ball here and I’m going to be the captain of the team; we’re all going to be captain of the team. But as you can see, we are not in a dream yet, our purpose held in limbo.”

“Why would anyone want to dream of you?” she asked.

“I’m waiting for me to sleep and dream,” he answered. “My name is Anthony; I’m not waiting for anyone except the real Anthony because he’s smart, a real brain but wishes he could be a popular ballplayer, instead of an intellectual.”

“Oh, I see.”

“For now the game hasn’t started and Anthony isn’t dreaming. He’ll be back once he is assigned this dream.”

“Speaking of assignments, do you know where Silas is?” added Raven. “He sort of forgot to assign me.”

“Silas? I don’t think I know any Silas, only Anthony and these fictitious players on the team; none of them have names, which is just as well. I’d have to pretend I cared about them; I really don’t.”

Raven discovered most of the kids in the square responded much the same when asked about Silas. This particular dream square wasn’t proving useful. She moved on to some of the other shapes in the field. There was one rectangle with a gilded gate, the area beyond filled with flowers and a meadow of green grass; the skies above it were the bluest blue Raven had ever seen with rich white billowy clouds. She wondered if Silas might be in this shape, a seemingly nice place to spend time.

Slowly, she opened the gate, cautious in the event there was something that might grab her; one had to be careful in places they were not familiar with. A pair of white horses galloped her way, their hooves creating a terrible racket and making the ground shake. They ran by her, snorting and neighing, hardly taking notice, a multicolored horn on each of them. They both made a second pass, the stallion halting before her, stomping his hoof as a warning.

“Mortal?” he inquired snorting.

“Yes, a mortal, I’m called Raven,” she returned.

“Raven is a silly name for a mortal,” reported the stallion. “Everyone knows it is the name of a bird, an ugly black bird, that has a terrible voice. If one had to have a bird name, it should be something beautiful, like Dove, not Raven.”

“I beg your pardon,” injected Raven. “It is not and ugly bird. It’s quite a marvelous bird, in fact.”

“Harrumph! We are the most beautiful creatures, as many have written except the accounts of Marco Polo; he mistook rhinoceroses for unicorns, good explorer, terrible writer.”

“What should I call you? Mr. Unicorn?”

“No, no, the name I am called is Kirin. I have other names but that is a matter for the gods to decide.”

“I’ve never seen a unicorn before; may I touch you?”

“If you are a virgin, you must remove your clothes to do so,” announced Kirin. “No mortal is allowed to come near me, otherwise.”

“Take my clothes off? I will not, either. As to whether I’m a virgin, it is none of your business.”

“Listen to her Kirina,” said Kirin to his mate, a few paces away. “These mortals are such simpletons.”

Kirina pawed the ground and nodding her head in agreement.

“Is there really such things as unicorns?” asked Raven. “I was always told they were a mythical creature like the gods.”

“Shhh! The gods will hear you and then we will all suffer their wrath.”

“Now I think you’re making fun of me,” said Raven. “I asked a simple question; there’s no need to be rude.”

“If you must know, there are many accounts of our existence,” began Kirin. “The Greek historian, Ctesias described us in great detail, though he drank a bit too much wine, not as accurate as he should have been. The famous Genghis Khan was turned away from conquering India because we intervened. He thought we were the spirit of his dead father warning him to stay away, an incorrect assumption but effective in this instance.”

“I’ve seen photos of narwhals; they have a horn in the center of their head, just like you. Very beautiful.”

“Harrumph! They are simple sea creatures with no relationship to us, bird girl. We were so well known, a Scottish King James the III made two coins with our likeness on them. I believe he also drank a lot.”

“Well, I’ll take your word for it then,” she replied. “Are there others like you here?”

“There are no other unicorns, but there is the pesky Pegasus, who believes he is more beautiful than we,” said Kirin, rolling his head side to side. “A pair of wings does not make one beautiful. Pegasus is so stupid he can be caught and ridden. No one rides upon our backs unless they are pure and virgins. Did I mention naked also?”

“Enough with the naked part,” she answered. “I’m looking for Silas. I don’t even have an assignment for a dream and getting tired of all these squares and shapes.”

“Indeed, a bird girl without an assignment cannot be entertained in this universe,” returned Kirin. “It’s the law. Can’t help you much with finding Silas, though he has checked in on us from time to time. We used to think he was a god but apparently not, according to the other gods. No, there is nothing we can do to direct you.”

“Nothing?”

“Perhaps Griffin, though he’s is sitting on a pile of gold at the moment, that is, when he isn’t pulling Apollo around in a chariot. I doubt he knows anything of use. Strange if you ask me, can you imagine a part lion, part eagle pulling a chariot? It would make more sense for a horse to pull a chariot, though it would really be servile for us to do anything like that. Personally, I think Apollo drinks too much.”

“You know an awful lot about the gods and strange creatures,” said Raven. “One of them must know something about Silas.”

“There is an assortment of other mythical creatures, bird girl but they are minor characters in dreams. Besides none of them will speak to you. A mortal without an assignment has no business here.”

Pegasus could be seen overhead winging his way across the blue sky, white wings extending to either side. A man with white cloth wrapped around him was walking on the ridge his golden laurel tilting at a jaunty angle.

“You see!” announced Kirin. “Now you’ve roused one of the gods. Be gone before you cause further problems.”

 

Raven’s search continued with her peaking through each of the gates at each of the squares. It wasn’t until she saw something that horrified her, Randy Willet standing next to Gloria Caruthers at the mock up of a drive-in. They weren’t actually in a car but had a windshield mounted on a frame with a car seat placed on the ground.

Raven burst through the Dutch door gate, right over to where the duo sat, Gloria beaming with pleasure.

“What the hell are you doing here?” demanded Raven. “I can’t believe it; you dream about that cow, Gloria?”

Randy sheepishly raised his head, unable to move much, an apology written all over his face. He squirmed for a minute or two before he could conjure up an answer, his movement restricted due to Raven’s lack of assignment. Technically, he shouldn’t be able to answer at all.

“It’s not my dream, honest and I’m not really Randy but a manifestation of this girl,” he declared. “She just showed up and here we are sitting in a car watching a movie.”

“You’re not in a car, you idiot. It doesn’t even have sides or wheels.”

“I don’t make the rules. Somebody figures out what the dream is about and then we have to do whatever that might be. A lot of times we are doing funny things in funny places.”

“But what about her. Right now!”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied. “That’s not her. It’s just her dream character waiting for one of her admirers to show up, me, in this instance. They kind of put us together because we know the same people. All she does is sit there until some guy comes along and offers to take her out. She’s not always here, either. There’s a different square for the adult stuff; she goes there a lot.”

“What about you?”

“Hey, I’m just a dream character; I don’t control what the dream is about.”

Raven was bothered with Gloria and Randy sitting so close and chummy, the queen reining over all the boys. It was completely unfair that she should be controlling boys in dreams and the real world.

“You could move away from her a little, couldn’t you?”

“Neither of us are in an activated dream, so I’m afraid this is it. It’s where her dream left us.”

Raven didn’t like the answer but what could she do about it? This dream stuff rocked her to the core, the similarities amazing, yet not real. Should she be angry with Randy for being an inanimate person or shadow of a person?

“I guess if you prefer that slut in this dream world, I’ll leave you two to watch a non-existent movie screen,” she snapped.

“Wait!” Randy called out. “I think you should know something.”

“What?”

“Even though I’m not the real Randy Willet, I do know that he likes you. He’s kind of shy and is afraid to really tell you. In this place we act out dreams but sometimes we know the reality. Gloria will get tired of Randy, dumping him aside for someone else; he knows it and is prepared to cease being part of her dreams.”

“Really?”

“Uh huh.”

“In that case I need to find Silas and get back to my universe,” declared Raven. “Tell me; has Randy ever dreamt about me, not that it would matter a lot.”

“Yeah, a few times. If you look over by that hallway, you’ll notice you’re close to his dreams too.”

Not knowing what to expect, Raven took a step toward something that looked like the school hallway, a girl standing with her shoulder against the wall. It wasn’t just a girl but a copy of Raven, right down to the well-worn sandals she liked to wear. The girl looked miserable, waiting for something she felt would never happen. It shocked Raven to think that was the way she appeared to people.

“I look terrible. No wonder Randy doesn’t talk to me; I wouldn’t.”

“It’s okay; he knows how you feel. Try to act a little less miserable when you get back; it’ll help.”

Raven reached back to give the dream Randy a hug but was stopped by an invisible barrier.

“Yeah, you can’t interact with me or anyone else,” he reported. “You’re not in a dream. According to the rules, I shouldn’t even be talking to you.”

Her eyes began to water; the thought of Randy being so close but not real was getting to her. With a glance back at the scene, she headed out the gate to pursue the missing Silas. She moved to more squares and shapes, some frozen in place and others with activities that totally ignored her. Several gates further down the trail had red lights flickering over the gates; one look at those tableaus and she knew she would not find Silas in those squares. The tree-lined shapes were endless, each different from the other, each with unique dreams, many she had never thought of before.

She paused at one dimly lit pentagon, a woman leaning against a lamppost. She held an unlit cigarette in her hand, pretending to smoke it. There wasn’t anyone else in sight, making Raven more curious than ever. She ventured in the square, the gate made of worn out wood; perhaps it had been painted at one time, flecks of color barely visible.

“What kind of dream is this?” asked Raven.

The woman leaning on the pole didn’t say a word only sucked on the smokeless cigarette.

“Why are you holding a cigarette if you’re not smoking it?”

At first, the woman said nothing, then turned around to face Raven.

“I don’t smoke,” said the woman. “Never have. You’re not assigned, are you?”

“No, I’m not. I really want to go home but I can’t find Silas.”

“Ha! That bird is a strange one,” mutter the woman. “Kind of cute but I’m not his type; I’m nobody’s type. That’s the reason I stand here all alone.”

“That’s terrible,” said Raven. “You should try and dream of something happy with lots of people.”

“Oh, I don’t mind this so much. It’s quiet, peaceful like. It could be worse; I could be in a nightmare every night. But no, I just end up here, alone. It’s not so bad, gives me time to think about things. There are mornings when I don’t want to wake up. Your friend Silas kicks me out, whether I want to wake or not.”

“I’d talk with you if I was in a dream,” said Raven. “I’m alone a lot too. I read a lot and could tell you about some of the stories.”

“You’re young and pretty,” said the woman. “Get over that shyness and you won’t end up in here with me. Go on and find Silas; tell him to get me a friend, six-foot tall, brown hair; don’t care if he’s thin or fat. He won’t do it, though; he never has.”

Raven could feel the depression descending on her, the woman dragging her down in some way. It was definitely time to leave that square.

“That’s it!” she declared. “I give up. I’m going back to where I started and wait there. This isn’t proving to be any better than just waiting there.”

 

Temptation

It was a long walk back to the garden steps, Raven taking note of each tree line square she passed, so many dreams in the world for so many different people. Some of the squares didn’t speak English, which really wasn’t much of a surprise; people from other countries dream too. Why wouldn’t they? The idea of a dream universe seemed far-fetched when she considered it; but here she was in the flesh, pinched flesh, wandering through a variety of dreams.

The Greenwood trees were swaying in the wind, the hint of their minty aroma laced through the air, though Raven was unable to feel any breeze, very freaky. The squishy ground made it hard to walk fast, like trying to run in soft sand, her feet beginning to tire, her legs weary from walking. She stopped to rest her feet, sitting on a blue rock along the side of the path, a blister forming on the toe of her left foot; similarly, another blister was making a start on the back of her right heel. It wasn’t the fault of the shoes; Raven never walked much, never on surfaces like this. While she rested, rubbing her feet, she heard a whisper.

 

“Come along with me, the answers you’ll see, on dusty ground, your quest to be found. Seeking Silas your goal, beyond bridge and yon knoll, go now and hurry no need to pay toll.”

 

The strange little saying came out of nowhere, no person in sight, the path and surroundings completely empty. Raven called out to whomever recited the small poem; she did so two more times without as much as a hello or answer. Considering the whispered words, she noticed the bridge over the small stream and distant rise on the other side. It appeared very dusty on that side; her present path was anything but dusty. Was it Silas who called? It definitely wasn’t Arthur; his voice was high-pitched, almost squeaky. It had to come from the other side of the stream; she was sure of it.

So far her trek through dreamland had produced nothing, no Silas and definitely nothing helpful to get her back home. There was one small positive thing she discovered while wandering; Randy Willet had noticed her and liked her, a dream she never thought would come true. What she needed was to get back to her universe capitalize on that information; Randy moight change his mind if she tarried too long in this limbo of and lullabies. Who knows what lengths Gloria Caruthers would go, to snag Randy?

Warning or no warning, Raven had to find Silas and soon. It had been hours since she went to sleep; morning would come soon. Where will she be then? It was time to act, instead of reacting to the nonsense that permeated this place of dreams. After all, how bad could this Morti fellow be?

She stepped onto the bridge, a deep rumbling accompanying her footfall. At first it felt like an earthquake though nothing shook, only the thundering sound from sky and earth. Perhaps it was thunder; she remembered how terrible storms could be, frightening the most hardy of person.

On the far side of the bridge was a placard written in cursive.

 

Things that go bump in the night,

leave the faint and less hardy with fright.

A place of ghouls and scary nightmares,

with evil thick scales and lots of dark hair.

Enter my friend, if you dare.

Walk easy with silence, caution and care.

 

Whoever wrote this little phrase is really trying to scare me, thought Raven. I guess the person living here must not like visitors.

 

Once on the other side, the change was abrupt, the ground hard and rocky, nothing growing and all the color of gray or black infusing the landscape. The trees dotting the horizon were dead, gray and gloomy as was everything else. Raven turned to compare the colorful side of the bridge but saw nothing except a gray mist washing out where she had seen before. It was a bit eerie. When one considered the place, universe or whatever, dreams made no sense on either side of the stream. But she wasn’t dreaming, or so Arthur claimed. Did that mean nothing could happen to her in this dreary place?

There was no turning back, a pale gray, well-worn path etched into the ground, dusty by description without a doubt. Something inside of her told her this was a mistake; maybe she should have taken Arthur’s advice. But youth and curiosity go hand-in-hand, the unknown, frightening and exciting, both at the same time. At first glance everything was benign, harmless and lifeless. The narrow path led to the top of a rise, right along the ridge of dead trees. Below, on the other side, she made out similar squares and shapes to the ones she had investigated before, only there were distinct differences; the trees, which were all dead, the lined irregular shapes with boulders jutting out of the ground at random; it was as if they were trying to escape the earth. Plumes of smoke snaked from some of the squares, lazy curling clouds gliding into the gray sky, somehow sad rather than a cozy winter fire.

“Hello!” she called. “Does anyone know where I can find Silas?”

“Shhh!” said someone behind a boulder. “You’ll wake the dead.”

Her head snapped around to see where the voice came from. A small, pale looking man stood beside a huge dead tree, wearing a brown derby, brown shirt and red pants with yellow suspenders, a hideous outfit but the first color she’d seen since crossing over the bridge. He sported a wooden cane in the shape of serpent, marginally nasty looking, though nicely carved.

“Are you Silas?” she asked, a logical question since she did not know if Silas decided to have his holiday on this side of the bridge. There might be better places here than what she’d observed so far. It was quite warm, though the sun did not penetrate the grayness, the air decidedly stale with a hint of some unpleasant odor she could taste.

“I am not he,” returned the little man. “Though I would gladly take over his title should he wish to relinquish it. And who might you be?”

“Who are you?” returned Raven, confused by this strange man with an impossible fashion sense.

“I asked you first,” he replied. “It would be terribly rude of you to expect an answer from me until you’ve answered mine.”

“I thought everyone here knew who I was,” she countered. “Don’t you?”

“Apparently not. Please don’t belabor your response; I have many things to attend to,” he added.

“Raven.”

“Hmm, like the bird, I suppose? The big black one, my favorite color.”

“Yes, but I’m not a bird,” she replied. “The rude unicorn kept calling me bird girl; I wasn’t at all pleased with that.”

“Next question. What are you doing in this part of my dream world? I don’t recall you on any list and I would remember a name like Raven.”

“According to Arthur, I’m not supposed to be here,” answered Raven. “Something to do with no assignment.”

“Interesting,” he returned with a smile that did not suggest joy. “Arthur is a complete idiot, of course, a bean counter; I would pay little attention to the menial clerk.”

“So, how about telling me your name or is it okay for you to be rude?”

“Ah yes! Morti Mog, at your service.”

“Arthur warned me about you,” replied Raven. “He didn’t actually say why.”

“Ha! I would pay no attention to his warnings; he’s nobody, a keeper of records, a shuffler of paper.”

“Should I be afraid of you?”

“As you can see, I am not a terribly imposing figure; my function here is merely to monitor those who visit my realm. You could say I provide them with some degree of entertainment; we all enjoy a diversion now and then. Correct?”

“What possible diversions could you have in this barren place? Everything appears to be dead and yucky.”

“You’d be surprised what people dream,” he added.

“What about Silas; is he here?”

“I wouldn’t worry about him,” answered Morti, slithering closer to Raven. “He’s quite an irresponsible monitor, taking off on holiday while people wish for a dream. I, on the other hand, am always here and at your disposal. Though you are not assigned, I can make an exception. Besides, what’s the rush?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Mog but I really have to go and wake up. If I miss my test tomorrow, who knows when I can take the make-up test? My teacher is not the most understanding person in the world. Something like this adventure would not go over easy with Miss Krackenstol.”

“Yes, I know this person. She comes here often,” said Morti. “If you must, go back to your Arthur and Silas then. I can assure you there is nothing there for you to do, whereas…..” He trailed off, keeping his last words to himself.

“I think I’ll go back anyhow,” Raven responded. “This is not a nice place; it smells terrible and I can’t imagine anything better ahead.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” returned Morti. “Stay a while; you’ll get used to it.”

Raven turned back to where the bridge was or in this case, where it had been before. The gray veil that seemed to cover everything gave her no indication of a bridge or stream below. It had been there a few moments before but now it was gone. Morti looked pleased with himself.

“You can’t go back now, my sweet,” announced Morti. “You crossed the bridge and have to run the gauntlet before returning, my rules. I suppose that imbecile Arthur didn’t tell you that.”

“Gauntlet, what gauntlet?”

“The nightmare gauntlet, of course. What part of the dream world do you think this?”

Morti took off his brown derby to wipe his forehead, not surprising given the heat and humidity, his face alight with a huge smile, tiny horns poking through his mop of thinning gray hair.

“Are you the devil?” asked Raven, surprised but not shaken by the sight.

“Oh dear me no, child. That’s an entirely different universe, though we are related through marriage, several times removed. I believe a cousin of mine married into that family.”

“I suppose those horns are supposed to scare me, right?”

“These are nothing, mere nebulous nubs, hardly enough to mention,” he announced, fingering the points with one hand. “Most things here have much bigger horns, teeth and claws as you will discover. Anything you can imagine will be right here.”

“I’m not worried,” she replied. “This is just a dream; none of your nasty creatures can hurt me.”

Morti turned away, his smile broadening his eyes wide with delight. When he turned back he took his serpent cane and poked Raven in the ribs.

“Ow!”

“You see my dear, you are not dreaming, otherwise you would not have felt that. I would give wide berth to things with sharp teeth and claws, if you manage to get through our little gauntlet at all. There is only one thing that can protect you; but I will not tell you what it is. You must discover it for yourself. As for our conversation, it is at an end, my sweet. Tootles!”

Right before her eyes Morti changed his shape into a large red scorpion, arching his stinger toward her as if daring her. Instinctively, she ran from it, not wishing to be jabbed again, especially by something as sharp as a stinger. She wasn’t paying much attention to where she was going, only following a gray path that led into a valley, a valley with odd shapes and irregular squares.