Off color

xylophoneCompany policy dictated the wearing of bright colors for all male employees. One senior manager wore a sky-blue suit with a scarlet tie; another wore orange slacks and a green sport coat. Maracas were issued to everyone in management, with instructions on how to use them and when. I’m not sure what I was doing there. Probably I had been hired through a temp agency and kept on indefinitely, despite my failure to observe the rules about fun. But now they were trying to make me part of the team.

Along with one other guy, I was taken downstairs to the plush offices of the Chief Financial Officer, who always wore mirrored sunglasses, he said, to protect his eyes from the glare of the suits — including his own, which was a vibrant purple. He spoke in a low, conspiratorial whisper. “What they want us to do now,” he said, “is watch some silly training video. But I don’t think you two really need any more training. I got some other ideas — come on, have a seat.”

I sank into the plush leather armchair and directed my gaze toward the screen while the CFO fiddled with the projector. “I know, I know. We can build the most sophisticated weapons delivery systems known to man, but can any of us operate a simple projector? No, we cannot,” he said with a self-deprecating chuckle. C’mon — how dumb do you think we are? I remember thinking just before the first of the lurid images appeared on the screen.

The CFO maintained the avuncular tone throughout, supplying the only soundtrack to the silent movies of rape and incest and torture. “Good stuff, eh guys?” I found myself nodding in agreement — I wanted the job. When the lights came back on, I forced myself to smile. Our new friend handed us each a pair of sunglasses identical to his own. “Welcome to the firm,” he said.

That was my last dream this morning before I woke. Don’t ever let anyone tell you we dream in black and white — a silly notion — though sometimes maybe I wish I could. Outside it was overcast and threatening rain.

springhouse in the rain

The other day around 3:00 in the afternoon, the sun broke through in the middle of a downpour. In the little marsh across the road, the roof of the springhouse shone brightly through the curtain of rain. It was beautiful. Fog began to form almost immediately, the rain turning back into clouds as soon as it hit the ground. When it slackened off, I rushed up into the field to watch the last of the mist rising off the goldenrod.

path to the clouds

By the following morning, off-and-on showers had given way to a steady rain. My brother brought his year-and-a-half-old daughter up for a visit and they horsed around for a while in my parents’ library. She has been drawn to books ever since she could sit upright — even large books without words. She loves sitting and turning the pages of her daddy’s scholarly tomes, or visiting the public library with her mother. If her grandpa doesn’t sit down and read one of her favorite children’s books to her as soon as they arrive, she gets very out-of-sorts. And I have to say, whenever she comes to visit, the books up on the shelves suddenly seem considerably less solemn and reserved, as if they know it won’t be too many more years before a new reader takes them down, one by one, and translates their black-and-white pages into joyful sound.

playing in the library

(As usual, click on the photos to see the full-size versions, which may take a little while to load at slower modem speeds.)


  1. Oh, wonderful, that love of books, instinctive reaching for that opening of words.


  2. I think I’ve said this before, Dave – you have the most fantastic dreams! I used to wonder if I dreamt in colour or not, until I had a most vivid an colourful dream (and remembered it!). Perhaps colour is not a big issue in some dreams, so we don’t recall that aspect? That linked article kind of makes sense, because I’d watched a very beautiful and colourful film a night or two before I saw that dream.


  3. Reading the dream made me feel sick. Physically. Far too close to home. Even if it ain’t the defense industry — that’s where I live right now. And I’m getting the hell out of there.


  4. Zhoen – You think it’s instinctive? I was almost thinking it had to be proof of reincarnation, that she was a scholar in her previous life!

    marja-leena – Thanks. Yeah, lots of times color just isn’t a big part of dreams – especially for us men, who tend not to focus on color as much as women do, or so I’m told. It strikes me that that notion that we only dreamt in black and white must’ve caused a lot of people to doubt their sanity, or their memories.

    sylph – Long time no see! Glad you liked the mist.

    dale – I’m trying to remember the last time someone told me my writing made them sick, and I actually felt vaguely complimented! Though not a nightmare, the dream was plenty disturbing. I’m glad I was able to convey that in the post, though I’m sorry it provoked actual nausea. It sounds as if you should quit your present job ASAP.


  5. Instinctive for some, a rarified group. She is obviously one of the Readers.


  6. That sounds like a, um, interesting dream. I wonder if our whole family dreams in color and so vividly. I know that Mom, Dad, Derek and I all have very realistic, interesting, adventurous dreams. Beautiful pictures!


  7. “Off Color”–what a fine prose poem! Thanks.


  8. Zhoen – Readers, huh? That’s one of them secret Illuminati Masonic New World Order groups, ain’t it?

    Heidi – Oh yeah? My dad too. When we were growing up, he told great, travel-adventure stories based on his dreams. We had a family story-telling night at least once a month, where everyone had to tell some sort of crappy story if we wanted Dad to tell one of his. Looking back, it was probably invaluable training for this here writing thing I’m doing now.

    Michael – Glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by!


  9. Yeah, great dream, Dave. I’m so glad you don’t have to go through that in real life! Sounds like John Malkovich should have been about to show up…

    And I want you to know that that Times Atlas of the World has a prominent place in our home library, too. Nice photos.


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