Shooting the water

A small procession on a red dusty road, and everyone’s dressed in red, red. The pace is not fast, the song is not slow, the pines aren’t stirring in the breeze. As they grow nearer you can see the black coffin, and it’s only three feet long, my dear, it’s only three feet long.

*

Well, yesterday morning I was making breakfast, and believe me when I tell you that there was nothing different about that. I always make the very same thing, because who wants a surprise first thing in the morning – or second, or third? A glass of orange juice from concentrate and two eggs fried sunny-side up in butter, sprinkled with dried tarragon. I sat down with the newspaper while I waited for the eggs to fry, my plate heating on a separate burner. Well, just as I got up and started across the kitchen toward the stove, I had the strangest feeling. It was a little like that feeling of weightlessness or disassociation one gets during orgasm, except there was no sensation involved, no question of pleasure or release – simply an absence. It lasted for less time than it takes to tell you about it, because to become conscious of a thing like that is to banish it almost immediately. Indeed, what I call a feeling was probably not the experience itself but its impression, like the afterimage that forms on the inside of your eyelids if you open your eyes for a split second and close them again.

*

What are they singing, these people, and why don’t they all look sad? The road is straight and hot and the heat waves make their legs appear to wobble from side to side. I climb the bank and rest in the shade of the scrubby pines, waiting, my camera at the ready. As they get closer, I notice something odd: the coffin has no lid.

*

Warning: objects in dreams are farther away than they appear. Whenever I happen to wake, right away I begin thinking about blogging. A dream that might otherwise seem unremarkable gains in significance simply from the prospect of being recounted. But I’m always wary of “recounting fraud,” you know? I ask myself, were things really so logical? Were they even as sequential as narrative conventions imply? And what was so frightening, why did familiar landmarks seem so huge, so full of shadows? The letter killeth; but the spirit giveth life. I turn over onto my left side, knowing that I can only fall asleep on my right. Just before I drift off, I’ll roll back into place.

*

Like a log, my dear. I always sleep like a log. Like a log hitching a ride in a coffin. I peer through the telephoto lens in disbelief. They’ve dressed it in baby clothes, but it’s clearly no infant. If they’d debarked it, I might not have recognized it, but I can see the reddish-brown plates: it’s a mate to the trunks I’m standing among. The people shuffle past in weary cadence, clapping softly the way you clap when the cemetery’s a mile or two from town.

*

It’s rare that I’m terrified of something in a dream, but it’s just as rare that I don’t feel at least a little fearful. Face it, I’m a slow moving, medium-sized mammal with a number of potential predators to worry about. Sometimes I’m smaller and more rodent-like, but I’ve never yet dug my own burrows, always taking over the abandoned homes of other creatures instead. That’s human enough, isn’t it? At one point last night, for example, I was exploring a couple of woodchuck burrows near the top of the field that seemed to open up into some kind of cavern. I decided to test the echo, stuck my head into one of the holes and gave a roar. A couple of huge shadows detached themselves from the side of the pit and growled back, a low rumble. I felt a blast of hot, stinking air like a week-old corpse.

*

Whose log-body can this be, dressed so fine for its own funeral? I follow at a distance, already picturing how this will look on the glossy pages of National Geographic. The scene at the cemetery merits a three-page pull-out, at least. In place of gravestones, large, curved animal horns jut from the earth. Some are painted white; others have been wound about with colored yarn. Little bells dangle from the point of every horn. The wind is a welcome visitor, it seems.

*

Have you ever felt a wind inside your skull? Talk about mute, abject terror! A nightmare you’ll remember years later, looking through a magazine at the dentist’s office with the whine of the drill dimly audible above the Muzak. You find you can’t concentrate on much besides pictures, and fortunately this magazine has quite a few. In fact, it’s difficult to find the articles, apart from the captions and a few paragraphs following the titles – or are they headlines? The Misunderstood Manta. Ancient Nubia: Birthplace of the Pharoahs? A Funeral for the Whooping Cough. And here’s a nice piece on the Venus de Milo, which seems so emblematic of something or other. (Yes, of course she’s a which, never a who.)

*

Listen. Here it comes now through the pines, hissing. A gourd rattle gives it legs. Someone starts swinging a bullroarer and all the hair stands up on the back of my neck. The shutter clicks away, seemingly of its own accord: the sound made by the claws of rats on an empty granary floor. Not that they’d ever print that sort of thing. By the time the editors get done with my prose, baby, I barely recognize myself among all the cliches. I might as well be shooting so much water under a bridge, back in goddamn Iowa.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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