Thursday, January 5, 2012


You and Gregor Samsa.

This morning, after a night of troubled dreams, you awoke to find yourself transformed in your bed to a monstrous head cold.  Your immediate thought was that this was a mere segment of the troubled dreams; by returning to sleep, you could dream your way out of the stuffy confines of a head cold and back into the semblance of the more ebullient you who awakens most mornings, eager for some active confrontation with the world about him.

For a while, it almost worked.  You were soon sensibly asleep again, a condition where, for the most part, you get along well with the aspects of your being in charge of the sleep and dream processes, sometimes even compiling therein valuable information about works in progress (such as the time when you were visited by the image of a woman who identified herself as a character in a story of yours, wanting to make sure you knew her name was not Muriel, as you’d so carelessly assumed).

Much has been made about the fact of dreams being related in detail within a story being a no-no, even in these vagrant lines intended as a notebook for you. This was, you assumed, a working dream, where you’d compiled some editorial notes for something in the works or as a concept for something future.  And sure enough, you were transported with dispatch to The Earl Warren Show Grounds, a vast assemblage of buildings you’ve visited in waking hours for their yearly used book sale and as a place where on numerous past events, you’d received your yearly flu shot.

The Earl Warren Show Grounds main building is also a place where, during certain times of the year, one can, if he wishes, indulge in speculations regarding the relative speeds of thoroughbred horses.  A televised off-track betting system allows one to pick from the entrants at various operating racetracks, then purchase tickets on the horse of choice, with track odds determining the pari-mutuel pool from which one is paid if, of course, one’s choices were correct.

It has been years since you have even thought of such activities, but there you were, in line at a window.  You soon discovered that the person in line was more a creation of you, one Matthew Bender, an actor by profession, a man who has appeared in at least three completed short stories.  By an agreeable turn of events, you are able to equate Bender with Odysseus, coming home to Ithaca from the Trojan Wars, Bender having just returned home from a successful off-Broadway run of Greek tragedy. You had not realized that Bender had an interest in betting on horses, thus the first hint that you were at work on a story.  When it is Bender’s turn to deal with the person behind the counter, the one who will sell him a ticket on a horse of his choice, you were as far away from any thoughts or concerns of head cold as possible, curious to see how these events before you would play out.  What is Bender doing here?  The lady at the counter is of equal curiosity.  She has dark hair, piercing topaz eyes.  She asks Bender in no uncertain terms why he always stands in her line, suggesting to you that Bender has been here before.  Is it, she asks, to see if I am wearing a ring?  Now you realize Bender has a direct interest in the woman or a sneaker, an interest he had not acknowledge to himself.  She indeed thrusts her left hand at him.  The third finger indeed is occupied with an engagement ring of considerable weight and a wedding ring of thin, etched platinum.  You know these things because this is one of the natures of dreams.  The narrator is informing you of vital points to the unfolding narrative.  We need, the woman with the topaz eyes tells Bender, to talk.

You are transported outside the main building in which the previous activity took place.  With the same narrative certainty previously transported to you, you understand that the woman and Bender are occupying her fifteen-minute break.  She produces a pack of Native American Brand Cigarettes, offers one to Bender.  He very much wants it, but declines, helping her light her cigarette by an artful cupping of his hands against the ambient breeze.  If you know how to do that, the woman asks him, you must be a smoker yourself.   Bender feels vulnerable in his wish for a cigarette and his awareness of how attractive the woman is.  Something is clearly afoot here, some discovery to be made.  The woman explains to Bender that she is not married, but has taken to wearing these rings to obviate being hit on by men who bet their money on horses.  It is a trick she learned from a friend who is a waitress.  Your narrative knowledge provides you with a connection, possibly Oedipal in nature. Men who are being served food are having associate thoughts with their mothers, or the more simple connection that a man having had a meal is now ready to think about sexual attraction again.

Of course Bender asks her if she is a sometime waitress, and of course she tells him she is a sometime lot of things but those are things she does to support her principal career.  Of course Bender asks her what that is, and of course, she tells him. “I am an actor.”

You can only speculate how long this conceptual tide lasted.  You heard rather than saw the woman telling Bender she had to get back to taking bets on horses.  You are transported the approximate four miles from The Earl Warren Show Grounds to 409 E. Sola Street, where you are back with the head cold, the stuffy sense of your brain being packed in bubble wrap, your throat feeling as though it had been invaded by a group of picnic ants at a remote park.

You believe it acceptable to recount details of dreams in notes.  You are intrigued by the circumstances of the dream, not so much that Bender found the woman so attractive as by the implications of his standing in any kind of line to purchase tickets on something as insubstantial to him as a horse race.  You are intrigued by the surprise that she is not married, at least not presently married.  You are intrigued to know how and where Bender first became aware of her.  You are aware of the concept of risk involved in horse racing and the concept of risk in most relationships.

And you were damned glad to have had some time away from the bubble-wrapped brain and the picnic-ant throat.

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