December 21, 2013
I met Jay in a dream and lost her on earth. Whether I’ll ever find her again, I don’t know.
The dream was what they call a lucid dream. That’s where the dreamer knows that he’s dreaming. I never had one before, so it was the most amazing experience of my life. I was in this place that was pastoral. There were fields, and trees, and flowers, and a bit of fence that seemed to serve no purpose. There was a dirt path that went from somewhere to somewhere, but I don’t know where. There were no animals or birds, which was a bit odd. But it was all very beautiful. The oddest thing, though, was that there was no sun in the sky. The sky was pearly-white, and the daylight was subdued, like on a thinly overcast day. There were no clouds.
Right away I knew I was dreaming. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew. So I followed the path to see where it would lead. It rose and fell gently with the terrain and turned left and right. And then it passed between two rows of very tall trees, which appeared to have been spaced precisely, and I thought, There’s some intelligence here. And overhead there was a canopy of branches and leaves, and the path below was shady. And it went perfectly straight for some distance. And when I got past these trees, I saw fields again. And to the left there was a stream with flowers and grasses on the banks. And on the near bank, a couple of hundred feet ahead, someone was sitting. And as I walked closer, I saw that it was a young woman. She was blonde and wore a pale yellow dress.
As I approached her, she stood up, walked up the bank, and stood there, facing me. She was smiling and did not seem particularly surprised to see me.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello,” she replied. She had brown eyes and a tan complexion. She was quite beautiful.
“I know I’m dreaming,” I said. I couldn’t think of what else to say.
“Ah. Are you now?”
“Then you’re real, and I’m not, is that it?” She was smiling in an ironic sort of way.
“Because I was about to say that I’m the one who’s dreaming, in which case I’m the real one and you’re not.”
I laughed. “No, no. I know I’m dreaming.”
“But I was here first, wasn’t I? I was sitting here for a long time, and then I saw you coming.”
“But I was walking and I didn’t see you until now.”
“Ah. Now there’s a conundrum.”
“I don’t know that word.”
“Then how could you dream it?”
I was baffled. “I don’t know.”
“Do you know that this is a lucid dream?”
“Is that what it’s called?”
“Yes. There’s another thing you didn’t know. So I think the evidence is on my side. This is my dream.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say to that. This is a pretty strange argument.–Say, who are you anyway?”
“My name is Jay. What’s yours?”
“John.” She certainly looked real. She looked perfectly normal. This never happened to me before. “Is it possible for two people to be in the same dream and they’re both real?”
“One wouldn’t think so, would one?” One wouldn’t think so, would one? I didn’t know anyone who talked like that. “Of course, if a third person shows up, we may both be in trouble.”
This was getting to be too much for me. I stepped close to her and took her hand. She didn’t flinch. I was holding a real hand. I looked at her all over. She was too real for a dream.
“Put your arms around me,” she said. “The burden of proof is on you to prove yourself.”
What nerve! I thought. As if I’m not real! So I put my arms around her.
“Come on, you can do better than that.”
So I held her tighter, and she relaxed her body against mine. Her fingers stroked my back gently.
“All right, I think you pass,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said. “So, like…what does all this mean?”
“I think we shall have to agree that we’re both real.”
“Okay, fine. But I still don’t understand what’s happening.”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s walk a bit, shall we?”
And she led me by the hand. She seemed quite happy. I was happy, too, but still confused.
“What if we wake up?” I asked.
“We wouldn’t wake up at the same time, now, would we? After all, we’re not sleeping in the same bed, are we?”
“I wake up when I wake up, and you wake up when you wake up. And that’s something we have no control over — unless you set an alarm, which I never do.”
“And then what happens? Does the dream end, or what?”
“One of us wakes up first and leaves the dream. That’s all.”
“I guess that’s logical.” This woman was much smarter than me. I was liking her more and more. I didn’t want to lose her. I thought, I don’t want to wake up.
“I want to show you the house,” she said.
“There’s a house?”
“Yes, but it’s empty.”
“You mean there are other people up here?”
She turned in mid-stride and shrugged. “I don’t know.”
The house was not far away. It looked very plain — a one-story cottage of wood. The white paint was faded. The roof was thatched and had a little chimney. There were two windows. There was no garden around the house and no path leading to the front door. Nearby was a tree of a type I didn’t recognize.
There was no lock on the door. Jay opened it and led me in. There were no interior walls, just a few vertical wooden beams supporting the roof. There was no back door. There was no furniture. There was a small fireplace, but it looked unused. The floor was bare wood.
“You’ll notice there’s no dirt anywhere,” said Jay.
It was true. The house was perfectly clean, as if it had never been lived in. I walked all around and touched the surfaces. I could see the nails in the carpentry. It was all quite normal. “I don’t get this,” I said.
“It’s rather mysterious, isn’t it?”
We went back outside.
“Now I want to show you the tree,” said Jay.
So we walked over to the nearby tree, which was about fifty feet tall.
“You don’t see too many of these,” she said. “At least not this big.”
“What kind is it?”
“I’m not good with trees.” I pulled down a small branch and looked at the leaves. “These leaves are not all the same.”
“That’s right. Here. Look closely. There are four different shapes. You have this one with a lobe on the left. I called it the left-handed mitten. And this one has the lobe on the right. That’s the right-handed mitten. And this one is the double mitten, with lobes on both sides. And this one is just the plain leaf with no lobe on either side.”
“Huh. I’ve never seen anything like that before. So what kind of tree is this?”
“It’s a sassafras.”
“I’ve heard of it, but I don’t think I ever saw one before.”
“It mainly grows in the southeast. Further north you’d find them rather small.”
“I didn’t know that.–So is that where you live?”
“Where I live?”
“Do you live in the southeast?”
“I just thought of something. I can prove I’m real. I can tell you my address.”
“Don’t tell me your address. I don’t want to know.”
“I don’t need to know. We’re not on earth now.” She frowned slightly and started walking away. Then she stopped and offered her hand. “Come.”
I took her hand again and we walked back in the direction of where we’d originally met. I noticed there was no breeze. It was neither too warm nor too cold. This place, whatever it was, seemed to have no changes in it.
“Do you like me, John?” she asked.
“Yes. I like you very much.”
“Then give me a little kiss.”
So I kissed her gently on the lips. And I knew instantly that I loved her. But I said nothing because I simply had no words for such a moment — not here in this place.
We held hands and walked slowly, and then she stopped as if something had distracted her. “Oh!–John–.” And she disappeared into thin air. And I stood there, heartbroken and disbelieving.
“Jay?” I called. “Jay?”
And moments later I woke up, and I was in my bed. The clock was ticking. I don’t know what woke me up.
That was five years ago. That was the beginning of my relationship with Jay, which was to last only fourteen months.
I was 32 years old and living in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I worked as an assistant supervisor in the warehouse of a distributor of electrical parts. I was single, unattached, and had a small house and a mortgage. I am not a brilliant guy. I’m just average. So when I found myself back among familiar, mundane things, I was not sure what had really happened. I’d had a dream in which I knew I was dreaming, and I’d met this woman who had insisted the same thing. At the time — that is, in the dream — I believed she was real. But how could she be if I was dreaming? Two people couldn’t meet in a shared dream. Or could they? I was no mystic or philosopher. But I did not know the word “conundrum”, so how could I have dreamed it? I was very depressed about all this. What I was most depressed about was falling in love with this woman and, the next thing, she vanishes into thin air. I wanted to believe it was real, but then my loss was real, too.
I hadn’t set foot in the public library since high school, but I went and picked several books on dreams off the shelf and sat down and studied them. They all had some mention of lucid dreams, but there was nothing to explain my experience. A lucid dream was still a dream. That was no help to me.
And then I remembered the sassafras tree. I found a book on trees with pictures of every kind of tree in North America. And there it was. And there were the four different shapes of leaves. Now, maybe I could have heard the word “conundrum” once and it stuck in my unconscious mind. But I definitely had never seen the leaves of a sassafras tree. And what it said in the book was what Jay had said. It was a southeastern tree and did not grow as large in the north. How could I imagine someone in a dream who could tell me something I didn’t know?
I thought about whether I should talk this over with someone, but who could I talk to? Anyone would think I was nuts. Or else they’d give me some bullshit explanation from psychology or something. I’m not good with big ideas and big words. Explain it to me in plain English so I can understand it, otherwise don’t waste my time.
I went over all of it I don’t know how many times, and I always came back to the same thing: somewhere in the world there was a real woman named Jay, and we had met in a lucid dream, which was the same for both of us. I wanted to find her again, but I didn’t know how, except by having the same dream again. But I didn’t know how to do that. I kept trying, but it didn’t happen.
People were starting to notice that I was different. I didn’t want to socialize. I didn’t call people. I was gloomier. I didn’t laugh at jokes. I didn’t bother to chip in for the lottery pool at work, and I was the only one in the whole workplace. That was really noticed! If someone asked, “What’s the matter?” I would just shrug and say, “Nothing.”
I almost went to a fortune-teller’s salon, but I stopped at the door and told myself, This is bullshit. This is desperation.
So I just pushed myself through the days in a mechanical way. Some days I managed to distract myself enough that I almost forgot about the dream. But other days I would just stare into space and lose myself.
Almost three months had passed since the dream. When Thanksgiving came, I avoided all invitations. I told everyone that somebody else had already invited me. I had a turkey TV dinner and a bottle of cheap bubbly wine and fell asleep fully dressed.–Then I had the dream again.
I was in the same place where I’d started before. The fields, the flowers, the fence — exactly the same. The sky was the same pearly-white with no sun. There was no breeze. The temperature was moderate. My God, I’m back! I’m here! And the only thing I thought of was to look for Jay.
I followed the path as before, and it was exactly the same. It passed between those two rows of tall trees, which created a shady canopy. I walked right through and came out facing the same stream. And there was Jay, sitting on the bank in the same yellow dress. But this time I saw her first. And when she saw me, she jumped up and came to me. There were tears in her eyes. “John!” she said, and she put her arms around me. And I held her, and I must have cried, too.
“I didn’t know if I’d find you again,” I said.
“I was here twice, but you didn’t come,” she said.
“You were here? How?”
“It just happens when it happens. It’s luck.”
“I tried to come, but I didn’t know how,” I said.
“Just keep trying. Even if you come and I’m not here. That may happen.”
We held each other tightly. I could see the same stream, the same flowers. I could see the mysterious empty house, and the sassafras tree.
“Just don’t wake up, okay?” I said. “I don’t want to lose you.”
She sighed. “We wake up when we wake up. It can’t be helped.”
“I don’t know how this happens. I don’t understand it.”
“Don’t try to understand. Just make the most of it.” And she pulled me gently by the hand. “Let’s just walk.”
“I’m afraid I’ll lose you,” I said.
“Don’t worry about that. We’re together now. That’s all that matters.”
So we walked slowly, following the stream, which turned this way and that and made little waterfalls as it passed over little ledges. We were following it upstream, but I had no sensation that we were climbing the terrain. In the distance I could see the outline of hills, which looked purple, and there seemed to be forests. There were flowers everywhere, but there were no birds or insects, no fish in the stream, and no sign of other people. If this was a dream, whose mind did it spring out of? If Jay and I were both real, was this place real, too? We had to be somewhere, but it wasn’t earth. Earth-like, yes, but nowhere I could imagine.
“Is this coming from my mind or yours?” I asked Jay. “I don’t think it’s coming from me.”
“It’s not coming from me either,” she said. And she stopped walking, and we had our arms around each other. “I’m happy,” she said. “I’ve never been this happy before.”
Her head was on my shoulder. I could smell some kind of fragrance in her hair. I was about to say something–
The phone was ringing, and I was back in bed, still fully dressed. I’d forgotten to turn off the phone. I was so angry with whoever was calling. How stupid of me to leave the phone on! Damn you, phone! And I let it ring and ring and then finally relented and answered it.
“John! It’s Mike. Are you alone?”
“Yeah,” I said sullenly.
“Jeez, I shoulda called earlier. We just had our dinner and I just thought of you. Why don’t you come on over and have dessert with us. We’ve got too much food here. And there’s a game on TV. What do you say?”
“Thanks, but no. I don’t feel like going out.”
“Aw, come on. You shouldn’t be by yourself on Thanksgiving.”
I had to make up an excuse. “I think I’ve got a flu. I’m sure I’m contagious. The best thing is for me to sleep it off. Really.” I’m not sure if Mike bought it. If I was making a bad impression, I couldn’t help it. I just excused myself and hung up.
And I sat there thinking about Jay. If the phone hadn’t woken me up, I’d still be there with her — wherever “there” was.
A few weeks later I had the dream again, but this time she wasn’t there. So I understood this much, at least. I might be there, or she might be there, but it was pure luck if we were both there at the same time.
The other thing I got settled in my mind was that I no longer had any desire to talk this over with anyone. Nobody would understand. And it was too private.
Several months passed before Jay and I were together again, and this time we had a long time together. We went exploring upstream, and we didn’t worry about getting lost. We both felt that we couldn’t get lost as long as we were together. And another strange thing I didn’t realize till then: we never had physical needs. We were never hungry or thirsty, hot or cold, or tired, and we never felt sexual urges. Nevertheless, we were in love.
We came to a place where there were spectacular fields of flowers. I didn’t know flowers, but Jay knew most of them. And the way the flowers were arranged with so many colors, it was as if some intelligence had arranged them that way. But it wasn’t like the gardens you see in a park, which are very neat. It was more like a bunch of artists were let loose to use their imaginations to create this astonishing landscape.
Amidst these flowers, Jay and I lay down and embraced and held each other for a long time. And we kissed gently, without getting sexually excited.
“I don’t want to leave,” I said. “I want to stay here forever.”
“Ah, but then you’d never wake up, and you’d lose your job.”
“I don’t care about that. What about you? Do you have a job?”
And I realized I knew very little about Jay. And another thing I realized was that she didn’t seem as surprised as I was about this place. She seemed to know…something.
“So where exactly are we?” I asked her.
“We’re someplace. We’re together. That’s all that matters.”
“But is this a real place?”
And she smiled at me. “We’re both real, aren’t we?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t answer my question.”
She sighed. Maybe she was a little impatient with me. “I suppose that depends on what you mean by ‘real’?”
“Well, that’s something out of philosophy, so forget it. I couldn’t answer that.”
“Then forget your question.”
I stroked her back gently. “You know I love you.”
“Yes, and I love you.”
“But I don’t feel — like, how do I put it? — I don’t feel, em –”
“Yeah. I’m not having sexual feelings.”
“Neither am I.”
“Oh.” I was disappointed for a moment, but then I let it pass. I just never felt like this before. It was strange.
“This is better,” she said. “It’s simpler.”
Yes, I supposed it was simpler. We were together. What else mattered? I could see and smell all these flowers. I could hear the gurgling stream. I could see the pearly-white sky above. And we were quiet together, and time passed, although I can’t say for sure how much time.
A thought was bothering me, however. I was afraid to say it, but finally I asked her. “Where do you live?”
“Where do I live?”
“Yes. In real life, where do you live?”
She laughed. “In real life?”
“You know what I mean. When you’re not dreaming you must live somewhere on earth.”
“It doesn’t matter where.”
“I’ll tell you where I live.”
“No, don’t. I don’t care where you live.”
“I live in Allentown, Pennsylvania.”
She sat up and was no longer smiling. “I know where this is going.”
“Do you know where Allentown, Pennsylvania, is?”
“Yes, I know where Allentown is.”
“So where do you live?”
“John, listen. We mustn’t try to meet on earth. Forget it.”
She sighed deeply. Her eyes were very serious. “Because we would probably lose all this. We’d never get it back.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m just afraid that that’s what would happen, that’s all.”
“Well, so what? If we could meet on earth, we’d be together all the time. We wouldn’t have to leave it to luck.”
“We wouldn’t have this place. Things would never be the same.”
“I don’t know how you can know all this.”
She picked a flower and twiddled the stem in her fingers, looking away. “I don’t want to get into an argument. Really.”
“I’m just trying to understand, that’s all.”
She looked me in the eye. “Do you think we would be as happy on earth as we are now?”
“Well…sure. Why not?”
She stood up. “It’s too great a risk. We might lose everything.”
I stood up. “I’m really upset now.”
“Don’t be upset.”
“I’m trying to understand this, and I’m not understanding it. And I’m getting worried, and I’m getting unhappy.”
She started walking, then held her hand behind her for me to take. “Come. Let’s walk.”
I took her hand and walked with her. “You do love me, don’t you?”
“I don’t know how you could doubt it. I keep coming back, don’t I? I keep looking for you.”
We were walking toward the sassafras tree. “I’m going to keep asking you where you live.”
“I suppose you will.”
“You’re going to tell me sooner or later.”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
And we stood under the sassafras tree. She touched both my arms. “Be happy, John. Be happy with this.”
“I’m happy when we’re together. But when we’re not…”
“When we’re not, we’re not.”
I tried to suppress the deep anxiety I was feeling. I had tears in my eyes. I took her hands. “I’m having a real hard time understanding this.”
“I know,” she said. And then she looked up and blinked several times. “Oh!–I’m leaving now.” And she faded away. My hands were holding air.
And I was too sad to go anywhere. I just stood under the tree and looked up at the leaves. I looked for the four different shapes — the left-handed mitten, the right-handed mitten, the double mitten, and the plain leaf. They were all there. All very green and perfect. My eyes went from leaf to leaf, looking at each shape, branch by branch, and at some point I woke up and was home in bed.
There followed a period of six dead months. Dead days on the calendar, one after another lost and forgotten. Days without life or meaning, just a great desolation. I thought I’d lost her. I had one false start. I was starting the dream and then was awakened by a siren on the street. That was the worst thing ever. My other dreams were sad and morbid. I don’t want to talk about them.
I was oblivious to holidays. My sullen mood was noticed at work. When one of my co-workers remarked jokingly that I must be having “woman troubles”, I replied harshly and walked away. I was becoming bad-tempered, which was unlike me. I no longer had friends. People stopped calling. At times I thought I was losing my mind. I fantasized about suicide and acts of violence. I wondered if I was destined to end up in a mental hospital.
Then I had the dream again. I was back in the same place. And I didn’t want to wake up before I found out what I needed to know. And I was determined to find out.
I found Jay again in the usual place beside the stream. She gave me a serious look. “You’ve got something on your mind,” she said.
“Yes. I want to know where you live on earth so I can see you.”
“I knew you were going to ask me that.” She frowned and looked away.
“I can’t go on like this. This is killing me.”
“You’re not happy to be here with me?”
“That’s not what I mean.” I took her by the arm, and she faced me. Her eyes were serious and I was a little afraid of them. I was afraid she’d say no. I was afraid everything would be ruined. I was afraid she’d stop loving me.
“You know what they say. You should be careful what you wish for because you might get it.”
I took both her hands. “Jay…if you love me.”
“Ah. ‘If you love me’.” she repeated in an almost mocking tone. “You are putting me to a test.”
“No, I’m not putting you to a test. Look, I’m just an ordinary guy. I don’t understand this.” I made a gesture of helplessness with my hands as I looked all around. “I want to know where you live. You must live somewhere.”
“And you’ll come and visit me,” she said.
“I told you what I thought would happen. We’d lose what we have.”
“But we’ll have each other. We’ll be on earth — in real life. We’ll be together all the time.”
We were looking into each other’s eyes. I could see conflict in hers. She probably saw desperation in mine. Or did she see a fool who couldn’t understand where he was, who couldn’t be satisfied with what he had?
“All right,” she said softly. “I’ll tell you. I live in New Jersey.”
“Where in New Jersey?”
“It’s a little town you won’t find on the map. It’s called Piper.”
“I’ve never heard of it. Where is it?”
“It’s in the pine barrens.”
I was very surprised. “You live in the barrens? But that’s a wilderness.”
“Yes. I’m on the fringes of the Wharton State Forest, in Burlington County.”
“Jeez, that’s Jersey Devil country.”
“If you love me…” she began, intending to mock me slightly, “you’ll take your chances with the Jersey Devil.”
“I’ll get a road map, and I’ll find my way. I’ll come and see you.”
“The map will only get you so far. I’ll have to give you directions using landmarks.”
Of course I had no way to write anything down.
“Can you remember a phone number?” she asked.
“Remember this number.” And she gave it to me. I said it over and over to try to lock it in my mind.
“I’ll call you and get the directions,” I said.
“Yes, I expect you will,” she said, not smiling. “And then we can only hope for the best.”
I hugged her. “I’ll try real hard to remember the number. If I don’t call, it means I’ve forgotten it.”
“You won’t forget it. I’m sealing it in your mind.” And she kissed her palm and pressed it to my forehead.
We embraced and just stood there for a while. I could hear the gurgling stream. I looked at the flowers and fields and the pearly-white sky. And I hoped I was doing the right thing.
“My dear, I think one of us is going to wake up,” said Jay.
“Are you going? I don’t want to go.”
And she looked off somewhere and her eyes blinked. “I love you, John.”
“I love you, too.”
“Must leave you now…bye-bye…” And she faded away.
And I repeated the number to myself over and over. Please, God, don’t let me forget the number.
I called the next day. I had remembered the number. Jay’s voice sounded a little bit different over the phone — a little older. I had a pen and pad ready to take down the directions. My hand was shaking from excitement, and I could hardly read my own handwriting: Jay Eppley, St. Martin’s Road, Piper, N.J.
Now I would never lose her!
“Give me directions from Philadelphia,” I said.
She gave me directions to a certain point, after which I’d be “off map” and would have to follow her landmarks and watch my odometer. She said there was no signage in her area and I would have to come in daylight or I’d never find her. St. Martin’s Road had only two houses on it. The first one I would see had a mailbox with a figure of three magpies. After that, I was to go exactly 1.4 miles and look to the right. Her house was set back about a hundred feet from the road, with a minimal driveway that would just barely accommodate a car.
I figured it would be about a 3-hour trip. We agreed that I would come on the next Saturday. Nothing was said about my staying over. I forgot to ask.
When I put down the phone, I felt that everything was perfect. The problem was solved. We were on earth now, not in some dreamland where meetings were unpredictable and uncontrollable.
That Saturday was overcast with the threat of rain and cold enough to require a heavy coat. Not unusual for early April. I hadn’t slept well the night before and wasn’t feeling my best. I started to worry. Would I get lost? Would the visit be okay?
When I started my old car, I said, “Just get me there, you piece of junk.”
Allentown to Philadelphia was easy. Getting through Philadelphia was slower, and I had to check my map. I never liked Philly. I found it depressing, especially on a day like today. I was taking Highway 90, giving Camden a wide berth. From then on, I relied on my map to get to Wharton State Forest, and then at some point I had to trust Jay’s directions.
It was raining, and the trip took longer than I expected. I had to take it slow because I was afraid of missing a turn.
The New Jersey barrens may look beautiful to a nature-lover in good daylight and mild weather, but in these conditions I found them ominous. They made me think of The Blair Witch Project. I don’t know why any civilized person would want to live in such a place. Calling it rural would be too polite. This was remote. You’d never believe that such a large desolate area could exist in New Jersey.
It was getting too dark, and I was getting nervous. If I made a wrong turn, I’d get hopelessly lost.
I found St. Martin’s Road, which was unmarked. It was a gravel road, probably impassable in the worst winter conditions. I drove slowly and eventually spotted the mailbox with the magpies. Then I watched my odometer and let it turn over exactly 1.4 miles. There on the right I saw her house.
It was a peculiar little house — part stone, part wood, and not belonging to any particular style. It was set in a small clear space with trees all around the back and sides. There were no outbuildings. The only decoration was a low fence in front covered with vines, and a little gate that was not even waist-high. The door was of brown wood and was very weathered. There was a little window in the door.
There was no door bell or knocker, so I just knocked with my hand. The door opened, and a woman stood there smiling. She said, “Hello, John.” And I wondered who she was. She resembled Jay but was considerably older and not as beautiful.
“Is Jay here?” I asked.
“It’s me,” she said. I stood there, perplexed. “Come in out of the rain.” And she pulled me in gently by the sleeve. The house was not well-lit, so she turned on another light. “Don’t you recognize me?”
The eyes were the same. The facial features were the same. Even the complexion. Her hair was a little darker. Her voice was a bit deeper. Her height was the same. Her figure was almost the same, allowing for a little weight.
“Why are you older?” I asked.
“We all look a little more perfect in our dreams than we do in real life. Besides, you’re a bit older, too.”
“A little bit, but that’s okay.”
I suddenly felt a bit faint, so I took off my coat. “I’m confused now.” My voice was weak, and I was a little afraid. “I don’t understand. How can you be Jay? This isn’t a joke, is it?”
“There’s no joke. Come on, now. I thought you loved me. If you love me….give me a kiss.”
Hesitantly, I leaned forward and gave her a shy kiss.
“Put your arms around me,” she said. I did, tentatively. “Come on, you can do better than that.”
And I held her closer and smelled the fragrance in her hair. It was the same. “It is you,” I said. “What happened to that nice yellow dress you wore up there?”
“I still have it.”
She was wearing a brown print dress of a style I think is called an Empire dress. I looked at her hands. They were the same, but older. I was looking at her up and down.
“You’ll get over it,” she said. “Come sit down and have a tea.”
She led me to the kitchen, and I sat down at a heavy wooden table. The kitchen window faced the back. There were just tall trees. On the outside ledge of the window were numerous potted plants. The rain was letting up.
She served me an herbal tea. I looked around. The house was uncovered stone half-way up and wood-paneled above that. Everything was like from some earlier age. You couldn’t really tell when. The kitchen was minimal in its appliances.
“You have electricity,” I observed.
“Yes, of course. And plumbing and a phone, and that’s it. No TV. I have a little radio.”
I sipped my tea. My mind was stuck. Here I was with the woman I had declared my love to, and I couldn’t think of anything romantic or even intelligent to say. “How long have you lived here?”
She gave me an ambiguous smile. “Since some time in the past until now.”
“Okay. How do you live? Do you have a job? What do you do?”
“I just live modestly. I’m able to do that.”
“Are you all alone? Do you have family? Do you have friends?”
“I’m all alone.”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
Then she didn’t really need me, I figured. “So…did you miss me?”
“Of course, I missed you.” She reached over and held my wrist. “All you men are the same. You need constant reassurance.”
“I guess maybe.”
“Let me show you the house. There isn’t much, but I’ll show you anyway.”
The house had four rooms — the kitchen, the living room, a bedroom, and another room that was almost empty except for a small, old-fashioned bed and a very small chest of drawers. The room looked as if it had never been used. Overall, the furnishings were very sparse. There was a small bathroom that looked pretty normal but very old. Adjoining it was a small laundry. The phone was in the bedroom. It was one of those very old rotary phones you don’t see any more — the heavy kind made of metal, not plastic.
The walls of the bedroom and the spare room had dozens of small paintings — oil, I think, because there was a thick texture to the paint. They were all the same size — about 8″x8″ square. And each one had a circle that I took to be either the sun or moon. It was painted in a solid color, and the background had a different solid color. And all the combinations were different and made a beautiful effect. In the bottom right corner of each one I could see small initials: J.E.
The living room had a small fireplace and two small sofas and a wooden table. There was a small bookshelf full of odd little hand-crafted ornaments.
There was nothing in sight with any sort of date on it — nothing to pin the house or its occupant to any particular point in time. No newspapers. No photos.
There was an attic accessible by a pull-down ladder, but there was nothing in it. And there was a small space under the floor which served as a cellar, but it was empty, too. She doesn’t accumulate stuff, I thought.
I asked myself if I could live in such a place for the rest of my life with her — that is, assuming I married her. I didn’t think so.
After I’d seen everything, she took me by the hand, and we walked back to the kitchen and stepped out the back door. The rain had stopped, and the sky had gotten a little brighter. It was late afternoon.
“Where does your property end?” I asked.
“The neighbors haven’t told me,” she said, deadpan, and it took me a moment to realize she had made a joke.
I felt so strange. I was on earth, but I had never stood in such a place. I had never experienced such a moment. I could have been in any country, in any time. It was as if everything here had decided never to change. I can’t put these things into words very well. Here I was with this woman I had fallen in love with in a dream. Was this place a dream, too? And who was I? Was I the man from the dream or the man from Allentown? Was I still real? I felt I might evaporate and disappear, like from the dream, but then where would I wake up? Where was here?
Jay took my arm and rested her head against me. “Poor John,” she said in a slightly humorous way. “Are you sorry you came to visit me?”
“No,” I said. And after a moment I said impulsively. “I’m sure you’d say no if I asked you to marry me and move to Allentown.”
“You don’t need to marry me, and I don’t need to live in Allentown.”
“Do you still love me?” I asked.
“What a silly question.” And I embraced her gently — but still not really understanding — and we stood there without speaking for a while. And the thought came to me: If I love this woman, why don’t I have any sexual feelings? And I couldn’t tell if she did either.
We went back inside.
“Shall I make you dinner?” she asked.
“I’m not hungry,” I said.
“I have some home-made soup. Let me know when you’re hungry.”
We sat in the living room. There was a low fire in the fireplace. I sat without touching her. I was holding a starfish, which I assumed had once been real — that is, alive. It occurred to me that I still knew almost nothing about Jay, and she was deliberately not telling me things — that is, normal things that people want to know. How is it that we had met in a lucid dream and continued to meet? And was that all over now? And why was she older on earth? What was I supposed to do with all this? Was I supposed to be in two worlds and carry on a complicated relationship?
“So what happens next?” I asked.
“Every person has free will. You can decide what you want to do. But nobody can be sure what will happen.”
“Ah,” I said, as if I understood, but I didn’t really. She seemed to understand everything better than I did. She seemed less surprised by things. She knew too much, or so it seemed. But I guess it’s relative. I was ordinary and had spent all my life among others like myself, so what did I know? Why would she love such a dullard as me?
“You must have some soup,” she said. “I’ll heat it up.”
I sat at the kitchen table and ate her vegetable soup, which was very good, but I didn’t finish it.
“What’s bothering you?” she asked.
How could I explain? “Maybe I’m stupid or something. I’m trying to understand all this, and I’m not getting it straight in my head. I just don’t know what to think.”
“We have more answers inside ourselves than we realize. Search inside yourself, and you may find the answers. Or you may decide you don’t really need any.”
That was no help at all to me. I wanted her to explain everything in simple terms. I wanted to know what was going to happen to us.
I looked at the clock, and she noticed. It was dark out.
“I wasn’t sure what to do about staying over or not,” I said.
“You can if you want.”
“Suppose I don’t. How will you take it?”
“I’ll take it as your personal choice, that’s all.”
“It doesn’t mean I don’t want to see you again. I do.”
“If you want to, then you will.”
I was silent for a moment. I really didn’t know what to do. Finally I said, “I need to go home. I think I should just go home and think.”
“Take all the time you need.”
“You’re not angry with me?”
She shook her head, smiling slightly. “Stop looking for reassurance. That would be a step in the right direction. Think, decide, and act.” She collected the dishes and put them in the sink.
“It’s that simple, is it?”
“John, your problem is you’re insecure.”
“Yeah, I guess maybe.”
She walked me to the door, and I put my coat on.
“At least it won’t be raining on the way back. But you must drive carefully because the road has no lights.”
“I’ll call you,” I said, repeating words said a billion times before by people who meant it or didn’t mean it.
“I know,” she said.
I smiled bravely and tried to joke. “Or else I’ll see you in my dreams.”
“I don’t think so,” she said seriously. And I felt undermined.
I stood in front of her, coat unbuttoned, wondering if these would be the last words I’d speak to her. “Well…” But no words would come. So she kissed me gently on the lips and said, “Get home safe, John.”
We said our goodbyes and I went out to my car and started it and drove carefully down the driveway. She stood in the doorway watching me until I gave a final wave and was out of sight.
I drove back the way I came. I was very mentally distracted, however, because I made a wrong turn somewhere and got myself lost in those horrible barrens for an hour. By the time I found a paved road with signage, I was disoriented and heading in what I thought was the right direction. Well, it was sort of right, but I ended up on the wrong highway and found myself crossing the state border at Camden, a total hellhole. I had to stop at a red light in a dreadful neighborhood to check my map to see which way to Allentown, thinking that at any moment I would be swarmed by hoodlums coming out of the shadows. I eventually got out of there, found the highway I needed and got back to Allentown. When I got home, I was stressed out by the drive and needed a few drinks to calm down. Then I went to bed, thinking about Jay, and about the dream, and about the barrens, and what else I don’t remember.
As it happened, we were doing inventory at the warehouse, which was immensely tedious because it had to be done manually. I had a heavy responsibility for it but was not at my best. My underlings caught me in two mistakes and joked about it. In the lunch room someone made a quiet comment to somebody else, which resulted in restrained laughter. I knew it was about me because I caught him nodding toward me and tapping his head. I finished my coffee and walked out.
I’d been thinking and looking for answers, but I got nothing. The strange thought crossed my mind that maybe I’d been the victim of an elaborate hoax. The Jay I met in the dream had given me the phone number of a much older sister, who then received me in New Jersey and pretended to be Jay. But what would be the point? What kind of joke was that? And it didn’t explain the dream and everything that was in it. No, it was Jay in both places. And I guess I still loved her. But what if she got older a second time — and I mean like an old woman? And if I wasn’t going to live in the barrens and she wasn’t going to marry me and move to Allentown, where did that leave us? It was too much for my poor, dumb brain.
Two weeks after my visit I woke up and certain things were clear in my mind. I loved Jay, no matter how she looked, and I’d gladly go live in the barrens with her. We could get married or not. Didn’t matter to me. But life without her was too hard, too lonely.
I called her number and got a recording that said that number was not in service. My mistake, I thought. I dialed again very carefully. Same message. I panicked. What’s going on? Maybe I waited too long to call her, and now she’s through with me! I called Information to see if she had a new number. They had no listing for her anywhere in that area code. I asked the operator if the town of Piper was listed at all. It wasn’t.
I had to go there at once. It was Easter Monday, so I had the day off. But I’d be getting a late start and would be arriving in darkness. I found the original directions and got my map and got in the car and drove off. I was sick with fear that I’d lost her. If there was a reasonable explanation, I couldn’t think of it. But I was hoping that when I got there, everything would be okay.
I got to St. Martin’s Road faster than the first time. The sky was clear, but it was dark. I looked for the mailbox with the magpies, and I found it. Then I noted the odometer and drove exactly 1.4 miles. The house should have been on the right. There was nothing. No clearing, no little driveway. I must have made a mistake. I made an awkward three-point turn and returned to the mailbox with the magpies. This time I counted the clicks on the odometer out loud. At 1.4 miles I looked, and there was no house. I shined my flashlight, but it was too weak. I turned the car and aimed the headlights. There was just trees. I stepped out of the car and walked inward, but there was no house. This is impossible! I thought. I was out of my mind with fear and confusion.
I got back in the car, backed up very slowly for a considerable way and kept looking to the right. Nothing. Then I went forward slowly, looking to the right, until I got to a dip in the road and realized I’d gone too far. The house physically had to be along that stretch of road that I’d checked and rechecked. But it wasn’t.
I stopped the car and turned off the ignition. I looked up at the stars. God help me! God help me! I sat in the car and cried. I lay across the front seat and felt sick. I don’t know how long I was there like that. Such horrible, morbid thoughts. I wanted to die. And there was the moon in a crescent, and I watched it move behind some branches, and I was getting cold. I sat up and had no ideas. Maybe I had just dreamed everything — the dreamland, Jay, the house. Maybe none of it was real. I must have lost my mind.
I started the car and just drove slowly straight ahead. I drove quite a long distance before I came to a paved road. I turned left for no reason.
I saw a service station that was open, which surprised me. I stopped there and got out. An old white guy came out and asked what I would have. I asked him, “Is there a town around here called Piper?”
“Piper? Oh, my goodness, that’s an old historic name. That place faded away ages ago.”
“Was it around here?”
“Yes, in this general area. In the barrens.”
“Have you ever heard of St. Martin’s Road?”
“Mm…don’t believe so. Could be an old historic name.”
“Oh, hell,” I said to myself.
“You want gas?”
I got some gas just to be polite to the old guy, and to make sure I didn’t get stranded in the barrens. And then without much attention to direction, I drove until I got to a highway, and eventually got oriented. I drove for hours in a daze until I got back to Allentown.
I was beyond sorrow. I was numb. I was angry with God for putting me through such a cruel joke, whatever it was. I sat in front of my window looking out at a deserted street. And whatever thoughts I had are gone, and who cares? I was just an ordinary guy who didn’t understand enough, and I had to suffer for it.
I drank and took pills for a long time after that. I struggled to get through every day at work. I wondered if there was anything I could do? Should I hire a private detective? Should I go to a psychic? Should I go back yet again and search? No. It was all pointless. It would only make it worse. I could never forget what had happened. All I could do was try not to think about it. XXX on the calendar. Another week. Another month. Rip it off. Repeat the process. That’s all.
I was “Silent John” to my co-workers. My boss asked me why I’d undergone such a “personality change”. I just shrugged and said, “Can’t explain.” He said he knew a nice psychiatrist, and maybe it would do me some good to see him. I said no, not interested.
Every night when I went to bed, I thought, Maybe I’ll have the dream. But, of course, I didn’t. And in fact I never had the dream again.
In early November the strangest thing happened. I had returned home from work, and as I was getting out of the car, I noticed something. On the floor mat on the passenger side, there was a leaf. I reached in and picked it up. I recognized it. It was a sassafras leaf — the double mitten one. I couldn’t imagine how such a leaf could’ve gotten in my car. And what made it even stranger was that it was now autumn, but this leaf was perfectly green and fresh. I took it into the house with me. I brushed it gently to remove any dust or dirt from the car and put it in a little bowl in my bedroom.
The leaf is aging but very slowly. And every night at bedtime I kiss that leaf and say, “Jay, wherever you are, I love you.”
And I just go on living, clinging to one hope: that when I die, I’ll find myself in that place again, and Jay will be there. And we’ll be together forever.
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to all my readers, old and new, for your support. This is the last piece I will publish in my lifetime. My French book, Villes Bigrement Exotiques, is still in print. Published by Le Dilettante (Paris).
December 5, 2013
(Deterioration and Maintenance of Pavements, by Derek Pearson. ICE Publishing. 2012.)
Every day we are walking or riding on a ticking time bomb and we don’t even know it. That’s right. Every sidewalk and road — every pavement of every type — is deteriorating beneath us. They want to swallow us up and destroy us. This is how civilization will end, not by nuclear war.
But we can forestall this doom, thanks to Deterioration and Maintenance of Pavements, by Derek Pearson. Mr. Pearson, a civil engineer, is the world’s leading authority on pavements.
The most important thing for a pavement is to have good drainage. Standing water is bad. It will eventually rot what’s underneath, like a sick brain rotting away with delusional figments of decay, and cops will not understand what is happening to you. They will shoot you with Tasers and you may die.
Some shoes are bad for pavements, especially stiletto heels, which have a high point load factor. These bitches are strutting along, thinking they’re so fucking high-class, and they’re breaking the sidewalk so that some poor guy in a wheelchair trips over and breaks his neck. On the other hand, there are also fake law suits involving Indians and Pakis. (“Oh! I slip and fall on broken sidewalk! City must pay me $10,000!”) Yes, we must wear shoes, but we should be more socially aware, just as we look after our hair with modern hair products. The public should be surveyed to determine their happiness with sidewalks. Bad sidewalk experiences can lead to psychopathic outbursts like the one in Davenport, Iowa, where this really ordinary guy who worked in an ice company went berserk and killed a bunch of people in McDonald’s, or somewhere. The police never understood that the answer was under their very feet! A sign that says “Use Other Sidewalk” may easily be misinterpreted as a slur against one’s ethnic or racial group. Some cities are waking up to this, so let us be like new cabbages seeking the Sun.
The synthesis of ideas and requirements of the architect and the engineer has not always been happy, due to the naturally extrovert nature of the architect and the introvert conservative nature of the engineer. Two minds presumably in synthesis for a common goal, or even notification of such, yet each spinning off into a different dimension, leaving behind threads of lost and forgotten moments to be swallowed up by the harsh mechanistic universe. This is a never-ending problem. Only God has the answer.
Returning to the issue of heavy point loading, it is somewhat alleviated if the woman is running, although it is hard to run in high heels. Interestingly, elephants have much lower point loading due to the size of their feet. It is okay for elephants to walk on sidewalks, and the sight may unlock new revelations in dead zombie minds such as you see at Bay and King in Toronto.
How did Rome get so big and powerful? Because they built good roads with good drainage. And they kept slaves busy maintaining them. We should do that with welfare bums today.
A good pavement must have good materials, such as bitumen (pronounced BITCH-u-men, and say it loud!) and tar. Bitumen and tar age from the moment that they are incorporated into the mix, due to oxidation, which hardens the binder and causes it to become progressively brittle, a dry clay face in the mirror that cracks and was a false memory of someone who never existed, a pompous vegetable exposing the ping-pong table of your mind pretending to be a Louis Quatorze luxury bidet suite. In pavement mixes, as a rule of thumb (wash your hands before you make the next customer’s milk shake, you lazy Greek bastard!), bitumen with a binder penetration of 20 is at the end of its useful life and to hell with it. Dogs and Filipinos are already pissing on it. Loss of binder efficiency, like arms and legs just falling off for no reason, and brittleness prevent the material from containing the stresses imposed by women with big breasts walking in tight traffic tugging cocks to explode them out of their zippers, leading to the development of micro-cracking. This process is most obvious on Bloor St. in front of Holt Renfrew, where it is exposed to sunlight (UV radiation) like the UV of a tanning bed licking a hot naked woman lying on her front, her ass well-oiled and screaming “Fuck me!”. The condition can be assessed during inspection of genitals by noting changes in the color of the so-called bituminous binder (more precisely referred to as gyrational muck), dripping from a hot snatch, from the initial black to a light grey; also vibrating the chippings will make them more prominently exposed and many will be plucked out and sucked violently by Yugoslavian hot dog vendors. If handled, pieces of the surface will probably disintegrate and individual stones can be dislodged due to loss of the adhesive properties in the binder. But who’s responsible? That evil prick Sam Pazzano, Toronto Sun courts reporter! Fuck off and die, you garbage!
Causologically, the modems of deterioration break down as follows:
a) rutting of field crews
b) bituminous insufficiency of waterway
c) jugular load-bearing eccentricity
d) the Spool effect on hypersensitive psychologists
e) histological layers of sub-formed amalgamics
Those countries that never paid off their war debts will get what’s coming to them when the roads crack under their feet and turn into Sumatra bread pudding, and there goes everyone’s children into the maws of death.
Distress data collection should follow a rectangular format and should be assigned to graduate students in philosophy, alcoholic Indians, and other hopeless types. Let the retro-gurney model slam into a Kamchatka convenience store and see if anyone hears the echo. Answer me that, you toad-suckers.
What the author is saying is not new knowledge, of course. Back in WW2, the U.S. Navy Seabees could take some captured island of stewed jungle shit and put down a firm landing strip in one day, and those Hellcats and Avengers would be up and at ’em in no time, blowing the shit out of the Japs. Our guys had know-how. These fucking graduate students wouldn’t know how long to boil a potato.
Constant impactions without awareness lead to deterioration not only of pavements but also the mind and soul. When you see a pothole, that’s our civilization. Unless something is done, it’ll sink all the way to the earth’s core. Take your mumbly-gumbly microphone out of my face and stop tapping my phone.
The equivalent standard axle (ESA) is the main universal measurement unit used by road engineers all around the world, and once everyone was on board we derived the fourth power law to make use of it. The main axle factor multipliers are:
traffic island — 2
Pakis — 2
Mexican low-riders — 1.5
gay pride parade — 1.5
elephants — 2.5
The channelization factor must be factored into the axle load and divided by the wear factor to determine how long it takes for a normal asphalt road to break as truck drivers become fatter due to a poor diet. Brazilian babes like to show off their butts with these bikini bottoms that are so minimal they call them “dental floss”, and that kind of ass never deteriorates no matter how often you bang into that back door with your giant plunger. If traffic circulates counter-clockwise around a rotary, the rotary will sink at the perimeter and people on the right side of the car will fall out first and may not be noticed as missing until the driver has finished his text messaging.
Before I forget, Derek Pearson, the author, is the only sibling in his family who turned out good. His brother Phil got into organized crime distributing counterfeit Gucci accessories, his sister Debbie was convicted of fraud for selling fake Viagra, and his other sister Nadine became a stripper and ended up fat and on welfare. But Derek followed a straight path and figured out how to understand roads and stuff. The book has good photos, tables, and equations, and it should be forced reading for white trash who wear baseball caps backwards and those snotty bitches who go to St. Joseph’s College in Toronto.
The hand-held penetrometer, which operates at two speeds and may be either battery-powered or plug-in, is favored by women. It may be used either on the outside or the inside of the pit. Crack depth investigation can be done by the operator’s friend.
Greece has the most road deaths in Europe per million population. Netherlands has the fewest. This is entirely an outcome of attitude, in like manner as slobs who run greasy spoons and whose kitchens are pure filth and they totally don’t give a shit because all they think about is getting the most money for the least amount of work, whereas conversely the Dutch are statistically the tallest men in Europe, which proves that they are both docile and systematic in their relationships with all surfaces in all directions.
Satan’s hordes are constantly trying to drag us into hell, and only science can save us. We want to be able to continue to walk and drive on good surfaces. The Book of Isaiah has much to say about this.
Roughness is measured by the roughometer, which calculates long and short wavelengths in pavement irregularities. This is the best way, not by feminist theory. Engineers use this to determine the probability of tires falling off a vehicle in normal use and the degree of dissatisfaction of passengers which may be manifested at critical points. (The scale only goes to 108 because nothing higher has ever been seen.) These events cannot be standardized and therefore must be classified as Mother Earth anger reactions, if not deliberate. Slope deviation is a new concept proposed by the Chinese and may or may not be valid for all scenarios. The International Roughness Index (IRI) was created by Maurice Strong, a friend of the Chinese, as a device to facilitate a world government. Witnesses have seen him create five gold spheres out of his forehead, which he can command to levitate and transmit signals to agents of the Illuminati. The Chinese collaboration in this phenomenon is well-documented as they wish to be the first to colonize the moon and Mars. If speed is increased steadily across any roughness measurement, at some point a collision must occur, regardless of dynamic tire load. Thanks to former Vice President Al Gore, operators are able to buy and sell “tire load credits” to allow vehicles to speed faster than they would otherwise be able to. Of course, this does not obviate any laws of physics or else it would be dumbly-bumbly down my fire escape and into a hot asphalt meat grinder straight out of a drive-in horror movie.
The presence of water within the fabric of the pavement can be a damaging insidious glug-nut head-breaker, as it may contribute to the binder stripping from the aggregate, with associated loss of asphalt homogeneity. (Satan’s joy!) However, it has been proven that horse droppings help protect against this.
Drainage pipes must be protected from saboteurs by razor wire. No doubt, a prime target of terrorists would be the drainage systems that serve our highways. Therefore, watch for people doing strange things by the side of the road and report them on Facebook. The fluctuation of the water table, however, is beyond anyone’s control, as many migratory tribes discovered to their dismay in the Congo territorial wars.
Most people don’t know this, but asphalt must have some air voids in it or it’s no good. This is determined by the coefficient of linear expansion, which should be between .00002 and .00003 per degree Centigrade. Wallowing at the equator makes this impossible, which explains why there are no interstate highways in a jungle. The supervisor’s responsibility is to enforce the check list and beat recalcitrant apprentices for any non-observance. If the road goes up a mountain at a steep angle, it must have high skid resistance or everyone will slide down and die horribly. Most bus plunges result from too many air voids and no guard rails, plus drunk drivers. The Bus Plunge Index (BPI) in Pakistan has held steady in the range of 21 – 23 as long as records have been kept. This is too high. But the train system doesn’t go everywhere, so what are people supposed to do — throw cookies at some fake cardboard god and expect him to hold up everybody’s smelly ass? I don’t think so.
Deterioration and Maintenance of Pavements is one of the best books I have ever read. Readers will appreciate author Derek Pearson’s breezy style and his resolute optimism in the face of Satan’s war on our civilization. He also points out more than once that it takes money to do all these things properly, but you get what you pay for.
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: email@example.com
Reminder: my French book, Villes Bigrement Exotiques, is still in print. Published by Le Dilettante (Paris).
November 21, 2013
Wherever I used to work, the other guys in the lunch room would tell jokes that I didn’t understand. I just smiled to be polite. Then one day a co-worker took me aside and asked me, “Charlie, tell me the truth. Have you ever slept with a woman?”
I took a moment to think. “No, I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?”
“Not as I can recall.”
“Listen,” he said, patting my shoulder in a friendly way. “I’m not going to put you down. I want to help you. Now look, sooner or later…you have to sleep with a woman.”
I thought about this. “Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re a man, aren’t you?”
“You do like girls, don’t you?”
“Okay, then. A man has to sleep with women. Now and then, that is.”
“Well, how would I do that, exactly?”
“Get a woman to sleep with you.”
“Look, there are some nice women here who aren’t married. There must be one that you like well enough to sleep with. Just, you know, like make a date with her. She’ll know what you mean.”
“Invite her to your place. That’s the most direct way.”
“What if she says no?”
“Then ask someone else. Someone will say yes. Trust me.”
“You’re sure about this?”
“Absolutely. Charlie, you need to do this. It’s for your own good.”
I thought about this. I never realized such a thing was necessary. “Okay, I’ll take your advice.”
“Good,” he said, patting me on the shoulder. “It’ll work out. Don’t worry. And remember, be discreet. You don’t want other people to know.”
So I had to think of which of my female co-workers I liked best. I’d never imagined sleeping with any of them, so I didn’t know who to ask. Finally, I decided to ask Margaret, because she was always very neat and kept her desk very neat, too. She was a divorced lady in her late thirties — a brunette and rather nice-looking.
Gathering up my courage, I approached her during a break when no one else was nearby.
“Margaret, I’ve come to ask a favor.”
“Oh? All right. What can I do for you, Charlie?”
“I need to sleep with a woman.”
She gave me an ambiguous look — sort of half humorous and half suspicious. “You need…to sleep…with a woman,” she repeated.
“Yes. I’ve never done it before. And I…well, I really don’t know about these things…but I suppose they’re important…And I thought perhaps you might…you know, like…just do it with me….Just once, that’s all.”
“Are you serious or are you putting me on?”
“I’m serious. I wouldn’t know how to put someone on.”
“Well, I would agree with that. But why me?”
“Well…you’re very neat, and I like that.”
She scrutinized me through narrowed eyes. “I’m not sure what to make of all this.” The break was ending and people were returning to their desks. “Come back at five o’clock and I’ll talk to you then.”
So I waited till five and then returned to her desk. She was waiting for me after the others had left.
“Did you want me to come to your place?” she asked.
“Yes, please. If that would be convenient.”
“How about Friday?”
“All right. Write down your address.”
I wrote it down for her.
“What time shall I be there?”
“Well…I usually go to bed around eleven. I suppose you could come at ten-thirty.”
She gave me a very strange look, as if I’d said something funny. “I’ll tell you what,” she said. “I’ll come at nine, and we’ll agree that this is just a friendly visit. After that we’ll see what happens. All right?”
“Yes, yes. Thank you,” I said, shaking her hand to be polite. Then I left.
For the next couple of days all I could think of was: I’m going to sleep with a woman! And, of course, I was discreet. I didn’t say a word to anyone.
At nine o’clock on Friday evening, Margaret arrived. She was wearing a nice black dress and she was smiling. “I brought some wine,” she said, handing me a paper bag.
“Oh! Thank you!…Wine. That’s different. For me, anyway.”
I led her into the sitting room, and she sat on the couch. She was the first female visitor I’d ever had. I stood there not knowing what to do next.
“Why don’t you open the wine?” she suggested.
“Ah. Yes. Right.”
I went into the kitchen and looked for a corkscrew, which I didn’t have.
“You don’t need a corkscrew,” she called over her shoulder. “The cap just twists off.”
So I poured some wine and we sat next to each other on the couch. I wasn’t sure if I liked the wine. I had almost no experience with wine. Margaret was giving me a curious smile, although I wasn’t sure why.
“Well, then,” I said. “What shall I do to entertain you?”
“Whatever you like,” she said, still smiling.
“We could watch something on the VCR.”
“Yes, let’s. Something to get us in the mood.”
“Ah. Yes,” I agreed, not knowing exactly what she meant. I picked two cassettes from my shelf. “This is a good show. It’s from the Learning Channel. It’s about bridges and dams.”
“Bridges and dams,” she repeated.
“Yes. You know, how they’re built and all that. These big engineering projects are very complicated. And the other one is about the Panama Canal. It’s fascinating.”
So I put the first cassette in the VCR, and Margaret sat quietly, sipping her wine and occasionally giving me an odd look. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. I wondered if perhaps I’d done something wrong, but I couldn’t think of anything.
By the time the second program was over, it was just past eleven. I looked at my watch. “Well, I guess it’s time,” I said eagerly.
She didn’t reply at once. She just put her glass down gently and said, “Lead the way, by all means.”
We went into the bedroom. I took a pair of pajamas out of the dresser and excused myself and went into the bathroom to change. When I returned, she seemed to be somewhat annoyed.
“It’s quite a big bed,” I reassured her. “Plenty of room for two.”
“Yes, I noticed that.”
“Did you, uh, bring something to, you know, sleep in?”
“Yes, actually.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a skimpy black nightie. “I brought this. I thought you might like it.”
“Oh…yes…it’s…quite well-made, I’d say.”
“Shall I put it on?”
“Yes, yes. You can use the bathroom.”
She gave me a lingering and rather serious look, then went into the bathroom to change. When she returned, I was already tucked comfortably into bed. I waited, but she just stood there. After a long pause, she got into bed. I was careful to give her as much space as possible.
“Shall I turn out the light now?” I asked.
“Whatever you wish.”
“All right, then. Good night.” I turned out the light beside the bed and settled into my customary sleeping position.
About thirty seconds went by. Then she asked, “Are you going to sleep?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“And I’m supposed to go to sleep, too? Is that it?”
“Em, yes.–Why? Is something wrong?”
She got out of bed and turned on the ceiling light. She was looking at me rather harshly. “Let me get this straight. You asked me to come here so we could sleep in the same bed together and that’s all?”
“Oh! I’ll make you a nice breakfast in the morning. I’m really a good cook.”
She stood there with her hands on her hips, eyes closed, shaking her head. I could just barely hear her say “I don’t believe this.”
“Are you upset about something?” I asked.
“Now you listen to me,” she said, looking at me sternly and controlling her voice. “I will do this on one condition.”
“Yes, yes. Whatever.”
“You will never speak of this to anyone. Do you understand?”
“Yes, yes. I won’t. I promise.”
“If anyone ever asks, I was never here. I will deny everything. Do you understand?”
“Yes, yes. Don’t worry. I won’t say a word.” And then I understood how terribly secret these things are in polite society.
“Fine,” she said. She turned off the light and got into bed, turning her back to me. “Good night,” she said.
“Good night. I won’t set the alarm. You can sleep as late as you want. And I’ll make a big breakfast.”
“Fine. Good night.”
“Good night.–And thank you.”
And so, after a little while, I drifted off to sleep with this happy thought: Finally, I’m sleeping with a woman!
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminder: my French book, Villes Bigrement Exotiques, is still in print. Published by Le Dilettante (Paris).
November 17, 2013
Mr. Floto was walking down the main street of his town (which must not be named) when a man held up a sign that said “Smash”. Mr. Floto lost his breath and fell down but then got up, somewhat dazed. Further along, someone else showed him the word “Omelet” on a piece of cardboard, whereupon Mr. Floto felt ill. After that, he passed a little boy wearing a shirt with the word “Sticklebacks” on it, and he felt so enthusiastic that he jumped on the hood of a car that was stopped at a red light and then rolled off, laughing. Then a severe-looking female graduate student held up a textbook with the word “Gastropods” on the cover, and Mr. Floto became so enraged that he smashed his fist into a newspaper vending box, resulting in a cut to his hand. Finally, he passed the word “Sphenodon” spray-painted on the side of a building, and he ran in terror toward the police station. But before he got there, he saw a store sign that said “Carpets”, and he immediately became calm again.
Did I say “finally”? Sorry, my mistake. Mr. Floto’s misadventure was not over. A bus went by with an advert with the word “Fido”, which caused him to remember the child he had tied up in the basement for some reason which he could not remember. He returned to find the child dead. (Fortunately, the child had no relations, so he was never missed.)
Mr. Floto lamented the impossibility of living in a normal way in such a dangerous and uncontrolled world. Damn all those words! he thought. So he locked himself in his house, vowing never again to read another word. He has not been seen since.
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: email@example.com
Reminder: my French book, Villes Bigrement Exotiques, is still in print. Published by Le Dilettante (Paris).
(Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change, by Henry Bernstein. Fernwood Publishing and Kumarian Press. 2010.)
The back cover of this book tells us: “Agrarian political economy investigates the power in agrarian formations, and how they change. Using Marx’s theory of capitalism, the book argues that class dynamics should be the starting point of any analysis of agrarian change.”
Right away the alarms are going off. This guy’s a Marxist, whether he admits it or not. He has two academic appointments: he is Adjunct Professor in the College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University, Beijing; and Professor of Development Studies in the University of London at the School of Oriental and African Studies. How can he be working in London and Beijing at the same time? There’s something fishy here. Okay, obviously he’s an extreme liberal. The School of Oriental and African Studies is a place for lefties who like to sniff the assholes of wogs and jigaboos. But no Westerner is going to be working at the China Agricultural University unless he is really tight with the Chinese Communist Party.
The book is simultaneously published in Canada by Fernwood Publishing and in the U.S. by Kumarian Press. I never heard of either one of them. Fernwood Publishing gets money from the government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council, as well as the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture and the provincial government of Manitoba. Fernwood has offices in both Nova Scotia and Manitoba. Why? What Canadian book publisher needs two offices, and why in two such places as Nova Scotia and Manitoba? We are also told that this book is the first in a series devoted to “Agrarian Change and Peasant Studies”, sponsored by the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS). This is described as a “worldwide community of like-minded scholars, development practitioners and activists who are working on agrarian issues. The ICAS is a common ground, a common space for critical scholars, development practitioners and movement activists. It is a pluralist initiative, allowing vibrant exchange of views from different progressive ideological perspectives….The ICAS promotes engaged research and scholarship that are both academically interesting and socially relevant, and further, implies taking the side of the poor.” (What a load of stinking Commie crap!) The book series is financially supported by the Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), the Netherlands. The series editors are Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Max Spoor and Henry Veltmeyer.
Okay, CIA, get to work. There’s enough in the preceding paragraph to keep you busy for a while. I can’t help speculating that any strange worldwide network that connects to some university in Beijing is automatically suspect.
I’m not attacking the author personally, but I’m suspicious of the company he keeps. Besides, there is no evidence that he has any first-hand experience of farming or that he has ever grown so much as a tomato. And I don’t know what the feck he’s talking about in this book. What is this class dynamics and where is it happening? I’ve never seen it. Farmers are on their farms and I’m in a city. I never even met a farmer. Cesar Chavez united the grape-pickers in California. We all remember that. So what? The author doesn’t even mention him. And he doesn’t mention that other guy — whatsisname — Tito Guano, who led the root-growers who grow the roots for root beer.
The author talks about globalization and how big agribusinesses turn the whole world into one market and deploy their capital where they can make the most money, and the reaction to this is a kind of new peasant movement. Where is this leading? What’s the Chinese interest here? For me, I don’t see any change or any dynamics. What class do I belong to? I don’t know. All I know is that grocery prices keep going up, and I have to shop in this godawful supermarket for immigrants, white trash, and welfare bums, and I’ve got voices in my head telling me to KILL…and somehow I have to resist the urge to smash heads with a brick. I am so depressed, and this book only makes it worse. I swear, this book made me so mad I wanted to go out to Sherbourne Street and punch the first wog I found talking some wog language on a cell phone. And how did this guy Henry Bernstein get to be an expert on peasants? I know more about peasants than he does. But never mind. This isn’t the time to go there.
If this guy loves peasants so much, he should be put to the test. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to him and tell him you’re a poor, oppressed peasant and ask for a donation in any amount. See if he sends you anything.
A lot of Filipinos got wiped out in that big typhoon they had in November, but how much aid did those slitty-eyed Chinese bastards send? Eh? ZERO. And what are the Chinese doing to their own farmers? And what does the author have to say about the torture and persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong? He doesn’t say anything in the whole book that could possibly be construed as a criticism of China. What he does say is a lot of eye-glazing academic verbiage. I don’t even want to quote any of it. One egghead from Yale calls this book “the most sweeping, original, and discerning class analysis of agrarian history in many decades.” And somebody else from Oxford calls it a “tour de force….It should be essential reading for all development students (whatever age) and activists (wherever they work).”
I’m going to take a pill and try to forget Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change, by Henry Bernstein.
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: email@example.com
November 10, 2013
My last job in the U.S., from 1970 to 1973, was at Exposition Press, the second-largest vanity press at the time. A vanity press is a book publisher that will publish anybody’s book for a price. Vanity presses — which largely don’t exist any more — are remembered as borderline scams that published rotten books. This is not entirely accurate. During my tenure at Exposition Press, we published some very good books — almost all non-fiction. We had only one fiction writer who was extremely talented. His name was Edwin Mumford. There is virtually nothing about him on the Internet. He was one of the best American writers who never rose out of obscurity.
Edwin Mumford was from California. He was the son of college professors. He was an ex-mental patient who had been hospitalized for paranoia. He had already published several books with Exposition before I came aboard, and a comment or two had fallen in my ears that he was the best fiction writer Exposition Press ever had. All of his books dealt with mental illness. I believe he had written three autobiographical novels already. Two of them were Journey With A Cross and Michael; and I recall vaguely that another had a title something like Diary of a Paranoiac. After the novels, he published several satirical novelettes featuring a heroic rabbit named Snooksie, who was a kind of rebel hero for mental patients.
I shared a cubicle with an older gentleman named Frank Lewis, who had once written a best-selling children’s book called Kerry, The Fire Engine Dog (Rand, McNally). Frank and I shared a passion for crackpotism and bad writing, so we had the best jobs in the world — reading manuscripts at Exposition Press. At any given time, one of us could be heard chuckling over a manuscript by some unknown writer who had no idea that he was writing unintentional humor that could not be matched by any good writer trying to be funny. Frank had been at Exposition for many years, and he knew books. “We’ve got one good fiction author — Edwin Mumford. You should read him.” So I got a copy of Journey With A Cross from the stockroom and read it. I loved it. I thought, here’s a writer who really deserves some kind of boost. He’s so talented.
Vanity presses do very little in the way of promotion — one tiny newspaper ad and fifty or so review copies that no one will bother to read. Fiction from vanity presses does not sell. Nobody pays any attention to it, and bookstores won’t waste shelf space on it.
Edwin Mumford did not seem to be particularly concerned about success. He just wanted to write. His parents indulged his avocation and gave him money, and he published a book with Exposition about once a year.
One of my duties was writing jacket blurbs, and I was excellent at it. I had never written one for Ed Mumford, but finally the day came when a set of his galley proofs landed on my desk. “Hey, I’ve got Ed Mumford’s latest book,” I said to Frank Lewis. “I really like this guy. I want to do something good for him.”
“You should,” agreed Frank.
“His other jacket blurbs were just okay. I’m going to do something really great.”
“I’m sure you can.”
Mumford’s story took place in a mental hospital. The patients were plotting to rebel against the evil Yellowheads, who were the administrators. The rebellion was on the verge of collapsing when Snooksie, the heroic rabbit, intervened to lead the patients to victory. It was a clever story. I wrote a spectacular jacket blurb for it. It was a rocket. It sizzled. I delivered it to the chief copy editor and expected something good to come of it. The blurb would be sent to Mumford for his approval.
About ten days later, Frank Lewis strode into the cubicle, laughing. He had just come out of Ed Uhlan’s office. Edward Uhlan was the Publisher, infamously known as “The Rogue of Publisher’s Row.” He was a lovable con artist, a shameless liar, and he had a mercurial personality, hiring and firing people unpredictably. But he adored Frank Lewis, and for some strange reason he liked me, too.
“Guess who Ed was just talking to,” said Frank.
“Ed Mumford. He called long-distance from California.”
“Ed Mumford! What did he say?”
“Remember that jacket blurb you wrote for him?”
“He said it was the best blurb anyone had ever written for one of his books. And he wanted to know who wrote it.”
“And Ed said that he wrote it himself.”
“What! He took credit for my blurb?”
I was outraged. But Frank was not at all surprised. He knew Ed Uhlan too well. Uhlan wouldn’t pass up a chance to magnify himself. Frank thought the whole thing was funny and he advised me just to forget about it.
I don’t remember the title of that book, unfortunately, but it would have appeared in ’72 or ’73. The last words of the blurb were: “Who is Number One? Snooksie!”
I no longer own any of Mumford’s books. The only one I brought to Canada with me was Journey With A Cross, which I donated to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto.
Ed Uhlan and Frank Lewis are both long-dead. They have their little chunks of immortality, though less than they deserve, in my opinion. Edwin Mumford is probably dead, too, although I don’t know it for a fact. This little memoir is his bit of immortality, though he deserves more, too.
As for my immortality, please let’s not discuss it.
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 5, 2013
(Clam Gardens, by Judith Williams. New Star Books. 2006.)
More than 10,000 years ago, aliens landed in the Pacific Northwest among all those little islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. They created the Sasquatch, and they taught the natives how to build clam gardens so they could feed themselves as well as the Sasquatch. These clam gardens were kept secret even though they were in plain sight. When early white explorers noticed them, they didn’t know what they were.
A clam garden is like a fish trap. You need high and low tides. You mark the level of the lowest tide and build a little wall of rocks. The clams settle in behind the wall when the water is high and dig into the sand. After that, they grow in the sand flat behind the wall. I called the Toronto Building Department just as a joke and said I wanted to build such a thing, and they said it would be illegal, and they never even heard of it. That’s typical.
The B.C. government never took any reports of clam gardens seriously because archeologists were afraid to acknowledge their existence. Nobody wanted to be the first, get it? So there was just no literature on the subject. Yes, everyone knew there were plenty of clams in B.C., but that’s all. Also, the category of “Native mariculture” didn’t exist on any form, so there was no box to check. That’s bureaucracy. And the relations between the abos and the B.C. government were not the best ever since the government suppressed the weird dances and masks of the Kwakiutl people.
Then in 1995, Dr. John Harper, a marine geomorphologist, collected detailed proof of clam gardens, including pictographs showing alien contact with the natives. His report exploded like a bomb on the desk of the Chief Clam Officer of the B.C. Ministry of Government Services, Patrick Moers, who is an evil Stalinist thug who deserves to be cleaning toilets in crack houses. He knew that if the information got out, it would blow the lid off the government conspiracy to suppress UFO’s, aliens, and the Sasquatch. So he buried the report.
The author documents a Sasquatch carrying away four bags of clams on page 10 and the existence of Martian barnacles on page 84, so she has clearly done a lot of research on this stuff.
The main kind of clam we are concerned with in this book is the butter clam. You can eat all of it except the siphon and gills. The natives would often smoke them and string them like necklaces. Then when they were hungry, they would just eat some. (Nobody in Canada sells Howard Johnson’s tendersweet fried claims, as far as I know. Best clams I ever ate! Retarded Canada.)
The natives naturally want to keep the existence of the clam gardens secret, because evil white people would rip them off — especially the Japs, who are always looking for seafood solutions to erectile dysfunction. (Natives consider Japs white, and I won’t argue the point. The Chinks, however, are definitely not white.)
This is a poignant and poetic book, although at the same time hard-hitting. Best quote: “A hot cup of coffee in the wilderness, like a stranded flounder on the terraces, has a distinct value.”
This book was printed by Friesens Printing, which refused (!) to print my 1980 classic Lightning Struck My Dick, which has totally disappeared from the collector’s market. You won’t find a copy for sale anywhere. Anyway, I’m glad the author got this book published.
Copyright@ 2013 by Crad Kilodney. E-mail: email@example.com