My daughter Shelby thanked me for providing her with a sheltered and mostly joyous childhood. She was prompted to do so shortly after I shared my latest dream with her.
The dream came to me in a dozing stage, that early sleep when you are somewhere between the world of the sleeping and the world of the fully awake.
There was a creature sitting on my chest, a dark, slimy thing. It was clawing at my arms, my neck, strangling me. It looked eerily similar to that Tolkien’s Gollum. Of course, I didn’t really know what it looked like in the midst of the dream, I only knew it intended to kill me and I was fighting for dear life. But while I was fighting, I was wondering how this person/thing got into my bedroom, got past the dogs who bark their blame heads off if they so much as hear the heater cut on. They aren’t so much guard dogs as they are just fraidy cats.
It didn’t take me long to wrestle the creature off my neck and sit straight up in bed, half-expecting something to call out from under the bed “My Precious. My Precious.”
“You have such weird awful dreams, Mama,” Shelby said. “I am glad I don’t have dreams like you.”
“Yeah, well that’s what happens to people who suffer trauma as young children,” I replied. “You spend your lifetime dealing with the nightmare of it all.” My dreams are legend. And no, I don’t watch scary movies, never even so much as smoked a joint, much less tried LSD. Trust me, you never want me to have a dream about you. They are often prophetic and it’s never about you winning the lottery.
Bad as the dream was it wasn’t nearly the worst of the week for me. For much of this week, I’ve been holed up in my bedroom, unable to lift my head off my pillow much less wrestle any demons. Today was the first day when I felt like I might join the land of the living again. Shelby has been battling the same viral bug but those 30 years I have on her (25.5, she’ll insist) have enabled her to fight it off better than I have.
After spending a goodly part of today writing, I decided to take the dogs to the dog park and then run a few errands. Portia and Flash love the new dog park. They can barely hold their water when I tell them to “Load up.” Portia does an imitation of Melania Trump’s porn days, panting breathlessly all the way. Once there, Portia will sprint a couple of criss-crosses around the park but she’s old now – 10 years – so she’d rather leave the relentless running to Flash, who although he’s 10, too, acts like he’s still a toddler. You know how some men are.
After the park, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some items to bake a pie for the new neighbors who moved in next-door. Poor folks moved in on one of the windiest and most bitter days we’ve had in awhile. I felt so bad for them. Once I got the eggs and butter, I swung by the gas station to fill up the car.
Here in Oregon we don’t pump our own gas. Yes. I know. And I hope I never have to. I like having someone else pump gas for me. Every state should be as progressive as we are. I hate going to Washington State and getting out in the rain – it’s always raining in Washington State – to pump gas. I loathe that. I don’t mind it so much in Georgia or Alabama but that’s because they have good weather. I rarely have to pump gas in the rain in the South. And besides, there’s almost always boiled peanuts nearby. That makes the stop all the more worthy.
After the fellow filled my car up, I went to start it and it wouldn’t start. Would. Not. Even. Turn. Over.
Did I mention it was bitter cold here?
I was so glad I had put on my stocking hat and my puffy coat. Half the time I leave the house around here as if I were still in Atlanta, dressed in flip-flops, t-shirt and jeans. I might throw on a sweater. I just can’t accept that I live in a place where it snowed two days ago.
The service station fellow was very busy.
“Can you give me a jump?” I asked, thinking maybe it was the battery.
“Uh, no,” he said. “We don’t do that. I can give you a push out of the way.” He works at one of the busiest stations in town and it was the peak of their busy hour on a Friday night. Naturally.
In my fluster, I didn’t think to turn the key to put the car in Neutral so he could give me a push. Instead, it appeared as if the doo-hickey that moves the car from park to drive was stuck. He put an orange cone behind my car to let folks know my lane was closed and left me to deal with my car myself.
Tim was hours away in Baker City for the State’s 1-A playoff, so I didn’t want to bother him. Konnie was going to dinner with friends. I didn’t want to bother her. So I got out of the car and walked over to a couple in a spiffy big rig and asked if they would mind giving me a jump.
They were obviously having a date night. They were both so spanking shiny and clean. She sported pink earrings the size of Portia’s paw. He was handsome in that way of Pacific Northwest men, trim and fit, probably ran 10 miles this morning just for fun. He flashed a quick smile as he hooked up the jumper cables. “Of course I don’t have my glasses with me tonight.” I bet he wears those rectangle kind, the ones that make all men look like they’ve just closed the cover of the latest Malcolm Gladwell book and are ready to discuss the latest Moth podcast.
It wasn’t the battery.
Even after the kindly fellow gave the car an extra boost of gas, my car was dead as an armadillo on I-40.
“Obviously it’s not the battery.”
“I have a fellow I could call but it’s Friday and he lives out of town.”
“No worries,” I said. “It’s not your problem. I’ll figure it out.” I hated taking up any more of his date night.
“Yes,” I said, waving them off. “I’ve got a neighbor I can call.”
I did have a neighbor I could call, a neighbor I did call. But it was her Friday night, too. She didn’t answer.
So I sent Konnie a text along the lines of “Call me ASAP.”
She was out with friends but Konnie bowed out of her dinner obligations and told Bean they had to go be “Superheroes and rescue Mimi.”
Meanwhile, the gal in the big rig with the glamorous earrings had walked up to the car, “Can we give you a ride home at least?”
“That’s kind of you,” I replied. “But I have my dogs with me and I really do have someone coming. I am good, really.”
“Okay,” she said. “If you are sure. We don’t mind.”
I waved her off again. “Thank you so much.”
The fellows at the gas station, whose line I had occupied for nearly half-an-hour, gave me a push to the nearest streetlight. My daughter showed up eventually with Bean in tow. (We don’t live in the same towns.) By then I was telling myself how smart I was to dress like an Oregonian, not a Georgian for once.
Konnie picked up Pho for us both and Bean helped me make pies for the new neighbors. It wasn’t until after Konnie and Bean left that I discovered I forgot to put the requisite flour into the pies. Naturally. I might have gotten the mixture for two of the four pies right, but those other two? Yeah, those are going into the trash.
Thankfully, it turns out the car is under recall (don’t you wish Trump was?) so Chevy is going to take care of the problem that likely lead to its untimely ailment. (Is there ever a timely ailment? Maybe. It would always be a good time for Trump to get sidelined with some debilitating something or other). The car has an ignition issue. They are going to tow it and fix it. Two very helpful Chevy people assured me all would be well.
I do believe that.
I believe in the goodness of strangers.
I believe that generally people really do seek to be kind to one another.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Some days it seems like mean people have overtaken the world. Or at least the nation. And, in truth, they may very well have.
But the only real way to defeat the demons seeking to choke us out is to not despair.
And to never ever tire of doing good.
But if you can’t do good, just stay home in bed so you don’t muck up everybody else’s day.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND: A novel (Mercer University Press).