Cover image courtesy of Nina
John had a dream he was not a member of the Goldman family. His name was John Taylor and he had a father as well as a mother. His father was Jeremiah Taylor and he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco but also had a teacher’s credential. Jeremiah was a substitute teacher at one college and the course was the French language. Most of the students were sports players, either football or baseball, and they often skipped class to practice for the next game. He flunked everyone. The situation caused a stir and the principal asked him to turn the grades to passing. He refused and quit.
John’s mother was Phoebe. Her maiden name was Strong. Her family owned a switchboard operating service, located at Larkspur in a residential house turned into an operator’s working station. Most of the receptionists hated the job, answering calls every split second for eight hours, but she did not mind.
Jeremiah received a letter from the college, years later when he was a longshoreman. The school apologized for pressuring him to resign. He knew he quit but he appreciated the thought. The college gave him a check for two million dollars. One million was for him and the other million was to go to John. Perhaps such a thing would not happen in real life but it seemed natural enough in John’s dream.
Phoebe was glad John would be getting a large amount of money because she was ready to teach him how to be a switchboard operator and she worried if he would crack under pressure. All of the receptionists were women and, on the few times when men were tried, a man would quit within a week. She would have felt ashamed if that happened to her son.
The details of what John experienced during his dream comprised a span of twenty years but the dream itself consisted of only one day, starting when he went to Grosvenor’s Cafe, a little-known coffee house located on a small side street in the town of Ross where he bought a house. As a child, his family lived in San Anselmo and his father would drive him to Phoenix Lake, an estuary in Kentfield which was the next town up from Ross. There were two routes available. The main road, Center Boulevard, was pleasant enough but Shady Lane, the scenic route, was like an eighth wonder of the world. The area was filled with trees, almost like they were stacked up as dominos. The trees made the road shady and that was why it was called Shady Lane. There were sidewalks where one could walk if one so chose to do so but they were covered with falling leaves. The trees and overcast view were why people loved seeing the place. John never thought he would ever have the opportunity to visit anyone from the town, let alone live there.
Shady Lane had two cross streets. One was Forsyth Avenue, a regular side road that looked like Shady Lane’s younger brother. The other road was Llewellyn Drive, merely a tad bigger than a neighbor’s driveway. He lived one block away from Llewellyn where Grosvenor’s Cafe was located. It had a patio. Inside, there were shelves of books. The place usually had a maximum of six customers during any time. He liked the ambiance where he could sit and write a story.
Most of the women who had coffee there wore large sweaters over leggings and they would sit together and talk. Their conversations were about how certain men would not groom themselves properly and needed to be told which fork to use while eating a salad and which watch to wear when attending a company meeting. The women sounded like they never went to any cultural outings. John was suspicious they were self conscious about their body shapes and wanted to hide behind large covers. Whenever a woman entered Grosvenor’s and she was wearing a loose bulky sweater, he wondered if she was another member of that bunch.
However, as he was drinking his coffee, he noticed a woman wearing a thick turtleneck cable knit sweater with her sleeves pushed up. She was writing in a notebook. Something about her seemed focused and exact. She never looked up from her notebook but her facial expression hinted that she knew he was looking at her. He figured he should stop doing so but he could not help himself. She was a writer like him so that was one thing they had in common. Another thing they supposedly had in common was the recognition of each other. In universal law, things happened in threes so he wanted to know what the third element of compatibility would be.
He liked how women looked when they wore their shirts tucked in. If she was a writer, she might wear her sweater tucked in. It was thick like the type worn by the women with leggings. Since things happened in threes, he assumed there was no other possibility then her wearing a tucked in sweater. He was nervous with anticipation because, if that showed itself not being the case, he could be wrong about the other two things, also.
Luckily, ten or fifteem minutes later, she closed her notebook and stood up. Her sweater was tucked into belted jeans. The whole thing seemed like she knew he would be in the cafe. He finished his coffee and wanted to go home and write about what he observed but he did not want her to think he was following her.
When she walked away from the table, she did not leave. She approached the bookshelves and picked up a book. She stood there and was reading it. She was doing that a good ten minutes until he resolved now it was fine for him to exit.
After he walked outside, he heard the sound of the door a few seconds later. He wondered humorously if she was following him. He looked behind and saw her walking in his general direction.
He turned on Shady Lane but not towards his house. He strolled up the street because he wanted to allow her to continue on independently of him. After five minutes, he turned back and headed towards home.
When he entered his house, he walked up the staircase to his bedroom. However, before he made it to the top, she went down the stairs. He asked, “Is it according to your liking?” Somehow his perception changed and he now realized she was his friend.
She said, “Oh, yes. I’m glad you picked it. If you moved all the way from California to Maine it could be longer for me to commute. The bus ride could take a week.”
He said, “I know.”
She held out her hand. “Do you have change for a dollar?”
He shrugged. “I have a quarter.”
“I need it.” He handed her a quarter and she grabbed his index finger. “Thanks. Now I am correcting the wrong.”
He let her hold on because yesterday she grabbed his finger one hundred times and then let go but apparently not on purpose. She would shake her head. He would ask, “Was that wrong?”
“Yes. I’m not supposed to let your finger breathe but I forgot the apparatus to keep it from breathing so you’ll have to wait.”
Now, her grip was like literal glue. He asked, “Is this concrete?”
“Yes. I bought it at the hardware store. I told the man at the counter what I needed and he showed me a tiny cup full for twenty five cents. That’s why I needed change for a dollar but I’m happy with the quarter. I can pay him tomorrow.”
“Thanks for doing that. I’m going on a date with Linda tomorrow and you’ll be there.”
She shook her head. “I’m Linda.”
“I know. That’s what I meant. I’m going on a date with Linda and you’ll be there.”
“Why not just say you’re going out on a date with me? Why make it complicated?”
“I’m sorry. I saw a chicken walking across the street and I got confused.”
“You know, we are linked. I am here for you. How do you like being on your own, away from your family?”
A part of his consciousness realized he was in a dream and, though he knew Jeremiah Taylor was his father, he also knew he had another family in his waking life. He was aware of the Goldmans much the same way one was aware of a crime being committed in another country. The situation existed but it was not relevant to one’s personal moment.
Suddenly, she let go and walked up the stairs again. She stood close to the top and, with one hand, stroked her hair. She extended her other hand for a handshake. She said, “If you would like to commit to me right here and now, come up and make it official.”
He was not sure what that meant. Of course, he knew that making something official was self explanatory but in a dream state it could be something else entirely.
He needed to act quickly. He walked up to her and gave his hand. She grabbed it with a firm grip and shook. She kept it up for what seemed like a month. She did not stop and it seemed to him there was no reason for her to do so.
She said, “You know it won’t end here.”
He was content to stand there with her, while she remained connected to him. She stared into his eyes and he saw something he recognized. He somehow knew that the moment would bleed into waking life. He felt there were two types of reality in the non dream world. One was the life led by people who felt depressed and the other was lived by people who strove for the heights of happiness.
If Uncle Harold married Thelma not because of love but because he figured he could not do better than hook up with someone of his size, whose fault was that? Did Harold like slim women? Did he ever try to date one? Did Rose go out with handsome men when she was younger or did she also succumb to hanging out with others who had mediocre personalities and little to offer by way of conversation?
Christine spent a lot of time reading books as well as watching television so at least there was some culture in her life. However, her choice of reading material was not very selective. A novel by Dostoevsky was relished as easily as one by Barbara Cartland. John wondered what would happen to the Goldmans if they somehow improved their circumstances beyond merely the inheritance. As John continued shaking Janet’s hand, he realized no one else could have anything better than this.
Suddenly, John woke up. However, the feeling of the dream was still fresh. Linda seemed so sure of everything in how she described it. He would not doubt her word, even if he was no longer asleep.
The time was seven o’clock in the morning and he got out of bed, eager to observe his family. He would tell himself he was on a higher level than them. If Harold bought another can of cheap soda, his thank you gift to anyone who dealt in his nonsense, John would consider the source. If Rose made another flavorless meal, he would remind himself of how utterly pathetic she was to him. Thelma and Christine were less annoying but neither struck him as being happy.
Rose was in the kitchen, making plain oatmeal for breakfast. She was wearing one of her many faded dresses that looked like couch covers and, though her concentration on the food was intense, John sensed there was a bit of melancholy in her attitude. He asked, “Mom, when you cook bland food, do you sometimes wish you could add something to give it a little taste?”
She said, “I’ve learned that what may seem tasty may not be healthy. Are you asking me if I like the flavor of salt? My answer would be no but that’s not why I avoid it. I know there are some people around who like it so it’s considered a popular mineral but I’m suspicious of things that are popular.”
“It sounds like you have an independent spirit.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Harold’s voice was heard shouting outside. “Rose! John! Rose! John!”
Rose said, “I bet he’s been sneaking liverwurst sausage in his diet. That stuff is morally wrong as well as unhealthy and not very tasty. Why is he yelling like that?”
John said, “If you remember, that’s how he always yells early in the morning. There is nothing new about it.”
Rose asked, “Can you please open up the door and let him in?”
John felt something wrong, as if his uncle was going to zap away his energy once the door opened. He said, “I don’t want to, this time.”
Rose sighed. “Please. That’s the last thing I’ll ask of you today.”
He decided to do as requested so she would not bother him anymore. He opened the door and Harold made a popping sound with his mouth. A few drops of spit landed on John’s arm. Suddenly, he felt something leave. Perhaps Linda, in his dream, was only a dream. He felt less convinced of that other reality.
John did not have another dream like that and it happened roughly a month before he attended Walter’s party. After he had returned home from that event, he thought for a few minutes the dream woman was Janet. However, he told himself that often there were coincidences in life. Then, he forgot about it all.