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A Dream


The family doctor told her mother that Susie had eidetic dreams. He said some people could dream or remember things that seemed realer than what was going on in the present. Susie had these dreams at a young age. “Is their medicine for it?” her mother had asked. The doctor laughed. No, he had said. It will fade. It will fade.

Jason had gone away when she was ten years old. He had stashed a tin with cigarettes and matches in the V of the chimney before he left. She smoked when she could and thought of him even though she hated the taste. But she liked the light-headedness.

This night her parents were out at somebody’s anniversary party. Beth was playing with stuffed animals in her room and Susie went out the top floor spare bedroom window and crawled up the roof on all fours and sat with her feet on the chimney. She felt for the tin, grabbed it and lit up. She always saw Jason’s face when she did this—smiling at her. This time she felt really dizzy and lay back on the roof.

She wanted to remember the dream she had had last night while it was still fresh.

She was on a wide boat, or a raft. There was a tent in the middle, framed like a teepee, but with a squared off entrance in front. A few figures lay about, trying to sleep outside the tent while a woman screamed inside it. In the dream she had noticed a man crouching alone, awake. He had come on at their evening landing with just a sack and an old, tarnished gun. He had passed her and she had seen his black eyes, no pupils. She had felt even in the dream a cold, solid fear as he passed.

She was steering the boat but passed it off to another man. In the dream she had felt he had understood something but she wasn’t sure what it was. She walked to the tent and opened the flap over the entrance. Inside she saw a woman writhing in pain. She was naked but for a shawl over her shoulders. Two women kneeled beside her. One was holding her hand; the other was placing a wet cloth on her head. She crouched down. The woman’s belly was huge. She put her hands on the belly. The woman gasped and then screamed even louder than before. The two women pulled away. The lantern that was hanging above flickered wildly making even smaller shapes loom large. The belly was growing warmer and warmer. She felt the baby’s head through the belly and moved its head down. The woman’s screams stopped. She could feel a second heartbeat. “She’s alive!” The woman smiled, sweat and grim streaming down her face and bosom. Susie raised her legs and had each woman hold them apart. The woman pushed and pushed. The baby gushed out and almost got away from them but Susie took it and passed it to the mother. She cut the cord with her knife and put the afterbirth in pot. “Boil this and feed it to her,” she told the women. She left the tent to the sound of a baby and women cooing and laughing. One woman came out and hiked up her skirt and holding a pole leaned over and peed into the river. “Aint no time for manners now!”

Susie walked over to the man with no pupils.

“I’m here guiding these people properly to their destinations,” she said

He didn’t make a move. Their eyes were locked.

Quickly, before he could hypnotize her, she lifted up his legs and put him over the edge of the raft, his arms flailing in the river. He tried reaching for his gun but she kicked it away into the water. She took out her knife and cut his wrists and dropped him into the water. She watched him and he watched her as he moved behind the raft. Already hungry fish and living, boiling things attracted to the blood started in on the man. He thrashed and thrashed but they were everywhere. Finally he screamed.

“You aint my judgment! You aint my judgement!”

The man who was steering offered her his pipe.

“Funny how the bad ones never protest their evil.”

Susie took over the steering pole again and handed back the pipe.

“It is a good night to be born.”

Susie sat up. She could still feel the water flowing under her in the dream. She could feel the air cooling her and hear the baby suckle. She could smell the broth with its delicious potency. She could hear women’s voices sounding as one. She walked up the roof to its crest and put a foot on either side and hugged her sides. The cool night air felt good. The dream, fading even now, would, she knew, always remain with her. The town stretched out and there were lights here and there, crossing lights for trains, night time factory lights making a dull yellow spread here and there. She knew Jason was thinking of her, too.

He was the only one she had really told her dreams to. Mother and doctor only knew what she thought they could handle. Susie didn’t want her mother to worry. Susie thought her parents, most parents, were a bit fragile.

The dream came back again, this time vivid. Her hand felt the knife.

How would her parents feel if she had to kill somone to protect her brother, their son?


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