Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dream - The contest

A small man in late middle age made his way between two houses through a yard partially strewn with garbage.

He reached the sidewalk and continued along it. The sidewalk also had garbage in places, but was generally thinner and flatter in this regard then the yard had been, though sometimes the garbage covered large areas.

The man had a cane with him, that he held in his right hand. The cane was much too long to lean on, and he held it out well in front of him and tried to somehow use it to pull himself forward by putting the point of it on the sidewalk and pulling down. He was hindered in this by the length of the cane and its thinness, and its excessive flexibility, which gave it a wobbly feel.

When he walked, he moved forward with an odd motion, with one leg taking a short step and the other more of a bound, sometimes a tremendous bound. Sometimes he seemed to have more trouble and went forward on all fours, still using the cane to try to pull himself forward.

Once, he stopped and actually got the cane beside him and pushed down hard enough that his whole body slowly rose into the air. He stayed there for a while, one hand on the cane and his body in the air at an upward angle, then he slowly straightened his body out until his feet were pointed straight up. The cane flexed and wobbled and snapped back and flexed again, and you would think that it would break under the weight, but it didn't. Eventually, he lowered himself to the ground and went on as before.

After a time, some kids in the neighborhood saw him, teenagers, and they made fun of him and were going to make trouble for him.

He proposed instead that they have a contest.

He showed them the garbage in a nearby yard. There were many onions, whole and uncut, looking like they had just come from the store. There were thick hamburger patties, still pink but cooked just enough to change color slightly. There was lettuce cut into thick slabs, and open hamburger buns. There were even some thin slices of tomato. Some of the items even had a little ketchup on them. There was more than enough food for everyone.

The man proposed that they have a race to see who could prepare a meal the fastest. The meal would be large enough to serve everyone there. Two fires would be started on the sidewalk to cook the meat. The first side to get the food fully prepared and ready to eat would win.

The side with the teenagers quickly began working. The man looked through some of the food that he had gathered and placed on a picnic table near the sidewalk. A girl had been assigned to help him, to make the contest more fair. She seemed to be slightly familiar with him, evidently from seeing him on his walks in the past, but she mainly just sat and watched him. There were perhaps three or four people in the other team.

The man discarded some of the slabs of lettuce, because they showed some signs of wilting at the edges. In truth, though, much of the remaining ones did not look very different from those that had been discarded. This disturbed the man, because he did not want to serve the others food that was not good quality.

Abruptly he got up, and, leaving his cane behind, raced home at incredible speed, getting there in an instant, before the kids even knew that he was gone. One of them looked up and somehow saw him there, despite the distance involved, and made an exclamation, surprised that he could have gotten there that fast, or that anyone could.

At home, the man gathered a thick package of raw hamburger, a head or two of lettuce, and some tomatoes. He also selected some sharp knives to cut things with, and grabbed some ketchup and a bag or two of chips and some cans of soft drink. He then rushed back and quickly prepared the meal.

Afterwards, everyone was sitting around a table, happily eating. One of the girls came forward, though, and stood in front of the man and accused him of cheating, of getting food that was already prepared. Considering the situation, it was a dangerous accusation to make.

The man looked up from his hamburger and stared into space, not looking at the girl or at anyone. He did not reply directly to her, but instead said, philosophically, "Death goes where it will, and when one reaches the place where he had been going, he never knows whether death will find him there. Most times, though, it does not. Anyway, in any case, no one expects death, but death will eventually come."

And the people continued eating, then, happy with the food.

And in the future, when the man was out on his walks, his journeys, and happened to see the kids, they called out to each other and greeted each other like old friends, which now, of course, they were.

-a story from a dream I had the night of December 17-18, 2005.

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