Monday, March 22, 2010

Surrealist Easter: A Short Story

As Spring Break dawns, some of my classmates think, for whatever reason, that they need to work this week. I respectfully disagree, and sleeping until 11 am today, I was rewarded with this dream. I thought it would make a good short story, although as all dreams must be, it's disjoint and rough around the edges. Some scenes are far more detailed than they need to be, and others are glossed over in a sentence, but I decided not to expand on my subconscious, or randomly firing neurons, or divination from the gods, whichever significance you choose to attach to dreaming. The title "Surrealist Easter" (which I did not dream, but occurred to me as I transcribed all of this) should make sense by two-thirds of the way through.

"This is bullshit." That is something Tom would say, I catch myself thinking in a starling bout of metacognition. It’s the first clue that I'm actually dreaming. He and I are in a dozens-long file of already-weary twentysomethings, leaving the most dismal auditorium I've ever seen. It's poorly lit, the few fluorescent lights that decided to wake up at 8 am fixing a feeble blue-light cast on whatever dreary event we're leaving. Plenary session in a training exercise, I surmise, and now we're headed to break-out sessions? That must be what Tom was complaining about, and I can't help but agree with him.

It seems the sun has decided to grace us with its presence. Artificial blue-white has given way to gentler earth tones, with a bit of natural light peeking its way through half-shut windows. I can't tell if there are any lights on except for that. It has to be a Saturday. This poor building is downright shocked that there's anyone here at all. Now I'm walking down stairs into an arena pit of desks. These desks are arranged like a collection of mini-classrooms: twenty or so desks in impossibly neat rows and columns, each headed by a single desk facing all the rest. I decide to sit down in a usual spot for me, second column from the left, second row from the back.

Looks like I'm one of the first ones here. In my pod, the only occupied desk is the conspicuously located one at the front. There's a girl there, young, probably 19 or 20, and I can tell she's pretty, but that's about all. Now apparently I decide I don't like the arrangement, which is odd given the detail I've already invested in it; regardless, now there are long tables with chairs on both sides. It's organic, intimate, just a touch friendlier. The girl is sitting across from me now at one of the ends of the table, and I get a better look at her. She has an unruly mop of brown hair barely restrained by a small white knit cap at the top of it, and big olive-green eyes.

If it's a dream, I may as well take advantage. "I'm Matt," I say, smiling, offering a handshake. She accepts. "Kelly." We talk for a while; I can't remember what about, but I learn that she's helping to facilitate this training session. Eventually she props her head on her right hand and grins sympathetically at me. "I'm going to have to pick a hat soon," she remarks. I'm a little confused, but I take it on face value that Kelly knows what's going on here better than I do. As if on cue, some male voice from the back of the room calls out, "Rabbit!" I turn around to see a stage, luxurious red velvet curtains tied at either side with gold-colored rope. A woman wearing a long-eared leporine getup on her head walks onto the stage. It's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. The audience, which is a lot fuller now, offers a some good-natured laughs and applause.

"Oh, you have to go rabbit," I tell Kelly, who shakes her head. "Just wait," she laughs, a bemused lilting giggle. "It gets better." "Egg!" the voice from the stage calls, and a man walks onto the stage. His head has been replaced by an ovoid, dyed red and purple and yellow. It's massive, probably two feet tall and a foot across. People applaud. "Pope!" the voice calls again, and a middle-aged white man shows up on the stage. He's in Pentecost vestments, white alb, crimson stole draped around the neck, triple mitre on the top of his graying head. He's holding a halberd in his right hand.

"Yep, no question." I chuckle and nod to Kelly as the crowd cheers. "Thanks a lot." She flashes a smile at me before standing and jogging sprightly toward the stage. I look down to see a document in front of me. It's a map-meets-schedule. In enthusiastic reds and blues and yellows, I learn that this training is actually a semester-long commitment. Before I get the chance to despair, two spots catch my eye: if I go to the right places during the course, I can play mini-golf and eat free ice cream sandwiches. Mini-golf, ice cream sandwiches, and Kelly. Forget Tom's pessimism, this training is going to be great.

Some time later, maybe as long as a year, I'm walking down a residential street. I shiver and put my hands in my pockets. I look up at the rows of houses on the left side of the street, see fallen leaves, brown, clinging to the roofs. It's cloudy and the sun has just set. The house I'm passing now has a porch. Kelly is standing on it with some dude, a guy in sweater with broad horizontal gray and black stripes. He looks a little like me, but more gaunt and less sincere. He calls her "Amaline". Weird. Then he puts his arm around her. Figures. I put my head down and walk a little faster.

But just like the desks and chairs, it seems I'm not ready to give up on this one yet. She catches my eye, her smile brightens, and she runs down the steps to hug me. "Amaline?" She shrugs and grabs my hand, and we run down the block.

Currently listening: "Steady As She Goes", the Ranconteurs

No comments: