Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Strange to dream someone saying a word I’ve never uttered. From whence in my subconscious did it emerge?

In the dream, Buck and I were staying for a few days in an apartment in Las Vegas, a town I’ve only been to once before and to which I had a visceral, negative reaction. Several years ago we stopped there for two nights on a road trip from the Florida Gulf Coast to hike in the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. We were both ambivalent about the short side trip, but decided we were so close might as well go and see the metaphorical show. I wrote about that trip here in a post I called “The Skull Beneath the Skin”.

I guess we did it like country come to town. We stayed at a Residence Inn on the outskirts of the strip, and for the one full day we were there dressed in shorts and walking shoes, strapped on our backpacks, and braved the heat to walk from one end to the other. By late afternoon, we had seen enough, returned to our room, took a hot shower, put on our soft clothes and ordered a meal of Chinese food delivered. Then we sat cross-legged on the bed and talked about what we had seen and how eager we were to get out of there and back into the splendid isolation of nature.

So the setting for this dream was a place I had been once before, and was turned off and a little frightened by. Here are the memory fragments that stayed with me.

There was an odd little man in the apartment who materialized as we were gathering our things to leave. He looked more like an adult-sized toddler, short and nearly hairless with baby-fat bulgy thighs and arms. It was impossible to tell his age. He wore baggy shorts and a t-shirt. There were a few wisps of white-blond hair on the very top of his head. I don’t know why he was there. Buck didn’t appear to notice him.

We don’t usually scatter our belongings from pillar to post when we’re traveling, but this apartment was a mess. Fast food debris (we haven’t been to a fast food place in more than thirty years) was strewn about, along with open suitcases and loose clothes. Buck threw some items into a suitcase, zipped it up and said “Meet me at the station.” Totally out of character. This man barely goes two feet without me. Not that he couldn’t. He simply wouldn’t voluntarily.

The little man watched with unblinking though not unfriendly eyes as I raced about, gathering the rest of our stuff. I saw Buck’s billfold lying on a side table. It was open, his credit cards, driver’s license and the photo of us under a spreading live oak that he always keeps there all showing — also not something he would run off and leave in real life. I folded it and added it to my shoulder bag.

The little man and I looked at each other one last time. I thanked him, although for what I don’t know. He never said a word, only looked directly at me and smiled a curious smile.

Just on the other side of the apartment door I found myself at the top of an escalator. Lots of people all around. I descended into what seemed to be a train station. Buck was talking to two men. I thought maybe they were going to the same meeting he was attending. (What meeting?) We all got on a tram of some sort to take us into town. Buck continued talking with the older of the two guys, which left me to make casual conversation with the other one.

He wasn’t young or old, maybe late thirties. He was trim and wore jeans and a tucked-in plaid shirt. Everything about him seemed ordinary, from his brown hair to his scuffed boots. I asked if he was here for the meeting. He pulled a small rectangular piece of folded newsprint from the front right pocket of his jeans, slowly unfolded it and leaned in to show it to me. When I realized what I was seeing, I pulled back. It was a classified listing of the sort that might be thrust into your hand when you’re walking along the strip in Las Vegas, but instead of the whole lurid flyer, it was just a few listings with suggestive names, phone numbers and services. I looked up, almost involuntarily. Why was he showing this to me? That’s when I was struck by his strange eyes, vaguely wondering why I hadn’t noticed them earlier. They were turquoise, with dark pinwheel lines radiating from the pupil.

He said, “I’m here with a rock and a laver.”

Yes, you bet I woke up immediately. That’s a dream I wanted to get out of fast. Thinking about it later, it seemed like this guy was straight out of a Harry Crews or Flannery O’Connor story.

I know what a rock is. But laver has several definitions. It can be a type of seaweed, but also “large basin of water used by priests for ritual ablutions,” I knew that was the meaning from my dream.

I hope not to run into this character and his turquoise eyes ever again.

 

 

 

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